Dispatches from the Creation Wars

NY Times on Expelled Movie

The NY Times has an article about the forthcoming documentary Expelled, which purports to show how the jackbooted thugs of the Darwinian Priesthood horribly mistreat those brave truthtellers of the ID movement. This is a prominent facet of the anti-evolution PR campaign being run from Seattle, positioning themselves as victims to gain public sympathy no matter how much they have to distort reality to paint that picture.

The Times points out the clear deceit with which the producers of the film went about securing interviews with prominent scientists, including our own PZ Myers:

A few months ago, the evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins received an e-mail message from a producer at Rampant Films inviting him to be interviewed for a documentary called “Crossroads.”…

But now, Dr. Dawkins and other scientists who agreed to be interviewed say they are surprised — and in some cases, angered — to find themselves not in “Crossroads” but in a film with a new name and one that makes the case for intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. The film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” also has a different producer, Premise Media…

If he had known the film’s premise, Dr. Dawkins said in an e-mail message, he would never have appeared in it. “At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front,” he said.

Eugenie C. Scott, a physical anthropologist who heads the National Center for Science Education, said she agreed to be filmed after receiving what she described as a deceptive invitation.

“I have certainly been taped by people and appeared in productions where people’s views are different than mine, and that’s fine,” Dr. Scott said, adding that she would have appeared in the film anyway. “I just expect people to be honest with me, and they weren’t.”…

Another scientist who was, P. Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, said the film’s producers had misrepresented its purpose, but said he would have agreed to an interview anyway. But, he said in a posting on The Panda’s Thumb Web site, he would have made a “more aggressive” attack on the claims of the movie.

Here’s their excuse for these deceptions:

Walt Ruloff, a producer and partner in Premise Media, also denied that there was any deception. Mr. Ruloff said in a telephone interview that Rampant Films was a Premise subsidiary, and that the movie’s title was changed on the advice of marketing experts, something he said was routine in filmmaking.

And here’s Ben Stein, the “star” of the film, putting his, errr, credibility behind that claim:

Mr. Stein, a freelance columnist who writes Everybody’s Business for The New York Times, conducts the film’s on-camera interviews. The interviews were lined up for him by others, and he denied misleading anyone. “I don’t remember a single person asking me what the movie was about,” he said in a telephone interview.

Gee Ben, maybe that’s because you weren’t the ones who contacted people for interviews and told them misleading things about what the movie would be about. Jonathan Adler at the Volokh Conspiracy gets it right:

The producers claim there was nothing sneaky or nefarious involved, just a routine change in the working title of a film. Yet for the reasons detailed in this PZ Myers post, that explanation seems a little thin. I don’t think anything illegal occurred — and journalists often engage in some deception when seeking interviews — so it seems to me the producers should just own up to what they did.

Now take a look at the Rampant Films webpage, go to “properties” and then to their description of Crossroads, the movie that those who were interviewed were told they would be taking part in. It says:

Crossroads–The Intersection of Science and Religion
:
It’s been the central question of humanity throughout the ages: how in the world did we get here? In 1859 Charles Darwin provided the answer in his landmark book, “The Origin of Species.” In the century and a half since, biologists, geologists, physicists, astronomers and philosophers have contributed a vase amount of research and data in support of Darwin’s idea. And yet, millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other people of faith believe in a literal interpretation that humans were crafted by the hand of God. This conflict between science and religion has unleashed passions in school board meetings, courtrooms and town halls across America and beyond.

As PZ says, this would be an interesting documentary and that’s the one that he agreed to be interviewed for. And it has little relationship to the movie they actually made. They didn’t just mislead, they flat out lied. They made up a fictional documentary about an entirely different subject and told everyone they were making that movie when they were actually making Expelled. This wasn’t just a change in title, it was a completely different movie. As Adler notes, it’s not illegal but it is certainly unethical. How ironic coming from the same people who claim that evolution undermines morality. But as long as you’re lying for Jesus, I guess that makes it all okay.