i-50b983e26c2ddbfcd2e6652173289a17-bueller.jpg
Myers? Myers? …. Myers? ….. Myers? (He’s not here, Ben … Your producer threw him out.)
You know about the incredibly ironic dust up, whereby Expelled! producers kicked PZ myers out of line at a pre-release showing, but failed to notice that Richard Dawkins was standing right next to him. The evidence suggests that this major bit of bad publicity for Expelled! may have led to the movie being pulled from some pre-release showings. It it too early to be sure of this, and there may be several factors other than the utter embarrassment of this incident at play here. For instance, it is starting to look like the movie contains a number of illegal segments, using copyrighted material for which they do not have permission, or for which they obtained permission under false pretenses. It would seem that every showing of this movie, pre-release or not, is then a violation of trust, ethics, possibly the law. I wonder if Expelled!’s lawyers are panicking.

Almost as disturbing as this event is the assertion by The Framing Twins, Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet, that the outcry we are seeing now is actually helping the creationists. I believe this argument is utterly misguided, even to the extent that I question Nisbet and Mooney’s motivations. Let us please examine this situation in more detail.


According to Matthew Nisbet, PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins are delusional. Nisbet asserts that Dawkins and Myers should stop expressing their opinions about science and religion, and “When called up by reporters or asked to comment, Dawkins and PZ should refer journalists to these organizations and individuals. … they need to play the role of Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro and so many other political operatives who through misstatements and polarizing rhetoric have ended up being liabilities to the causes and campaigns that they support. Lay low and let others do the talking.” So, here, Nisbet is explicitly asserting that Dawkins and Myers have made misstatement. He is telling us that they are following the wrong strategy, and that they are lying.

Wow. Elsewhere in this sensationally obnoxious post, Nisbet mentions that “this is not about censorship” but it is! Saying it ain’t so, irrespective of framing, is not adequate. Nisbet has stepped over a line here and he needs to step back very quickly.

Meanwhile, a short way away in blogospheric terms, Chris Mooney is busy chewing on his own rhetorical foot. Here, Chris says “Read it for yourself. People actually involved in the promotion of films, like Randy Olson or this screenwriter, Kevin Miller, understand perfectly well how such a controversy helps Ben Stein….” Mooney links, by way of reference, to Nisbet’s above cited post, which has no expert or original information from film experts. This is not the first time I’ve caught Chris providing what looks like a reference only to find either Chris or Matt on the other end, with no substance.

Nisbet’s post does mention that he’ll be giving details in an upcoming talk, advertised in his post. In other words, Mooney and Nisbet appear to be engaged in yet another self aggrandizing Framing Fest, designed to free ride on the widely known names of Myers and Dawkins. They are waving their arms around yelling “look at me look at me” in order to attract attention to their own activities, at the expense of their colleague’s position, at the expense of their own ethical standing, and at the expense of quality science education and research. Shame on them.

I rise in strenuous objection to Mooney and Nisbet’s absurd efforts to silence Myers and Dawkins. To understand my objection, you need to know what this is all about, which you probably do, but I want to make sure that you understand, and remember, certain key details.

A while back Drs. Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott, as well as others, were asked to take part in a film called Crossroads, which was to present a balanced view of the Evolution vs. Intelligent Design Creationism ‘debate.’ The production staff for this film, led by Mark Mathis, was lying to these experts in evolutionary biology. The film had a different message; This was to be an anti-evolution, pro-creationism propaganda film, and the words of Dawkins, Myers, Scott and others were surreptitiously and unethically edited and twisted to be used against them for the production of a different film, Expelled!

Fast forward many months to the holiest day of the holiest week of the Christian Calendar, Good Friday. The place: The Mall of America, near Minneapolis, Minnesota, America’s Heartland. Two of the three afore mentioned evolutionary biologists are in line at movie theater, having been invited to see a pre-release screening of this movie. The movie is no longer known as “Crossroads” … it is now called “Expelled!” in reference to the absurd and inaccurate central theme of the movie, that “real biologists” who happen to be creationists have been “Expelled” by the scientific community.

Also present in this line are no fewer than four friends or relatives of Myers, who is (in Minnesotan terms) local. The fact that Myers is local is probably why he was spotted in line by the film’s producers. Indeed, they are probably looking for him because ever since Myers, an influential science blogger and anti-creationist, discovered that he had been lied to, and that this “Crossroads” was actually an anti-science propaganda film called “Expelled!”, he has been following the film’s progress and writing about it. They don’t want Myer’s seeing this film. The fact that he was invited was a screw-up.

So of course, the producers send a uniformed security guard over to Myers and kick him out of the theater. The other five or six or more pro-evolution scientists, bloggers, and citizens were ignored, including the world’s most famous evolutionary biologist and outspoken atheist, Richard Dawkins.

When this happened, Myers wrote a blog post or two about it, and this story was then picked up and written about in over a hundred outlets. This included a few press outlets and mostly blogs. This became a big deal.

What became a big deal was the expulsion of Myers, and the irony of getting rid of Myers but not noticing Dawkins (or Myers’ wife, blogger-child, and other pro evolution bloggers) thus giving the pro-evolution anti-Expelled! ‘side’ of this debate a juicy bit of information about which to write, demonstrating the moral and ethical bankruptcy, once again, of the creationist way of doing things.

What is being forgotten, a little, with the present controversy is the original point: The the producers of Expelled! are not only creationists, but also, that they had tricked people into participating in a movie under false pretenses, and are now using their words against them.

Mooney and Nisbet may be right in that all publicity is good publicity in the entertainment industry. This is what Mooney says, anyway. But I find it troubling that an expert on communication resorts to an unproven aphorism to make his point. I mean, he sounds like my Great Aunt Tilly. Fact? Analysis? No, just an old saying, that’s what we get from Mooney. If you read Nisbet’s post, you get a chillier feelng. Nisbet is really mad at Dawkins and Myers. Nisbet uses a piece of the film Expelled! as evidence that Dawkins and Myers are bad, and are doing bad things. He places a clip from Expelled! in which Myers and Dawkins altered and misrepresented interviews are used by the ethically twisted producers of the move as exemplary of Myers and Dawkins’ positions. In do soing Nisbet crosses a line, and at the same time, resurrects something that I suggested last year, somewhat tongue in cheek, in a fit of loathing, … that Nisbet is actually a stealth creationist. That idea comes to mind again. Nisbet and Mooney got so upset about this accusation last year that I apologized for it, though my apology was dripping with sarcasm.

This year, guys, no apologies. Just sarcasm. You sleep in the bed you make this time.

When I had previously suggested that Nisbet might be a creationist he got really mad. Almost too mad. Well, go read his latest attack on evolutionary biologists Myers and Dawkins and come back here and tell me what you think.

Here is the point that I want to make most clearly.

Nisbet and Mooney are telling Myers and Dawkins to shut up. But why are Myers and Dawkins speaking out? Because they were lied to, they were cheated, they were treated unprofessionally. Because the activities of the Expelled! producers are anti-science and clearly unethical and immoral. Myers and Dawkins are fighting the good fight. They are standing up for a good cause and they are acting in an ethical and professional manner.

Imagine Nisbet being asked to speak in a documentary about communication (he’s a communication expert) or Mooney being asked to speak in a documentary about framing science. Imagine further that the documentary was really an anti-communications or anti-science or anti-framing propoganda film. Honesty, really, do you think Nisbet or Mooney would ignore this and keep quite about this? Or would they speak out? When Myers and I, and a few others, cirticized Mooney and Nisbet last year about their framing paradigm, they did not remain silent, in fact, quite the opposite!

Why do Nisbet and Mooney want the victims of unethical trappery to walk away and say nothing? Because Nisbet and Mooney disagree with Myers and Dawkins about Evolution? Because Nisbet and Mooney want to be the only show in town and have their particular perspectrive advanced while they recommend others to be silenced? Because Nisbet or Mooney prefer a slightly to moderately religious version of society and science, and don’t want these atheists having a voice? Because they are trying to get added publicity for some upcoming lecture tour?

I have no idea. I wonder, and I worry about them. I think they should rethink their perspective and consider the consequences of what they are saying and doing. They should probably not be trying to split the pro-science ranks. So far, most of their work on “framing” has resulted only in discord and distraction, as far as I can see. At the very least, they need to explain their real motivations.

Myers’ initial description of events: EXPELLED!

PZ Myers’ recent comments: Post-conference wrap-up

An admission from Mark Mathis

About that cell video in Expelled…

Richard Dawkins’ Review of the Movie: Lying for Jesus?

Dawkins Reviews the Movie here.

A compendium of links to recent discussion of this issue: PZ Myers Expelled, Gains Sainthood
Mooney’s Critique: Expelled Screenwriter Wants to Give PZ and Atheist Followers a “Group Hug”

Nisbet’s Critique: Why the PZ Myers Affair is Really, Really Bad for Science

PZ Myers’ responses to Mooney/Nisbet: I’m supposed to sit down and shut up?

Funny…he’s not shutting up!

Comments

  1. #1 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    March 24, 2008

    I would like to put forward a very simple hypothesis: Matt Nisbet doesn’t care a whit for science. Matt Nisbet has never done anything for science. What Matt Nisbet cares about is Matt Nisbet, and building himself up by attacking people more accomplished than himself.

  2. #2 SteveF
    March 24, 2008

    This is the rub for me; although I am somewhat sceptical about PZ’s general approach, on this specific issue he simply had no choice. Do M&N honestly think it is reasonable that PZ stayed quiet on this issue. Apparently they do – this is insane.

    One thing though:

    He places a clip from Expelled! in which Myers and Dawkins altered and misrepresented interviews are used by the ethically twisted producers of the move as exemplary of Myers and Dawkins’ positions.

    Whilst I wouldn’t be at all surprised if PZ and Dawkins were misrepresented in this film, I didn’t see anything in this clip that the two wouldn’t stand by.

  3. #3 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2008

    Steve,

    You are essentially correct, however, if you listen to a fair interview with either of them the average person would walk away with a different general impression. Both of these interviews remove a number of things that I’d bet more than a dollar that they took pains to say, and include only the button pressing that anti-atheists or creationists would want to have shown.

  4. #4 Kaerion
    March 24, 2008

    It just occurred to me…if Mooney and Nisbet are right, and there’s no such thing as bad publicity…then Expelled! must be a HUGE success for PZ Myers, Richard Dawkins, and the pro-evolution side! And thus, all this hoopla is *also* a huge success for us, meaning that their criticisms are completely unfounded!

    Or, maybe they’re just as incapable of following their own arguments to their logical conclusion, as they are of making logical arguments in general…

  5. #5 SteveF
    March 24, 2008

    Fair point.

    As an aside, as I mentioned, I have some sympathy with the framing side (or rather I don’t think PZ is always helpful, not that framing is necessarily a great idea) but feel M&N are entirely wrong in this instance. It would appear that others who roughly share my position, like Orac and Jake Young, also feel this way. Sheesh, even Ed seems to be with PZ! This leads me to wonder; is there anyone who doesn’t feel that M&N are talking crap here? When your own “side” is telling you something’s up, it’s probably time to listen.

  6. #6 Rev Matt
    March 24, 2008

    The idea that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is clearly not the case. Check out “Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops” in which several big movies were destroyed by bad publicity surrounding them. Look at the case of Fatty Arbuckle, where bad publicity destroyed his career in spite of a verdict of not guilty. You can find hundreds if not thousands of examples that this is simply not true. Look at how quickly pr reps go into damage control when nude pictures of a female celebrity surface, or rumors of some infidelity start circulating about a politician.

    Sure, there is a level of awareness and popularity about a project or person below which any publicity might be considered good, but if your public profile is that low then what little bump you’d get from negative publicity isn’t likely to do any lasting good.

  7. #7 Rev Matt
    March 24, 2008

    The idea that “there’s no such thing as bad publicity” is clearly not the case. Check out “Fiasco: A History of Hollywood’s Iconic Flops” in which several big movies were destroyed by bad publicity surrounding them. Look at the case of Fatty Arbuckle, where bad publicity destroyed his career in spite of a verdict of not guilty. You can find hundreds if not thousands of examples that this is simply not true. Look at how quickly pr reps go into damage control when nude pictures of a female celebrity surface, or rumors of some infidelity start circulating about a politician.

    Sure, there is a level of awareness and popularity about a project or person below which any publicity might be considered good, but if your public profile is that low then what little bump you’d get from negative publicity isn’t likely to do any lasting good.

  8. #8 Pyre
    March 24, 2008

    Sure there’s no such thing as bad publicity.

    Look at the P.R. boosts that Presidents Gore and Kerry got from everything their opponents (e.g. “Swift Boat Vets”) said about them.

  9. #9 Tegumai Bopsulai, FCD
    March 24, 2008

    This leads me to wonder; is there anyone who doesn’t feel that M&N are talking crap here?

    Why sure there is. There’s um… Kevin Miller, a screenwriter whose most recent project is a film comparing biologists to Nazis and communists. Enjoy the company, M&N.

  10. #10 Kambiz Kamrani
    March 24, 2008

    Why is this tagged in the “life sciences” feed?

  11. #11 Sigmund
    March 24, 2008

    Nisbet and Mooney as scientists? Doesn’t work.
    Nisbet and Mooney as politicians?
    How is that frame?
    If you consider them as US politicians, say members of Obama or Hillary’s advisory team, then everything they say and do makes perfect sense. The problem comes when you mistake them for working scientists – which neither of them actually are. Their priorities are not the same as scientists. While their priorities may occasionally intersect with those of working scientists don’t be fooled by thinking that they are always on your side.
    Personally I suspect Nisbet is hankering after a Templeton award – and richly deserved too, on current evidence (even DJ Grothe hinted as much on the recent Point of Enquiry interview with Nisbet).

  12. #12 Blake Stacey
    March 24, 2008

    If you want to judge whether scandalous publicity will be good or bad, you have to consider the audience. Suppose you become embroiled in a titillating peccadillo of some sort; does your intended audience actually care? Might, they, indeed, see your actions as emblematic of the lifestyle you lead, perhaps even as victimless crimes which they’d like to commit themselves? There’s a world of difference between “rock star caught with groupie” and “politician caught with prostitute”.

    When “moderate” religious folk hear of disgusting acts performed by the Westboro Baptists or pedophile priests or whomever, you know what their natural response is? Often, they’ll say, “Those people aren’t real Christians.” Now, a strict empirico-rationalist would say that both the moderates and the extremists — the sensible and the revolting — are picking and choosing their favorite passages of Holy Writ. On secular grounds, there’s just no way to tell who is a “real Christian” or a follower of the “true Islam.” But hey, it’s still progress. A baby step in the right direction.

    Like a report of a Catholic priest playing Michael Jackson with an altar boy, this is the kind of news which makes the modest faithful and the Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers say, “Those people are not good Christian folk.” It is a golden opportunity to expose high-profile creationists as the lying scumbags they are, without having to sit people down for a lecture on embryology, DNA and the fossil record.

  13. #13 Blake Stacey
    March 24, 2008

    If you want to judge whether scandalous publicity will be good or bad, you have to consider the audience. Suppose you become embroiled in a titillating peccadillo of some sort; does your intended audience actually care? Might, they, indeed, see your actions as emblematic of the lifestyle you lead, perhaps even as victimless crimes which they’d like to commit themselves? There’s a world of difference between “rock star caught with groupie” and “politician caught with prostitute”.

    When “moderate” religious folk hear of disgusting acts performed by the Westboro Baptists or pedophile priests or whomever, you know what their natural response is? Often, they’ll say, “Those people aren’t real Christians.” Now, a strict empirico-rationalist would say that both the moderates and the extremists — the sensible and the revolting — are picking and choosing their favorite passages of Holy Writ. On secular grounds, there’s just no way to tell who is a “real Christian” or a follower of the “true Islam.” But hey, it’s still progress. A baby step in the right direction.

    Like a report of a Catholic priest playing Michael Jackson with an altar boy, this is the kind of news which makes the modest faithful and the Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers say, “Those people are not good Christian folk.” It is a golden opportunity to expose high-profile creationists as the lying scumbags they are, without having to sit people down for a lecture on embryology, DNA and the fossil record.

  14. #14 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2008

    Kambriz: This is tagged as life science because many of my readers are teachers who follow the life science thread and are also interested in this issue …. this is a political debate about life science teaching.

    This sort of item is also tagged either in education or politics, normally.

  15. #15 R NB
    March 24, 2008

    I have not been able to get the text of Dawkins’ actual review – site keeps timing out. Presumably overloaded. Does anyone know of a site where it is replicated?

    (incidentally, on appeasers vs fighters, I’m firmly on the Churchill side)

  16. #16 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2008

    RNB: Dawkins site has been off and on all day. I don’t know of any other places where it may be posted.

  17. #17 anon23
    March 24, 2008

    Something tells me that Tom Cruise could say a few words about the “no such thing as bad publicity myth”.

  18. #18 anon23
    March 24, 2008

    Something tells me that Tom Cruise could say a few words about the “no such thing as bad publicity myth”.

  19. #19 SLC
    March 24, 2008

    It should be noted that the delectable Dr. Kirshenbaum has joined Prof.Nisbet and his sockpuppet Chris Mooney in the Myers and Dawkins should shut up brigade.

  20. #20 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2008

    In my other post on this I include Dr. K’s missive. She is ten times smarter than Chris, as Chris would be the first to admit (right, Chris) so I’m sure she’ll come around after considering the situation.

  21. #21 wheatdogg
    March 24, 2008

    I blogged about the missing show dates this morning, too. My local theater said they had no private screenings scheduled for the 31st, the date formerly indicated on the RSVP.expelled webpage. Something is afoot …

  22. #22 the real cmf
    March 24, 2008

    I have been getting railed at some of the PZ minions blogs for saying the same thing as these guys ( the Twins…how cute;-)

    In PR, they call it “earned media”, meaning that it gets press by virtue of people finding merit in ‘it’,which then generates ‘buzz’.

    You don’t have to like it, or agree with it, but IT IS the way it works in PR.

    Also, think of it this way: how much ‘buzz’ has PZ himself generated by flaming righties, and labeling creo’s as lunatics, trolls, etc? Then, all the sciborgs kick in with their three cents, and then the i-net is ‘buzzing’. So really, it is what they call in the ol’ school street jargon, a ‘game calls game’ situation, this time the creo-nuts get the unearned buzz–one engineered scandal gets another engineered scandal, and so on;-)

    Sounds like the vultures have come home to roost a bit on this heap o’ controversy ;-)

  23. #23 wheatdogg
    March 24, 2008

    I blogged about the missing show dates this morning, too. My local theater said they had no private screenings scheduled for the 31st, the date formerly indicated on the RSVP.expelled webpage. Something is afoot …

  24. #24 wheatdogg
    March 24, 2008

    Sorry for the double post, but it looks like a few of us are having trouble with the commenting system. I got an internal service error 500 on my first attempt, which apparently went through anyway.

  25. #25 J. J. Ramsey
    March 24, 2008

    Blake Stacey: “Like a report of a Catholic priest playing Michael Jackson with an altar boy, this is the kind of news which makes the modest faithful and the Christmas-and-Easter churchgoers say, ‘Those people are not good Christian folk.'”

    I’m a bit more cynical. Offhand, I don’t think this qualifies as a PR disaster for the Expelled crew. If Mark Mathis was caught having anonymous gay sex in a public bathroom, that would be a PR disaster. (Hey, he was in Minneapolis.) Instead, we have him expelling someone for which the modest faithful don’t have much that much sympathy, and we’ve already seen Myers’ own words used to paint him as a potential troublemaker. It may inspire a negative reaction among the moderates, but also curiosity.

  26. #26 Kambiz Kamrani
    March 24, 2008

    Greg,

    It is Kambiz, and not Kambriz.

    It is my opinion that this post has little to nothing to do with life science. Just because many of yours readers are teachers who follow the life science thread are also interested in this socio-political issue, doesn’t qualify this post as life science.

    Suffice it to say, I don’t get why this sort of item should be tagged with anything but education or politics. Maybe you can do a bit more explaining about what about this post has directly anything to do with the study of the structure, function, growth, and distribution of living things.

    Kambiz

  27. #27 Darrell E
    March 24, 2008

    Kambiz,

    You seem to be fixated. Just look away.

  28. #28 Greg Laden
    March 24, 2008

    Kambiz,

    Your opinion is absolutely valid, and many of the scencebloggers on this system have the same opinion. I am right in the middle on this one.

    I just got a phone call today from a teacher who told me that another teacher was really interested in this discussion. I inquired further and found out that both of these teachers mainly read the life science RSS feed. So, just as I’m considering changing my policy (as I say, I’m on the fence) and seeing your comment, etc., I’m talked out of it.

    Here is what e need to do: Scienceblogs.com needs a channel for this topic. I believe there used to be one, and it was eliminated when new categories were created. I’m told a lot of work went into the new categories and there is no plan to change them in the near future (you can’t be changing the categories all the time). But next time there is a reconsideration of categories for RSS feeds, you can bet this will be proposed.

    For all the hoopla about Web 2.0 (which basically means, as far as I can tell, The Web with RSS feeds), this technology is pretty limited. Why can’t you filter your own feeds? (Or can you? Not easily on most feed readers, I think). So you have to do the filtering manually.

  29. #29 Brian
    March 24, 2008

    I have to say, it is getting hard for me to see how Nisbet can be constantly dispensing advice he does and not be a stealth creationist. I mean, unless he just has his head firmly planted in his gluteal musculature.

    I have to wonder: When he proffered this latest bit of patronizing rebuke, was he honestly expecting a reaction from Myers et al. other than the one he got? If so, the man is wearing blinders; almost anyone standing on the sidelines could have predicted the blogosphere’s reaction. If not, then one must conclude that he intentionally framed it to be objectionable and unlikely to persuade. To what possible end?

    Thus I am left contemplating the two aforementioned possibilities.

  30. #30 R
    March 24, 2008

    As I said on Nisbet’s blog, and in more detail over here …

    http://metamagician3000.blogspot.com/2008/03/more-science-and-religion-kerfuffle.html

    … Nisbet’s view seems to be something like: “Religion is here to stay, so to popularise science we have to sanitise er adjust er frame it to make it palatable to the religionists.” All his “framing” jargon boils down to this. (Set aside whether or not this strategy would actually work.)

    So anyone who argues that the scientific image of the world is in tension with the religious image is seen by Nisbet as an enemy of his agenda, or at best a liability.

    Conversely, from my viewpoint, Nisbet wants people like me to shut up. I can no longer see him as a friend who doesn’t “get” it. He is an enemy of my rationalist agenda.

    I think, people, that you will all have to make up your own minds whether you think Nisbet is your camp or whether you think he is an enemy of reason, which is the conclusion I’ve reached.

  31. #31 Russell Blackford
    March 24, 2008

    That “R” was me by the way. Ooops.

  32. #32 Eamon Knight
    March 24, 2008

    Not considering myself a “science communicator”, I’ve pretty much ignored the whole “framing” debate for the past year. Nor have I read Mooney and Nisbet’s blogs.

    After this “STFU” thing from those guys, I don’t think I’ll start anytime soon. I mean, really — contra the old saw, this publicity makes me want to *deliberately* ignore them, not just incidentally ignore them.

    And of course, to make the fucking thing even more fucking ridiculous, we’ve now got Sheril fucking complaining about PZ fucking telling fucking Nisbet to fuck off.

    (Am I allowed to say that on your blog, Greg?)

  33. #33 HP
    March 24, 2008

    Nisbet is actually a stealth creationist

    Absolutely. And it bears repeating.

    I think we give Nisbet way too much credit simply assuming that he’s an incompetent hack (and I’m a technical communications professional, if expertise counts for anything). An incompetent would’ve either stepped aside or gone back to the drawing board.

    There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a mole.

  34. #34 Brian
    March 24, 2008

    Oh yes, people complaining about the F word is a nice little ironic touch when you recall that it was only scant months ago that everyone around here knew “the F word” referred to “framing”.

    In a sense, Nisbet used the F word to insult first. PZ was just more up front about it.

  35. #35 Petra
    March 25, 2008

    Lately, I wonder whether I’ve gotten the notion of the shut-up-Myers-and-Dawkins entry rather wrong. It was the first entry I ever read on that blog, so I know nothing of whatever happened in the past on any similar subject. I got the feeling that Nisbet had a problem with PZ Myer’s and Dawkins’ promotion of atheism without distinguishing it from the position of science (which at least Dawkins usually does somewhere anyway, just not too loudly), and with them speaking out about the contents and claims of the Expelled movie. I didn’t thinkt they meant to stop them from speaking out about what happened concerning the false pretexts under which the interviews were obtained, and under which circumstances Myers was expelled from Expelled. Though it’s kind of tough to speak out about the one thing, but not the other.

    However, if the ‘framers’ really did mean to say Dawkins and Myers should shut up about the treatment they received, what on earth were they thinking? What kind of ludicrous thing is it to expect of someone who has been treated wrongfully by a knowingly dishonest, dangerous and immoral lot – in public, no less – to be quiet about it?

  36. #36 Brian
    March 25, 2008

    My admittedly-lay understanding of Nesbit’s point there is that PZ and Richard should immediately stand aside and let the PR flacks start spinning things, based on his presumably-unshakable tenet that these scientist types can’t possibly do the job right without a degree in communications.

    Of course the reason that that’s such an incredibly boneheaded idea is that it would be seen as a tacit admission of guilt. The creationists are trying to spin this as if Myers and Dawkins were misbehaving by showing up in the first place. If they were to follow Nesbit’s advice, and refuse to discuss the affair themselves, and maybe even start whip out some spin doctors to start hammering on some damn message — well, anyone with half a brain would figure that they’re trying to cover their tracks!

    Thankfully, PZ and Richard aren’t freaking idiots, and they’re not doing that. Instead, they’re talking about it freely, all the while pointing at the creationists and laughing. Which is what just about anybody with a clear conscience would do, in their shoes, and it shows. It’s clear that they don’t for a moment believe that they have anything to hide, and that the people involved with this movie have been behaving like two-faced jackasses.

    How could Nisbet not draw this conclusion himself? I’m finding myself leaning towards the hypothesis put forth by Tegumai, in the first comment in this thread: that Nisbet is only interested in getting his name attached to a high-profile event, even if that means being on the losing side of a debate.

    If I could meet Nisbet in person right now, I’d ask him, “So, that whole ‘no such thing as bad publicity’ idea — how’s that working out for YOU?”

  37. #37 David Harmon
    March 25, 2008

    While the “stealth creationist” hypothesis is appealing, I’m not sure it’s necessary. I’d say first that Mooney and Nisbet are “Iron law-ing” — that is, they’re placing their own status above the success of the group they’re supposedly working for.

    In any case, they lost my eyeballs many months ago, for general vacuity.

  38. #38 J. J. Ramsey
    March 25, 2008

    HP: “There’s no doubt in my mind that he’s a mole.”

    Ah, yes, the dangerous phrase “There’s no doubt in my mind.” Unless accompanied by a huge stack of evidence, it’s usually a red flag that one is substituting a feeling of certainty for facts.

    For all Nisbet’s faults, there is this not-so-small matter that he contradicts the creationist talking point that evolution and atheism are linked. Also, it’s not exactly as if creationists have a whole lot of control over who can get a blog on ScienceBlogs. If you have evidence for your claim, let’s see it. Otherwise, you deserve the same contempt as any rumor monger.

  39. #39 Lowk
    March 26, 2008

    I doubt that they are a “stealth creationist”; that seems a little far-fetched. I think it is just very easy to start off making a point that is relatively reasonable, but as you argue more and more extreme things from it, it morphs to become something silly. And at that stage, you’ve been defending it for so long, you can’t really see what the silly bits and what the reasonable bits are any more.

    In this case “PZ Myers’ forceful atheism can alienate religious people” becomes something akin to “PZ Myers needs to shut up since people knowing about his existence in any circumstances is bad”. He said the first (not unreasonable, if not particularly useful) part, and then when PZ responded negatively, it became a drawn out argument, and over this argument his position hardened and became more extreme, and now he is arguing the second, far dafter thing.

  40. #40 Andrew
    March 28, 2008

    I’ve been looking back over the comments and I don’t see the apology from M&N. It must have reached you by email.

  41. #41 dave X
    March 28, 2008

    JJ: I think the shoe should be on the other foot… Mr. Nisbet would do well to come clean one way or another.

Current ye@r *