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