The Intersection

So now PZ getting thrown out of Expelled (and Dawkins getting in) triggers New York Times coverage.

If you ask me, this really helps the Expelled people, who want nothing more than controversy. And Dawkins completely doesn’t get it:

Dr. Dawkins said the hoopla has been “a gift” to those who oppose creationism. “We could not ask for anything better,” he said.

How exactly does that work? How does “hoopla” over an anti-evolution movie help the cause of opposing creationism?

No, I suspect this is a gift to Expelled, a gift to Ben Stein. The controversy raises the profile of the movie, people–especially a movie like this, which is by its very nature courting controversy and baiting evolutionists.

Why is that hard to understand?

Comments

  1. #1 Greg Laden
    March 22, 2008

    Chris,

    You may be right, but with all due respect, I think this will play out the other way. (I’m actually writing something that will address this in more detail a bit later)…

    This is a classic issue for anything like “framing” to deal with … sometimes the best framing may be nothing (which is I think your point). But here we have at least two positives:

    1) The internet traffic on this issue is immense. Without giving details, this could be the biggest hit-count day ever on sciencblogs.com, and all of the discussion is negative on expelled. Quantity can matter.

    2) This is an irony (despite certain limiting and outdated definitions of irony) from Ben Stein’s perspective. Dawkins points this out in the video (if you want to see the video it’s on my site, near the top). That the ID people are hypocrites may not have been difficult to ascertain before, but not it is beyond doubt.

    Cheers,

    GTL

  2. #2 Burt Humburg
    March 22, 2008

    I’m with Greg, Chris. I can kind of see your point and if people turn up in droves to see this movie, you’ll be right.

    But that’s not going to happen. What point Stein or his ilk may have had (or sympathy gleaned) about academics being kicked out of academia because of their beliefs is laid waste and exposed for the cynical hypocrisy that it is.

    It’s a brilliant own-goal on the part of the creos. I sympathize with your concerns, but I don’t agree with you at all. It’s a boon to our side and an embarrassment to theirs.

    BCH

  3. #3 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    Chris wrote:

    How exactly does that work? How does “hoopla” over an anti-evolution movie help the cause of opposing creationism?

    I think in most cases the mere hoopla does help the movie. What has to be done is to expose the lies within the movie, like how Darwinism leads to Hitler.

    But the movie, based only on reviews I’ve read, sounds Rovian.

    Here’s a taste from my blog post on it:

    The film apparently doesn’t work at the level of rational argument, it sounds more like its about psychological manipulation and it exploits how we judge the thoughts of others. It will probably be effective, in a limited way, in increasing the divisiveness of the theist/atheist debate and push a certain group of theists deeper into a delusional interpretation of science, history and the nature of the current culture war. Atheists will be provoked into becoming more insulting and dismissive of all theists.

    There’s something very Rovian about this movie. It may work to the advantage of the Republican think tanks that want to prevent the political compromises some evangelicals might want to make with the Democratic side.

    It wasn’t too long ago that this debate seemed to take place at a higher level. When people argued about why irreducible complexity wasn’t a valid biological concept and the arguments were academic. But after the Dover trial things started to get nasty.

    Knowing now that they can’t win either a legal or scientific battle the proponents of ID and creationism have shifted into a new strategy. I’m not exactly sure what they are trying to do with this Expelled movie (I haven’t even seen it) but it wouldn’t surprise me if increasing divisiveness and pushing the argument down to lower levels is exactly what they want. Their reasons are probably political and have little to do with either being accepted as science or promoting academic freedom. This is, rather, a Swift-boating of science and academy.

  4. #5 Darek
    March 22, 2008

    This isn’t ‘hoopla’ Chris, the producers of this film were caught with their pants around their ankles. If anyone who isn’t already a proponent of ID bothers to click on the link to Pharyngula after reading the Times article, they will be able to see how dishonest and manipulative these people are.

  5. #6 HP
    March 22, 2008

    You know, I’ve been avoiding your blog for the last year or so, but Jesus God, man, you used to be an astute observer of science, politics, and culture. What the hell happened to you? Alcohol? Drugs? Nisbet?

    How many times are you going to shoot yourself in the foot before you realize that whatever it is you’re doing, it’s not framing, and it’s not working.

  6. #7 Chris C. Mooney
    March 22, 2008

    could you folks please try, just this one time, to check your highly developed critical faculties at the door, and accept that most Americans don’t see it your way, and won’t? All they’ll know is that Ben Stein has a new movie out and it’s really controversial and getting a lot of attention.

  7. #8 Badger3k
    March 22, 2008

    Chris, what part of your framing method involves calling the “most Americans” you refer to as stupid? I thought this is what you tell everyone not to do. What’s going on?

  8. #9 Ed S.
    March 22, 2008

    So, The Republican War On Science only helped the Republicans? Perhaps I missed something, having checked my critical faculties at the door.

  9. #10 Shirakawasuna
    March 22, 2008

    I agree with Norman, the higher publicity will likely help the producers recoup their losses, however *seeing* this film does not necessarily lead to people agreeing with it. It sounds like it’s pretty poorly done and even the average American Chris is describing notices when there’s too many references to Hitler and Stalin. The impact on public debate will likely be minimal – creationists seeing the movie were never really interested in learning anything in the first place and are going to have a fun time laughing at video quotemines. Generally uninformed noncreationists probably won’t see it and even if they do, one starts to notice that Stein’s character doesn’t really mesh with the whole ‘feel bad around Dachau’ vibe. Those who are already informed obviously won’t change their opinions either, given the obvious dishonesty.

    That was my certified block-paragraph on the topic, hope it was delightful.

  10. #11 Matthew C. Nisbet
    March 22, 2008

    The article concludes:

    Dr. Dawkins said the hoopla has been “a gift” to those who oppose creationism. “We could not ask for anything better,” he said.

    I would say it is the other way around: Dawkins and PZ are gifts to the creationists, they could not have asked for anything better in promoting their film and arguments.

  11. #12 mlf
    March 22, 2008

    Mathis did something wrong and stupid. Of course he should be called out on it.

    Should the fact that Mathis is using the police to turn scientists away, publicly, be ignored?

    It’s a gift because it exposes the hypocrisy for all to see.

  12. #13 Dan
    March 22, 2008

    Chris,
    And why should we continue to “enable” you and Matt Nisbet, seeing as how the two of you are doing a great disservice to the reality-based community?

  13. #14 mlf
    March 22, 2008

    Matthew C. Nisbet said: “I would say it is the other way around: Dawkins and PZ are gifts to the creationists, they could not have asked for anything better in promoting their film and arguments.”

    That’s right Matthew, any scientists that are escorted from the theaters by police, in front of there family and friends, should just keep quite about it. It’s for the greater good, after all.

  14. #15 Kurt
    March 22, 2008

    Why is that hard to understand?

    I think you’re mistaken about this, Chris. If this was a big-budget movie getting a wide release, then sure, the extra publicity would probably just get them more bodies in the theaters. But I think it’s becoming pretty clear that this is a low-budget hack job that may never see a commercial release, only being shown to target audiences at churches and the like. I really don’t think they want any exposure in the secular press at all, because they’ll look so bad.

    The carefully selected audiences may be eating up the propaganda of the film, but if they start reading in their local papers about how dishonest the movie is, it may force them to think twice (or even once) about what they’ve seen.

  15. #16 Dan
    March 22, 2008

    Point of fact, Chris, you said:

    could you folks please try, just this one time, to check your highly developed critical faculties at the door, and accept that most Americans don’t see it your way, and won’t?

    Right, so we should stop trying to impress upon them scientific knowledge, and where they’re flat wrong? What’s the point of the National Center for Science Education, again?

  16. #17 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    Ed S. wrote:

    So, The Republican War On Science only helped the Republicans? Perhaps I missed something, having checked my critical faculties at the door.

    All such books and statements are a double edged sword. I’ve already noted this before on another thread here, but, again; Chris Mooney is also semi-quoted over at the Expelled Movie Blog:

    Just two years earlier, the elfin journalist Chris Mooney had likened adult stem cell research to creationism and assured the readers of his best seller, The Republican War on Science, that this “dogma” had been “resoundingly rejected by researchers actually working in the field.”

    So, Chris, were you enabling them too?

    Maybe a little bit, but in the end Chris did more to call attention to the problem than any other writer I read at that time. You can’t really say anything that can’t be used by both sides in some way. There is no such thing as a perfect frame.

    If you want to be more effective, then take time to learn about the people who’s minds you want to reach.

  17. #18 Greg Laden
    March 22, 2008

    most Americans don’t see it your way, and won’t? All they’ll know is that Ben Stein has a new movie out and it’s really controversial and getting a lot of attention.

    I agree that this is essentially true (“all publicity is good publicity” in the entertainment industry), but the effect of an event on Americans in general is not necessarily the only relevant effect.

    For instance, Ben Stein has been stumping for politicians. It is not the case that all publicity is good publicity in politics. This event may drive a wedge (if I may use that word) between Stein and the other Expelled people and their supporters.

  18. #19 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    Greg Laden wrote:

    This event may drive a wedge (if I may use that word) between Stein and the other Expelled people and their supporters.

    And that’s pretty much what PZ is trying to do. He’s trying to shame the Expelled movie makers in front of their own potential audience as well as others within the production who thought they were honest.

    It will have some effect, but it will also necessarily do what Chris fears too.

    Which is more important? I don’t know the fundy religious mind well enough to tell.

  19. #20 Dave Bacon
    March 22, 2008

    “No, I suspect this is a gift to Expelled, a gift to Ben Stein. The controversy raises the profile of the movie, people…”

    So we should all just keep out mouths shut and let this bafoons carry on? If the vast majority already agrees with Stein and his ilk, then this seems like a silly strategy.

    Every second that can be taken when the idiocy of these positions is made public, and here it is done an extremely humerous way, seems to me an opportunity. Will there be fallout in terms of inriching the coffers of these film makers, yes, of course, but if that means 1 percent of people change their minds about intelligence design, I say money well spent.

    And, I would hope, the New York Times would stop letting Ben Stein write an op-ed column for their Business section.

  20. #21 blf
    March 22, 2008

    Chris’ argument seems to be the “any publicity is good publicity” one. A commenter on one the other threads (which several thousand comments in aggregate, I’ve no recollection of which thread…!) who pointed out, paraphrasing, “If any publicity is good publicity, then why doesn’t someone shoot up a church and claim she/he did it to advance of Teh Darwinista Conspiracy uncovered in Expelled?” (And several other examples, but that was the one which stuck in my leaky mind.)

    However, Chris may have a point. A common stereotype is USAians have a poorly developed sense of irony. As such, the irony of someone in Expelled being expelled from Expelled could be lost; the double irony of the guy standing next to him could also have been expelled for exact the same reasons but wasn’t could be lost; and the triple irony of Expelled doing exactly what they say the movie is protesting against (expelling people) will be lost.

    Does that translate into more people seeing the movie when it’s released? Perhaps.

    Does the incident increase the number of people who have heard of the movie? I’d be astonished if that wasn’t the case, and do concur more people may try to see it as a result.

    Does seeing the movie turn one into a blithering idiot (or IDiot)? No evidence: To-date, most of the people who have seen it either already are blithering IDiots, or else are very well informed. It’s the effect on the wide variety of lay people, who probably (in the USA) are inclined to believe in Teh Sky Mistress, that is unknown. (And, not very clear to me, is the question of how good the overall grasp of science, reasoning, and evolution is amongst such people? And there’s a wide variety of people here, so unlike the Teh Sky Mistress generalization, I’m not sure there is single simple generalization?)

    Yet the issue is not just one of science, irony, IDiocy, evolution, and so on; it’s also how well tuned is the movie-goer’s BullShite detector? And desire for entertainment? Here we do have some professional (movie critic) input: The movie is easily seen to be pure BullShite and is not entertaining. It’s dull, ham-fisted, and (it seems) poorly shot.

    It’s alleged to only be opening on c.100 screens (at least prior to this incident), and at the “dead” time of the year (for movie releases), suggesting the producers(?) don’t have much, ah, “faith” in any wide success. And I’ve not heard of any plans for an international release. (I’m a bit surprised it’s not straight-to-DVD, where it probably will enjoy a continuing circulation amongst the IDiots.)

    It might become a “cult classic” as a Really, Really, Bad, Like Seriously Bad, Movie.

  21. #22 Jim Lippard
    March 22, 2008

    I recently read Susan Jacoby’s _Freethinkers_, and when I read about how Susan B. Anthony kept her agnosticism quiet and Margaret Sanger denied her ties to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and subsequently Stanton being largely written out of the history of the women’s suffrage movement because of her outspoken atheism and authorship of _The Woman’s Bible_.

    Minimizing Stanton’s role and her views on religion probably assisted Susan B. Anthony in merging her efforts with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and getting suffrage passed–but it also assisted in passing Prohibition and censorship laws, and incredible disservice to the memory of Stanton.

    Nisbet and Mooney’s view seems to be that we’d be better off with only people like Susan B. Anthony and without people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton trying to ruin things.

  22. #23 Jim Lippard
    March 22, 2008

    Corrected version of previous comment:

    I recently read Susan Jacoby’s _Freethinkers_, about how Susan B. Anthony kept her agnosticism quiet and Margaret Sanger denied her ties to Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and subsequently Stanton being largely written out of the history of the women’s suffrage movement because of her outspoken atheism and authorship of _The Woman’s Bible_.

    Minimizing Stanton’s role and her views on religion probably assisted Susan B. Anthony in merging her efforts with the Women’s Christian Temperance Union and getting suffrage passed–but it also assisted in passing Prohibition and censorship laws, and incredible disservice to the memory of Stanton.

    Nisbet and Mooney’s view seems to be that we’d be better off with only people like Susan B. Anthony and without people like Elizabeth Cady Stanton trying to ruin things.

  23. #24 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 22, 2008

    In the long run, I think this event is a big negative for the IDeologues. Sure, it lets more people know that there’s a new movie coming with Ben Stein in it. This may increase the audience initially. However, from the accounts I have read, the movie is heavy-handed, ineptly made and boring. Word will spread, and Expelled will die a quick death. After all, there was plenty of advance publicity and controversy over the likes of Battlefield Earth and Heaven’s Gate. They still tanked, and are now the prototypes of heavily-hyped duds.
    Also, publicizing an incident like this simply adds to the evidence that the IDeologues are deceptive, humorless and stupid. It may not convince the true believers, but I think it will have some effect on swinging the undecideds against the ID propaganda mill.

  24. #25 Todd
    March 22, 2008

    Let me see if understand this line of reasoning. Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers are misled into giving interviews to the producers of this movie. When they find out that their interviews are going to be used to promote pseudoscience, they should do what John Kerry did in 2004 and ignore the misrepresentation and hope it all goes away. That’ll work.

  25. #26 Tyler DiPietro
    March 22, 2008

    I don’t want to get too involved here, but why are we talking about this “helping” Ben Stein? Stein’s “gift” came in the form a check and he’s only holding up his end of the bargain. He’s a celebrity prostitute and he’s getting payed either way. Our real targets are those in the production crew.

  26. #27 michaelf
    March 22, 2008

    Larry Moran has some good posts up about editorials in Science about science education. We need less framing and more about science as a process.

  27. #28 poke
    March 22, 2008

    Obviously it has the downside of calling attention to a crappy film that’s been below most peoples’ radar. But what would you suggest as an alternative? Should PZ not have blogged about it? Should Dawkins have said, when interviewed, “this has the unfortunate downside of calling attention to this ridiculous dreck”? (Perhaps he did; would the NY Times print it?) Should they not have given interviews to the media? What, concretely, are you saying here?

    I think everyone involved knows that it’s unfortunate to draw too much attention to this movie. At the same time, there’s undeniably delicious irony and glaring hypocrisy involved that strikes at the heart of their promotional strategy, and that’s not something you throw away. So yes, there’s downsides to everything, everybody understands that. You’re not the only adult in the room.

  28. #29 J. J. Ramsey
    March 22, 2008

    Dan: “Right, so we should stop trying to impress upon them scientific knowledge …”

    Way to strawman, Dan.

    The problem is that a lot of Americans get their information in bits and pieces from word of mouth, maybe a little news from a music station, and so on. We should take into account that just about everything we say is going to be heard through some pretty noisy filters. The point is not to stop trying to get people to understand what the scientific consensus is, but rather to take those noisy filters into account when communicating.

    Kurt: “The carefully selected audiences may be eating up the propaganda of the film, but if they start reading in their local papers about how dishonest the movie is …”

    And what about the people who hear about the movie by word-of-mouth from someone from church rather than through the paper?

    I’m not quite as pessimistic as Mooney is. Whether this ends up good or bad depends on what gets through the noisy filters. If word gets around that the screeners of the movie are hypocritical, that could be good. If the buzz is that some “Darwinist” tried to crash the gate and make trouble, that’s a whole other story. One big catch is that the latter story is friendlier to the biases of the movie’s target audience and may get passed along by church gossipers who don’t read the NY Times.

  29. #30 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    poke spoke:

    Should PZ not have blogged about it? Should Dawkins have said, when interviewed, “this has the unfortunate downside of calling attention to this ridiculous dreck”?

    No, but maybe there needs to be a little more balance in how we present ID proponents. They’re not all liars and hypocrites, some of them are the trusting victims of liars and the deluded. PZ’s blog might focus a little too heavily on the freak show aspect of religion.

  30. #31 Randy Olson
    March 22, 2008

    Did any of you ever hear about something called the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth? Do you recall the John Kerry election campaign staff saying, “When the American public hears the truth about John Kerry’s war record …” Do you really think the American public every really heard the truth? Do you really think the American public is going to hear the truth about this film? Sorry, folks, I’m with Chris. I’ve done my time clashing with the Discovery Institute folks and am no fan of these trashy films. But this isn’t about clutching on to the truth and going down in flames. It’s about understanding how these communication and p.r. dynamics work, and making sure you don’t get played, over and over again.

  31. #32 doctorgoo
    March 22, 2008

    PZ, as quoted on the Expelled! blog:

    “It’s (EXPELLED) going to appeal strongly to the religious, the paranoid, the conspiracy theorists, and the ignorant — which means they’re going to draw in about 90% of the American market.”

    PZ is exactly correct on this. Sure, this negative publicity just disgusts us 10% to the point of vomitting. But for everyone else (who, not coincidentally, is the target audience for the movie), this incident just feeds the controversity and is very valuable free publicity.

    Sure, PZ, Dawkins and others will tell the truth (don’t get me wrong, this is very important to point out their hypocrisy). And many people will indeed realize how stupid Ben Stein and the rest are.

    But Mooney is absolutely correct this is also a ‘win’ for those who support Expelled. Creating buzz, even when negative, will sell tickets.

    The only question is whether or not this is a bigger win for science and critical thinking, or a bigger win for Expelled!… based on whether or not it increases or decreases how many people end up hearing (and believing) their message.

    So while I’m with everyone else here, hoping that this free publicity doesn’t help them too much, I guess we’ll all find out together when the movie comes out who the real winner of this incident is.

  32. #33 doctorgoo
    March 22, 2008

    I wrote:

    just feeds the controversity

    Yes, I pride myself on my mad word-makeupage skillz… either that, or I didn’t properly edit my last post.

    lol

  33. #34 doctorgoo
    March 22, 2008

    Others who have seen this movie have pointed out that it’s just plain old boring. This, by far, is the main reason why this movie will be a failure.

    Just remember, that for most people who don’t follow the evolution/intelligent design debate, what we consider to be a huge buzzworthy incident, is barely worthy of a mention in the newspaper. Here’s an example:

    http://wcco.com/local/man.kicked.out.2.682830.html

    But by all means, we should continue to try to frame this event as an incredible negative for their side. They want (and need) the free publicity, but if we can demonstrate how hypocritical they are, then the scandal will outweigh any buzz they’ve received.

  34. #35 Randy Olson
    March 22, 2008

    Let me tell you a little story about the flip side of this controversy. The movie “Jesus Camp” premiered alongside my movie “Flock of Dodos” at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. It was picked up for distribution by Magnolia Films. They put together a distribution plan based on the gamble that the film would enflame the religious community and the controversy would drive huge box office. They released it in about 20 theaters in September of 2006, almost ALL in “red states” (back when the red/blue divide was a little more intense than it is now). The goal was to have religous groups picketing the theaters, and thus generating major publicity (like articles in the NY Times).

    Ted Haggard was in the movie (and this was before his big fall from grace). The distributors hope was that Haggard would go to the press and protest it loudly. But that didn’t happen.

    Instead, the churches quietly told their flocks to just avoid it. Very little was said. Indiewire magazine said the opening night in Denver, with a post-screening panel discussion, drew only 40 people. The movie made only $17,000 on its opening weekend.

    It scored a little bit of business when Haggard imploded and when it was nominated for an Oscar, but never broke $1 million at the box office, which had to have been at least how much was spent on prints and advertising.

    The point is, the religious folks knew how to not play into the p.r. machine of their opponents. Call them all the names you want, but while you do so, you might want to study their marketing and p.r. savvy.

  35. #36 Cherish
    March 22, 2008

    I have to agree that while I think it was absolutely hilarious how things worked out, it is going to make PZ and Dawkins (and hence the scientific community) look bad. They have no evidence to what actually happened (i.e. a film of the incident) so people are going to believe what they want to believe. If the situation is spun such that they look like they were making trouble, there is no proof to the contrary, unless someone talks to the security guard and he comes down on one side or the other.

    If people go to the movie and see clips of these same scientists more or less mocking people’s religious beliefs (which is the clip PZ posted today), who do you think the general public is going to believe? Certainly not a bunch of uber-rational scientists who are out to get rid of religion. No, they’re going to be sympathetic to the side that looks like it’s trying to protect religious beliefs (even if they weren’t sympathetic to them before) and try to ignore the fact that there are inconsistencies or flat out lies in the movie.

  36. #37 Joe Shelby
    March 22, 2008

    I wonder, given that the film is not yet officially in general release, if they even have a real “distributor”? And even if so, will the general theaters actually bother to show it.

    yeah, publicity can get them to sign on, but publicity about there being evictions will NOT. they’ll look at the stories, look at the whole “I have to have police and paid security here just to show this documentary???” (which already is a low-revenue product under any circumstances), and likely just say no. their profit margins are low enough without having to have the added expense.

    now yes, this means that just like the dumb public that only reads half an article (the half that might mean something to them), these theater owners also are only reading half the article (that half which matters to them), but its two sides of the same fact.

    if the movie is already a given as a “hit” (Passion of the Christ, or even Monty Python’s Life of Brian), theater owners will embrace it regardless of any added expense in security.

    but if its just a documentary, and the reputation is already out (regardless of the p.o.v. factor) that its a bad one, then throwing in potential “controversy” and security costs will easily be enough to get the theater owners to just keep it out and hold onto the latest Will Smith flick for another week.

  37. #38 Sigmund
    March 22, 2008

    Chris and Matthew, why don’t you just ignore the whole topic if any mention of it is simply of benefit to the fundies?

  38. #39 Boo
    March 22, 2008

    Battlefield Earth had a lot of hoopla too.

  39. #40 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    Randy Olson wrote:

    It scored a little bit of business when Haggard imploded and when it was nominated for an Oscar, but never broke $1 million at the box office, which had to have been at least how much was spent on prints and advertising.

    How well did “Flock of Dodos” do? It seems like both of those themes have limited market appeal.

  40. #41 Chris Ho-Stuart
    March 22, 2008

    Chris Mooney writes:

    could you folks please try, just this one time, to check your highly developed critical faculties at the door, and accept that most Americans don’t see it your way, and won’t? All they’ll know is that Ben Stein has a new movie out and it’s really controversial and getting a lot of attention.

    My highly trained critical faculties honestly disagree with you. Some of what you have said about communication issues is sensible, but here you’ve gone of the rails into nonsense.

    Sure, most Americans don’t see it our way. But most Americans don’t know which way to see it. Most people don’t know much about ID, and the movie can tap into a default presumption of fairness. How do we respond?

    Ignoring it entirely is not a sensible option at all. Inflated rhetoric about the movie producers being liars and scoundrels may backfire, and extended justifications which require a whole pile of background information don’t play well. On the other hand, a simple event like this one, with immediate comic impact and gold plated irony and hypocrisy, gets the point across right away.

    Now, of course the IDists will be trying to spin this into gatecrashing and attempted disruption by Myers and Dawkins. But note… they are now the ones backfooted. The vast bulk of Americans, who are not determined supporters of ID but bemused onlookers, are going to see the immediate events and the default presumption for those onlookers is that Myers was unfairly treated.

    There are hard core IDists and creationists that you can never persuade. But most Americans, who deal in occasional bites from either side, have here a simple straightforward and above all FUNNY event that reveals the mentality behind the ID movement as in a spotlight. You won’t persuade everyone, and you don’t have to try.

    Here are two guys who had a very good thought for how to make a positive contribution. They staged a little fireside chat. It was genial, and funny, and showed them relaxed and amused about the whole thing. They put it on video, and put it on youtube. See Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers on being expelled from Expelled.

  41. #42 rpenner
    March 22, 2008

    I have suspected that the reason they refer to the movie shown from Feb through March as a “rough cut” is because they have footage in it that they have no rights to, and that Copyright Clearance is the main reason that the film’s release was shifted from Feb to April.

    The news that biologists bring us that the Harvard animation was in fact being used is now supporting that belief. Therefore, I expect the next phase of the contraversy is for the Harvard animation owners to chime in. Despite the fact that they are showing this movie around the country for free, they are showing it for a commercial purpose. Then they also sell it on a DVD.

    I seriously suspect that they are deserving of the maximum penalty of copyright violation.

    To run from these people for fear of generating publicity is cowardly and a retreat.

  42. #43 Reed A. Cartwright
    March 22, 2008

    I disagree that this is going to help them in the long run. It is highlighting the fact that the movie is a piece of crap being promoted by a bunch of stooges. If the movie was just controversial, it would be one thing. But it is badly done, and no one but the dedicated, sheltered culture warriors could miss it.

    However, this actions like these by the Expelled folks give us simple examples to impeach their credibility, when the culture warriors start pressing to show it in schools or start citing it as an authority.

  43. #44 J. J. Ramsey
    March 22, 2008

    Randy Olson:

    Did any of you ever hear about something called the Swift Boat Veterans for the Truth? Do you recall the John Kerry election campaign staff saying, “When the American public hears the truth about John Kerry’s war record …”

    The catch with that one is that in that case, John Kerry’s lack of prompt response hurt him. Of course, the Swift Boat Liars immediately had a large forum, so there was no way that not responding would have choked off attention to them, and that’s a pretty big difference from the case of the screenings of Expelled. Still, that’s a dicey example.

  44. #45 Reed A. Cartwright
    March 22, 2008

    Also is there any history of controversy and bad press increasing right-wing turnout, especially for documentaries?

  45. #46 Julie Stahlhut
    March 22, 2008

    Do note that PZ did not deliberately get himself kicked out in order to make a point. Undoubtedly he intended to blog about the movie, and would have taken no prisoners in doing so, but he wasn’t protesting or disrupting the show.

    The thing that will make these Bensteinian intellects look silly is not that they threw a well-known atheist blogger out of the theater under flimsy pretenses, but that they failed to recognize perhaps the world’s most famous atheist standing right there in the same group. Analogy: Before the last election, the Bush League became notorious for throwing people out of stump-speech audiences if they were known or suspected non-supporters of Bush. If they’d ejected the president of the local College Democrats but let Michael Moore take a seat unhindered, they’d have more closely approached what the IDiots did here.

    Certainly some people will believe rumors about nasty old atheists disrupting the film, but then again, what are people who oppose the ID scam supposed to do? Should we all avoid seeing the film? I personally would have no stomach for it, and definitely would not give money to the ID crowd by buying a ticket, but I think it’s great that some real biologists are holding their noses and watching it. More than any film critic or mealy-mouthed NYT editorialist, a biologist can actually understand — and explain — the deceit in depth.

  46. #47 PZ Myers
    March 22, 2008

    Oh, come one now. This is ridiculous. So now you’re going to argue that the best response to creationist arguments is silence and neglect? Nonsense.

    This is pushback. This is confronting creationism directly. Yes, it brings it to wider attention, just like flipping over a damp rock and shining a flashlight under it brings unpleasant things to view. What you’re neglecting is the important fact that it also helps increase awareness of the dishonesty of these scumbags.

    That’s the message. They want to claim that they are unfairly excluded. The appropriate response is to show that they cheat, lie, and mislead, and they don’t deserve to be treated fairly.

  47. #48 JD
    March 22, 2008

    “Why is that hard to understand?”

    Speaking of hard to understand, how is it hard for Mooney to understand that no matter what point anyone ever makes based on something from the film, it can be immediately countered by the PZ/Dawkins incident?

    If the entire basis of the film is to garner public sympathy for those excluded from expressing their ideas, then how can the film’s producer justify the expulsion of PZ Myers from seeing a movie he’s featured in?

    That counter easily destroys any sympathy the film may garner from a neutral audience (makes a great sound bite too!).

    The public may not be well informed regarding ID and evolution, but the vast majority can recognize this kind of blatant hypocrisy and be appalled by it. It’s not hard to understand or see.

  48. #49 David Marjanović
    March 22, 2008

    In principle, controversy should be expected to help such a movie, and I think this is what the producers wanted. But that’s now how Expelledgate worked out.

    Instead, the IDologues have shown themselves to be so scared that they kick someone out who is interviewed in the movie, and so stupid that at the same time they don’t recognize Richard Dawkins, even though — having access to teh intartoobz — they ought to have known he was in town because he was on the program of an atheist conference! Speaking of which, scheduling a public preview of their movie — and, yes, it was public, because anyone was able to reserve a seat online, as PZ did — at the same time and place as an atheist conference that was announced on Pharyngula among other websites comes across as rather silly, too.

    Analogy: Before the last election, the Bush League became notorious for throwing people out of stump-speech audiences if they were known or suspected non-supporters of Bush. If they’d ejected the president of the local College Democrats but let Michael Moore take a seat unhindered, they’d have more closely approached what the IDiots did here.

    Exactly.

    Plus, as has been pointed out, the movie is made in an astonishingly incapable manner, with jumps in the cutting, irrelevant close-ups of Dawkins’ nose, and so on. And then there’s the obvious copyright violation. Really, I don’t see anything to fear here other than fear itself (or the Kerry response — “being a gentleman, I am above responding to such obvious lies”).

    Hint for the framers: I used the word “Expelledgate”. I didn’t come up with it, but I think this is how we should frame this hilarious affair. Stein and Mathis have been caught with their pants around their ankles, and with their empty skulls open. Let us point and laugh.

  49. #50 David Marjanović
    March 22, 2008

    That’s the message. They want to claim that they are unfairly excluded. The appropriate response is to show that they cheat, lie, and mislead, and they don’t deserve to be treated fairly.

    …and they are in fact being treated fairly, you mean. Frame: “Not expelled, but FLUNKED!”

    The public may not be well informed regarding ID and evolution, but the vast majority can recognize this kind of blatant hypocrisy and be appalled by it. It’s not hard to understand or see.

    It’s neither “rocket science” nor molecular biology…

  50. #51 Chris C. Mooney
    March 22, 2008

    Hi PZ,

    Your approach definitely works with your readers. They are loud, they are numerous, and they love it. It’s like watching gladitorial combat or something.

    But with all due respect, I fail to see the broader strategy to what you and Dawkins are doing. It seems to me that you have given Ben Stein just what he wants, just like Bill O’Reilly gave Al Franken precisely what he wanted–delicious controversy.

    I’m not saying there’s no way to respond to Expelled, but I don’t think you’ve found it. Seriously: Listen to Randy Olson. He knows a thing or two about the marketing of films, Or listen to me about the marketing of books. Believe me, with the exception of a plagiarism scandal or something, virtually any author would love a New Your Times article about the controversy their work has caused.

  51. #52 J. J. Ramsey
    March 22, 2008

    PZ Myers: “So now you’re going to argue that the best response to creationist arguments is silence and neglect?”

    If the creationists happen to be in a bad position where they happen to be dying for lack of attention–as had been the case with Expelled–then bringing attention threatens to revive them. Whether the cold shoulder works depends on the threat, of course, but sometimes it’s appropriate.

  52. #53 Randy Olson
    March 22, 2008

    I did a short film a couple years ago with Mark Dowie, author of the Pulitzer nominated book, “Losing Ground.” He cited Saul Alinski, the famous grassroots organizer, who coined the term “Total Tactics,” meaning there is no single right way to achieve an agenda, but rather a need for a variety of approaches.

    Rabble rousing from PZ and Dawkins is essential in keeping the fires stoked and grabbing the interest of supporters. But there’s a need for the complementary campaign to be at work. Which is exactly what PZ was calling for last week on his blog by asking his readers what can be done to counter this anti-evolution media offensive. Had there been something in the works, the p.r. generated from this little brouhaha could have been co-opted to promote what the evolutionists are doing.

    It’s about total tactics.

  53. #54 J. J. Ramsey
    March 22, 2008

    JD: “The public may not be well informed regarding ID and evolution, but the vast majority can recognize this kind of blatant hypocrisy and be appalled by it. It’s not hard to understand or see.”

    It’s not hard to understand or see–if you get a chance to see it. As I said before, a lot depends on the channels through which people get to see the story, since that determines how the story gets framed. We’re already seeing a frame where Myers and Dawkins are treated as gatecrashers, and Myers as a disruption waiting to happen, even using an ambiguous quote mine of his own words against him:

    One, I will go see this movie, and I will cheer loudly at my 30 seconds or whatever on the screen, and I will certainly disembowel its arguments here and in any print venue that wants me. That’s going to be fun.

    The worst thing about that quote is that even in context, it is hard to tell if Myers is joking or only half-joking. The second worst thing is that it is in the next-to-last comment of the blog post in which it appears. :(

    There’s no guarantee that the hypocrisy frame will become dominant.

  54. #55 Joe Shelby
    March 22, 2008

    Hate to break it to you Chris but you do have one thing on your side that really helped your book: it told the truth. It was also a damn good, well researched and written book.

    In addition, you were marketing in *favor* of purchasing your book.

    How do you do the opposite? How to you deter “the masses” from a work that otherwise attracts them?

    You claim here (and on other topics over the last year or two) that the PZ/Dawkins media fest is attracting “their” side too much attention, yet in this, and in your “framing” arguments you merely keep telling them they’re wrong but never actually tell them anything *positive* they should do. Only “don’t do what you’re doing”. I see it repeatedly in these little internal SB flame wars, and I don’t really find it terribly useful, nor by my reading does PZ.

  55. #56 poke
    March 22, 2008

    I think there’s a strong argument to be made that the “conflict frame” Nesbit and friend(s) like to decry is the very reason that Creationists can no longer infiltrate school boards covertly. The “loud and numerous” serve the useful purpose of being loud and numerous. Do you really think the fact that there are now hundreds of people taking an interest in this problem is a bad thing? I don’t know what initially got you interested in these issues, Chris, but I’m guessing it was more likely a big eye-opening controversy rather than a weaselly essay on how we should frame the issue. What gets dismissed as “preaching to the choir” is probably the most important thing anybody does.

  56. #57 QrazyQat
    March 22, 2008

    Yes, this is certainly awful; why it’s as good for the Id/creationists as Iraq is for the GOP. This is almost as tragic for us as that documentary NOVA did about the ID trial in Dover. If only no one had written on it or filmed it.

  57. #58 Coturnix
    March 22, 2008

    NYTimes, slashdot, digg, stumbleupon, boingboing, DailyKos…hundreds of thousands of people (millions?) now know about this episode. 99% of them are not scientists, not science bloggers, not atheists. Yet they all understood it and laughed at Stein and Co. not at Myers and Dawkins. And these people will tell this to their spouses and friends and colleagues. I think this is a PR victory for our side, hands down.

  58. #59 Coturnix
    March 22, 2008

    Not to mention that now, when one googles ‘Expelled’ at least some of the mentions of this incident from our side are high on the list (which was not the case until last night). Google memory is probably the most important positive result of this. Many people, when they hear about this movie opening in their town, will google it to see what it is all about….

  59. #60 Randy Olson
    March 22, 2008

    Not quite sure you guys understand how this p.r. game works. Lemme tell you a horrible Hollywood tale. A few years ago an actress friend of mine was up for a lead role in a show. The two finalists were her and Rebecca Gayheart, the actress who ran over and killed a 9 yr old boy in a crosswalk and pled guilty to vehicular manslaughter. Guess who got the part. My friend’s manager talked to one of the producers. He said although it was a terrible tragedy, she had more name recognition because of it, and that was what they were looking for.

    Don’t think this supposed bad word of mouth in the NY Times and elsewhere is hurting “Expelled.” You don’t seem to know how lousy this p.r. game is.

  60. #61 J. J. Ramsey
    March 22, 2008

    poke: “I think there’s a strong argument to be made that the ‘conflict frame’ Nesbit and friend(s) like to decry is the very reason that Creationists can no longer infiltrate school boards covertly.”

    I don’t know where you got the idea that the creationists were covertly infiltrating school boards. As far as I’ve seen, the creationists were fairly overt, except in wrapping up their beliefs as “intelligent design,” which was designed to try to get around current case law. Bear in mind that the creationists’ legal constraints came about because of groups that worked with the moderate religious. Heck, IIRC, the plaintiffs in the Kitzmiller case were religious, and might not have brought the suit if they saw it as science versus their religion.

    Coturnix: “NYTimes, slashdot, digg, stumbleupon, boingboing, DailyKos…hundreds of thousands of people (millions?) now know about this episode.”

    And what are the political and religious persuasions of those who read these? I’m reminded of the Nixon-Kennedy debate, where supposedly those who heard the debate on the radio thought Nixon won, while those who saw it thought Kennedy won. The target audience for Expelled is not necessarily looking at the same media that we are, and they are not necessarily using our frames. Jeffrey Overstreet’s framing of the situation could be a harbinger of what we might expect from Fox Noise or other conservative outlets.

  61. #62 Jim Lippard
    March 22, 2008

    I seem to be seeing two contradictory arguments:

    1. All publicity is good publicity, therefore even publicizing an incident which is embarrassing to ID can still benefit their cause.

    2. Those opposing intelligent design should be careful not to seek publicity for their view which could be portrayed in a bad light.

    Argument (1) is clearly false as stated–some publicity is truly embarrassing and damaging to a cause. I think that’s clearly the case in this incident. One may argue that the Scopes trial gave the nation a false sense that fundamentalism was defeated and allowed it to make a comeback, but I suspect the causes that drove the 1980s resurgence of fundamentalism still would have occurred if Bryan hadn’t been made a fool of by Darrow and in public reporting by Mencken.

    Argument (2) is something that certain groups should be concerned about–I’m glad that the NCSE doesn’t take a position on religion–but I think individuals speaking on their own behalf should say what they really think, and Myers and Dawkins have no duty to be accomodationist with any groups they disagree with. There’s nothing preventing groups from dissociating themselves from any remarks or positions they disagree with.

  62. #63 T. Bruce McNeely
    March 22, 2008

    I still think dishonesty is an exception to the rule of “all publicity is good publicity”. What about A Million Little Pieces? This was the hottest book around when everyone thought it was a true story. Then it was discovered to be in large part made up. It has completely fallen off the radar, and I doubt that a sequel will go anywhere. Lots of people may not grasp the dishonesty of ID “theory”. They can, however, recognize the dishonesty of the Expelled crew, and their uncanny ability to “screw the pooch”.

  63. #64 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    Chris C. Mooney wrote:

    I fail to see the broader strategy to what you and Dawkins are doing. It seems to me that you have given Ben Stein just what he wants, just like Bill O’Reilly gave Al Franken precisely what he wanted–delicious controversy.

    We’ll see, won’t we? The results will be tested soon enough.

    If the movie is some sort of blockbuster hit, then there is a high probability we all contributed to that and we’ll all have learned a costly lesson — and Chris can say “I told you so.” … Depending on if the audiences aren’t laughing at the film and cheering Dawkins and PZ on.

    The movie wasn’t doing that well before. Even modest success at the box office will probably be our fault.

    Listen to Randy Olson. He knows a thing or two about the marketing of films, Or listen to me about the marketing of books. Believe me, with the exception of a plagiarism scandal or something, virtually any author would love a New Your Times article about the controversy their work has caused.

    I know I would love a New Your Times article about anything I produced. However, even if the movie makes money we might still undercut the message. Gather up all the old higher level criticisms that documents why ID isn’t science, why Darwinism lead less to Hitler than Martin Luther did, why IDiots really got “fired” and start submitting your own movie reviews to local papers.

  64. #65 Todd
    March 22, 2008

    The point that escapes me is what exactly did PZ Myers do that was wrong? Oh, that’s right, he tried to watch a movie. What a fucking anarchist.

    If you watch the movie, Ben Stein wins.

  65. #66 afarensis, FCD
    March 22, 2008

    He said although it was a terrible tragedy, she had more name recognition because of it, and that was what they were looking for.

    Don’t think this supposed bad word of mouth in the NY Times and elsewhere is hurting “Expelled.” You don’t seem to know how lousy this p.r. game is.

    Granted, but on the flip side, Eliot Spitzer has garnered all sorts of p.r. lately and now he has phenomenal name recognition. Doesn’t seem to have helped him much. So name recognition isn’t always everything. It seems to me that the argument that this kerfluffle will only cause more people to go see it is, somewhat, contingent on the media environment surrounding the movie. Given the complete closing out of the media by the producers of Expelled I am not at all convinced that we will see a Lat Temptation of Christ effect.

  66. #67 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    Randy Olson wrote:

    Don’t think this supposed bad word of mouth in the NY Times and elsewhere is hurting “Expelled.” You don’t seem to know how lousy this p.r. game is.

    But the point isn’t to hurt the film maker’s bottom line, the point is to expose them as liars and fools. And that is what they are.

    If the American public can’t see that… then we’re in real trouble.

  67. #68 Norman Doering
    March 22, 2008

    afarensis, FCD wrote:

    I am not at all convinced that we will see a Lat Temptation of Christ effect.

    Even if it’s not Martin Scorsese’s Last Temptation of Christ flop, but rather a blockbuster like Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ we aren’t looking at a movie that changed the world much. There were no mass conversions because of it. All it did was make money.

  68. #69 Ichthyic
    March 23, 2008

    Chris-

    seriously, stop hanging around with Nisbet.

    That boy’s a bad influence on you.

  69. #70 JD
    March 23, 2008

    It seems Mooney further embarrasses himself with nearly every comment.

    Apart from the incredibly arrogant remark that we “check our critical thinking at the door” presumably because America is too dumb to see it our way, Mooney implies that most of the criticism of his ridiculous position is the result of PZ Myers comments:

    “PZ, Your approach definitely works with your readers. They are loud, they are numerous, and they love it. It’s like watching gladitorial combat or something.”

    I’m confident most don’t need PZ to show the absurdity of Mooney’s position. It’s rather obvious. As obvious as the hypocrisy shown by Mathis’ treatment of PZ and Dawkins. A point Mooney seems oblivious too (did he check his critical thinking at the door?).

    “…I fail to see the broader strategy to what you and Dawkins are doing. It seems to me that you have given Ben Stein just what he wants, just like Bill O’Reilly gave Al Franken precisely what he wanted–delicious controversy.”

    No, once again, you have it backwards. In this case, Mathis is the “O’Reilly” character whose embarrassing actions were made a point of ridicule. Anyone who has seen the clip can see Billo comes off as a drooling fool. That was the result that stood out, not Franken’s book sales. Franken loves to show the clip. O’Reilly…not so much.

    Mathis’ actions toward PZ stand out just as poorly as O’Reilly’s did. Mathis will forever be tarnished by pimping a film about alleged expulsion of criticism by personally expelling his critics. The hypocrisy and stupidity of Mathis’ actions are easily seen and understood.

    That will be the lasting message for neutral observers.

    If the incident does increase viewership, hopefully it will be something akin to the movie “Reefer Madness.” A film that was created to portray a serious message, but now has become something the producers had not at all intended.

  70. #71 Coturnix
    March 23, 2008

    “And what are the political and religious persuasions of those who read these?”

    All over the place…except the extreme Right Wing which will not be persuaded by anything anyway, thus not our audience. The audience that did not know and did not care before, but now has made the connection between them and hypocrisy. The word “expelled” will now, in many minds, elicit the frame “lolz”.

  71. #72 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    It seems Mooney further embarrasses himself with nearly every comment.

    No he hasn’t. He’s actually got some history on his side. And, except for Randy Olson, none of us here have any movie marketing or PR experience. Some of the Expelled people do have that experience.

    However, this situation is unique enough that their experience may not count for much. No one knows what the great monkey mass out there will really make of this incident.

    Just wait, see… and then learn. There is no use for name calling or arrogance. Just put your bets down on the out come and wait.

  72. #73 JD
    March 23, 2008

    …. And, except for Randy Olson, none of us here have any movie marketing or PR experience.

    How do you possibly know who and who does not have that kind of experience? Presume much?

    Just wait, see… and then learn. There is no use for name calling or arrogance.

    Yes, and speaking of arrogance, you (and Mooney) should practice what you preach.

  73. #74 Tyler DiPietro
    March 23, 2008

    “There’s no guarantee that the hypocrisy frame will become dominant.”

    Conjecture: The best guarantor or meme success is usually simplicity and ease of understanding, which leads to ease in replication and thus greater reproductive success. It is why there is currently a race to the bottom in terms of the complexity of arguments in, e.g., politics, with substantive debate largely giving way to soundbytes and bumper sticker sloganeering.

    If such a thing holds true, I think the hypocrisy meme is the better candidate for dominance. It is simple while the DI’s rationalizations are convoluted and require background knowledge.

  74. #75 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    How do you possibly know who and who does not have that kind of experience? Presume much?

    When no one else but Randy Olson comes forth to claim it, I presume it. Let’s find out now if I’m wrong:

    Anyone else here have any direct experience with movie marketing and PR?

  75. #76 Matt Penfold
    March 23, 2008

    Chris,

    If you think PZ’s approach will not work why not try and come up with something that will work.

    So far all you seem to blame the “new atheists”, which totally ignores the fact that if their is such a thing as “new atheism” (and I would argue there is not, other than some atheists becoming more outspoken) then it is a response to the excessive religiosity in the US and not a cause of it.

    It seems that you want to try and pretend that there is no conflict between religion and science. Some scientists would agree with you, others would not. It does you no credit for you to ignore those who claim that a conflict does exist, and when the NCSE publishes a book claiming just that they risk using the dishonest tactics of the creationists.

  76. #77 JD
    March 23, 2008

    Norman Doering:

    JD wrote:
    How do you possibly know who and who does not have that kind of experience? Presume much?

    When no one else but Randy Olson comes forth to claim it, I presume it. Let’s find out now if I’m wrong:

    Anyone else here have any direct experience with movie marketing and PR?

    Oh my, even if someone “checked their critical thinking at the door” they should still have no trouble seeing the fatal flaws in that test.

    Let me guess, your training is in “framing”, correct?

  77. #78 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    JJ Ramsey,
    You responded to me yesterday, accusing me of making a strawman over this as an issue of scientific knowledge. What a load of crap. PZ and Dawkins and others haven’t said a damn thing that doesn’t take into these “noisy filters” into account, and Mooney is still trying to make the ridiculous claim that they’re “enabling” Ben Stein et al.

    How is this NOT about what is factually correct and incorrect?

    Randy Olson,

    Do you recall the John Kerry election campaign staff saying, “When the American public hears the truth about John Kerry’s war record …” Do you really think the American public every really heard the truth?

    Right – so the problem is that they never heard the truth, and your solution is that we… not tell them the truth. Brilliant.

    If you want to argue that this is just about how we as the science community criticizes the religionists, then fine. But Mooney and Nisbet are suggesting that we let them keep their earplugs in when it comes to science education and factual correctness. If we are interested at all in science education, implicit approval of the film’s message is not an option.

    I don’t know about Nisbet, but Mooney should know better. He wrote two books on countering public misinformation from think tanks – NOT two books on dodging the debate.

  78. #79 MH
    March 23, 2008

    Joe wrote: “You claim here (and on other topics over the last year or two) that the PZ/Dawkins media fest is attracting “their” side too much attention, yet in this, and in your “framing” arguments you merely keep telling them they’re wrong but never actually tell them anything *positive* they should do. Only “don’t do what you’re doing”. I see it repeatedly in these little internal SB flame wars, and I don’t really find it terribly useful, nor by my reading does PZ.”

    I too would like Mooney to put his money where his mouth is and tell us what he thinks is the best thing to do. Chris?

  79. #80 Idlethought
    March 23, 2008

    Expelled being ‘successful as a film’ (ie making money) doesn’t make it automatically ‘successful as a propaganda piece’.

    If it’s a bad film, a boring film, a tendentious and transparently stupid film – then the people it will convince will be people who wanted to be convinced. If it’s a bad film, then it’s more likely to work against them when it comes to the undecided. This film wasn’t designed for the mainstream: force it into the mainstream and it may shrivel up in the sunlight.

  80. #81 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Tyler DiPietro:

    Conjecture: The best guarantor or meme success is usually simplicity and ease of understanding … If such a thing holds true, I think the hypocrisy meme is the better candidate for dominance. It is simple while the DI’s rationalizations are convoluted and require background knowledge.

    Suppose that we presume that your conjecture is true, which is perhaps tricky right there. We actually have two simple competing messages: hypocrisy versus gatecrashing.

    Dan: “What a load of crap. PZ and Dawkins and others haven’t said a damn thing that doesn’t take into these ‘noisy filters’ into account”

    PZ certainly has. Look at the quote that the defenders of Expelled are using from PZ, which I showed above. Run through the noisy filters, it comes out garbled as “Evil atheist would disrupt film.”

    Jim Lippard:

    I seem to be seeing two contradictory arguments:

    1. All publicity is good publicity, therefore even publicizing an incident which is embarrassing to ID can still benefit their cause.

    2. Those opposing intelligent design should be careful not to seek publicity for their view which could be portrayed in a bad light.

    Part of this is because humans are contradictory. :) Really though, which one of these holds true depends on circumstances.

    In the first case, one can have the negative publicity is about people with whom far too many Americans are sympathetic, and it can be downplayed or spun. One can also have a situation where the negative buzz makes people curious and attracts eyeballs to the propaganda.

    The second case can happen if the negative publicity is about people with whom far too many Americans are suspicious and less likely to give the benefit of the doubt.

  81. #82 Wesley R. Elsberry
    March 23, 2008

    The short AP article linked in a comment above is just right in my opinion. The first sentence carries the message:

    BLOOMINGTON, Minn. (AP) ― P.Z. Myers was interviewed in a movie. He’s even thanked in the credits. He just wasn’t allowed to actually watch it.

    Put me in the group who thinks that Mathis and Stein aren’t going to like the lingering effects of this incident. This reads as “UNFAIR” to any but IDC cheerleaders.

    Think that message isn’t getting across? The answer isn’t to spike the story.

    If Mathis had recognized Myers and proceeded to make sure that he and his party got good seats and complimentary refreshments, sure, they’d have gotten blog posts on Pharyngula blasting the movie content, but they’d have stayed in character for the role they are claiming via the film as being advocates for an exchange of ideas. The combination of predictable xenophobia and incompetence in the screening fiasco demonstrates that all that was just an act.

    “Expelled” is already being used to attempt to influence the politics of antievolution. In Florida, they had a limited private screening aimed at legislators considering two Discovery Institute-derived “academic freedom” bills that would empower teachers — and students — to interrupt science classes discussing evolutionary science to bring in “weaknesses” (in other words, all the usual tired, bogus religiously-motivated antievolution arguments) without repercussion. Trying to pretend that the movie doesn’t exist is not the answer. Impeaching the content and the producers goes some way toward reducing the ill effects it may have. The “Expelledgate” event gives us a good tool for that purpose.

    As has been noted, we’ll know within a couple of months whether that actually works out for us. I’m more comfortable with having been active and failing than I am with having done nothing and failing.

  82. #83 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    JJ Ramsey,
    Yes, you mentioned this quote-mine from the Expelled producers:

    One, I will go see this movie, and I will cheer loudly at my 30 seconds or whatever on the screen, and I will certainly disembowel its arguments here and in any print venue that wants me. That’s going to be fun.

    I have news for you though – the Expelled producers are going to quote-mine dishonestly no matter what PZ or Dawkins does. That said, is this a particularly easy passage to quote-mine, and does it suggest the message that “Evil atheist would disrupt film.” That interpretation does work for many people, but only because the premise that atheists are evil remains uncontested.

    For us, the issue isn’t even about atheism vs. religion. Oh that’s an issue some of the time, but regarding this movie and the Discovery Institute, among other organizations, it’s about science education. And educators and supporters of education who avoid the subject are not doing their jobs. If the creationists wish to turn “disembowel its arguments here and in any print” into “Evil atheist would disrupt film,” that is neither PZ’s fault, nor would he be an educator should he avoid saying it in some form or another.

    If you’re just saying that PZ should choose his words more carefully however, again, fine. Point taken. While PZ’s vehemence in debunking creationist arguments are entirely justified, I agree that it is a “tactical error.” However, I would also extend the point to saying that Mooney and Nisbet should be more careful with his words if he is to persuade the science community of anything, because right now he’s failing miserably, IMO.

    For instance, Mooney’s first comment below the original post says “could you folks please try, just this one time, to check your highly developed critical faculties at the door.” To me, that sounds like Nisbet’s classic line from a few months ago asking for scientists to just “Forget about the fact that they’re right for just a second.”

    No, I’m sorry. The average Joe Schmo is just bone-headedly wrong and determined to remain ignorant. Anyone who things that this can be addressed without confrontation, including facts and honest interpretations of those facts, is engaging in wishful thinking.

  83. #84 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Dan: “I have news for you though – the Expelled producers are going to quote-mine dishonestly no matter what PZ or Dawkins does.”

    That’s not news to me. Remember that I was the one telling you about noisy filters. Quote mines are part of the static.

    Dan:

    For instance, Mooney’s first comment below the original post says “could you folks please try, just this one time, to check your highly developed critical faculties at the door.” To me, that sounds like Nisbet’s classic line from a few months ago asking for scientists to just “Forget about the fact that they’re right for just a second.”

    Now who’s quote-mining? You’ve just distorted quotes that were meant to say, “Hey, let’s try to see things for a moment through the eyes of normal people who aren’t great and wonderful critical thinkers,” and tried to cast it as them telling us to stop thinking.

    Wesley R. Elsberry: “I’m more comfortable with having been active and failing than I am with having done nothing and failing.”

    But it’s not about what you are comfortable with, but rather what works.

  84. #85 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Actually, Dan, you didn’t exactly quote mine Nisbet, but rather presented a paraphrase of his words as if it were an exact quote. Here is the fuller quote from the Washington Post with context:

    Dawkins, who rose to fame with his lucid expositions of evolution in such books as “The Selfish Gene,” has never gone easy on religion. But recently he has ramped up his atheist message, further mixing his defense of evolution with his attack on belief.

    Leave aside for a moment the validity of Dawkins’s arguments against religion. The fact remains: The public cannot be expected to differentiate between his advocacy of evolution and his atheism. More than 80 percent of Americans believe in God, after all, and many fear that teaching evolution in our schools could undermine the belief system they consider the foundation of morality. Dawkins not only reinforces and validates such fears — baseless though they may be — but lends them an exclamation point.

  85. #86 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Now who’s quote-mining?

    Um, no. Thank you for correcting yourself. For Mooney, that wasn’t some obscure sentence, it’s what Mooney led off with. For Nisbet, yes, I didn’t quote him verbatim, I paraphrased. So what? I’m sorry I didn’t check verbatim what was said (just recanting it off the top of my head) – but the gist of “Forget about the fact that they’re right for just a second” is consistent with “Leave aside for a moment the validity of Dawkins’s arguments against religion.” Both still equally fail to “frame” his view in way that does anything BUT support science and science education. And, more importantly, both come off sounding as though the best strategy would be for us as scientists to check our intellects at the door.

  86. #87 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Sorry, I mistyped my second-to-last sentence there to imply that it seemed Nisbet and Mooney were doing a good job of appearing to be on the side of science and science education. I meant to imply that they’re NOT doing a good job of that.

  87. #88 A Lurker
    March 23, 2008

    I have no doubt that the incident will probably result in extra sales for “Expelled.” In some sense that is a bad thing in that some false “facts” will be spread and that in the anti-science movement will have some more money.

    That is of course bad. But the bad here will be short-lived compared to the benefit of revelation of just how hypocritical and narrow-minded the ID people are in a way that most ordinary people can understand.

    Even if the movie was well done, very few people would have ever seen it outside of those who follow the “controversy.” Consider that very few documentaries get a wide audience. And if the reports of just how badly made this one are true, it won’t get any positive word-of-mouth outside of the circle of true believers. The few extra sales will not be enough to change that.

    Prediction: In a couple years all this movie will be remembered for is for incidents like this. In a few years our side will be more likely to want this loser to be remembered.

  88. #89 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Also JJ, in reply to Wes you said:

    “I’m more comfortable with having been active and failing than I am with having done nothing and failing.”

    But it’s not about what you are comfortable with, but rather what works.

    See that’s just it. You and Mooney and Nisbet are suggesting that inaction is the solution. Randy Olson above said the same thing:

    Do you recall the John Kerry election campaign staff saying, “When the American public hears the truth about John Kerry’s war record …” Do you really think the American public every really heard the truth?

    And I’ll give the same response – so the problem is that they never heard the truth, and your solution is that we… not tell them the truth. Brilliant.

  89. #90 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Dan: “And, more importantly, both come off sounding as though the best strategy would be for us as scientists to check our intellects at the door.”

    Well, if you willfully misread their words, yes. If you try to grasp what they actually mean by (gasp!) looking at the surrounding context, their gist was obvious enough: Try to imagine how the average person, who isn’t all that great an intellect, actually thinks, and try to understand how such a person sees things.

  90. #91 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    Wesley R. Elsberry wrote:

    “Expelled” is already being used to attempt to influence the politics of antievolution. In Florida, they had a limited private screening aimed at legislators considering two Discovery Institute-derived “academic freedom” bills that would empower teachers — and students — to interrupt science classes discussing evolutionary science to bring in “weaknesses” (in other words, all the usual tired, bogus religiously-motivated antievolution arguments) without repercussion.

    Tyler DiPietro left me a link to his blog on my blog. His post on the film speculates that the real goal for Expelled’s backers is to get Horowitz-style bills through local legislatures that hamstring the academy:
    http://canofpowerup.wordpress.com/2008/02/08/the-horrowitz-option/

    If such bills start passing, that would be one important measure of how we lost and need to change tactics.

    Another measure would be the reviews the film gets after its release.

    Finally, the box-office numbers.

    Lay your reputation on the line and make predictions. Here are mine:

    1) A few Horowitz-style bills get through in the reddest states. Fewer than 5.

    2) More than half the newspaper reviews will be negative and and they will all mention PZ being expelled. (If this happens I’d consider it a measure of success for PZ.)

    3) The movie will only barely make back its money. After the initial curiosity and hype we’ve generated its market will quickly die off.

  91. #92 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Dan: “You and Mooney and Nisbet are suggesting that inaction is the solution.”

    There are times when it is. The people behind Expelled were desperate for attention and weren’t getting much–until now.

    Dan: “Randy Olson above said the same thing …”

    I’ll pretty much let Olson defend his own words, especially since they weren’t that clear.

  92. #93 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    even if someone “checked their critical thinking at the door” they should still have no trouble seeing the fatal flaws in that test.

    Really? Maybe if you explain those obvious flaws you see I can point out to you why you’ve missed the mark. You’ve probably got a very bogus and irrelevant definition of what “here” means in this context.

    You’re arguing by assertion. Let’s see how your critical skills really work.

  93. #94 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Norman Doering: “Lay your reputation on the line and make predictions.”

    Ok, here are mine.

    There will be two stories circulating, one where PZ Myers is portrayed as hypocritically barred from seeing a movie, and one where he was rightfully barred from disrupting a movie. The former story will circulate in the mainstream media, which will comfort us, while the latter story will be disseminated by Fox Noise and WorldNutDaily and circulate among evangelicals, which will incite sympathy and curiosity among Christians.

    I’m hoping that only the former will happen, but fear that both will.

  94. #95 JD
    March 23, 2008

    JJ Ramsay wrote:

    We actually have two simple competing messages: hypocrisy versus gatecrashing.

    No we don’t. The first is easily shown: “P.Z. Myers was interviewed in a movie. He’s even thanked in the credits. He just wasn’t allowed to actually watch it.” and has already been pointed out by several news sources.

    The second comes bundled with unsupported claims that would border on slander and libel. And require the neutral observer to accept that a professor showed up at a the theater with his wife, daughter and friends, didn’t have (non-required) tickets and then created a scene. That message requires lies (that are easily revealled) to be accepted. Whereas the other requires nothing but common sense.

  95. #96 JD
    March 23, 2008

    Norman Doering wrote:

    JD wrote:
    [...] even if someone “checked their critical thinking at the door” they should still have no trouble seeing the fatal flaws in that test.

    Really? Maybe if you explain those obvious flaws you see I can point out to you why you’ve missed the mark.

    Your “test” naively assumed that *all* those with such experience would want to respond and, presumably, reveal their experience and identity.

    You’ve probably got a very bogus and irrelevant definition of what “here” means in this context.

    Ah…such arrogance.

    You’re arguing by assertion. Let’s see how your critical skills really work.

    I’m still waiting for Mooney and his defenders to show some.

  96. #97 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    I’ll bet with J. J. Ramsey and against JD.

    JD’s flaw is:

    That message requires lies (that are easily revealled) to be accepted. Whereas the other requires nothing but common sense.

    JD has failed to notice that the right-wing fundies are very good at lying to their flocks. Rove got a president elected twice with bald faced lies. Insult or not, the evidence is out there that these guys can get away with it to a limited extent.

  97. #98 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    Your “test” naively assumed that *all* those with such experience would want to respond and, presumably, reveal their experience and identity.

    The flaw with your analysis is considering non-participating lurkers to be here in any meaningful sense. It doesn’t matter if Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are reading this, if they’re not contributing to the debate they’re not here in any meaningful sense.

  98. #99 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Norman Doering: “JD has failed to notice that the right-wing fundies are very good at lying to their flocks.”

    Indeed, and not only that, but it’s a lie that has already started to circulate.

  99. #100 JD
    March 23, 2008

    JJ Ramsay wrote,

    JD: “The public may not be well informed regarding ID and evolution, but the vast majority can recognize this kind of blatant hypocrisy and be appalled by it. It’s not hard to understand or see.”

    It’s not hard to understand or see–if you get a chance to see it.

    Read the popular press. So far, the message “P.Z. Myers was interviewed in a movie. He’s even thanked in the credits. He just wasn’t allowed to actually watch it.” appears to be dominating. It’s not “Gatecrashing”, it “Expelledgate” that the press has reported.

    … We’re already seeing a frame where Myers and Dawkins are treated as gatecrashers, and Myers as a disruption waiting to happen, even using an ambiguous quote mine of his own words against him

    I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think that the DI wouldn’t try to spin the embarrassing actions of Mathis. Unfortunately for them, they must lie to present it and those lies are not hard to reveal. Their assertion that tickets were required has already been demolished and those telling their side don’t get to lie twice (well they will, but caught once and their credibility is likewise demolished).

  100. #101 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    Unfortunately for them, they must lie to present it and those lies are not hard to reveal.

    You’re underestimating the psychological filters involved:
    http://www.futurepundit.com/archives/003240.html

    Politics and religion are similar in how we all put up filters. If anything, religion is worse than politics when it comes to thought distortion.

  101. #102 JD
    March 23, 2008

    Doering wrote,

    JD wrote:

    Your “test” naively assumed that *all* those with such experience would want to respond and, presumably, reveal their experience and identity.

    The flaw with your analysis is considering non-participating lurkers to be here in any meaningful sense. It doesn’t matter if Steven Spielberg and George Lucas are reading this, if they’re not contributing to the debate they’re not here in any meaningful sense.

    You utter failure to deal with the flaw in your naive test is duly noted. You have no idea who is and is not participating in the debate. In fact, what you seem to fail to grasp is that the counters to yours and Mooney’s poor thinking is NOT dependent on the “revealed” credentials of the participants, but on the actual arguments.

  102. #103 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    You utter failure to deal with the flaw in your naive test is duly noted. You have no idea who is and is not participating in the debate.

    Ummm… how exactly could someone not writing posts here be participating in the debate here?

    Being here means writing posts on this thread, participating in the debate requires that you write something here.

    You’re the one who is looking very irrational now.

  103. #104 JD
    March 23, 2008

    JJ R. wrote,

    Indeed, and not only that, but it’s a lie that has already started to circulate.

    *sigh*

    Among who? The right-winged fundies that have proved, repeatedly, that the truth is inconsequential to anything supporting their entrenched beliefs or those with a more neutral position?

    I hate to break it to you, but that the DI and fundies circulate lies among their flock is not news. However, they’re not the ones anyone should bother trying to convince.

  104. #105 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    JD: “I don’t think anyone is naive enough to think that the DI wouldn’t try to spin the embarrassing actions of Mathis. Unfortunately for them, they must lie to present it and those lies are not hard to reveal.”

    There is no video of the event, so it’s Myers’ word against that of other onlookers. Also, there isn’t a good way to rebut the claim that Myers wouldn’t have been disruptive had he attended. Sure, if one has been around Pharyngula a while, one knows that he is far more brash online than he is in person. However, that is not the first impression one would have from wandering around his blog, and it would be too easy for the DI to prime future wanderers of what to expect from his blog by citing some his rants. So it’s not that trivial to rebut the spin of him as being a potential nuisance that was thwarted.

  105. #106 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Me: “Also, there isn’t a good way to rebut the claim that Myers wouldn’t have been disruptive …”

    That should be “would have been disruptive.”

  106. #107 JD
    March 23, 2008

    Doering wrote:

    JD wrote:

    You utter failure to deal with the flaw in your naive test is duly noted. You have no idea who is and is not participating in the debate.

    Ummm… how exactly could someone not writing posts here be participating in the debate here?

    Being here means writing posts on this thread, participating in the debate requires that you write something here.

    Sheesh, read for comprehension much?

    It was clear I was referring to those who have neither revealled their identities or experience. Perhaps you need to return to the “door” and “check in” what you seemed to have “checked out.”

    You’re the one who is looking very irrational now.

    Says the person who stated (without and evidence at all) that except for one person, “none of us here” have any relevant experience in these matters. And then when his naive assumption is exposed, claims others are being irrational.

    I ask again, your training is in “framing”, correct?

  107. #108 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    It was clear I was referring to those who have neither revealled their identities or experience.

    Nor written anything here, nor participated in the debate here. So by your logic people who are not here are here.

    By that logic you can start assuming God is here too.

  108. #109 Wesley R. Elsberry
    March 23, 2008

    J.J. Ramsay:

    But it’s not about what you are comfortable with, but rather what works.

    Well, thanks for the vote of no confidence, but I’m still of the opinion that being active in this area leads to gains and not losses.

    Of course, I suppose you may think that your careful non-presence has had more to do with what has been gained in recent years than my work in this regard. I’d disagree, though.

  109. #110 Wesley R. Elsberry
    March 23, 2008

    s/Ramsay/Ramsey/

    Sorry about that. I don’t like it when my name gets misspelled, and I should have double-checked the name of the person I was quoting.

  110. #111 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Who’s misreading their words? I gave verbatim quotes of Mooney and Olson and paraphrase of Nisbet. How can I be misreading their intent if I quote their opening premises?

    The people behind Expelled were desperate for attention and weren’t getting much–until now.

    The religious activists knew about it just fine before, and now the message is getting out to the moderate Americans out there. And we’re beating the Expelled producers to the punch with regards to getting the (correct) message out there. How does this message help them???:

    P.Z. Myers was interviewed in a movie. He’s even thanked in the credits. He just wasn’t allowed to actually watch it.

    That doesn’t sound too complicated OR good for them.

  111. #112 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    More: CBS: Man Interviewed In Movie Not Allowed To See It

    In what way can any of you misconstrue that as helpful to the Expelled team???

  112. #113 JD
    March 23, 2008

    JJ Ramsay wrote,

    There is no video of the event, so it’s Myers’ word against that of other onlookers. Also, there isn’t a good way to rebut the claim that Myers wouldn’t have been disruptive had he attended.

    Your claim seems overstated and not supported by the facts. It wasn’t Myers vs onlooker(s). I’ve seen only one account of a Mathis supporter who was in line at the theater and then reported on the incident (where are the other accounts of Mathis supporting onlookerS?). That person implied and then later retracted that Myers caused a disturbance. That same person was then shown to have stated (incorrectly) that tickets were required. His credibility has already been shattered.

    All other reports of onlookers stated there was no disturbance. Again, for Mathis supporters to put forth the claim PZ was disruptive, it seems they must either slander or commit libel should it be put to a legal test.

    Further, should it be that they expelled PZ for “potential” criticism of their film about the unfair expulsion of critics then it’s a message that collapses under its own irony and hypocrisy.
    ————

    This is my last post here. As others have noted, Mooney and his supporters are long on criticism and very short on solutions.

    It almost seems like the “framers” are complaining they weren’t consulted before PZ publicized what had happened to him. But given the advice I’ve seen them present, I can’t say I blame PZ for not paying much attention to them.

  113. #114 AK47
    March 23, 2008

    Is the negative publicity helping or hurting them? I don’t think there’s an unambiguous answer. But I’ve noticed that there used to be several upcoming free screenings of the movie, and they all seem to have been cancelled: http://rsvp.getexpelled.com/events/movies/expelled

    This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that happens when your PR campaign is going well.

  114. #115 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    Dan wrote:

    More: CBS: Man Interviewed In Movie Not Allowed To See It
    In what way can any of you misconstrue that as helpful to the Expelled team???

    It gets Expelled a bit of name and controversy recognition.

    If that helps bring people to the theater it will depend on how well the movie manipulates borderline religionists into seeing Darwinism and atheism as leading to Hitler, whether evolutionists are blocking honest academic debate and whatever else the movie argues.

    Exposing the movie makers on one point doesn’t mean you’ve exposed them on all the lies they are telling.

  115. #116 JD
    March 23, 2008

    One last thing,

    Doering wrote:

    JD wrote:
    It was clear I was referring to those who have neither revealled their identities or experience.

    Nor written anything here, nor participated in the debate here. So by your logic people who are not here are here.

    By that logic you can start assuming God is here too.

    I’m confident any objective person following our discussion would have no trouble seeing through your distortions and your weak comprehension skills. They simply need to read what you so naively asserted including your amateur test of it.

    I will no longer spend my time embarrassing you further.

  116. #117 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Norman,
    1 – Yes, it brings recognition, of a negative sort.
    2 – For those that are persuaded by the movie having seen it, not engaging them is not an option.
    3 – Demonstrating their tendency for dishonesty DOES go a long way to undermining their credibility with Joe Schmo, assuming they read and hear (1), right?

    So in what way is this not looking like an overwhelming disaster for Expelled?

  117. #118 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    AK47 wrote:

    This doesn’t seem like the kind of thing that happens when your PR campaign is going well.

    You’re right. And that’s one data point that goes against Chris Mooney’s assertions. Not only do they not want to repeat the incident, they don’t want our side to see their film at all — else they just would have dropped their exclusion policy.

    But it’s not the final story.

    Just wait and see. We’ll know who’s closer to the truth in a few months.

  118. #119 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    Dan asked:

    So in what way is this not looking like an overwhelming disaster for Expelled?

    It’s not looking like an overwhelming disaster in the sense that they still have play dates and a movie release coming up with all sorts of marketing that will try to sneak under our radar while reaching their target audience.

    It’s not an overwhelming disaster until the movie actually flops at the box office or never gets released.

    Are you ready to make a prediction on any of those?

  119. #120 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Wesley R. Elsberry: “Well, thanks for the vote of no confidence, but I’m still of the opinion that being active in this area leads to gains and not losses.”

    Usually it does, but there are times when the cold shoulder works. I’d say that you and a lot of your colleagues have been responsible for putting the makers of Expelled in such a desperate position that silence would help them implode. I’m not knocking that. I am just knocking your use of personal comfort as a warrant.

    JD: “Your claim seems overstated and not supported by the facts. It wasn’t Myers vs onlooker(s). I’ve seen only one account of a Mathis supporter who was in line at the theater and then reported on the incident (where are the other accounts of Mathis supporting onlookerS?). That person implied and then later retracted that Myers caused a disturbance. That same person was then shown to have stated (incorrectly) that tickets were required. His credibility has already been shattered.”

    The problem is that you can’t unring the bell. The accusation that Myers was disruptive is already out there. That the accuser admits to misremembering only helps so much. I noticed that even after the accuser, Stuart Blessman, changed his story, Jeffrey Longstreet–the blogger who brought him to attention–was still sympathetic. That isn’t fair, but this isn’t about what’s fair.

    JD: “Further, should it be that they expelled PZ for ‘potential’ criticism …”

    No, no. The spin we’ve seen so far wasn’t about potential criticism, but potential disruption, as in making a scene. Indeed, Bruce Chapman even made a show of accepting criticism, writing “Frankly, I wish the producers would have a special pre-release screening for the Darwinists who are interviewed in the film.”

  120. #121 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    JD wrote:

    I’m confident any objective person following our discussion would have no trouble seeing through your distortions and your weak comprehension skills. They simply need to read what you so naively asserted including your amateur test of it.

    Alright, can any objective people out there explain my distortions and weak comprehension skills?

    Can you explain how some unknown would be lurkers who might be reading this are here participating in this debate as JD claims?

  121. #122 Wesley R. Elsberry
    March 23, 2008

    J.J. Ramsey:

    I am just knocking your use of personal comfort as a warrant.

    Uh, that was my last statement in a rather lengthier comment. Care to restate your aspersion, or do I put you down as someone who thinks misrepresentation and framing are just the same thing? You carefully avoided dealing with the whole preceding paragraph, for instance, and to pretend that paragraph does not speak to warrant would be risible.

  122. #123 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Norman,
    Are you ready to make a prediction on any of those?

    I came here to contribute to others who are pointing out that not talking about this episode would be a mistake, which has been done.

    JJ,
    The problem is that you can’t unring the bell. The accusation that Myers was disruptive is already out there.

    Right – except that the major news outlets are covering this now, and are (responsibly) NOT passing along that lie accusation.

  123. #124 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    J. J. Ramsey wrote:

    The spin we’ve seen so far wasn’t about potential criticism, but potential disruption, as in making a scene. Indeed, Bruce Chapman even made a show of accepting criticism, writing “Frankly, I wish the producers would have a special pre-release screening for the Darwinists who are interviewed in the film.”

    PZ ought to hold Bruce Chapman’s words against him and ask that all the scientists interviewed be granted a showing and a press conference afterwards.

    Now that the cards are dealt — you’ve got to play the hand out as best you can.

  124. #125 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    Dan wrote:

    I came here to contribute to others who are pointing out that not talking about this episode would be a mistake, which has been done.

    And I’m pointing out that you can’t know for sure whether it was a mistake until you see the actual end results.

    But I’m on your side really. It was a good move. The thing to do is not just argue it, but find a way to measure the results and settle this debate once and for all. It’s not good to have PZ and Mooney fighting over this.

  125. #126 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Norman,
    But I’m on your side really. It was a good move. The thing to do is not just argue it, but find a way to measure the results and settle this debate once and for all.

    Fair enough. Of course, however, this “debate” really has no
    point at all, and we can’t wait and play it safe, lest we miss opportunities to engage, inform, and correct misinformation while it is still current.

    If only Chris Mooney and company would get on board with that.

  126. #127 Chris C. Mooney
    March 23, 2008

    People who are involved in film understand how this is good for Ben Stein.

    As seen in the comments above, Randy Olson understands it.

    And now, a screenwriter for Expelled, Kevin Miller, also says I’m right and that he wants to give PZ et al a “group hug.”

    Thanks, PZ.

    Read it for yourself.

  127. #128 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    Dan wrote:

    …this “debate” really has no point at all, and we can’t wait and play it safe, lest we miss opportunities to engage…

    I agree — up to a point. I think the debate could be meaningful if we can agree on some way to measure the results of our actions. That’s why I was asking for predictions. It’s one way to get a handle on who understands the situation best.

    Then in the future either Chris or PZ will have to admit that one of them was more right than the other.

  128. #129 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    That’s why I was asking for predictions. It’s one way to get a handle on who understands the situation best.

    That’s true, getting a handle on who understands the situation is helpful, but actually trying to educate creationists as to why they’re wrong is the ultimate point. I’m not really concerned as much with who’s right as talking to those creationists, and enjoying the thrill of actually getting through to one or two creationist bloggers a week. That’s what we SHOULD be doing.

    It’s also what Chris Mooney is suggesting we SHOULDN’T be doing, if I read him correctly. How bass-ackwards.

    But yes, you’re right, refining our approaches is good too, which is why I engage in conversations like this. ;-)

  129. #130 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    Dan wrote:

    enjoying the thrill of actually getting through to one or two creationist bloggers a week. That’s what we SHOULD be doing.

    Yes. And I just popped a comment onto that Expelled screen writer’s blog Mooney linked for us:
    http://kevinwrites.typepad.com/otherwise_known_as_kevin_/2008/03/chris-mooney-ge.html

    Maybe you should too.

  130. #131 Dan
    March 23, 2008

    Well I actually meant engaging honest but (scientifically) illiterate individuals like this guy, but visiting Kevin Miller is a great idea too. I just left a comment, and will see how it goes.

    Cheers!

  131. #132 Norman Doering
    March 23, 2008

    So long, Dan.

    I’ll see you on your blog, Migrations.

  132. #133 MH
    March 23, 2008

    Chris wrote: “And now, a screenwriter for Expelled, Kevin Miller, also says I’m right and that he wants to give PZ et al a ‘group hug.’”

    Oh well that settles it. If Miller said so, it must be true.

    FFS.

  133. #134 Tulse
    March 23, 2008

    a screenwriter for Expelled, Kevin Miller, also says I’m right and that he wants to give PZ et al a “group hug.”

    Wait a minute — the king of framing takes a writer of propaganda at his word? Seriously?! Even though future dates for screenings of the film were apparently pulled from the official website after the incident? By the way, Chris, the word “gullible” isn’t in the dictionary.

    In any case, I think I can offer a datapoint on the “controversy only helps a movie”, namely The Golden Compass. Christian fundamentalists and hardline Catholics were quite happy to yell very loudly about the film and its allegedly anti-religious message. Boy, weren’t those PR-naive idiot embarrassed when all their controversy and attention caused the film to…flop at the box office. (I could also mention Snakes on a Plane at this point, but I was trying to keep the issue to films with religious content.)

    In other words, there are plenty of examples of high-profile, controversial films not doing well. So mere attention in the press is not sufficient to make a film successful. This incident seems to show the film makers as hypocrites, a “frame” that the American public understands very well. What is it about such negative attention that is different from, say The Golden Compass (or Snakes on a Plane, or Ishtar, or Heaven’s Gate, to name other very high profile flops)? What is your specific theory as to why controversy is good in this case, but not in those? If you can’t provide a more detailed mechanism as to why pointing out hypocrisy would be good in this case, then you just sound like a pompous concern troll.

  134. #135 Nullifidian
    March 23, 2008

    People who are involved in film understand how this is good for Ben Stein.

    Oh do they? I e-mailed the Pharyngula story to family and friends in the business, one of whom is a PR flack for Universal, and they all thought this was, in varying amounts, hilarious, stupid, hypocritical, and maddening. Not one of them said “Wow, making themselves look like idiots who don’t recognize one of the most famous biologists in the world, while simultaneously displaying their hypocrisy by expelling someone for his views on the evolution/creationism debate is smart marketing!” Of course, these people make films which are premised on a certain degree of honesty and openness, especially in previews which are used not only to generate buzz but to figure out what a representative sample of the public would want to see.

    As seen in the comments above, Randy Olson understands it.

    And, in my opinion, Randy Olson has been a millstone around the necks of those of us who are interested in a genuine public understanding of science. Treating informal talk over a poker game among experts in the field, with the same general background knowledge and scientific-cultural cues, as equivalent to the highly polished public presentations by ID shills is the kind of hackwork that misstates, rather than illuminates, the problem.

    And now, a screenwriter for Expelled, Kevin Miller, also says I’m right and that he wants to give PZ et al a “group hug.”

    Thanks, PZ.

    And no doubt that’s the full and honest truth, rather than some face-saving spin put out there for our benefit.

    If you’re going to buy into what the IDists claim as gospel, why not just become one?

  135. #136 lylebot
    March 23, 2008

    The Swift Boat example makes no sense. Kerry didn’t respond, and Chris is saying scientists should do the same. We’ve already seen that that doesn’t work. WTF??

  136. #137 Michael X
    March 23, 2008

    Chris,
    Do you really expect a writer of the movie to spin this any other way? All publicity is a tv cliche, and the entertainment industry does not follow it blindly. Stein would benefit if the film itself were causing waves, not the hypocritical actions of its production team.
    Being all over the press isn’t good when all that’s being reported is that Expelled is expelling people, thus looking like hypocrites. It’s too easy to frame in a negative way against Stein and Co, and it’s perfectly bite size enough for the papers to print. Just as the Dover Trial put ID in the headlines only knock it down, so too does this incident.

    This is simply called “bad press” and I suspect that the production team realizes this by the fact that they’ve canceled further screenings.

  137. #138 Michael X
    March 23, 2008

    Correction: All publicity is good publicity is a tv cliche.

  138. #139 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Wesley R. Elsberry: “Uh, that was my last statement in a rather lengthier comment. Care to restate your aspersion …”

    Restate what I was trying to say? Sure. When you wrote, I’m more comfortable with having been active and failing than I am with having done nothing and failing,” I thought, um, wait a minute, so if holding back and succeeding was an option, you wouldn’t want to take it because you weren’t comfortable with that option? Now if you want to argue that the use of Expelled to influence legislators is a sufficient reason to say that holding back was not an option, so be it, but I didn’t see you actually argue that particular point all that well.

    Now I am not so foolish as to thinking that holding back is always the solution. It seems to be useful only when the opposition is likely to languish from lack of attention. If you don’t see that is the case with Expelled, or if you see that denying attention to Expelled may have some ugly consequences even if it has been languishing, say so and say why. You certainly are in a position to speak from knowledge here.

  139. #140 Cherish
    March 23, 2008

    If you ever bother to read boards that are full of non-scientists to see what they are saying, there are several interesting things that they are saying:

    1 – No one was really kicked out of the movie. That was just made up. And how does that invalidate anything that they say in the movie?

    2 – It should be informative for both sides of the debate.

    3 – How many teachers have been fired for teaching evolution outside of the scopes trial compared to the number teachers fired for their religious beliefs. Obviously there really is a conspiracy going on here!

    Given these sorts of reactions, I think many people are missing the point of how an *average* person is going to react to the movie. ‘Tis not so good.

  140. #141 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Cherish: “If you ever bother to read boards that are full of non-scientists to see what they are saying, there are several interesting things that they are saying”

    Links?

  141. #142 David Marjanović
    March 23, 2008

    And now, a screenwriter for Expelled, Kevin Miller, also says I’m right and that he wants to give PZ et al a “group hug.”

    And what makes you think he isn’t just lying, just desperately putting a spin on things for the purpose of damage control? “‘Tis but a scratch…”

    ——————-

    I didn’t mention I’ve read a book called (translating from German) “How to discuss with fundamentalists without losing your sanity”. After explaining at length that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into, it recommends ridicule.

    So, let us continue doing what we are doing. Let us laugh at the hilariously hypocritical and incredibly inept cdesign proponentsists. Let us laugh at Expelledgate.

    Let us point and laugh.

  142. #143 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    David Marjanović: “And what makes you think he isn’t just lying”

    One catch is that what he says can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    David Marjanović: “I didn’t mention I’ve read a book called (translating from German) ‘How to discuss with fundamentalists without losing your sanity’. After explaining at length that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into, it recommends ridicule.”

    I can’t say that I’ve found that the old saw about not reasoning people out of something that they didn’t reason themselves into is questionable. Glenn Morton apparently reasoned away his “demon” that kept him from seeing evidence against YEC, and IIRC, Ron Numbers recounts how at least early on, creationists had trouble getting those they sent to university to remain creationists.

    Ridicule is often a double-edged sword, too, though ridicule that doesn’t give the appearance of trying hard and simply highlights inherent absurdities works best. Jon Stewart has been great at this. Insults can invite defensiveness, on the other hand. Probably the biggest problem, though, with ridiculing Expelled is just getting it heard outside our own circles.

    Meanwhile, waiting in trepidation for Dr. Elsberry to hand me back my head on a platter. Oh, well, should be enlightening, even if it’s painful….

  143. #144 Madhu
    March 23, 2008

    Chris, much as I respect you for The Republican War on Science, and have thought all this framing nonsense of the past year was a passing phase, you really lost me with this response to PZ:

    Seriously: Listen to Randy Olson. He knows a thing or two about the marketing of films, Or listen to me about the marketing of books.

    Seriously?! PZ and Richard Dawkins should listen to you and Randy Olson about marketing? Whose blog / website gets the most traffic among all science blogs? Whose books have sold more copies? Whose documentaries have attracted more viewers? Do we even need to look up the numbers on any of these?

    With all due respect and appreciation for the real work you do in writing your books, might I suggest that your energies are better spent in that arena than in trying to teach these effective communicators how to “frame” their science to appease those who may never be swayed anyway?

  144. #145 David Marjanović
    March 23, 2008

    Googlefight!

    —————–

    I can’t say that I’ve found that the old saw about not reasoning people out of something that they didn’t reason themselves into is questionable.

    I agree. It just doesn’t work fast enough for a media battle. Besides, there are people who attribute their deconversion from Christian fundamentalism to Dawkins and even some who attribute theirs to PZ.

    One catch is that what he says can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    I don’t see how.

  145. #146 David Marjanović, OM
    March 23, 2008

    I recommend this comment.

  146. #147 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Me: “One catch is that what he says can become a self-fulfilling prophecy.”

    David Marjanović, OM: “I don’t see how.”

    If Kevin Miller’s attempts at damage control attract attention and make people curious about the film, then he’s accomplished the very thing that he predicted.

  147. #148 Wesley R. Elsberry
    March 23, 2008

    J.J. Ramsey:

    Restate what I was trying to say? Sure.

    OK, that tells me what I needed to know.

    *plonk*

  148. #149 Kristine
    March 23, 2008

    How exactly does that work? How does “hoopla” over an anti-evolution movie help the cause of opposing creationism?

    No, I suspect this is a gift to Expelled, a gift to Ben Stein. The controversy raises the profile of the movie, people–especially a movie like this, which is by its very nature courting controversy and baiting evolutionists.

    Why is that hard to understand?

    Chris, I was there!

    1. You should have seen the look on producer Mark Mathis’s face when Dawkins stood up in the Q&A and started to speak. I don’t believe for one minute that Mathis knew Dawkins was there and “allowed him in.”

    2. This film is ostensibly about freedom of speech, yet PZ gets thrown out – right before my eyes I might add, even though he followed the same process I did to get in. I cannot see how this is good publicity for Expelled. What the press wants most of all is a good story – and a good plot twist that makes the first be last and the last, first. Ben Stein has been taking flack lately for his wacky columns in the NY Times, and this is fuel on the fire. This was a stupid move by Mark Mathis.

    3. This story has directly revealed another story, that being, Mark Mathis’s answer to my question about “Crossroads” (he said it was only a working title of this film when they approached Dawkins, PZ, et al for interviews) is a lie. Wesley has exposed this one. That hardly helps their credibility.

    4. They are pulling screenings now, which hardly helps their martyr status and “free inquiry” pose.

    5. The writer of the film, Kevin Miller, is at After the Bar Closes trying to badpedal. Mathis has also tried to backpedal, saying he let Dawkins into the film because “he had flown all the way from England to see it.” The NY Times pointed out that there just happened to be an atheist convention in Minneapolis this weekend, and Dawkins was on the program. Mathis is looking like a major fool!

    6. After Dembski’s sound bites about “We say ID, the evolutionists think of Pat Robertson,” the Discovery Institute folks have gone running to Pat Robertson, because he’s all they’ve got now.

    7. A member of Minnesota Atheists who read by blog account of this story talked about it on our Atheist Talk radio show. This story is going to get out no matter what.

    Now we need to keep it alive by talking about Mark Mathis reading a “security statement” before the screening, about how “some group” is trying to record the film and scaring the audience into looking at each other “and report any suspicious activity” [can you believe it?] to the cop who kept patrolling the screening. Mathis mentioned that they were working with the FBI, and stated that the penalty for piracy was $250,000 and up to 5 years in jail, blah, blah.

    Tell people that cells phones and purses are not allowed into the theatre. That’s what my e-mail confirmation said. Do you think that’s good publicity for this film?

    Do you think that having to show an ID (pun intended) to see this film is good publicity for this film? Or a cop walking around with night vision goggles, as happened in the screening in Chicago? (AtBC source) I don’t think so. Well, we had to show IDs in Minneapolis, although I didn’t see any NVGs.

    Most of all, talking about how shitty this film is – its clumsy use of real and phony stock footage about the Berlin Wall, Nazis, Stalin, etc., its identification of John Lennon’s song “Imagine” with Stalin (I am not kidding), its obvious hatchet job of an interview with Dawkins and its puerile cartoon featuring an enraged Dawkins kicking a slot machine (again, not kidding), etc., ad nauseum, is really bad publicity for this film.

    This film is its own worst enemy. Keep this story alive.

  149. #150 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Wesley R. Elsberry:

    OK, that tells me what I needed to know.

    *plonk*

    Whoa! I didn’t expect to have offended you that badly. Good grief, I don’t even know where you got the idea that I gave a “vote of no confidence” in the first place or why you thought I was casting aspersions. I think I disagree with you on a few points, yes, but I’m aware enough that you’ve been out in the trenches and that this thread probably wouldn’t even be discussing what it’s discussing if it hadn’t been for the kind of work you’ve been doing.

    Guess I’m getting the cold shoulder now. :(

  150. #151 J. J. Ramsey
    March 23, 2008

    Oh, in my last comment, the block quote got messed up. The “*plonk*” is Dr. Elsberry’s.

  151. #152 Kerry Maxwell
    March 23, 2008

    The basic assumption by Mooney and Nisbit seems to be ” You rational folks don’t understand how truly and profoundly irrational the average american really is”. While I share the concern that reason may not be the best way to deal with the unreasonable ( see Jonestown, Ruby Ridge, and Waco), I would like to think the Goldilocks Fallacy is not the proposed “Dominant Paradigm”.

  152. #153 Melusine
    March 23, 2008

    Randy Olson said:

    It scored a little bit of business when Haggard imploded and when it was nominated for an Oscar, but never broke $1 million at the box office, which had to have been at least how much was spent on prints and advertising.

    The point is, the religious folks knew how to not play into the p.r. machine of their opponents. Call them all the names you want, but while you do so, you might want to study their marketing and p.r. savvy.

    Chris, why would you say to listen to Randy Olson when he uses Jesus Camp as an example?

    The camp was shut down as a result of publicity from the movie. I wrote about this on Bad Astronomy well over a year ago.

    See: http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&q=jesus+camp+shut+down

    Those who read the NY Times are the ones who need to see Ben Stein and Co.’s hypocrisy. Judges who read it, academic people, politicians, etc. Those are the people who need to see that scientists are on to these shysters every move these liars make, especially their ridiculous non sequiturs. There’s nothing you can do about the willfully ignorant person sitting in the pew. It’s no different than dealing with smears in politics.

    Chris and Matthew, I believe you are wrong with your approach. It’s never worked in the past, it won’t work now.

  153. #154 Melusine
    March 23, 2008

    >>>Those are the people who need to see that scientists are on to these shysters’ every move these liars make,

    Oops, mangled that sentence.

    See above post. Again, the point being, that loud noise about Jesus Camp had positive effects.

  154. #155 dm
    March 24, 2008

    Doesn’t this film and incident work against Dawkins and PZ, just by virtue of the fact that they were duped into appearing in it? I think it makes them look stupid…

  155. #156 Marcello Lepas
    March 24, 2008

    If I read the case correctly, Dawkins and Myers were chosen not just as prominent evolutionary biologists, but as evolutionary biologists who think that evolutionary biology is against religion and promotes atheism. So, the movie wants us to believe that all evolutionary biologists think (or should think) the same about religion. And it wants to convince people of faith that they should reject evolutionary biology.

    Even if I am an atheist, I don’t agree with Dawkins and PZ. Even if I sympathize with them for having been cheated and “framed”, I think that on the issue of religion they are expressing their own views, not any breakthrough in evolutionary biology that would bring the study of religion within the framework of an established evolutionary theory.

    Finally, I am not sure whether Dawkins is acting as the author of anti-creationism or anti-religion books. The movie conflates the two, and my impression is that this is good p.r. for Dawkins as well. But it could (should) make a difference for the willingness of evolutionists to rally behind him.

  156. #157 Shirakawasuna
    March 24, 2008

    blf: “However, Chris may have a point. A common stereotype is USAians have a poorly developed sense of irony.”

    Yes, I’m sure that’s why we’re the capital of sitcoms and ironic films. There are legitimate ways to attack Americans, but our understanding of irony, really? I might as well attack Brits for their understanding of apologizing.

    Chris Mooney: “But with all due respect, I fail to see the broader strategy to what you and Dawkins are doing. It seems to me that you have given Ben Stein just what he wants, just like Bill O’Reilly gave Al Franken precisely what he wanted–delicious controversy.”

    And Bill O’Reilly is seen as a pompous ass by most everyone. Mission accomplished. Seriously, now, you seem to frame this in the most petty way possible – hurting the filmmakers’ or Stein’s ability to make money, rather than refuting the junk they spew and getting *that* message out. It is the polite silence (or incidental silence due to not caring what creationists think) that allows such ignorance to pervade, and it seems to be what you advocate here.

    You’ve admitted yourself that you don’t have a “strategy” (terrible terminology choice, despite the fact that you claim superiority in communication), meaning you prefer silence to PZ and Dawkins bringing attention to the hypocrisy of the film. I say this only to make my previous point more poignant.

  157. #158 Shirakawasuna
    March 24, 2008

    blf: Ah, you said stereotype, I’m stupid. Disregard.

  158. #159 Melusine
    March 24, 2008

    Crossposted from CosmicVariance.

    I agree that Nisbet and I are operating in the “politician” mode right now, though I have also operated in the “critic” mode in the past, and certainly will again.

    Actually, you’re not being politically smart, Chris. PZ and Dawkins feed their readers who then write their Representatives, get fired up, and then it is THOSE politicians who communicate to whomever on the level you’d like. And that includes many churches who have gotten on board with science. (Need links?)

    By your criticizing PZ and Dawkins’ approach you are diminishing their credibility to “feed” people and you are further making them look bad. That’s not politically smart. The average Joe isn’t reading their blogs. Now, Bad Astronomy, who had a whole post on the Nazi-ism propaganda of Expelled DOES reach a broader audience. And Expelled is not about science – it’s propaganda, lies, anti-academia, conflates scientists/evolution with Nazism with an ideological bent to boot. It’s not about evolution per se. It’s about making people look bad to the dimwits who would believe it, and those people don’t read the NY Times.

    Where does Phil Plait get his information? Many times from PZ. Who does public outreach to the masses? Museums, teachers, programs on TV, etc. PZ and Dawkins already have the facts and evidence about science behind them, the rest is an ideological/religious battle. Fortunately the judge in Dover, PA didn’t fall for it. Unfortunately some folks on school boards don’t read anything. It’s their “leaders” who need to be pressed, especially with the idea that denigration of science/scientists is bad for our country. Whether someone is an atheist or not doesn’t make a difference to someone who understands the benefits of science.

    So, instead of getting on THEIR case you’d be better off, imo, spending your time pointing out how this movie is motivated not by some scientific stance, but about what the movie actually seeks to do. It’s a sociopolitical religious argument – you know that. You and Nisbet are doing more harm by this constant framing obsession and giving PZ and Dawkins unnecessary negative publicity. Nope, not politically advantageous.

  159. #160 M.
    March 24, 2008

    Chris, wake up. Matt Nisbet is sinking, and he’s dragging you down with him. We all used to love you, can you go back to the way you were?

    You seem to have forgotten one small, but important point: winning isn’t the only thing that matters.

    Maybe you are right. Maybe we can win by playing word-games, and being slimily diplomatic at the expense of our own integrity. I don’t think that would work (on the topic of science, it has never worked), but even if it can – is it worth the price?

    Change has to come through people – or even just one person – standing up and telling the truth. It does not matter how unpopular that truth is, it will prevail eventually.

    Lying and dancing around the issue…it can work as a placative, but it will never actually change the state of affairs, not in any truly significant way.

    So can you find your way back to simply speaking the truth? You have a talent there, one that will be sorely missed if you allow that idiot Nisbet to drag you down into obscurantism…

  160. #161 Dan
    March 24, 2008

    …dancing around the issue…it can work as a placative, but it will never actually change the state of affairs, not in any truly significant way.

    Exactly. Well said, M.

  161. #162 Wes
    March 24, 2008

    For the “all publicity is good publicity” crowd, I’d like to throw out a few names: Britney Spears, Michael Jackson, Gary Glitter, Michael Richards.

    All these people have been in the news a lot over the last couple years, but I don’t think it’s helping their careers much. On the contrary, it seems to be driving them into depression and reclusiveness.

    I’m not saying Ben Stein is going to retreat into the mountains to brood and we’ll never see him again. But really embarrassing publicity is not always a good thing. Having widespread buzz about what an incompetent, hypocritical liar you are might get you more attention, but that doesn’t guarantee that that attention will include ticket sales. Some people in this thread seem to be speaking of bad press as if it inevitably benefits the parties getting the attention–but what reason do we have to believe that this is true? Some anecdotes from Randy Olsen? But those anecdotes can easily be countered with other anecdotes of bad press destroying people’s endeavors.

    I seriously doubt that “annihilate the credibility of my client” is going to become the new paradigm for PR. People will always try to spin bad press to their advantage–sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But to claim that we shouldn’t draw attention to the creationists’ dishonest tactics and hilarious incompetence because they might be able to spin it to their advantage doesn’t sound like good tactics to me. Yes, it’s possible they might find a way to benefit from this. It’s also possible this will be a huge setback for them. At this stage it’s probably too early to foresee which will turn out to be the case.

  162. #163 J. J. Ramsey
    March 24, 2008

    Wes: “But really embarrassing publicity is not always a good thing.”

    True. There seems to be a threshold beyond which the negative publicity invites revulsion rather than curiosity to see what the fuss is all about. I’m not sure whether the publicity has reached that threshold, though. If it turned out that someone behind Expelled was having methamphetamine-fueled sex with a gay prostitute, that would easily kill the film. I’m not so sure that kicking out an atheist from a screening meant to be viewed by a bunch of Christians sparks the right kind of outrage, even though the incident involved hypocrisy. It certainly doesn’t help that the people behind Expelled have their own favorable spin on it.

  163. #164 Wes
    March 24, 2008

    J.J. Ramsey,

    You may very well be right that the threshold where bad publicity starts doing real damage has not been reached, and I don’t want to give the impression that I think it has been reached. I’m only saying that it is by no means a foregone conclusion that any publicity is good publicity. Just trying to counter the comments which sounded (to me at least) as if they were treating it as inevitable that any publicity for the movie will benefit it. I don’t think it’s safe to say at this point that this incident will help the movie. Maybe this will help them, maybe it will hurt them. These kinds of things would be very hard to predict. We’ll just have to wait and see how it comes out.

  164. #165 Keith Eaton
    March 24, 2008

    The mistake that big science made years ago was permitting the most extreme elements of their community take charge of their agenda to keep science education free of religious overtones and influence. The threat was always imagined and inconsequential.

    So long as big science was content to insist on the paradigm of methodological naturalism in the practice of science no one much cared about the conflict between religious faith and science, particularly evolution writ large. One could say it was a workable “don’t ask, don’t tell” state of grudging congeniality

    But, given certain egoistic inclinations of bright but misdirected minds, militant attitudes, elitism in academia, and the huge power and money stakes at play in taxpayer funded grants, etc. the converts to philosophical naturalism were handed the microphone, pen, gavel, and keyboard decades back in the debate.

    Now with the advent of ID and the influx of a more scientific and intellectually talented group of proponents in surprising numbers on a worldwide scale, the overreaching and hyperbolic response from the big science community has elevated the rhetoric and magnified the attention given to the worst aspects of the evolutionary community.

    It seems inevitable that the personality of the evo community member is a rather self destructive one and Americans in large measure will not tolerate the likes of pee wee myers and doggins and the attitudes,practices, behaviors and tactics they champion on behalf of the big science community.

    You caused your own problems.

  165. #166 Chris Clarke
    March 24, 2008

    This post displays a distressing historical ignorance on the part of the poster.

    The strength of the anti-science, anti-democracy religious right has lain, for decades, in its ability to escape public scrutiny. Anyone who read Sara Diamond’s groundbreaking reporting during the 1980s and 1990s on groups such as Focus On The Family, will recall that a lack of mainstream attention was what allowed these people to organize, to build their base.

    It may be that the Mall of America events brought the movie to the attention of sympathetic people who would not have heard of it otherwise. But to focus on that is missing two blindingly important points:

    1) ignoring them, far from making them go away, only strengthens them, as anyone who did even the slightest bit of homework would be able to tell you, and

    2) this whole series of events is in fact a PR disaster for Expelled. Why would the producers be spinning so frantically were that not the case?

    Why would the producers and other creationists be lining up to pat you and Nisbet on the back for your scolding were that not the case?

    Of course, as we saw in Nisbet’s response to Al Gore’s Nobel nod, there seems to be nothing the Framing Folks hate more than an authentic PR gain not carefully plotted out in Machiavellian style. Winning by telling the truth, unvarnished, occasionally vulgar, and usually inconvenient as it may be, undercuts the whole notion of framing.

  166. #167 J. J. Ramsey
    March 24, 2008

    Chris Clarke: “this whole series of events is in fact a PR disaster for Expelled. Why would the producers be spinning so frantically were that not the case?”

    Because even if it isn’t a disaster, it’s still negative publicity, and they want to minimize its downside. I think you overestimate how ashamed the target audience of Expelled will be at ousting an atheist, especially if it can be spun as removing someone potentially disruptive.

  167. #168 the real CosMo Framer
    March 24, 2008

    It is precisely the attitude of “they don’t deserve to be treated fairly….(PZ)” that Jane and Joe Public are tired of, as most of that wider public has someone near and dear to them who is religious, and one of the main tenets of those religions is generally about playing fair ‘lovin’ thy neighbor as thyself’….etc.

    Like it or not, J&J Public expect leaders to act with dignity, not unabashed biased, childish, ideological blog-vomit.

    So gettin’ all sh!tty makes it look like a pig wrasslin’ match, rather than a debate–and PZ is doing a disservice to himself and the wider public–then again,who ever said sciborgs were anything but ‘insular’ anyways?

    Whatever happened to setting an example?

    Jane and Joe Q. Public expect leaders to act with dignity–take Obama for instance and how he has handled the racism and the ‘boy’ treatment leveled at him by the Clinton campaign–he jumped 3%points in todays polls b/c Richardson said ‘ the Clinton campaign is full of that sort of negativiv(ity)–I am not climbing in the gutter with them’ rather than getting sh!tty in return.

  168. #169 Robb
    March 24, 2008

    So is it your argument that it would be better Expelled wasn’t seen by anybody?

    That attitude seems to be rather the opposite of the scientific one. Science welcomes challenges and skeptical evaluation. Hiding or suppressing data actively harms the pursuit of science.

    Science has no problem refuting creationist movies, books, statements or anything else. There is no reasonable motive for hiding these things. Rational people will see them for what they are (especially when provided with a well thought out refutation, such as those Dawkins offers). Irrational people will believe what they will whether Expelled makes the front page of the NY Times or not.

  169. #170 J. J. Ramsey
    March 24, 2008

    Robb: “So is it your argument that it would be better Expelled wasn’t seen by anybody?”

    Would it be better if perniciously misleading propaganda shriveled into obscurity? Of course.

  170. #171 marketing dude
    March 24, 2008

    “could you folks please try, just this one time, to check your highly developed critical faculties at the door, and accept that most Americans don’t see it your way, and won’t?”

    Tell that to Mel Gibson. Chris I think you could use a little more data on how Americans perceive film and make decisions about what they want to see in theatres and why.

    Bad publicity hurts movie marketing more than any medium. Studio advertising budgets for films almost mirror production budgets for a reason.

    They have HUGE impacts.

    MP Attendance and dvd rental intent are pre-judged largely on a) stars b) concepts and c) word of mouth. The last being the most prominent.

    Now I see it’s on the imdb.com first page.

    I suspect this story will seriously reduce concept appeal. Dead. Anyone who wants another suitable case study can google “The Signal”

  171. #172 Kristine
    March 25, 2008

    especially if it can be spun as removing someone potentially disruptive.

    Well, now the producer Mark Mathis has backed off of that lie (I was there – it was a total lie), and corresponded with the biggest confidentially leak since Robert Philip Hanssen, namely Denyse O’Leary, who promptly posted on her blog that Mathis says he banned PZ simply because he wants PZ to pay $$$.

    *Leans forehead into hand*

    Frame? Who need to frame this discussion? You can’t “frame” Denyse – you just get the hell out of her way!

  172. #173 J. J. Ramsey
    March 25, 2008

    Kristine: “Well, now the producer Mark Mathis has backed off of that lie”

    Unfortunately, he’s added a few others, which are quote in the blog post to which you’ve linked. There’s also the not-so-small matter that Mathis can’t unring the bell. Whatever previous garbage he said that has been circulated doesn’t stop circulating just because he backs off later.

    Kristine: “I was there – it was a total lie”

    No, no, that only works to counter the lie that he actually was disruptive. The nicely sinister thing about saying what Myers would have done is that it’s not so easy to disprove.

  173. #174 J. J. Ramsey
    March 25, 2008

    Me: “Whether the cold shoulder works depends on the threat, of course, but sometimes it’s appropriate.”

    While I think that what I wrote above has been hedged enough to be trivially correct, I’ve decided that there are plenty who know a hell of a lot more than I do on the matter. And right now, I’m really pissed off at Mooney.

  174. #175 Jim Lippard
    March 25, 2008

    How will the mainstream Christian press frame the story of P.Z. Myers’ expulsion from “Expelled”? If Nisbet and Mooney are correct, as a “he said-he said” dispute. If everybody else is correct, as a story of hypocrisy by producers of a film about suppression kicking out somebody they interviewed for the film under false pretenses.

    OK, let’s see which way Christianity Today goes

  175. #176 Tulse
    March 25, 2008

    No, no, Jim, you’re just hurting the cause by bringing in data! Don’t you realize your playing right into their hands? For the good of Big ScienceTM, you have to shut up and let Official Spokepersons interpret the news.

  176. #177 Tulse
    March 25, 2008

    Pardon the double posting, but I thought this was interesting, and worth mentioning here as well as at Matt’s blog:

    Matt said, “Let others play the role of communicator, most importantly the National Center for Science Education”.

    And what has their response been to the “PZ Myers Affair”? On the NCSE’s “Expelled Exposed” webpage, their official counter to the film, of the three major sections of the page, one has the heading of “Biologist PZ Myers expelled from Expelled screening”. Of the thirteen substantive links in total on the site, four of them are directly related to this issue — three under the above-mentioned section, and one a direct link to Dawkin’s own review of the film, which of course also relates the incident, and is titled “Lying for Jesus”, a title the NCSE site reproduces in its link to the piece. (If we’re just including links about Dawkins and Myers in the film in general, the number of links would be six, as we would add the linked NYT piece that interviewed, among others, Dawkins and Myers, and the Popular Science article that mentions Myers and the controversy over the film.)

    So, to recap, on the site where the film is officially responded to by the NCSE, the organization that Matt himself identifies as ideal for communicating about the film, one third of the topics, and over 30% of all the links are about this incident, and over 46% substantially mention Myers.

    I guess they didn’t get the memo.

  177. #178 J. J. Ramsey
    March 26, 2008

    Jim Lippard:

    If Nisbet and Mooney are correct, as a “he said-he said” dispute. If everybody else is correct, as a story of hypocrisy by producers of a film about suppression kicking out somebody they interviewed for the film under false pretenses.

    OK, let’s see which way Christianity Today goes

    Quotes from the article, with emphasis added:

    “It shows off the hypocrisy of these people, as well as their outright incompetence,” Myers told the newspaper.

    Dawkins and Myers both claim they were “duped” into appearing in the movie

    Just about everything in the article is about what one or another person said, with no real attempt to sort out which of the two sides is correct. Notice, for example, that the reporter does not indicate whether the accusations about Dawkins and Myers being interviewed under false pretenses are true. This makes it typical “he said-he said” coverage. The only correction there is to Mathis’ statement, “I had to presume he [Dawkins] had flown a long way to see the film,” which in the context of the article doesn’t look like a serious error on Mathis’ part. Note too how the article ends on a note that counterbalances what Dawkins and Myers were saying, with Rush Limbaugh praising the article and notes that Stein “was praised by conservative politicians and local churches alike” for his screening of Expelled for Florida legislators.

  178. #179 Arun
    March 26, 2008

    I wouldn’t have heard of Expelled except for a link from James Wolcott’s blog to pharyngula.

    (I stopped reading pharyngula when it became mostly a boring atheism only occasionally interspersed with science; about as much fun as reading a religious fundamentalist blog.)

    Was I in at any risk of becoming a creationist? No.
    Did PZ Myers raise the profile of Expelled? Yes.
    But perhaps only among people like me.

  179. #180 Christophe Thill
    March 28, 2008

    “A gift to Ben Stein” ? I’m sorry Chris, I love your books and articles and all, but you couldn’t be more wrong. Call that shooting at an ambulance if you will, or much ado about nothing. But don’t believe the EXPELL-ers when they sneer that all the fuss makes a great publicity for their silly movie. That’s what anyone would expect them to say. Which doesn’t make it true.

  180. #181 Darren
    April 8, 2008

    I don’t understand how this incident can be viewed as anything but a negative for the movie.

    Never mind whether PZ was “gatecrashing” or not. A person FEATURED IN THE MOVIE, who is THANKED in the credits at the end of the movie, is NOT invited to the screening?? Everyone can smell that something is fishy about that.

  181. #182 Jose C.
    April 13, 2008

    “Never mind whether PZ was “gatecrashing” or not. A person FEATURED IN THE MOVIE, who is THANKED in the credits at the end of the movie, is NOT invited to the screening?? Everyone can smell that something is fishy about that.”

    President George Bush was in Fahrenheit 911. Should he have been invited to a screening? What is happening here and what will happen is what happened concerning the controversies about The Passion of the Christ and Fahrenheit 911. You can not buy that type of publicity.

    People will go to see it to see what the controversy is about. And the believers will go see it again and again. Buy the way I have read “Expelled” will debut in 1,000 theatres.

  182. #183 Russell Blackford
    April 13, 2008

    Since the thread has been re-opened … this publicity won’t help Expelled much at all. It was always going to get publicity and was always going to get a lot of believers along. It preaches to the converted, and may strengthen their resolve, but there will always be initiatives designed to do that.

    For better or worse, though … I think for better … the publicity is making PZ Myers into a star. He now has mentions in major newspapers and a DVD done with Richard Dawkins. His blog is more popular than ever. It’s not because PZ has been opportunistic (he has merely done what anyone would do in his place: publicise how badly he was treated); it’s because the Expelled people were so stupid in expelling him.

  183. #184 Paul W.
    April 15, 2008

    President George Bush was in Fahrenheit 911. Should he have been invited to a screening?

    If Bush had agreed to be interviewed especially for Fahrenheit 911, it would be bizarre not to thank him in the credits, or to eject him from a screening.

    It’s generally Not Done to treat people that way after they voluntarily help you make your movie. (Even if your movie is designed to make them look bad.)

    The Expelled! folks have been spectacularly poor sports, and obviously lied (telling implausible and conflicting stories) to cover it up.

    As for the publicity thing, I’ve yet to see a serious discussion of when the “any publicity is good publicity” principle is just wrong. (Think Swift Boats.)

    Keep in mind that the very early publicity given to the movie by the likes of PZ is a multi-edged sword. It’s got at least two edges for at least two very different audiences.

    In particular, one small but important audience that the blogosphere hubbub might reach is potential reviewers for mainstream mass media publications, before they write their reviews.

    It’s good to have rebuttals and revelations out there for those reviewers who are interested enough to look before they even see the movie, or at least before they write about it. Most reviewers are not very savvy about creationism, but some are at least diligent enough to become more savvy if it’s not too hard.

    One of Nisbet’s recent posts talks about how it’s important to reach the reviewers who are actually likely to review the movie—not mostly science reporters, but “lifestyle” reporters and general movie reviewers.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think Nisbet does a good job of analyzing the various effects of the polarized and personalized hubbub in the blogosphere on movie reviews.

    He doesn’t seem interested in doing so if it might give PZ even an inch of credit.

    Notably, PZ has recently posted on the importance of many science-minded bloggers linking to Nisbet’s preferred source about the movie. (NCSE, and specifically their Expelled Exposed! page.)

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