The Intersection

by Greg Laden. Or as one of my own commenters put it, “Either you really are just fucking stupid, or you’re a closet creationist in this blog group. Pick one.” I won’t be deleting that comment despite the profanity, because I want to have it all on the record–the record of what now happens at ScienceBlogs if you say certain thing that people don’t want to hear.

All this happened, I suppose, because I dared to point out the obvious: Expelled is a success. I mean, it’s the eighth highest grossing political documentary of all time…after its first week. Randy Olson of course knows this, because he’s, like, a filmmaker.

But go ahead, ignore Olson. Keep on firing inward. Beat up on me. Call me (the author of The Republican War on Science) a creationist.

This abuse will not stop me from continuing to call for serious introspection about the massive communication crisis we’re facing in the science world.

Comments

  1. #1 Mark Norris
    April 21, 2008

    No one seriously thinks your a creationist, just that you are capable of quite terrifyingly poor framing for an expert on it.

    Calling a propaganda piece by those you oppose a “success” is poor framing, especially when the producers gave objective quantities by which its success could be measured, which they failed to meet by a factor of at least 4.

  2. #2 Matti K.
    April 21, 2008

    Chris: “This abuse will not stop me from continuing to call for serious introspection about the massive communication crisis we’re facing in the science world.”

    You are free to call as much as you want. However, if those who should (in your opinion) do the introspection don’t take you seriously, what’s the use in whining?

    Time to develop frames that make people trust that you really know what you are saying?

  3. #3 PhysioProf
    April 21, 2008

    massive communication crisis

    da-da-da-da-da-da-da-da-daa-daaa-daa-daa

  4. #4 SLC
    April 21, 2008

    Attached is a post from Ed Braytons’ blog which is in total disagreement with Mr. Mooneys assessment of Expelled. Mr. Brayton is, like Mr. Mooney not a scientist and is no acolyte of PZ Myers or Richard Dawkins. I would accept his take on the movie over someone who is obsessed with the alleged expertise of Prof. Matt Nisbet.

    http://scienceblogs.com/dispatches/2008/04/expelled_flops_at_box_office.php#more

  5. #5 Jim RL
    April 21, 2008

    Why is it that when you put your foot in your mouth and people call you on it you selectively quote the worst of the critiques and then quickly brush them aside with all of the others? Cherry picking and poisoning the well are denialist tactics. You should be above that.

    Why don’t you take on the moderate criticisms leveled by PZ, Orac and Kevin in the previous post? Why did you post it as “just the facts” and ignore all contradictory facts?

  6. #6 MH
    April 21, 2008

    I was expecting you to explain why you framed Expelled’s takings as a success rather than a failure (by the producers own standards!), or to just admit that you’d made a mistake (we all make them from time-to-time). I certainly wasn’t expecting you to cry “I’m right, you’re wrong, and you’re being meeeeaaan”.

    And I can’t believe you mentioned the troll who called you a creationist! Trolls are to be ignored, not to add weight to your tales of persecution. WE ignored him.

    Look what you’ve done. You’ve ignored all of your constructive commenters, and focused on a troll and a post by Greg (who, lets face it, hasn’t liked you for a long time, has he?). What impression do you think people will get from that?

  7. #7 Duae Quartunciae
    April 21, 2008

    We can spin the success or the failure of expelled either way. I don’t agree with those who have called it a “flop”. It may yet be; but the opening weekend was quite respectable. Not as good as they hoped, perhaps, but it got to a record breaking number of theaters; and the return per theater was in the low end, but certainly not bottoming out. I very much doubt they’ve made money on it; but I don’t think that was the objective. They’ve been throwing money at this with a view, I suspect, to making an impact no matter what it costs. And they did get that.

    Any genuine attempt to deal with the facts must deal with the record breaking number of theaters and the high absolute box office takings, and ALSO with the comparatively low return per theater, the drop in numbers as the weekend progressed, and the absolutely dreadful reviews that have been obtained.

    In my view, this was bound to be a “success” to some level. The push for this result has been intense, and the marketing to a ready audience of dupes was bound to make an impact. There’s no vindication here whatever for your curious claims about Expelled and publicity over the last few months.

    I think, frankly, it is just the reverse. The extraordinarily bad reviews are due, in my view, in no small part to the tireless work of the NCSE, and of a host of bloggers: PZ Myers especially. Richard Dawkins also has helped, but PZ Myers has been just tremendous in this. You’ve been no help at all.

    I’m usually critical of PZ Myers’ approach to religion; but his approach to Expelled has been the perfect example we all should be supporting of how to frame the response. He’s said virtually nothing about religion; the frame has persistently been that this is a dreadfully bad movie by dishonest scoundrels. And now, as the reviews come out, we see the same message. That’s GOOD, and PZ Myers deserves from you a plain “I was wrong” admission.

    Instead, we got from you an unadorned endorsement for Expelled’s success. That was a creationist apologetic. You may feel it was justified, and if so you’re also being stupid about it. I’m tremendously saddened by this, frankly, because you are simply not getting this AT ALL; and that’s tragic. But it can’t be fixed just by telling you you’re okay.

    You’re a good guy, and you’ve done good work in the past, and you’ve made a total hash of things in the recent past.

    Your attempt to recover from the framing debacle recently was horrible. Despite countless requests for actual substance on the specifics of the various claims you made explicit in posts, you never ever got around to that; but just tried to rebuild the whole framing debate from the ground up. Nothing really new, no lessons learned, no indication of any error you might have made except that you failed to get the message across. But that wasn’t really the problem. You failed, Chris, because you were so often flatly incorrect in the specifics; not just because you failed to explain yourself well enough.

    My own attempt to make a positive suggestion on framing is now up at my blog. It is Thank you, Sir David Attenborough. I’ve been pretty hard on you here, but even so, I would be interested to know what you think of the idea that David Attenborough is an good example of great framing.

  8. #8 tonyl
    April 21, 2008

    And with this post, you have now completely and utterly lost whatever remained of the respect I once had for you. To take one single comment from a lengthy thread and use it to trivialize all of the more thoughtful comments disagreeing with you is simply reprehensible. I see now that, to you, “framing” means behaving like creationists, anti-vaccinationists, and all the other dishonest cranks. Sorry, but I’m not going to surrender my ethics like that.

  9. #9 MH
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, as SLC suggests, look at Ed’s post. You’ve both posted about exactly the same thing, and yet they are framed completely differently. You both posted “just the facts”, but only one could be passed off on a creationist site.

    Remember, I’m not calling you a creationist or a creation apologist, I’m just saying that your post could appear on a creationist site and wouldn’t look out of place. Surely you must see that? We’re just trying to understand how your post came about. Please don’t do a Michael Dunn on us.

  10. #10 cobbler
    April 21, 2008

    However one feels about Chris’ and Randy’s assessment of the Expelled box office receipts, you’ve got to admit that Laden’s post is one for Carnival of the Demented Wackaloon.

  11. #11 Chris C. Mooney
    April 21, 2008

    I will answer the substantive point. I don’t find Ed’s post at all persuasive. If you compare Stein to the single most successful political documentarian ever, Michael Moore, then no, Ben Stein hasn’t beaten him after one week.

    In other words, if you define success as something virtually impossible to attain, then no, Ben Stein did not succeed.

  12. #12 Wes
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, Expelled’s take in theaters falls far, far short of what they were expecting, and given the heavy marketing towards the already-convinced it’s doubtful that the measly $3 mil came from a broad audience. Rather, I wouldn’t be surprised if most of that came from churches–ie, people who already believe it anyways. Given how much they spent on production and marketing, will this movie turn a profit? Hard to tell at this point. They’re gonna have to sustain the momentum for several weeks to make a profit. We’ll just have to wait and see whether that happens.

    But I see no reason to think it’s a success. Its ranking at Box Office Mojo is completely and utterly irrelevant. Why would that even matter? Their goal was not to make a list at a box office statistics website. Their goal was to spread their message, and I don’t see evidence of them achieving that goal.

  13. #13 Greg Laden
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, if I thought my ‘abuse’ would stop you I would never render it, because the last thing I want to do is to stop you. To disagree with you and chide you, well, that is a different story.

    I don’t think you are a creationist apologist at all. What I said was “…seems to transmogrify more and more into a creationist apologist…” which I say with great trepidation.

    I do have to say that I detected a bit of snark in your original post, a bit of “I told you so …” Admit it, Chris, it’s there.

    I do think there is a legitimate debate over actually success and failure. Or what those words mean.

    This post:

    http://scienceblogs.com/gregladen/2008/03/saving_science_from_creationis.php

    is one that I was very unhappy to see that you did NOT comment on. That post reflects what I think is the key point of discussion here. I think there are areas where we (you and me) could agree, disagree, agree some more, and come out with something productive. Please take a look at it.

    People: Give Chris a break. He may be totally wrong. Or maybe not. But he is trying to do the right thing.

    G

  14. #14 MH
    April 21, 2008

    That’s Michael Dunn the editor of Proteomics, not Michael Dunn the dwarf.

  15. #15 Jim RL
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, if you define success by the producer’s own metrics it fell short by a factor of 4-5. How do you reconcile that fact? They were talking on Friday of taking down Farenheit 9/11’s record just three days ago.

  16. #16 jcmacc
    April 21, 2008

    Sorry Chris, but you are comparing apples with oranges with this list.

    To call Expelled a “success” – just in terms of money – you have just looked at gross, but that’s really not the full story here, you have to look at how much money has been pushed into Expelled up front which is probably unlike every other movie on that list.

    The Expelled producers themselves put an opening weekend success figure at $10-15M, a figure they are $7-12M down on, and it’s not hard to see how they came up with the numbers.

    Expelled opened BIG, on more screens than any other movie on the documentary list you quote including Fahrenheit 9/11 which came from an established “bankable star” in box-office terms in Moore. This took major marketing and an associated major spend – take into account the fact they’re offering money back on ticket stubs from groups, they won’t have a mainstream studio style deal with the theatres (theatres won’t have gambled too much on Expelled and so won’t have cut a standard 90/10 deal like a majors would benefit from) – so the producers may be clawing back a low percentage of that $3M gross and be well down on breaking even

    Due to this it doesn’t bear comparison with the other films on the list – arbitary documentary tag aside – this spent way more than any other movie and was marketed with the budget of a non-niche project and they are, in effect, paying people to go see it.

    What will worry the Expelled producers more is that for the majority of the documentary movies on your list, big success came from opening small then gradually expanding with positive word of mouth. That’s how niche films make money as marketing and cost of new prints only comes with some confirmation of increasing demand. Expelled has – time will tell – probably shot it’s bolt on it’s opening weekend by playing in all the locations it’s likely to get any audience so there won’t be many people now waiting around to see this. It’s not going to be around for long and it’s not going to be a slow burner like other films on that list. Let’s sit back and watch how viewing figures keep up, or not, to see if I’m right.

    Put it this way – stack that documentary list on profit rather than gross, and Expelled could be the only overall loser on there. In fact it could be off-scale at the bottom end as there’s bound to be an 11th movie that did scrape a small profit that would replace it in the top 10.

    So how else can we measure success – money aside, for all the “success” in whipping up its already committed audience, the general reviews are so terrible, especially on the digusting Nazi angle, that it won’t positively influence the “floating voter” so to speak.

    It has, however, positively “framed” ID as a pure religious argument and also, via argument ad nazium, nauseated people who aren’t already so far into ID they can’t be impartial.

    Some success.

  17. #17 kc
    April 21, 2008

    My fricken word… what a whiner.

    Let’s look at the FACTS

    You made commments claiming that PZ and Dawkins were helping the makers of expelled by, um, exposing the irony of the title “Expelled”. You make this claim even though the massive ad campaign for the movie is likely to reach far more of the intended audience than any story circulating on blogs and a in a few news articles. You then proceed to make a “ha-ha, I was so right” “just the facts” post claiming that Expelled was a success (implying, of course, that it is the fault of people like PZ who just had to go and to help give publicity to a film that otherwise would have been totally ignored, despite the ridiculous ad campaign). Except, your claim was bullshit. The film may have succeeded in being good propaganda, but it did not succeed in the box office, as it has a hell of a long way to go before it even breaks even. When you are called on this bullshit, as you should expect to be when you use easily checked and misleading “facts” on your blog, especially when you do so with the implied full-of-yourself message “See, I was sooo right, I told you so,” you whine. “Oh, you’re beating up on me, and all this infighting is only hurting our cause” (Because you know, every group of people with one common cause/opinion that fights within the group at all never accomplishes anything. It’s not like debate or, I don’t know, the truth, are useful in any way)

    What a baby.

  18. #18 SteveF
    April 21, 2008

    The general standard for breaking even is to double what the movie cost to make. E.g if it cost $3 million, you need $6 million to cover marketing and so on. These rules may not apply precisely in this case as marketing may have outstripped production costs by some margin, but the rule probably still provides some rough idea. I reckon $10 million would be a decent enough performance.

    As it stands, it hasn’t been a total flop as some suggest, but I must disagree with Chris and argue that it has not been a roaring success. It’s a bit too early to say, but I suspect it will end up as a minor failure in boxoffice terms.

  19. #19 Sam C
    April 21, 2008

    I can imagine the scene, Mooney returns from a holiday and meets his buddy:
    Nisbett: Did you have a good time shopping in Sofia, Chris? How did you get on with speaking Bulgarian?
    Mooney: Oh, Matt, it was terrible, those Sofia shopkeepers are rubbish, they couldn’t understand my Bulgarian, they need more lessons.
    Nisbett: Yes, I know what you mean, they sometimes even have the nerve to correct you, and I’ve read several books about the language, what do they know about it?!

  20. #20 Philip H.
    April 21, 2008

    After taking a week of Spring Break – from which I need another week off to recover – I come back to the blog-o-sphere to find that, once again, so many are missing Chris Key point. Perhaps that is an arguement about Chris’ framing; I suspect it has more to do with a natural human tendency to look at the world through our own eyes, instead of actually setting aside our preconceptions to deal with new issues.

    Ragrdless of the actual dollars, that Explled opened in as many theatres as it did is arguably “a success.” Most of Moore’s documentaries, particularly the early ones, could be counted on to open only in NYC, and then spread slowly across the US (not unlike the Creeping Charlie in my yard). Expelled tried the buckshot approach, which tells me some powerful film “insiders” were willing to make a few phone calls to it could get wide distribution. Kind of makes you wonder about the Hollywood liberal label doesn’t it?

    Think about it folks – if we’re fighting an intellectual war against ID/Creationists as Chris says we are (or should be), what other movie opened this week NATIONALLY that bolsters our side of the arguement? What did we do this weekend that attracted that much attention for sound science? How did the ID folks LOOSE this weekend by getting the press?

    And as to the $$, I didn’t do anything this weekend that profitted me $1,300. Neither did you all I suspect. So Chris’ point is actually well founded.

    Now, did he frame it the way we all wanted him to? Probably not, but he did frame it, and you all started talking about it, so I fail to see how this was bad framing. Hate to say it, but many seemed to walk into his trap, if only by the reactions they put down on paper.

  21. #21 Jim C.
    April 21, 2008

    Whoa…somebody said you were a creationist? Did you believe him? Do you think any of your other commenters did? Or is this post directed at just the one person (in which case, better you had emailed him)?

    I think Expelled is starting to have an effect on you. It’s called “persecution envy”.

    Honestly, your regular readers are a little too smart to believe this petty posting.

  22. #22 Christophe Thill
    April 21, 2008

    I’m a statistician, which means I’m pretty much aware that you can draw conflicting conclusions from the same set of data, depending on the way you look at it.

    I don’t know if “Expelled” is a success, but I’m not really convinced. It seems at least that this so-called success is not up to what the filmmakers expected.

    Anyway, let’s admit, for the sake of argument, that it’s actually a success. So now, what should “we” do ? Try to emulate it ? The problem is that the key ingredients of “Expelled” are dishonesty, audience manipulation and outright lies. I’ve seen several M%ichael Moore movies: what he does is of course open to ctiticism, but I’ve never seen him stoop so low. And it’s a very important contribution to whatever success the film may have (if only a limited one among a very specific crowd). If “it works”, it’s by intoxicating people. See the “David J letter” that Michael Shermer received, and that Dawkins replied to.

    So one thing is for sure: there won’t be an “Expelled” #2 from “our side”, because it would require the use of methods that science proponents usually find disgusting.

    Which doesn’t mean that there couldn’t be some good, popular, pro-science documentaries. “Flock of Dodos” could be an example, but for whatever reason, it seems that it’s not. What I’m dreaming of is :
    – a widespread distribution of “Judgement day”, perhaps in a slightly revised and condensed form
    – an adaptation of Carl Zimmer’s “Evolution”. I think there’s no better way to explain evolution than to retrace its steps since the beginnings of “Darwinism”, not forgetting the (real) controversies that opposed it to Lamarckism, orthogeny, mutationism, etc.
    – a movie about the “really expelled”, the teachers who were kicked out by creationists. Sort of an expanded version of the short doc about Chris Comer shown on “Expelled Exposed”.

    Wouldn’t that be nice for a beginning ?

  23. #23 Orac
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, this ill becomes you. Sure, Greg was a bit of an asshole for calling you a “closet creationist.” He shouldn’t have done that. It was just plain stupid. I can practically hear the outrage in your writing. Unfortunately, you clearly appear to be letting that ourtrage affect your response. This is particularly evident in your self-righteously cherry-picking the worst response to you as representative of responses in general and then ignoring the rest.

    Is Expelled! a “success”? It all depends on how you define “success.” By the producers’ own predictions it is most definitely not a success; it grossed far less than they had been predicting. Perhaps by other metrics it is. By the main metric that matters in Hollywood (did it make money?), the answer is clearly no, unless massive DVD sales somehow make up for the fact that there’s no way in hell this movie is going to make back its production costs and marketing expenses at the box office. It won’t even be close.

    Personally, however, I find your “nyah, nyah, told you so” posts to be…disappointing, especially since it is not at all clear that you’re correct. May I suggest that you ignore Laden’s mind-bogglingly ill-advised and just plain dumb line about “transmorgifying into a creationist apologist” and try not to start sinking down to that level?

  24. #24 Andrea Bottaro
    April 21, 2008

    You know what a good, effective way way to counter the pernicious misinformation in Expelled is? Countering the pernicious misinformation in Expelled! Have you, Randy Olson, or Nisbet tackled even one of Expelled’s lies in your blogs entries? You have a bunch of followers, and you serve a different readership than PZ, a word on the facts in the movie would have helped. Have you even linked to and publicized Expelled Exposed? I don’t recall you doing it, while everyone else was trying as hard as they could to get the EE site up the Google rankings so that the public would see it.

    Stop bellyaching about box office numbers, comparisons are meaningless when you are dealing with a propaganda machine that gives free tickets by the bucket and bus rides to church groups.

    I understand you are enthralled with the whole issue of mass communication, and you can’t help admiring the Creationist PR skills, but seriously, things should be evaluated by more than just $ signs. Even Creationist cheerleader blogs are obviously disappointed about Expelled’s reception, and arguing about where things were wrong.

    And no, you are not a Creationist, but right now you certainly are not helping either.

  25. #25 Jon
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, I’m not here to pile on, but I do agree with those that think your previous post claiming to be “the facts” was remarkably problematic.

    Obviously you aren’t a creationist, but what is raising the hackles of many here is how similar your tone appears to be to what many veterans of the creationist-evolution argument on the ‘tubes view as “concern trolling”.

    I am in agreement with you and Olson that Expelled has raised some troubling questions about the effectiveness of science communication. However you do seem to be ignoring genuine and thoughtful criticisms of your perspective in favor of defensive rebuttals to the more inflammatory and less productive comments.

    I think you owe it to yourself and your readers to address the substance of the critiques in regards to the way your previous post was framed.

    I say this as a person that read and enjoyed tremendously both The Republican War On Science and Storm World.

  26. #26 Orac
    April 21, 2008

    “closet creationist.”

    Forgot to fix this and turn it into “creationist apologist.” I’m mixing it up with other insults I’ve seen thrown at Mooney & Nisbet. Sorry.

  27. #27 NP
    April 21, 2008

    The only reasons we should care if Expelled makes a profit or not are (i) just for the satisfaction of it, and (ii) a concern that it will inspire more ID propaganda flicks in the future.

    Other than that, the real concerns should be how the film is influencing the public. People say that this film is preaching to the converted, but that’s almost assuming that these people will never change their minds. While it’s certainly true that some never will, there’s no shortage of examples of fundamentalist Christians who have gone on to accept evolution. It’s hard to know just going by box office statistics, but it would probably be safe to say that the film is at least reinforcing many misconceptions or paranoias that some members of the public may have. From that perspective, it is a success for the ID propaganda machine – regardless of how much they profit from it.

    In fact, Expelled was a partial success even before it hit the screens. What role did it play in Florida’s “academic freedom” bill? The notoriety of the film gave Ben Stein the opportunity to spew his nonsense at the Missouri Capitol. The kind of success that should matter to us is the extent to which this film influences public policy and our educational systems, not its financial success.

  28. #28 jcmacc
    April 21, 2008

    A second point – on “framing” and the idea that PZ Myers’ activities around Expelled were own-goals for the scientific side. Try reading the UK coverage of Expelled in this weeks Sunday Times:

    http://entertainment.timesonline.co.uk/tol/arts_and_entertainment/film/film_reviews/article3758012.ece

    The textbook irony of Expelled’s producer complaining about academic freedom while expelling an academic from a screening has been the single most effective anti-Expelled “frame” there’s been.

    Chris, you owe PZ an apology, turns out he understands effective framing a lot better than most.

  29. #29 MH
    April 21, 2008

    Philip H wrote: “Regardless of the actual dollars, that Expelled opened in as many theatres as it did is arguably ‘a success.'”

    That doesn’t tell you anything. Remember that 529 of those theaters (Regal Cinemas) are owned by Philip Anschutz, who is involved with the distributor, Rocky Mountain Pictures, has financed other pro-Christian films (Chronicles of Narnia), and is also a contributor to the Discovery Institute. What deal did they get from him? I bet it was a good one.

    Also, of those other theatres, what cut were they taking? Normally it’s 10% for the first week, but I could get a 90 minute movie of my arse to open in 1000 cinemas if my budget was big enough and I didn’t mind making a net loss .

  30. #30 Josh
    April 21, 2008

    You’re quickly becoming more and more unworthy of a blog subscription in my book. Instead of responding to the open, honest, and reasonable criticism in the original thread, you clung to one comment, labeled it abusive, and victimized yourself.

    Perhaps is was abusive, I don’t know. You are familiar with the internet, though? You’re always going to get posts like that. Ignore them, and focus on the ones with meat. I had a lot of respect for you after your book, and then I saw a video from one of your talks, but recently, you seem to be losing it.

    You just take it as obvious that ‘Expelled’ was a success, and anyone who disagrees with you is wrong. *Filmmakers* seem to think it’s a success, and since their the experts, they’re right. That is not an attitude conductive towards creating a dialogue, nor is it an attitude that science is keen on. Are you really that surprised that there has been a backlash?

  31. #31 PalMD
    April 21, 2008

    it’s the eighth highest grossing political documentary of all time…after its first week

    Which in movie terms is like being the worlds most eligible syphilitic.

    In one month, what will the numbers be compared to other docs?

    So far it isn’t looking good. It hasn’t even caught on with its core audience, like, say, the Left Behind books.

    At least it’s been panned by everyone, including the right wing press, for being the lying piece of crap it is. It’s helped get the word out on how dishonest these guys are.

  32. #32 Paul A
    April 21, 2008

    “All this happened, I suppose, because I dared to point out the obvious: Expelled is a success. I mean, it’s the eighth highest grossing political documentary of all time…after its first week. Randy Olson of course knows this, because he’s, like, a filmmaker.”

    As people have been at pains to point out, your definition of success is extremely narrow and that’s the main problem with your post. Also you’re touting Olson’s opinion as fact just because he’s a filmmaker. Guess what – that doesn’t mean he’s any more qualified to judge whether the film has acheived its aims than anyone else on this thread.

    Once more, paying invited audience members in carefully selected areas to view your propaganda != success.

  33. #33 Hank Roberts
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, affectionately —

    You should have titled this

    “I’m Being FRAMED … ”

    Pretend a sense of humor, even when you don’t feel amused.

    Seriously, it will always help.

  34. #34 Phoca
    April 21, 2008

    NP and Christophe Thrll are right on target here – we need to stop worrying about how to define Expelled success/failure and start worrying about how it will influence public policy. Pretty much everyone here agrees the movie sucks, but do your state legislators think the same way?

    We need something that will emphasize to the public how artificial dissent is created and how the process of real science is different from the process of ID. Pointing your state legislator in the direction of Expelled Exposed: http://www.expelledexposed.com/index.php/the-truth is a good start (especially if you’re in a state with an “Academic Freedom” bill, but it would be nice to have some mass media targeted for the general public that helps differentiate between scientists and ‘scientismists.’ This would help on a variety of fronts, and not just the ID/creationism controversy.

    I have no idea how such a thing could get started, but shows like Mythbusters seem like a good start. If only there were more explosions in Shermer’s Why People Believe Weird Things…

  35. #35 jcmacc
    April 21, 2008

    Paul A said:

    “As people have been at pains to point out, your definition of success is extremely narrow and that’s the main problem with your post. Also you’re touting Olson’s opinion as fact just because he’s a filmmaker. Guess what – that doesn’t mean he’s any more qualified to judge whether the film has acheived its aims than anyone else on this thread.”

    Great point – an obvious argument to false authority given what’s under consideration.

    Unless Olson knows exactly how much Expelled cost to make and how much they’ve poured into marketing, what deal they have with Stein (percentage points of gross?), what deals they have with theatres etc etc then he’s *no idea* how much it would have to gross to even break-even let alone be a success in box-office terms.

    The fact he’s a filmaker has no bearing at all – wouldn’t even matter if he was Spielberg himself – unless he had access to Premise Media’s accounts then he has no expertise on this question.

    Put it this way – what does Olsen know that enables him to say a $3M opening weekend is great despite the producers themselves, who do have the numbers, saying they were looking for $10-15M as a success figure (while hoping to beat Fahrenheit 9/11’s $24.9M opening – tee hee).

  36. #36 Kristine
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, we know you’re not a creationist, but for pity’s sake. Ben Stein is going around and saying, “Evolution tried to kill my dad!” with the full implication that you’re anti-Semitic for questioning him. What are we supposed to do then against recalcitrant believers who need an enemy? We couldn’t stop the Iraq war, and we can’t control what gullible people think inside their heads about evolution. So, what do you suggest? Why don’t you lead the way, then, by example? None of us knows what it is you envision.

  37. #37 mlf
    April 21, 2008

    Olson Olson Olson. Always with the Randy Olson.

    Nobody knows who Olson is. Know one has heard of his movie.

  38. #38 Joe Shelby
    April 21, 2008

    I think any of US calling it a success is totally moot because the filmmakers with their history of lies and spin would call it a success no matter what because they simply can’t be honest about anything at all and we all know that.

    So my question is, Chris, why give them any credit at all?

    You could have *either* spun it back and called it a failure as Ed did (since it did NOT succeed by the terms the filmmakers originally said would be a “success”), OR you could have ignored it. Both of those would have been successful PRO-SCIENCE framings.

    Instead, you have now created the following quote-mine headline: “Popular Scienceblogger calls Controversial ID Film a Success”.

    THAT is why you were labeled “creationist”, because you gave them EXACTLY what they want – a beautifully framed quote they can use on week #2’s word-of-mouth advertising and on the inevitable DVD sales. You literally have now framed yourself, and Greg, albeit impolitely, called you on it.

  39. #39 Joel
    April 21, 2008

    I hope you aren’t going to start claiming you’re being Expelled…

  40. #40 Gerard Harbison
    April 21, 2008

    The numbers you’ve posted are based on estimated take. Weekend box-office won’t be available until this p.m.

  41. #41 Ben
    April 21, 2008

    I agree that people are being a little hard on Chris. But, one weekend of box-office results is insufficient evidence to label the movie as a success (or a failure). So what if it made a certain amount of money. How many people of those people might have seen Expelled for a laugh, or to educate themselves of its flaws so as to better argue against it?

    If a movie makes a lot of money, but is criticized almost without exception by reputable sources (such as most mainstream movie critics, magazines, newspapers, websites, etc), I would call it a failure. The number of people that view of a movie isn’t necessarily what’s important for it to have an impact. What is important is how it is received, and in this case, Expelled was not well received.

  42. #42 Craig B
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, why is it so hard for you to friggin’ listen to people? You take an extreme statement or two and ignore here, and in the past, all of the eloquent, supported statements that should at least make you reconsider some positions. But you are apparently incapable of that. Of course you are not a creationist, but your inability to listen and weigh evidence sure is reminiscent of them. For your own sake, man, listen!

  43. #43 Cain
    April 21, 2008

    But go ahead, ignore Olson. Keep on firing inward. Beat up on me.

    Why is it when anyone attacks you it’s “firing inward”, but when you attack someone else it’s “serious introspection”? Both of the brouhahas over Expelled at ScienceBlogs have started with you and/or Nisbet firing inward . You purposely pick fights with your fellow ScienceBloggers, then retreat to a “how dare they!” posture when they have the audacity to swing back.

    This, not framing, is what’s most infuriating about your posts on the matter.

  44. #44 Patrick
    April 21, 2008

    I don’t think you are a closet creationist, or a creationist apologist Mr. Mooney; but what you have become, based upon your assessment of “the facts”, is irrelevant.

    Here’s hoping you find some objectivity again…

  45. #45 Kristine
    April 21, 2008

    Want some good news? (Is that okay with you?)

    From The Raw Story: Ben Stein Shows He’s No Michael Moore.

    If numbers are any indication, Ben Stein has shown he’s no Michael Moore.

    Stein’s Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary which makes an argument for intelligent design over the theory of evolution, debuted at just number eight among the top ten grossing movies last week.

    The film made $1.2 million on Friday in 1,052 theaters. By comparison, Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ raken in $23.9 million its opening weekend from just 441 theaters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 did $23.9 million from only 868 slots.

    “Playing in 1,052 theaters, the pic distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures earned $1.2M Friday for what should be a $3.4M weekend,” penned Nikki Finke’s Deadline Hollywood Daily. “But the per screen average for Friday was a feeble $1,130 (that $3,000 ballyhooed on the Internet would be for the entire weekend), showing there wasn’t any pent-up demand for the film despite an aggressive publicity campaign. So much for the conservative argument that people would flock to films not representing the “agenda of liberal Hollywood.'”

    Okay-doke?

    If you want to reframe this discussion, why not start calling this a “chick [Jack Chick] film”?

    Why not sarcastically repeat, “Evolution almost killed Ben Stein’s dad!” Okay, two suggestions on the table. Let’s do something.

  46. #46 Joel
    April 21, 2008

    This, from Kristine’s link, is why Expelled will never be a success regardless how many people go to a theater to watch the film.

    On Friday, The New York Times’ Jeannette Catsoulis called the movie “one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time… a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.”

  47. #47 DrugMonkey
    April 21, 2008

    You purposely pick fights with your fellow ScienceBloggers, then retreat to a “how dare they!” posture when they have the audacity to swing back.

    This, not framing, is what’s most infuriating about your posts on the matter.

    Of course, Cain, certain BSDs and wannabe BSDs have a tendency to over-personalize legitimate topics of discussion. Padfoot, Prongs and Mooney may poke ol’ Voldie with a stick now and again but that doesn’t mean everything requires “swing[ing] back”. Do it too often and you start moving from humourless pedant to seriously narcissistic head case.

    reading stuff like this…

    I don’t think you are a creationist apologist at all. What I said was “…seems to transmogrify more and more into a creationist apologist…” which I say with great trepidation.

    well, the mind boggles. I’m not sure if Bill Clinton or Karl Rove would be prouder. What a dance move!

  48. #48 Adrienne
    April 21, 2008

    I agree with Orac’s take on this. I think this particular post just makes you look like a cherry-picking whiner….I don’t think it serves you well. And I’m saying this as someone who likes your blog and your book (_Repub War on Sci_), by the way, not as one of your perpetual “haters”.

  49. #49 Mecha
    April 21, 2008

    It ‘ill suits him’ to be offended, to post about it in this manner? Oh wow. I disagree that Expelled is an unqualified success yet, but wow, the hypocrisy is fascinating on the part of the ‘Chris is uppity’ crowd.

    I might remind of an earlier round of discussion, not too long ago, where PZ told Nisbett to fuck off. And when Sheril and Chris called him on it she was told that she had no right, that she was a whiny femmy baby. Where were the hordes and hordes of people saying it ‘ill suited PZ to be an asshole’? Mooney being slandered? How dare he react!

    What is this, a culture of bullies? You’re allowed to treat people like absolute crap, but hey, standing up to it is too much for us! Let’s be honest with ourselves. The standards are different. Chris, Sheril, and Matt aren’t allowed to say things against the angry atheists because then they’re ‘whining’ and ‘shrill’ and ‘unscientific’ and ‘apologists.’ And people are just fine with those characterizations being levelled. Even though they’re known allies. And the people who should be standing with Chris in saying that the statement is crap… are too busy telling him it ‘ill suits him’ to point it out, and to point out how this same dance is done again and again and again, with thousands of posts by whatever-you-want-to-call-the-PZites versus a handful by anyone interested in really engaging in any actual discussion. (I did like the link to Brayton’s counter analysis above, for example.)

    Since people were just fine agreeing with Chris when he used these same arguments, logics, and theories to point out how Republicans attacked science, the conclusion left is that there’s something ‘special’ about pointing out that the ID crowd might just have pulled something off, or disagreeing with the ‘atheism = science’ crowd around here.

    How dare he be angered at being called what would be considered around here a threat to science itself by him and so many others around here. How dare he? Get over yourselves, and stand up for the right thing, people. Not the ‘but you’re too whiiiiiiny!’ thing.

    -Mecha

  50. #50 Sam C
    April 21, 2008

    Expelled: No Framing Allowed!

    Sadly, that wouldn’t get the churchgoers off their knees, or off their neighbors.

  51. #51 Josh
    April 21, 2008

    Mecha: You certainly have an interesting way of interpreting events.

  52. #52 Nyo
    April 21, 2008

    Considering it a success using the scale of other political documentaries, most of which opened in less than 100 theaters without the benefit of a decent ad budget, seems as wrong as simply comparing it to much higher profile Michael Moore films. Assuming that the vast majority of Expelled’s audience are the churchgoers courted by the producers (safe to say), I’m not sure why we should be impressed that they ended up preaching to the converted in the numbers they did. When all is said and done, Expelled, if it has legs, might wind up with an overall gross close to other Christian films like “Facing the Giants” and “End Of The Spear”. And being that no one’s ever heard of those two movies, I can’t say I’m very worried about the impact of Ben Stein and company.

  53. #53 CLM
    April 21, 2008

    When compared to other film openings Expelled is a box office flop. However, when you consider the target audience, the creationists, it is probably a success. I suspect Expelled is going to be heavily marketed to churches and be shown in them in much the same way that Mel Gibson’s Passion was.

    I think the true purpose of Expelled is to reinforce the recalcitrance of the Creationists. Unless Ben Stein is a total moron, I think his goal is to stir the shit. He’ll point to all the negative press he’s received that he’s correct because most of his target audience won’t look a it. And it doesn’t matter how we frame it because they aren’t going to listen to rational people. The creationists will still be distrustful even if we use language they understand.

    I was somewhat bothered by this controversy amongst the bloggers on scienceblogs, but I think it has exposed some fundamental differences in the way they look at this issue and how to communicate it. In the end it’s going to be a good thing. It shows there is a diversity of opinion and that they aren’t mindless robots who march in lockstep like the Creationists do.

    On the other hand, maybe this divergence of opinion is to drive more readership to scienceblogs. Controversy sells.

  54. #54 Colugo
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, I’m a sympathizer who knows that you mean well. But please take what I have to say into consideration. To be blunt, you guys lost the Framing Wars. And doomsaying is just not working in getting through to fellow ScienceBloggers, SB commenters, and the larger community of evolutionists and freethinkers. The ‘sky is falling’ thing kind of loses its power after a while and people start turning on the messenger. And some interpret such rhetoric not as a call to arms but acting as a herald for the enemy. Let me quote myself, a comment I made on Pharyngula:

    “In a way, Expelled is the farcical sequel to Dover, with the Framing Wars and New Atheism as side plots. The whole saga would make for a great book, or at least a five minute humorous YouTube short.

    It’s interesting that the Framing Wars were concluded with the majority siding with Dawkins-Myers in the wake of the ‘Expelled expulsion’ and Nisbet, Mooney and Olson increasingly isolated with their dire warnings about the persuasive power of creationists and the ineptness of atheists. Meanwhile, the Dawkins majority mastered ‘framing’ through humor; namely, the excellent Sexpelled parody.

    I’ve defended Mooney against the attacks against his motivations. But Mooney aside, it looks like the creationists fell on their ass again.

    Rest assured that the creationists will re-emerge; perhaps with creationism/ID re-branded as “front loaded potentiality” or some such thing and a strategy of infiltrating and establishing bases in philosophy and sociology departments in order to get around the establishment clause.”

    It seems to me that your talents are best directed at offering constructive, positive advice on ways to counter the creationists rather than repeating that we’re getting our asses handed to us. I made a couple of suggestions earlier. I would add that humor – especially ridicule – is also a very effective tool.

  55. #55 The Uncredible Hallq
    April 21, 2008

    FACT CHECK:

    The Box Office Mojo numbers you link to, Chris, give an incomphrehensibly low opening take for Sicko, especially compared to those of Deadline Hollywood Daily:

    http://www.deadlinehollywooddaily.com/jet-and-jackie-nudge-out-judd-on-friday/

    Any idea why this is?

  56. #56 Orac
    April 21, 2008

    What is this, a culture of bullies? You’re allowed to treat people like absolute crap, but hey, standing up to it is too much for us!

    Uh, no. Cherry-picking quotes as representative of responses to him and gloating about it are what led to my criticizing Chris. It was misleading. Actually, I would have had no problem at all if he had just told Greg et al “fuck you very much,” just like PZ did to Matt. Indeed, I might very well have responded that way myself.

  57. #57 Scote
    April 21, 2008

    Sucess? Probably. It will most likely recoup costs.

    Did it meet the producer’s stated goals? Absolutely not.

    People are being a bit nuts over this without good reason.

  58. #58 Nyo
    April 21, 2008

    I guess my problem with Chris and Randy is their labeling of the movie as an unqualified success when it opened in so many theaters and was marketed to a specific niche audience, it was 100% guaranteed to make *some* measure of money anyway. In which case there was no need to wait for opening weekend to declare it a Creationist victory. It would’ve been a foregone conclusion.

    So I’m wondering how much less money would it have needed to make for them to describe it as a failure. Look at the other political documentaries on the list Chris linked to. He can’t really have thought that Expelled had a realistic chance of making as much money as Giuliani Time or Shake Hands with the Devil: The Journey of Romeo Dallaire, right? Given the comparative demographics and theater count, that’d be ridiculous.

  59. #59 sibosop
    April 21, 2008

    The original comment from Chris was something like “PZ’s comments are just going to make the movie more popular”. There’s no way to prove or disprove this. I’d guess that PZ’s influence on the actual audience who paid for this movie was nil. I’d rather hear PZ’s take than wring my hands worrying that he’s going to push Christians into watching it.

  60. #60 bardi
    April 21, 2008

    I would suggest that nobody is totally right in this particular instance? Yes the movie made a respectable amount of money in its first weekend. But there are a few questions that have not really been answered.

    1. How much of that money was spent by individuals And how much was spent by church groups and pacs? For that matter, of the money spent by individuals how much was spent by people going alone and how many by people going as part of evolutionist groups?

    2. Money vs seats? From what I have gathered by people out and about, the number of tickets purchased does not balance with the number of people in the cinemas?

    3. Is this about a better cinematic quality or about better PR people? I would suggest the answer to all three questions may be answered by a few weeks of watching the box receipts.

  61. #61 Davis
    April 21, 2008

    It’s unfortunate that you’re getting attacked like this — it’s uncalled for, and it appears to reduce the likelihood you’ll consider the possibility you’re wrong on this. Because so far, the evidence does not support your claim.

    I dared to point out the obvious: Expelled is a success.

    Far from being obvious, this is a highly debatable point. Your own link demonstrates it — look at the per-screen opening numbers for every other film on that list. Using that number, Expelled compares to Chicago 10 and Bush’s Brain (neither of which I’ve even heard of, to be honest).

    Framed another way, 3-400,000 people saw Expelled this weekend. That’s 3-400 per screen over 3 days. Assuming 6 showings per screen over the weekend, that’s 50-65 people per showing, on an opening weekend. I’d consider that a low bar for success for a multi-million dollar film.

    They put a lot of money into marketing this, they had the widest-ever documentary release, and they had a huge built-in audience. With that in mind, how low a take would have been required for you to claim failure?

  62. #62 Paul W.
    April 21, 2008

    Jesus, Chris, when are you going to stop being such a whiny baby and start giving us some even-handed substantive insight into framing?

    The movie is obviously a “success”. It’s getting a big audience compared to most documentaries. It will whip the fundies into a frothy foam.

    The movie is obviously a “failure.” It’s getting a fraction of the audience it was supposed to, given its huge release and ad budget. It will fail to sway the middle much.

    Olson is wrong when he says the critical reception doesn’t matter.

    The critical consensus is that this is “A cynical political stunt disguised as a documentary.”

    That’s gotta be useful for framing. Tell us how to use it, when the ID folks try to use this movie to promote their legislative agenda.

    It has got to be useful that even on UD, people are saying the movie is over the top in a way that’s bad for ID.

    If DaveScot is distancing himself from this movie, it can’t be an unqualified success.

    A lot of us agree with many of your points, up to a point, and then disagree or just have substantive questions.

    It isn’t helpful when you cherry-pick criticisms to make yourself look unfairly attacked by a troop of screechy monkeys.

    It would be very helpful if you would actually engage in substantive discussion when most of your critics are serious, polite, and raising substantive issues.

    This happens over and over.

    Remember your framing posts I-IV? You asked for a serious, polite, substantive discussion, and you got it. A number of people put serious effort into clarifying their concerns and points of disagreement, raising substantive questions, etc.

    You didn’t like that we didn’t simply roll over and agree with you, and took your ball and went home.

    Now you seem to be doing it again. It’s very, very tiresome.

    In case you’ve forgotten about it, here’s the framing IV thread, with good substantive comments that you left unanswered:

    http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2008/04/part_iv_defending_framing_scie.php

    We’re still waiting for you to address the real issues.

  63. #63 caynazzo
    April 21, 2008

    Thanks for that simple breakdown Davis. And with it, I would say that it would be just as apt to compare Expelled to a low-rent slasher flick than a typical documentary (at least documentaries are screened in small art-house venues). I’ve been to a few of the former and have seen how vacant a 200 seat room looks with only 50-65 people scattered about. You walk in and start to seriously wonder about the movie you paid 18 dollars for, just as your girlfriend elbows you and says “Ha ha, I’m not the only one who thinks this movie is gonna suck.”

  64. #64 Steve Reuland
    April 21, 2008

    All this happened, I suppose, because I dared to point out the obvious: Expelled is a success. I mean, it’s the eighth highest grossing political documentary of all time…after its first week.

    Chris, the problem is that in “pointing out the obvious”, you’re obviously wrong. You have steadfastly ignored the fact that the box office numbers are terrible for a movie that cost at least several million to make and market, and that it came nowhere close to meeting the producers’ own expectations. Instead you’re clinging to a meaningless comparison with the larger body of “political documentaries”, possibly the least popular film genre in existence. Only a tiny handful of political documentaries have ever been commercially successful, and Expelled! isn’t going to beat any of them.

    Constantly trying to cite Olson as the authority of all things film-related isn’t helping your case either. His claims don’t appear to be any better than yours; in both cases you guys are ignoring the numbers, preferring instead to make airy claims about the “perception” of success rather than actual success itself.

    If one or both of you can demonstrate in what way the film was commercially successful, taking into account some realistic definition of what Hollywood would consider success, then please do. Until then you are at best spouting unsubstantiated nonsense. And given that dozens of people have patiently explained why, you’re also being pigheaded. Don’t be shocked or act surprised when people get irritated.

  65. #65 Mr_G
    April 21, 2008

    Framing is no more science than ID. It’s trendy bull. It’s “Fashionable Nonsense”.

    I wish we could recognize the root problem here. It’s not that Mooney has applied the science wrongly or badly, it’s that there is no science of framing to begin with. Like Chomsky before him, Lakoff has sold a bill of nonexistent goods and Mooney bought it (apparently under the spell of postmodern apologist Nisbet). There’s a larger problem. Let’s focus. Think “Science Wars”.

  66. #67 michael fugate
    April 21, 2008

    By Chris’ and Randy’s own criteria, Randy is a failure as a filmmaker. Why would any one take Randy seriously if we are supposed to believe what Chris and he say about movie successes. They both want their message that scientists are poor communicators and are the reason so many people are creationists in the US to be true. Given how few people saw Randy’s film – he would be better off if he went back to school got a teaching credential and starting teaching high school.

  67. #68 Caledonian
    April 21, 2008

    Mooney, you seem to be trying to put yourself at the head of the SB parade, but for some reason the marchers won’t follow you. So you try to convince them that they’re headed straight for failure and need to adopt your strategy to win.

    Problem is, you’re trying to convince them by claiming that clear failures on the part of their enemies are actually victories. Regardless of how well the majority strategy works, trying to turn the small hole of Expelled into a mountain isn’t going to make anyone believe your strategy is correct. It’s going to make everyone believe you’re an idiot.

    Maybe you should rethink your strategy?

  68. #69 Mark7300
    April 21, 2008

    We usually say here that when the shit isn’t flying you ain’t doing it right. There is plenty to debate here but the level of comments to your blog posts often makes me think that the creationist do not have the monopoly on stupidity.

    You decided to stick your head out and try to do something, so people try to lob off your head. I suppose that’s life.

    Keep it going. I don’t always agree with you but we need people like yourself to speak out and stimulate debate.

  69. #70 Jody
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, you aren’t a creationist — I loved your War on Science — but you are misinformed about what constitutes a success for a film.

    In Hollywood studios do tout their weekend numbers as a way to tout their success. The thing is, people who follow this stuff, like me, a Hollywood writer of no-renown, know that if a film doesn’t build its audience over the weekend, odds are it’s going to tank.

    Expelled dropped, what, 20% from Friday to Saturday and another 3% or so from Saturday to Sunday. That’s not good. For a movie to last, to have any kind of impact, to do any kind of lasting financial business, you either have to build over the weekend or at the very least not loose anyone. Expelled didn’t do this.

    Most films further drop a huge amount from their first weekend to their second. While perspectives differ, if a second weekend is lower by more than 30%, a film is said not to have “legs.” It’s going to die on the vine.

    Right now, we know that Expelled didn’t build an audience from Friday to Sunday. This after having one of the largest in-theater rollouts for a documentary. (Over 1000 screens… unheard of — and expensive– for a non-Michael Moore doc.) Based on that alone I’d say that the film isn’t a success.

    Next weekend will be the real proof though. If there’s this huge word of mouth between now and Friday and the film actually gains box office and audience numbers, then you are right. The film is a success. But it just doesn’t seem that way.

  70. #71 Chris C. Mooney
    April 21, 2008

    Jody,
    Interesting. Let’s hope you’re right.

    But even if Expelled fizzles in the coming weeks, it will nevertheless represent a new milestone in the science-politics wars…a celebrity driven anti-science hollywood film with mass appeal and a comprehensive marketing campaign behind it. That’s a scary thing, and whatever happens with this particular film, ought to be a wake up call for the science community.

  71. #72 Jim RL
    April 21, 2008

    Mass appeal? Where is the evidence for that? There’s an argument to be made that it might not have been a failure at the box office, but can you honestly say it has “mass appeal”?

  72. #73 MH
    April 21, 2008

    I too would love to hear why you think this film has mass appeal. Cheers.

  73. #74 Gentle Benj
    April 21, 2008

    You guys, this is hilarious! Reading all these self-serious comments that use the word “frame” every other line has seriously got me rolling in the aisles. Here’s a fun game: Read through the thread, but replace “frame” with “spin”. Fun for the whole family!

  74. #75 jcmacc
    April 21, 2008

    “…a celebrity driven anti-science hollywood film with mass appeal and a comprehensive marketing campaign behind it.”

    Mass appeal? Where?

    We’ve nearly all highlighted that the hard numbers (number of screens, box office gross, big drop from Friday to Saturday etc) show that the undoubted comprehensive marketing of this film hasn’t produced anything like “mass appeal” either in terms of audience number or, importantly, critical response. It’s been ruthless in attempting to get out the already convinced from the mega-churches – even to the point of paying them! – but seems to have had little, if any impact, past that.

    Chris, come on, you’ve made the claim that Expelled’s box office is an “obvious success”, a conclusion against nearly all other opinion – I think you owe it to your readership to at least engage with the counter-opinion instead of hiding behind offense at one comment or simply repeating the original claim.

  75. #76 Kristine
    April 21, 2008

    Chris, I respect you a lot, and I do think you are raising an important question (although I think that Expelled has done miserably at the box office). I would be very interested in your reaction to this article:
    The Natural Selection: Identifying & Correcting Non-Science Student Preconceptions Through an Inquiry-Based, Critical Approach to Evolution.

    It describes a new curriculum for teaching science that may appeal to you, and which applies to what we’re talking about here. If you don’t have a subscription to Bioone I can e-mail you the whole thing in a Word doc.

  76. #77 Lindsay
    April 21, 2008

    Hi Chris,

    I saw you and Nisbet when y’all came to Berkeley to give your framing talk. I very much enjoyed it and found your suggestions for practical things scientists can do to improve communication through framing to be insightful, grounded, and doable. Thank you so much for that.

    As for the whole thing with Scienceblogs and the comments etc, I think it is completely undeserved. I am perpetually disappointed in the quality of the comments and both PZ’s and your blogs. I have taken not to reading comments at all because I quite often find them to be rude, unimaginative, and otherwise lacking in intellectual quality. There are the occasional insightful ones, but these are general so few and far between that the time to wade through the crap greatly outweighs the return.

    So I think you should ignore most of them, too. The ones that only have nasty and personal things to say, that are not well thought out, or generally unhelpful to intellectual discourse. Just know that the people you should be reaching, those scientists that hear you speak about framing, think you’re doing a great job and are very grateful for insight and help on a matter we know little about.

  77. #78 Mr_G
    April 21, 2008

    Chris,

    You are such a hero. To defend yourself against all these attacks. To deny that there might be anything to them. To pretend that you might be supported by facts.

    We’re all impressed.

    Though we might be more impressed by a simple admission of error.

    Admit it, framing is bogus science. You were persuaded by postmodernist crap fed to you by Nesbit and proceeded down a path you thought would lead to career success. He was wrong. You were wrong.

    How long will you pursue this? It doesn’t look like your audience will entertain it much longer.

    Your best bet at this point is to humbly admit your error and change direction.

    Somehow, I doubt you’ll do that. Hope I’m wrong.

  78. #79 King of Ireland
    April 21, 2008

    Mr. Mooney,

    I am a born-again Christian that came on Ed Brayton’s blog many months ago to tell him off. As I have dialouged with Ed I have come to many conclusions far different than I had. He has taken a patient stance with explaining to me about Evolution and how one can be a Christian and still believe in Science and Evolution. I have read more about Science in the last 6 months than ever. I have not made up my mind where I stand because I have not thorougly looked at the evidence.

    But I can say I do not support the ID crowd one iota. It is Religous Right propaganda all the way. I think Dover was a good decision. I am not going to get into all of it but none of this has affected my faith at all. I think I have become an ally of Ed against dogmatic jerks using religion to hurt people. I think we also are allied against people imposing the morals on others. I am pro Science and love the progress we have made as a human race. I also have some concerns at times. But I can say that Ed’s tact with me has worked.

    I have been saying the same things at times that you have without even knowing it. I used to be a preacher. It is all about relating to the culture with your message. In my opinion, the Science Community is not doing this with the young people. I could be wrong but I find it ironic that people in this community are saying the same thing. I plan on reading what you say more often. I enjoyed your comment on Ed’s blog today.

  79. #80 Richard
    April 21, 2008

    That’s a scary thing, and whatever happens with this particular film, ought to be a wake up call for the science community.

    Considering how “Expelled” has been covered on the science blogs, in SciAm, etc., I’d say a wake-up call is unnecessary. In fact, I’d say the sciencebloggers and others in the science community have dealt with the movie quite effectively and, certainly, energetically.

  80. #81 Josh in California
    April 21, 2008

    Expelled‘s opening weekend can only be considered a success if they weren’t just preaching to the choir. I’ll wager that most attendees to date are already solidly in the ancient mythology camp. The interesting thing to watch will be how sharply attendance drops off once the preachers stop whoring for Expelled.

  81. #82 A Lurker
    April 21, 2008

    Chris might be way too timid IMHO in confronting the creationists but no one should call him a creationist or a traitor. He should not be called names or be metaphorically stabbed in the back because a disagreement on tactics.

    Most everyone here is on the same side. Let us act like it. Yes we can air our differences and at times agree to disagree. If we can’t handle our difference in opinion, no matter how much we think our particular opinion is correct, then our creationist adversaries will more than willing to take advantage.

  82. #83 Jody
    April 21, 2008

    But even if Expelled fizzles in the coming weeks, it will nevertheless represent a new milestone in the science-politics wars…a celebrity driven anti-science hollywood film with mass appeal and a comprehensive marketing campaign behind it. That’s a scary thing, and whatever happens with this particular film, ought to be a wake up call for the science community.

    Chris, given how cheap media is to produce these days — and that’s kind of a relative term — it was only a matter of time before someone slapped together something, caught a bit of buzz, and crowed “Victory! Victory!” I’m not really sure that it’s changed anything though. I’m not sure the film, in and of itself, is doing much more than playing to its crowd, managing to get people who are already favorable towards ID to make one of their twice a year movie-goes to Expelled.

    The question for the months ahead is how the film will do on DVD, what use it will be put to, and will it be a marketing tool to pass anti-science legislation. It may. But if it’s going to be used in that manner, programs like Flock of Dodos an PBS’s Dover doc are excellent rebuttals.

    ID will always have the “upper hand.” ID is great fiction — the entire universe is designed with us in mind — like Star Wars is great fiction — a backwater boy has the power to save the universe. The true story of Science, with all of its uncertainties, ambiguities and shades of gray, is a harder sell. It’s The Sundance Channel to ID’s HBO.

  83. #84 Inoculated Mind
    April 21, 2008

    I think the success of the film will not be measured by the box office (I think it’s inflated money-wise – they’ve been handing out ticket reimbursement prizes and such), or the number of people that see it.

    It’s success will be measured by its effect on the public discourse, and on the laws on the books. There’s been a clear effort to change laws with this movie, and if those efforts fail, if efforts to introduce creationism into classrooms fails, the movie failed. If it helps expose the dishonesty of the creationists, and their utter dependence upon rich people’s money to get anything produced at all, they will have failed utterly.

    But if you go by their own rubric, as others have pointed out, they only got 25% of the showings that they thought they would, money, ads, favors and all. They already believe it was a failure by their own standards – although to be fair they had some pretty egotistical standards set for themselves.

    I want to voice support for the dishonesty frame that has been used effectively by PZ, Dawkins, and the NCSE. No one can say whether or not it has lessened or greatened the attendance for the film.

    Expelled hasn’t fully been a success or a failure. We don’t have enough data yet.

  84. #85 Tulse
    April 21, 2008

    Most everyone here is on the same side. Let us act like it.

    Yes, let’s do that, and not give great quotes for Expelled ads such as “Expelled is a box office success”, “These guys scored a major victory”, and “A major success for the anti-evolution forces”.

    I don’t mean to come off rude, but goddamnit, this kind of situation is precisely when the framers should be stepping up with their mad skilz and showing us poor dorks how to frame this outcome. They should be, oh, I don’t know, perhaps pointing out that the opening day per-screen average is low compared to various other documentaries? That it played on more screens than any other documentary in history but pulled in less than $3 million? That the average number of patrons in a theatre was about 50-60? That the weekend gross was almost ten times lower than that hoped for by the film’s producer? That the attendance actually dropped on Saturday…?

    In other words, where is Chris’s frickin’ frame for this? If the box office is such a disaster, then why isn’t Chris telling us how to address this? Why the heck is he whining “I told you so!” rather than actually using his framing talents? What better time could there possibly be to show us communications neophytes how to properly handle this? What better way to gain credibility with the very people he’s been trying to convince than helping us spin this?

    But no, instead he’s providing Uncommon Descent with headlines, and the Expelled producers with DVD cover blurbs, acting sulkily triumphant. It’s like hanging out with an annoying guy who continually claims that he knows kung fu, but when a mugger actually confronts you all he does is sit on the curb and say, “See! See! I told you the streets were dangerous!”

    Chris, if you got the skills, now is the time. If you think it is such a success, and that this is such a crisis, tell us how to frame the box office results for Expelled (preferably in a way that doesn’t provide good quotes for their posters). This is your big chance.

  85. #86 Jody
    April 22, 2008

    I need to add that in the revised numbers out today at Box Office Mojo, Expelled did even worse than initially suggested. They dropped 17% between Friday and Saturday and a further 20% between Saturday and Sunday.

    That’s stronger evidence that they bought their opening day gross.

    http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/?page=daily&id=expelled.htm

  86. #87 Gettintired
    April 22, 2008

    “This abuse will not stop me from continuing to call for serious introspection about the massive communication crisis we’re facing in the science world.”

    So.. I like that book you wrote about the Republican war on science. But.. this “we” business, like about the crisis “we’re” facing… well… there is no “we”. There are scientists, of which “we” are, and there are science writers and science policymakers etc, of which “you” are. We don’t speak for each other and we have different views and motivations. I’m uncomfortable for the way that you keep wanting to speak for “we” when, well, you can’t. And a lot of the friction happening ’round these parts lately might just be related to that. You tell PZ to shut up, then you give Expelled a great soundbite as a “success”.. and you patronize us about what “we” are facing. There is no “we”. Maybe we can, uh, reframe this a little.

  87. #88 rpenner
    April 22, 2008

    Thank you, Jody.
    I did notice that Sunday’s number seems to have changed from $975,000 to $775,000, for a weekend total of $2.97M, not $3.2M as reported or $3.4 as projected (from Friday’s numbers).

    Ironically, I had to see this on the first showing on the first day because I didn’t want to leave myself open to trashing it (because it was untrue) for the trivial reason that I didn’t see it.

    I also signed up for a Pacer account just because I want first-hand info from the Sancho and Wagner vs. US DOE, Cern, Fermilab, etc. lawsuit and the Premise, etc vs. XVIVO pre-emptive lawsuit.

  88. #89 Matti K.
    April 22, 2008

    Chris: “But even if Expelled fizzles in the coming weeks, it will nevertheless represent a new milestone in the science-politics wars…a celebrity driven anti-science hollywood film with mass appeal and a comprehensive marketing campaign behind it.”

    So now the success at the box-office is actually irrelevant? If so, why this jubilant “I said so”-attitude even before the full weekend figures were even in?

    Btw, “mass appeal” sounds here very much like a weasel word.

    Chris: “That’s a scary thing, and whatever happens with this particular film, ought to be a wake up call for the science community.”

    Yes, “our” team needs to be mobilized, with an effective hierarchial organization and sworn loyalty to one’s superiors. Some special officers will lay out a communication policy, which must be strictly followed by scientists all the way from nobelists to graduate students. :-)

    No Chris, that is not what I think you have in mind. But what are you actually after when you call for a “wake up” in the scientific community? Shouldn’t you frame your message in a way that the scientific community understands it?

  89. #90 Christophe Thill
    April 22, 2008

    Just a little mmore thinking about all this, and a possible conclusion.

    Figures alone won’t tell us whether “Expelled” is a success or not. Actually, “success” has no meaning in itself. It’s all a matter of objectives being reached or not.

    From the point of view of the filmmakers, it can’t really be a success, as it seems they’re not reaching the projected number of viewers as quickly as they thought.

    From our point of view, well, it’s a success, because no matter how poorly the movie fares, there are still far too many people who saw it.

    We can always say that they’re only “preaching to the choir”, and that only the fundie crowd will care to see the film. I don’t think it’s true (there are always people who go see it out of sheer curiosity). But even mere preaching to the choir can be effective. For some people, it will be the first time they hear that some science guys have proved some stuff or other in favor of a Creator, and that it’s called ID. For some others, it will be the first time they hear about the Nazis being Darwinists. It can lead them from mere indifference to more radical attitudes against science. That’s some sort of PR success within their own camp.

    Additionnally, it’s no use trying to determine whether they will make or lose money. They’ve shown well enough that they care about the number of viewers, not about money. Otherwise they wouldn’t be ready to bribe people to see the movie. They obviously have a budget for this; perhaps not a huge one, but at least some money to throw away as they wish.

    OK, when do we begin our own movie?

  90. #91 Matti K.
    April 22, 2008

    It seems that the concern of Mooney and Olson is appreciated at UcD:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/intelligent-design/chris-mooney-shaken-not-stirred-by-expelled/

    I suspect this kind of alarmism is a gift to Expelled, a gift to Ben Stein. This kind of presentation of defeitist attitude raises the profile of the movie, people–especially a movie like this, which is by its very nature paints scientists as beeing scared of “the truth”.

    Why is that hard to understand?

    (Modified from: http://scienceblogs.com/intersection/2008/03/this_controversy_helps_ben_ste.php)

  91. #92 MH
    April 22, 2008

    Congratulations to Randy and Chris for getting a post on Uncommon Descent! You were just jealous of Matt, weren’t you?

    Chris, do you now understand why what you write can sometimes be labelled as “creationist apologetics”?

  92. #93 MH
    April 22, 2008

    Forgot to include the link. Suits their site rather well, don’t you think? Calls Expelled a success and reinforces their paranoia about messages being silenced within academia.

  93. #94 Dale
    April 22, 2008

    Har Har!

    You just got expelled!

    Don’t you wish your commenters would be more like Jesus :-)

  94. #95 Shirakawasuna
    April 22, 2008

    Hmm. How about I call you arrogant and unwilling to defend your “thesis”? That’s, of course, what most of the points earlier were about and what you failed to endress. You’re not a creationist apologist, you’re just… well, arrogant, touchy, and perhaps a bit… lazy? Or maybe you just don’t care and we should consider your advocacy of framing half-hearted at best.

    That is, if you want labels ;). Otherwise, some people (besides the Sciencebloggers you’ve alienated with said arrogance) would be perfectly happy to have a reasonable discussion.

  95. #96 Shirakawasuna
    April 22, 2008

    Oh, and if we’re taking Randy’s professional opinion on this (I think we should), let’s see what he wrote about PZ and Dawkins:

    “And you want to see the perfect example of this — go see “Expelled” and watch Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers. BOTH of them come across as very friendly, very patient, very likeable, and I’m certain their “performances” undermined a great deal of what the filmmakers were hoping to get with their interviews. There’s not one moment of Dawkins sniping at Ben Stein in the lengthy interview at the end, not one bit of “you dumb ass” type of glare, and so in the end, there’s very little for the atheist haters to cheer at. Both Myers and Dawkins come across as very nice folks that seem totally contented with their views (rather than full of rage and frustration). Film is such a sensitive medium, it takes very little emotion to register very large. They come across great.”

    Oh wait, no… they’re supposed to be presenting images of strident atheists who hate America and don’t resonate with the people we’re trying to reach, right?

  96. #97 Shirakawasuna
    April 22, 2008

    You know, I’ve thought the idea that Mooney or Nisbet give ammunition to Uncommon Descent was a pretty inane idea until just now. Maybe everyone else got the irony before me :).

    How do you mesh the idea of advocating a proper frame with the fact that you do it so poorly when criticizing PZ and write things the UD liars-for-the-designer can quote verbatim for their cause? While UD can take a quote from anyone and twist it for their cause (they’re liars-for-the-designer, after all), don’t you find it ironic that the way you communicate your advocacy of framing plays directly into their hands as well? I think it’s time to notice how shallow such a thing is, in both directions, and concentrate on actual substantive changes in communications that can be communicated clearly and defended.

    Framing as put forward by you and Nisbet seems to be identical, at least in my mind, to the failures at improving science communication Randy Olson alluded to:
    1) It’s incoherent, applying on minute to the general idea of how to frame things, the next it’s equivalent to a “good” frame in your opinion. At no point is it successfully communicated in any way other than the general idea of focusing on the positive aspects of science/evolution and dealing less with the negative opposition to the antiscience crowd.
    2) It’s controversial. It’s not surprising that you get a positive response from audiences, as I respond quite positively to the videos I’ve seen. They don’t completely mesh with the things you and Nisbet say on your blogs, though, and this poor communication/advocacy has led to a building controversy/rejection of many of your specific points. Such delays in adoption hurt the cause of communication.
    3) It doesn’t result in anything ‘big’. Randy Olson mentioned that he would have wished there were a pro-evolution film coming out at the same time for a superior PR response. That isn’t something framing can bestow, but it is something we could achieve with centralized efforts like the NCSE receiving greater monetary and organizational support. In short, it’s a bandaid for a deep flesh wound.

    Now, you don’t respond very… let’s say as would be appropriate for your age to these types of criticisms, but perhaps someone else will read this and be motivated to organize the efforts for a proper media campaign.

  97. #98 Ian
    April 22, 2008

    Chris –

    You’re framing this big time and not in a smart way.

    Look at this: “Not as good as they hoped, perhaps”. What does that mean, ‘perhaps’? They may have done respectably well for a documentary, but you’re talking about that out of context of who the audience is, and you’re ignoring the fact that they failed to meeet their own target for success.

    And this: “They’ve been throwing money at this with a view, I suspect, to making an impact no matter what it costs. And they did get that.”

    But you’re ignoring what kind of impact and with whom. If all they’re doing is impacting their own converts, is that really an impact in any meaningful way? If a priori converts are being bussed in to swell numbers is that a success when compared with other documentaries which rely solely on ticket sales of whomever happens to wander into that viewing?

    If you’re trying to make a success of this framing gambit, you need to seriously rethink your own framing. Seriously.

  98. #99 Paul A
    April 22, 2008

    “a celebrity driven anti-science hollywood film with mass appeal and a comprehensive marketing campaign behind it.”

    Okay, we got anti-science (although it has rightly been pilloried in the media for this)and we got the marketing campaign (although whether it’ll cover its own costs is unlikely). Two big ticks on those boxes. But mass appeal? C’mon, are you seriously saying that bringing in $3.4m worth of largely invited viewers over 1,000 screens in a country of 300-odd million people constitutes mass appeal?

    The ‘celebrity driven’ part is even more hilarious though. No-one outside the US even knew Ben Stein’s name until this film came on the radar – he was just that guy who said “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” and that was it. Your defintion of ‘celebrity’ seems as skewed as that you assign to ‘success’.

    This film doesn’t represent a milestone in the science wars. It’s a minor footnote if anything.

  99. #100 t
    April 22, 2008

    what happened to you is just more proof that ‘science’ is nothing more than a materialistic faith. you are treated much the same as a hertic in any religion.

    looks like you have been EXPELLED.

  100. #101 Dana Hunter
    April 22, 2008

    Chris, stop snivelling and start listening. YOU ARE FAILING TO FRAME. I don’t give – oh, excuse me, profanity is going to bruse your tender ears – ahem, I don’t care what you’ve written or done in the past. You can’t rest on your laurels. It doesn’t work that way.

    Stop whining about how mean we all are and what a spectacular success Expelled is, and take a tip on framing from your commenters, who seem to have a much better handle on the subject than you.

    I came by your blog to get both sides. I’m now full to the gills with sanctimonious pap and whining. Hasta.

  101. #102 dubiquiabs
    April 22, 2008

    Let us solve this massive communication crisis: Tell scientists what they can and cannot say. Nisbet for Pope!

  102. #103 Paul A
    April 22, 2008

    “what happened to you is just more proof that ‘science’ is nothing more than a materialistic faith. you are treated much the same as a hertic in any religion.

    looks like you have been EXPELLED.”

    “Let us solve this massive communication crisis: Tell scientists what they can and cannot say. Nisbet for Pope!”

    Uh-oh, the REAL wingnuts are here. Abandon ship everyone!

  103. #104 Berthajane Vandegrift
    April 22, 2008

    Remember,the movie does not promote Intelligent Design; it nerely pleads for the accademic freedom to discuss all alternatives to NeoDarwinism, including Intelligent Design. I am skeptical of the notion that “natural selection” might somehow turn genetic accidents into biological systems, but I have not heard a single critic of RM&NS suggest censorship. Judge for yourselves, folks, who is showing more intolerance here? Those who are willing to listen to alternatives? Or all these people bitterly attacking Chris for suggesting that alternatives should be permitted to be heard?

    Questions about matermialism
    http://30145.myauthorsite.com/

  104. #105 Inoculated Mind
    April 22, 2008

    Well we cannot all guard every single word we make based on whether it gives aid and comfort to the opposition. If Chris didn’t dish up “They won!” quotes they’d be making them up, or construing “They lost!” to mean “They won.”

    I’m much more interested to hear what Chris Mooney and Matt Nisbet think about how to respond to this film, in addition to the NCSE’s efforts. I seem to recall PZ Myers getting a lot of people to Google-Bomb the NCSE site and I don’t remember seeing that here. Now I’m not saying that Chris hasn’t been contributing, because even the stark realization that there’s an issue to be reckoned with is helping to wake people up. But we’re awake, and wired, and very eager to do something. The frustration of not knowing what to do differently may be contributing to some of the attacks people have been making here and elsewhere.

  105. #106 BAllanJ
    April 22, 2008

    This has nearly been said by Jody, but….

    …Opening night results have NOTHING to say about the success of a film. They tell us about the success of the film’s PR campaign. The subsequent nights have more and more to say about the success of a film. One without legs is not a success. Maybe we can say that the film’s frame was successful,if by that we mean PR, but if the film neither convinces anyone or even rallies the troops, it fails, regardless of the success of the PR.

    What would be more fun is if this became a cult classic and made lots of money from people willing to cough up the money to go and laugh at it and ridicule it and spread the word about how incredibly inane it is!

  106. #107 dubiquiabs
    April 22, 2008

    @ Paul A

    Here is Matt Nisbet, Chris’ alter framing ego, verbatim:

    “Dawkins and PZ need to lay low as Expelled hits theaters. Let others play the role of communicator, most importantly the National Center for Science Education, AAAS, the National Academies or scientists such as Francis Ayala or Ken Miller. When called up by reporters or asked to comment, Dawkins and PZ should refer journalists to these organizations and individuals.

    “If Dawkins and PZ really care about countering the message of The Expelled camp, they need to play the role of Samantha Power, Geraldine Ferraro and so many other political operatives who through misstatements and polarizing rhetoric have ended up being liabilities to the causes and campaigns that they support: Lay low and let others do the talking.

    “So Richard and PZ, when it comes to Expelled, it’s time to let other people be the messengers for science.”
    http://scienceblogs.com/framing-science/2008/03/why_the_pz_myers_affair_is_rea.php#more

    Wingnut, indeed.

    Once more, Nisbet for Pope !

  107. #108 Grimmy
    April 22, 2008

    It’s sad when no open thought, admission, or acknowledgment can be tolerated. This is true brainwashing and groupthink at its worst.

    But it’s heartening that some erudite atheists and ex-Darwinists can think for themselves and dare question the Darwinist religion – Berlinski, Johnston, Behe, Denton, Flew, Stove …

  108. #109 Tulse
    April 22, 2008

    It’s sad when no open thought, admission, or acknowledgment can be tolerated.

    As for no admission being tolerated, just as PZ Myers what happened when he tried to get admitted to Expelled.

  109. #110 Dominion
    April 22, 2008

    Wow I am really disappointed in the lack of answers provided by Chris. It sure does sound like a lotta whine without much cheese.

  110. #111 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2008

    Chris, stop snivelling and start listening. YOU ARE FAILING TO FRAME.

    I think this translates to, you’re not allowed to say what you think but what is allowed to be said.

    There are times I think the blogs are more a hindrance to the exchange of ideas than a medium that promotes it.

    Chris Mooney, believe me, you have transgressed the unwritten law and will be made to pay. Having done it multiple times and experienced what you are here, you can’t have enough citations to get out from under the swarming effect. You’ll be accused of the all purpose excuse to not deal with evidence, “quote mining”.

    I had two people tell me in the past week that even though what I said was clearly supported by the evidence that I shouldn’t say it because the it was bad PR for science. Quashing the evidence to promote science. But you’ve written a book on he subject, so you know about that already.

    But, as I’ve found, they can’t get their hands through the screen and around your throat so you should just say what you think is true and ignore any response that is silly.

  111. #112 t
    April 22, 2008

    ‘As for no admission being tolerated, just as PZ Myers what happened when he tried to get admitted to Expelled.’

    oh yeah you mean the PZ myers who said:

    “I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It¹s time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots.”

    PZ just got a small taste of his own medicine, which he whined about.

  112. #113 Bruno
    April 22, 2008

    Chris,

    I don’t know much about your blog, but I’m enjoying your detractors bloviating about “framing.” (It’s the FRAME!! I TELL YOU!!! The FRAAAAAAAAAAAAME!)

    Apparently, the left thinks that they call our “Luntz” and raise us their “Lakoff.” Hilarious, if you ask me.

    If you want to know why the left/atheist/secular humanist axis loses most debates in the US, frame this.

    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2005/10/22/opinion/polls/main965223.shtml

    You have much more ground to cover. Combine that with reactionary tactics of stifling debate, and the left/atheist/secular axis looks suspiciously like any other dogmatic religion – which it basically is.

    Respect “Science”, not “Scientism.”

  113. #114 H.H.
    April 22, 2008

    I will answer the substantive point. I don’t find Ed’s post at all persuasive. If you compare Stein to the single most successful political documentarian ever, Michael Moore, then no, Ben Stein hasn’t beaten him after one week.

    In other words, if you define success as something virtually impossible to attain, then no, Ben Stein did not succeed.

    Considering the amount of money spent on advertising, comparing Expelled to a Michael Moore caliber documentary is far more apt than the no-budget films on that “highest grossing” list you keep touting. When you spend millions on television ads and open on thousands of theaters, then breaking onto a list of anemic box office totals is the bare minimum that can be expected. Why you feel this makes Expelled a “success” is unclear, except that you seem pre-committed to that idea.

    The sensible comparison, as everyone has been telling you, is to judge the film’s success against the filmmakers’ own expectations. Taking into account the film’s unusually large advertising budget, a take of between $12-15 million was required to be deemed “a success.” Expelled fell well short of this threshold. You have consistently and stubbornly refused to acknowledge this.

    Mooney, many here on Scienceblogs wanted to give you the benefit of the doubt, even after your past lapses in judgment. But this “just-the-facts” post just shredded any last dregs of goodwill you had stored up. You didn’t present facts, you presented some facts and withheld others to drive the reader to a predetermined conclusion. You have demonstrated that you will spin reality in order to make yourself appear correct, and will ignore substantiative criticisms in order to play up shallow appeals to emotion. Your “tactics” are dishonest and disingenuous, and they will never play to this audience. They really are straight out of the other side’s play book. I can see why you were called a “creation apologist.” That’s your crowd, whether you realize it or not. Clearly you have no allegiance to reason or truth. Congratulations, you’ve just ruined your reputation.

  114. #115 Tulse
    April 22, 2008

    You didn’t present facts, you presented some facts and withheld others to drive the reader to a predetermined conclusion.

    I’m sure there’s a word for that…

  115. #116 Lars
    April 22, 2008

    Chris, thanks for being honest about how well Expelled has done, even though it has brought you a lot of flak.
    Trying to cover up the facts, in an attempt putatively to influence people to think the Right Things, would obviously not be serving the truth.

  116. #117 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2008

    I’m enjoying your detractors bloviating about “framing.

    Come to think of it, last year’s “framing” debate was what drew me to first dip my toes into Scienceblogs. Considering who was in a swivet about the advice to better frame arguments so that people will be persuaded to accept evolution, the use of “framing” on this thread might be the irony of the month.

  117. #118 Pete M.
    April 22, 2008

    Chris said:

    But even if Expelled fizzles in the coming weeks, it will nevertheless represent a new milestone in the science-politics wars…a celebrity driven anti-science hollywood film with mass appeal and a comprehensive marketing campaign behind it.

    I have to agree that this is scary. I’m not sure if it is any scarier than other tactics used by the very conservative, religious right over the past 3 decades or so. The very fact that there is an actively cultivated network of mouthpieces that all remain on message to promote the extreme conservative agenda scares the hell out of me.

    Of all these things that scare me, however, this particular movie is bottom of the list. It’s just so ridiculous. It seems to me that if anything, it’s working to promote the agenda of the pro-science side. If it makes people question the science, and they actually go ahead and google “Evolution” and look at any of the very well-crafted websites that lay out the theory and its evidence, this is a win for us. This is a huge win for us. It’s apathy and laziness that we lose to. Controversy is great, because it actually gets people engaged. Again, I think we want people engaged because, guess what, when people pay attention the other side’s position looks pretty silly. We’ve seen this time and again.

    I’ll tell you what: if some wacky group of anti-science jerk-offs make a mass-media film with a big marketing push that doesn’t make them all look absurdly ignorant, hypocritical, and immoral, I will happily listen to Mooney’s suggestions about how to combat it (as well as Myers’, Stemwedel’s, Laden’s, I don’t know, Oprah’s, whatever). But with respect to this particular group of movie-making anti-science jerk-offs, I think the more people that go to see this film, the better off we are.

  118. #119 Mike T.
    April 22, 2008

    I saw the movie and thought it was very good (not perfect, but very good). It shows how the scientific left has systematically targeted those that are willing to question the dogma of Darwin. Until someone (anyone? anyone?) can present a FALSIFIABLE theory regarding the origin of the universe or the origin of the first life form capable of reproduction and mutation, the materialists have NO business disallowing the consideration of design detection. I’ve been following this issue for as long as it’s been around and there IS a difference between creationism and intelligent design theory. Those that say otherwise are either ignorant or dishonest. ID is a research project aimed at design detection. It uses math, science, and reason to attempt to discover patterns and complexities that cannot be reasonably expected to arise by random chance and natural selection. That’s ALL it is. The hysterical attempts to conflate ID with creationism are disengenuous at best. And to top it off, RICHARD DAWKINS made a fool of himself (with very little help from Ben Stein). He endorsed ID, plain and simple, when he said that the evidence of our design by extra-terrestrials might be detectable (in so many words). He actually used the “signature” word when discussing the possibility that we might be able to detect the fact that we were designed by extra-terrestrials. Don’t believe me? See it for yourself. What was revealed in this movie (among many other points) is the psycho-pathic hatred that the scientific left have for religion. Since they conflate ID with religion (unnecessarily), they simply CANNOT allow design a place at the table of free academic inquiry. So while DAWKINS allows for the possibility that we were seeded by extra-terrestrials, he KNOWS that those extra-terrestrials were formed by randmon chance mechanisms. He KNOWS that the seeder CANNOT be “God.” How does he know? He just does. Doesn’t sound like a scientist to me. The audience laughed uproariously as DAWKINS made a fool of himself and atheists everywhere.

  119. #120 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2008

    Doesn’t sound like a scientist to me. The audience laughed uproariously as DAWKINS made a fool of himself and atheists everywhere.

    Is anyone still pretending Dawkins is a scientist? When’s the last time he published any science?

    I especially like this, from The Blind Watchmaker

    More, I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence. This makes it a doubly satisfying theory. A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not just on this planet but all over the universe, wherever life may be found.

    If you noticed that this is ‘science’, not only with no evidence but a possibility of evidence that falls within the range of it ain’t never going to be there range of probability, then consider it in line with all those explanatory myths about impossible to know about behavior in the Pleistocene that his science, ‘science’ depends on. Dawkins might be the most famous scientist whose career depends on his distorting the meaning of science out of meaningful existence.

    But considering what he does with probability in his golden parachute career, it’s all the same show with Dawkins.

  120. #121 windy
    April 22, 2008

    If you noticed that this is ‘science’, not only with no evidence but a possibility of evidence that falls within the range of it ain’t never going to be there range of probability

    Sigh. The case for Darwinian evolution on possible other life-bearing planets is a LOGICAL case, not an article of faith.

  121. #122 Anthony McCarthy
    April 22, 2008

    Windy, since there is not a single other example to base his assertion on, it’s a guess, just like all those stories he, Dennett and the rest of the evo-psych myth makers create so they can make believe their stuff is science. When there’s no physical record it’s all make believe.

  122. #123 Lee Harrison
    April 22, 2008

    This is revealing…

    Remember,the movie does not promote Intelligent Design; it nerely pleads for the accademic freedom to discuss all alternatives to NeoDarwinism, including Intelligent Design. I am skeptical of the notion that “natural selection” might somehow turn genetic accidents into biological systems, but I have not heard a single critic of RM&NS suggest censorship. Judge for yourselves, folks, who is showing more intolerance here? Those who are willing to listen to alternatives? Or all these people bitterly attacking Chris for suggesting that alternatives should be permitted to be heard?

    Do you see it, Chris? People who were convinced by ‘Expelled’ are thinking that you are on their side.

    Do you know how that happened?

  123. #124 John Phillips, FCD
    April 23, 2008

    No, you are not a creationist apologist. But you do appear to have taken their tactics on board. At least if your selective quoting of critics in the few threads I have wasted time on is any indication.

    Perhaps one day you will respond to your critics without the melodramatic ‘expelled by me fellow science bloggers’ attitude. If you listened to some of the critics you might actually learn something about framing, at least more than you have apparently learnt from Nisbet.

  124. #125 Hug Slaman
    April 23, 2008

    Box office results aside, anyone who says this is a bad movie is just in denial.

    It was very skilfully done, whatever you think of the content: it kept one’s attention, despite what many people will find a dry topic.

    As for the bad reviews…. well, Darwinism is the dominant fashion among writers and intellectuals these days, so what would you expect?

  125. #126 Hugh Slaman
    April 23, 2008

    From the comments at this blog, it is apparent what is going on when Darwinists and atheists attack the film “Expelled”.

    It is all a matter of “framing”, and choosing the best frame to advance the Darwinist/atheist argument is evidently what counts most. It doesn’t matter how well the movie actually did, it presumably has to be “framed” as a failure.

  126. #127 Inoculated Mind
    April 23, 2008

    Anthony McCarthy,

    Your misunderstanding of Dawkins is understandable. I mean, how can he know that Darwinian evolution happens with life everywhere in the universe, not just here – especially since we don’t know that there’s life elsewhere in the universe?

    That is because Richard Dawkins uses the ability to evolve by Darwinian means as a criterion for life. I know this from his philosophy of biology writings. So he’s not claiming that he knows how life works elsewhere in the universe, but claiming that anything that we might consider to be “alive” must be capable of evolving.

  127. #128 Caledonian
    April 23, 2008

    I mean, how can he know that Darwinian evolution happens with life everywhere in the universe, not just here – especially since we don’t know that there’s life elsewhere in the universe?

    The same way we know that evaporative cooling takes place elsewhere. As long as certain very minimal requirements are met, the phenomenon will occur.

    It would be very difficult indeed to make something alive, capable of surviving for long periods, but not capable of evolving in any way.

  128. #129 Sven DiMilo
    April 23, 2008

    It’s a logical inference. Not a “guess.” Not “faith.” An inference, based on everything we know about life. Yes, everything we know is based on just this one planet’s life. But all that evolution by natural selection requires is differential reproduction and imperfect replication. Personally I can’t imagine a form of “life” without reproduction. I can’t imagine a situation in which all reproducers have precisely equal reproductive success. And a 100% perfect replication system? If it existed, then the replicators would be stuck at the point at which perfection was achieved; it’s hard to see how that point could be complex enough to be considered “life.”
    It’s not a guess.

  129. #130 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2008

    That is because Richard Dawkins uses the ability to evolve by Darwinian means as a criterion for life.

    In other words, science not only without physical evidence but without any likely possibilty of physical evidence and no reason to assume that “Darwinian” mechanisms would govern life that arose separately from the life on Earth.

    Let me remind myself, this is allegedly a Science blog, isn’t it? Because this is the worst of medieval scholastic philosophy with a lab coat on. Richard (Just So Stories) Dawkins as ancient authority.

    What pure bilge. I’d go farther, with citations, but these boys haven’t even gotten to Bacon in their understanding.

  130. #131 windy
    April 23, 2008

    …no reason to assume that “Darwinian” mechanisms would govern life that arose separately from the life on Earth.

    Hello? Caledonian and Sven just spelled the reason out for you.

  131. #132 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2008

    Windy, those weren’t reasons, they were guesses. You can’t have a reason without any evidence and there is none. There isn’t even any evidence that there is a single other life form anywhere, or that there isn’t.

    You people have not the first idea of what you need to practice logic, never mind science. Even formal, symbolic logic has to have something specific to talk about. This is ‘science’ like Clan of the Cave Bear is science, only we know there were bears and caves and know that there are clans today, at least. Dawkins speculative Darwinism doesn’t have anything comparable. It’s just more of his addled cultists accepting whatever bilge he serves them up.

  132. #133 Larry Fafarman
    April 23, 2008

    The Raw Story said,
    –“The film made $1.2 million on Friday in 1,052 theaters. By comparison, Michael Moore’s ‘Sicko’ raked in $4.4 million its opening weekend from just 441 theaters, and Fahrenheit 9/11 did $23.9 million from only 868 slots.”–

    Are those figures for Michael Moore’s films just for opening weekends, or for the entire runs in the first-run theatres?

    $23.9 million on 868 screens works out to an average — I mean average — of $27,534 per screen. At an average admission of $10, that works out to an average of 2,753 viewers per screen. Does such an average for an opening weekend seem realistic, considering that many of those 868 screens were competing for viewers in the same market areas? Assuming an average of 15 showings per screen over the three days of the weekend, that means an average of 184 viewers per showing. Many modern theatres are multiplexes with small projection rooms and viewers might have to be standing on heads to pack that many into each screening room.

    Also, some movies open early in the week instead of on weekends. Is it fair to compare the opening revenues of those movies with the opening revenues of movies that open on weekends?

    Also, as I indicated, having a large number of opening theatres (over 1000 for “Expelled”) is a disadvantage so far as per-theatre revenues are concerned, because many of the theatres are competing for viewers in the same market areas.

  133. #134 windy
    April 23, 2008

    Windy, those weren’t reasons, they were guesses. You can’t have a reason without any evidence and there is none.

    So you don’t think a good case can be made for evaporative cooling happening outside our solar system? What about turbulence?

  134. #135 Larry Fafarman
    April 23, 2008

    Mike T. said ( April 22, 2008 6:04 PM ) —

    ID is a research project aimed at design detection. It uses math, science, and reason to attempt to discover patterns and complexities that cannot be reasonably expected to arise by random chance and natural selection. That’s ALL it is.

    There is a widespread belief in a “contrived dualism” where evolution and intelligent design are viewed as the only alternatives. There are also non-ID criticisms of evolution. For example, my non-ID criticisms of evolution that are based on co-evolution have been banned from the blog of the so-called Florida Citizens for Science — see

    http://im-from-missouri.blogspot.com/2008/04/co-evolution-theory-censored-by-florida.html

  135. #136 Anthony McCarthy
    April 23, 2008

    So you don’t think a good case can be made for evaporative cooling happening outside our solar system? What about turbulence?

    Posted by: windy

    If you can’t see the difference between those and evolution by natural selection, it wouldn’t surprise me one little bit. Since you would have to have organisms with an analogous biology, it’s potentially a bit more of a challenge to obtain than the physical phenomena you are using as a red herring. Though, since it’s just about certain that there will be nothing to falsify the idea, since you’d need actual examples to do that, Dawkins can mythologize on about it in perfect safety.

    You do realize that “don’t know” really does mean “don’t know” and possible outcomes could include positive or negative possibilities or even something that we can’t predict because we don’t have anything to go on. The Universe, as Dawkins’ favorite writer of fiction put it, is big.

    As it is, Dawkins’ assertion is professional wishful thinking which his experience probably leads him to believe that his acolytes will accept without too much thinking. Not that they are in the habit of doing more than that much.

    Boy, these Scienceblogs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be, are they.

  136. #137 dubiquiabs
    April 23, 2008

    @ Anthony McCarthy
    Don’t you think there is a difference between stating an hypothesis and testing one? At least in principle, Dawkins’ Hx is testable, but I am not aware of anyone’s claiming it was tested. It would be pretty interesting if it could be falsified, don’t you think? Which, IMHO, makes it an hypothesis worth stating.

  137. #138 windy
    April 24, 2008

    Still not getting it, Andrew, I see.

  138. #139 Caledonian
    April 24, 2008

    You can get population evolution by pouring sand grains through a sifter. The only thing lacking to make it true Darwinian evolution is reproduction. If grains of sand were capable of making more grains of sand, and they could pass on their traits to some degree in the process, they’d be evolving biologically.

    A similar argument holds with evaporative cooling, actually – the most energetic molecules are more likely to escape surface tension, and so less energetic molecules are left behind. That’s evolution – if the molecules could reproduce, it would be biological evolution.

    Darwin’s theory in no way is restricted to life-as-we-know-it-on-Earth. It applies to anything that can reproduce itself and transmit its traits.

  139. #140 Paul W.
    April 24, 2008

    Chris, did you disable comments on your “My Review of Expelled” thread? I don’t get a comment box. (Might just be a glitch somewhere, maybe with my browser.)

    If you have disabled comments, please update the post to say so, so people won’t be left wondering. Thanks.

  140. #141 Caledonian
    April 24, 2008

    It seems there are some things we can’t say on ScienceBlogs – at least, on this corner of them.

  141. #142 Chris C. Mooney
    April 24, 2008

    We are returning to moderating all comments, as we did before. More soon.

  142. #143 Shirakawasuna
    April 24, 2008

    I can’t figure out a way to comment on the other video. I suppose that’s one of the manifestations of moderation?

    There are some very serious problems in your rhetoric, Chris, starting with the fact that you don’t respond to critics (you really don’t, you truly just whine a lot and occasionally point out one or two things you think make your right). I imagine you’d take this accusation as part of your self-imposed martyrdom, too! Now we’re calling you a ‘whiner’!

    The other serious flaw (in general) of your rhetoric is that you don’t even adapt your arguments from legitimate criticism. Do you actually know that this film is #8 in political documentaries (stretch the category much), which is to say adjusted for inflation? That’s somewhat important for, you know, actually comparing relative viewership and economic impact. This was pointed out much before your article came out. If you submitted it after this had been pointed out, I think you can see the intellectual value you miss by repeatedly ignoring your critics and rushing to publication.

    Returning to the first point: there’s a reason you get this abuse, Chris, and it is not irrational, unfair, or mean. Place *anyone else* in your position who you disagreed with and you’d fairly describe them as avoiding criticism, making themselves into a martyr, and proving the vacuity of their pet projects. All of this is self-caused, of course. Did you really expect a group of scientists and science writers who disagreed with you to accept condescension and vagaries in response to their taking issue with your repeated claims about *them*? Is there something wrong with that in any case? Of course not. Are we getting any sign that you are interested in open and honest discussion? No.

    Your responses are set up to create the very situation you complain about. It is not possible for anyone who does not have saintly patience and a desire to have their own positions and actions bastardized to get a reasonable response from you. As those people start giving up, they will certainly note how poorly you deal with criticism (that’s where the high-minded abuse comes in) and kindly recommend improving your discourse if you want to be taken seriously. They certainly won’t be encouraged to return and explain how you’re wrong for the fourth time.

    So who are we left with? The people who agreed with you to begin with is part of that population, they certainly have nothing to complain about. They don’t have to deal with your childish attitudes towards criticism and debate. The rest is those people who hold out some kind of hope for you and do possess some form of that saintly patience, although they are certainly turning bitter of that hope quickly (myself included).

    So, let me ask you: what do you really expect from people who think you are wrong? Should we praise you? Should we be fine with lamentably incomplete responses or condescension? Would you rather be truly treated like a child (what you seem to desire, given your melodramatic responses to criticism in general)? That would constitute patting you on the head for a ‘good try’ and ignoring you.

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