Pharyngula

Expelled comes to the NY Times’ attention

And it’s in an article by Cornelia Dean, one of their best science people. I have to single out this short summary of the argument as a good example of the right way to handle the “controversy”.

The growing furor over the movie, visible in blogs, on Web sites and in conversations among scientists, is the latest episode in the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design, who assert that the theory of evolution has obvious scientific flaws and that students should learn that intelligent design, a creationist idea, is an alternative approach.

There is no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution as an explanation for the complexity and diversity of life on earth. And while individual scientists may embrace religious faith, the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature. As scientists at Iowa State University put it last year, supernatural explanations are “not within the scope or abilities of science.”

I’ve emphasized that last paragraph because it is so good to see: instead of the usual dreadful “he said, she said” nonsense that passes for balance, Dean plainly states the scientific position, which does not include the supernatural. But on to the premise of the film, and the dishonest protestations of its makers:

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

That may be true, because in the letter I got I was given names and a title, and being a smart person, I looked it up on the web and found a fairly elaborate web site that explained what the movie was about. Being a naive person, unaware of the elaborate charades the movie industry will play, I didn’t realize the site was a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars. So I fell for it.

Walt Ruloff, a producer and partner in Premise Media, also denied that there was any deception. Mr. Ruloff said in a telephone interview that Rampant Films was a Premise subsidiary, and that the movie’s title was changed on the advice of marketing experts, something he said was routine in filmmaking. He said the film would open in February and would not be available for previews until January.

Well, actually, there was considerable deception. The Rampant Films site is still up, it still lists a film property called “Crossroads”, and it still has the description that I posted in my previous article.

Mr. Ruloff, a Canadian who lives in British Columbia, said he turned to filmmaking after selling his software company in the 1990s. He said he decided to make “Expelled,” his first project, after he became interested in genomics and biotechnology but discovered “there are certain questions you are just not allowed to ask and certain approaches you are just not allowed to take.”

So that’s the idea that inspired his movie? The misbegotten theme that seems to be actually represented in the film they are advertising now? Well, look at the copy they put online to mislead the people they planned to interview:

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

That would actually be an interesting serious movie, and that’s the one I agreed to contribute to. It is correct that science has provided the answer, and it is also correct that millions of religious people reject and resist that answer. Of course, the movie Ruloff planned to make and did make says that science has got it wrong and that the answer scientists are rejecting is the nonsense of Intelligent Design.

We were lied to, and they tricked us. It’s that simple. They ought to simply ‘fess up to it — it’s not as if we can take legal action against them or do anything to suppress their movie, since we all signed quite legal releases. They ought to take a little pride in the fact that, in their dedication to Jesus, they successfully deceived Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, myself, and who knows how many others.

Comments

  1. #1 Gaurav
    September 27, 2007

    PZ:
    You are the G*d. :-)

  2. #2 zeekster
    September 27, 2007

    I got an email today from the “Director of Student Outreach” of Motive Entertainment, Dairek. He wrote to provide an update on Expelled. According to him, there’s going to be a debate between Dawkins and John Lennox at the University of Alabama Birmingham on Wed Oct 3 and the movie’s promotion company will be holding a rally before the event.

  3. #3 Caledonian
    September 27, 2007

    It would have been nice if the article could have pointed out that science rejects the concept of ‘supernatural’ totally, instead of just ignoring it as the discussion implies. But at least it’s better than most of the pap usually presented in similar circumstances.

  4. #4 True Bob
    September 27, 2007

    IANAL, but it seems to me your releases would be void, because they were obtained under false pretenses. Of course, that’s may only be in The Court of Common Sense.

  5. #5 NoAstronomer
    September 27, 2007

    Word of the day: merkin. I had to look that one up. I’m getting quite an education here, I bet PZ’s classes are better than a night at the Comedy Club.

  6. #6 Steve LaBonne
    September 27, 2007

    Given the mixed track record of the Times, the forthrightness of that bolded paragraph is very nice to see.

  7. #7 djlactin
    September 27, 2007

    nasty jar to the head:

    “it’s makers …” set me up for a different conclusion to the sentence.

    /grammar nazi mode on/

    I say yet again PZ: “it’s” is NOT the possessive form of “it”, any more than “her’s”, “our’s” or “their’s”. the possessive form of “it” is “its”.

    “It’s” is the contraction of “it is”.

    /grammar nazi mode off/

  8. #8 MLE
    September 27, 2007

    Quite right True Bob. A “Release” is nothing but a contract and an otherwise legal contract/release can be voided for any number of reasons. A material misrepresentation as to an essential fact likely negates consent. See http://ezinearticles.com/?Fundamentals-of-Contract-Law&id=82686 for a quick summary (the article is Canadian, and wrong in few places — IANAL, but I once went to law school).

  9. #9 NoAstronomer
    September 27, 2007

    #4
    True Bob, you’ll never a find a more wretched hive of scum and villainy than the movie industry. Quite accustomed to stabbing each other in the back, outsiders get the shaft every time. As participants in the Borat movie found to their cost.

    IAANAL (I am also not lawyer) but the lawyers working in this area have years of experience in drawing up water tight releases.

  10. #10 Paul A
    September 27, 2007

    Can I just say that “a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars” is the best quote I’ve read all year. I plan to use variations of it in daily conversation from now on :-)

  11. #11 DamnYankees
    September 27, 2007

    “a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars. So I fell for it.”

    That may be the best insult I’ve ever read. Brilliant writing – I’ll be using that one!

  12. #12 True Bob
    September 27, 2007

    Another unintended great punk rock band name:

    Well Groomed Merkin

  13. #13 Umilik
    September 27, 2007

    I am torn between “someone ought to take these assholes to court and try to stop the movie” and “anything you say will just increase the publicity and hence potential viewership”. To quote the immortal Goethe: “Zwei Seelen wohnen, ach, in meiner Brust”
    (I usually don’t add literary quotes, but after yesterday’s descent into football babble, this blog needs a little class)

  14. #14 Scott McMeekin
    September 27, 2007

    PZ,

    I assume you haven’t been allowed to see any kind of advanced screening of the finished article. Just as with most movies of this deceptive ilk, that you and the other contributors probably do have some kind of legal recourse due to the deliberately deceitful method in which you were coaxed into signing the release. The problem being, that would only give them more publicity and air-time in which to spout their BS. It’s truly unfortunate that your good name (and that of Richard et al) will undoubtedly aid their publicity drive.

    Having said all of this, if after seeing it you find they have been deliberately misleading, have used deceptive editing techniques to put words in your mouth or whatever, I am sure that the numerous secular and atheist (or even just pro-science/pro-truth) organisations would have no qualms about aiding you in suing for damages, denial of distribution, etcetera. On the other hand, if you and your illustrious colleagues are unfortunate participants in one of a long line of “turkeys” that seems to stream out of the US, with any luck it’ll just sink like a stone.

    No point in fretting about it I spose, and it would be a great loss to us all if people such as yourself were to stop standing up and speaking out to all filmmakers because of wingnuts like these. Hey, maybe you guys could emulate Richard’s “fleas” by making some cash out of a counter-riposte!?

    lol

    Scott.

  15. #15 John
    September 27, 2007

    I had to look up merkin as well, and found it’s etymology humorously appropriate. From dictionary.com:

    mer·kin (mûrkn)
    n. A pubic wig for women.
    [Alteration of obsolete malkin, lower-class woman, mop, from Middle English, from Malkin, diminutive of the personal name Matilda.]

  16. #16 OsakaGuy
    September 27, 2007

    Did anyone see the hard copy of the NY Times? I saw it over someone’s shoulder and I’m pretty sure a photograph captioned “Dawkins” was actually Peter Atkins. Can anyone confirm? I think it was page A20, but I couldn’t see it clearly. The photo isn’t on the web version of the article.

  17. #17 raven
    September 27, 2007

    biologists, geologists, physicists, astronomers and philosophers have contributed a vase amount of research and data in support of Darwin’s idea. And yet, millions of Christians, Muslims, Jews and other people of faith believe in a literal interpretation that humans were crafted by the hand of God.

    That is true but so what. 20% of the US population believes the sun orbits the earth, rather more believe in astrology. Humans routinely believe all sorts of weird stuff. And it is no secret why.

    If the movie wanted to explore why people are creos, they should title it, Mind Control, Indoctrination, and The Making of Religious Bigots. Their interviews with the DI would fit right in. How to slip pseudoscience fundie religious nonsense into children’s science classes and why this will help death cultists destroy the USA as we know it.

  18. #18 Tom
    September 27, 2007

    I’m viewing this in Firefox, and it looks like there’s a broken HTML tag halfway down. There’s one long hyper link consisting of two paragraphs, starting with “fairly elaborate web site that explained what the movie was about;/a>. ” I’m guessing the “<” was accidentally omitted from that tag.

  19. #19 Scott McMeekin
    September 27, 2007

    Yep, I’m using Firefox on Ubuntu and I can see the same screwed up tag in there. Fortunately it doesn’t impact too much on the reading experience. Well, for me anyway – YMMV. =/

    Scott.

  20. #20 MH
    September 27, 2007

    “a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.”

    Very funny, and very Blackadder.

  21. #21 Xopher
    September 27, 2007

    I think the first paragraph quoted had the real gem: “the long-running conflict between science and advocates of intelligent design”.

    ID’iots like to frame the dispute as one within science, to reinforce the idea that they’re being unfairly shut out. But the above statements reflects the reality of the situation.

    Good stuff.

  22. #22 PZ Myers
    September 27, 2007

    Movable Type has taken to inserting random “&t”s and randomly changing “<”s to semicolons when I edit a post. Has anybody out there seen a bug report of that sort? It’s getting very annoying, and it makes me reluctant to fix typos when the software will use the opportunity to introduce random changes of its own.

  23. #23 raven
    September 27, 2007

    This is hollywood, the movie industry. “No publicity is bad publicity.” It is absolutely right to point out the falsehoods and deceptive techniques of these slime molds repeatedly. Take the high road as befits gentlepeople scholars. But making too big a deal is self defeating. They would love it if people showed up and picketed their movie or took them to court.

    I could have told PZ or Dawkins right off the bat that a 6 foot tall rat would show up for the “interview”. But I’ve dealt with journalists before.

    The ones I dealt with were not bad people. But they are competing for eyeballs and want to write the catchiest headlines and story possible. Accuracy and perspective can easily get lost. How many times have you read headlines like, “New findings cast existence of universe into doubt”. The article of course, is something tamer like the stars burning out in a trillion years.

  24. #24 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 27, 2007

    the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature.

    She had me at “no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution”, but this takes the cake. A definite saver.

    But so is the “merkin”.

    [Btw, as I was looking the term up, I note that "In current times, Merkins have become popular in Japan (where they are known as "Night Flowers"), and are sold to physiologically immature girls and young women to "normalize" body appearance".

    Quite the reverse from the current Western situation. But the linked pink merkin looks lovely indeed.]

    the possessive form of “it” is “its”.

    And the obsessive form of “tit” is “tits”.

    Which makes me wonder, what is a pair of boob ‘merkins’ called?

  25. #25 Torbjörn Larsson, OM
    September 27, 2007

    the scientific enterprise looks to nature to answer questions about nature.

    She had me at “no credible scientific challenge to the theory of evolution”, but this takes the cake. A definite saver.

    But so is the “merkin”.

    [Btw, as I was looking the term up, I note that "In current times, Merkins have become popular in Japan (where they are known as "Night Flowers"), and are sold to physiologically immature girls and young women to "normalize" body appearance".

    Quite the reverse from the current Western situation. But the linked pink merkin looks lovely indeed.]

    the possessive form of “it” is “its”.

    And the obsessive form of “tit” is “tits”.

    Which makes me wonder, what is a pair of boob ‘merkins’ called?

  26. #26 T.S. McBride
    September 27, 2007

    djlactin said: “I say yet again PZ: “it’s” is NOT the possessive form of “it”, any more than “her’s”, “our’s” or “their’s”. the possessive form of “it” is “its”.”

    Anyone ever tell you what a douchebag you are?

  27. #27 Shirley Knott
    September 27, 2007

    Torbjorn, that would be “armpit hair”.
    Believe to be an invention of the French…

    hugs,
    Shirley Knott
    (and apologies for not being able to do the o umlaut thing and thus massacring your name)

  28. #28 PZ Myers
    September 27, 2007

    I’m not taking anyone to court, nor am I picketing the movie — I plan on going to see it, and on tearing it up on the blog. That’s it.

    I do think it is useful for us to continually hammer in the point that the interviews were made under false pretenses: these guys are simply liars, through and through, and the movie itself is untrustworthy.

  29. #29 MAJeff
    September 27, 2007

    I’m not taking anyone to court, nor am I picketing the movie — I plan on going to see it, and on tearing it up on the blog. That’s it.

    Is there any way for you to get comp tickets? You really shouldn’t have to pay to sit through it.

  30. #30 Felicia Gilljam
    September 27, 2007

    Spending time and money on legal action against these IDiots would be pointless. In their case, all publicity is good publicity. PZ, your plan to simply keep pushing that you, Dawkins and others were deceived is a good one.

    Shirley (#26), if you want to write Torbjörn’s name correctly, you could simply copy-paste.

  31. #31 mojoandy
    September 27, 2007

    Mr. Stein, a freelance columnist who writes Everybody’s Business for The New York Times, conducts the film’s on-camera interviews.[...]

    That may be true, [...]

    Did Mr. Stein actually interview PZ in person? Or does PZ’s “that might be true” apply to the rest of the bit about the interview? Or does “on-camera interviews” mean his talking head was spliced in as the interviewer?

    This poor Canuck is soooo confused.

  32. #32 xebecs
    September 27, 2007

    I’m not taking anyone to court, nor am I picketing the movie — I plan on going to see it, and on tearing it up on the blog. That’s it.

    I wonder what would happen if, when you went in to see the movie, you showed up with a small sign that said “I am P.Z. Myers. Come talk with me after the film.” Not picketing — just making yourself known, and available for discussion afterwards.

  33. #33 MatthewB
    September 27, 2007

    Indeed, that’s a photo of Atkins, not Dawkins, on page A30 of the Times. I assume there’ll be a correction in Friday’s paper.

  34. #34 Jud
    September 27, 2007

    zeekster wrote: “I got an email today from the ‘Director of Student Outreach’ of Motive Entertainment, Dairek. He wrote to provide an update on Expelled. According to him, there’s going to be a debate between Dawkins and John Lennox at the University of Alabama Birmingham on Wed Oct 3 and the movie’s promotion company will be holding a rally before the event.”

    See http://www.christianpost.com/article/20070918/29358_God_Delusion_Debate_Pits_'New_Atheist'_Against_Christian_Apologist.htm .

    From the article linked above: “The upcoming debate will take place as Christian apologist Lennox releases his forthcoming book God’s Undertaker: Has Science Buried God? In the anticipated book, Lennox invites readers to re-examine the atheist’s position that the nature of science points toward the non-existence of God.”

    I hope that Dawkins or Dawkins supporters will record the entire debate for free transmission on the Web to counter the inevitable clip-mining that is sure to take place in anti-science quarters.

  35. #35 Clare
    September 27, 2007

    And here I was thinking that I “merkin” was supposed to be “American,” like “preznit” is Bush’s version of “president.” No wonder I couldn’t understand the sentence…

  36. #36 Clare
    September 27, 2007

    Whoops, sorry, take the “I” out before “merkin.”

  37. #37 Calladus
    September 27, 2007

    Perhaps the scientists interviewed for this movie could, maybe, recreate their interviews if they can’t get their hands on the original takes?

    Perhaps add to their interviews what they think of slimy movie producers?

    Then someone could volunteer to edit together a YouTube refutation out of that footage that everyone could link to from their blogs as they rip this stupid film up.

    Having you, PZ, or Dr. Dawkins, rip it apart in text is one thing, but having a video with the same “talking heads” tearing up “Expelled” on screen and on YouTube should go further to expose the shameful way the producers got their footage.

  38. #38 Rey Fox
    September 27, 2007

    “Anyone ever tell you what a douchebag you are?”

    The proper grammatical form would be douche bag. Asshole.

  39. #39 Elf M. Sternberg
    September 27, 2007

    “…a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.”

    Eww. PZ. Was that really necessary?

  40. #40 Justin Moretti
    September 27, 2007

    Congratulations, makers of Expelled: you’ve been caught bearing false witness!

    I hope you’ve got at least 3-billion sunblock and plenty of it, because where you’re going, it’s gonna be hot, baby!

  41. #41 RamblinDude
    September 27, 2007

    Elf M. Sternberg:”…a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.”

    Eww. PZ. Was that really necessary?

    LOL! If you google the word, the first thing you see are pictures of Merkins. It just so happened that I was eating a muffin at the time and I had to take an extra sip of coffee.

  42. #42 VJB
    September 27, 2007

    Looks like a good film for Randy Olsen to make, presenting the deceit of the pro-ID moviemakers. His ‘Flock of Dodos’ was truly excellent and even-handed in a proper (not ‘he said, she said’) way. He would do it right, IMHO. Love the ‘merkin’. Maybe a good title?

  43. #43 Tammy
    September 27, 2007

    I still think you should sue, but not for money damages or to impair distribution of the film. Sue for equitable relief: a disclaimer card at the beginning of the film (or before each interview) that states “These interviews were obtained under false pretenses.”

  44. #44 justpaul
    September 27, 2007

    Sorry, but “a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.” is only the second-best insult of recent times.
    The very best is ERV’s “You. You Sal Cordova. You cottage cheese dripping pussy.” from her post ‘In which ERV eats SALs soul’ http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/search?q=cottage+cheese
    THAT is going to be lodged in my mind for a long, long time.

  45. #45 Wilson Fowlie
    September 27, 2007

    I didn’t realize the site was a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.

    That sentence made me gasp and gesticulate with delight.

  46. #46 Glen Davidson
    September 27, 2007

    So Ruloff claims that Francis Collins is just a slimy little sellout, keeping his mouth shut so that he can (I suppose) pull in the big bucks of science (he may be better paid than most, I’ll grant, but it’s not clear that was true when he became a theistic evolutionist).

    Sure, Ruloff, you’re above reproach. Hint: When you’re trying to make yourself sound honest, don’t go defaming an honest man while attempting that unlikely feat.

    Ruloff’s too stupid for these propaganda efforts. He knows how to lie (or is too dumb even to recognize the truth), but not how to lie well.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/2kxyc7

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?
    September 27, 2007

    Btw, as I was looking the term up, I note that “In current times, Merkins have become popular in Japan (where they are known as “Night Flowers”), and are sold to physiologically immature girls and young women to “normalize” body appearance”.

    GAH!

    Whose law was it again? You know, “If you can think of it, the Japanese have done it — with schoolgirls.”

    <headache>

    <uncontrolled giggling>

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?
    September 27, 2007

    Btw, as I was looking the term up, I note that “In current times, Merkins have become popular in Japan (where they are known as “Night Flowers”), and are sold to physiologically immature girls and young women to “normalize” body appearance”.

    GAH!

    Whose law was it again? You know, “If you can think of it, the Japanese have done it — with schoolgirls.”

    <headache>

    <uncontrolled giggling>

  49. #49 Kseniya
    September 27, 2007

    A year or two ago I saw that “What The Bleep” movie, which set off a lot of little “warning: science abuse” alarms in my head. I was pleased (?) to later learn that one of the few legitimate scientist featured in the film, Columbia University professor David Albert, said that he’d been taken advantage of, that his statements had been heavily edited to distort his views, and if he’d known the filmmakers’ motives in advance he’d never have agreed to contribute.

  50. #50 Micah
    September 27, 2007

    Screw your inevitable screed on atheism, PZ – when do you make “PZ’s Book of Insults” available for purchase?

    David: My response to anything horrible on the internet is “Dammit, Japan”. It’s inevitably their fault, or they’ve done the same thing and it’s worse.

  51. #51 Patrick
    September 27, 2007

    Wilson Fowlie:

    I didn’t realize the site was a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.

    That sentence made me gasp and gesticulate with delight.

    A few years ago, while talking with my hands, as usual, in a restaurant I managed to smash a nearly full pilsner glass. The waitress rushed over with a towel and I apologized “I’m sorry, I was gesticulating all over the place.”

    Her face turned red and she got so flustered that she walked away from the table without cleaning up the spill.

  52. #52 Peter Ashby
    September 27, 2007

    I can confirm that over on this side of the pond ‘Merkin’ is a term for citizens of the US. This is because when your unesteemed president speaks to y’all he addresses you as “mafellow Merkins” Noticing this we thought it polite to begin to use the new term. Were we wrong?

  53. #53 justpaul
    September 27, 2007

    Here’s a better link to ERV’s post.
    http://endogenousretrovirus.blogspot.com/2007/09/in-which-erv-eats-sals-soul.html
    It’s a great read – the whole thing is a slam on Sal Cordova. I sure wouldn’t get on ERV’s wrong side, OR PZ’s.

  54. #54 Andrew HIll
    September 27, 2007

    Whew! I became very pessimistic when I read that the NY Times was addressing Expelled, what a relief!

  55. #55 Rey Fox
    September 27, 2007

    “Whose law was it again? “If you can think of it, the Japanese have done it — with schoolgirls.””

    Sounds like Lore Sjöberg, but I could be wrong.

  56. #56 Brownian
    September 27, 2007

    Check me out! I’ve risen to the standard of integrity that most creationists can only aspire to:

    Prominent Darwinist Reluctant to Introduce Random Changes!

    Darwinist and atheist PZ Myers expressed his reluctance to introduce ‘random changes’ in his biology classes through a comment on his anti-Christian blog ‘Pharyngula’. The comment, which ‘hundreds’ of Intelligent Design theorist interpret as evidence that even prominent Darwinists are not confident of their own favored ‘Theory of Evolution’, appeared on a thread concerning a movie for which Dr Myers agreed to be interviewed. The movie, Expelled documents the scientific community’s suppression of alternative theories to Darwinism.

    In his own words, Dr Myers hinted that he is no longer comfortable teaching that life on earth evolved through ‘random changes’: “It’s getting very annoying, and it makes me reluctant…to introduce random changes….”

    Dr. William Dembski, a Fellow at the Discovery Institute and a proponent of Intelligent Design, an alternative explanation for the diversity of life that is gaining widespread acceptance in the scientific community, could not be reached for comment, but if he could, he would have said,
    Continued on page A4

  57. #57 Denis Loubet
    September 27, 2007

    Darn it, I’m on Victor Stenger’s side of this issue. Science can and does address supernatural claims. If one claims that followers of a particular god can drink any poison without ill effect, this can be scientifically tested. If there exists a claim that two or more followers of a god can move mountains by wishing it so, that can be tested too. Many claims of the supernatural can be tested. Science can and does test claims of the supernatural.

    So far, none of the supernatural claims or explanations have stood up to such inquiry.

    So where does this claim that science cannot or does not address the supernatural come from?

  58. #58 Brownian
    September 27, 2007

    I agree, Denis. The only god that falls completely outside the purview of science is one that does not interact with the natural world in any way.

    As soon as you claim any god or gods answer your prayers, smite Syrians, create species, tell you to be good, etc., those claims become scientifically testable.

  59. #59 Bob O'H
    September 27, 2007

    If you google the word, the first thing you see are pictures of Merkins.

    As well as a link to Lauren Merkin Handbags (and yes, it is safe for work, but not apparently for ScienceBlogs – it won’t let me post the link).

    I wonder if they realise.

    Bob

  60. #60 markbt73
    September 27, 2007

    So… could a merkin worn on the back instead of the front be rferred to as an asshat?

    In this case, the “Mahfellow Merkins” usage fits perfectly, since the prez is most certainly backwards.

  61. #61 noncarborundum
    September 27, 2007
    I’m sorry, I was gesticulating all over the place

    Her face turned red and she got so flustered that she walked away from the table without cleaning up the spill.

    I got much the same reaction in a meeting by saying that someone had “shot his wad”, a phrase I had picked up from my father, who was very circumspect in his language (I heard him say “damn” maybe once; stronger words never). Okay, I found out later that it can have a vulgar meaning, but that meaning isn’t primary. I haven’t used it since, though: a perfectly good expression spoiled.

  62. #62 MLE
    September 27, 2007

    Anyone else read “Alteration of obsolete malkin, lower-class woman, mop, from Middle English, from Malkin” and think: “Ah, so that explains Michelle Malkin.”

  63. #63 Fossil
    September 27, 2007

    How come nobody seems to recall that the President of the US in “Dr. Strangelove” (played, like most of the characters, by Peter Sellers), was named “Merkin Muffley”? I should have thought that would have made familiarity with the term damn-near universal (I suppose the name was Terry Southern’s idea).

    BTW, I daresay that if you get properly lawyered-up, you can probably sue the bastards into keeping you (collectively) out of the film. A better idea might be to horsewhip that mendacious asshole Ben Stein as he lunches at Le Bernardin or hobnobs with Donald Trump.

  64. #64 RamblinDude
    September 27, 2007

    A year or two ago I saw that “What The Bleep” movie, which set off a lot of little “warning: science abuse” alarms in my head.

    I didn’t watch “What The Bleep…” but I have relatives who did and I think they still believe that the molecular structure of water can be influenced from a distance by our thoughts.

    I explained to them that James Randi has offered a million dollars to anyone who can prove this but I don’t think it changed their minds. It’s so much more fun to believe really fantastic things–especially if it’s from a movie that uses a lot of sciency sounding phrases.

    I’m sure that no matter how stupid “Expelled” is it will continue the religious right’s agenda to encourage hostility towards the scientist who honestly “…looks to nature to answer questions about nature.”

    Ah, well… “…Enjoy the brawl!”- (PZ)

  65. #65 Fatboy
    September 27, 2007

    Re: #55

    I was going to comment on that myself, but slightly differently. It’s one of those things I got confused by when I first started following the creation/evolution controversy, since “supernatural” can mean different things to different people. I’d rather just see people drop all reference to the supernatural when describing science, and say that science looks to evidence to answer questions about the universe. If there were ghosts/gods/leprechauns, you’d expect there to be some type of evidence to study. And then, even though the methodological naturalists would say that those entities are no longer supernatural, science would be studying what most people would still refer to as supernatural.

    Don’t say that science can’t study the supernatural, because then people will think science has a blind spot. Just say that the evidence clearly supports evolution.

  66. #66 Steve_C
    September 27, 2007

    Hey Denis,

    What it comes down to is that supernatural CLAIMS can be tested.
    But there’s no reason to address anything supernatural for which there’s nothing to test.

    Supernatural explanations are just story telling. If they are nonfalsiifiable calims what’s the point in science addressing them at all?

  67. #67 Calladus
    September 27, 2007

    Huh… given PZ’s pelagic passions, I thought for sure that “Merkin” was a synonym for “Merpeople”, or perhaps their relatives.

    When I looked it up, my first thought was, “Wow, those scales don’t cover much!”

    [/tongue in cheek]

  68. #68 dwarf zebu
    September 27, 2007

    I wonder what would happen if, when you went in to see the movie, you showed up with a small sign that said “I am P.Z. Myers. Come talk with me after the film.” Not picketing — just making yourself known, and available for discussion afterwards.

    He might just discover the downside of fame!

    “…a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.”
    Eww. PZ. Was that really necessary?

    Education is not always pretty.

  69. #69 eyesoars
    September 27, 2007

    PZ: that phrase made my morning.

    Takes me back to Dr. Strangelove, and president Merkin Muffley, Colonel Bat Guano, General Jack D. Ripper, and a cast of characters whose names I enjoy anew every time I see the film.

  70. #70 Kausik Datta
    September 27, 2007

    According to the Oxford English dictionary, merkin (with a lower-case ‘m’) is a faux-hair patch for the pubis, whereas Merkin (with an upper-case ‘M’) is a chiefly US slang for American. Curious, because the word ‘Merkin’ in the sense of American has been picked up by many other non-English languages in the world.

  71. #71 fusilier
    September 27, 2007

    WRT “mah fellow merkins” as a phrase, might I remind you young people that was current during the 1960s – cf. President Lyndon B. Johnson.

    [/historic pedantry]

    fusilier
    James 2:24

  72. #72 DAC
    September 27, 2007

    Cornelia’s article is nothing but a thinly disguised op ed piece. If she is the best science writer the NY Times has, the NY Times–and science–is in a lot of trouble.

  73. #73 G
    September 27, 2007

    “I didn’t realize the site was a well groomed merkin designed to cover the disease-raddled organs of whorish professional liars.”

    Best. Insult. Ever.

  74. #74 hibob
    September 27, 2007

    releases, IANAL, etc.: As long as the lawyers who wrote the releases are as careful as the lawyers that wrote releases for Ali G/Borat, trying to have the releases voided probably won’t work.

  75. #75 John Marley
    September 27, 2007

    “If you can think of it, the Japanese have done it — with schoolgirls.”

    I remember a webcomic (but not which one) a few years ago in which the characters were playing “google seppuku”.

    You type random terms into a search engine until you find an image so disturbing that you want to kill yourself.

  76. #76 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    September 27, 2007

    ok. that’s it. I’m ruined for the day.

    Merkin World

    “PURVEYORS OF THE FINEST QUALITY HAND MADE MERKINS + BODY ADORNMENT AT ITS BEST

  77. #77 Zeno
    September 27, 2007

    Fossil: How come nobody seems to recall that the President of the US in “Dr. Strangelove” (played, like most of the characters, by Peter Sellers), was named “Merkin Muffley”?

    Exactly, Fossil. Thanks for bringing it up. I was surprised it took so long for someone to mention it!

  78. #78 Jon
    September 27, 2007

    “…there are certain questions you are just not allowed to ask and certain approaches you are just not allowed to take.”

    What he really means is that if you ask certain questions and take certain approaches, people will think you’re a nutbag. Well sorry, you can’t object to that, nor can you change it. Stupid, meaningless, and/or unverifiable claims should be ignored. That’s why the science that allows you to produce your stupid movie works, and the theory that you prop up as science is utterly useless, even if it were true.

  79. #79 Blake Stacey
    September 27, 2007

    David Marjanovi? (#46):

    Whose law was it again? You know, “If you can think of it, the Japanese have done it — with schoolgirls.”

    Well, I’ve said it, but I probably wasn’t the first.

  80. #80 Kristjan Wager
    September 27, 2007

    >I remember a webcomic (but not which one) a few years ago in which the characters were playing “google seppuku”.

    Ah, that would be Ghastly’s Ghastly Comic (not that I read that sort of thing…)

  81. #81 John Phillips
    September 27, 2007

    Rev. BigDumbChimp: I like the smiley face and the RAF roundel myself :)

  82. #82 Hank Roberts
    September 27, 2007

    > a vase amount of research

    Does their site really say that? (It’s flash, I don’t see it.) If so, doesn’t this suggest cremation?

    > I didn’t realize … whorish professional liars.
    > So I fell for it.

    PJ, the guy’s a freelance business columnist. How did you miss the obvious here?

  83. #83 Alex
    September 27, 2007

    The phrase “well-groomed merkin” will now haunt me for the rest of the day. Thanks so much, PZ.

  84. #84 Kseniya
    September 27, 2007

    I’ve often seen it spelled “Murkins” (as in my fellow murkins).

    I prefer this spelling, because suggesting murkiness is more apropos than suggesting prostitution, pedophelia, venereal disease, lice, or crotch toupees. :-)

  85. #85 Christopher Heard
    September 27, 2007

    LOL, Brownian! That’s priceless.

  86. #86 Texas Reader
    September 27, 2007

    The word “supernatural” is VERY valuable in our discourse with proponents of ID. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches and the SB perspective on “supernatural” is that it represents either “satanic influences” or something bogus. They don’t consider their own beliefs to be “supernatural.” When someone asks me “what church do you go to?” (this is considered polite conversation in the southern US) I have started responding that “I don’t go to church – I don’t believe in the supernatural.” I find this is more thought provoking to the questioner than to say that “I don’t believe in God.”

  87. #87 Texas Reader
    September 27, 2007

    The word “supernatural” is VERY valuable in our discourse with proponents of ID. I grew up in Southern Baptist churches and the SB perspective on “supernatural” is that it represents either “satanic influences” or something bogus. They don’t consider their own beliefs to be “supernatural.” When someone asks me “what church do you go to?” (this is considered polite conversation in the southern US) I have started responding that “I don’t go to church – I don’t believe in the supernatural.” I find this is more thought provoking to the questioner than to say that “I don’t believe in God.”

  88. #88 David Marjanovi?, OM
    September 27, 2007

    Ah, so it’s just Internet Rule 34b. Thanks for the link, now I remember.

    Google seppuku… interesting idea… but I think there are more comfortable ways to, er… :-S

  89. #89 David Marjanovi?, OM
    September 27, 2007

    Ah, so it’s just Internet Rule 34b. Thanks for the link, now I remember.

    Google seppuku… interesting idea… but I think there are more comfortable ways to, er… :-S

  90. #90 Patrick Quigley
    September 27, 2007

    That would actually be an interesting serious movie, and that’s the one I agreed to contribute to.

    It does sound interesting. Perhaps you, Scott, Dawkins, et al. could find a more sympathetic filmaker (Brian Fleming?) to make such a movie using your comments.

  91. #91 Allin Cottrell
    September 27, 2007

    “Well-groomed merkin…”. A brilliant put-down. The best I have seen since several years ago in the Guardian (UK), when a literary critic referred to the “borborygmic gongorisms” of a writer he was disparaging. (Yes, you can Google the terms and put together an apt description.) In both cases, one can imagine the fun the writer had!

  92. #92 Timothy
    September 28, 2007

    I like how they’ve put a warning about the idiocy to follow in the title, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.”

  93. #93 Great White Wonder
    September 28, 2007

    Again with the body hair obsession.

  94. #94 zayzayem
    September 28, 2007

    I think the boldfaced part almost made me cry when I read this. It has to be the first time I’ve seen a mainstream article accurately portray ID as total cranks. Miss Dean deserves a prize, she’ll probably get nasty letters instead.

  95. #95 sajwan
    September 28, 2007

    The Holloywood rule, “Any publicity is good publicity”, while generally true, is not always true. I think fighting back in the the right way can create negative publicity for the disease addled promoters of this movie.

    The key is not attacking the movie but the suspect character of the promoters. Their movie seems like an attempted smear job on the field of science, but their “scientific” arguments are empty. Debating their “scientific” arguments only aids them in obfuscating, since it’ll be like boxing with your shadow.

    So refrain from any commentary on the basis of their argument, focus only on their dishonesty. The theme should be you don’t care what’s in the film, the only thing you are concerned about is being lied to and deceived. Being exposed as dishonest and liars is not good publicity.

  96. #96 anonymous
    September 28, 2007

    If you are worried about Ben Stein , see http://www.stopbenstein.com

  97. #97 Paul
    September 28, 2007

    Well that clears up one long standing question I had about the current US administration, namely who Bush is referring to when he addresses “My fellow merkins”;-)

  98. #98 R2K
    September 28, 2007

    : )

    Number 500,000!

    http://r2000.blogspot.com

  99. #99 Freud Wore A Slip?
    September 28, 2007

    I got much the same reaction in a meeting by saying that someone had “shot his wad”

    And how many times have we heard starch-shirted professionals brightly offer a ‘dog and pony show’?

    Guess they’ve never been to Tijuana.

  100. #100 arensb
    September 28, 2007

    Word of the day: merkin. I had to look that one up.

    It’s been around at least since the 19th century, I believe. I’ve been seeing it a lot lately, for some reason.

    Also, a friend of mine is trying to popularize the word “twatwaffle”. I just thought I’d pass that along.

  101. #101 Brownian
    September 28, 2007

    I went to the three Facebook groups (so far) that appear to be supporting and promoting the movie and left the following message on each:

    There is no conspiracy. Evolution is as open to criticism as any other science. The process by which this happens is called peer review.

    The grotesque parody of science known as Intelligent Design has not been received by the scientific community because it is not science.

    For a history of ID and its anti-science foundation in creationism, please read the Wedge Document, put out by the Discovery Institute, ID’s leading supporter: http://www.antievolution.org/features/wedge.pdf

    I thought about linking to the various articles exposing the Crossroads/Expelled switcheroo they pulled, but I thought it would be more effective to counter the Evilutionist Conspiracy angle. I don’t care about what the Followers in Christ think (sorry, I know ‘think’ is not accurate, but I’m not sure what word might be better), but I worry about the moderates who believe this crap.

  102. #102 Don Smith, FCD
    September 29, 2007

    Patrick(#49):

    Her face turned red and she got so flustered that she walked away from the table without cleaning up the spill.< \blockquote>

    Good thing you didn’t mention the mastication!

  103. #103 mschoppe
    September 29, 2007

    And how many times have we heard starch-shirted professionals brightly offer a ‘dog and pony show’?

    Guess they’ve never been to Tijuana.

    Tijuana does donkey shows, not dog and pony shows. You must be thinking of Amsterdam. : )

  104. #104 kjkent1
    September 30, 2007

    Regarding the release you apparently signed. A release is only enforceable within the scope of issues contemplated by the parties. If you signed a release which contemplates the commercial use of your identity, goodwill, copyrighted material, and the material is used for a different purpose, then that is both a violation of U.S. Copyright law, because the use is outside the scope of the license granted, and the tort of misappropriation of identity, because your personal goodwill was used for a commercial purpose without your consent.

    Without reviewing the exact text of the release, I can’t say whether or not you have a case. But, if it were me, and my intellectual property were being misappropriated, I would be in court in a hurry.

    The movie biz definitely loves good and bad publicity. However, it hates lawsuits where there’s a good chance of losing money.

    I think you’re making a mistake in not at least getting an opinion from an attorney about this issue.

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