Pharyngula

Those wacky fellas behind the movie Expelled are at it again. First, we have an
interview with Ben Stein. You can tell that the interviewer has drunk deep of the Discovery Institute spring.

Cybercast News Service: There is a segment in the film, where it’s made clear that intelligent design can open up new areas of inquiry that could improve the human condition. One involves a neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, and another scientist, Jon Wells, who indicate that given how the cells are put together, with eye toward intelligent design, and with the idea that animal cells have tiny turbines – or if viewed as tiny turbines – he was able to formulate a theory that said in the event these things malfunction and don’t properly shut down and could break apart, this is the first step on the way to cancer. He seemed to be suggesting that intelligent design theory could open up a lot of possibilities into improving the human condition. He doesn’t explicitly say ‘a cure for cancer,’ but at least providing additional insight into new areas of treatment or a better understanding of how cancer is formed. What is your reaction to that part of the film? What sort of potential is attached to research going forward?

Ben Stein: Well, I think, I wouldn’t say, if you say intelligent design is the answer and we’re all created by an intelligent designer – that does not by itself provide the cure to cancer or any other disease or does not provide any ideas about how to deal with a stroke or with the heart hammering blood into the brain. But I would say, if you accept a broader, an even broader premise than intelligent design, namely, don’t foreclose anything in your study of the human body and of the cell, then you are a lot more likely to get somewhere. I’d put it like that. I don’t think saying intelligent design just automatically gets you anywhere.

Egnor and Wells? Who in their right mind would cite those two? Egnor is a crank who argues with real oncologists, and gets everything wrong. Wells…well, there are no kind words I can say about Wells, who I regard as a catastrophically bad scholar. His idea that, because centrioles sorta kinda look like turbines, they must act like turbines, and must have been designed like human-built turbines, is an amazingly rickety construction of false logic and silly premises, and has already been falsified, and was untenable before he proposed it. The idea doesn’t follow from design, and it doesn’t work.

Ben Stein seems to be distancing himself from any exaggerated claims in his response, but he’s still fundamentally wrong. Science isn’t about following just any wild-ass idea — to do good science, you need to build on prior work and a foundation of verifiable observations. His belief that the best science is a kind of random bullshit session is utterly wrong, and is not likely to get us any farther. If it were, my ideas that the red dye leaching from fluttering American flags is the cause of mental retardation, that dried cockroaches would make an excellent dietary supplement that would improve your golf game, and that there really are flying monkeys dwelling in the colons of the Republican leadership, would all be cheerfully pursued by scientists eager to make a radical new discovery. They aren’t. Why? Because I just made them up. Science routinely dismisses weird ideas as unproductive — if there is reason to think otherwise, proponents need to make a scientific case for them.

Here’s some other interesting news: Expelled already looks like a flop. The producers are going to pay students to see their movie.

Generous donations can be awarded to schools according to the number of movie ticket stubs they turn in. By accepting this challenge, your school could be awarded a donation up to $10,000, just for bringing your kids to see this film!Your school will be awarded a donation based upon the number of ticket stubs you turn in. That structure is as follows:

  • 0-99 ticket stubs submitted = $5 per ticket stub
  • 100-299 ticket stubs submitted = $1,000 donated to your school
  • 300-499 ticket stubs submitted = $2,500 donated to your school
  • 500 ticket stubs submitted = $5,000 donated to your school

Each school across the nation will be competing for the top honor of submitting the most ticket stubs with that school having their $5,000 donation matched for a total donation of $10,000!

Let’s see. It costs a student between $6 and $10 to see a movie, paid to the theater. A chunk (a small chunk) of that goes to the theater, a larger piece to the distributor, and then whatever is left goes to pay the people who made the movie. I asked my independent movie guru, Randy Olson, how much gelt the maker gets back from a movie, and he estimated between 50% (if you do your own booking) and 25% (if you put it in the hands of experts). So let’s do the math.

If we err optimistically on the side of profit, each student pays $10 to get in, half of that ($5) goes back to the producers, and the producers then turn around and pay out $5 to the student. I’m no economist, but this does not sound like a profitable strategy.

So the movie hasn’t come out yet, there are no major movie critic reviews yet (but at least one pre-screener thought it was boring), and now we have the revelation that the producers have so little confidence in the movie that they are planning to pay people to attend.

Is that … desperation … that I smell?

Comments

  1. #1 Brownian, OM
    January 18, 2008

    I’m disappointed in Stein’s lack of–heh-heh–faith in his own bullshit.

  2. #2 Tulse
    January 18, 2008

    If we err optimistically on the side of profit, each student pays $10 to get in, half of that ($5) goes back to the producers, and the producers then turn around and pay out $5 to the student. I’m no economist, but this does not sound like a profitable strategy.

    They’ll make it up in volume.

  3. #3 Tyler DiPietro
    January 18, 2008

    “Is that … desperation … that I smell?”

    I wouldn’t be so sure, at least not yet. Propaganda flicks are rarely big money makers, and are usually funded by wealthy folks and/or astroturf organizations with an axe to grind. It’s not inconceivable that they are deliberately operating at a loss to spread to word.

  4. #4 Glen Davidson
    January 18, 2008

    Sad to say, though, they’re not going to pay the students to go, they’re paying the schools to force (or coercively “persuade” at least–look at the “mandatory” in front of the “field trips” (the scare quotes don’t evidently change anything)) the students to go.

    So as I’ve said before, the students are twice screwed, once by having to pay (or their parents, more likely), and again to have to watch Stein’s dreck. Sorry Ben, you’re even worse in Expelled than you were in Bueller, as you actually sounded sane in Bueller.

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

  5. #5 Mena
    January 18, 2008

    What these people don’t understand is that science is trial and error. If an idea is wrong, it gets corrected. Religion is just error, although they do sometimes guess correctly like in the case of the Hawaiians getting the order of the formation of each island right. They never master the idea that if something just doesn’t work it has to be wrong. No amount of wailing or gnashing of teeth will ever make ID be anything more than wishful thinking but they so desperately want it to be and that’s sad. Some people are just totally fixated on this and have memorized all of the stupid long debunked arguments and have rationalized new stupidity to repeat endlessly. Can’t they find something else to be obsessed with, like American Idol? Geez.

  6. #6 DaveX
    January 18, 2008

    I’m blaming Radiohead. They gave away an album, and it ended up making tons of money in physical sales. The Expelled folks are just following this to the “lojikal” conclusion– if you PAY THEM to see it, it’s got to make EVEN MORE money!

  7. #7 Fatboy
    January 18, 2008

    Hmm. If Expelled makes it at all to Wichita Falls, and if it makes it to the dollar theater, and if this promotion is still going on, I wouldn’t mind organizing some people to buy tickets just to get the 5 to 1 return on investment for making a donation to our schools. If all it takes is a ticket stub, and not proof that I actually sat through that piece of dreck, that wouldn’t be too bad at all.

  8. #8 gary
    January 18, 2008

    I never thought the day would arrrive when we would be getting our science from actors, but here it is. I can just see the promo for this movie: “I’m not a scientist, but I do
    play one on TV.” Funny stuff.

  9. #9 Jessa
    January 18, 2008

    PZ- I think it would be hilarious if everyone here who goes to the movie sends their ticket stubs to you. You could turn them in and then donate the money to a more worthwhile cause, like the NCSE. Or just use the money to buy beer.

  10. #10 Dustin
    January 18, 2008

    You can tell that the interviewer has drunk deep of the Discovery Institute spring.

    Mmmm… dystentery. Their guts will never be rid of the dread Entamoeba dembskii.

  11. #11 Marcus Ranum
    January 18, 2008

    Cancer… intelligently designed… Arrrgh, what, was it a flaw in “his” handiwork? In which case it’d be our duty to fix it. Or was it part of “his” plan? In which case trying to resist cancer is blasphemy.

  12. #12 Jared
    January 18, 2008

    For that matter, when you buy a ticket don’t you usually get two ticket stubs? Normally you go see the movie and the theater keeps one, but why couldn’t you tear it in half yourself and viola!, “two people went to go see this”.

    Assuming that the ticket halves are identical or that the producers can’t easily tell they are the actually the same ticket (they’re just being handed a box full of ticket stubs from any number of diffrent theaters, after all), you could get that $5000 for the purchase of only 250 tickets. Make it a matinee showing if you can and that would only cost you $5 or $6.

    Best case scenario, you could get a 4:1 ROI, even without getting the “top school” bonus. The school profits and helps bankrupt some creationist blowhards at the same time!

  13. #13 MikeM
    January 18, 2008

    I think this is really sleazy, myself. Now the producers can claim that all these students are just clamoring for information their evilution-believing teachers are dictating, and can point to ticket sales to prove their point.

    “Naturally, these students are smart, and are trying to get information the LAW prohibits them from receiving in publicly-funded schools! All we’re asking is for a chance to teach the controversy, and these students are proving they want this information. We should give it to them. We should be required to give it to them.”

    I mean, can’t you just hear those words rolling out of Ben’s mouth?

    Sleazy, sleazy, sleazy.

  14. #14 H. Humbert
    January 18, 2008

    Fatboy, the offer is good only for a limited time–the first two weeks of the movie’s release–and refunds are not even guaranteed to everyone in that time:

    Funds for the Expelled Challenge will only be distributed to those who register through the Expelled Challenge website you were just on and on a first come, first served basis in the order in which they were registered. Bottom line, funds are limited – register as soon as you can!

    HOWEVER, it is important for a movie to have a stellar showing at the box office on opening weekend. Therefore, we will only be able to accept stubs submitted within two (2) weeks of the movie releasing in your area.

    So no waiting until it hits the dollar theater. The makers have basically just admitted they are only doing this to bump up their opening weekend gross totals. Nothing like being able to tout yourself as “The number one film in America!”

  15. #15 Brownian, OM
    January 18, 2008

    Jared, now that’s an intelligently-designed plan!

  16. #16 John Pieret
    January 18, 2008

    You left out:

    [I]f they are Darwinists and they owe their jobs to being Darwinists, they are not going to challenge the orthodoxy because that would challenge the whole basis of their jobs and their lives. So they are not going to challenge the ideology that has given them lush positions in real life.

    Didn’t I tell you to stop tooling around in the Ferrari Testarossa? Just stay at home sipping your Dom Perignon so that the proletariat doesn’t catch on!

  17. #17 Bad
    January 18, 2008

    Yeah, though it makes for a good thing to rip them on, its certainly possible that they’d pull things like this funding gambit no matter what: merely because having a big box office is key to their claim to be the start of a whole new movement of mass outrage and creationist activism.

  18. #18 Jared
    January 18, 2008

    Or take the altrnate route. If opportunities to get refunds are limited, then we need to grab them all before actual schools can. Then just don’t submit a single damned ticket at all.

    Or spam them with so many bogus schools that they can’t filter out the real ones. “Sunnydale High School, CA”, “Starfleet Academy, San Francisco”, etc, etc.

  19. #19 Jay Hovah
    January 18, 2008

    “..and now we have the revelation that the producers have so little confidence in the movie that they are planning to pay people to attend.

    Is that … desperation … that I smell?”

    Smells a lot like $cientology, buy boxes of ELRON’s books to push up the sales numbers…

  20. #20 Glen Davidson
    January 18, 2008

    Science should always be in the business of attempting to disprove itself.

    Right, that’s what science is about, never coming to a reasonable conclusion, never actually using solid theories to advance understanding to deal with the world. Shithead.

    Time for that movie questioning Einsteinian orthodoxy, you know.

    Well, actually, ID has never been able to do anything except to try to disprove evolution, though it never questions itself, so of course Ben doesn’t know anything about useful theories in science.

    The one good thing he seems to espouse there, though, is skepticism. But when scientists are too skeptical to fake a theory, which the IDists are never too skeptical to do, he writes this:

    the Darwinists have no theory whatsoever about the origin of life, none whatsoever, except the most hazy, the kind of preposterous, New Age hypothesis.

    Well, idiot-boy, there are hypotheses about the origin of life, but yes, we don’t go off half-assed like some TV moron, we’re skeptical about them until they’ve proved their worth. For that we get compared to your sort, the New Agers.

    Then the real New Age woo comes out of this contradictory butthead:

    We believe there’s some possibility the cell could have an intelligence of its own.

    Oh yeah, sorry, the scientists just make hypotheses, do the chemistry experiments, write the papers, and are subjected to criticism. They could just save a lot of trouble by saying that mysterious panentheistic forces made life, and then they’d be doing real “classical science,” according to this bumbling ignoramus.

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

  21. #21 Beardedbeard
    January 18, 2008

    Is it just me or does $10,000 seems like a small reward for opening a law suite that in the end will cost the School about $1,000,000.00 lots more zeros there. I guess kids that go to private or parochial schools could go but that is literally preaching to the coir? On another note “Expelled” seems to invoke the specter of a conspiracy, one of my history professors always got angry about those theories because “it would require people to keep secrets, and one true thing about all people is that they can’t keep secrets.”

  22. #22 Dustin
    January 18, 2008

    According to the new ad banners on Scienceblogs intelligent design can cure pollution. Even Scienceblogs is convinced that Ben Stein is right! When will the Darwinists end their cartel on truth?

  23. #23 PZ Myers
    January 18, 2008

    There are catches to the deal. You need to register ahead of time as an entity that will be promoting the movie — so they can narrow it down to just schools. Otherwise, I’d apply so I could get a $5 rebate on my movie ticket.

    The other catch is that this is only valid for the first two weeks after the opening of the movie. They really want to pack ‘em in for the opening weekend. So waiting for it to hit the dollar matinee market, or better yet, the free church basement market, isn’t going to work. Sorry.

  24. #24 Rey Fox
    January 18, 2008

    Lost Your Faith In Fossil Fuels? Why Not Lose The Rest Of It Too?

  25. #25 Glen Davidson
    January 18, 2008

    Of course I don’t think that there’s going to be much trouble ripping Expelled to shreds, in front of anyone who listens. With the woo of Egnor, and the “predictions” Wells fakes as having come from ID (which are still wrong), being prominent features of this travesty, we’re talking about junk that had fallen apart well before they took the first frame of that “movie”.

    I was more concerned about mysterious people shrouded in the shadows making claims which sound plausible to the naive, without, of course, any sort of backing to it. That’s all that they should have done (they reportedly did do some of that), certainly, taken a page from ID by making claims which cannot actually be finally and completely refuted.

    But Wells and Egnor? Good grief, their woo will offend most of the fundamentalists, while Stein’s “We believe there’s some possibility the cell could have an intelligence of its own” will offend even more (though it’ll almost certainly be left out of the movie itself). Their “experts” have had their claims already discredited, they’re saying things which are actually heresy to most of the YECs who lap up anti-evolutionism, and they’re having to pay to get numbers for their opening weekend.

    There can’t be a gram of self-respect shared among the entire Expelled team. And it takes a lot of arrogance and bullshit to make up for having no integity or self-respect.

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

  26. #26 Gene Goldring
    January 18, 2008

    I was wondering if anyone was going to mention the illegality of a public school taking their students to the movie. Beardedbeard beat me to it.

  27. #27 Steven Carr
    January 18, 2008

    Is Jonathan Wells really claiming that human organs only become cancerous because they were intelligently designed?

    No intelligent design = no cancer?

  28. #28 Hank Fox
    January 18, 2008

    Once the movie goes DVD, at least we can all vote to blackball it at that online bookstore mentioned in PZ’s post of a few days ago. :D

  29. #29 Dan
    January 18, 2008

    Let’s use Wells’ logic and have a bit of fun, shall we?

    PZ? Now, you’ve got ten fingers, ten toes, two arms, and two legs like Brad Pitt. Plus, you’ve got hair on your head and a beard.

    So, what I would like to know is, what is sex with Angelina Jolie like? And, how do you really feel about her filling your house with all these kids from Africa and Asia? And, what the hell were you thinking making The Mexican?

    Oh! And can you get me Clooney’s autograph?

  30. #30 MAJeff
    January 18, 2008

    Oh! And can you get me Clooney’s autograph?

    Hell, after all that, can he get me Clooney?

  31. #31 PZ Myers
    January 18, 2008

    Yeah, and Behe thinks the designer designed malaria to specifically afflict people. The god of ID is a right mean bastard.

    I actually thought The Mexican wasn’t bad.

    I’ll ask George next time I see him.

  32. #32 LisaJ
    January 18, 2008

    Wow. I have just recently happened upon your blog, so this is the first I’ve heard about this movie and your interview with them. I followed all the links on this story, and just finished watching the trailers on the website for this stupid movie. I am appalled! That Bill O’Reilly interview (with Ben Stein) they have on their website is ridiculous – I am so mad after watching that crap! It’s just so frightening to me to see that such a vast majority of the population, and even worse the media that is in the position of educating the public, believes in such insane ideas! People just eat up the words of journalists and celebrities without asking if there’s any truth to them, and that is just horrifying and frightening. Thankfully the film seems to be so poorly organized that hopefully few people will see it.

  33. #33 Bob O'H
    January 18, 2008

    Science isn’t about following just any wild-ass idea…

    Quite. It’s about following any wild-ass idea that will get funded.

    That’s what you meant, wasn’t it?

    Bob

  34. #34 RickD
    January 18, 2008

    “..that there really are flying monkeys dwelling in the colons of the Republican leadership, would all be cheerfully pursued by scientists eager to make a radical new discovery.”

    I’m smelling a grant proposal!

  35. #35 justawriter
    January 18, 2008

    red dye leaching from fluttering American flags is the cause of mental retardation

    Ooooh, I could just see the journal article now… Myer’s Syndrome: Cognitive deficits caused by wrapping oneself with the flag.

  36. #36 hoary puccoon
    January 18, 2008

    Gosh, has anyone thought that a school could get accepted for the rebate, and then ask everybody in the audience for their ticket stubs so the school would get a huge rebate WITHOUT SENDING ANY KIDS TO THE MOVIE AT ALL???!!! Or maybe they could just print up a roll of tickets and send in the stubs from that!!!

    Gee, the whole setup is so VULNERABLE to MANIPULATION, isn’t it??? I hope everone warns their local schools that they can GAME THE SYSTEM!!! Because we all know that good Christians would never want to do anything unethical for monetary gain, now would they?

  37. #37 raven
    January 18, 2008

    This is just Goebbel’s idea. Lie big and lie often. Pure propaganda unencumbered with any truth or reason.

    It’s a fundie Xian thing. You wouldn’t understand.

    The target audience is mostly private fundie Xian schools. It’s not like they are going to critically examine it.

    I would guess as a cult sectarian propaganda film, it would most likely be illegal for public schools to even show it. Certainly as part of a science class it would be.

  38. #38 peter garayt
    January 18, 2008

    Reminds me of when some booksellers were re-odering books from scientology and receiving the same copies they had allready sold. How did they Know? The books had the buyers stickers still on them. Scientology was sending their clones out to mass buy the books and they couldn’t be bothered to remove the price tags from the store they had allready sold them too.

  39. #39 thadd
    January 18, 2008

    “Yeah, and Behe thinks the designer designed malaria to specifically afflict people. The god of ID is a right mean bastard.”

    You are so wrong it isn’t funny, Malaria was invented by Jesus to help us understand homeopathic medicine. Duh.

  40. #40 MAJeff
    January 18, 2008

    “Yeah, and Behe thinks the designer designed malaria to specifically afflict people. The god of ID is a right mean bastard.”

    Why should he be any different than the god of the bible?

  41. #41 Bert Chadick
    January 18, 2008

    We could conceivably see the “Passion of the Christ” effect that had millions of snake handlers flocking to their theaters to view that bit of Jesus porn. It’s a social viral thing having nothing to do with the quality of the production. I suggest that after the scam that is the Discovery Institute unravels the eventual book about the scandal should be titled “Stealing Ben Stein’s Money”.

  42. #42 thadd
    January 18, 2008

    Yesterday Skepchick had Stein’s email up BENSTEIN@aol.com , and someone at that address replied to my comments by saying, “What a fool you are. The movie is not even completed yet and you have not seen it.”

    So, apparently it isn’t finished yet, and Ben Stein is rude.

  43. #43 MAJeff
    January 18, 2008

    , and Ben Stein is rude.

    It’s Ben Stein. He worked for Nixon. This is not generally the sign of a nice person.

  44. #44 Jyotsana
    January 18, 2008

    0-99 ticket stubs would get me $5 each? Zero? Really? I’ve got zero ticket stubs right here…where’s my five bucks?!

  45. #45 Molly, NYC
    January 18, 2008

    Stein’s got this thing that happens to a lot of otherwise intelligent people: Brainy people–especially if they get their butts kissed a lot, like celebrities and physicians–are often prone to believe that, since they’re smart about one thing or another, then they’re smart about everything else, even when they’ve only digested (maybe!) the same dumbed-down- into-sound-bites version made palatable to the more slack-jawed portion of general public. (And you don’t get any more dumbed-down-into-sound-bites than ID.)

    (Actually, you don’t have to be brainy–even stupid people will do this if they get enough butt-kissing. Look at Bush.)

    Real science types are less prone to this, because knowing what the hell you’re talking about, and being known for knowing what the hell you’re talking about, is a scientist’s capital. Moreover, in science, details count (because usually, details are exactly what you’re looking at), so you can’t gloss over the ones that don’t support you (a point often lost on the general public).

    It would be nice to explain this stuff to Stein, but he seems too arrogant to accept that some dowdy guy who whiled away his youth away from politics or the entertainment industry, getting a professorship in molecular biology or geology might actually know more science than a former Nixon speechwriter.

  46. #46 tinyfrog
    January 18, 2008

    if viewed as tiny turbines – he was able to formulate a theory that said in the event these things malfunction and don’t properly shut down and could break apart, this is the first step on the way to cancer.

    So – if it leads to cancer, then this shows the usefulness of ID theory. If it doesn’t lead to cancer, it means the intelligent designer did even deeper design to prevent it from leading to cancer (praise God!), and that just shows how incredibly deep and complex the design is.

  47. #47 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 18, 2008
    Science should always be in the business of attempting to disprove itself.

    Right, that’s what science is about, never coming to a reasonable conclusion, never actually using solid theories to advance understanding to deal with the world. Shithead.

    Science is constantly in the business of disproving hypotheses. What Stein doesn’t seem to get is that it sometimes fails to disprove testable hypotheses. 150 years of observation and experiment, and evolution by mutation, selection & drift still isn’t disproven… it’s not like we hadn’t tried!

  48. #48 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 18, 2008
    Science should always be in the business of attempting to disprove itself.

    Right, that’s what science is about, never coming to a reasonable conclusion, never actually using solid theories to advance understanding to deal with the world. Shithead.

    Science is constantly in the business of disproving hypotheses. What Stein doesn’t seem to get is that it sometimes fails to disprove testable hypotheses. 150 years of observation and experiment, and evolution by mutation, selection & drift still isn’t disproven… it’s not like we hadn’t tried!

  49. #49 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    see, what happened with Ben Stein is that after a couple of years of “Win Ben Stein’s Money”, he lost all of his money to the many, many people who actually are in fact smarter than he.

    now he’s in the unenviable position of whoring himself to the lowest common denominator just to make a buck.

    that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.

  50. #50 Cuttlefish, OM
    January 18, 2008

    An audience they seem to lack
    And so, they try the odds to stack
    And hope the movie picks up slack
    Before the critics all attack.

    The theatre they’ll try to pack,
    Fill every seat from front to back,
    And if it is too small a shack
    The viewers there will have to stack.

    It’s going to cost a lot of smack
    To get this movie in the black,
    But Jesus is their quarterback…

    Or else they’re all just high on crack.

    (Apologies to Dr. Seuss.)

  51. #51 Zeekster
    January 18, 2008

    On the movie website (getexpelled.com) they have a travel blog. In one entry the blogger mentioned that their science expert was done on their tour so that this guy now had to field all the science questions, despite his lack of knowledge. He actually said he practically failed biology and was terrible at science. So my comment was something about wishing they had a science expert to discuss this science topic and all. Not only did they not post my comment but they went back and edited the blog entry itself to remove where the guy admits complete lack of knowledge in science. Ug! I left them yet another comment in reponse pleading for them to care about our children’s educations and asking them to reply to be via email since they will likely not post that comment either – you know, since they obviously want me “expelled” from the web site.

  52. #52 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    One involves a neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor [that no longer performs any surgery], and another scientist [that hasn’t done any science since he received his PhD], Jon Wells,

    *yawn*

    next.

  53. #53 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    I don’t think saying intelligent design just automatically gets you anywhere nowhere.

    there, fixed.

  54. #54 Glen Davidson
    January 18, 2008

    Science is constantly in the business of disproving hypotheses. What Stein doesn’t seem to get is that it sometimes fails to disprove testable hypotheses. 150 years of observation and experiment, and evolution by mutation, selection & drift still isn’t disproven… it’s not like we hadn’t tried!

    And on that score, ID is as pitiful as it is at everything else. For, no one has come up with a bit of evidence in favor of ID, and I can’t even think of a single new criticism of evolution from these yahoos either, just a repackaging of “looks complex, so God musta did it.”

    Although I don’t think I’ve seen an ID proponent say that cells might have directed evolution themselves before. It’s still not new, indeed it’s an old misconception that many creationists have attacked, but it is an interestingly desperate and cloddish resort to try to reclaim something from the sack of shit that ID is.

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

  55. #55 thadd
    January 18, 2008

    “see, what happened with Ben Stein is that after a couple of years of “Win Ben Stein’s Money”, he lost all of his money to the many, many people who actually are in fact smarter than he.

    now he’s in the unenviable position of whoring himself to the lowest common denominator just to make a buck.

    that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it.”

    He got fat.
    Nothing wrong like that, I’m fat, I am just saying is all.

  56. #56 Helioprogenus
    January 18, 2008

    I’m surprised PZ can smell the desperation when there are so many offensive odors coming out of the intelligent design movement. All the bullshit, horseshit, putrifying intestinal anearobic bacterial consumption, liquified animal remains in storage vats at industrial meat processing centers, decaying 8 day old whale carcass on the beach in the middle of a hot and humid summer afternoon…..well you get the idea. So out of all this overwhelming nosmatic rancor, desperation is hard to single out.

  57. #57 Bobby
    January 18, 2008

    The makers have basically just admitted they are only doing this to bump up their opening weekend gross totals. Nothing like being able to tout yourself as “The number one film in America!”

    I wonder what people would say if a non-propaganda commercial film did that.

  58. #58 Bobby
    January 18, 2008

    Is it just me or does $10,000 seems like a small reward for opening a law suite that in the end will cost the School about $1,000,000.00 lots more zeros there.

    The Discovery Institute doesn’t care about the schools; a suit would give them another persecution to harp on, with someone else doing the suffering.

    And the True Believers on the school board won’t care either, because brainwashing the kiddies is more important to them than upholding a public trust.

  59. #59 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    because brainwashing the kiddies is more important to them than upholding a public trust.

    I think one could easily make the argument that they think brainwashing kids IS upholding a public trust.

    they don’t want kids to go to hell, after all.

    I’m sure they only have good intentions…

  60. #60 Bobby
    January 18, 2008

    It’s just so frightening to me to see that such a vast majority of the population […] believes in such insane ideas!

    If you want scary, browse some of the quotes at the Fundies Say the Darnedest Things web site.

    Thankfully the film seems to be so poorly organized that hopefully few people will see it.

    Surely it’s going to fail due to covert actions of the darwinianismist conspiracy, rather than to any flaws of its own.

  61. #61 Mercurious
    January 18, 2008

    I actually think I might have a good idea how to counter this movie. This site is pretty well filled with science geeks I’d hazard a guess. What if each one of us went to a few showings of this. Yes I know, it’d be like pulling teeth. But during each quotation of ID “fact” we laugh uproariously. Then when asked why we were laughing so much we explain what the REAL science is. Maybe it’d show just how little the movie is worth in a scientific forum.

  62. #62 Bing McGhandi
    January 18, 2008

    The spiffy thing is how they are paying Christian students to go to the movie. Hm, I wonder why that is?

    HJ

  63. #63 Severian
    January 18, 2008

    So how many of you will be doing what I do and buying a ticket for a different showing around the same time at my theater and then ducking into see Expelled?

  64. #64 Miko
    January 18, 2008

    Each school across the nation will be competing for the top honor of submitting the most ticket stubs

    *sigh* First they redefined “science,” now they want to redefine “honor.”

  65. #65 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    So how many of you will be doing what I do and buying a ticket for a different showing around the same time at my theater and then ducking into see Expelled?

    one, i don’t believe in self-flagellation, so i see little point in exposing myself to this.

    two, there is nothing new in it for it to even consider exposing myself to intellectual torture to begin with.

    I’m more than content to let others with cast iron stomachs peruse it and then i can laugh at the inevitable reviews showing it to be what it obviously is: insanity.

  66. #66 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    there is nothing new in it for it me…

  67. #67 Sastra, OM
    January 18, 2008

    A lot of popular, fairly successful documentaries feed into people’s craving for conspiracies. I would still love to see Expelled shown as a double feature with What the (Bleep) Do We Know. The combination of anti-materialism, pro-spirituality, and rogue scientists trying to “buck the system” and reveal amazing truths which will re-enchant the universe should bring together an interesting audience.

  68. #68 Brownian, OM
    January 18, 2008

    Every time somebody brings up What the (Bleep) Do We Know, I like to mention that I have an aunt who was fleeced by JZ Knight (AKA Ramtha) and her ‘ancient wisdom’ cult. I think she’s now giving all her dough to that Brazilian faith healer, Joo de Deus.

    Hey, if you come from a family of kooks, might as well take advantage.

  69. #69 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    should bring together an interesting audience.

    hmm, I think we might have vastly different definitions of “interesting”.

    :p

  70. #70 Scott Hatfield, OM
    January 18, 2008

    EVERYONE STOP. PLEASE LISTEN.

    Sorry for shouting, but the general tone on this thread is bemusement that the producers of Expelled would ‘bribe’ schools to send students, as if this is a sign of what a failure this is. Ho hum, silly creationists, they can’t get anything wrong, another tempest in a teapot. If that’s your attitude, I’m sorry, you are 100 PERCENT WRONG.

    Allow me to explain. These schools are disposed to favor ID already for the most part, but many of them would not ordinarily participate simply because schools (yes, even Christian schools) are hotbeds of competing activity. Without an incentive or strong leadership, even hardcore fundy schools are not that likely to participate simply because teachers and staff have so many demands on their time.

    But offer the school site a significant prize, and lo and behold, the full apparatus of administrative support is likely to manifest itself. Virtually all schools are chronically underfunded and looking for new, even one-shot revenue streams. The financial inducement is a clever strategy, because it will tip the scales in an area that is already conducive to being tipped—for both ideological and financial reasons.

    Further, they are, according to the link, offering how much cash per school? 300 ticket stubs gets you a $2,500!! My friends, it might take as few as two teachers at a given school making viewing the film a required assignment to reach that goal. $2,500 is more than three times my annual classroom budget for supplies, so the incentive is definitely there.

    And yet, $2,500 is a healthy percentage of the original film’s profit for 300 tickets sold, as well. You’re not going to get rich giving away 80 percent of the gross sold to a key demographic, so if this is the scheme, I draw three conclusions:

    1) Expelled is a very modest, low-budget type of offering that doesn’t need to make a huge profit to be considered a success, as long as enough people see it;

    2) They will succeed in getting many more people come to the film than would otherwise buy a ticket;

    3) They have deep enough pockets that they aren’t worrying that much about whether this venture is profitable.

    Add it all up, and we’ve got something that’s going to have a considerable impact rebuilding the cottage industry of creationism within the churches. And make no mistake, that’s the real motive, pumping up the market for creationism within Christianity. We can mock it from the outside for their marketing tactics, but the Christians who buy into this will see the financial incentives as a ‘love offering’ to Christian education, and they will be well-disposed to show it. I further predict that 6-12 months after it leaves the theatres many copies of this film will be purchased/donated by Christian high schools.

    Anyway, that’s my two cents. This film is going to make a big splash with the audience they are targetting, and it’s going to cause problems for real science education, and it needs to be challenged. In particular, the slimy, under-handed way it was produced should be put out there, and those associated with the film’s production should be challenged to justify it.

  71. #71 Mercurious
    January 18, 2008

    You made very good comments Scott. Thats one reason why I suggested we should go and make comments that falsify what the movie states. We could we make up a page here (or some where else to give PZ a few less headaches) on counter-points to refute the movie. I do take this very seriously. They are not only simply trying to present another view, but they are attempting to undermine the entire foundation on what science is. Your average Joe on the street is so woefully uneducated in what constitutes science they’ll buy anything. Throw in the religious implications behind the theme and this could have very serious consequences. Lets just look at the battles going on in Texas and Florida. The public is being bombarded with “teach the controversy”, “fair and balanced”, “Evolution is only a theory”. Let me ask this. What has the public at large heard from the real scientists? It can’t be here and there. I’d say we need to at the very least bombard the public with just as much or more information. We are starting to make some inroads in that but over all its a mighty small voice to the noise ID is making.

    Honestly I don’t see the movie making much of an impact in the theaters. BUT just how much will it make once its out on DVD and much more available. What do you want to bet that a large number of DVD’s will show up on the doorsteps of public school teachers who would look favorably at ID? How many will be shown in classrooms? Those of us with a good understanding of science can see through the smoke and mirrors. But just how many High School teenagers can?

    As I see it the Religious Right is making a huge multi-pronged attack looking for that one place they can gain a foothold. As soon as they get one positive ruling then they can and will use it ruthlessly to corrupt as much of our “secular” society as possible. I remember reading a comment on another board ( I think Panda’s Thumb ) about a guy who was boasting that some school board was “bought and paid for”. These are people who are seeing a decrease in church participation, an increase in Islamic threats and an increasing “attack” on their very foundations of how society should be. I’ll be frankly honest. I’m scared shitless of what these people want to do. And its not just the fundies. They defiantly have the ear of many of the more moderate christians.

    What can we do to stem this tide? I don’t know. But I know I’m defiantly going to do what I can where I can to help the cause of rationality.

  72. #72 Crudely Wrott
    January 18, 2008

    beardedbeard touches on an important point in his comment #21:

    “On another note “Expelled” seems to invoke the specter of a conspiracy, one of my history professors always got angry about those theories because “it would require people to keep secrets, and one true thing about all people is that they can’t keep secrets.”

    People are really lousy at keeping secrets. And scientists are probably lousier than the average person.

    Science is an intensely personal pursuit when one is struggling alone to understand some small bit of data that doesn’t fit comfortably into current theory. But science is also an intensely social when someone discovers why that datum seems out of place. In fact, as the body of scientific knowledge continues to expand exponentially, the need for social interaction increases. This is obvious since there is more information to be accounted for than one can be reasonably expected to stuff into one’s memory and be able to reliably recall. One must have a large network of friends, colleagues, advisers, researchers, et cetera, just to keep up. (See Asimov’s delightful essay, “The Sound of Heavy Breathing.”)

    Most of the advances made in science are made by individuals in the early years of their careers. Most young people, scientists included, are socially oriented. That is, they tend to gather together frequently and discuss what they are doing, what they know, and what they have just learned. They do this with a remarkable degree of enthusiasm, occasionally fueled with alcohol, in environments packed with the potential for new relationships, new information, new insight. In such a heady and exciting scenario, people, well, people talk. They give liberally of themselves and drink deeply of others. It is the very glue of society. Any society.

    Look at your own experience for examples; you’ve just discovered that something that had always puzzled you is suddenly understandable in light of new information or a fortunate insight. You are excited. You now understand a mystery. You’re not going to tell anyone? Ever?

    This is the number one stumbling block for conspiracies. Since the conspiracies alluded to by Egnor, Wells, Behe and the preacher down the street involve such broad ranging (Universal, even) scenarios, and the broader they are the more individuals must be involved, we are asked to accept at face value the claim that all, ALL! of them never let the cat out of the bag.

    Such an idea, though not statistically impossible, is so contrary to experience as to be dismissable upon first hearing.

    Mark Twain got it right when he said something like, “Four people can keep a secret if three of them are dead.” Someone can correct me on the actual numbers, but the implication is dead on.

    E Pluribus Unum

  73. #73 Mercurious
    January 18, 2008

    Btw. Sort of on topic. But a very good article just popped up on Richard Dawkins.net

    http://richarddawkins.net/article,2139,n,n

  74. #74 Kristine
    January 18, 2008

    I’ll be frankly honest. I’m scared shitless of what these people want to do. And its not just the fundies. They defiantly have the ear of many of the more moderate christians.

    Well, I for one am glad that Stein took off his shoe to reveal his holey “Global Warming Dissent” sock.

    I say we should yank their intelligent design crapola and global warming denial together as much as possible. One is going to sink before the other, so let’s turn that to our advantage.

  75. #75 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    I say we should yank their intelligent design crapola and global warming denial together as much as possible. One is going to sink before the other, so let’s turn that to our advantage.

    don’t forget HIV denialism, too. that’s Nelson’s bit of extra baggage.

    yes, their tent is so large now, it’s very likely to collapse under its own weight.

  76. #76 SKFK
    January 18, 2008

    “You can tell that the interviewer has drunk deep of the Discovery Institute spring.”

    Of course. It’s from Cybercast News Service, formerly known as Conservative News Service. The interview is credited to Kevin Mooney, who got his journalism degree from Pat Robertson’s Regent University.

  77. #77 MAJeff
    January 18, 2008

    don’t forget HIV denialism, too.

    And somewhere, an internet beacon is lit.

  78. #78 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    oh crap.

    :p

  79. #79 Brian McEnnis
    January 18, 2008

    On the movie website (getexpelled.com) they have a travel blog. In one entry the blogger mentioned that their science expert was done on their tour so that this guy now had to field all the science questions, despite his lack of knowledge.

    When the Expelled road show passed through Ohio last month, I took an audio recorder along to one of the roadshow revival meetings. This is what I got.

    You have to wade through quite a bit of dreck before you get to the “science expert” who was supposed to explain the “science” of Intelligent Design. We got to see lovely pictures of “molecular machines” while the “expert” made whooshing noises to convince us just how complicated everything was. Far too complicated for evolution … had to be an Intelligent Designer behind it all.

    The sound quality’s not the greatest – I didn’t ask if I could stick a microphone in their faces – but you should be able to assess the level of insanity involved.

    At the end, an audience member (not me) let them know that they were full of shit. There were at least a few sane people in attendance.

  80. #80 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    while the “expert” made whooshing noises to convince us just how complicated everything was.

    LMAO!

    do the whooshing noises show up on the tape well?

  81. #81 Brian McEnnis
    January 18, 2008

    do the whooshing noises show up on the tape well?

    To be honest, I don’t know. I lost too many brain cells just sitting through the original that I’ve dared not listen to the whole recording again. Maybe some brave soul can report back to us.

  82. #82 Brian McEnnis
    January 18, 2008

    do the whooshing noises show up on the tape well?

    Yes.

    I’ve risked the loss of brain cells and revisited the recording. He starts burbling about machines around 58:40 of the recording. The whooshing noises come in just after the hour mark.

    Sorry about the poor quality of the recording. The room was large and the PA system was echoing. But the whooshing comes through clearly.

  83. #83 Ichthyic
    January 18, 2008

    I think I’ll dl it just to hear that remarkable exposition of science known as the whooshing sound.

  84. #84 negentropyeater
    January 18, 2008

    The only new idea of Intelligent Design is to have replaced the word “God” with “Intelligent Designer”.
    The sad thing is that it will probably work : afterall, for the science illeterate “intelligent designer” does sound like a scientific term , and that will probably be sufficient to make them believe that the “Intelligent Designer Hypothesis” is more scientific than the “God Hypothesis”.
    And even more believable when it is presented by such an eminent scientist as Ben Stein, who will most probably be awarded a Doctoris Honoris Causa in Creation Science quite soon…

  85. #85 Crudely Wrott
    January 19, 2008

    negentropyeater, that is the crux of the matter. No matter what blather is thrown to the crowd there will be those in the crowd who just love it. They will cheer the louder and jump up and down and then the mob effect will occur. Some people like to make noise just because they can. And because others are loud. A herd instinct, I think. Like a rock concert post 1970. Making a louder noise than the band is a sign of having had a good time. But when asked about the music there is only silence save a common rejoinder that it must have been good else we would not have paid for the tickets.

  86. #86 Rick Schauer
    January 19, 2008

    I think this is great news.

    Imagine this, with Ben being jewish and his jewish/xtian movie premise being soundly drubbed, perhaps the “peaceful jewish nation” of israel and the jesus campers will be drubbed with it. Just think, the muslems would have no one to fight and we could finally find world peace…wishful thinking?

  87. #87 Ric
    January 19, 2008

    Molly @ 45: “Brainy people–especially if they get their butts kissed a lot, like celebrities and physicians–are often prone to believe that, since they’re smart about one thing or another, then they’re smart about everything else”

    Well said. It’s the fallacy of false authority applied to the self.

  88. #88 Nerull
    January 19, 2008

    My local theatre has $3.50 tickets during the day, and $5.50 during prime hours.

    If I organized something at my uni to go and laugh at his during daytime hours (say, between classes), we could get more money out of it than we spend…

  89. #89 hoary puccoon
    January 20, 2008

    Brian McEnnis–

    Did you say, “lovely pictures of molecular machines?” Did you happen to notice who made the pictures? Because ERV, aka Abbie Smith, found out the “lovely pictures of molecular machines” that William Dembski used in his talk at Norman, Oklahoma, were pirated from Harvard.

    After Abbie blew the whistle on him, I thought the deal was that the Disco Institute would stop using the Harvard stuff illegally. A lot of us saw the Harvard tape when the whole scandal blew up. I’ll try to wade through your link and see if it’s the Harvard tape.

  90. #90 hoary puccoon
    January 20, 2008

    Rats. I noticed after you posted that your tape is audio only. Brian, do you think you would recognize the graphics you saw, if you saw them again? This seems suspiciously like a case of plagiarism and piracy.

  91. #91 hoary puccoon
    January 20, 2008

    Third post in a row. Hope this goes through. You can see the Harvard video on the Pandasthumb thread, “DI: Expleeled for plagiarism.” Are those the same “lovely pictures of ‘molecular machines’ that Stein is using to promote a commercial film?

  92. #92 Brian McEnnis
    January 20, 2008

    I have looked at the Harvard video posted at DI-Expelled for Plagiarism. There’s nothing in that video that I recognize as being used in the Expelled road show.

  93. #93 Monkey's Uncle
    January 21, 2008

    I wonder if we will get this ‘film’ over here in the UK?

    I’m sort of torn, do I go to see it in a spirit of fun and amusement (there’s not much to laugh at in many recent films, unless you think that talking chipmunks and bees are funny…yawn), or do I rightly shun the dross and not line their pockets with my hard earned?

    I SUPPOSE that being of an open mind and a rational thinker means I should at least consider seeing their argument…but in the back of my mind I see myself snorting so hard I ingest Diet Coke through my nose, an altogether unpleasant experience which I do not care to repeat. The last time was at the ‘Passion of the Christ’, when I laughed so loudly I got thrown out of the cinema, with ugly brown coke stains down my t-shirt. Sigh.
    So what shall I do? I lay myself open to your direction, Pharyngulites….

  94. #94 ATM
    January 21, 2008

    At least you could go and get paid to riff this movie “Mystery Science Theatre” Style.

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