Pharyngula

Randy Olson on science and media

Randy Olson doesn’t like you. He says some very harsh things about the science blogs readership on the Skepticality podcast — you guys are all just so darn mean to him. This is all very unfortunate, because he does have some good things to say, but he’s also taking disagreement very personally, and is seeing things only through the lens of the filmmaker,which is skewing his perspective away from some significant points, at the same time that it’s giving him some useful and interesting views.

For instance, he criticizes my response to the event in which I got kicked out of a movie theater — the problem, he says, was that I was drawing attention to an event in which I had nothing to sell, while they did, and that’s a mistake. I certainly do have something to sell: myself (which I find personally important, even if no one else does), the blog Pharyngula, and the science of evolution. I don’t have a movie, but most people don’t; it’s a case of the Olson blinders to think that the only thing that matters is your movie. I managed to sell Pharyngula quite well, and got a lasting 30-50% increase in traffic, as well as more attention from the media.

The other thing he’s missing is what we accomplished with Expelled. Again, we don’t have a competing movie to promote, so we couldn’t very well peddle a positive message about our alternative cinema experience. Instead, we had to show that Expelled was a profoundly dishonest movie on all levels; we impeached its credibility successfully. The reviews tell the story, that they all point out how wretchedly false the story of the movie was. We can’t stop people from attending the movie, but we can weaken its utility as a tool for the creationist movement.

And that’s where we won. The podcast continues to falsely claim that the movie was a success, quoting box office figures. Wrong message. This movie was a flop: it lost money. Even more significantly, it failed with its intended audience. Remember, creationism is huge in this country, and a movie that taps into that base has got an automatic edge, which is how it managed to get millions in gross receipts. However, that’s also where it failed. It did not get any momentum at all with the evangelical audience, with a steady, rapid decline in attendance from day one. This is a movie that is coasting on Christian gullibility, but is getting no traction at all. Part of it is that the movie started with no credibility, but I suspect another part of its failure was in its marketing: ads on The Daily Show sound impressive to us, but weren’t going to draw in likely attendees, and using a rock-and-roll soundtrack and the image of rebelliousness is also not going to woo the evangelical crowd. Daily Show ads would have probably been very effective for Olson’s movie, Flock of Dodos, but they were wasted effort for this one.

One thing Olson is entirely correct on is that likability is important. I have no illusions that I’m a charming fellow, but in my public talks you may have noticed that everyone complains that I don’t breathe fire or eviscerate any creationists on the podium. That’s intentional — going all Lewis Black only works when you’ve got an audience that already agrees with you. However, the other essential component of a successful media strategy has got to be strength. Haven’t we learned that yet from years of watching Republican political tactics? They don’t win on just presenting perspectives agreeable to their electorate, but by being vicious bastards who won’t compromise. Olson is telling us to be like Jimmy Carter, and ignoring the fact that the environment right now is dominated by the likes of Dick Cheney, unlikable thug. Even worse is that he’s forgetting that it was Carter vs. Reagan, who was both likable and put up a good illusion of strength.

What we really need is someone who is fiercely likable, someone who can be admired while they’re fighting for science. I fear that what everyone else is calling for is the scientist as friendly, unchallenging wimp who will make the public feel safe and able to go on believing whatever nonsense they want … when what we really need is someone to shake up the bogosity of the general public’s delusions.

Comments

  1. #1 JimboB
    May 23, 2008

    I saw Flock of Dodos… not that great of a movie. It was a little too Michael Mooreish for my taste.

    The extended interviews were interesting though.

  2. #2 BadMA
    May 23, 2008

    I agree with PZ. The nice quiet ones don’t cause any trouble, but no one listens to them either. Also, publicity like that may have been good for an immediate boost in ticket sales, but ultimately led to its sharp decline. Keep it up, PZ!

  3. #3 Tim Fuller
    May 23, 2008

    They need to be SHOUTED down. It’s sad but true. If you want a prescient example see the Chris Matthews clip where he corners the young dude spouting off about appeasement and Chamberlain. Me, I would have just cut the guy’s mic.

    You are not going to ‘reason’ with people who believe that religion is reasonable or that torture is reasonable.

    Enjoy.

  4. #4 armillary
    May 23, 2008

    So where’s Carl Sagan when we need him?
    What do you mean, he’s dead?! Lousy excuse if you ask me…

  5. #5 folgsam
    May 23, 2008

    What about Richard Dawkins? He seems to fit the needs.

  6. #6 Dennis N
    May 23, 2008

    Too British

  7. #7 Christianjb
    May 23, 2008

    I find Dawkins to be an extremely likable person. However, (so I’m told) he’s got a reputation as being a fantastically arrogant and snide pompous ass. This shows to me that it’s not how you say it, it really is the content of the message. I suspect that if Dawkins had gotten famous for writing books about chipmunks, he would be perceived by the very same people as a lovable Brit.

    Also, look at TV chef Gordon Ramsey. He’s far ruder than even the most ‘militant’ atheist- but he’s a housewife’s favorite.

    I suspect that most ‘militant’ atheists are actually no ruder than anyone else with a cause to push. In fact, I can’t think of any famous atheist who I wouldn’t want to have a coffee with. (Umm, with the possible exception of Hitchens after a three night bender.)

    Atheists are considered rude only because they break the social taboos proscribing critical analysis of religion. But, throughout history it’s always been rude to talk about any civil rights issues.

  8. #8 alex
    May 23, 2008

    i’ll drink to that.

  9. #9 ellazimm
    May 23, 2008

    I found Mr Olson’s comments depressing because if the fight for science becomes a campaign of glitz and style then who will care about the truth? I don’t really want to get into an escalation of who’s got the best, funniest video or who’s got the most charming, likeable spokesman.

    That aside: I vote for Michael Shermer. Or Phil Plaitt. Or Dr Sanford.

  10. #10 simmi
    May 23, 2008

    As long as we’re making nominations, how about Neil deGrasse Tyson?

  11. #11 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    Not answering attacks is about the worst tactic imaginable.

    Dukakis thought he could ignore attacks, Clinton knew that he could not. Which of the two did better?

    Olson simply doesn’t seem to know much about down and dirty fighting.

    None of us particularly cared if Myers boosted attendance at Expelled, because Myers was going to undermine its message. Well he probably did boost attendance, and it seems that while very few uncommitted folk have been persuaded in favor of ID, many seem to recognize that Expelled is sleaze.

    I have sometimes wondered if it would have been better if the movie had even greater attendance, since ID really came off badly in the movie and in discussions of the movie. In any event, while the movie had moderate (money-losing) success in simply causing a ruckus, they’ve ended up being defensive over what the movie portrayed, hence it probably has hurt them.

    It wasn’t certain from the beginning that the movie would hurt ID, it required a forceful response. Fortunately, it received just that response.

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

  12. #12 Kristjan Wager
    May 23, 2008

    I found A Flock of Dodos likable enough, but it must be viewed as a failure in all ways that count (earnings, impact etc.). So, I can’t really understand why people turn to Randy Olson to get advice on how to fight the anti-science hordes.

  13. #13 Sigmund
    May 23, 2008

    Whats wrong with having a level playing field here.
    Imagine if Randy Olson had got a pro-evolution millionaire to give him 15 million to make and promote a movie and to hell with making a profit.
    What if he could make a special deal with cinema chains such that they wouldn’t lose money no matter how poorly it played.
    Imagine if he was able to actually pay people to see the movie.
    Imagine if we gave him a marketing budget of millions and a well known celebrity to be the face of the movie, appearing on CNN, Fox and all the other TV stations to promote it.
    Imagine if the movie that Randy produced contained the same level of scientific integrity as Expelled, had exactly the same number of movie-goers viewing it and got exactly the same sort of reviews.
    Would we call it an astounding success?
    Or would we call it an embarrassing failure of monumental proportions?

  14. #14 Hypatia
    May 23, 2008

    My major concerns with Olsen are that he does view things as a filmmaker and does not seem to place value on the fact that our side is the one with the evidence and (dare I say it) the truth on our side.
    Some of his skepticallity comments were odd, such as his claim that Expelled was a success because it was produced, marketed, and had ads in the Daily Show timeslot. While impressive, these are not signs of success, these are signs that they spent a LOT of money to push the movie.
    Now that being said he does have some good points about the need to present ourselves as well as possible and to think more about what’s going on as opposed to what we want to be going on.

  15. #15 caynazzo
    May 23, 2008

    Here are some telling things Olsen said in the podcast:

    “Thin-skinned evolutionists aren’t interested in the truth,” and they “spend too much time in the laboratory.”

    So creationists are winning presumably because they’re spending less time in the laboratory.

    According to Olsen, scientists are double failures. First, by failing to communicate Evolutionary Theory to the masses.
    And second, by not recognizing the first failure as a failure, and so failing again.

    Did it ever occur to Olsen it’s not so much that biologists have a problem explaining evolutionary theory to the public–any more than physicists have a “problem” getting across atomic physics or physicians body mass index–but that numerous religious sects have a great big honking problem with…wait for it…DARWINISM? To the extend that they overtly engage in a concerted well-funded campaign of cognitive dissonance and outright lies in the media, government, and education.

    Here’s another Olsen gem: Dawkins, Eugene Scott and PZ Myers “allowed themselves to be interview unknowingly?”
    Not only does this make zero sense, it’s specious.

  16. #16 semi
    May 23, 2008

    I listened to to Randy Olson and the Skepticality Poscast. While I enjoy Randy’s comments in general, he was absolutely dead wrong in his analysis of the success of Expelled (as you have pointed out).

    Both Olson and Eugenie Scott (in a previous Skepticality podcast) believe that Expelled was a success at the box office, or at least did very well.

    This premise is wrong wrong wrong, as you have stated.

    Just a quick look at the box office numbers dispel any notion of success for that movie, if you know movie budgets are spent. The so-called success of the movie is just spin put out by Premise Media.

    It’s true that Expelled will have some sort of life on DVD (if it can dig itself out from the current injunction for copyright infringement), but its “glory days” are well behind it. The producers only hope is to find a distributer willing to take it on despite all of its baggage.

    Anyway, the thing that pissed me off about Olson’s comments is that he is thinking and talking like a PR flack. Now I work in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles, and I can tell you that the one thing that all publicity and PR professionals want to do is control the message of the product. This is fine when your message revolves around some piece of fluffy entertainment. It simply won’t work when the ideas (evolution, creationism, etc.) are larger than your product.

    It is naive to think that the science community should react according to some “best practices” PR plan. The world ain’t like that, and the idea of evolution has been around long enough and is supported by enough scientists that you are going to see a diversity of reaction.

    And this is a good thing. Science is NOT monolithic and its response to attacks like Expelled shouldn’t be as well.

    Randy’s comments about ‘not talking if you have nothing to sell’ is short-sighted and simplistic. We’re selling the general concept of the scientific method and specific idea of evolution, and I am willing to bet a lot of people got a pretty good education about both topics due to diverse reaction of the science community on the ‘net and in print.

  17. #17 Archaeopteryx
    May 23, 2008

    It’s kinda odd, considering that Flock of Dodos made fun of evolutionary scientists as being too nerdy, which I took to mean “calm and scientific.” Olson presented the creationist wackos as the kind of folks you’d want to have a beer with (he literally had a beer with one of them) and scientists as wine-drinking pedants who didn’t seem to be excited enough about their science to bother engaging anyone about it. Now PZ gets “engaged,” and Olson doesn’t like that either?

  18. #18 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    If anyone thinks Randy is a great judge of these matters, note what he wrote on Pharyngula soon after Expelled was announced:

    Are you folks really this clueless? You make me think of a baseball team that finishes the season in last place, then spends the off season criticizing all the other teams, as if that will address the problem.

    I’m sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but that is an excellent trailer they have produced. Not some amateurish clunky mess that you would expect from a science organization. The music cue, “Bad to the Bone,” would have cost them $25,000 at least (assuming they have paid the rights — someone might want to look into that, but I’m guessing they have). Rights for music in a trailer is more than for using it in the movie.

    Take the pain. Accept it. It already appears to be a much more powerful piece of mass communication than anything from the world of evolution for a long time (much slicker than my humble little movie, light years better than anything from PBS or AIBS). The science world is being out-gunned, both financially and in terms of cleverness.

    What are you gonna do about it? Complain it’s not fair?

    I called bullshit on him then, and no, he didn’t like me, and others who did the same. So what? He was almost entirely wrong in that post.

    So they spent some money? They’re really a clueless mess, with little cleverness seen throughout. “Bad to the bone” and Ben pretending to be a rebel were funny, but not in the way that they wished.

    It was not a powerful piece of mass communication, it was a series of blunders.

    You’d think after that predictive failure that Randy would learn to keep quiet, or at least to learn a bit more before he opens his maw.

    But no, he’s still acting like he’s an expert, when thus far his expertise in predicting success vs. failure has been in telling it like it isn’t.

    He’s done some good things, so I don’t want to simply dump on him. Predicting how Expelled would do, and the effects of PR, however, have not been part of his successes.

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

  19. #19 Matt Penfold
    May 23, 2008

    The example of Gordon Ramsey is interesting.

    Here in the UK he has a TV program where he visits restaurants that are failing and attempts to get them thriving. He does not hold back in his criticism of what is wrong and the staff and/or owners often get upset. If we were to accept the Mooney/Nisbett/Olson line on this we would conclude that Ramsey now had no chance of turning the restaurant around, having alienated those he is trying to influence. What follows shows us why the Mooney/Nisbett/Olson argument is flawed. Those who have been criticised in the show often sulk for a bit, but then they tend to get their act together, realise Ramsey knows a thing or two about running restaurants and cooking and take his ideas on board. There are a few times when he fails to get through, and the restaurant closes. But in most cases it starts making a profit. Yes he is rude, far ruder than Dawkins or PZ are when dealing with creationists. It seems to work though. I do wish the likes of Nisbett and Mooney would see the program to get it in their heads there is nothing wrong with robust criticism.

  20. #20 Bad
    May 23, 2008

    I want to be sympathetic to Olson’s point of view here, mostly because I do wish there were some great science movies and culture out there.

    But I really don’t see his point. I don’t see how Expelled could have done any WORSE than it did, given how much money they put behind it, given their subsidizing of their own tickets, given just how much money they put into promotion (far far and away more money than Olson ever had to promote his own movie), given on how many screens it opened.

    And the real measure of success here is not whether the film did decently for a documentary. It’s whether it had any cultural or political or educational effect. I don’t see much evidence of that, and Olson hasn’t provided any.

    So we’re back to where we started: some of the anti-evolutionary dudes have a lot of money, and they can throw it around from time to time to try and make a big splash. They made a big-name film with tons of promotion, and did okay for a documentary of that scale. But there’s still no evidence that they made a return on their investment, or that they had the desired effect of sparking a movement behind their position.

  21. #21 Dennis N
    May 23, 2008

    This makes me think of those blurbs on the side of Vitamin Water. One of the flavors has a tirade against scientists getting grants, and calls them nerds and says they never get jokes. I wonder if anyone else has seen that one. That was the last time I bought a Vitamin Water. It has as much sugar as a can of Coca-Cola.

  22. #22 Clayton
    May 23, 2008

    I have no illusions that I’m a charming fellow, but in my public talks you may have noticed that everyone complains that I don’t breathe fire or eviscerate any creationists on the podium.

    Maybe you do harbor some illusions about your charm. I mean, I actually think you are a charming fellow. You probably just deal with too many rabid religious freaks to appreciate this. Surely I’m not alone here.

  23. #23 Matt Penfold
    May 23, 2008

    I don’t think anyone has argued that Expelled was not competently put together, with regards the quality of the footage and editing.

    The Daily Mail is a competently put together newspaper in that respect. The layout is OK, there are not many typos, the stories and articles are written in decent English most of the time. None of that stops the Daily Mail from being a vile right-wing paper with a hatred of foreigners, gays, academics and anyone not white and middle-class.

    Likewise Expelled is a total pile of crap with regards its content. It would seem Olson values form over content a little to much.

  24. #24 Patrick
    May 23, 2008

    What bugged me most about Olsen in that interview is insistence that they (they the scientists) need to get out there and make their own movie, play with the same media, that he saw this coming, etc etc. It was all someone else’s responsibility. Yet, he’s the film maker scientist, he has the contacts, he understands the process, etc. He knows it all so while, why isn’t he doing it? Or getting the ball rolling? He needs to either shut up or step up, plain and simple. Oh wait, he’s just trying to sell himself, right?

  25. #25 dcwp
    May 23, 2008

    Nice job re-framing that…

  26. #26 pough
    May 23, 2008

    I mentioned it on Mooney’s post about the podcast, but really this communication burden should be placed on communicators, not scientists. Mooney and Olsen are in a perfect position to do precisely what they’re telling others to do. They know communication; they know science; they know communicators; they know scientists.

    Quite frankly, it’s a little depressing. So much so that I’m wondering if I spoke too soon. Maybe they’re not the ones for that job.

  27. #27 Blake Stacey
    May 23, 2008

    I haven’t seen Flock of Dodos, but I seem to remember people complaining that it presented creationists at their rhetorical best and scientists at their personal worst. Quoth Abbie Smith,

    1. I do not want to have a beer with Bill Dembski. I dont want to have a beer with Michael ‘LiLo’ Behe. They are not ‘nice people’. They are not ‘charismatic speakers.’ Theyre professional con-artists and pathological jerks. Whats so nice about attacking students? Whats so nice about Behes non-science reply? Theyre jerks. Call them on it. Quit playing their ‘Oh Im just a good-ol-boy’ game.

    2. Get a bunch of drunk scientists together and have them talk about Creationists. Thats a great idea *rolleyes* Get a bunch of drunk scientists together and get them to talk about some topic in HIV research– youll get the same response. Belligerent, yelling over one another, good times. But get a bunch of sober scientists together to have a forum with college students about Creationism, and youll get a completely different response. Certainly there are ‘personalities’ in science, but scientists in general are nice, and want nothing more than to share their research with anyone who asks. We’re talking over your head? Say something! We will try to fix it! Still over your head, we will try again! And dont give me that Ivory Tower crap either. Been there, done that.

    (My shriveled, prescriptivist heart wants to add apostrophes, but my scholarship argues against it.)

    PZ wrote,

    [U]sing a rock-and-roll soundtrack and the image of rebelliousness is also not going to woo the evangelical crowd.

    That’s the sort of image which evangelical parents might want to employ to convince their pre-teen children that Christianity is “cool” — same principle as “Christian rock” and church-basement coffee houses, I suppose — but you have to sell the movie to those parents first. That task requires a different set of images.

  28. #28 Doug
    May 23, 2008

    The movie is creationist propaganda intended to motivate the country to discuss an issue, attack science, and demean Atheists as anti-Christian Nazis. It got shown throughout the nation, made over $6 million, got discussed throughout the media, spurred legislation to promote creationism in the schools. No, I’d say it was a complete success.

    A success isn’t completely determined by how much profit is made but whether or not goals are achieved. Expelled had huge financial backers and like the Washington Times, it solely existed for propaganda efforts. So Olson was right on this aspect.

  29. #29 Bostonian
    May 23, 2008

    What we really need is someone who is fiercely likable, someone who can be admired while they’re fighting for science.

    Like a cross between Harrison Ford and Mr. Wizard. Someone who can act all Chuck Norris but with Bill Nye’s brain. You’re absolutely right. The US desperately needs a tough-acting yet smart science role-model. Know any?

  30. #30 Matt Penfold
    May 23, 2008

    “Like a cross between Harrison Ford and Mr. Wizard. Someone who can act all Chuck Norris but with Bill Nye’s brain. You’re absolutely right. The US desperately needs a tough-acting yet smart science role-model. Know any?”

    I am told Abbie Smith, of ERV fame, is a kick-boxer. I would not hurt that does not look like the back-end of a bus either. :)

  31. #31 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    Olson on Shifting Baselines (around March 12):

    I had heard about “the Ben Stein movie,” over a year ago when a friend in Toronto told me her best friend’s boyfriend was a cameraman on the movie. I had tried to warn everyone, “if this thing turns out to be entertaining, the evolution world is in trouble.”

    It isn’t. Crisis averted. Thanks to Ben Stein. We can now throw this on the scrap heap alongside the growing mountain of boring global warming documentaries. And folks, warn your children, don’t use film to try and educate people. It’s an entertainment medium.

    To err is human. To be unfunny when you’re supposed to be a comic actor is to totally screw the pooch.

    I’m guessing that he said that, then the movie did better than he expected it to do. Then he had to blame someone, so he blamed the people who undermined the credibility of the film, which was necessary. Credibility is everything, and the lies of the film were well exposed on Pharyngula and in many other blogs, and eventually was splashed across a host of movie reviews.

    One should remember that the NCSE and other pro-science organizations were almost certainly quite helpful in debunking the film so that film critics could write their pieces. But where did the NCSE and other pro-science organizations get their information? Well, they definitely discovered plenty on their own, yet I don’t doubt for a second that they picked up a lot from the constant critiquing of what the Expelled bunch were doing, which happened a lot on the blogs.

    And if Olson thinks that Dawkins’ review wasn’t helpful to science, he’s missed how positive the little trip to Bloomington actually turned out to be.

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

  32. #32 Josh West
    May 23, 2008

    Semi said: “I am willing to bet a lot of people got a pretty good education about both topics due to diverse reaction of the science community on the ‘net and in print.”

    This is true for me at least. As a kid I was very interested in biology and genetics, but my highschool/college education took a different path. I had not done any real reading on scientific subjects in a long while(too busy, low inclination). Hearing about the movie and getting involved in a nerd fight with Joel Borofsky on Facebook really got be back into a very interesting world of liturature.

  33. #33 Doug
    May 23, 2008

    According to IMDB.com the budget for making the film (and I’m assuming promotion goes into that) was $3.5 million.

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1091617/business

    The total revenue was listed as $7.2 million. So even if we tack on an extra $1.5 million in undisclosed marketing efforts it still comes out as profitable, or at least if it didn’t make money chances are it really didn’t lose much.

  34. #34 Monte Carlo
    May 23, 2008

    Richard Feynman. But he’s dead.

  35. #35 Blake Stacey
    May 23, 2008

    It got shown throughout the nation

    To empty theaters.

    made over $6 million

    Barely covering its costs.

    got discussed throughout the media

    Where by “discussed” we mean “got fewer positive reviews than Battlefield Earth“.

    spurred legislation to promote creationism in the schools.

    Legislation which has been in the works for years and which has, in one state after another, failed to be ratified.

  36. #36 Blake Stacey
    May 23, 2008

    The total revenue was listed as $7.2 million. So even if we tack on an extra $1.5 million in undisclosed marketing efforts it still comes out as profitable, or at least if it didn’t make money chances are it really didn’t lose much.

    That’s $7.2 million in gross box-office receipts, not all of which go to the studio.

  37. #37 ChrisG
    May 23, 2008


    Because you need me, Scienceblogs! Your guilty conscience may force you to vote Friendly Agnostic, but deep down inside you secretly long for a Militant Atheist to trumpet secular humanism, brutalize creationists, and rule you like a king!

    The above is done entirely cheerfully and with a respectful twinkle in the eye, (and acknowledging that PZ is not necessarily proffering himself up as a candidate) :).

    Well, I’d vote for ya!

  38. #38 Mark B
    May 23, 2008

    The example of Gordon Ramsey is interesting.

    Yeah, but the metaphor only goes so far. Ramsey is honest in his criticism, and the people he criticises have an honest interest in finding out what they did wrong and correcting it. Even though Ramsey is blunt and confrontational, he’s acting in a way which will improve his clents’ businesses.

    A scientist is equally justified in declaring a Creationist’s ideas to be crap. However, the creationist has no interesting in listening to this criticism and reacting constructively. Their whole economic and ideological career is based on preserving the lack of scientific rigor of their methods. The only way they can react to honest criticism is to ramp up their dishonesty.

    So you can’t really hope to impress the professional creationists, you have to really play to the audience who may be watching the interplay between scientist and practitioners of pseudoscience. But then again, maybe Ramsey isn’t such a bad example, because as nasty as he ever gets, you never get any idea that it’s ever personal. He just really cares about food and people doing their jobs with integrity. I get the same idea from reading PZ’s commentaries on psuedoscience. [substitute science for food, of course]

  39. #39 Ignorant Atheist
    May 23, 2008

    What we need, realistically, is, in the primaries, an unchallenging wimp, but who after winning the office, steps forward as a champion of the truth. We all know truth cannot win an office. There is too much ignorance out there for an enlightened mind to win. A great leader today is going to have to lie to his/her constituency in order to get in office. This might require several levels of vote mongering before a candidate gets to a level of power where s/he can make a difference. This is the brutal truth of American politics.

    The problem lies in the idea that after so many year of supporting the lies, the politician might forget the truth and believe the lies.

    Yours,

    A Stupid Person

  40. #40 caynazzo
    May 23, 2008

    You mean like the science equivalent of a Falwell or Robertson? Someone who will demonize religious people, especially minority religions like the Amish, and make pronouncements of the impending doom of civilization if continue believing without evidence; fund think-tanks to come up with ways to inject science into politics, subject politicians to a pro-science litmus test, and ask fellow scientists to aim their research at wiping from the earth all manifestations of faith and superstition?

  41. #41 ChrisG
    May 23, 2008

    Whoops, lost the <sideshowbob> tags.

  42. #42 Felicia
    May 23, 2008

    I’d like to also note that I saw, what seemed like anyway, a million advertisements for Expelled on the Science Channel. Usually tucked in during one of their broadcasts of Cosmos. They tended to broadcast the ad every single commercial break. I also think I saw an ad for it on Investigation Discovery at one point too, during Most Evil.

    Also, whoever said Neil deGrasse Tyson? I agree with it.

  43. #43 tony (not a vegan)
    May 23, 2008

    t@33: the $3.5m budget does NOT include promotion. It is the production cost only.

  44. #44 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    The total revenue was listed as $7.2 million. So even if we tack on an extra $1.5 million in undisclosed marketing efforts it still comes out as profitable, or at least if it didn’t make money chances are it really didn’t lose much.

    Not only are you counting gross, not net, but your figures for their costs are badly off, at least according to those associated with the film:

    Nearly $4 million was spent on producing the movie [Expelled] and “a multiple of that” in distribution and marketing so far, Mr. Craft says.

    And it could have made money, and still would have made ID smell in the eyes of the public. Of course there are buffoons who liked it, we always knew there would be. And “academic freedom” bills may have had a temporary boost from it in states wedded to ignorance, but thus far they haven’t done well in the legislatures. Does anyone suppose it is unlikely that the DI’s “academic freedom” bills would not have been pushed eventually, even without the film?

    The movie was about convincing people, which indeed is what matters most. I can see no evidence that it convinced more than a few uncommitted dolts, at the expense of IDists being exposed once again as the charlatans that they are.

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

  45. #45 semi
    May 23, 2008

    See my comment earlier about knowing how to read a film budget.

    Gross receipts are split (roughly 50/50) so the film got only half of that money.

    The producers spent $2 million on striking release prints for their opening weekend.

    Do you think all those ads on TV were cheap?

    Do you now want to revise your statement?

  46. #46 Sili
    May 23, 2008

    “Boffins! Boffins! We need more boffins! MOAR BOFFINS! – Scientists shouldn’t engage with the public except to make silly equations to shill some product to the public in the tabloids.”

    I think you’re charming. And Dawkypoo, too. As others have already said.

  47. #47 Miguel Opazo
    May 23, 2008

    There is one thing i can add to the topic… around the world
    nobody cared about the movie, at last, only we scientists knew about it.
    I agree too with the movie was a scam, and that so called
    success was just hot air pumped with the creacionists
    dirty religious money. Anyone can buy adds, but the real deal is than just the IDiots saw the movie… just thinking about normal people being compelled to believe that crap sickens me.
    Anyway kicking out PZ out the movie theater was the dumbest thing to do, that destroyed all the credibility they could had
    left.
    Im always amazed with this fighting between real science and religion there on the states. I dont understand how that could happen today on the 21th century in a country what i supposed would be leading progress. At last the misbelieves of your huge poblation of morons doesnt influence at all the rest of the world.
    PZ i really liked to see you impale a couple of IDiots on a conference… that would be awesome, breathing fire sounds just as great… what about some rays and thunder ?

    *Forgive the bad grammar, im still improving my english*

  48. #48 TJM
    May 23, 2008

    It’s not by accident that fundamentalists go around provoking people with a never ending series of pointless lost causes, one right after another, from Dover, to the current crop of ‘truth in education’ bills, and so on.

    The leaders of these efforts don’t honestly expect to ‘win’ any of these battles. Look know further than how quickly the DI divorced itself from Dover just as soon as things escalated and actually got real..with real depositions and real trial dates.

    Distilled to the essence, all that really matters is that they see themselves as engaged in battle against an enemy. In this case, the enemy is methodological naturalism (which they conflate with a godless secular culture) and the threat it represents to their group. The battle is important because it defines who are the outsiders, and having outsiders is essential to nurture the inner cohesiveness that fundamentalist groups must have to exist.

    They are a bit like the reckless alpha boy wandering around the neighborhood on a lazy summer day with a pliant pack of followers. He’s the one who isn’t afraid to go up to a yellow jacket nest, kick it over, and excite the swarm, willy nilly the danger involved.

    The act itself serves no purpose whatsoever, other than to set him apart from all of his misfit friends.

    Which is precisely the whole point.

    Go ahead and argue with these people. Just do so with the understanding that, through engagement, you accomplish little more than facilitating their effort to use you as the outsider foil that they exploit to define the margins of their culture:

    “You see what that acerbic atheist college professor said! They are all like him! Stay away from all of them! They’ll eat your babies raw! And even worse, you’ll lose your Saved Soul!”

  49. #49 Christianjb
    May 23, 2008

    Olson’s argument reminds me of all the discussion regarding whether Keith Olbermann is too opinionated whilst conveniently omitting the fact that Limbaugh, Hannity and O’Reilly are essentially outright propagandists who are not above spreading any lie they can to further their goals.

    BTW- I don’t like being told that ‘Olson doesn’t like’ us. I don’t know the guy, but I doubt that he has anything personal against us. He disagrees, and that is fine. (As always, I’m happy to be proven wrong.)

  50. PZ, you’re taking this perseonally. You’rer taking this very, very personally. This is business.

    The salient point to take away from Olson’s remarks is that when you make your debut on the silver screen, you’ve got to entertain as well as inform. Was it Horace who said “instruct by pleasing” or was it the mighty Stagirite?

    Just one thing: leave out the nude scene.

    Btw, I heard you on the Austin Athiests podcast and you ruled!

  51. #51 Tulse
    May 23, 2008

    the budget for making the film (and I’m assuming promotion goes into that) was $3.5 million.
    The total revenue was listed as $7.2 million. So even if we tack on an extra $1.5 million in undisclosed marketing efforts it still comes out as profitable

    The production budget typically does not include marketing, and the film’s producers have said that they spent a “multiple” of the actual production budget on marketing, so the total cost of the film is likely in the $10-12 million range at the low end.

    And, as Blake notes, the box office figures are grosses. The producers will typically get only 50% or so of that.

    Put it together, and the filmmakers have likely lost on the order of $6-10 million on this film. There is absolutely no doubt that this film has been a financial disaster.

    I found A Flock of Dodos likable enough, but it must be viewed as a failure in all ways that count (earnings, impact etc.). So, I can’t really understand why people turn to Randy Olson to get advice on how to fight the anti-science hordes.

    I completely agree. Randy may be a nice guy and all, but what evidence do we have that he understands what’s involved in making a successful theatrical release film? Did Flock of Dodos even play in any sort of wide release? Did it actually recover its costs? Why do we take him to be an expert, rather than someone who’s actually made successful mass-market films?

    And the notion that Expelled should be fought with another documentary that is pro-science is just absurd — talk about tactical blinders.

  52. #52 Phantom hugger
    May 23, 2008

    I heard the Skepticality podcast and he does have some useful pointers about how science can’t exist in a vacuum separate from the unwashed masses so much anymore. In an age where the understanding of science is needed to make informed decisions for the future of our planet, this is serious business.

    However I don’t think that PZ suffers from these symptoms since I came to this site through the Expelled debacle, and have enjoyed his candor when dealing with these dolts. Sometimes I feel like we are fighting with one arm tied behind our backs since Carl and SJG left early. PZ might have the left hook that we’ve been missing.

    I think Olson’s new film could be funny.

  53. #53 Thethyme
    May 23, 2008

    I am confused on how Randy defines the success of the movie, this movie has made 7 million dollar which mean what in terms of how many people saw this movie 700,000 to 1,000,000? If the average ticket price is $10, I am just guessing here… my point is compare that number to the number of people who have read the blogs, movie reviews and articles in both magazines and newspapers condemning the movie nation wide. I believe the pro-science point of view is the louder of the two in the market place of ideas.
    It was just a movie and now its gone… the fight continues because the fight will never end but expelled was a dud..

  54. #54 Bureaucratus Minimis
    May 23, 2008

    I fear that what everyone else is calling for is the scientist as friendly, unchallenging wimp who will make the public feel safe and able to go on believing whatever nonsense they want … when what we really need is someone to shake up the bogosity of the general public’s delusions.

    Sagan and Gould actually struck a good middle ground. Both were engaging and mediagenic, yet stuck to their guns. Both were effective communicators of evolution to the persuadable middle. We need more people like them.

    My only exposure to PZ is through this blog, but I get the impression he’s too combative to be as effective as Sagan and Gould. However, there’s a place for his sort of take-no-prisoners rhetoric, too.

  55. #55 Colugo
    May 23, 2008

    Watching a video of Ken Miller shows that he is an extremely effective explainer of evolutionary biology. No, not because he’s Catholic or a theistic evolutionist. Those aspects do not impinge on his presentation in any way; he’d be equally effective if he were an atheist.

    For some reason Americans seem to demand nastiness in Brits – Gordon Ramsay, Simon Cowell, Anne Robinson (Weakest Link). Dawkins might fit into an American conceptual box of “snide Brit” through little fault of his own. On the other hand, David Attenborough, with his good-natured and avuncular persona, didn’t fit the stereotype. But for some reason Dawkins attracts anger; he certainly did in the 90s from certain brands of left wing academics.

  56. #56 Paul W.
    May 23, 2008

    Did Flock of Dodos even play in any sort of wide release? Did it actually recover its costs?

    It’s been shown on Showtime and reached a bigger audience there than in theaters. I suspect it did recover its costs and make a profit for Randy, but I don’t actually know.

    It’s not in Expelled’s league, though.

  57. #58 True Bob
    May 23, 2008

    I second Niel deGrasse-Tyson for science czar.

  58. #59 Brownian, OM
    May 23, 2008

    I’m getting a little tired of the endless analysis and reanalysis of how scientists portray themselves and their fields. Sagan got dumped on throughout his career, yet who here would argue that he wasn’t, on the whole, one of the best spokespeople for science the last century has ever seen?

    It’s unfortunate, I know, but scientists are real people too. That means some of them are going to be arrogant, uncompromising, irritating, argumentative, passionate, profane, loud, and public. And occasionally, they’re the kind of people one would love to have a beer with. I’ve done that myself, more than once.

    If Randy thinks he’s got a handle on making movies about science, then he should continue to do so. That’d have a far greater effect than wasting time telling others like PZ what they should and shouldn’t say.

  59. #60 Matt Penfold
    May 23, 2008

    I cannot get my head around the idea some people think Dawkins is an unpleasant individual. I met him once, when he was giving a lecture during an British Association for the Advancement of Science meeting, and I was working as a computer technician charged with making sure he has the AV equipment he needed. He was the epitome of graciousness. Anyone who has seen him in “The Root of All Evil” will surely have picked that up as well. Not many of us good stand next to Ted Haggard and be as civil as Dawkins was.

  60. #61 Geoff
    May 23, 2008

    Bottom line: There needs to be an Evolution documentary.

  61. #62 Screechy Monkey
    May 23, 2008

    The movie is creationist propaganda intended to motivate the country to discuss an issue, attack science, and demean Atheists as anti-Christian Nazis. It got shown throughout the nation, made over $6 million, got discussed throughout the media, spurred legislation to promote creationism in the schools. No, I’d say it was a complete success.

    A success isn’t completely determined by how much profit is made but whether or not goals are achieved. Expelled had huge financial backers and like the Washington Times, it solely existed for propaganda efforts. So Olson was right on this aspect.

    But if these are your criteria for success, and if you don’t care about how the movie was received critically, whether it made a profit, whether it appears to have changed anyone’s mind, etc., then Expelled was destined to be a success from the moment its financial backers signed on. There’s simply no way that a heavily marketed, big-budget (by documentary standards) film on a controversial subject wouldn’t get substantial media attention, generate attention, and get viewed by a large number of “true believers.”

    Why do I get the feeling that if some pro-science group dropped several million dollars on a pro-evolution movie that got utterly ripped by the critics as being dishonest and unpersuasive, died out quickly in theatres, was mired in litigation, and appeared to have lost money, the same people who are “concerned” about the “success” of Expelled would be shaking their heads sadly and moaning about the failure of this pro-evolution movie being another example of how “our side” doesn’t know how to communicate?

  62. #63 Brownian, OM
    May 23, 2008

    I nominate Gaius Baltar

    So you’re in favour of a leader that talks to entities in his head?

    Why wouldn’t we all just convert to Catholicism then?

  63. #64 Bureaucratus Minimis
    May 23, 2008

    carnazzo @ 15: Did it ever occur to Olsen it’s not so much that biologists have a problem explaining evolutionary theory to the public–any more than physicists have a “problem” getting across atomic physics or physicians body mass index–but that numerous religious sects have a great big honking problem with…wait for it…DARWINISM?

    A good point. But we’re never going to win unless evolution is accepted by at least a plurality (40%) or the population. Anti-evolutionists aren’t likely to just up and realize the error of their ways. We’re not winning because we don’t have an effective communication strategy.

    According to Olsen, scientists are double failures. First, by failing to communicate Evolutionary Theory to the masses. And second, by not recognizing the first failure as a failure, and so failing again.

    I tend to agree with Olson, particularly his second point. It’s not the failure to communicate, but the failure to effectively communicate that matters. Effective communication changes minds and wins votes.

  64. #65 Marcus Ranum
    May 23, 2008

    It occurs to me that all this is self-regulating. Eventually objective reality will smack the faithful down. God’s love will reveal itself in the form of an asteroid or a plague and faithful and atheist alike will join the fossil record.

  65. #66 Phantom Hugger
    May 23, 2008

    I like Niel deGrasse-Tyson’s enthusiasm but his humor strains into the schoolyard a bit too much for my tastes.

    Sometimes his Death by Black Hole book felt like Cosmos with fart jokes.

  66. #67 me
    May 23, 2008

    #61
    People hate documentaries.

    No, there needs to be an evolution romantic comedy, with someone like George Clooney playing the role of Darwin

  67. #68 Calladus
    May 23, 2008

    I respect Mr. Olson, but I think he’s wrong – and not for the reasons he talks about.

    In any conflict, be it war or philosophy, you join the conflict with the tools you have, not the tools you wish you had.

    We should have had our own movie? Great. I think so too! But we didn’t. That doesn’t mean we give Creationists a free pass. It only means we work with what we have – which in my opinion is still nothing to sneeze at.

  68. #69 Brownian, OM
    May 23, 2008

    So why aren’t all those who are capable of recognising that science hasn’t been effectively communicated going out and effectively communicating science?

  69. #70 Tulse
    May 23, 2008

    Bottom line: There needs to be an Evolution documentary.

    Nonsense. Just because the creationist folks made a movie does not mean that the best way to counter its effects, or creationism in general, is through a single mass-marketed film. Given that Expelled was a huge financial and critical flop, I would think that would be strong evidence against the efficacy of such an approach.

    It seems that some folks are just dazzled by Hollywood — “Look, the creationist made a real movie! With a star and everything! Man, that seems soooo cool! We should have a movie, so we don’t feel like science dorks!”

    Really, there are more thoughtful responses to the popular presence of creationism than just copying their ineffectual media strategy.

  70. #71 CalGeorge
    May 23, 2008

    “A rotten public image”?

    “Enough with the negativity”?

    “Don’t use foul language”?

    “Don’t be so condescending”?

    “Which of these people do I like better”?

    “Read George Lakoff’s book.”

    Another Matt Nisbet clone else saying “shut the fuck up”.

    So what else is new?

  71. #72 Matt Penfold
    May 23, 2008

    “I tend to agree with Olson, particularly his second point. It’s not the failure to communicate, but the failure to effectively communicate that matters. Effective communication changes minds and wins votes.”

    The US is alone in the West in having such a degree of scientific illiteracy. The reasons for that are likely not simple, but one seems to be the different nature of religion in the US compared to Western Europe. The blame for the US having more religious groups, with a wider membership, that reject reason and science in favour of dogma and scripture can not be place on scientists. It can be placed on the religious leaders in the US though. If you look at Western Europe, where the SAME scientists that are most involved in communicating science to the public are the SAME scientists doing so in the US, and you will see it is NOT a failure on the part of the scientists. Their message gets across when others are not intent on lying in order to maintain their hold on the religious.

  72. #73 Paul Lundgren
    May 23, 2008

    @10

    As long as we’re making nominations, how about Neil deGrasse Tyson?

    Anyone but Michio Kaku. Smarmy.

    I enjoy deGrasse-Tyson, and he is good for entry-level science at the popular level, but he’s the last person you’d want on your side in an intellectual bar fight. Lace up the gloves, Dr. Myers, D.I. is in the red corner.

  73. #74 Dennis N
    May 23, 2008

    Sure, we don’t have something to show for our efforts like a movie. But we have little things like life saving drugs and the entire field of biology. Don’t forget the History Channel coming out with their Evolved show.

  74. #75 Bureaucratus Minimis
    May 23, 2008

    Brownian @59: If Randy thinks he’s got a handle on making movies about science, then he should continue to do so. That’d have a far greater effect than wasting time telling others like PZ what they should and shouldn’t say.

    Agree with your first point. Uncomfortable with your second point. Sounds like you’re saying that PZ, et als, are somehow impervious to any criticism, even constructive criticism from allies.

    The People’s Front of Judea / Judean People’s Front scene from “Life of Brian” is relevant and instructive here. I see us as spending all our time on unproductive infighting, and not gaining any traction on the issue.

  75. #76 Jon
    May 23, 2008

    Expelled has only recouped about $7.5mil and is playing on a few hundred screens.

    As has been noted by others, were an evolution-positive movie to have a similar budget, built-in audience, and marketing blitz and had similar results, Olson, Nisbet, and Mooney would surely be howling about its tremendous failure to engage its audience.

    I walked into this whole framing mess as a fan of Mooney’s, but the Expelled nonsense has left me with the impression that he and the others are all criticism, no action…

  76. #77 Geoff
    May 23, 2008

    @70

    Whoa! I didn’t mean to suggest Expelled needed an ‘answer’ or copying a strategy. I think people need to be educated about evolution.

    Motion picture medium gives relevance. People need to be educated about the science. I agree with PZ, it’s going to take a film-maker with imagination and smarts to do it.

    On that point, I agree with Olson.

    It’s otherwise completely naive to think the general public are going to absorb the science by osmosis.

  77. #78 Sigmund
    May 23, 2008

    What I don’t understand about Olson is his attempt to suck up to the creationists so much.
    Look at the astounding quote he managed to get from Behe and yet he left it out of the film !(its in the DVD extras shown in this youtube clip).
    “I have very little interest in what gets taught at public schools. My kids don’t go to public schools”
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx3GaDek98M
    Thats equivalent to Barbara Forrest deciding to leave out the cdesign proponentsists ‘find and replace’ evidence at the trial in case it shows the creationists in a bad light. It really makes me question his judgment that he did not see this as worthy of inclusion in the movie.

  78. #79 tony (not a vegan)
    May 23, 2008

    Bureaucratus Minimis @75 somehow impervious to any criticism, even constructive criticism from allies

    I read Brownian’s statement somewhat differently.

    Criticism is fine. Pompous ‘advice’ is not. Olson was not offering constructive criticism, he was arguing that PZ et al should simply ‘shut up’ and be less vocal (less ‘militant’).

    Not exactly constructive, since he offered no ‘constructive’ alternatives.

  79. #80 Marcus Ranum
    May 23, 2008

    Re: Dawkins being seen as arrogant – Simply put, it’s the accent and the education. The US is profoundly anti-intellectual. Period.

    Rather than trying to get an intelligent, intelligble, well-reasoned spokesperson for science, what we need is a “Larry the Cable Guy” comedian. Someone who acts like a complete tard but who occasionally drops the mask, Penn and Teller-like and explains why tiktaalik matters, then goes back to yukyuking about what a tard Noah must have been.

  80. #81 Pierce R. Butler
    May 23, 2008

    Rev. Bob “Bob” Crispen: Just one thing: leave out the nude scene.

    Btw, I heard you on the Austin Athiests podcast and you ruled!

    Just imagine the impact if he had only worn any clothes during that podcast…

    As for critiques of pro-evolution media work: I’d like to note for the record that in dozens of comments here, there has been blasphemous disregard for the Commandment (ordained by, among others, the Prophet Myers Himself) to include frequent links to the Expelled Exposed site at NCSE.

    Tell Wardrobe & Makeup to hustle some sackcloth & ashes!

  81. #82 Brownian, OM
    May 23, 2008

    Bureaucratus Minimis, I agree with you that no one should be impervious to criticism, especially friendly criticism from allies. My second point was not intended to convey that idea, and in fact, you echoed its true intent when you wrote: “I see us as spending all our time on unproductive infighting, and not gaining any traction on the issue.” I see Olson and Nisbet as contributing to this infighting. I don’t mean this as a put down, but when they get interviewed by creation-supporting radio stations and challenged to debates with Hovind, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to practice being likeable and conciliatory, or whatever it is they think will work better.

    And Tulse:

    It seems that some folks are just dazzled by Hollywood–”Look, the creationist made a real movie! With a star and everything! Man, that seems soooo cool! We should have a movie, so we don’t feel like science dorks!”

    Ahh, I think I know where you’re going with this. We don’t need a movie about evolution; we need a prog-rock opera about evolution! Anybody have any connection to Townshend?

  82. #83 Louis
    May 23, 2008

    2 things (ok one little thing and one rather long one):

    1) PZ, When I met you as we strolled about Down house a couple of years ago, I liked you DESPITE the fact that you didn’t breathe fire. You seemed a likeable fellow to me. There are those who don’t strike me as such. FWIW.

    2) Randy Olsen made the “likeableness” point in “Flock of Dodos” already.

    Whilst I like his work, respect his position, this is (perhaps sadly) not entirely about “likeableness”. We are not in a prom queen election, we’re doing science. Popularity contest this ain’t. Sadly (perhaps, for the PR at least) the most important thing is the data, the evidence. Challenging people in any way about their misunderstanding/misrepresentation of the evidence is ALWAYS going to be a loser in the “likeablenes” stakes. People generally don’t like to be challenged or corrected.

    Tough shit! (oops sorry that was a swear!)

    There is a room for a multiplicity of techniques. Going in with the old hob-nailed boot approach on dear old Mum might not be the best idea. Going in with the softly softly approach on Duane Gish or Kent Hovind might also be the precursor to a facial omlette experience. One thing these framers and “play nice, children” advocates always miss is that there ARE some dishonest bastards out there who will cheerfully and knowlingly exploit people’s tendancy to want to minimise offence etc. Sorry!

    When the “bleeding heart” element (of which I can occasionally be described as a paid up member…only very occasionally!) in this chuckleworthy comedy called a “controversy” warn us about “turning off the nice people” they are making an implicit assumption: that people are generally like them, i.e. pretty nice, pretty open to data, pretty open to gentle correction and pretty pleasant and honest all round. Time for the big shocker: they ain’t!

    *SOME* are, *SOME* are not. The same techniques are not going to work on everyone. Worse than that, short of thumb screws and iron maidens (and I am really, really not advocating such things) you can pretty much guarantee that there are some people for whom nothing rational, pleasant or unpleasant will work. The anti-reality issues they have are not only too deep but they are either too stupid, too apathetic, too ignorant or too dishonest to understand or deal with the information they have been presented with. Sorry, that’s a simple fact of statistics. There is a bell curve of abilitiy in intellect and honesty. Deal with it. This really is not simply an issue of “fix the PR and the problem goes away”.

    Time for the next big shocker: whilst I agree that carrot and stick together work better than either alone, pretending that a varying degree of each depending on the situation is not the optimal solution so you can persuade the gullible it’s all carrot all the time is profoundly delusional. Of course we can improve our PR, of course when one technique is used to the exclusion of the other there will be casualties, of course we should at least start out nicely (in fact there are good game theoretical reasosns for us to do so) but to pretend that excoriating the most intransigent idiots is not also part of a very valid tool box (sometimes harsh lessons sink in well) is amazingly shortsighted.

    Watch how THAT is misunderstood!

    Louis

  83. #84 Matt Penfold
    May 23, 2008

    “Re: Dawkins being seen as arrogant – Simply put, it’s the accent and the education. The US is profoundly anti-intellectual. Period.”

    What I have never quite understood is why America has such an
    anti-intellectual streak.

    When you look at the Founding Fathers of the US, I think it would be fair to say most were intellectuals. They were well read, well educated men who gave a great deal of thought to the issues of the day.

  84. #85 scooter
    May 23, 2008

    I managed to sell Pharyngula quite well, and got a lasting 30-50% increase in traffic, as well as more attention from the media.

    You certainly did. That’s how I heard about this forum, which, btw, is a breath of fresh Internets.

    I tried to listen to Olson, but he was incredibly boring. I don’t know about his movies, but he certainly can’t do radio.

    This movie was a flop: it lost money. Even more significantly, it failed with its intended audience. [snip]
    It did not get any momentum at all with the evangelical audience, [snip]This is a movie that is coasting on Christian gullibility, but is getting no traction at all. Part of it is that the movie started with no credibility,

    I beg to differ, this failed internally. I’m here in the belly of the beast, I can tell you where they screwed up.

    Last night someone called into our pledge line and threatened to bomb our radio station because we were too Barak sympathetic. We’ve already been bombed twice by the Klan in 70 and 71 and
    recently took an AK round into the control room. And this is Houston for Dog sakes.

    These ignorant redneck evangelical inbred dumbfux generally have one thing in common, they are SEVERELY, incurably racist.

    Generally the hate hierarchy is
    4. Liberals
    3. Blacks
    2. Mexicans

    and
    drum roll please, the number target of sister-humping cross clutching rednecks IS

    JEWS

    especially smarmy Jewish fellows in suits that use big words. They would sooner have Malcolm X over for bar-b-que than Ben Stein.

    Nothing pisses off white trailer trash more than Jews. People of color do not threaten them as much as people with educations and professional jobs, but add the Christ Killer, international banking, Hollywood Honcho, secret underworld protocols of Zion crap that these idiots believe, and that’s why Jews are the number 1 hated minority by mouth breathing church-going, beer-swilling speed-freaks in the south.

    The main problem with this thing offending the target audience is simple, Ben Stein is Jewish. Not only is he a Jew, but he is a caricature of exactly the sort of Jewish fellow that rednecks hate the most.

    Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles they can handle, but the intellectual, faux professor that Stein represents? They HATE those guys.

    Whoever cast this film made a serious demographic error. Only the first in a hysterical comedy of blunders.

    Probably the funniest non-story of the year, I love it.

  85. #86 raven
    May 23, 2008

    No way was Expelled anything but a huge failure. Counterproductive. It was just a bunch of lies strung together. Stein, “science leads you to killing.” “Scientists killed the Jews.”

    A blood libel on the basis and crowning achievement of Western civilization.

    And why are we attacking science anyway. The war on science makes as much sense as the War on Indoor Plumbing or the War on Cheap Mass Produced Computers.

    It exposes the creo extremists for what they are, vicious, dumb liars. Even many conservatives and conservative Xians were appalled. It convinced the lunatic fringers that science is evil but they already knew that so who cares. It convinced a lot of other people without a wingnut nihilistic agenda that fundie lunatic fringers are, well, lunatics.

  86. #87 Orac
    May 23, 2008

    What bugged me most about Olsen in that interview is insistence that they (they the scientists) need to get out there and make their own movie, play with the same media, that he saw this coming, etc etc. It was all someone else’s responsibility. Yet, he’s the film maker scientist, he has the contacts, he understands the process, etc. He knows it all so while, why isn’t he doing it? Or getting the ball rolling? He needs to either shut up or step up, plain and simple. Oh wait, he’s just trying to sell himself, right?

    Yeah, that bothered me a lot too. Unlike most here, I tend to believe Randy when he states that the film was not a failure. Quite frankly, for a documentary, few of which make even $1 million, from a strictly box office standpoint it was pretty impressive. True, the producers spent way more making and marketing the film and likely won’t make their investment back, but making money wasn’t their purpose. Getting their message out was. We can argue whether the movie succeeded in that (it was so bad and so trashed by critics and bloggers that it probably did not do that great a job), but by box office alone it’s fairly impressive.

    What irritates the hell out of me about Randy, though, is that he lectures scientists and tells them that they need to make a pro-evolution movie. I and others called him on that on his own blog, and he made up some lame excuse about no resources and no interest, etc.. In other words, he talks a good game about making a pro-evolution movie to counter Expelled! but is unwilling to take on the task even though he is clearly the most qualified person most of us could think of, given his background in biology and as a filmmaker. He’s happy to lecture scientists about what they’re doing wrong “selling” evolution, but when it is pointed out to him that he is in the best position to do what he tells scientists to do he demurs with lame excuses. Infuriating.

    Hollywood’s a small pool in some ways. Maybe he doesn’t want to piss off potential investors and producers, some of whom may have contributed to Expelled!, because he still hopes to tap them for funding for future projects.

  87. #88 Blake Stacey
    May 23, 2008

    “Read George Lakoff’s book.”

    Y’know, from where I sit, no disciple of Lakoff has been able to take the man’s ideas and make rhetoric which actually persuades, and that includes Lakoff himself.

    Consider the propositions that human beings rely upon cognitive “shortcuts” in order to think, and that we tend to make emotional judgments instead of rational arguments on matters outside our experience. Taken at face value, such propositions might have value in explaining why creationism is so popular and why teaching science can be so hard. The Framists — to use Jeff Medkeff’s term — claim to deduce from such principles why Dawkins, PZ et al. should “step down as spokespeople of science”. However, based on these same general assumptions, one would say that PZ’s expulsion from Expelled was a great victory for science, because it provided an impetus for people to condemn creationism on ethical and emotional grounds.

    It almost seems that the conclusion “Dawkins and Myers should not be spokesmen for science” came first, and could have been justified equally well by any other means had Lakoff not been present to be cited.

  88. #89 scooter
    May 23, 2008

    I find Dawkins to be an extremely likable person. However, (so I’m told) he’s got a reputation as being a fantastically arrogant and snide pompous ass.

    That is the most charming British trait. Hitchens, Pat Condell, Rowan Atkinson, John Cleese, Thunderf00t, the list is endless That’s what makes them so lovable.

    I love the way British journalists shred politicians in interviews with wit and smarts. U.S. Journalism is a contradiction of terms.

  89. #90 Brownian, OM
    May 23, 2008

    Slightly OT, but whatever happened to Bill Nye? He’s charming and likeable. What’s his interest in the creo wars?

    Even more OT, the Aussie readers probably remember Julius Sumner Miller. Canadian readers might remember him as ‘The Professor’ from The Hilarious House of Frightenstein.

  90. #91 Doug
    May 23, 2008

    “But if these are your criteria for success, and if you don’t care about how the movie was received critically, whether it made a profit, whether it appears to have changed anyone’s mind, etc., then Expelled was destined to be a success from the moment its financial backers signed on. There’s simply no way that a heavily marketed, big-budget (by documentary standards) film on a controversial subject wouldn’t get substantial media attention, generate attention, and get viewed by a large number of “true believers.””

    How a movie is reviewed is irrelevant. Perhaps from your perspective it is but from the creationist community and the conservative religious community it isn’t. They put out tripe like the Left Behind Series and a Jesus snuff film and it makes hundreds of millions. Reviewers can trash it all they want but from the religious person’s perspective these reviewers are just a bunch of secular, liberal elites who are bound for hell anyway.

    I don’t know if you and the others understand the concept of propaganda. Propaganda’s goals aren’t to make money but to influence people. Television advertisements don’t make money, they cost money and the end result is to influence viewers to buy a different product, not purchase the commercial. That’s all Expelled was, a huge advertisement and in the world of advertisement the best ad isn’t the one that is well produced but the one that gets remembered.

    That’s the message Randy Olson was trying to convey. If scientists advertise themselves as a bunch of angry, hate filled people, and the creationists try to capitalize on that message (just check out those silly Jack Chick tracts) then people in America, who already don’t have a love affair with intellectuals, will be more convinced to agree with that message.

    For another example turn to politics. Political campaigns aren’t run to be profitable, they are run to advertise a person. As we saw in the Gore/Bush campaign it was Gore who was more intelligent, better on the issues, had experience, but it was Bush who better appealed to people’s emotions. Millions of people were swayed by that emotional, not intellectual appeal.

    So whether or not Expelled made a dime or lost millions is irrelevant. They had a goal and they worked towards that using the rhetoric that best appeals to millions in this country. You can present all the scientific facts to these people that you want but you won’t convince them when they only respond on an emotional level.

  91. #92 Christopher Petroni
    May 23, 2008

    I think bogosity is my new favorite word.

  92. #93 CalGeorge
    May 23, 2008

    Interview with another civility freak (Os Guinness, author of The Case for Civility):

    … we have seen a mounting American equivalent of the European repudiation of all religion, at least among the educated classes (for example, the new atheists). If this reaction hardens in concrete, it spells disaster for Christians and for the U.S.

    What can the person on the street, the average American, do to restore civility to America?

    The U.S. is at a stage when the culture wars and the extremism are so bitter and entrenched that it will take a leader of the stature and courage of Lincoln to stand above it and call for a better way. But we must not sit and wait passively. First, we can pray. Second, we can ourselves show a better way – loving our enemies, speaking truth with love, and so on. And third, we can say No to incivility of all kinds and call for a better way – challenging speakers, cancelling subscriptions, and calling for leadership that addresses the ‘better angels’ of our
    fellow citizens, rather than addressing fear and hatred.

    Civility = Christian arrogance. Fuck civility.

  93. #94 Dennis N
    May 23, 2008

    CalGeorge, who is this guy calling to be civil? His own people?

  94. #95 CalGeorge
    May 23, 2008

    #94, I have no idea what he is saying. He’s a nut. More:

    Are both secularists and those who hold to a religion contributing equally to the breakdown of civility? Or is the breakdown coming more from one side than the other?

    It depends who you are talking to. Each side in the culture wars naturally thinks the other is far worse, if not the sole source of the problem. Looked at over thirty years, a rather even balance sheet can be drawn up. At the moment, though, the forces of the ‘sacred public square’ are showing signs of weakening, whereas the forces of the ‘naked public square’ represent the greater danger, above all in the way that ‘civil liberty’ is repeatedly trumping ‘religious liberty.’ For the founders, these liberties were twins and their relationship needed to be negotiated carefully. Today the homosexual movement is using the first to rout the second. All religious believers will be the losers as well as the republic.

    Sounds like he is saying that gays are destroying civility by standing up for their rights. Kooky.

  95. #96 NP
    May 23, 2008

    I’ve said this before on Randy’s blog, but I think it’s worth repeating. I don’t think there can be a single voice for science, especially when it comes to reaching across the entire political/ideological spectrum. When it comes to the fundegelicals, your options are really limited. No matter how affable PZ comes across, the very fact that he is an atheist evolutionist will make it difficult for them to warm up to him. No matter how gentlemanly or frank Dawkins is, he’ll still be demonized. It won’t matter that Ken Miller and Francisco Ayala can remain devout Christians even while maintaining their integrity as scientists; the fact that they adhere to a heretical offshoot of True Christianity makes them less palatable. As much as I hate to say it, with some fundies it is going to take theology, not science, to get them to be open to appreciating science as a valid way of knowing. And they definitely are not going to take theology lessons from a Catholic like Ken Miller or somebody like Eugenie Scott, who do so much in promoting the science of evolution. Therein lies the problem; finding a preacher at a mega-church or a Ken Ham or Kent Hovind who vociferously supports science over the pseudoscience and dishonesty of his creationist counterparts would be difficult. Hugh Ross has offered some departure from the staunch biblical literalism of the young-earth creationists, but he still maintains some fairly nutty beliefs about “progressive creationism”. It’s still a small step in the right direction, given the sheer number of televangelists and preachers spouting nonsense about a young-earth.

    I will partly agree with Randy in saying that Expelled has been a partial success. Perhaps not monetarily, but as a PR exercise for the ID propaganda machine it has succeeded in poisoning the well. A number of creationists I’ve come across (on the internet no less) continue to cite the film as evidence of a Darwinist conspiracy that is suppressing any evidence for creationism. Sure, they were already creationists before watching it, but the film managed to reinforce certain paranoias or even validate them in their minds. I think there’s a fair number of people who’ve been suckered in by this wolf in sheep’s clothing that is “academic freedom” for pseudoscientists.

    That’s not to say us so-called “screechy monkeys” have not played a part in getting others to sit up and see the hypocrisy and propaganda in the film. Various people have done what they realistically could have, and they deserve credit for it.

  96. #97 James F
    May 23, 2008

    Colugo @55,

    Right there with you on Ken Miller: he can also go on The Colbert Report and hold his own. I do think that Miller’s theistic evolution philosophy is helpful in the sense that having theists in the pro-science ranks falsifies the idea that support of evolution is a matter of science vs. religion. It ought to be a united front of theists and atheists, and since atheists and agnostics are pro-evolution by default (except for a few cranks like David Berlinski), outreach to religious communities (e.g., the Clergy Letter Project) is vital.

  97. #98 illinoisfrank
    May 23, 2008

    Expelled successfully got me to find this blog and bookmark it (and read it frequently).

    So it has that going for it, which is nice.

  98. #99 tsg
    May 23, 2008

    As much as I hate to say it, with some fundies it is going to take theology, not science, to get them to be open to appreciating science as a valid way of knowing.

    You are advocating for a faith that takes nothing on faith. “You can trust me when I say no one can be trusted, not even me.” It isn’t going to go over very well.

  99. #100 DaveX
    May 23, 2008

    Browninan–

    You have to admit, Baltar has put those “entities” to good test. Seems clear that they’re a bit more than just his own crazy inner monologue. Besides, he’s slowly winning me back even AFTER selling out his entire species– PZ DID ask for “likable”!

  100. #101 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    How a movie is reviewed is irrelevant. Perhaps from your perspective it is but from the creationist community and the conservative religious community it isn’t.

    Of course it’s relevant, since they wanted to influence others than just the creationists. They didn’t know how, plus they no doubt pandered to the creationists knowing that they were the most likely to put them in the black, but they always hoped to “ignite a conversation” and to make inroads beyond the believers.

    They did neither, other than the starting the conversation that showed how false they were.

    I don’t know if you and the others understand the concept of propaganda. Propaganda’s goals aren’t to make money but to influence people.

    Yes, it’s not just preaching to the choir. And Expelled did little but preach to the choir, and reveal that they have no arguments beyond shouting “Hitler.”

    That’s the message Randy Olson was trying to convey. If scientists advertise themselves as a bunch of angry, hate filled people, and the creationists try to capitalize on that message (just check out those silly Jack Chick tracts) then people in America, who already don’t have a love affair with intellectuals, will be more convinced to agree with that message.

    Yes, and Randy did essentially zilch to blunt Expelled‘s propaganda. Myers and Dawkins did plenty while Randy merely carped. Randy continues to carp.

    For another example turn to politics. Political campaigns aren’t run to be profitable, they are run to advertise a person. As we saw in the Gore/Bush campaign it was Gore who was more intelligent, better on the issues, had experience, but it was Bush who better appealed to people’s emotions. Millions of people were swayed by that emotional, not intellectual appeal.

    First, you’re ridiculous in assuming that Gore was “better on the issues.” As such, you reveal your prejudices. Bush may well be argued to be better on the issues, since the measure of that is how many agree with him.

    Plus, we know very well that science has its hands tied compared to a political campaign and swaying the voters. We can’t lie about substantive issues and be pro-science, the creos can lie and be anti-science.

    So whether or not Expelled made a dime or lost millions is irrelevant.

    That would be more convincing if you weren’t previously trying to argue that it did ok financially, without you knowing the financial score.

    It is relevant, because if it paid well it would spawn many more films like it.

    They had a goal and they worked towards that using the rhetoric that best appeals to millions in this country.

    They were trying to break out of preaching to the converted. They failed.

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

  101. #102 Brownian, OM
    May 23, 2008

    DaveX, it’s true; no one can hate Baltar for long–he’s such a lovable rascal.

  102. #103 CalGeorge
    May 23, 2008

    President Bush, January 20, 2001 (Inaugural Address):

    Today, we affirm a new commitment to live out our nation’s promise through civility, courage, compassion and character.

    America, at its best, matches a commitment to principle with a concern for civility. A civil society demands from each of us good will and respect, fair dealing and forgiveness.

    Fuck. Civility.

  103. #104 Midnight Rambler
    May 23, 2008

    Re: Dawkins being seen as arrogant – Simply put, it’s the accent and the education. The US is profoundly anti-intellectual. Period.

    No doubt that’s part of it, but there’s more than that. I’m an American, atheist, evolutionary biologist, currently working in Ireland. My Irish and English university colleagues seem to have almost universal contempt for him. While I generally agree with what he says, he also comes across to me as a pompous twit. For example, when that nutball wrote to Michael Shermer after seeing Expelled saying how he now realized that it was responsible for his great-grandparents’ deaths in the Holocaust, Dawkins’ response began “Just look at those words of yours. Probably you regret them by now. I certainly hope so, but I’ll continue to write my letter to you, on the assumption that you still feel at least a part of what you wrote.” Yeah the guy had written a nasty letter after seeing this POS propaganda piece, but it’s still incredibly condescending.

  104. #105 Screechy Monkey
    May 23, 2008

    Thanks Glen, you saved me the trouble of responding to all that.

    I’m just tired of the double standards and shifting goalposts:

    1) When PZ makes fun of creationists in an entertaining and funny way, it’s dismissed as snide and obnoxious. When Ben Stein makes fun of evolutionary biologists in an (supposedly) entertaining and funny way, it’s praised as effective communication.

    2) When Richard Dawkins sells over a million copies of a book, he’s just preaching to the choir. When Expelled sells a million (?) tickets, it’s a great work of propaganda.

    3) When a handful of movie reviews mention in passing that PZ and Dawkins don’t come off very well in their interviews in Expelled, it’s a sign that they are failed communicators. When Expelled is almost universally panned in movie reviews, then reviews don’t matter.

    4) When some initial numbers can be used to project profits for Expelled, it’s trumpeted as a success. When the drop-off in subsequent days and weeks suggests that it won’t make money, well, that wasn’t the point after all.

  105. #106 Kristjan Wager
    May 23, 2008

    I think people are disagreeing on what “success” is in this case. This is probably because we don’t know what the goal of the movie was.

    I can see several possible goals:
    1) Rally the base, and show them that they are a prosecuted minority.
    2) Convince people who are not convince one way or the other.
    3) Affect the public debate in the US.

    No matter how we look at it, the movie is a failure.

    Ad 1) While there were quite a few viewers, considering it’s a documentary, the numbers are actually quite low considering that they tried to appeal to the evangelical base – they are willing to throw their money after crap, as the huge success of the Left Behind books show. This is also confirmed when we remember the kind of numbers the film-makers talked about when talking about what they thought the movie would make in the theaters.
    This goal might still be possible to reach though, through the DVDs that they plan to release. However, this will not happen as long as Yoko Ono is fighting them. That was a huge tactical blunder.

    Ad 2) As all the movie reviews, even from friendly-inclined sources (e.g. Fox), show, this movie simply does not appeal to anyone who is not already 100% convinced about the message.

    Ad 3) Yes, the movie has been mentioned, but all the different regulations were already debated long before the movie was even in the works. In this regard, David Horowitz has been much more successful than the movie.

  106. #107 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    There’s another issue that seems to be ignored by those who think Expelled was a success. It wasn’t a documentary, barely even a political film, and it certainly is no mainstream movie.

    Expelled would probably best be compared with The Passion of the Christ, which did very well indeed. To be fair, a movie with a documentary style, and with a more limited appeal to Xians than Gibson’s flick, should be expected to sell a good many fewer tickets than the Passion.

    Nevertheless, it might be expected to sell many more than it did. It was marketed much like the “Passion” was, to churches, without exposure to the critics, and religion was played up while the supposed science of ID was played down in the promotions.

    In the end they will have sold fewer theater tickets than viewers of a televised Billy Graham crusade back when he was “hot.” The fact is that not all that many Xians came out, far fewer anti-creationists and uncommitted folk did (or so it seems to me), and they did not change the dynamics of the evolution fight, which seems to have been their main goal.

    Isn’t that the ultimate measure, after all, whether or not they were able to sell their lies about persecution beyond those who cling to that fantasy because they have nothing else? But they convinced almost nobody that they are persecuted, they only demonstrated that they have no “argument” beyond persecution, and they have no science to present in order to show that they are persecuted by being kept out of science like alchemy is.

    They tried to do two things, claim that evolution doesn’t explain what it says it does, and to convince non-believers that ID is science. Stein pitifully whines that evolution doesn’t explain gravity and the origin of life, two things it isn’t expected to explain, and their only “evidence” that ID is “science” is that, you know, life is very complex.

    Actual science was missing from their movie. Which is why they can’t convince anybody except those who already are anti-science.

    The fact is that they could have made a far better propaganda movie, if they knew anything about propaganda. They could have dressed up ID to look like it really is science, and tried to show how it could provide answers (it wouldn’t take much distortion to convince a lot of people of that). Instead they just pounded away at the notion that keeping religious ideas out of science constitutes persecution, and over-hyped the whole Nazi thing. Coupled with the fact that they couldn’t stay on theme, both saying that ID is not religious and faulting scientists for being atheists, even the message to the believers was muddled.

    The believers cheered, because they only know to cheer attacks on “atheism” and religious apologetics. I haven’t seen any reaction other than the converted acting like the converted do.

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

  107. #108 Phil Plait
    May 23, 2008

    I accept.

  108. #109 Blake Stacey
    May 23, 2008

    Phil Plait (#108):

    I accept.

    Hooray!

  109. #110 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    May 23, 2008

    I accept.

    Posted by: Phil Plait | May 23, 2008 2:41 PM

    Look! An astronomer, squash it!

  110. #111 Glen Davidson
    May 23, 2008

    I haven’t seen any reaction other than the converted acting like the converted do.

    I should have written it like this: I have seen hardly any favorable reactions to the movie other than the converted acting like the converted do.

    And quite so, Screechy.

    What is more, we have PZ being seen as obnoxious by many. Which I think is just fine, since I think we need “bad cops”.

    We also have people arguing in far more smooth and theistically-compatible (never mind the old argument of whether or not it “really is”, like religion can ever be pinned down) ways, such as Ken Miller and the NCSE.

    I don’t care how PZ comes across. That’s his business. Were he and Dawkins the only voices out there I still wouldn’t fault them (much) over their messages, I’d only fault the others for not offering a different presentation.

    As it is, though, we have many supplying the more upbeat message, including Robert Bakker (and note how diplomatic PZ was in complaining about Bakker–more so than he often was in the past to, say, Miller in certain blog posts). The IDiots like to pound away on Dawkins and Myers instead, though, which is not a problem, because while they’re doing that we have a number of theistic and non-theistic evolutionists presenting a far more palatable message.

    The IDists don’t have anyone who is really very convincing, mainly because they can’t present any science at all. Even their smoother spokespersons, like Paul Nelson, fail to engage with any but the most selective points we bring up, and can never respond to our challenges to show how ID can guide science.

    The fact is that we answer just about everything that they bring up (so much for their censorship claims), while they leave vast swathes simply ignored. For those who can think, this does not reflect well upon them at all.

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

  111. #112 PZ Myers
    May 23, 2008

    You aren’t supposed to squash astronomers. You’re supposed to strap a big rocket on them and launch them. Where, doesn’t matter.

  112. #113 Paul W.
    May 23, 2008

    What I have never quite understood is why America has such an anti-intellectual streak.

    Read Anti-Intellectualism in American Life by Richard Hofstadter. (It got a Pulitzer in the 60′s.)

    If Hofstadter’s right—and I tend to think he is—it’s largely because of the way America was settled.

    On the frontier, there generally weren’t many educated ministers and priests of the European sort. So random farmers would “feel the call” and start preaching, with barely enough education to read their Bibles.

    Naturally, they tended to favor theologies that did not favor education—all you need is the Bible and a “calling” to preach it, and you can be as good a minister to a bunch of sheep as some educated city slicker.

    Theologies that devalued education had a huge marketing advantage—they had cheap, spontaneously generated ignorant ministers rather than scarce, expensive educated ones.

    And ignorance naturally became a virtue.

    Over and over again, as the frontier moved and the areas behind it became more settled and populous, ignorant rural sects got there first, especially the Baptists and the Methodists. Pretty much anybody could be a baptist minister, part time, and the Methodists had circuit-riding ministers so that one guy could cover a large area.

    By the time population densities and wealth got high enough in a given area behind the frontier, and the Episcoplians or whoever could afford to send an educated minister, it was too late. Most of the people were Baptists or Methodists, and didn’t want an Episcopalian minister.

    The frontier-church ministers naturally resisted the educated ministers coming and trying to poach their flocks, and preached that those late-arriving sects were corrupt and to be avoided. Educated ministers with their seminary degrees and citified ways and Europea-style Christianity were therefore effete elite tools of rich exploiters, and good old salt-of-the-earth American Baptists and Methodists knew how to thump a bible properly.

    Whatever gets most of the market first wins, and anything else is evil almost by definition, because it’s incompatible with what’s already accepted.

    (Bill Gates must have read Hofstadter.)

    The Church of England is almost the polar opposite. England has been relatively densely settled for many hundreds of years, and religion coevolved with the ruling class. For hundreds of years, most C of E ministers went to Oxford or Cambridge. It’s hard to be wildly ignorant of science if you rub elbows with the guys doing the science, or are one of them.

    More generally, the established religions in Europe controlled the universities, and as the enlightenment came about, largely at those “religious” institutions, it had a very beneficial effect of corrupting the religious elites, and the whole culture, top-down.

    America’s bottom-up frontier culture managed to forget the Enlightenment, with the unenlightened sects growing like topsy.

  113. #114 Coriolis
    May 23, 2008

    Doug, this may be news to you, but as scientists, we tend to value appeals to facts and evidence along with emotion, rather then pure emotion and lack of evidence. Complaining that scientists instinctively use evidence in their arguments along with emotion (or without emotional appeals) rather then emotion without evidence is how shall I put it… like complaining that a bunch of preachers tend to put value in arguments based on “the bible said so”. And as for this whole “likability” business in politics, do realize that this tends to be important when things are going well anyways. It’s no wonder we elected a “likable” moron at the time the country was doing good. It’s also no wonder that a repulsive guy like Nixon got elected even though people didn’t like him, because the country was in a bad shape and people thought he was competent. I.e. when the shit hits the fan, people tend to care about a little more then who I can drink a beer with.

    The notion that scientists should all of a sudden turn essentially into another special interest group promoting “science” with PR methods, is just wrong. It’s very unlikely to “work” in persuading people, and more importantly it is against the basic principles of being a scientist, i.e. honesty about what you’re doing and how you understand it. As scientists our responsibility is to explain our best understanding of a subject (the truth if you will) as determined based on the scientific method, in as simple and understandable a way as possible. Not to frame it in some cozy way that puts a mask over the fact that it conflicts with certain interpretations of certain religious books.

    Reminds me of I believe a lecture on scientific honesty I read from one of Feynman’s books a long time ago. He was talking to a astrophysics professor who was explaining his work to him, and it was very interesting but completely devoid of any practical use. The professor said that of course in his proposals he had to make up some reason for why it might somehow be of practical use. Feynman’s commentary was that as scientists our first responsibility is to be honest about our research to the public – and if they agree to support us fine, if not then not. To subvert our honest opinion, even for the cause of popularizing science is just not worth it in my opinion.

  114. #115 Bureaucratus Minimis
    May 23, 2008

    Matt @ 72:

    The blame for the US having more religious groups, with a wider membership, that reject reason and science in favour of dogma and scripture can not be place on scientists. It can be placed on the religious leaders in the US though.

    I don’t think it’s either/or but both. The religious leaders for encouraging ignorance and superstition, the scientists for not doing a better job of explaining science, the people themselves for their anti-intellectual bent.

    If you look at Western Europe, where the SAME scientists that are most involved in communicating science to the public are the SAME scientists doing so in the US, and you will see it is NOT a failure on the part of the scientists. Their message gets across when others are not intent on lying in order to maintain their hold on the religious.

    Sure, it’s easier in Europe where faith is waning. You have to adopt different strategies for different conditions.

  115. #116 doug
    May 23, 2008

    > when what we really need is someone to shake up the bogosity of the general public’s delusions

    mykeru.com

    He’s Ba-a-a-ack!

  116. #117 semi
    May 23, 2008

    Another huge failure of the film (which is not readily apparent now but soon will be) is in the way that it conflates atheism with evolution, and religion with ID.

    Why is this a failure? Because now this film will be used as evidence to show that the ID movement isn’t about science at all. It will make a great exhibit wherever science is trying to keep religion out of the science classroom.

    Expelled will be the gift that keeps on giving, in court cases and school boards discussions all over the country.

    I am actually happy these ID guys made the film; ultimately they did their movement no favors, and handed science advocates a great big bag of logical fallacies and religious propaganda that IDers will never be able to retract.

  117. #118 usagi
    May 23, 2008

    What we really need is someone who is fiercely likable, someone who can be admired while they’re fighting for science.

    As the more likable activists noted during the height of the emergence of AIDS in the 80s when approaching drug companies, politicians, or any other person or organization they needed something from, “We can have a civilized talk, or Larry Kramer can come by and piss on your desk. Your choice.” The role of the extremist in driving progress is frequently misunderstood.

  118. #119 Bureaucratus Minimis
    May 23, 2008

    Coriolis @ 114:

    The notion that scientists should all of a sudden turn essentially into another special interest group promoting “science” with PR methods, is just wrong. It’s very unlikely to “work” in persuading people, and more importantly it is against the basic principles of being a scientist, i.e. honesty about what you’re doing and how you understand it. As scientists our responsibility is to explain our best understanding of a subject (the truth if you will) as determined based on the scientific method, in as simple and understandable a way as possible. Not to frame it in some cozy way that puts a mask over the fact that it conflicts with certain interpretations of certain religious books.

    First, your premise that PR methods won’t work: Do you have any evidence supporting this? PR methods are highly effective, and are the practical application of the findings of psychological research.

    Secondly, PR methods are all about communicating your message to your target audience in the most effective way. There is a big difference between lying, and choosing to emphasize useful points and not mention contentious ones. I see no inherent conflict between effectively presenting evolution and being an effective scientist. However, as a non-scientist I may be missing something. Help me out.

  119. #120 gwangung
    May 23, 2008

    Doug, this may be news to you, but as scientists, we tend to value appeals to facts and evidence along with emotion, rather then pure emotion and lack of evidence. Complaining that scientists instinctively use evidence in their arguments along with emotion (or without emotional appeals) rather then emotion without evidence is how shall I put it… like complaining that a bunch of preachers tend to put value in arguments based on “the bible said so”.

    This may be news to you, but we aren’t appealing to just scientists.

    Eschewing the use of emotion and other EMPIRICALLY derived techniques is fighting with one hand tied behind your back. It bothers me that so many people want to fight this way.

    (That said, there’s a place for other styles of persuasion and commenting. One style doesn’t fit all.)

  120. #121 Calladus
    May 23, 2008

    I can just see Phil Plait talking to a Creationist.

    Phil: “I’m an Astronomer!”
    Creationist: “Really? That’s fascinating! What sign are you? Can you tell my fortune?”

  121. #122 Curt Nelson
    May 23, 2008

    I’ve listened to all the interviews about Expelled and thought what Randy Olson had to say on it was like a blast of fresh air.

    To me, he wasn’t being literally critical of The Evolutionists for not having their own movie to pitch at that moment, but just meant it as an example of what should be done – planned for – in an ideal world (of smart evolution activism).

  122. #123 onkel bob
    May 23, 2008

    Not sure who said it, but I recall reading a post stating that if Nisbet and Mooney are some damn successful at communicating, how is no one understands them the first time around? They constantly need to clarify and correct their initial messages.
    Furthermore, what is this thin-skinned trait among these framers? Nisbet is a whiney little twit who moderates his blog to excise any and all criticism. Mooney is better, but takes every question or disagreement as a personal affront. As such I never read their blogs. No loss because they do not produce any content worth considering and their milquetoast lackey followers are even less interesting.

  123. #124 tsg
    May 23, 2008

    Not sure who said it, but I recall reading a post stating that if Nisbet and Mooney are some damn successful at communicating, how is no one understands them the first time around? They constantly need to clarify and correct their initial messages.

    It’s a fatal flaw inherent in their premise that not offending people is more important than the message.

  124. #125 Freelancer
    May 23, 2008

    I say, Dr. Gregory House.

  125. #126 Paul W.
    May 23, 2008

    PR methods are all about communicating your message to your target audience in the most effective way. There is a big difference between lying, and choosing to emphasize useful points and not mention contentious ones. I see no inherent conflict between effectively presenting evolution and being an effective scientist. However, as a non-scientist I may be missing something. Help me out.

    Beyond a certain point, choosing to emphasize points and avoid others amounts to lying by omission. (Which is not to say it’s not a worthwhile strategy—just that it’s creepy.)

    For example, some friends of mine who are philosophy professors have noted that if they don’t come and say they’re atheists, most theist students assume that they are theists. That tendency remains even if they’ve discussed various arguments for the existence of God, and concluded in each case that the argument is wrong. If you don’t connect the dots very explicitly, many students will miss the point.

    They assume that if you had that big and important a point, you’d come out and say so. Since you don’t, you must not—all those particular arguments may be wrong, but the conclusion is still true.

    In general, people often assume silence signifies assent—that if people disagree with you, they’ll say so.

    That’s one of the reasons why religion is so effective at perpetuating itself. People who disagree tend to keep their mouths shut, because they don’t need extra conflicts in their lives. Religious people are faced with response bias, hearing lots of agreement and very little disagreement. So they tend to think most reasonable people agree with them, when in fact many don’t.

    They often think they’ve never met an atheist, and that atheists don’t have good arguments, because the atheists they’ve met haven’t bothered to disagree and get into an argument with them.

    The framist strategy often seems to be predicated on exploiting that kind of systematic misunderstanding, i.e., lying by omission.

    In order to make mainstream folks comfortable with evolution, you parade around a few oddball evolutionary scientists who are theists. If folks conclude that being religious while understanding evolution is not only possible but normal, and perfectly reasonable, great. If letting them think God and evolution are perfectly compatible advances the agenda, do it. If you think it’s not true, shut the hell up about it.

    My own objection to this isn’t mostly about honesty. Given the stakes and the situation, I’d rather people mistakenly thought that science and religion were compatible than that they rejected science. Maybe we can only make so much progress at one time, and have to boil the frog gradually.

    My objection is that it’s not clear to me when lying by omission works, given several effects at several levels.

    The religious right does not follow the kind of strategy that the framists advocate, and it has been stunningly effective at shifting the “Overton window” of acceptable public opinion. Having screechy monkeys at one end of the spectrum often does more good than harm. If people at one end of the spectrum shout a lot, and people at the other end mostly clam up, most folks in the middle shift toward the noisier end of the spectrum.

    That happens because most people tend toward a “moderate” position for a variety of psychological reasons. Any position with few visible advocates is likely to be judged flaky. Any position with a lot of visible advocates is likely to be judged non-flaky, even if not correct.

    (One reason is that most people don’t listen to the arguments for any very unpopular position; they only listen to the “major players.”)

    That amounts to a strategic argument for saying the whole truth, or a lot of the truth. You won’t convince most people in the short run, and will polarize things. But you’ll convince some people about some of it, and those people will help convince some other people about some of that, and the effect will propagate down the spectrum, shifting it in your direction.

    That’s the kind of thing framists don’t seem to want to discuss clearly and convincingly—how do you determine when the short term polarizing effect is simply bad for your minority because most people won’t buy it, and whether it’s nonetheless good for your minority in the long run when the effect propagates down the spectrum? When is it worth it to say the hard truths to a given mostly-elite audience who may propagate some watered down version of the message, and when is it worth shutting up because the masses are listening and it’s just not worth the backlash?

    The framists seem to have a hard time discussing this in public because they have a mixed audience. They’ve already firmly decided that they want to promote the idea that science and religion are very compatible; they can’t afford to be seen admitting that it’s really just a strategically useful white lie, and arguing for a white lie of omission.

    They want a one-size-fits-all message that’s acceptable to the majority. The problem is that any message that’s acceptable to the majority is not actually true—the majority can’t handle the truth.

  126. #127 Blake Stacey
    May 23, 2008

    Eschewing the use of emotion and other EMPIRICALLY derived techniques is fighting with one hand tied behind your back. It bothers me that so many people want to fight this way.

    What? Who doesn’t want to make science emotionally appealing? Scientists know it is, because we love working on it. Many of us got into it and made it our life’s work because we caught that bug from a book or a teacher — it’s a fusion of intellectual and emotional response which just can’t be denied.

    The problem comes when a self-appointed expert decides that the only way science can have an emotional appeal is by tarting it up and dumbing it down until it isn’t science anymore. Oh, and then the same people who say that also assert that because message X might appeal to audience Y, no other message can be tolerated, ever. “Hey, guys, let’s take the basic principles of Enlightenment pluralism and fuck ‘em! Yeah!”

  127. #128 s miller
    May 23, 2008

    Cliff notes for Randy’s message:

    Innovative communication strategies are needed to help increase the public’s understanding of science (eg evolution). Keep doing all the other stuff too, it’s important, but in today’s media realm science does not reach the masses.

    An element of innovative communication involves entertainment. That’s where Randy and Hollywood can contribute. You reach the masses by entertaining them.

    Hollywood productions are expensive. Flock of Dodos was not expensive to make by Hollywood standards and had no marketing dollars, none. Successful Hollywood productions typically spend many millions of dollars (25-50 million is not uncommon) on advertising.

    You want to advance public understanding of evolution, and at the same time advance science literacy – and interest – in our country? Then find 100 million dollars to make and market the next movie that has the word Darwin in the title. Unrealistic? Somebody found that kind of money, and more, to make the latest Indiana Jones movie.

    Again, making movies is just one approach to communicate science. Unfortunately, it’s most often done badly, or done well for the PBS crowd and what we’re talking about is doing it well for the masses.

    And if you’re an individual scientist who wants to get better at communicating science to the public, Randy has a simple message – lighten up. Unfortunately, the gift of communicating well to the public is rare. Exceedingly rare. Good looks help, but it’s not a requirement.

    We need rock star scientists that we don’t have. But we also need local hero scientists to work at the community level too, and most people can be trained to communicate better, if they try. Randy has good suggestions in this area too.

    Full disclosure… I was exec producer on Flock of Dodos.

  128. #129 Eric Saveau
    May 23, 2008

    I nominate Gaius Baltar

    Frak that! I nominate Admiral William Adama! He wouldn’t have to say anything; he could just glare at them for a few minutes and they would wither to nothingness.

    Plus, he’s an atheist! Waging war against genocidal monotheists who declare “God is love” while oppressing unbelievers. He’s our guy.

  129. #130 Susan
    May 23, 2008

    Expelled has lost money. The company has laid off most staff, and cant at the moment afford a DVD (personal inside info!!)- therefore even less people will see the film – thank God ( and I say that as an evangelical CHristian – just one from the UK, where we don’t normally swallow the ID crap!_

  130. #131 Tulse
    May 23, 2008

    It looks like Expelled is actually out of theatres as of this weekend — it doesn’t appear in the Box Office Mojo Theatre Count as of Friday. Buh-bye!

    Doug:

    How a movie is reviewed is irrelevant. Perhaps from your perspective it is but from the creationist community and the conservative religious community it isn’t.

    But the point of the film, at least as it was presented, wasn’t to convince the True Believers, since they are already committed to the issue. Certainly that wasn’t why everyone was afraid of the film, or why the NCSE put together a website countering it. Instead, the fear was that the movie would find an audience of uninformed moderates, non-fundamentalists who might be convinced by the anti-evolution arguments, and come away with their opinion changed about ID. All the evidence shows that didn’t happen.

    (And that’s also why reviews are important –the faithful may not care, but those without a prior commitment to the issue may not want to look like idiots and see a film that is universally panned for its stupid argumentation.)

    They put out tripe like the Left Behind Series and a Jesus snuff film and it makes hundreds of millions.

    Exactly…they make “hundreds of millions” from those products, and less than $8 million on this film. For context (and I apologize for repeating a point I’ve made many times elsewhere), this film was less successful on the Christian box office list than Facing the Giants and End of the Spear, and is just ahead of Megiddo: The Omega Code II. Now, be honest — had you heard of any of those other films? (And none of those were advertised on Comedy Central.) Even in the heart of its target audience, the film didn’t do that well.

  131. #132 Dave
    May 23, 2008

    With all due respect, I think PZ’s argument that people ‘fight for science’ is wrongheaded. Creationism is ignorance. It will be cured by education, not by a ‘fight’. PZ regularly chides creationists for their vehemently-defended assumptions, and their lack of rational defense. This does nothing; it just makes these people sense a fight and dig in.

    PZ is clearly a wonderful classroom teacher, and some of his blog entries here are masterful expositions. He should do more of that and less ‘fighting’. I think he would be a more effective advocate if he did so.

    Seriously: Imagine if PZ taught a brain development class the way he advocates some of his positions here:

    PZ: “Can someone tell me how the cells of the nervous system differentiate and how nervous tissue is organized?”

    [various mumbled flawed answers]

    PZ: “Wrong! You are so stupid! Why do you believe such stupidity?”

    Student: “Well can you explain it to us?”

    PZ: “Of course I can explain it to you. It’s very complicated. But if you weren’t such a moron you would already understand the brain. You don’t even seem to want to know anything.”

    Student: “Actually, I’m quite interested in the subject and excited to be in this class. I have thought a lot about the brain. in particular, I have always wondered how consciousness arises. Can you explain the physiological basis of consciousness and how drugs alter it?”

    PZ: “There are some unresolved issues yet in neuroscience, but it is obvious to educated people that consciousness can be explained by fundamental principles.”

    Student: “Great! Can you explain those principles?”

    PZ: “See? This is the sad state of education in this country, that the ignorant have taken over to such an extent that you don’t even understand the basic principles of neuroscience. Do I have to lecture you on Donnan equilibrium?”

    Student: “Donnan equilibrium explains consciousness?”

    PZ: “Donnan equilibrium is explained in your textbook and in many other places. it is one of the principles that provides a foundation for an understanding of brain function and therefore consciousness.”

    Student: “Great! And what are those other principles? Are they going to be on the exam?”

    PZ: “Of course they are going to be on the exam! You should know them already!”

    Student: “Do drugs affect consciousness by altering the Donnan equilibrium?”

    PZ: “Did I tell you that? No! No scientist has ever advocated that position, you moron!”

    Student: “I am beginning to think you don’t know about consciousness. Or that no one actually can explain consciousness.”

    PZ: “So, having nothing but ignorance to draw on, you are going to rely on misdirection and doubt? You are stupid! This proves it!”

    Student: “I do not think you are a very good educator or scientist. In fact, I am beginning to wonder whether education or science is even worthwhile, since you don’t seem to be able to answer my questions.”

    PZ: “You make me want to puke. Your ignorance is astounding. The entire class is laughing at you. First off, this is a class about brain development, not consciousness. So you can’t even formulate a proper question. Second, if you were a scientist you’d accept what I’m telling you. But you’re not, because you’re a moron. And third, I have a Ph.D.”

    I am quite sure that PZ does not teach like this in class. Why does he teach like that here on this blog? It does not reflect well on other biologists, which is why I care. I am honestly not trying to be a malicious troll. Starting a war just makes it tough for others like myself who are interested in educating and not fighting.

    As a service to the blog, I’ll save people the trouble of these predictable replies:

    ———–
    “I’m honestly not trying to be a malicious troll.”

    …but you’re succeeding
    ———–

    Dave, why don’t you start your own blog and shut up here? Then we’ll see if you get a fraction of the traffic PZ gets. Who cares about your educational efforts if no one reads what you write? At least people are reading PZ’s blog.

    [my reply: But is PZ's blog changing any minds, or is it hardening pre-existing attitudes?]

    ———–

    Into the dungeon with you…

    ———–

  132. #133 rsquared
    May 23, 2008

    It will be interesting to see how Bill Maher’s Religulous documentary does as a comparison point when that finally comes out.

  133. #134 adobedragon
    May 23, 2008

    [my reply: But is PZ's blog changing any minds, or is it hardening pre-existing attitudes?]

    Well, poysonally, I don’t think P.Z.’s role in this is to be warm and fuzzy and appease the masses. I see his role as two fold: First, this blog brings an important issue to light, puts it out there in such a way that it gets plenty of notice. I mean, it’s not like the media is going to cover the issue in any kind of meaningful way.

    Second, he essentially empowers like-minded, but perhaps less bellicose individuals, showing us that we are not alone in our rationality. Thus emboldened, I think many of us find ourselves getting more outspoken on the issue, less likely to politely demure when faced with an ID proponent. Frankly, I think this may be the most important of the two aspects.

    Sure there’s room for a more diplomatic approach. I just don’t see any reason why P.Z. needs to take that tact. He’s doing just find as he is.

  134. #135 CalGeorge
    May 23, 2008

    “We need rock star scientists that we don’t have.”

    No, we need more people like PZ and Richard Dawkins to point out what is wrong with creationism and intelligent design.

    If more scientists were as courageous as they are, the message would start getting through.

    Tolerance of kooky religious beliefs is what got us into this mess. More civility and a few feel-good science movies won’t change a damned thing.

    This blog will remain a terrific resource for years to come because it contains the arguments of countless commenters who have demonstrated over and over again how to rip the arguments of the fundies to shreds. That has more lasting value than the watered-down science that can be offered in a popular documentary.

    I hope that PZ continues to do what he is doing for a long time.

    You want to do a powerful movie, do one about the amazing Pharyngulans who gather here to rip religion to shreds on a daily basis. Now that would be a documentary worth seeing.

  135. #136 Jams
    May 23, 2008

    I thought the point of the film was to erode the credibility of academia as an institution in the time honoured American tradition of feeling stabbed in the back.

    The point of Expelled resonates (to the degree that it does resonate) because it invokes the dissonance between democracy and expertise. It pits an every-man who just wants to be given an equal hearing, against an authoritarian cabalistic circle of elites.

    I think general arguments about whether to go positive or go negative are ridiculous outside the context of a specific answer to the accusation being made by Expelled. First you decide on the response, then decide how to best deliver it.

    Intuitively speaking, I think the best response will probably be many responses representing a wide variety of characters.

  136. #137 James F
    May 23, 2008

    #131 Tulse,

    It’s still around, but judging by this map it’s down another 50% or so. For example, it’s completely out of Massachusetts, with the closest screenings being one in New Hampshire and two in Maine. It looks like it’s not making enough to warrant daily tracking at Box Office Mojo; we’ll see what kind of trickle comes in over the weekend.

  137. #138 raven
    May 23, 2008

    Expelled has lost money. The company has laid off most staff, and cant at the moment afford a DVD (personal inside info!!)- therefore even less people will see the film – thank God ( and I say that as an evangelical CHristian – just one from the UK, where we don’t normally swallow the ID crap!_

    That is sort of good news. But predictable. IMO, they never really expected to make money anyway. This was a pure propaganda film, science=atheism=mass murder. Stupid message, we brought about a 21st century that looks a lot different from the 11th century. Lifespans in the USA are up 30 years in the last century alone.

    I’m sure the DVD will get made and given out like free napkins at Starbucks. Propaganda is not made for commercial reasons but political ones.

    And Mathis, Ruloff, Kevin Miller, Frankowski, Stein, and the whole merry band of Expelled Xian Nihilists have typecast themselves forever. Disciples of Goebbels in the service of the Forces of Darkness of the loony Xian extremist cults.

    Making a living by lying to create a New Dark Ages doesn’t seem too worthwhile. BWTHDIK.

  138. #139 Ragutis
    May 23, 2008

    Ahh, I think I know where you’re going with this. We don’t need a movie about evolution; we need a prog-rock opera about evolution! Anybody have any connection to Townshend?

    Posted by: Brownian, OM | May 23, 2008 1:17 PM

    Will a concept album do? http://frameshift.progrockrecords.com/

    If you want a full-on prog opera these days, you could try talking Arjen Lucassen into it, but he’d likely fantasy it up. Dream Theater had their song “The Great Debate” about stem cell research and have taken a crack at religious extremism a few times but they seem averse to taking stark positions or being overtly political. Sadly, Neal Morse seems lost to the dark side. (Although it would be interesting to see Spock’s Beard become his ideological antithesis and come out strongly for reason and secularism).

    Daniel Gildenlöw sure as hell isn’t afraid to open his mouth and risk taking a controversial position, and of course Rush are science fans and unafraid to confront religion and faith-based thinking.

    Now, who’s gonna whisper in these ears or send them links to Pharyngula?

    /prog geek

  139. #140 Carlie
    May 23, 2008

    Nisbet is a whiney little twit who moderates his blog to excise any and all criticism. Mooney is better, but takes every question or disagreement as a personal affront.

    It’s really sad what associating with Nisbet has done to Mooney. Right after he started moderating comments again I made a nonthreatening, calmly worded comment that he seemed to be insulating himself rather than listening to what people were really saying to him, and he refused to let it go through on the thread. That’s when I started thinking of him as a lost cause entirely.

  140. #141 Carlie
    May 23, 2008

    You want to do a powerful movie, do one about the amazing Pharyngulans who gather here to rip religion to shreds on a daily basis. Now that would be a documentary worth seeing.

    I want Reese Witherspoon to play me.

  141. #142 clarenc
    May 23, 2008

    You reach the masses by entertaining them.

    Flock of Dodos was a somewhat interesting documentary, but I think it would be a stretch to call it “entertaining.” I’m biased toward the subject matter yet wasn’t particularly engaged, and it did give up a lot of ground to the creationists.

    Megiddo: The Omega Code II, on the other hand, was orders of magnitude more fun to watch.

    Someone remind me why the FOD people can claim to be experts at reaching the masses and/or communicating science and/or explaining the glamorous Hollywood system to the rest of us? Making one obscure movie a pretty flimsy excuse for ordering people around.

  142. #143 James F
    May 23, 2008

    raven @138,

    we brought about a 21st century that looks a lot different from the 11th century. Lifespans in the USA are up 30 years in the last century alone.

    One name alone should silence the science=mass murder crowd: Norman Borlaug!

  143. #144 Fernando Magyar
    May 23, 2008

    Olson is telling us to be like Jimmy Carter, and ignoring the fact that the environment right now is dominated by the likes of Dick Cheney, unlikable thug.

    Check out this link from the Onion

    http://www.theonion.com/content/opinion/i_got_what_america_needs_right

  144. #145 Colugo
    May 23, 2008

    Megiddo: The Omega Code II is like Omen III: The Final Conflict but a lot more over the top. And it’s more fun than the three Left Behind movies. Michael York plays the Antichrist, who turns into a CGI Devil and literally tumbles into Hell. And it has Udo Kier, an actor typecast as either a vampire or Satan’s flunky (Revelation, End of Days).

  145. #146 Sigmund
    May 23, 2008

    The strange thing is that they actually had someone on their team who could make an entertaining movie – that guy who did the ‘Dick to the Dawk’ youtube clip.
    If they made the entire movie like that it could have been hugely successful – just not giving the ‘science leads to killing people’ message they wanted to convey.
    I hope the DVD includes the deleted scenes.
    http://sneerreview.blogspot.com/2008/05/expelled-deleted-scenes.html

  146. #147 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 23, 2008

    I don’t think anyone has argued that Expelled was not competently put together, with regards the quality of the footage and editing.

    Dawkins has argued precisely this. Remember? “Lord Privy Seals”.

    For another example turn to politics. Political campaigns aren’t run to be profitable, they are run to advertise a person. As we saw in the Gore/Bush campaign it was Gore who was more intelligent, better on the issues, had experience, but it was Bush who better appealed to people’s emotions. Millions of people were swayed by that emotional, not intellectual appeal.

    You act as if Gore had lost the election before the Supreme Court usurped the right to vote.

    They [Expelled] were trying to break out of preaching to the converted. They failed.

    We have a winner.

    But is PZ’s blog changing any minds, or is it hardening pre-existing attitudes?

    This blog is the cause for several deconversions, and has helped in several others…

    ————–

    Comments 117 and 130 are worth repeating.

  147. #148 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 23, 2008

    I’m sure the DVD will get made and given out like free napkins at Starbucks. Propaganda is not made for commercial reasons but political ones.

    I used to agree, but if they can’t afford to make the DVD, it won’t be given out.

    Harken to the wise words of Scrooge McDuck: “Money isn’t everything! But without money everything is nothing!”

    One name alone should silence the science=mass murder crowd: Norman Borlaug!

    From that site:

    These new wheat varieties and improved crop management practices transformed agricultural production in Mexico during the 1940′s and 1950′s and later in Asia and Latin America, sparking what today is known as the “Green Revolution.” Because of his achievements to prevent hunger, famine and misery around the world, it is said that Dr. Borlaug has “saved more lives than any other person who has ever lived.”

  148. #149 Dave
    May 23, 2008

    David in #147 said:

    ———
    >But is PZ’s blog changing any minds, or is it hardening pre-existing attitudes?

    This blog is the cause for several deconversions, and has helped in several others…
    ———

    Really? I was not aware of that. Can you elaborate? If the anti-creationism tirades on this blog raised doubt enough in any truly religious people for them to give up creationist beliefs, it would prove me wrong. Being wrong would actually delight me. But I am skeptical that the tirades were effective. Rather, if this blog quashed any creationist beliefs, I suspect it was the milder educational aspects of PZ’s work that did so.

  149. #150 Mindcore
    May 23, 2008

    I think that Olson suffers from concern for an issue worth considering.

    Does the attitudes of academic scientists, and their communication skills hurt the greater cause of evolution education?

    It seems that in many cases, though I would explicitly exempt PZ due to the obvious popularity of what he does, it does.

    But he is not asking a different question, which is does cutting the crap help science education in the class room?

    Which I also think it does, I also think that it is a cutting of the crap which PZ seems to consistently do well.

  150. #151 Dave
    May 23, 2008

    >Does the attitudes of academic scientists, and their communication skills hurt the greater >cause of evolution education?
    >It seems that in many cases, though I would explicitly exempt PZ due to the obvious >popularity of what he does, it does.

    This is like arguing that the Jerry Springer show must be great relationship therapy.

    As I said above, the only real antidote to ignorance is education. Education is simply information, effectively transferred. I think insults and argumentative tone impair the transfer of information. I agree with Paul in #126: It’s better to leave theism intact if attacking it risks popular rejection of fundamental biological concepts like evolution and natural selection.

  151. #152 Ryan Cunningham
    May 23, 2008

    The funniest thing in that podcast was Olsen’s certainty there would be no injunction. Everyone else needs to stop talking about the legal issues. There’s just NO WAY an injunction would ever happen. Olsen is an EXPERT! So hush!

  152. #153 pcarini
    May 23, 2008

    Dave @ 132

    PZ is clearly a wonderful classroom teacher, and some of his blog entries here are masterful expositions. He should do more of that and less ‘fighting’. I think he would be a more effective advocate if he did so.

    So because PZ is an educator by profession his blog must always be educational? I really enjoy the article writups, but I’m here mostly for entertainment. I’d be seriously misguided if I were trying to get my education from blogs — even here at scienceblogs. I’m also here to read the comments which are, for the most part, well thought-out and well written. And for the occasional intellectual smack-down…

    Also, who is this hypothetical audience to whom PZ should be a more “effective advocate”? The general scienceblogs readership?

  153. #154 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    I agree with Paul in #126: It’s better to leave theism intact if attacking it risks popular rejection of fundamental biological concepts like evolution and natural selection.

    bah.

    that’s like saying it’s better to leave schizophrenics alone because attacking their delusional beliefs might make them get mad and reject rational thought altogether.

    get past it. religion is based on nothing but vapor. encouraging it, even in the cause of preserving science itself, simply isn’t worth it.

    this is basically why so many of us disagree with the whole “framing science” issue, expecially when it comes to basically lying about the actual logic underlying concepts of NOMA.

    I can understand the tactical applications, like I can understand the tactical value of firebombing entire cities in WWII. That still doesn’t mean that it’s the correct approach from a long-term standpoint, or that it’s the “right” thing to do.

  154. #155 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    As I said above, the only real antidote to ignorance is education

    true. However note that education alone is not always sufficient, in the case of cults, there is a necessary level of deprogramming required before education even can have an effect.

    That said, education is most certainly NOT the only way to fight the INFLUENCE of the ignorant in society as a whole.

    Many of us have found ridicule to be quite an effective tool in that case.

    example:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/12/ridicule_works.php

  155. #156 Kagehi
    May 23, 2008

    Dave, not attacking religion has allowed fundamentalists to equate our *unwillingness* to attack it with “not actually having any answers”, and a whole list of other BS. It is more or less what got us to the point where people like Dawkins and PZ figured, “Ok, we have played nice for 150 years, now its time to kick some asses!” There has been a popular rejection of concepts like evolution and natural selection since back when it was proposed, and its been due to the two same things *the entire time* – a) religious people insisting their “explanations” where better, despite not having any, and other religious people siding with them, and b) a constant, and continuous, tendency of there to exist bad standard, unqualified teachers, barely qualified teachers that opted to also illegally teach creationism as an alternative, and a constant, but until recently, not quite so aggressive, charge to “remove ungodly ideas from schools and replace them with the TRUTH(tm).” Nothing PZ or anyone like him does is going to *increase* the level of base ignorance, the unpopularity of the ideas (which is being aggressively pushed by the same people we gripe about here), further decrease the standards for who to hire to teach them, or fundamentally increase the number of loonies promoting the idea of inserting bullshit into biology. Your looking at a fracking waste water processing plant and complaining that, “If we hadn’t started pumping sewage in from that new neighborhood as well, it wouldn’t stink so bad in here!”, only, in the case of the plant, maybe the real answer is, “We told you 50 years ago that *this* plant wouldn’t be enough to handle the entire city 30 years later, and its 20 years after that, but you are still pumping more and more shit into it. Maybe we should fracking *fix* the problem, instead of complaining about how much worse it smells?”

    How do you leave something intact that created the problem, promotes the problem, tends to deny the truth, and actively apposes pretty much *every* attempt that has ever been made to fix the problem? At the bare minimum, one needs to point out that the overhanging branch that *is* the real problem needs to be lopped off, and that, as PZ and others have said, we don’t mind the damn tree itself, as long as it stays on *its* side of the damn fence.

  156. #157 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    If the anti-creationism tirades on this blog raised doubt enough in any truly religious people for them to give up creationist beliefs,

    those of us that have been here a while, have indeed seen former creationists credit the arguments presented by the PZ and the regulars at both this blog, and blogs like Panda’s Thumb.

    Stephen Elliot comes to mind, readily, but there have been many. Some who only de-lurked to thank those that pointed out the deceptive and outright lying tactics used by creationists that finally served to open their eyes.

    that you haven’t been around long enough to notice certainly isn’t our issue.

    If you wish to doubt it, that’s fine, but it’s meaningless unless you actually spend time pouring through each and every thread to see for yourself.

    don’t expect anybody to do it for you.

    there’s a good google-search engine attached to this blog; you can use it to search for keywords you think might be related to speed your search.

    good luck.

  157. #158 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    Dave, not attacking religion has allowed fundamentalists to equate our *unwillingness* to attack it with “not actually having any answers”, and a whole list of other BS.

    good point.

  158. #159 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    …Glen made essentially the same point at #11, if it needed any reinforcing.

  159. #160 pcarini
    May 23, 2008

    Really, what I think it boils down to is that several people here are basically asking “How long must we coddle these people?” The facts stand on their own merit regardless of whether they have emotional appeal, or are advertised like Sunny D.

    …in an ideal world (of smart evolution activism).” (from #122)

    Thanks, I just vomited in my mouth a little bit.

  160. #161 Richard
    May 23, 2008

    I’m tired of seeing other bloggers (i.e. Nisbet) or podcasters or filmmakers complaining about the effects of Pharyngula (or other vocal atheistic sites) on the general public. Five years ago there was nothing like this available to our community. Stop complaining about scientists not having an impact while using a site that gets a million visits a month as your example!

  161. #162 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    Really, what I think it boils down to is that several people here are basically asking “How long must we coddle these people?”

    even more than that:

    “It’s well past time that we STOP coddling these people.”

    I think the implied question was asked decades ago.

  162. #163 Monado
    May 23, 2008

    What bothers me about some of Prof. Dawkins’ writing, such as The God Delusion, is a persistent undertone of, “If you’re really, truly smart, you’ll realize that religion is nonsense.” That isn’t true: You can be smart and still hold to unexamined childhood values. We all do it, I think. I’m smart, but there were plenty of jobs I never thought of applying for because I never saw a woman doing them; and until I noticed THAT pattern, I never had a reason to question it. Religious training is just as insidious. I wish that Prof. Dawkins would tone it down a little, because some of us are not as far along the path as others and it doesn’t make us stupid. I guess that makes me a limp-wristed appeaser: so be it. I’ll just remind people that it took a hundred years for the literate classes to devise chapters, page numbers, and tables of contents for the newly invented book. Things change slowly because we can’t imagine them being different.

    His pure science writing, such as The Ancestor’s Tale, I read with much pleasure.

  163. #164 pcarini
    May 23, 2008

    I think the implied question was asked decades ago.

    Here I am, late to the party as usual…

  164. #165 Ichthyic
    May 23, 2008

    That isn’t true: You can be smart and still hold to unexamined childhood values.

    ayup.

    for the umpteenth time:

    http://www.sciencemag.org/cgi/content/abstract/316/5827/996

    or you can take a look at Francis Collins, or Ken Miller (providing we are just limiting “childhood values” to ones coming from religious indoctrination)

    However: I wish that Prof. Dawkins would tone it down a little, because some of us are not as far along the path as others and it doesn’t make us stupid.

    Dawkins isn’t trying to imply you are stupid with his commentary, he’s simply stating (and correctly) that it’s smarter and healthier to dump irrational beliefs.

    Besides which, just like any person, he doesn’t speak for any large body of individuals in reality, he speaks for himself.

    If you wish to see a different message, there are lots out there, and you can easily enough add your own voice.

  165. #166 dave
    May 24, 2008

    This is completely anecdotal, but none of my Christian friends had even heard of Expelled until I asked them what they thought of it. Their reaction was uniformly embarassed, and sometimes outright contemptuous. I think Atheists have a tendency to judge all of Christianity by its most pathological adherents. It’s unfair and counterproductive.

    The Christians you see on TV are a completely different breed than the Christians you would meet in most churches. The hubris, the rank hypocracy, of the evangelical theo-political movement has created a tremendous backlash among ordinary Christians. All that remains is a dwindling base of fanatics, and its frankly bizarre how much attention those few fanatics are still paid.

    Expelled sold some tickets to the fanatics (and not just the Christian variety), so what? Did anybody seriously think that Ben “Bueller?” Stein was going to popularize the intelligent design brand? I mean, if they’re going for the rebel image, they couldn’t pick a much worse spokesman than Nixon’s speechwriter (and a national icon of pedantry and boredom). That ridiculous poster of Ben Stein in school-shorts and long, black socks holding a bullhorn – he’s not exactly James Dean, ok?

    Atheists have a venerable tradition of protecting religious liberty in the United States, even though it sometimes means protecting beliefs we find absurd. We’re really squandering those efforts when we try to evangelize Atheism; and we really hurt science when we misappropriate it as some kind of Gospel. We should be presenting facts, not confronting beliefs.

    Christianity may seem stupid, but it goes a lot farther towards solving the day-to-day problems of its adherents than Atheism. It’s effective social technology, applied on at the community-scale. We should respect that aspect of Christianity, especially considering how dismally Atheism performs in the community context.

  166. #167 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    Their reaction was uniformly embarassed, and sometimes outright contemptuous.

    I’ve suggested this before, in the original expelled thread, when many said the same thing.

    I said:

    “Why not go out and show us the public xian media reaction condemning Expelled for the tripe it is.

    Show us the bad reviews given to it by xian film reviewers.

    Show us the xian blogs trashing it.”

    Can you guess what kind of reaction I received?

    probably the same as you will give.

    *crickets chirping*

    If, as you claim, the “xian majority” vehemently disagrees with the methods and implications of this film, then FUCKING GO GET THE XIANS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Don’t complain that those of use here don’t notice you doing anything about it, when publicly, you simply AREN’T.

    No, what happens is folks like yourself, that claim to speak for “true xianity”, will decry it either amongst yourselves, or maybe in a few opinion sections on newspapers or blogs, but you fail to motivate the larger bodies to which you belong to go out and attack the fundies.

    Most likely because you are afraid to, and that fear comes from realizing that much of what they adhere to is core to your base belief systems too, even if you are “more progressive” about it.

    If that’s not it, why don’t you tell us what IS it?

    but it goes a lot farther towards solving the day-to-day problems of its adherents than Atheism.

    and that, is utter BS, since you haven’t the slightest clue what my LACK of conforming to a fictional worldview does for my problem solving abilities.

    stop projecting, and start acting.

    If you really believe what you say is true, prove it.

  167. #168 dave
    May 24, 2008

    meh, sorry for the sloppy spelling. It’s getting late, that’s my excuse.

  168. #169 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    We should respect that aspect of Christianity, especially considering how dismally Atheism performs in the community context.

    percentage of atheists in the US: 9% (at best)

    percentage of “xians” in the US: 85% (at worst).

    [sarcasm]of course those numbers have absolutely nothing to do with why atheists are more prevalent in a community context.[/sarcasm]

    *rolleyes*

    Your arguments appear not worth the time it took you to type them, Dave.

  169. #170 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    and its frankly bizarre how much attention those few fanatics are still paid.

    tell it to President Bush.

    He used to have weekly phone conversations with Ted Haggard (who was the head of the largest evangelical fundie church in the US at 30 million members).

    tell it to Pat Robertson.

    tell it to Jerry Falwell

    …well, Ok, that last one might be a bit tougher

  170. #171 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    correction to 169:

    [sarcasm]of course those numbers have absolutely nothing to do with why atheists are‘nt more prevalent in a community context.[/sarcasm]

  171. #172 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    BTW, Dave:

    This is completely anecdotal

    that’s your problem. You are taking anecdotal evidence, and projecting that as the “average xian response”.

    Now, that anectodotal evidence might carry some weight if say, you talked with a few thousand xians or so across the entire country.

    did you do that?

    I didn’t think so.

    This is why religion is such a dangerous thing; it almost always leads to its adherents spending a lot of time projecting anecdotal evidence and “gut instinct” as if it were fact.

  172. #173 Etha Williams
    May 24, 2008

    @#156 Kagehi –

    Dave, not attacking religion has allowed fundamentalists to equate our *unwillingness* to attack it with “not actually having any answers”, and a whole list of other BS.

    Adding to this, a favorite argument of the religious is the argumentum ad populum — that because so many people believe, there must be some truth to religious claims. While atheists certainly aren’t a large enough demographic to undermine the majority aspect of this argument, voicing our objections will at least force the religious to acknowledge that belief is not universal. (Or they’ll just get defensive and call atheism a “belief system” — but at least their defensiveness means they’re feeling uncomfortable, an improvement, IMO, over the smug “we speak for everyone” attitude.)

  173. #174 dave
    May 24, 2008

    Why not go out and show us the public xian media reaction condemning Expelled for the tripe it is.

    Show us the bad reviews given to it by xian film reviewers.

    Show us the xian blogs trashing it.”

    Can you guess what kind of reaction I received?

    probably the same as you will give.

    There were a few negative reviews from Christians posted on The Panda’s Thumb a week or two ago. More prominently, I believe Ken Miller wasn’t very impressed with the film. But that’s beside the point. The internet and other mass media tend to over-represent the fanatics. The shrillest voices drown out the humble beliefs of the moderates.

    If, as you claim, the “xian majority” vehemently disagrees with the methods and implications of this film, then FUCKING GO GET THE XIANS TO DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT. Don’t complain that those of use here don’t notice you doing anything about it, when publicly, you simply AREN’T

    I’m saying there’s nothing to get excited over, and you’re caps-screeching at me to DO SOMETHING ABOUT IT! I am doing something about it, I’m telling you that this is much ado about nothing. Evolution is winning, intelligent design is the last retreat of creationism. Keep doing science, keep producing technology, and do a little less screaming insults and creationism will only die out more quickly for it.

    Most likely because you are afraid to, and that fear comes from realizing that much of what they adhere to is core to your base belief systems too, even if you are “more progressive” about it.

    If that’s not it, why don’t you tell us what IS it?

    I’m an Atheist. Just because I don’t believe in Christianity doesn’t mean I can’t believe in Christians.

    and that, is utter BS, since you haven’t the slightest clue what my LACK of conforming to a fictional worldview does for my problem solving abilities.

    stop projecting, and start acting.

    If you really believe what you say is true, prove it.

    And that’s completely ignorant. Christians take care of each other. As an Atheist, I wish we saw the simple value of that.

    — I see that an earlier commenter also goes by Dave, but capitalizes it. Considering the shout-down I’ve invited, I wouldn’t want anyone to confuse him with me.

  174. #175 Paul W.
    May 24, 2008

    I agree with Paul in #126: It’s better to leave theism intact if attacking it risks popular rejection of fundamental biological concepts like evolution and natural selection.

    Be careful who you agree with.

    Did you read that whole post? I was saying that’s a consideration, but not the only consideration. I lean toward thinking the Overton Window is ultimately more important, and that in practice details matter in picking a strategy in a particular instance.

    I’m really tired of people on “our” side criticizing P.Z. as shrill without addressing his Overton argument.

    I think also religion generally is at the root of a lot of the failure of moderate theists to properly appreciate science. There’s a reason why theists are 100 times less likely to be outstanding scientists than nontheists.

  175. #176 dave
    May 24, 2008

    that’s your problem. You are taking anecdotal evidence, and projecting that as the “average xian response”.

    Now, that anectodotal evidence might carry some weight if say, you talked with a few thousand xians or so across the entire country.

    did you do that?

    I didn’t think so.

    This is why religion is such a dangerous thing; it almost always leads to its adherents spending a lot of time projecting anecdotal evidence and “gut instinct” as if it were fact.

    You’re doing the same thing when you judge Christianity by a few crazy preachers you see on TV. I think my friends and neighbors are a more representative sample.

    of course those numbers have absolutely nothing to do with why atheists are’nt more prevalent in a community context.

    There aren’t a lot of Jews, Buddhists, or Muslims in America, either, but they still manage to form communities and take care of each other. I’m only asking that we respect the parts of religion that work, maybe even learn from it. What’s so horrible about that?

  176. #177 dave
    May 24, 2008

    and besides my tragic sense of spelling, I can’t seem to get the HTML tags right. $%^&.

  177. #178 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    More prominently, I believe Ken Miller wasn’t very impressed with the film.

    Ken Miller is not a film reviewer.

    The internet and other mass media tend to over-represent the fanatics.

    irrelevant. again, there ARE xian blogs, there ARE xian film reviewers.

    I bet you will have a tough time finding any of them that panned this film.

    why do you suppose that is?

    do you really think it has anything to do with the media???

    I am doing something about it, I’m telling you that this is much ado about nothing.

    ..and you’re wrong, as I tried to point out to you:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Association_of_Evangelicals

    which Ted Haggard was the leader of, until he got popped for whoring and crack smoking.

    . Evolution is winning, intelligent design is the last retreat of creationism.

    I’d like to believe that, but the gallup polls show otherwise. the data for the last 20 years show that creationism as a belief system hasn’t changed much percentage-wise since they first started taking poll data on it.

    the results for american secondary education have become clear:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/creationists_in_the_american_c.php

    Christians take care of each other. As an Atheist, I wish we saw the simple value of that.

    I really don’t believe you ARE an atheist, or you would already realize that it’s your deeds and not your beliefs that define what’s important.

    nothing is stopping you at all from reaching out to your community in a caring fashion.

    nothing.

    I wouldn’t want anyone to confuse him with me.

    trust me, the things you have said deserve severe criticism all on their own.

  178. #179 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    btw, use angle brackets to enclose your xml tags.

    here are tags that work here and are commonly used:

    i = italic
    b = bold
    s = strikeout
    a href=”link” = to make a link out of a word
    blockquote = to indent and quote someone

    don’t forget to close your tags:

    i then /i

  179. #180 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    but they still manage to form communities and take care of each other. I’m only asking that we respect the parts of religion that work, maybe even learn from it. What’s so horrible about that?

    it’s not horrible, it’s just wrong.

    as you point out by listing such disparate religions, it’s obviously NOT the religious dogma that ends up being the reason people take care of each other.

    “do unto others” is a universal bit of morality that doesn’t require religious dogma, but merely a sense of empathy in order to work.

    please, don’t try to tell me as an atheist, you lost your sense of empathy?

    ’cause then I’d think you are either pulling my leg, or have have some sort of personality disorder.

  180. #181 Etha Williams
    May 24, 2008

    @#178 Ichthyic –

    I’d like to believe that, but the gallup polls show otherwise.

    Yeah. FTR, here are those stats again.

    Gallup’s a fun site for wasting time…if you want to get really depressed about the “average American citizen” in the process…for example, here we see that there’s been a rather large increase in belief in the devil since 1990 — in 1990, only 55% believed, whereas in 2007 70% did.

  181. #182 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    you can even find “atheist community” being built on this very site:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/01/atheist_in_need.php

    and if you do a quick google search on your own community, you might find outreach groups like this one:

    http://www.ocatheists.com/archives/000048.shtml

    instead of railing on atheists for “lack of community”, I rather think you should move beyond your local peer group of xian buddies and actually look at the atheist outreach efforts closest to where you live.

    your county, plus the words “atheist outreach” or “atheist community” plugged in to google will likely net you a better place to hang if you wish to learn exactly how atheists DO participate in community outreach.

    seriously, what makes you think you’ll learn much about what atheists are capable of by asking your xian buddies?

  182. #183 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    Dave:

    I’m going from here on the assumption that the things you are saying are based on you being an atheist island in the middle of a buch of xians (not uncommon).

    check this site out, and find an atheist group in your area:

    http://www.atheists.org/affiliation/

    I think you will be much happier, or at least more informed.

  183. #184 Etha Williams
    May 24, 2008

    @#182 Ichthyic –

    check this site out, and find an atheist group in your area:

    http://www.atheists.org/affiliation/

    Another good site for finding atheist groups is meetup.org. They list their atheist meetup groups here.

  184. #185 Etha Williams
    May 24, 2008

    Oops…in #184, I was responding to #183, and I meant to say meetup.com. (meetup.org does not exist…)

  185. #186 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    Another good site for finding atheist groups is meetup.org

    hey, neat. I hadn’t seen that one before.

  186. #187 dave
    May 24, 2008

    great example of the waning influence of fundamentalist Christianity:

    Mike Huckabee has been on the receiving end of an epic smackdown in conservative circles. McCain has repudiated the endorsement of two “influential” mega-pastors in as many days. The McCain candidacy itself is an insurgency against the Christian coalition’s attempted evangelicalism of the Republican Party. Many on the far-left don’t see the significant differences, owing to the parallax of seeing the other side from such an ideological distance, but it’s happening.

    I think Christians are sick of being made fools by the Bushes and Steins and Haggards and Hagees and Huckabees of the world. Feel free to disagree, though. The important thing is, religious liberty has met every challenge of the last century and prevailed. Just sayin’. Things are looking up. Expelled doesn’t deserve the hysteria it’s been met with.

  187. #188 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    McCain has repudiated the endorsement of two “influential” mega-pastors in as many days.

    McCain changed his religion from methodist to Southern Baptist right before he announced his candidacy for this election.

    has given several invited lectures on the fundie uni circuit.

    oh, do you REALLY want me to go and show you all the ways he has bent over for the fundies in this election cycle??

    for fuck’s sake, man:

    http://www.azcentral.com/arizonarepublic/news/articles/0826initiatives26.html

    aside from all that, ask youself: when is your opponent MOST dangerous?

    when he feels safe from attack, or when he feels backed into a corner?

    Well, we’re a long way from getting the fundies backed into a corner, but they already sense the attack, which is why they are working so hard to push legislation to try and change the way science is taught in many states, or even the very definition of science itself (Kansas).

    dude, get your head out of the fucking sand.

    I think Christians are sick of being made fools by the Bushes and Steins and Haggards and Hagees and Huckabees of the world.

    History suggests otherwise, but hell, there’s always a first time for everything.

  188. #189 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    religious liberty has met every challenge of the last century and prevailed. Just sayin’.

    saying what?

    I can’t even parse this sentence.

  189. #190 dave
    May 24, 2008

    Unfortunately I’ve got to bail without responding to some points you’ve brought up, Icthyic. I’m sure I’ll be back to discuss what a bunch of uncaring bastards we all are some other time, though. Kidding. I know Atheists are good and decent people. I also think we can do a better job convincing the other 95% of the country of that fact. I’ll be back to annoy you guys another time.

  190. #191 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    I know Atheists are good and decent people.

    I think you should spend more time with them to truly understand that for yourself, though.

    seriously, stop hanging with your xian peers for a while, and get perspective from others who have lived as atheists.

    try to find a group in your area.

  191. #192 Paul W.
    May 24, 2008

    Atheists have a venerable tradition of protecting religious liberty in the United States, even though it sometimes means protecting beliefs we find absurd. We’re really squandering those efforts when we try to evangelize Atheism;

    So it’s good that we protect religious liberty, but we shouldn’t try to exercise it ourselves?

    Are you implying that arguing for your position about religion is infringing on somebody else’s religious liberty?

    and we really hurt science when we misappropriate it as some kind of Gospel.

    WTF?

    Theists misappropriate gospels as “some kind of Gospel,” i.e., the reliable truth.

    The closest actual thing to that is science; are we wrong to point that out?

    We should be presenting facts, not confronting beliefs.

    What are facts for, if you’re not supposed to use them to confront beliefs?

  192. #193 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    Unfortunately I’ve got to bail without responding to some points you’ve brought up, Icthyic.

    don’t bother.

    just find some other atheists in your area to hang with.

    You’ve been hanging with xians for too long; they’ve retarded your thinking process.

  193. #194 Bevans
    May 24, 2008

    You know, I don’t really understand why everyone here is attacking Olson. He’s on our side. He has a lot of good ideas, and yes, a few bad ones, but we shouldn’t be hostile to what he’s saying.

    This whole thing reminds me of many Dilbert strips, where the engineers knock heads with the evil marketing department. The fans of this blog are mostly the “engineers”, and Olson is kinda the marketing department. He knows how to sell the product, and the scientists know how to make it.

    I really hope that people keep an open mind, and learn to work together for the good of the “company”.

    Overall, I’d say that PZ’s response to being kicked out of the theater probably helped us more than it hurt us. But it could have easily backfired.

    Maybe Olson’s idea to set up some sort of easy-to-contact PR department for the science community is a good one. After all, in this “war” on thought, the creationists are fighting with automatic weapons, and it feels like we’re still using crossbows.

  194. #195 Bevans
    May 24, 2008

    You know, I don’t really understand why everyone here is attacking Olson.

    Sorry, I didn’t mean to say “everyone”. I meant something like “I don’t understand why so many people are attacking Olson”.

  195. #196 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    He’s on our side.

    so is Francis Collins (well, depending on which “side” you’re talking about).

    does that mean we have to avoid ridiculing his ignorant and ridiculous notions of “Moral Law”?

    We don’t march in lockstep, unlike how you might have heard the creationists project.

    This is how science works too, btw. No idea or person is held sacred. ALL ideas and hypotheses are subject to dissection, and can be hoisted on the chopping block. Personal bias is assumed until proven otherwise.

    Olson is rightly attacked for the mistakes he makes in assumption and execution.

    Likewise, he is praised for the good things he has done, too, and by the same people who criticize him. you can read PZ’s post here a bit closer, or else search out the praises and criticism given to Olson’s “flock of Dodos”.

  196. #197 clinteas
    May 24, 2008

    //Christianity may seem stupid, but it goes a lot farther towards solving the day-to-day problems of its adherents than Atheism. It’s effective social technology, applied on at the community-scale. We should respect that aspect of Christianity, especially considering how dismally Atheism performs in the community context.//

    For a moment there I really thought you had some sense Dave…..but clearly not.. *sighs*

    Hoe exactly does “Christianity”solve day-to-day problems? Priests supplying blowjobs or free booze? Minister do your shopping where you come from?Congregation members mow your lawn?Or do you mean the whole tiresome theism-moral-society vs atheism-egoism-cold-war-social disintegration thing?

    *flips Dave off the table*

  197. #198 clinteas
    May 24, 2008

    //Christianity may seem stupid, but it goes a lot farther towards solving the day-to-day problems of its adherents than Atheism. It’s effective social technology, applied on at the community-scale. We should respect that aspect of Christianity, especially considering how dismally Atheism performs in the community context.//

    For a moment there I really thought you had some sense Dave…..but clearly not.. *sighs*

    Hoe exactly does “Christianity”solve day-to-day problems? Priests supplying blowjobs or free booze? Minister do your shopping where you come from?Congregation members mow your lawn?Or do you mean the whole tiresome theism-moral-society vs atheism-egoism-cold-war-social disintegration thing?

    *flips Dave off the table*

  198. #199 Orac
    May 24, 2008

    Expelled would probably best be compared with The Passion of the Christ, which did very well indeed. To be fair, a movie with a documentary style, and with a more limited appeal to Xians than Gibson’s flick, should be expected to sell a good many fewer tickets than the Passion.

    I hear this one time and time again, and it drives me nuts because it’s just not a good comparison. Comparing Expelled! to The Passion of the Christ apples and oranges. Every Christian, not just fundamentalists, is interested in the Passion story. It’s the absolute core of every Christian religion, Christ being crucified and rising. Moreover, whether you believe in the Passion story or not, when told well it’s a compelling story with a lot of emotional heft and to it (which is probably why it has persisted as the core of a major religion for 2,000 years). It somehow speaks to something in human nature. The success of The Passion required far more than fundamentalist Christians going to it. Christians of all denominations went to it; the Pope even liked it. Out of curiosity I even wanted to go and see it when it came out; somehow I just never got around to it (like so many other movies, alas).

    Creationism and evolution can’t possibly compete on that level as far as story and emotion, even among activist creationists. For one thing many Christians either accept evolution or are just rather passive about rejecting it. They don’t believe it, but it doesn’t rile them up enough to do anything about it. Many others accept a sort of version of theistic evolution. It’s mainly the hardcore fundamentalists who really, really hate evolution to the point of doing something about its teaching who were likely to be really interested in this movie. Second, you blithely dismiss the difference between a documentary and a movie that tells a fictional story, but there is a huge difference. Documentaries rarely make more than a million dollars at the box office. Michael Moore and David Spurlock may have been quite successful, but it’s building up highly unrealistic expectations to think that Expelled! could do anywhere near Passion box office. Most documentary producers just hope they can make their production costs back and make a little profit.

  199. #200 Kristjan Wager
    May 24, 2008

    Most documentary producers just hope they can make their production costs back and make a little profit.

    Yet, it’s not what the producers of Expelled said they expected – their goals were definitely in the Michael Moore league.

  200. #201 Colwyn Abernathy
    May 24, 2008

    I wrote a review of this turd on NetFlix, enjoy!
    “Repulsive, dishonest, and criminal, “Expelled” leaves a bad taste in your mouth. From copyright infringement (Harvard, Ono), neglegence (failing to acquire a filming permit from the Smithsonian yet claiming ejection “on purpose”), to strawman arguments, (I’m STILL pissed at that infuriating comparison to science leading to the Holocaust), “Expelled” is a travesty of filmmaking. I wouldn’t have a problem if it was presented honestly, but Mathis has to LIE to us to make a point, and PZ Myer’s (who’s in the film) ejection from a Minneapolis screening speaks volumes of the producers’ bias and disinterest in actual debate. The irony is almost too much. If you see it, take it for what it is: propaganda preaching to the choir. Reasonable people (including Christians) will find this repellent.”
    And 12 out of 40 people found it helpful. I didn’t expect it to be popular, just accurate. ;)

  201. #202 SC
    May 24, 2008

    I come too late to this discussion, but since I found more cheering references to Norman Borlaug in this rather unusual context, I will paste my response to previous such references from an earlier thread:

    I want to point out that alternative views on the “Green Revolution” exist, notably that of Vandana Shiva:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio4/reith2000/lecture5.shtml

    http://www.yesmagazine.org/article.asp?ID=698

    Many of those who have promoted alternative paths – like Shiva, and like, by the way, Peter Kropotkin a century ago – have themselves been scientists. Supporting science does not mean that we must or should accept the very biased and partial understandings of it offered to us by corporations or governments, or every ideological-political project they try to promote in the name of scientific or technological progress. My appreciation of genetic research and my support for a scientifically-informed approach to agriculture do not require me to swallow the idea that Borlaug-Dupont-Monsanto-Cargill efforts represent science properly applied in this context.

    I have no desire or intention to debate this here, on someone else’s blog, but I did want to say that much.

  202. #203 Strider
    May 24, 2008

    Also late to the discussion. I emailed Randy after I heard the Skepticality podcast:

    Dr. Olson
    I listened to your “Skepticality” interview today and I must say I agree with what you said. BUT, and I am sure you’ve been asked this before, I must ask: Where is your “Expelled” response movie? It seems like you’ve got excellent advice to give others but you’re only about
    promoting “Sizzle” and Dr. Randy Olson. I think Stephen Jay Gould might be disappointed.
    Cheers
    Kurt

    His reply:

    If you’ve got $3 million you can spare, I’ll show you my Expelled response movie. Unfortuantely these things cost a lot of money, which means you have to have a lot of people working together to produce them. The creationists are very good at that. Evolutionists, not so much.

    - R.O.

    Sooooo basically he cares that Evolutionists don’t have their own response movie but not enough to make one? WTF? Isn’t this what filmmakers do? Raise money and then make their movie?

  203. #204 David Marjanovi?, OM
    May 24, 2008

    Really? I was not aware of that. Can you elaborate? If the anti-creationism tirades on this blog raised doubt enough in any truly religious people for them to give up creationist beliefs, it would prove me wrong. Being wrong would actually delight me. But I am skeptical that the tirades were effective.

    What Ichthyic said. I can’t lead you to any from memory, but searching for “deconversion stories” should work.

    Rather, if this blog quashed any creationist beliefs, I suspect it was the milder educational aspects of PZ’s work that did so.

    If you were wrong, how would you know?

  204. #205 Keerax
    May 24, 2008

    I just wish Carl Sagan was still with us.

  205. #206 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    @Orac:

    It somehow speaks to something in human nature.

    uh huh.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Martyr_complex

  206. #207 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    WTF? Isn’t this what filmmakers do? Raise money and then make their movie?

    ayup.

    I think your response is dead on.

    it was definitely a “wtf” moment.

  207. #208 Ichthyic
    May 24, 2008

    searching for “deconversion stories” should work.

    oh yeah, thanks for reminding me. Wasn’t there an entire thread full of deconversion stories a while back?

    hmm…

    here’s one:

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/05/win_a_book_for_your_deconversi.php

    probably something relevant in there.

  208. #209 Ryan Cunningham
    May 25, 2008

    Why not go out and show us the public xian media reaction condemning Expelled for the tripe it is.

    Show us the bad reviews given to it by xian film reviewers.

    Show us the xian blogs trashing it.

    What if I posted this, “Why not go out and show me the public atheist reaction condemning racist child molesting Nazi rapist-murderers for the evil they are?” on a religious community’s blog? I wouldn’t expect to get much of a response. Do I conclude that a) all atheists support racist child molesting Nazi rapist-murderers or b) that maybe atheists didn’t read my posts and I don’t travel in the same circles they do?

    This condemnation of moderate Christians (also frequently employed against moderate Muslims) is unfair for precisely the same reason it’s unfair to us atheists. These people do not have a soap box. Neither do we. Despite the fact that we all exist in large numbers, we’re not the majority. We’re all fighting for influence and a voice. We’re all under the same thumb in the same society operating under the same rules.

    I find it hilarious that we atheists of ALL communities would have trouble understanding what it’s like to have the ignorant cram words in our mouths and then have the world at large assume those words are ours. Just as an example, Bill ORLY has challenged us all to lay down our arms in a War on Christmas I never even knew we were fighting. But then again, I haven’t heard any atheist groups condemning it or read any atheist blogs against it, so we must all have it in for Christmas.

    Your argument is bad. It eats itself:

    Why not go out and show us the public atheist media reaction condemning Expelled for the tripe it is.

    Show us the bad reviews given to it by atheist film reviewers.

    Show us the atheist blogs trashing it.

    It works on US! Okay, sure. We’re writing on a blog now that condemns Expelled. But anyone could spend five minutes and find a blog post by any demographic about anything. I could probably find a gay married Mormon/Wiccan plumber with an adopted pet moose condemning Expelled. Here are some Christians condemning expelled: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/05/08/trouble_ahead_for_science/
    http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/expelled.shtml
    http://www.xanga.com/Markuk/656299831/item.html

    Look through the answers here and you’ll find lots of Christians disagreeing with the film:
    http://answers.yahoo.com/question/index?qid=20080420212601AAuodwH

    But I know that’s just a FEW examples, right? Not REAL examples or ENOUGH examples, of course. Sort of like the paltry number of atheist blogs condemning Expelled. And more importantly, where are the atheist movie reviewers and public media?!

    OH NO! ATHEISTS SUPPORT EXPELLED!

  209. #210 Ichthyic
    May 25, 2008

    Sort of like the paltry number of atheist blogs condemning Expelled. And more importantly, where are the atheist movie reviewers and public media?!

    85% xian, 9% atheists.

    still want to go that route?

    for that matter, DO find me an atheist blog that does support Expelled.

  210. #211 Ichthyic
    May 25, 2008

    Just as an example, Bill ORLY has challenged us all to lay down our arms in a War on Christmas I never even knew we were fighting. But then again, I haven’t heard any atheist groups condemning it or read any atheist blogs against it, so we must all have it in for Christmas.

    you didn’t look very hard, given that there were many when the issue was in the media eye, including at least one or two on this blog.

    http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/12/our_war_on_christmas.php

    here’s a thought:

    why not try condensing what you are flailing to get at in a single paragraph, instead of rambling on and on with irrelevant tangents?

    I know you have a point in there somewhere.

  211. #212 Ichthyic
    May 25, 2008

    http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2008/05/08/trouble_ahead_for_science/
    http://www.reasons.org/resources/apologetics/expelled.shtml
    http://www.xanga.com/Markuk/656299831/item.html

    the first link is Ken Miller, who is not a film reviewer, and has already been mentioned.

    the second is from reasons to believe, and if you thin their intention was to pan the film because it was bad or spreading misinformation, you didn’t read their “review” very carefully.

    the third one is from someone so obscure you might as well have linked to my dog’s blog.

    are these supposed to support your contention that the xian community has come out publicly against Expelled???

    laughable.

    actually, you are doing more to prove my point than counter it.

  212. #213 Ichthyic
    May 25, 2008

    btw, Christianity Today gave Expelled a “fresh” rating on Rotten tomatoes, if you were looking for actual self-identified xian movie reviewers.

  213. #214 Ryan Cunningham
    May 25, 2008

    85% xian, 9% atheists.
    still want to go that route?

    But what proportion of the Christian population is liberal? I’d suggest their numbers are probably roughly equivalent to ours. Expecting their condemnation of the film to reflect the overall Christian population is totally unfair. That’s like arguing white Americans don’t condemn Expelled enough, because they make up 73% percent of the population and most white American bloggers haven’t condemned Expelled.

    But we’re arguing about NUMBERS now. Liberal Christians condemning Expelled EXIST. And the numbers you just put up there show how badly we need to reach out to every voice that’s on our side. We’re outnumbered. Their voice carries about as much weight as ours in the population, and we agree on some important things!

    We disagree on some important things, too. Disagreeing about those things and arguing about those things is fine. Fun sometimes. Important almost always. But taunting them in a social circle they’re not a part of for not making statements in social circles YOU are a part of us completely unfair and self-defeating.

  214. #215 Ryan Cunningham
    May 25, 2008

    the first link is Ken Miller, who is not a film reviewer, and has already been mentioned.

    You still haven’t pointed me to any atheist movie critics who negatively reviewed the film on Rotten Tomatoes. That’s kinda my point here. Liberal Christians don’t have prominent publications. They don’t have their own isolated world with its own media like the fundamentalists. We don’t either. Neither Liberal Christians nor atheists constitute a large enough voice in the culture at large for our voices to penetrate the other’s social circle. Our rhetoric and attitudes are entirely based on what we hear second hand. The middle men creating the stereotypes we’re basing our opinions on are mostly FROM this majority. That majority has a negative opinion OF BOTH GROUPS.

    Instead of shouting your challenge into the void here, how about you sit down with an open minded Christian and ask them about Expelled?

  215. #216 Ryan Cunningham
    May 25, 2008

    Before I leave:
    btw, Christianity Today gave Expelled a “fresh” rating on Rotten tomatoes, if you were looking for actual self-identified xian movie reviewers.
    Hasty generalization. One film review in support does not imply that all Christians have a positive view of the film. As I stated before, no self-identified atheist movie reviewers condemned the film. That doesn’t mean we all support it.

    the third one is from someone so obscure you might as well have linked to my dog’s blog.
    No true Scotsman. That’s a blog post clearly condemning the film. Liberal Christians exist in our culture and they have condemned the film. They’re just not as big a voice as you demand they be.

    why not try condensing what you are flailing to get at in a single paragraph, instead of rambling on and on with irrelevant tangents?
    Ad hominem. If you wanted a clarification, I would’ve gladly provided it. My point was that we are stereotyped in popular media in exactly the same way Christians are.

    are these supposed to support your contention that the xian community has come out publicly against Expelled???
    Strawman. My contention was never that the Christian community at large condemned the film. It’s that there IS a population of Christians condemning the film. There is a population ON OUR SIDE in this fight.

  216. #217 Nick Gotts
    May 25, 2008

    As we saw in the Gore/Bush campaign it was Gore who was more intelligent, better on the issues, had experience, but it was Bush who better appealed to people’s emotions. Millions of people were swayed by that emotional, not intellectual appeal. – Doug @91

    Lest we forget, Gore got more votes.

    You aren’t supposed to squash astronomers. You’re supposed to strap a big rocket on them and launch them. Where, doesn’t matter. – PZ Myers @112

    ‘”Once rockets go up, who cares where they come down,
    That’s not my department” says Werner von Braun.’

    Paul W@ 113 – interesting post, but someone has said in a recent thread that the current difference in religiosity is a post WWII phenomenon. Is that compatible with Hofstadter?

    There is a big difference between lying, and choosing to emphasize useful points and not mention contentious ones. I see no inherent conflict between effectively presenting evolution and being an effective scientist. However, as a non-scientist I may be missing something. Help me out.

    – Bureaucratus Minimis @119

    Whether there is a difference depends on intention: if you give a true but partial picture with the intention to deceive your audience, morally that’s lying. In the current case, it’s key to the importance of evolutionary theory that it shows how the complex, integrated functionality of organisms can arise without being designed.

  217. #218 Paul W.
    May 25, 2008

    interesting post, but someone has said in a recent thread that the current difference in religiosity is a post WWII phenomenon. Is that compatible with Hofstadter?

    My understanding is that a big fraction of Americans has always been fundamentalists, and that majority has been fairly orthodox and believed the Bible is “true” without being clear on what they’re assenting to.

    That isn’t to say there hasn’t been an upswing since Hofstadter, but part of that may be that there’s always been a cyclical thing to religiosity, with a revivalist push and then a falling away every 40 years or so.

    The more striking phenomenon is how visible and political the religious right has become with this most recent upswing.

    Until the 1960′s, the fundamentalists mostly kept to themselves, being pretty insular and letting the citified, secular world with its corrupt educated elites go to Hell in a handbasket. Salvation was a personal thing, and it was more or less accepted that the larger world was corrupt. You do your religious thing, and save yourself and your family, and if the elites are corrupt, well they’ll go to Hell and when Jesus comes back he’ll sort it all out. Fundies mostly didn’t vote or organize; it just wasn’t their thing. Their thing was spreading the Word saving souls in a bottom-up way, not worldly politics.

    But with mass media and the civil rights movement, the hippies, women’s liberation, and the gay rights movement, things changed. Fundamentalists saw more clearly that their country was being taken “away from them” in a new way and to a greater extent—that they were on the outs, and that politics and media were important. With things like the Voting Rights Act and the near passage of the ERA, they saw that the liberal elites could “get to” them wherever they lived, by changing national policy and even the constitution, if necessary.

    More importantly, they saw that an organized, committed minority could make itself heard, get acceptance, and assert political power. They had to organize and get out the fundie vote.

    A lot of the top religious right folks realized that they could do the same thing as the blacks and the uppity women and the queers, and be very powerful because they’re a really big minority. They had to make voting a Christian duty, to keep the liberals and big government from controlling good god-fearing folks. The culture war was on.

    With the pill and Gay Lib, and increasing acceptance of sexuality and specifically homosexuality, they really couldn’t just sit in the pews anymore. Not just becuase those straws broke the back of their complacency, but because they saw that a small generally-reviled minority—queers—was set to get acceptance while they were still political outsiders. They outnumbered queers more than a dozen to one, and something Had to Be Done. Gay Lib gave them a very useful rallying point and wedge strategy for a counterattack.

    (The failure of the ERA was an encouraging milestone—the Mormons and other fundies succeeded in killing it by raising enough money to kill it in the media in a few crucial states, so that it fell short of the 3/4 supermajority needed for ratification. They couldn’t outnumber women, who are a majority, but they could at least obstruct the ERA by breaking the supermajority.)

    They organized nationally, created evangelical media networks and political PACs and whatnot, raised money to buy politicians, and showed that they could kick liberal ass.

    As I understand it, this is less because of an upsurge in religiosity and fundamentalism than because the “silent majority” was always religious, and the fundamentalist minority was always large. They just had to realize what was possible, organize politically, and grasp the levers of power.

    (Of course the increasing visibility and top-down power likely fed back to increase religiosity. This time around is different, and it is a very good question how well they’ve consolidated their gains.)

    In a sense, none of this is new. Religious conservatives have always been around in large numbers, and have always adapted to new media that came along—ever since Gutenberg’s Bible put the scriptures everywhere and led to grassroots Protestant fundamentalism. When radio became widespread, pretty soon there were radio preachers. Once TV was common and there were a lot of TV stations, they started buying time air time, and pretty soon creating televangelist networks.

    The period up to the 1970′s was an anomaly in some sense. The “liberal elites” had it easy for a while. There was a sort of elite consensus that politics was just politics, and that religion wasn’t a huge thing, and the fundamentalist minority was just not a major player.

    That’s all changed, now, and probably permanently. Now that they’ve experienced huge political power, the fundies aren’t going to go home and forget about national politics, any more than the blacks or gays or women will; you can’t keep them down on the farm after they’ve seen Paree. The culture war is hot and permanent.

    One reason the culture war is hot is that up until the 1970′s, the fight could mainly be about things like racism and sexism, which were correlated with religious orthodoxy, rather than being too openly about religious power itself. Once a certain degree of racial tolerance and feminism became accepted by the majority—even a lot of evangelicals —they had to either give up or let religious conflict come out into the open and fight about that. They weren’t going to give up.

    All of the above is IMHO, of course, and I’m not a historian. Most of my impressions are gathered from a few books, notably Hoftstader’s and Under God by Garry Wills.

    (Mormon America has a scary account of the killing of the ERA by the Mormon church, by the way; basically, their campaign was largely secret, and almost invisible at the national level, but hard-fought exactly where it counted. They put money in the right places, and pulled some strings, and the ERA just died without many people really knowing why.)

  218. #219 Nick Gotts
    May 25, 2008

    Paul W. @ 218 – thanks very much. I’ll have to see if I can get a copy of Hofstadter.

  219. #220 thwaite
    May 25, 2008

    Late to the nominations, but: E.O. Wilson is trying hard to popularize biophilia. And he’s carrying the message directly to his own cultural roots – the religious fundamentalists who not long ago (1980′s) favored Interior Secretary James Watt’s sense of futility about conservation ‘cuz the Second Coming seemed nigh. Wilson is having an impact, and titles like Lord of the Ants” do show a certain flair in PBS’s packaging.
    Re: Gaius Baltar – the scriptwriters are doing science a real disservice presenting this wacko as the representative essence of creative scientist to an unsuspecting viewership. He’s a fascinating character (I’m just now finishing season 2.5 of
    Galactica) – but not even Craig Ventner is that weird (I trust).

  220. #221 thwaite
    May 25, 2008

    Late to the nominations, but: E.O. Wilson is trying hard to popularize biophilia. And he’s carrying the message directly to his own cultural roots – the religious fundamentalists who not long ago (1980′s) favored Interior Secretary James Watt’s sense of futility about conservation ‘cuz the Second Coming seemed nigh. Wilson is having an impact, and titles like Lord of the Ants do show a certain flair in PBS’s packaging.
    Re: Gaius Baltar – the scriptwriters are doing science a real disservice presenting this wacko as the representative essence of creative scientist to an unsuspecting viewership. He’s a fascinating character (I’m just now finishing season 2.5 of Galactica) – but not even Craig Ventner is that weird (I trust).

  221. #222 Ryan Cunningham
    May 25, 2008

    @219

    Consider this a second recommendation for Hofstadter’s book. It’s a fantastic exploration of the subject.

  222. #223 Tulse
    May 25, 2008

    Expelled made an estimate $30,000 over the weekend in 83 theatres.

    Put a fork in it, ‘cuz it’s done.

  223. #224 Paul W.
    May 26, 2008

    Expelled made an estimate $30,000 over the weekend in 83 theatres.

    It did a little better than estimated—$35K—but that’s still an impressive drop by about 2/3 from the previous weekend. (For the second weekend in a row. For the first few weeks it “only” dropped 50 percent or so each week.)

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

    Put a fork in it, ‘cuz it’s done.

    Yep. It looks like it’s asymptotically approaching something a little over $7.6 million cumulative gross.

  224. #225 kcrady
    May 27, 2008

    In measuring the success of Expelled, I think we have to factor in its natural advantages.

    Analogy: If you heard about a new design for a fast car that matched the acceleration and top speed of a Ferrari Testarossa, you would probably call the design a success. However, if you found out that the design was based on a billion dollars in R&D, the vehicle was made with the latest carbon-fiber composites, powered by jets and nuclear-thermal rocket propulsion, and that its test run was made going down a steep incline with the wind at its back, in a hurricane, then the new design could only be classed as a failure.

    Let’s look at a few of Expelled‘s advantages:

    1) Produced by the outfit that created (as I recall) the most successful film of all time (The Snuff Film of the Christ)

    2) Plenty of money for production and advertizing

    3) A “base” of committed, ideologues willing to pay for absolute crap, if it confirms their beliefs (cf: Left Behind)

    4) This “base” is well-organized and even meets once a week

    5) A national population that, in polls, shows about 50% in favor of their viewpoint (Creationism)

    6) A national culture with a strong anti-intellectual bent, that also tends to support the “underdog”

    7) The resources to hire a nationally-known celebrity as spokesperson

    8) As enemies/targets, the most unpopular and mistrusted minority in America, disliked even more than Islamic fundamentalists

    With all that going for it before it even got out of the starting gate, Expelled should have bronto-stomped Michael Moore and Al Gore into the ground. Sure, a documentary on (anti-)science wouldn’t necessarily be a Big Summer Blockbuster, but it really should have had us unbelievers running for the bomb shelters instead of blowing the smoke off the muzzles of our anti-aircraft guns after we shot it down, pointing and laughing.

    The whole thing was such a comedy of errors that even its own base supporters saw it sinking at the pier and refused to get on board en masse. Even the “28 percent’ers” (the folks that would keep right on supporting George Dubya even if he took to fornicating with squads of high-school cheerleaders on the White House lawn between bouts of public baby-eating) did not, as a whole, support Expelled.

    Before we beat ourselves up too much for “failure to communicate,” consider the massive failures of the Expelled team:

    1) Casting, as the narrator of a documentary (ostensibly) about science, a person who is literally famous for being boring

    2) Trying to portray this same person–a speechwriter for the Nixon Administration–as an anti-Establishment rebel

    3) Instead of actually promoting Creationism as science (something they could get away with), trying to sell “Science=Nazism” to a culture for which “Science=Star Trek/CSI/iPhones/the techno-gadgets that make our military The Best Military Evar”

    4) Presenting the muddle of “Intelligent Design” rather than a consistent, ringing message of open Creationism, while simultaneously abandoning ID’s pretense of being non-sectarian science

    Now, imagine if Expelled had not been produced by the filmmaking equivalent of Quintinius Varus:

    1) As spokesperson, they could have chosen Ken Ham, and got a skilled public speaker with a nifty Australian accent, plus a whole pseudo-museum full of life-sized robo-dinosaurs to use as a backdrop

    1b) Or, they could have chosen a polarizing figure who would have bathed their movie in white-hot spotlights of attention, and made it anything but boring: say, Ann Coulter, Rush Limbaugh, or Bill ORLY.

    1c) If they wanted to win moderates, they could have picked any one of the actors or actresses who thank Jesus for their Oscars each year

    2) Someone like Ann Coulter could certainly be presented as a ‘rebel.’ The look on Richard Dawkins’ face when she walked into the room to interview him (after telling him he was to be interviewed for “Crossroads”) and his reaction, suitably edited, would have been perfect “base-fodder.” She also looks better in a black dress than Stein does in knickers.

    3) When polled, something like 50% of Americans claim to believe in Young Earth Creationism. Somebody like Ken Ham would certainly be able to present a set of convincing (but out-of-context) set of “scientific facts” supporting Creationism, and do it in a way that would be persuasive and credible and “science-y” to Joe and Jane NASCAR. He could do this while posed in front of a lifelike robo-dinosaur, surrounded by fossils and wearing a convincing tweed jacket.

    4)Since the Expelled team was abandoning the “ID is not religion/we’ll use ‘Designer’ instead of ‘God’” pretense anyway, an openly YEC documentary could have been presented as a strong, principled stand, and would have been something the “base” would fight for, and go to see multiple times, to “crash” theater attendance and box-office tallies the same way Pharyngula crashes Internet polls.

    Expelled could have been a monster. Given the enormous strategic and tactical advantages it started with, it should have been Godzilla. Instead, it was a rabid three-legged iguana that very publicly got its ass handed to it by, of all things, a blog on the Internet. And this before it was even released.

    A few more “public relations successes” like this, and our opponents will be ruined.

    BTW, since Olson says we shouldn’t say anything unless we’ve got a movie to sell, here’s mine:

    Hexpelled! No Wizardry Allowed Part I and Part II
    :D

  225. #226 Shaded Spriter
    May 27, 2008

    I found your blog because of the whole getting kicked out thing…so I guess you did manage to sell yourself…atleast to me.

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