SocraticGadfly: Pharyngula gets creationist movie boot and lies

March 25, 2008

Pharyngula gets creationist movie boot and lies

Sic simper creationist openmindedness to science, eh?

P.Z. Myers, the well-known Pharyngula of evolutionary biology blogging fame, was barred from attending a creationist film in Minneapolis with even better-known evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins. Dawkins got in, and Myers didn’t, after both had made advance reservations for this private screening, and things got fun after that:
The movie the two scientists wanted to see was “Expelled,” whose online trailer asserts that people in academia who see evidence of supernatural intelligence in biological processes — an idea called “intelligent design” — have unfairly lost their jobs, been denied tenure or suffered other penalties as part of a scientific conspiracy to keep God out of the nation’s laboratories and classrooms.

Dr. Myers asserts that he was unfairly barred from the film, in which both he and Dr. Dawkins appear, and that Dr. Dawkins would have been, too, if people running the screening had realized who he was — a world leader in the field of evolutionary biology.

Given that Myers teaches at the University of Minnesota-Morris, and is a well-known gadfly to Minnesota creationists, I’m going to believe him and NOT the “Expelled” spokesperson.

And, speaking of “Expelled” spokesperson, here’s your nutbar narrator/interviewer:

But, please, first, a tip of the hat to the irony of creationists making a movie called “Expelled,” then giving Myers the boot. And a second irony hat tip to the “No Intelligence Allowed” slogan just below Stein's mug. Now, the creationist spin on the moment:
Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that “of course” he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because “he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film.”

Actually, Dr. Myers and Dr. Dawkins said in interviews that they had long planned to be in Minneapolis this week to attend a convention of atheists. Dr. Dawkins, a vocal critic of religion, is on the convention program.

So, no, Dawkins didn’t fly all the way from Britain just for this film. Lie No. 1.

Second, anybody who has read “The God Delusion” knows that, while Dawkins didn’t write a Christopher Hitchens diatribe, he pulled no punches. So, the “handled himself fairly honorably” is a dig at Myers, a pretense of not having read Dawkins, and Lie No. 2.
And both (scientists) had earlier complained that they originally agreed to appear in the movie — then called “Crossroads” — because producers told them it would be an examination of religion and science, not a defense of intelligent design, an ideological cousin of creationism. People who have seen the movie say it also suggests that there is a link between the theory of evolution and ideas like Nazism, something Dr. Dawkins called “a major outrage.”

In an interview, Dr. Myers said he registered himself and “guests” on a Web site for the film’s screening. A security guard pulled him out of the line but admitted his wife, daughter and guests — including Dr. Dawkins, who, Dr. Myers said, no one seemed to recognize. Dr. Dawkins, who like everyone was asked to present identification, said he offered his British passport, which lists him as Clinton Richard Dawkins.

Lie No. 1 gets further confirmation; Dawkins wasn’t recognized because of the “Clinton” as his actual first name.

But wait, Lie No. 3 is just around the corner:
Mr. Mathis said in an interview that he had confronted Dr. Dawkins in the question and answer period after the screening and that Dr. Dawkins withered. “These people who own the academic establishment and who have great friends in the media — they are not accustomed to having a level, open playing field,” Mr. Mathis said. “I watched a man who has been a large figure, an imposing figure, I watched this man shrink in front of my eyes.”

Needless to say, Dawkins and Myers have an entirely different recollection.

The one thing that surprises me is that Dawkins and Myers would have agreed to appear in the movie in the first place. They’ve been around the block enough times to know that, well, in context…

Lie No. 4 was what the movie was going to be about.

Do I hear Lie No. 5?

P.Z. has his own accounts here and here; more lies of “Expelled” producers exposed; some good snark; a Christian movie reviewer who cut comments off (and no wonder, with a screening attender who said this):
Ben Stein’s “Expelled” is one of the more evenhanded, clever, and well-produced documentaries currently on the market. While the Evolution/Intelligent Design debate can spark much emotion, anyone walking away from this film will be convinced that the merits of Intelligent Design should be on the same level playing field as Evolutionary Theory.

“Expelled” was “evenhanded”? And Hitler was a nice guy when he woke up, until he killed his first Jew of the day. (It’s my blog, and I get to break Godwin’s Law.)

Update: Richard Dawkins has post-expulsion video discussion of the lunacy with Myers. And Salon now has its take on the creationist nutbarrery. with a flood of new viruses. It’s forcing them to radically revamp some of their strategies and operating procedures.

Oh, and welcome all Pharyngula readers. You might be interested in my Shroud of Turin or Amy Sullivan posts.

Also, for more serious comment on matters of science, philosophy, and critical and comparative religion, read my other blog, The Philosophy of the Socratic Gadfly.

Oh, the backstory on Mathis’ original bait-and-switch from “Crossroads” to “Expelled” is here.

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