The number one Google or Yahoo! search phrase by which new visitors are coming to this blog now is “Expelled.” Hundreds of you have looked it up on this website alone. This is surprising, since I’ve only blogged on the movie once, way back in September. More than six weeks ahead of its April 18 release, this movie is already drawing a lot of interest.
The film’s premise is that for academics, believing in Intelligent Design–no, even having a certain level of sympathy toward it–is asking for trouble. Real, significant, career trouble. I haven’t seen the film, so I can’t comment on how well it makes its case. I’ve been watching the controversy, though. Pharyngula’s P.Z. Myers, a biologist at the University of Minnesota, Morris, represents the contrary position. Based on his IM address I conclude he is a Macintosh user–we agree on that, at least! We disagree on much else, though. To say he opposes Intelligent Design is an understatement on about the same scale as “The Ku Klux Klan is unfavorable toward African-Americans.”
The movie’s producers, in pursuit of a balanced perspective on their topic, requested interviews from evolutionists like Myers, Richard Dawkins, and others. They agreed–and now they’re crying foul over it. I think it’s comically sad. When Richard Dawkins produced a BBC television series on the alleged evils of religion, he presented some of the worst examples and edits representing the Christian position, and left (for example) a very intelligent discussion with fellow Oxford professor Alister McGrath on the cutting room floor. Expelled’s producers invited comment from the best of the evolutionist side.
Myers’s specific complaint is that he was deceived into appearing in an anti-evolution film. He could have asked a few questions if he was worried about that. The request for interview they sent him included,
We are interested in asking you a number of questions about the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.
Did he just assume that nobody in the world who raises that question might disagree with his position? The producers sent him an advance copy of every question they were planning to ask him. You can be quite sure Dawkins did not do that for Ted Haggard. In fact, it’s quite out of the ordinary. Expelled’s producers went out of their way to give fair treatment to the contrary side.
Myers’s complains that the production company gave him a fake name. There was no deception there. It is common industry practice for subdivisions to have different names than their parent companies, which was the case this time.
Myers also says he was misrepresented:
What? I didn’t do any interviews for pro-creation films, and I certainly haven’t said that “freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry” aren’t part of the university. There must be some mistake.
I haven’t seen the film, but it’s easy to see that the mistake is Myers’s, and a rather grandiose one at that. No one said these were Myers’s words. Does he think the whole film is about what he had to say?
I’m wondering why the Discovery Institute would be so enthused about this movie. It lays it’s [sic] premise on the line: science is flawed because it excludes god [sic–some people don’t know that proper nouns are capitalized in English] and the supernatural. It’s one big promo for religion — which means it’s going to further undercut Intelligent Design creationism’s [sic] claims to be a secular idea.
He appears to believe that if the movie exposes institutions’ bigotry favoring philosophical materialism, it is therefore “one big promo for religion.” The two issues do not equate, however. Myers, who hasn’t seen the film either, at least as of the date he wrote this piece, is jumping off a cliff to a conclusion. He doesn’t know what the film is going to say about religion. What we do know about the film–because this is what has been publicly released–is that it is a promo in favor of First Amendment free speech and academic freedom.
I think Myers’s closing was intended tongue-in-cheek, and we ought to take it with a sense of humor. Either that, or he’s back in a grandiose mode. We shouldn’t blame him for that, I suppose; after all, Expelled is making him a movie star. Here’s how he ends his article:
Oh, well. I have two warnings for the creationists.
One, I will go see this movie, and I will cheer loudly at my 30 seconds or whatever on the screen, and I will certainly disembowel its arguments here and in any print venue that wants me. That’s going to be fun.
Two, next time I’m asked to be recorded for a creationist propaganda film, I will demand more money, and a flight and a limousine to the premiere. They can pay for my tuxedo rental, too. And my hotel room will have a jacuzzi and a bowl of M&Ms — green ones only.
It’s all a transparent attempt to discredit in advance something that the evolutionist side may have genuine reason to be worried about. What if the film actually succeeds in making its case? What if there really is evidence of unfounded bigotry and thought-suppression in academia? What if it’s presented credibly?
Aside from his caustic communication style, which I can’t say I really enjoy, I wouldn’t mind watching Myers’s having “fun” trying to “disembowel” the film’s arguments. I would even bring him green M&Ms. I wonder if he will actually address the film’s points, though. So far, based on this post of his, he’s exposing straw-man caricatures instead.
The film’s producers’ perspectives were drawn from these sources: