Joined: July 2007
Well.. that was an experience. I know there are differing thoughts on whether we should patronize this movie, but I took the approach that I'd spent enough time reading about the fundagelicals and their behavior and it was time I went out and experienced them in reality. A free chance to see the movie was sort of the putrid icing on the moldy cake.
I'm still trying to digest the experience, but figure that I'd better try to get the details out while they're still fresh in my mind. I'm terrible at sorting this sort of thing out and laying it down in an organized fashion, and I also am pretty much incapable of being brief. You have been warned.
The first thing that I noticed when walking towards the theater from the parking lot was the police car parked immediately outside the theater entrance. Surely that couldn't have anything to do with this movie, I figured. I walked in, suddenly feeling embarrassed to even be there and too ashamed to ask anyone where I was supposed to go for the Expelled screening.
But I found the group, we were being corralled into several lines. We were told that no bags or purses would be allowed in to the theater. At least one woman sent her purse back to her car. After a while we were fed over to another area, where we were told to sign small paper forms that explained that the movie was not in final release form yet and that also, in bold and underlined text, stated that recording the movie was a federal offense, blah blah blah. I guess they figured that if they only bolded it or only underlined it people might ignore it, but nobody can resist bolded and underlined text.
At that time it was restated that no bags would be allowed, and that everyone would need to show a photo ID, causing the woman who sent her purse back to her car to have to go back out to get her ID.
As I was filling out my name and giving them the email address I created specifically for this endeavor I couldn't help but notice the pair of night vision goggles sitting on the same table. This was not the cheapo $300 first generation monocle that you might have seen in an optics store. This was a binocular, dual tube (I specify that because some NVGs have one input but split it so both eyes can see) setup with a band so that it could be warn on the head, military style.
My suspicions about the NVGs were fulfilled when the guy leading the sign in process announced that they'd seen on the web that "some group" was going to try to sneak someone in to record the whole movie. Later he explained further that somewhere online a group had suggested a challenge to try to get a copy of the movie so that it could be distributed via torrent. It was explained that the police officer (described as being off duty but still wearing official uniform and using a police car) would be walking around the theater using the NVGs to look for anyone trying record the movie secretly. He further asked the audience to be on the look out for anything suspicious around them. In other words, rat on your neighbors.
Earlier a woman had opted not to see the movie because she didn't want to leave her purse in her car, explaining that she knew of instances where cars had been broken into and robbed in that same parking lot. She protested, the guy doing the sign-in process explained that it was the rule and he couldn't break it. Fine.
But once inside the theater, with the woman gone, a representative from the production company (I wish I could remember his name, but it totally slipped my mind, he appeared to be fairly high ranking though) made a joke that only one person had complained about the process, and the policeman hand cuffed her and took her away.
A mild chuckle passed through the audience.
Way to go, Mr Two Face, I'm thinking to myself. A woman is concerned about her purse being stolen from her car, and as soon as she's gone he's joking about her being a dissident and having the cops haul her away.
One of the things I was interested in was seeing what sort of audience would come to see this movie. Of course I had my expectations, but I wanted to find out. Since I was alone I waited quietly and listened to all the conversations going on around me. Some were talking about the problems of church finance, someone mentioned in particular that an estimated 80% of all church donations come from elderly women. Also there was mention of Narnia, talk of how it supposedly showed that theologically based movies can do well in secular society. Oddly enough they were also talking a lot about Lord of the Rings and the impending production of The Hobbit.
In the theater sat near different people and I started hearing someone else talking about some meeting he was going to be attending soon. The topic of it was to be "the theological implications of the multiverse". He explained the multiverse to someone unfamiliar with the concept by saying that once the Anthropic Principle had "proved" that the universe was designed scientists had to come up with the multiverse to explain it away.
I sort of felt like Bruce Banner trying to fight down the rage, except that in my case it wasn't really rage, it was just a tendency to want to blurt out various things because I'm a know-it-all. I wanted to explain that many worlds theory was a mathematical result of string theory which he would never be able to get his tiny little mind around if he lived to be a thousand. I say this with near certainty that I will never adequately understand anything about it either, the math will always be beyond me as well.
There was also a little complaining about how kids believe in dinosaurs and that it's impossible to know that they lived millions of years ago, further lamenting that some dinosaurs have been constructed from only four teeth.
He told a story about how he had once been asked whether he was for the Earth being 300 million years old or 6000. Causing me to wonder just who thinks the Earth is 300 million years old? He was fully in the 6000 year group, further extolling the evidence of a young Earth like the evidence that a flood made the Grand Canyon. I had to chuckle (very quietly) at comments like this. It was the only way to remain sane in that insane environment. I wanted to try to remain undercover, I wanted to observe the fundie in it's native environment without altering it's behavior.
There was also at least one token comment against global warming. It was just the sort of crowd you'd expect, all that was missing was a little whispered holocaust denial.
The movie was played through a digital projector clearly fed by a laptop, using what looked like Itunes! The frame rate wasn't even smooth, they couldn't be bothered to get hardware that could adequately play it back! It started off with black and white footage, possibly some genuine but certainly some was shot more recently and then made to look old, of what looked like the Berlin Wall being built interspersed with children playing in an old timey way, bouncing around a small ball. Yes, I get the oh so subtle metaphor. Won't somebody think of the children. Very clever. This was a metaphor that they'd return to later in the film. While the credits appear on screen string music is played. It took me a moment to recognize that it was Pink Floyd's "Another Brick In The Wall". A perhaps somewhat ironic choice, given the well known lyrics "we don't need no education" and the current approach of ID. I guess it's ironic to me, but apropos to those who were meant to see the movie. One man's crappy science education is another man's religiously motivated ideal.
I don't need to tell many specifics of what was in the movie. You all know, you could have written the movie yourselves. All the usual martyrs are trotted out and tell their story of oppression and suffering and claim that their right to free thought and free speech was violated. "If only", I think to myself as they whine on and on about how mean their colleagues are. They're getting in an awful lot of talking despite being unable to speak freely. The accusation of violation of freedom of thought is as absurd as it ever is unless the evil Darwinist alliance is implanting mind control devices in all dissidents. And if they are.. someone needs to tell them that they're not working properly.
Somehow the issues such as Gonzalez' failure to secure research grants or Crocker's telling outright lies in class to her students are... no, I won't say "expelled" from the movie, it's too predictable, let's just say creatively ignored.
I laughed out loud when Robert Marks and the "evolutionary informatics lab" were mentioned. Marks is there on screen talking about how that's what researchers do, they make "labs" by putting a name on a website and hosting it on a computer and use that entity to try to get funding. He didn't even attempt to claim that there was a REAL laboratory associated with it, he just passed it off as standard practice. Then he claims that it was shut down by the evil Baylor establishment. That's funny, I thought I remember reading that all he had to do was add a disclaimer that the website wasn't officially associated with Baylor... I guess I must not have read that, because the makers of this movie wouldn't be lying to their audience now would they?
I will say my one nice thing about the movie by saying that they don't seem to have used a great deal of creative editing in distorting the interviews with real scientists. What they did do was catch a few people with a few awkward questions, the results certainly played into the hands of the filmmakers. In particular I will say that the well known anti theistic stance of Richard Dawkins was just eaten up by the audience. I'm not making a value judgment here, I LIKE Dawkins, but in this situation his approach has helped the ID movement. He spoke out against religion and the filmmakers parlayed that into attempting to portray that the entire scientific world is anti religion. I'm aware of the framing argument and I'm not taking sides in it, I won't say that he shouldn't say those things.
There was one moment in particular where the interview led to him stating what he thought would be the one way in which intelligent design might be proven correct in reality. His explanation was that we might find evidence of aliens visiting the Earth and either intentionally or not leaving behind seed life forms. The audience sputtered with mirth at this as Ben Stein's narration announced that this proved that Dawkins would accept SOME forms of intelligent design but not others.
For those Pharyngula fans out there I can say that I don't think PZ's remarks were at all abused. He explains that he started out believing in religion but that the more he learned about science the less he felt the need for it. I can actually say that I learned something (go ahead, quote mine that you dishonest hacks!) because I didn't know that he was formerly a theist. They even mention the name of his blog, so it's possible that he may get some new readers from this.
It once again says something to their intended audience that they even put that interview segment into the movie. If they were not religiously motivated then what relevance would that have on the merit of a scientific theory?
I don't know about actual percentages, but a good deal of the movie was taken up by the well known "Darwin led to Nazis" argument. Ben Stein goes to a memorial site where thousands of prisoners were executed and looks all pained and holds his head in his hands to emphasize how terrible it was, and I just wanted to yell into his wrinkled old ear that Hitler was guided at least as much by religious doctrine as he may have been by a mistaken interpretation of science. Does the fact that the Nazi soldiers wore belt buckles with "God with us" engraved on them in German mean that I can go around saying that religion is to blame for the Holocaust?
This obsession with the holocaust just went on and on. It even lead to Planned Parenthood of all places. This was among the most disturbing moments of the film. The PP logo appears on screen and the audience collectively sucked in their breath as if they'd unexpectedly come face to face with the devil himself. The movie goes on to suggest that Planned Parenthood is proof that Eugenics is alive and well in society today (because of evolution, of course). Why, pray tell? Because they provide birth control to the poor, of course. Allowing the poor to not have children if they so wish qualifies as Eugenics to these people! It goes on to suggest that abortion and euthenasia, both of which we're told devalue human life (yeah, letting a terminally ill patient end his life with dignity instead of wasting away in a haze of suffering until, finally, mercifully, his biological functions cease to operate, that devalues human life), are also the results of evolution.
It's all there in some form or another. The idea that scientists are motivated by dogmatic belief in Darwin's specific theory, with no suggestion that a few changes might have occurred through the years. Preach the controversy, proved by people saying that since the scientists disagree with them there must be a controversy.
Even a most curious suggestion that the US is the "worst" in the world in terms of governmentally censuring ID. Could this be because the US is the primary place where religiously motivated people are trying to damage the scientific education of other people's children in order to spread their own beliefs?
They also had some CG that looked very much like the famous XVIVO video that Dembski stole and then lied about. I'm not saying it was the same, it looked similar but it may well have been a different animation made specifically for the movie. But it contains the same well known flaws that serve to make the workings of a cell look much more machine-like than they really do, and the audience gasped in awe as they were told how a single cell is like a complex machine.
The movie makes a token effort to say "this isn't about religion" at the beginning. But the best they can do is ask the leading lights of ID if it's about religion and have them say "no it isn't". This fails to be convincing since so much of the movie harps on and on about how all evolutionists are atheists bent on destroying religion (including the claim that Eugenie Scott is preaching atheism to religious groups) and hits on all the fundamentalist high points like abortion. It demands that evolution is in contradiction with religion and scorns any who suggest otherwise. Yes, I know that that means that they're rejecting the Vatican. Let's face it, this movie was not made for Catholics. They don't have to try hard to deny the association between ID and religion because their target audience is religious.
This was sort of rammed home after the movie when the production company representative started up a Q&A session with the audience. At one point he mentioned the websites for the movie, and specified that one was more for the promotion of the movie itself and one was more for the religious people to get information to assist in spreading the message.
Two audience members slightly redeemed themselves in my opinion by asking slightly intelligent questions or making statements to that effect. One mentioned that the movie kinda sorta might just maybe have gone too far in the beginning as painting the evolution supporters as representing Stalinist Germany before they showed their true nature later in the movie. He went on to say that he was certain that some people would use scenes from the movie as an illustration of ad hominem attacks.
To illustrate the fast and loose definition of science that the producers were playing with: the man that asked that question identified himself as someone who teaches "origin studies". After that description the representative called him a scientist and flattered him by saying that he was certain that this man knew much more than he did. Ultimately the issue of possible dishonesty was dodged with the explanation that, after all, the purpose of the movie was to entertain.
A woman asked about the scene where Ben Stein and the film crew barge in to the Smithsonian and are told to leave by security. She said that that's the sort of thing that Michael Moore would do, staging things like that for effect. She asked if an attempt was made to set up a real interview before doing that.
She never really got an honest answer from that, the rep weaseled his way out without saying anything specifically.
These incidences give me hope. Not much hope, mind you, but still to me it shows that at least some of these people are still willing to critically analyze these things to at least some degree. Or perhaps they were darwinist conspiracy plants, who can say. If that woman was willing to point out that the filmmakers used that dishonest tactic now, perhaps she'll be interested enough to research the issues beyond what she's told by the ID supporters themselves.
I did not ask the film rep any questions. I thought about it, but the fact is I think I'd be poor at PR work like that. I'm too high strung to be calm when situations like that demand it, and I'm prone to acting elitist which would turn everyone against me instantly. There were some questions which deserved to be asked, but I didn't want to take the responsibility of asking them in such a high profile situation.
As a final comment, I'm curious about the story about a group trying to infiltrate and record the movie. I know that in this thread it has been suggested that we could just wait and watch the movie once it shows up on bittorrent, and I know that the filmmakers are aware of this forum since one of them ran away from it after he was asked too many questions he couldn't answer (this despite proudly declaring that what they want is an open exchange of ideas tonight, that he wants people to disagree with him). That's hardly a conspiracy to infiltrate and record, but... come on, look at their established level of honesty. What would play out better than requiring police protection of their (pseudo)intellectual property?