Friday, April 11, 2008

David Bolinsky on "Expelled" and Dembski's copyright infringement

At Richard Dawkins' blog, David Bolinsky of XVIVO explains the extent of the copyright infringement and reveals a previous copyright infringement action against William Dembski:

To the anti-ID community which is giving XVIVO support in our ideological battle against the microcephalic apostates of "Intelligent Design":

XVIVO created The Inner Life of the Cell for Harvard, through fourteen months of painstaking examination of how a myriad of systems, functional structures and proteins in a cell, could be depicted in a sweeping panoramic style of animation, reminiscent of cinema, that fundamentally raised the bar on the visualization of molecular and cellular biology for undergraduate students. In depicting what we did, other than merely maintaining the intent of the syllabus, we needed to edit like mad. A cell has billions of molecules, millions of active functional proteins and tens of thousands of structural elements separating, sequestering and joining compartments and systems into a functional whole. An initial foundational decision process of our creative vision, consisted of editing out 95% of the contents of our cell in order to gain, for our virtual camera, a vista to visualize what elements we left in. The decisions we made blended aesthetics with science. They were not made lightly, nor were they made without extensive consultation with researchers at Harvard, and an extensive body of literature, including protein data libraries and new findings by Harvard researchers.

Given the vast number of structures to be removed, and given the structures remaining "on camera", whose positioning and relationships, both aesthetic and functional, needed to remain true to the function and beauty of molecular biology, it is inconceivable, mathematically, that the animator hired by EXPELLED's producers, independently and randomly came up with the same identical actin filament mesh XVIVO depicted in one scene, which had never before been rendered anywhere in 3D! It is astonishing that among well over a dozen functional kinesins from which an animator might choose, we both chose the same configuration of kinesin, pulling the same protein-studded vesicle, on the same microtubule! Can YOU believe we coincidentally picked the same camera angles and left in the same specific structures in the background, positioned with the same composition? Equally astonishing is the "Intellgent Design" treatment of these and other proteins surfaces, which XVIVO derived using procedural iso-surface skinning of the PDB cloud data of our proteins' atom placement. There are an infinite number of possble "correct" solutions to that problem.

Coincidence? Given their "access to the same literature" we had, where Graham Johnson at Scripps so brilliantly worked out the real motion of kinesins, I am simply blown away that the "Intelligent Design" animators slavishly made the hands of their kenesins move exactly as we did, even though we intentionally left out the stochastic Brownian motion which actually characterizes the tractive force and periodic pedicle placement of these tiny motivators. We simply did not have the time or budget to render these, and a dozen other details, to the level of insanity we would like to have done! This was, after all, an underfunded proof-of-concept piece. The cellular biology that serves as "filler" material, between scenes copied from Inner Life, is riddled with biological errors. Imagine "Intelligent Design's" depiction of protein synthesis without ribosomes!

To Mr. Dembski: The only reason I am involved in this discussion is because I do not want the reputation of my company, hard-earned as it is, to be sullied by even oblique affiliation to your sort of smarmy ethics, if only through works of ours, purloined to fit your agenda. Last year you were charging colleges thousands of dollars to give lectures showing a copy of The Inner Life of the Cell, you claimed you "found somewhere", with Harvard's and XVIVO's credits stripped out and the copyright notice removed (which is in itself a felony) and a creationist voice-over pasted on over our music (yes, I have a recording of your lecture). Harvard slapped you down for that, and yes there is a paper trail. One can only assume that had we not taken notice then, we would be debating The Inner Life of the Cell being used in EXPELLED, instead of a copy. You have enough of a colorful history that Harvard, in its wisdom, decided to 'swat the gnat' with as little fuss as possible. Imagine our surprise earlier this month, to see our work copied in a movie trailer for EXPELLED! And you are in the movie too! Not quite a star, but brown dwarfs are cool. XVIVO has no intention of engaging alone, in asymmetrical fighting against an ideological entity with orders of magnitude more resources than we have. That might make great theater, but would resemble a hugely expensive game of whack-a-ID. Boring!

It makes me happy, though, that you decided to implicate your friends in print, on your blog (, in what is legally, malignant infringement, since you no had doubt discussed with EXPELLED's producers, Harvard's previous legal infringement action against you, the Discovery Institute, where you are a fellow and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, where you teach. Once we uncover the EXPELLED animation dollar trail, and bring it to light, we will have even more fun. The sublimely ridiculous claim that EXPELLED uses completely original animation, in light of copying our work so closely that a budget was reserved to pay for an infringement suit by Harvard, is delicious! Why should I try to take you guys down when you are doing such a splendid job yourselves? For free! So go ahead and release your movie. Just keep track of how many tickets you sell. We may just find that data valuable, too.

David Bolinsky

For more on David Bolinksy and the animation see:

UPDATE (April 12, 2008): P.Z. Myers comments. Blake Stacey also has a nice post summarizing the copyright infringement issue.

UPDATE (April 19, 2008): The footage copied from XVIVO was apparently removed before the film's public release yesterday.

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