Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Logrolling in our time

The sadly defunct Spy magazine used to have a feature called "Logrolling in Our Time," in which it pointed out examples of authors providing favorable cover blurbs to each other. Like this:

"Written with his customary verve and flair, The Mind of the Market is Michael Shermer at his best. Roving over the entire sweep of history, and drawing on the best of modern science, Shermer attempts a grand synthesis of research from psychology and the neurosciences to demonstrate that markets are moral and that free trade meshes well with human nature. Shermer entertains as well as informs, and in the process he deepens the argument for economic, political and social freedom." --Dinesh D’Souza, author of What’s So Great About America, on Michael Shermer's book, The Mind of the Market

"As an unbeliever I passionately disagree with Dinesh D'Souza on some of his positions. But he is a first-rate scholar whom I feel absolutely compelled to read. His thorough research and elegant prose have elevated him into the top ranks of those who champion liberty and individual responsibility. Now he adds Christianity to his formula for a good society, and although non-Christians and non-theists may disagree with some of his arguments, we ignore him at our peril. D'Souza's book takes the debate to a new level. Read it." --Michael Shermer, author of The Mind of the Market, on Dinesh D'Souza's book, What's So Great About Christianity

D'Souza is clearly not a "first-rate scholar." Neither, for that matter, is Shermer. Both are popularizers.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

History and future of the Discovery Institute

Ross Anderson, journalist and former Senior Fellow of the Discovery Institute, gives an interesting history of the founding of the organization. He describes how DI got into the intelligent design business, which has proved to be its major source of funding.

About two years ago, the Discovery Institute founded the Biologic Institute to perform scientific research. At long last, they finally have a website up, and its cast of characters contains many names recognizable from the film "Expelled." Still no scientific theory of intelligent design, however.

Monday, April 28, 2008

National Review on "Expelled"

John Derbyshire of National Review has written about "Expelled." A couple of key paragraphs:
I think this willful act of deception has corrupted creationism irredeemably. The old Biblical creationists were, in my opinion, wrong-headed, but they were mostly honest people. The “intelligent design” crowd lean more in the other direction. Hence the dishonesty and sheer nastiness, even down to plain bad manners, that you keep encountering in ID circles. It’s by no means all of them, but it’s enough to corrupt and poison the creationist enterprise, which might otherwise have added something worthwhile to our national life, if only by way of entertainment value.
And now here is Ben Stein, sneering and scoffing at Darwin, a man who spent decades observing and pondering the natural world — that world Stein glimpses through the window of his automobile now and then, when he’s not chattering into his cell phone. Stein claims to be doing it in the name of an alternative theory of the origin of species: Yet no such alternative theory has ever been presented, nor is one presented in the movie, nor even hinted at. There is only a gaggle of fools and fraudsters, gaping and pointing like Apaches on seeing their first locomotive: “Look! It moves! There must be a ghost inside making it move!”
Quite right. There is no scientific theory of intelligent design.

UPDATE (May 1, 2008): Commenter tom points out a subsequent Derbyshire post about Ben Stein's remarkable statement on the Trinity Broadcasting Network that while "Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place ... science leads you to killing people."

Ben Stein is a shameful, despicable human being.

Jesus Made Me Puke

Matt Taibbi goes undercover with the Christian right--at the megachurch of John Hagee, whose endorsement for president John McCain is happy to have.

(Via Pharyngula.)

Evangelical Christian support of eugenics

John Lynch points to an essay by Dennis Durst on "Evangelical Engagements with Eugenics, 1900-1940."

Christian persecution complexes

Ed Brayton at Dispatches from the Culture Wars links to and comments on an essay by Elizabeth Castelli on the history of Christian persecution, real and imagined. It's interesting how many Christians argue that they are being persecuted, even as they are engaged in persecution themselves.

Which reminds me again of Robby Berry's classic "Life in Our Anti-Christian America."

More on Mike Edmondson and the Expelled viral video

Simon Owens at Bloggasm interviewed Michael Edmondson, creator of the "Beware the Believers" viral video that was widely acclaimed by critics of the film "Expelled" for its humor and polish. Apparently the segment was originally intended to be in "Expelled," but the producers decided to turn it into a viral video instead, since it didn't fit with the character of the film. (Insert your choice of snarky comment about how it didn't fit here.)

Sunday, April 27, 2008

WorldNetDaily publishes something sensible

It's a letter to the editor from Jeremy Gunn, director of the Program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the ACLU, in response to an idiotic falsehood-ridden column by Pat Boone.

If anyone ever comes across an attempt by the anti-ACLU crowd to actually respond to the content of Gunn's letter, I'd be interested in seeing it. I suspect it will most likely be ignored, and any alleged responses will not respond to its content.

(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

Matthew LaClair op-ed in Los Angeles Times

Matthew LaClair has an op-ed piece in today's Los Angeles Times in which he talks about his evangelizing history teacher and the biased textbook used in his class.

James Q. Wilson defends his textbook in a companion L.A. Times op-ed; the bulk of his defense is that the later edition of his book fixes the problems LaClair complains about.

UPDATE (June 29, 2008): The July/August 2008 issue of the Skeptical Inquirer comments on this controversy. It seems that the later edition of the book is not yet available for schools and contains most, if not all, of the same misrepresentations and problems that LaClair complained about. Wilson, through his dishonest op-ed, has thrown away his credibility.

Mathematical misunderstanding by Marks and O'Leary

Jeff Shallit has a post at his Recursivity blog about some "comical misunderstandings" by intelligent design advocates Denyse O'Leary and Robert Marks. In O'Leary's case, the misunderstanding is expected, but Marks is an engineering professor at Baylor University who should know better.

David Berlinski, King of Poseurs

Jeff Shallit talks about Discovery Institute Fellow David Berlinski, notable as one of the few advocates of intelligent design who is not an evangelical Christian. He's also not a scientist or a mathematician; he has a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton. Although that's a top school for philosophy in the U.S., Berlinski hasn't been working as a professional philosopher, either.

Of course, he was touted as an expert in "Expelled."

Saturday, April 26, 2008

"In God We Trust" license plates

Arizona's legislature, like Florida's, is considering creating "In God We Trust" license plates. Indiana already has them, which, unlike other specialty plates, require no additional fee. The ACLU's lawsuit in Indiana against the plates was recently dismissed.

In Arizona, the state Senate approved legislation (HB 2046) sponsored by Rep. Ron Gould (R-Lake Havasu City) which would require the Department of Transportation to provide "In God We Trust" license plates if some organization pays the $32,000 necessary for design costs. The bill was originally for "Arizona Highways" license plates when introduced in January, but has been modified into a religious proposal.

It looks to me like Gould's proposal puts the imprimatur of government on the promotion of religion, which violates both the U.S. and Arizona Constitutions. A contrary argument would be that there's no financial expenditure by the government, since the fees to produce such plates come from the individuals rather than the government. But by allowing the expression of a particular religious sentiment (supporting monotheistic religions) and not other religious sentiments (including disbelief in any religion), it will clearly favor one set of viewpoints on religion over others.

UPDATE (May 1, 2008): Correction, the Florida license plate under consideration was one which said "I believe" with a picture of a cross. The Florida legislature looks set to allow the legislation to die without passage.

Reason to be skeptical about anthropogenic climate change

Two of the least credible spokespeople for their respective political and religious positions...

"Expelled" reviewed from a filmmaker's perspective

At the Evolved and Rational blog, John Ray gives a review of "Expelled" from a filmmaking perspective:
Cinematically, Expelled gets off to a lovely start. First-time director Nathan Frankowski chooses a nice, rich level of contrast and uses it to create some sparkling opening shots of our nation’s capitol. Those who knew what they were in for when they walked into the theater (presumably, most of the film’s so-far few attendees) were given an artistic visual rough outline of where the film was going. By the time we see Ben Stein taking a deep breath, looking indeed like “the little investigative journalist that could” in his trademark adorable little sneakers, the audience is practically eager to believe whatever he has to say.

Then he starts talking and the effect is ruined.

Poor narration, over- and under-exposed shots, "Lord Privy Seals," and endless footage of Ben Stein walking are a few of the technical complaints.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Ex-Scientology Kids

Kendra Wiseman, Jenna Miscavige Hill (niece of David Miscavige, head of the Church of Scientology), and Astra Woodcraft are three ex-Scientologists who are now running the Ex-Scientology Kids website, critical of Scientology.

Jenna Hill will be on ABC's "Nightline" tonight.

Ben Stein lies about Sternberg affair

In an interview with Newsweek, Ben Stein falsely stated that:
There are a number of scientists and academics who've been fired, denied tenure, lost tenure or lost grants because they even suggested the possibility of intelligent design. The most egregious is Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian, the editor of a magazine that published a peer-reviewed paper about ID. He lost his job.
Sternberg was never employed by the Smithsonian and never lost his unpaid Research Associate position there. He never worked for any Smithsonian magazine, and resigned from his position as editor of The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington six months before the publication of the Stephen Meyer intelligent design article which he approved with inappropriate review.

The Smithsonian responded to Newsweek:
Sternberg has never been employed by the Smithsonian Institution. Since January 2004, he has been an unpaid research associate in the departments of invertebrate and vertebrate zoology at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Dr. Sternberg continues to enjoy full access to research facilities at the museum. Moreover, Stein's assertion that Sternberg was removed from a Smithsonian publication is not true. The Proceedings of the Biological Society of Washington is an independent journal and is not affiliated with the Smithsonian.
(Via Dispatches from the Culture Wars.)

"Expelled" is not Holocaust denial

I agree with Orac at Respectful Insolence, contra bioethicist Arthur Caplan, that "Expelled"'s argument that Darwinism was a contributing cause of (the main cause of?) the Holocaust doesn't constitute Holocaust denial.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Shermer vs. Lukianoff in L.A. Times

Michael Shermer of the Skeptics Society and Greg Lukianoff of the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education debated back and forth for five days in the Los Angeles Times on speech codes, faculty bias, and "Expelled." Actually, they were pretty much in agreement on "Expelled." (Where they disagree on other issues, I think Lukianoff generally has the better of the argument, though I side with Shermer on the rights of private institutions.)

I happen to support both of their organizations, and I think it's interesting to point out that FIRE is the major organization defending the freedom of speech of students and faculty in academia, though they've not noticed any issues of persecution of ID advocates worthy of their attention. They actually deal with real cases of suppression, censorship, and indoctrination, not phony cases like those in "Expelled."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

New Phoenix Lights

Some new "Phoenix Lights" were seen last night in north Phoenix, but these apparently were helium balloons with flares attached to them.

The original Phoenix Lights were apparently two events--one a set of planes, and one flares dropped by military pilots.

UPDATE (July 20, 2009): Tim Printy has more detail on the original Phoenix lights than I've seen elsewhere.

"Expelled" promotes young-earth creationist materials

Commenters "paul" and Jay Rogers claimed here that "Expelled" "is not a Christian movie."

Yet Troy Britain points out that the "leadership guide" distributed at the "Expelled" website is filled with statements which closely resemble quotations from young-earth creationist literature published by the Institute for Creation Research, an explicitly Christian organization.

UPDATE (April 25, 2008): If "Expelled" isn't a Christian movie, why does the "Expelled: The Movement" website look like a Christian website--promoting Christian bands, Christian magazines, and Christian books by apologists like Lee Strobel, as well as young-earth creationism-promoting ministries like Coral Ridge Ministries (of the late D. James Kennedy, one of the most dishonest purveyors of bogus young-earth creationist arguments who has lived on this planet)?

Saturday, April 19, 2008

NORAD releases 9/11 tapes

Wired magazine's blog reports that NORAD and U.S. Northern Command "have released a copy of their audio files, telephone conversations and situation room discussions" from September 11, 2001.

Reason magazine review of "Expelled"

Ronald Bailey at Reason magazine has reviewed "Expelled," and is one of the few who has pointed out that:
Yet despite its topic, the film is entirely free of scientific content--no scientific evidence against biological evolution and none for "intelligent design" (ID) theory is given. Which makes sense because biological evolution is amply supported by evidence from the fossil record, molecular biology, and morphology. For example, the younger the rocks in which fossils are found, the more closely they resemble species alive today, and the older the rocks, the less resemblance there is. In addition, molecular biology confirms that the more distantly related the fossil record suggests species lineages are, the more their genes differ.

Instead of evaluating this evidence, Stein spends most of the movie asking various proponents of evolutionary theory, including Richard Dawkins, P.Z. Myers, Michael Ruse, and Daniel Dennett, for their religious views. Neither the producers nor Stein understand that offering critiques of a theory with which they disagree is not the same as proving their own theory.
"Expelled" is standard creationist and ID fare, in that regard.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Sexpelled: No Intercourse Allowed

"Sexpelled tells of how Sex Theory has thrived unchallenged in the ivory towers of academia, as the explanation for how new babies are created. Proponents of Stork Theory claim that 'Big Sex' has been suppressing their claim that babies are delivered by storks."

(Via Wired's "Underwire" blog.)

"Expelled" weekend box office, theater counts, and ratings

Click the image for the facts that "Expelled" doesn't give you.

This post is a placeholder to report on "Expelled"'s weekend box office and the accuracy of my five predictions about the film, as well as a few more I'll add here. My five predictions were that "Expelled" will:
(1) be on fewer than 800 screens, (2) will have an initial weekend box office of less than $2 million, with (3) a per-screen take of less than $2,500, (4) won't break the top ten despite it being a slow opening week, and (5) will make less than $10 million in box office take by the end of 2008 (though it may make more than that through DVD sales).
Prediction (1) is already falsified, since it's opening in 1,052 theaters. Prediction (4) may well be wrong due to how weak this weekend is for new films--it's pretty clear that #1 and #2 will be "Forgetting Sarah Marshall" and "The Forbidden Kingdom." Al Pacino's "88 Minutes" is also opening in many theaters and has the draw of its star, but it's getting terrible reviews. C.S. Strowbridge at The-Numbers estimates that "Expelled" will only need a $3 million opening weekend to make the top ten, so my predictions are at least consistent with each other.

Looking at the list of top Christian films below, I see that the most recent "Veggie Tales" movie, "The Pirates Who Don't Do Anything," came in at number 6 in January 2008 with an opening weekend of $4.2 million on 1,337 screens. I doubt that "Expelled" will do that well, though I expect (6) it will break the top ten in the Christian films category, probably about to the eighth position. Looking at controversial films, however, I think it's unlikely to make the top twenty--(7) it will probably end up around 22nd at best, beating "The Last Temptation of Christ." Documentaries are a bit easier, and it could very well make the top ten, but (8) I wouldn't expect it to get above the seventh slot.

Finally, (9) I expect to see its theater counts drop rapidly starting next week, losing at least 500 theaters by next Friday as its audience sees the film and more popular entries displace it in the new week.

UPDATE (April 19, 2008): I expect that predictions (2) and (4) may be falsified; a weekend take of $3-4 million looks likely after Friday's estimated take of $1,126,000 and its coming in at #8 on Friday. #1-#7 ahead of "Expelled" were: "The Forbidden Kingdom," "Forgetting Sarah Marshall," "Prom Night," "88 Minutes," "21," "Nim's Island," and "Street Kings." Prediction (3) looks like it will easily be proven correct; "Expelled" earned $1,070 per-theater on Friday, making it #5 for per-theater take.

UPDATE (April 20, 2008): Prediction (2) has been falsified as the current estimated box office take is $3,152,896. Prediction (4) looks like it will be falsified, with "Expelled" barely cracking the top ten--it has been passed by "Horton Hears a Who" and looks like it will be #9 for the weekend. Prediction (3) looks like it will be false, too, though in my defense I intended to predict a per-screen daily average take rather than a per-theater take for the entire weekend. Saturday's take was $941/theater, versus Friday's $1,145, and Sunday looks like it will be lower still (projected to be $911/theater).

UPDATE (April 21, 2008): "Expelled"'s weekend take has been revised downward from the estimate, to $2,970,848, or $2,824 per-theater. So my prediction (3), taken the way I said it rather than meant it, was not wrong by much. It also came in at #10 for the weekend (#9 was Leatherheads), so prediction (4) was falsified in the most minimal way possible. Predictions (5)-(9) appear to be on solid ground. Sunday's take was only $737/theater, and it's all downhill from here.

UPDATE (April 24, 2008): The-Numbers has posted its list of theater counts for the weekend of April 25, 2008, and "Expelled" isn't on the list. I'd guess this means they just don't have the information yet, rather than that it's not appearing in any theater (since none of last week's openers and only one of this weekend's openers are yet listed), but we'll soon find out if my prediction (9) is correct and it is down to 552 or fewer theaters. (If Arizona is an indication, the drop may not occur until next week.) Box Office Mojo is now reporting "Expelled"'s theater count at 1,041 for its second weekend, a drop of 11 theaters, which falsifies prediction (9). It looks like it's not common for a huge drop in theater counts to occur in the first week, so this was probably a dumb prediction unless the movie was a total bomb, which it hasn't been. I think a 500-theater drop is much more likely for next week, however--call that prediction (10). For this weekend, I suspect we'll see each day's average take in the $500-$700 per-theater range, or $500,000-$700,000 total per day; probably closer to the low end, and thus ending the weekend with a total take of between $5.4M and $6M, and leaving prediction (5) accurate unless it turns out to be popular internationally. It will also probably drop out of the top ten starting today.

UPDATE (April 26, 2008): "Expelled" began its second weekend with (The-Numbers' estimate) a $505,000 take ($485/theater) on Friday, even lower than I guessed yesterday. Box Office Mojo's estimate is even lower: $450,000 ($432/theater).

UPDATE (April 27, 2008): The second weekend's estimated take is $1,378,867 ($1,325/theater, The-Numbers) or $1,379,000 ($1,324/theater, Box Office Mojo), which will put the total at about $5.2M, below the lower end of my guess on Thursday, with a total of about $5.2M.

UPDATE (April 28, 2008): The weekend's estimated take is now $1,395,000 ($1340/theater), with "Expelled" ranked at #13, according to Box Office Mojo. Looks like it followed the more normal pattern with a Saturday peak ($529,000) and less on Friday ($452,000; The-Numbers estimates $505,000 for Friday) and Sunday ($414,000), all still estimates. Today will probably drop well below $200,000.

UPDATE (April 29, 2008): Monday's take was $157,191 ($151/theater), though the rank went up to #12.

UPDATE (May 2, 2008): "Expelled" is staying around longer than I would have imagined, but it has now dropped 386 theaters to 655, and its daily box office take will suffer accordingly. It looks like "Expelled" is going to end up doing about the same amount business as "Megiddo: The Omega Code 2," and not as well as "The End of the Spear," two Christian movies that were previously distributed by Rocky Mountain Pictures. Prediction (5) looks dead on (less than $10 million in box office by the end of 2008); prediction (6) looks like it was too generous ("Expelled" should easily break into the top ten on Christian films, but it now looks unlikely to reach #9, let alone #8); prediction (7) also looks too generous (hitting #22 on the "controversial" film list; #23 or #24 looks more likely, though Box Office Mojo has decided not to list "Expelled" in that category at all); prediction (8) is easy at this point (it won't reach #7 on the documentary list; it looks like even breaking into the top 10 is out of reach). So my prediction accuracy was about as good as coin flipping. I was way off on theater count-related predictions, but more accurate on revenue and rank-related predictions. But enough about those predictions. I'll continue to update this post with the data until it drops completely out of the theaters.

Some websites for statistics:

"Expelled" box office numbers and rating at The-Numbers:
4/19/2008: "Expelled" came in at #8 for Friday, with an estimated box office take of $1,126,000, and a per-theater take of $1,070 (ranked #5).
The-Numbers rating: 3.75/10 (16 votes; 25% rated it 10 and 62.5% rated it 1).
4/20/2008: "Expelled" has dropped to #9 for the weekend, with an estimated box office take of $3,152,896 for the whole weekend, and a per-theater take of $2,997.
4/22/2008: The-Numbers gives different numbers than Box Office Mojo, though their weekend totals agree: Friday: $1,126,000 ($1070/theater), Saturday: $967,000 ($919/theater), Sunday: $878,000 ($835/theater), for an opening weekend total of $2,970,848 ($2,824/theater). Monday: $238,804 ($227/theater).
04/23/2008: Tuesday, April 22: $227,232 ($216/theater). Total: $3,436,884.
04/25/2008: Wednesday, April 23: $234,596 ($223). Thursday, April 24: $231,440 ($220). Friday, April 25: $505,000 ($485), ranked #13. Total: $4,408,000.
4/30/2008: Still no numbers for Saturday or Sunday. Monday, April 28: $157,191 ($151).
5/1/2008: Tuesday, April 29: $162,396 ($156). Wednesday, April 30: $159,273 ($153).
5/2/2008: Thursday, May 1: $158,232 ($152).
5/5/2008: May 2-4 weekend: $683,552 ($1,042/theater).
5/6/2008: Monday, May 5: $66,912 ($102/theater).
5/8/2008: Tuesday, May 6: $74,128 ($113), Wednesday, May 7: $73,472 ($112).
5/9/2008: Thursday, May 8: $78,720 ($120). Total: $6,906,488.
5/12/2008: Friday, May 9-Sunday, May 11: $328,836 ($818). Total: $7,235,324.
5/14/2008: Monday, May 12: $38,994 ($97); Tuesday, May 13: $35,778 ($89).
5/16/2008: Wednesday, May 14: $43,818 ($109), Thursday, May 15: $43,014 ($107).
5/28/2008: Monday, May 26: $16,019 ($193). Total: $7,598,071.

Theater counts at The-Numbers:
4/18/2008: 1,052
4/25/2008: 1,041
5/2/2008: 656
5/9/2008: 402
5/16/2008: 210
5/23/2008: 83

"Expelled" ratings at Rotten Tomatoes:
4/18/2008 7:54 a.m. MST: 8% fresh (12 reviews, 11 rotten, 2.9/10 rating)
4/18/2008 11:48 a.m. MST: 7% fresh (14 reviews, 13 rotten, 2.9/10 rating)
4/18/2008 1:35 p.m. MST: 5% fresh (21 reviews, 20 rotten, 2.8/10 rating)
4/18/2008 2:56 p.m. MST: 9% fresh (22 reviews, 20 rotten, 3/10 rating) (Christianity Today review added)
4/19/2008 4:15 p.m. MST: 9% fresh (23 reviews, 21 rotten, 3/10 rating)
4/22/2008 6:23 p.m. MST: 12% fresh (25 reviews, 22 rotten, 3.2/10 rating)
4/24/2008 4:39 p.m. MST: 10% fresh (30 reviews, 27 rotten, 2.9/10 rating)
4/292008 8:08 a.m. MST: 9% fresh (33 reviews, 30 rotten, 3/10 rating)
Top Critics: 0% fresh (13 reviews, 13 rotten, 2.6/10 rating)
RT Community rating: 50% fresh (377 reviews, 188 rotten, 4.8/10 rating)

"Expelled" ratings at IMDB:
4/19/2008 4:15 p.m. MST:
Average rating is 3.3/10 with 402 very polarized votes--81 (20.1%) rated the movie a 10, 276 (68.7%) rated it a 1.
Females like it more than males, and those under 18 and over 45 like it more than those in between.

Average rating for males: 3.1
Average rating for females: 6.3
Average rating for under 18-year-olds: 6.7 (male 6.7, female 10)
Average rating for 18-29 year-olds: 3.0 (male 2.5, female 7.7)
Average rating for 30-44 year-olds: 3.0 (male 3.1, female 2.0)
Average rating for 45+: 4.7 (male 4.5, female 5.5)

4/21/2008 10:36 a.m. MST:
Average rating is now 3.6/10 with 659 votes, still highly polarized (22.2% 10, 61.0% 1), but now with a few more 7, 8, and 9 ratings (2.4%, 4.2%, and 4.7%, respectively), and a few more 2 and 3 ratings (2.1% and 1.2%, respectively).

Average rating for males: 3.3
Average rating for females: 6.7
Average rating for under 18-year-olds: 6.5 (male 6.3, female 7.8)
Average rating for 18-29 year-olds: 3.4 (male 3.0, female 7.7)
Average rating for 30-44 year-olds: 3.3 (male 3.3, female 2.4)
Average rating for 45+: 4.1 (male 4.0, female 7.7)

4/24/2008 4:41 p.m. MST:
Average rating is now 3.6/10 with 2,332 votes (25.4% 10, 57.0% 1; 5.1% 9, 4.0% 8, 2.0% 7, 1.5% 3, 3.1% 2).

Average rating for males: 3.4
Average rating for females: 5.4
Average rating for under 18-year-olds: 6.0 (male 5.5, female 7.9)
Average rating for 18-29 year-olds: 3.2 (male 3.0, female 5.5)
Average rating for 30-44 year-olds: 3.6 (male 3.6, female 3.4)
Average rating for 45+: 4.6 (male 4.4, female 6.7)

Expelled box office and ratings at Box Office Mojo:
4/19/2008 9:54 a.m. MST: Box Office Mojo readers rate the movie a B, with 110 votes (66.4% A, 3.6% B, 28.2% F).
4/20/2008 12:21 p.m. MST: "Expelled" took in less money on Saturday than on Friday--$990,000, or $941 per theater. Sunday's projected take is $958,000.
4/21/2008 5:07 p.m. MST: The opening weekend box office take was $2,970,848, a per-theater average of $2,824. Sunday brought in only $775,000, or $737 per theater.
4/22/2008 6:25 p.m. MST: Monday's box office take was $238,804, another 68.8% drop in daily gross, for a per-theater average of $227. Total take is now $3,209,652. Friday-Sunday have been updated: Friday: $1,208,748 ($1,149), Saturday: $996,244 ($947), Sunday: $765,856 ($728). The weekend total agrees with The-Numbers, but the daily totals do not.
4/23/2008 2:01 p.m. MST: Tuesday: $227,232 ($216); Wednesday: $234,596 ($223). Six-day total: $3,671,480.
4/24/2008 3:04 p.m. MST: Thursday: $231,440 ($220). Seven-day total: $3,902,920.
4/25/2008 6:56 p.m. MST: Friday: $450,000 ($432) (estimate), rank #13. Seven-day total: $4,353,000.
4/30/2008 1:58 p.m. MST: Saturday: $529,000 ($508), Sunday: $414,000 ($398), Monday: $157,191 ($151), Tuesday: $162,396 ($156). Weekend numbers are all still estimates.
5/2/2008 7:04 p.m. MST: Wednesday: $159,273 ($153), Thursday: $158,232 ($152).
5/5/2008 9:20 a.m. PDT: May 2-4 weekend: $684,000 ($1,042).
5/6/2008 7:40 p.m. PDT: Friday, May 2: $216,480 ($330), Saturday, May 3: $270,272 ($412), Sunday, May 4: $191,552 ($292), Monday, May 5: $66,912 ($102), ranked #15. Total: $6,680,168.
5/7/2008 7:53 p.m. PDT: Tuesday, May 6: $74,128 ($113).
5/8/2008 8:29 p.m. PDT: Wednesday, May 7: $73,472 ($112).
5/9/2008 5:17 p.m. PDT: Thursday, May 8: $78,720 ($120).
5/11/2008 4:01 p.m. MST: May 9-11 weekend: $328,836 ($818), in 402 theaters, ranked #21.
5/12/2008 7:39 p.m. MST: Friday, May 9: $100,902 ($251); Saturday, May 10: $120,600 ($300); Sunday, May 11: $107,334 ($267). Total: $7,235,324.
5/13/2008 3:55 p.m. MST: Monday, May 12: $38,994 ($97).
5/14/2008 8:04 p.m. MST: Tuesday, May 13: $35,778 ($89).
5/16/2008 7:40 p.m. MST: Wednesday, May 14: $43,818 ($109); Thursday, May 15: $43,014 ($107). Total: $7,396,927.
5/18/2008 6:13 p.m.: May 16-18 weekend estimate: $89,000 ($423) in 210 theaters.
5/21/2008 11:14 a.m. MST: May 16-18 weekend: $102,690 ($489). Total: $7,499,617.
5/28/2008 12:38 p.m. MST: May 23-26 four-day weekend: $46,314 ($558). (May 23-25: $35,109 ($423).) Total: $7,598,071.

All-time top box office for documentaries at Box Office Mojo
All-time top box office for controversial films at Box Office Mojo.
All-time top box office for Christian films at Box Office Mojo.

Reasons to Believe statement on "Expelled"

Hugh Ross's old-earth creationist organization, Reasons to Believe, has issued a statement on "Expelled":

Dear RTB Chapter members,

With the impending release of "EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed" (April 18), the Reasons to Believe scholar team thought it best to prepare a statement of our position, a guide for answering questions from chapters, networks, and apologists. Keep in mind that the mission of RTB centers on reaching out to science-minded people with two purposes:

1. to bring the Gospel message to those who would not otherwise hear it, and

2. to strengthen the faith of those who fear that science conflicts with the
Christian faith-equipping them for ministry in the process.

In order to accomplish these purposes, we must first earn the right to be heard.

After previewing the promotional materials provided by the movie's marketers, we were concerned that the movie took an adversarial approach to the scientific community. A number of RTB scholars and staff attended a prerelease screening in Los Angeles recently and confirmed that EXPELLED definitely does take such an approach. The movie draws an analogy between the Berlin wall and the scientific community's response to intelligent design. By doing so, EXPELLED implicitly argues that the scientific community deems certain questions off-limits, particularly any question about the legitimacy of neo-Darwinian evolution. The movie further argues that academia, the media, and the courts all conspire as "thought police" to oppress any and all dissent from the party line.

Clearly some oppression and discrimination have occurred, but the experience of RTB scholars and many of their contacts refutes the movie's premise that the scientific community systemically and unilaterally fosters these injustices. While individual scientists and institutions have behaved unfairly at times, this charge cannot in all fairness be leveled against the scientific community as a whole.

Regardless, from RTB's perspective, the central question is this: when injustices do occur, how should we respond? Consider the response of Nate Saint to his son's question, as depicted in the movie, End of the Spear. Nate, Jim Eliot, and three other missionaries were preparing to make contact with the notoriously violent Waodani tribe in Ecuador. Stevie asks if they will shoot the Waodani if attacked. Nate replies: "We can't shoot the Waodani, son. They're not ready for heaven. We are."

If science-minded skeptics indeed represent a mission field, then we should not come out shooting. EXPELLED seems to do just that. While an entertaining movie, its main thrust runs counter to RTB's mission of seeking to engage scientists in the scientific arena. Consequently, any endorsement of EXPELLED by RTB hinders our ability to spread the Gospel message to those we hope to reach.

Therefore, we ask all chapter members and volunteers to refrain from endorsing EXPELLED in any official way. This request does not extend to your personal interactions-only to any actions taken in association with or on behalf of Reasons to Believe.

Thank you for your support and understanding.

The RTB Scholar Team
(Hat tip to Blue Collar Scientist.)

UPDATE (April 22, 2008): Reasons to Believe has issued another statement about "Expelled," which says, in part:

In Reasons To Believe's interaction with professional scientists, scientific institutions, universities, and publishers of scientific journals we have encountered no significant evidence of censorship, blackballing, or disrespect. As we have persisted in publicly presenting our testable creation model in the context of the scientific method, we have witnessed an increasing openness on the part of unbelieving scientists to offer their honest and respectful critique.

Our main concern about EXPELLED is that it paints a distorted picture. It certainly doesn't match our experience. Sadly, it may do more to alienate than to engage the scientific community, and that can only harm our mission.

Even more "Expelled" copyright infringement and deception

The Atheist Blogger points out that "Expelled" is violating the license terms on the blog theme used at their blog.

A commenter at The Playlist blog points out that while they did indeed purchase a license to use The Killers' song "All These Things That I've Done," they did so in a deceptive way. Here's how they described the film that they wanted the license for:
The film is a satirical documentary with an estimated running time of 1 hour and 50 minutes, exploring academic freedom in public schools and government institutions with actor, comedian, economist, Ben Stein as the spokesperson.
No mention of intelligent design or evolution. That's a similar tactic to the deception they used to get some of the interviews in the film.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

FBI faked delay in terror investigation to justify unneeded new powers

Declassified documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation show that while investigating a possible conspirator in the 2005 London bombings, the FBI forced an agent to return documents obtained from North Carolina State University under normal lawful process so that they could be requested again under the USA PATRIOT Act, using a power the FBI did not have but wanted. When the second request was rejected, the FBI used another subpoena--just like the first one that had already been successful--to again obtain the documents.

The purpose for this sham? So that FBI Director Robert Mueller could testify before Congress that the lack of the desired power caused a delay in obtaining these records.

Sorry, Director Mueller, but this "delay" was a fraud, which means your testimony was still false (though apparently unknowingly so on his part).

Bensteinian Rhapsody

This is pretty good...

Ed Brayton's Skeptic article on Sternberg

Ed Brayton has written an article about the Richard Sternberg controversy at the Smithsonian for Skeptic magazine, which will appear in the next issue. The article has been published online in advance, along with an article by Michael Shermer about his interaction with Ben Stein.

UPDATE (April 18, 2008): Ed Brayton has responded to the Discovery Institute's "non-response" on the Sternberg affair.

New "Expelled" cell footage clip on YouTube

On April 15, "getexpelled," a user which has been posting the official clips from the movie "Expelled," posted new animation footage of the operations of the cell which is clearly not derived from XVIVO's footage. (ERV refers to this footage as a "toddler animation" and "a shitty Las-Vegas-Meets-TeleTubbies 'Inner Life'".)

I suspect they already took action to put this new footage into the film that will come out tomorrow instead of the animation which they copied from XVIVO, which means that they have already complied with that demand from XVIVO's infringement letter. That also means that their lawsuit for a declaratory judgment in Texas is really an argument that this new footage is not infringing, which they'll probably win--this footage is not infringing. But it also means that, yet again, they've been thoroughly deceptive in how they operate, and have implicitly admitted that they were, in fact, infringing XVIVO's copyright in the footage that they showed in the early screenings.

That's probably not worth the effort for XVIVO to sue them over. But it's definitely worth pointing out.

UPDATE (April 22, 2008): Apparently the XVIVO-infringing animation is still in the released film, after all.

Scientology celebrity escapes

Actor Jason Beghe, who appeared as Demi Moore's love interest in "G.I. Jane" as well as in episodes of "Numb3rs" and "CSI," was a member of the Church of Scientology since first taking courses in 1994. In 2005, he appeared in promotional videos for the church. He's now left Scientology and has appeared in a video made by long-time Scientology critic Mark Bunker:

UPDATE: Since YouTube has removed not only the above clip but Mark Bunker's YouTube account, here's an Australian TV news story about Beghe leaving Scientology:

Here's a rehosted version of the original interview clip:

Here's an interview of Beghe by Tony Ortega, a journalist who used to write for Phoenix New Times and New Times LA, who has written several good stories on Scientology:

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Expelled" uses sample from "Imagine" without permission

The copyright infringment continues--it seems that "Expelled" makes use of about 25 seconds of John Lennon's song "Imagine," but permission was neither sought nor granted for its use:
In a written statement, the film's three producers -- Walt Ruloff, John Sullivan and Logan Craft -- acknowledged that they did not seek permission, but they called the use "momentary." "After seeking the opinion of legal counsel it was seen as a First Amendment issue and protected under the fair use doctrine of free speech," the statement said. A spokeswoman said under 25 seconds of the song are used in the movie.
Now this is actually an instance where I agree with "Expelled"'s producers--this should fall within fair use guidelines. The courts, however, have already ruled otherwise. (UPDATE: Not quite accurate, see correction below.) In 2005, the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in Bridgeport Music, Inc. v. Dimension Films that even a 1.5-second sample requires a license. I'd be happy to see a lawsuit on this issue result in that ruling being overturned.

I've previously written about the danger of such erosion of fair use to the creation of new music in one of this blog's more popular posts. The link at the end of that post about "Amen Brother" is well worth your time.

(Also related is this film in which fair-use samples from Disney films are used to make Disney characters explain current U.S. copyright law.)

UPDATE (April 18, 2008): Russell Blackford argues that "Expelled"'s use of "Imagine" is to make comment on the content of the song, and makes a moral case for the legitimacy of its use. I agree with his argument--the use of a sample of the song to make comment on it enhances the case for "fair use," but I think it should have met fair use guidelines even without that.

UPDATE (April 23, 2008): As commenter lquilter points out below, the Bridgeport case did not say quite what I said above--it doesn't eliminate fair use as a defense to a use of small samples, it eliminates the argument that sampling is using so little of the original material that no copyright applies. The result is that a lengthier court proceeding is required to fight for such use.

"Expelled"'s makers are now being sued over the use of "Imagine."
I don't feel bad for them, but I think they should win their case. This probably guarantees that the film will not make a profit from its theatrical run, after deducting legal expenses.

UPDATE (May 1, 2008): The Stanford Law School's Fair Use Project has signed on to defend "Expelled" against the Ono Lennon lawsuit. Good for them, I hope they win this one. It shouldn't be difficult.

UPDATE (May 2, 2008): P.Z. Myers points out distortions in "Expelled"'s press release about the their defense in the "Imagine" lawsuit. Even in the rare case when I agree with them (their fair use defense here), they still have to throw in a distortion or two to show that they are sleazy, I guess. (I disagree with Myers' assertion that there is no commentary on the song; see Russell Blackford's analysis, linked to above.)

Perhaps the strongest argument against "Expelled" in this case is that they sought licenses for other songs they used, but did not even attempt to get permission for "Imagine," as pointed out by Laura Quilter (who has also commented here).

UPDATE (May 5, 2008): The judge in the case has enjoined "Expelled" from any further distribution or DVD release, though they can continue showing the film in the theaters where it's already playing (currently down to 655 theaters).

UPDATE (May 9, 2008): And now down to 402 theaters.

UPDATE (June 2, 2008): The judge has ruled against Yoko Ono's motion for a permanent injunction against "Expelled" on the grounds that the defendants are likely to prevail.

The official "Expelled" paternity test

The folks at XVIVO have argued that "Expelled" has engaged in copyright infringement by directly copying from their film, "The Inner Life of the Cell." The "Expelled" producers have responded by claiming that they constructed their film based on original research:
However, the latest claim concerning the copyright status of our proprietary animation is so ridiculous, bogus and misinformed that we must respond. Premise Media invested significant time and money into the research and original creation of the animation used in our film to illustrate cellular activity. Our own team of experts created the highest quality of animation that is available. In fact, the animation we use in the theatrical release of our movie is only a small portion of the animation we have created and plan to use in future projects.
Darwin Central has proposed a paternity test in the form of a series of image comparisons. On the left hand side, images from a variety of sources showing a particular process in the cell that is depicted by "The Inner Life of the Cell." On the right hand side, a comparison image from the "Expelled" segment at issue. Surely, if the "Expelled" producers are correct, there should be no reason to find any special similarity between the image on the left that comes from XVIVO's film and the image that comes from "Expelled" versus any of the other images on the left.

See for yourself.

It also appears that other parts of "Expelled"'s animations have been taken from other sources, to which John Wilkins has a connection!

Yet Premise Media is suing XVIVO, seeking a declaratory judgment in Texas! This sounds like venue shopping or "forum shopping," since XVIVO is in Massachusetts.

UPDATE: ERV has a copy of the complaint and a summary. She also includes a new video, that she speculates has replaced the XVIVO-copied video in the final film.

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

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

P.Z. Myers fisks Michael Medved

Discovery Institute Fellow and bad movie critic Michael Medved has written an article arguing that an atheist should not be elected U.S. president. P.Z. Myers gives it a hilarious fisking at Pharyngula.

Arizona still #7 in foreclosures

Last November, I reported that year-over-year foreclosure rates had doubled and Arizona ranked #7 in the nation for foreclosures. Reuters reports that national foreclosure filings have gone up another 57% for the twelve-month period ending in March 2008. Arizona has been in fourth place for each of the first three months of 2008, despite foreclosures falling by 5% in March, and remains at the #7 position for overall number of foreclosures.

The twelve-month total foreclosure rankings:

1. California
2. Florida
3. Ohio
4. Georgia
5. Texas
6. Michigan
7. Arizona
8. Illinois
9. Nevada
10. Colorado

The March 2008 foreclosure rankings:

1. Nevada (1 in 139 homes)
2. California (1 in 204 homes)
3. Florida (1 in 282 homes)
4. Arizona (1 in 283 homes)
5. Colorado (1 in 339 homes)
6. Georgia (1 in 351 homes)
7. Ohio (1 in 448 homes)
8. Michigan (1 in 475 homes)
9. Massachusetts (1 in 486 homes)
10. Maryland (1 in 538 homes)

Arrested for dancing to celebrate freedom

A group of about twenty people went to the Jefferson Memorial at midnight (it's open 24/7) on Thomas Jefferson's birthday to dance silently (with iPods) in celebration of freedom, only to be forced to leave by the Park Police. This exchange then occurred between participant Brooke Oberwetter and a member of the security force:
GUARD: Exit, exit, exit. Lady, I'm not going to tell you again.

OBERWETTER: I'm just...what did we do?

GUARD: Exit. Exit, now...

OBERWETTER: What rule are we breaking? It's against the rules to dance?

GUARD: Yes it is. Read the sign inside the memorial. It says quiet.

OBERWETTER: I'm standing here being very quiet.

GUARD: You're dancing in here. That's disorderly.

At that point, Oberwetter allegedly asked "Why?" and was arrested. She was taken to jail for the next five hours and charged with "interfering with an agency function."

(Via Sinners in the Hands of an Angry Blog and The Agitator. The Agitator has further coverage here, here, and here.)

Expelled Exposed!

The NCSE's "Expelled Exposed" website has now gone live, and it contains a wealth of factual background information about the alleged cases of suppression of intelligence design presented in the film "Exposed," as well as highlighting other information left out of the film and the story of the deceptive methods used by the producers of the film.

The home page of the site features the story of Chris Comer, Director of Science for the Texas Education Agency. Unlike any of the alleged victims of persecution in "Expelled," she was actually forced to resign from her position. Not because she was an advocate of intelligent design, but because she sent out an email announcing a university lecture by Barbara Forrest, a philosopher critical of intelligent design.

The next main area of the site is titled "The Truth Behind the Fiction," which has the following sections:

  • Evolution
  • Intelligent Design
  • Challenging Science
  • Science & Religion
  • Hitler & Eugenics
  • Richard Sternberg
  • Guillermo Gonzalez
  • Caroline Crocker
  • Robert Marks
  • Pamela Winnick
  • Michael Egnor
The next area of the site, "Behind the Scenes," explains the deception, dishonesty, and hypocrisy of the makers of the film:
  • What is Premise Media?
  • Questionable Interview Tactics
  • Marketing with a Motive
  • Silencing the Dissenters
Finally, the last section of the site is a collection of resources which has been on the site for some time, but is constantly growing--a list of news coverage and reviews of the film.

Check out the site for the facts that the makers of "Expelled" don't want you to see.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Filmed for creationist DVD

Yesterday I spent a few hours being filmed in an interview for a DVD being put out by Creationist Ministries International, a 20-year retrospective on the 1988 debate at the University of New South Wales between Duane Gish and Ian Plimer. I went back and forth a few times about whether I should do it, finally concluding that it would be worthwhile.

I have no fear of an "Expelled"-like distortion in this case--the questions were provided to me in advance, and I negotiated the terms of the release agreement and had my attorney review it. I have the right to use the full footage myself (to put on YouTube or otherwise distribute or broadcast), so if I were to find myself misrepresented through creative editing (which I don't believe will happen), I would be able to demonstrate it.

My involvement was requested because of the role I played in criticizing Plimer and certain of the Australian Skeptics for misrepresentations of the creationists, which I wrote about first in the article "Some Failures of Organized Skepticism" in The Arizona Skeptic, and later in "How Not to Argue with Creationists" in the Creation/Evolution journal, "How Not to Respond to Criticism" which is available online through the website, and in my review of Plimer's book Telling Lies for God, on my website. In preparation for the interview, I dug out my file folders regarding these articles, which amounts to a stack of paper
about six inches thick. Reviewing the files, I re-read some of the correspondence I had with Mark Plummer, then president of the Victoria Branch of the Australian Skeptics, and former executive director of CSICOP (now CSI). At some point, I should put some of that stuff online--it was quite unbelievable.

I thought it went pretty well, though it took me several takes to get through some of the questions, and I didn't say everything I wanted to say. The one item that I kick myself for forgetting to say was to emphasize the point that Duane Gish, debater for young-earth creationism, has two things that he always refuses to debate--the age of the earth and flood geology. Those also happen to be the two main areas of positive claims that make up young-earth creationism, which he rules out of court at the start of every debate.

The interviewer, Tim, is a CMI supporter who once applied for a job with Answers in Genesis and is now happy that he didn't get it, since he feels he was deceived by them about their split from CMI. The cameraman, Mike, who was hired for this job, was also a Christian, but didn't seem to be a young-earth creationist. He frequently films both interviews and outdoor nature footage, often for science documentaries, and he expressed his love for knowledge and science. We had an interesting discussion after the interview about creationism, Christianity, and science.

Tim took the position that young-earth creationism is an essential part of Christianity, because God must have been able to communicate his word accurately in the first place, because Jesus endorsed the truth of Genesis, and because death before the Fall in Eden would imply that God didn't create a perfect universe. He also holds the position that only "operational science" is valid science--that which can take place in the laboratory and be "directly observed" (which philosophers of science know is very little, since instrument-assisted and even naked-eye observation is "theory-laden"). (Tim's view of science, where it came from, and what's wrong with it is the subject of Christopher Toumey's excellent book, God's Own Scientists: Creationists in a Secular World.) I pointed out to him that that's the kind of choice--young-earth creationism or atheism--that helped drive me to atheism.

Mike, by contrast, didn't think young-earth creationism was essential to Christianity, but that the discoveries of science open more possibilities for religious interpretation. Today, I agree with Mike--given what I know about religions and how they work, Christianity is not defined solely in terms of the content of the Bible, even for evangelical Christians. Fundamentalism as it exists today didn't exist until the early twentieth century. And even within evangelical Christianity, there are those who have argued very forcefully against young-earth creationism (I pulled out my copy of Daniel Wonderly's Neglect of Geologic Data: Sedimentary Strata Compared With Young Earth from the Interdisciplinary Biblical Research Institute, and could have also pointed to Davis Young and Howard Van Till's Science Held Hostage: What's Wrong with Creation Science and Evolutionism, or pointed to Mike Beidler's blog, "The Creation of an Evolutionist").

I think it's interesting that if all Christians took Tim's viewpoint rather than Mike's, there would probably be a lot more atheists and a lot fewer Christians.

UPDATE (January 1, 2009): I wrote up my initial reaction to the completed documentary here, and you can view the video yourself here.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Expelled features anti-Semitic anti-Darwinist

John Lynch has discovered an unintentional irony in "Expelled." While the movie tries to argue that Darwinism led to Hitler, one of the anti-Darwinists interviewed in the film, Maciej Giertych, also happens to be an old-fashioned anti-Semite who thinks that Jews intentionally create ghettos to live in, are unethical swindlers who do not have any moral respect for the law, and who move to rich countries in order to exploit them. One commenter points out that Giertych has also praised Spain's fascist leader Francisco Franco (who is still dead). Another observes that Giertych is, in at least a small way, a Holocaust denier, denying that gentile Poles carried out the Jedwabne pogrom of 1941.

Giertych has also been published by Answers in Genesis' Creation magazine, in 1995, and is a signatory to the Discovery Institute's "A Scientific Dissent from Darwinism" statement.

Clearly, racism does not require a belief in evolution.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Ben Stein proves "Expelled" producers lied

Wesley Elsberry points out that Ben Stein has reported in an interview that he was approached for the "Expelled" project, described more or less as it finally came to be, back in 2006. Part of the pitch was that he was shown XVIVO's "Inner Life of the Cell" video.

Yet in April 2007 (a month after the "" domain was registered), Mark Mathis obtained the cooperation of Genie Scott, P.Z. Myers, and other participants by pitching the nonexistent film "Crossroads," about the intersection of science and religion, from "Rampant Films," which had an innocuous website and an address at an empty apartment complex in Los Angeles.

Stein's interview provides further evidence that "Crossroads" was a dishonest subterfuge and that the "Expelled" crowd fully intended to use XVIVO's film in their movie and did not commission their copy until after William Dembski was sent a cease and desist notice in September 2007, delaying the film's release from February to April.

See Wesley's Austringer blog for more details.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Expelled's animator asked to have his name removed

ERV reports that Mike Edmondson, who was listed as the animator for "Expelled," has left his employment with Premise Media and asked to have his name removed from their website. (UPDATE: It looks like Edmondson probably was responsible for the "Beware the Believers" YouTube video, but not the ripoff of the XVIVO film. Good for him for cutting ties with these liars and thieves.) (UPDATE April 21, 2008: It's been confirmed that Edmondson made "Beware the Believers.")

She also points out that it is William Dembski who observed that "Expelled"'s producers set aside budget for copyright infringement lawsuits.

And that Jonathan Wells is helping with the foot bullets by claiming that "Expelled" produced their version of the XVIVO film in 3 months with one guy (where it took XVIVO a team of people 14 months).

Looks like ERV is the blog to watch on this issue. She's also the one who documented that William Dembski knew well that he was violating XVIVO's copyright.

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.

The torture team

An article by Philippe Sands in Vanity Fair sets out the evidence that the legal framework set out to justify aggressive interrogation techniques at Guantanamo Bay also caused the abuses at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, and that those responsible are guilty of war crimes. Ironically, the actions the Bush has taken to guarantee immunity from prosecution for these actions makes the case stronger for international war crimes prosecution, meaning that if any of these responsible individuals sets foot outside of the U.S., they could be at risk of seeing justice done.

(Via The Daily Doubter.)

"Expelled" producer tells Catholics what they believe

"Expelled" producer Mark Mathis says that Christians who believe in evolution were intentionally excluded from the film because they "would have confused the film unnecessarily." (Don't confuse people with the truth!) He goes on to say that "the form of Catholicism that Ken Miller [biology professor at Brown University and co-author of a popular biology textbook] accepts and practices is, is nowhere near the form of Catholicism that is followed by Catholics who are members of the Catholic church, who believe in Catholic doctrine."

Mathis, who is not a Catholic, is apparently unaware that Miller's view of evolution is consistent with the official position of the Catholic Church as set forth by both Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI. The Catholic Church's position on evolution has been that it's not in conflict with Christianity, since Pope Pius XII.

Mathis should also take a look at the NCSE's Voices for Evolution, where he'll find that a lot of other Christian sects similarly have no problem with evolution.

"Expelled" and its producers seem to want to force a false dilemma of a choice between Christianity or evolution, just as the young-earth creationists do. They don't seem to realize that this kind of forced choice is one which will make any honest, inquiring mind who accepts the false dilemma to choose against Christianity. J.P. Hunt, a student in Ray Baird's 1980 "balanced treatment" class on creationism and evolution at Emma C. Smith Elementary School in Livermore, California, said on the 1982 PBS show "Creation vs. Evolution: Battle in the Classroom":
Someone that I know has become an atheist because of this class, because the creationist theory was so stupid, he thought. Well, if religion requires me to believe this, then I don't want to have any part of it.
I don't find this too objectionable as a consequence, personally. Learning that I was lied to by young-earth creationists was a significant factor in my abandonment of creationism, then Christianity, and then theism. The rampant dishonesty of the "Expelled" crowd will no doubt serve the same effect for others like me, and cause them to look to see if they've been similarly lied to about other things. Odds are, they will find that they have.

(Via Stranger Fruit.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Matthew LaClair's speech from Freethought Today

I'm sorry that I just came across this excellent speech by Matthew LaClair recounting his experiences with David Paszkiewicz which was published in Freethought Today in October 2007, reprinted by the Friendly Atheist blog on January 6, 2008. It's probably the best concise summary of what happened and the subsequent events.

Time magazine reviews "Expelled"

Another negative review for the film, by Jeffrey Kluger. He specifically calls out the film for dishonesty:

The man made famous by Ferris Bueller, however, quickly wades into waters far too deep for him. He makes all the usual mistakes nonscientists make whenever they try to take down evolution, asking, for example, how something as complex as a living cell could have possibly arisen whole from the earth's primordial soup. The answer is it couldn't--and it didn't. Organic chemicals needed eons of stirring and slow cooking before they could produce compounds that could begin to lead to a living thing. More dishonestly, Stein employs the common dodge of enumerating all the admittedly unanswered questions in evolutionary theory and using this to refute the whole idea. But all scientific knowledge is built this way. A fishnet is made up of a lot more holes than strings, but you can't therefore argue that the net doesn't exist. Just ask the fish.

It's in the film's final third that it runs entirely off the rails as Stein argues that there is a clear line from Darwinism to euthanasia, abortion, eugenics and--wait for it--Nazism. Theories of natural selection, it's claimed, were a necessary if not sufficient condition for Hitler's killing machine to get started. The truth, of course, is that the only necessary and sufficient condition for human beings to murder one another is the simple fact of being human. We've always been a lustily fratricidal species, one that needed no Charles Darwin to goad us into millenniums of self-slaughter.

Kruger also criticizes Myers and Dawkins:

In fairness to Stein, his opponents have hardly covered themselves in glory. Evolutionary biologists and social commentators have lately taken to answering the claims of intelligent-design boosters not with clear-eyed scientific empiricism but with sneering, finger-in-the-eye atheism. Biologist P.Z. Myers, for example, tells Stein that religion ought to be seen as little more than a soothing pastime, a bit like knitting. Books such as Christopher Hitchens' God Is Not Great and Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion often read like pure taunting, as when Hitchens pettily and pointedly types God as lowercase god. Tautology as typography is not the stuff of deep thought. Neither, alas, is Expelled.
Looks like a sub-50% rating on Rotten Tomatoes is a foregone conclusion. I see that has a new April 18 film on the list, Jenna Jameson's first non-porn film, "Zombie Strippers." "Expelled" is still not on the list. Which will have the bigger opening weekend box office take?

"Forgetting Sarah Marshall" (currently with a 93% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes) will most likely be the box office leader. "Forbidden Kingdom" with Jackie Chan and Jet Li may also do well. Al Pacino in "88 Minutes," though it looks like a weak offering, is likely to have greater box office draw than "Expelled." Likewise for Uma Thurman and Evan Rachel Wood in "Life Before Her Eyes." Morgan Spurlock's latest documentary, "Where in the World is Osama bin Laden?", with a mere 33% positive rating at Rotten Tomatoes, is something "Expelled" needs to beat if there's really any hope of it making a mark on the top box office numbers for documentaries, as some of its advocates have claimed it will. (I predict it won't get into the top ten documentaries by box office, let alone the top three as the delusional advocate I just linked to seems to think.)

UPDATE (April 12, 2008): P.Z. Myers responds to the criticism directed at him by the Time reviewer.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Shermer and Scientific American review "Expelled"

Scientific American: seems a safe bet that the producers hope a whipping from us would be useful for publicity: further proof that any mention of ID outrages the close-minded establishment. (Picture Ben Stein as Jack Nicholson, shouting, "You can't handle the truth!") Knowing this, we could simply ignore the movie--which might also suit their purposes, come to think of it.

Unfortunately, Expelled is a movie not quite harmless enough to be ignored. Shrugging off most of the film's attacks--all recycled from previous pro-ID works--would be easy, but its heavy-handed linkage of modern biology to the Holocaust demands a response for the sake of simple human decency.

Scientific American editor-in-chief John Rennie:

The most deplorable dishonesty of Expelled, however, is that it says evolution was one influence on the Holocaust without acknowledging any of the other major ones for context. Rankings of races and ethnic groups into a hierarchy long preceded Darwin and the theory of evolution, and were usually tied to the Christian philosophical notion of a “great chain of being.” The economic ruin of the Weimar Republic left many Germans itching to find someone to blame for their misfortune, and the Jews and other ethnic groups were convenient scapegoats. The roots of European anti-Semitism go back to the end of the Roman Empire. Organized attacks and local exterminations of the Jews were perpetrated during the Crusades and the Black Plague. The Russian empire committed many attacks on the Jews in the 19th and early 20th century, giving rise to the word “pogrom.” Profound anti-Semitism even pollutes the works of the father of the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther, who reviled them in On the Jews and Their Lies and wrote, “We are at fault in not slaying them.” I don’t think Protestantism is accountable for the Holocaust, either, but whose ideas were most Lutheran Germans of the 1930s more familiar with: Darwin’s or Luther’s?

Scientific American columnist Michael Shermer, a former Pepperdine University student, points out yet another piece of dishonesty in the film:

It was with some irony for me, then, that I saw Ben Stein's antievolution documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens with the actor, game show host and speechwriter for Richard Nixon addressing a packed audience of adoring students at Pepperdine University, apparently falling for the same trap I did.

Actually they didn't. The biology professors at Pepperdine assure me that their mostly Christian students fully accept the theory of evolution. So who were these people embracing Stein's screed against science? Extras. According to Lee Kats, associate provost for research and chair of natural science at Pepperdine, "the production company paid for the use of the facility just as all other companies do that film on our campus" but that "the company was nervous that they would not have enough people in the audience so they brought in extras. Members of the audience had to sign in and a staff member reports that no more than two to three Pepperdine students were in attendance. Mr. Stein's lecture on that topic was not an event sponsored by the university." And this is one of the least dishonest parts of the film.
(Via Pharyngula.)

UPDATE (April 11, 2008): Wesley Elsberry points out Jonathan Wells' inconsistent stance on peppered moths versus Pepperdine students.