Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Expelled! And I used to Like Ben Stein

The IDers/Creationists have apparently chosen their next move: a movie starring Ben Stein called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, proporting to show that criticism of evolution has been forbidden in classrooms:

"Unlike some other documentary films, Expelled doesn't just talk to people representing one side of the story. The film confronts scientists such as Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion, influential biologist and atheist blogger PZ Myers and Eugenie Scott, head of the National Center for Science Education. The creators of Expelled crossed the globe over a two-year period, interviewing scores of scientists, doctors, philosophers and public leaders. The result is a startling revelation that freedom of thought and freedom of inquiry have been expelled from publicly-funded high schools, universities and research institutions."

Of course, what is far more likely is that they will take quotes from the individuals listed, splice them up, and present them out of context, and in a way that twists the meaning in a way the speaker would find unrecognizable. This is known as "quote mining", and it's been a favorite creationist trick for decades. A scientist will say:

"Upon close examination, the eye clearly appears designed. However, once one delves into it's construction carefully, one find finds evolutionary explanations plausible."

And the creationist will cite this quote:

"Upon close examination, the eye clearly appears designed..."

and claim this scientist doesn't believe the eye could have evolved. It's standard creationist fare, so expect a lot of that in this film. The giveaway will be the brief nature of the quotes they show. If you see one sentence at a time, with overtalk in between, rest assured, the speaker had no intention of conveying the meaning being attributed him.

It's pretty much guaranteed to occur with PZ Myers, who was apparently interviewed for the film under false pretenses. There is little PZ would say that would help the scientific cause of Intelligent Design, although granted, if they got him talking about religion, he might have given them some nuggets for their social battle, as many of us might.

Still, it is dissappointing that the IDers once again avoid a fair fight. The first time was at the Dover trial, where people like William Dembski, who shot off their mouth about what they would do to the "Darwinists" if they got them on the stand, bravely ran away. Now instead of getting honest opinions from the other side, they interviewed them under false pretenses.

They don't really seem to have caught on that this kind of stuff won't work any more. The internet is the scientists' friend, and it makes it that much easier to expose these shenanigans.

And yes, I plan on seeing the film, despite the likelihood that I will be alone in the theatre, and reporting back how well reality matches my expectations. After all, it is the scientific way.

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