The Skeptical Teacher

Musings of a science teacher & skeptic in an age of woo.

Posts Tagged ‘Ben Stein’

Help TalkOrigins Bid for the Rights to “Expelled”

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 25, 2011

In my recent post regarding the bankruptcy of the company behind the factually-challenged creationism film “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, it was briefly mentioned that the rights to the movie were going up for auction.  If you know anything about the history behind how this film was made and edited, you know that there were interviews with prominent scientists (such as Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers) which were selectively edited in order to distort the science behind evolution and play into the whole “expelled” meme of the film.  The kicker is that if we – the skeptical and pro-science community – could get our hands on those movie rights, then we could show the world just how badly the producers of “Expelled” misrepresented the science.

Enter the attempt by TalkOrigins to do just that: win the bidding war for the “Expelled” rights.  Read the following post over at the Panda’s Thumb and please consider making a donation to this worthy cause; and spread the word!

As most of you already know, the production company Premise Media went bankrupt. Their execrable propaganda film, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”, is on the auction block. The online auction is proceeding now, and will end on Tuesday, June 28th.

The auction promises that besides all available rights and interests in the finished film itself (there is an existing distribution contract), the winner will get all the production materials and rights to them. Want to know what was in the rest of the interviews with Richard Dawkins and PZ Myers? I know I would like to have that material archived and made available to the public, among other things that Premise Media found inconvenient to include in their film.

There was talk among individuals on “After the Bar Closes” about the auction. Kristine Harley pointed out that, depending on exactly what is in the production materials, there may well be “Wedge Document 2” in there somewhere. When the “academic freedom” label on religious antievolution goes to court, it could be very handy to have those materials on hand.

But any one individual is unlikely to have the wherewithal to make the winning bid on this.

Today, the TalkOrigins Archive Foundation approved a resolution to use our funds on hand to put in a bid on “Expelled”. We hope to make many of the materials freely available and to collaborate with other groups seeking to produce rebuttals to claims made in “Expelled”. To that end, we would like your help. Our final bid amount will be determined by funds on hand and what has come in via our PayPal donation button by Monday, June 27th. This is because there are delays in transfers between PayPal and the bank, and (hopefully!) we’ll need to pay out of our bank account.

Ken Fair, our secretary and treasurer, wrote a detailed discussion of donations and bidding. The short of it is that while we hope to bid and win the auction, we don’t know what the bid prices will be come the 28th, and cannot guarantee that we will win the auction, especially since it has an unknown reserve price on it. We cannot refund donations, so even in the case of us making the winning bid, donations that take us beyond that amount would remain part of the TOAF funding. On the other hand, contributions to the TOAF are tax-deductible for USA residents and will be used in accordance with the TOAF’s mission.

I hope that by providing a single point at which we can pool our resources, we’ll have a better chance to put in the winning bid on “Expelled”. Even if we don’t manage to make the winning bid, every bit that we can do to raise our bid helps in that the other side will have to take even more money out of their current projects in order to beat the bid.

Posted in creationism, skeptical community | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Creationist Production Company Behind “Expelled” Goes Bankrupt

Posted by mattusmaximus on June 15, 2011

You may recall that a few years ago, there was a major “documentary” (and I use that word in its loosest possible sense) released about creationism and evolution ironically titled “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed”. The movie starred actor Ben Stein, who in my view totally jumped the shark by attaching himself to this film, and argued – among other things – that Darwin’s theory of evolution was responsible for Nazism and the Holocaust.  The implication was, of course, that modern proponents of evolutionary science are somehow the moral descendents of Hitler and the Nazis – nice… I’ve heard of Godwinning an argument, but having an entire frakkin’ movie dedicated to a Godwin is a first.

Of course, this film was nothing short of a creationist oriented propaganda hit-piece against evolution, long on paranoid conspiracy mongering and short on pretty much anything factual. (**Aside: for more info on the myriad flaws in this movie, see the Expelled Exposed website)

I recall that at the time numerous creationist outlets (most notably the Discovery Institute) were feverishly promoting the movie, claiming that it was going to be another “death knell for evolution”.

Well, two things are now clear: evolutionary science is still very much alive and kicking, and the legacy of Expelled and those behind it is looking rather grim. That’s because the production company behind the film, Premise Media, is going bankrupt. Here’s more news on this…

Sad legacy for Ben Stein’s failed creationist screed

The production company behind Ben Stein’s shaggy god story ‘Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed’ has a sequel to its intellectual bankruptcy: financial bankruptcy. Premise Media has filed for Chapter 7 and is selling off any asset it can find. The fact that somebody still thinks this movie is an asset could be a clue to what went wrong. Survival of the fittest is a bitch for the unfit.

Critics far and wide trashed the film, with Time magazine stating that he “makes all the usual mistakes nonscientists make whenever they try to take down evolution,” and the New York Times (Stein’s former employer) calling the film “one of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time…a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.”

But what really drew the ire of critics and scientists was Stein’s claim that Darwin’s theory of natural selection could be the cause of “euthanasia, abortion, eugenics and—wait for it—Nazism,” according to Time. But perhaps the most notorious pan came from noted film critic Roger Ebert:

“Stein…takes a field trip to visit one ‘result’ of Darwinism: Nazi concentration camps. ‘As a Jew,’ he says, ‘I wanted to see for myself.’ We see footage of gaunt, skeletal prisoners. Pathetic children. A mound of naked Jewish corpses. ‘It’s difficult to describe how it felt to walk through such a haunting place,’ he says. Oh, go ahead, Ben Stein. Describe. It filled you with hatred for Charles Darwin and his followers, who represent the overwhelming majority of educated people in every nation on earth. It is not difficult for me to describe how you made me feel by exploiting the deaths of millions of Jews in support of your argument for a peripheral Christian belief. It fills me with contempt.”

But, if I know anything about the mindset of some of these creationist organizations, they’ll find a way to rationalize their spectacular failure.  My guess is, in keeping with their conspiracy-minded worldview, their rationalization will somehow involve blaming “Darwinists” for the company’s downfall.  In short, they’ll go back to their old standby:

Posted in creationism, Holocaust denial, humor | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments »

ID-Creationist William Dembski is Almost Expelled… by Other Creationists!

Posted by mattusmaximus on November 16, 2010

If you’ve been following the evolution-creationism battles over the last few years, then you no doubt heard about the “Expelled” propaganda campaign by creationists. The entire purpose of the “Expelled” campaign, and subsequent movie which it widely advertised, was to give the impression to an unsuspecting public that scientific institutions were overly dogmatic and squashing dissent on the topic of evolution, going so far as to make loony claims of vast conspiracies and even trying to argue that Darwinian evolution was a major cause of the Holocaust!

Well, the movie failed badly, mostly because those people who were not already convinced that Evil-ution is, well, evil rightly concluded that it was a bunch of hooey.  Score one for the pro-science side 🙂

And, in an incredible twist of irony, here is a rather interesting fact: one of the leading thinkers in the Intelligent Design creationist movement, William Dembski, was nearly fired from his theological institution for daring to publicly disagree with them on the age of the universe and details regarding Noah’s Flood as written in the Bible!  Really folks, you can’t make this stuff up…

In the Creationist Universe, Religious Dogma Trumps Scientific Inquiry

… William Dembski, one of the main proponents of intelligent design, has recanted his scientific views in an attempt to keep his job. As philosopher Michael Ruse has said, explaining but not condoning Dembski’s actions, “here he is with a wife and kids to support and the threat of the sack.”

The issue is as clear as any could be and demonstrates the kind of litmus test that proponents of religious fundamentalism impose on their adherents — even on their stars. And make no mistake about it, William Dembski is a first order star in the intelligent design firmament. He is a prolific author who has earned both a Ph.D. in mathematics as well as a Masters of Divinity degree. He is a fellow of the Discovery Institute and a professor of philosophy at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Indeed, you can’t read anything about intelligent design without encountering Dembski’s arguments in support of this version of creationism.

And yet, according to an article in Florida Baptist Witness, even his stellar creationist credentials were not enough to keep the inquisitors from his door. As the article describes it, Paige Patterson, president of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, called Dembski into his office along with “several high-ranking administrators at the seminary.”

At issue were two of Dembski’s beliefs, as expressed in his latest book The End of Christianity and elsewhere: that the earth is 4.5 billion years old and the universe 14 billion years, and that Noah’s flood was regional rather than worldwide.

Again, according to the article in Florida Baptist Witness, “At that meeting, Dembski was quick to admit that he was wrong about the flood, Patterson said.”

Patterson went on to say, “Had I had any inkling that Dr. Dembski was actually denying the absolute trustworthiness of the Bible, then that would have, of course, ended his relationship with the school.” [emphasis added]…

The blatant hypocrisy here is so thick you could cut it with a knife: the ID-creationists spent a huge amount of money & resources on their “Expelled” campaign in an effort to convince the public that the scientific institutions were being overly dogmatic & squashing free inquiry (despite the fact that some pro-ID scientists, like Dr. Michael Behe, still retain their positions at respected universities as they push their crackpot ideas).  Yet, on the other side you have the creationists (not the scientists!) actively seeking to purge their ranks of those who do not march lock-step with the “true interpretation of the Bible”.

The interesting thing here is that I think this whole fiasco proves many of these creationists just don’t get it when it comes down to how science is done.  They think that science is rigid and dogmatic, because they come from a rigid & dogmatic worldview based upon their interpretation of the Bible, and so they naturally conclude that all worldviews (including one based upon science) must also be equally rigid & dogmatic.  To them it seems to be a matter of getting on board with the “true” or “good” system of dogma, and then subsequently recognizing all over systems as “false” or “evil”.  They simply haven’t the capacity to see how fundamentally different science is in the process of how it is done and by the manner in which scientists interact with each other.

Posted in creationism, free inquiry | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 5 Comments »

Bill O’Reilly vs. Richard Dawkins: O’Reilly Shows Why He’s a Wedge, The Simplest of Tools

Posted by mattusmaximus on October 14, 2009

Bill O’Reilly is a wedge, the simplest of the tools.  Here’s why…

A video from a FOX News interview of Bill O’Reilly & Dr. Richard Dawkins discussing evolutionary science, God, and religious belief is now making the rounds on the Internet, and I wanted to share both it and my thoughts on it here.  First off, here’s the video…

In addition, here’s the full transcript of the obviously edited video (just watch it closely and you can catch the numerous cuts which probably left out most of Dawkins’ best arguments), and a careful read will expose a number of flaws in O’Reilly’s muddled thinking.

Allow me to point out just a few of the biggest loser arguments made by O’Reilly in this exchange:

Read the rest of this entry »

Posted in creationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 45 Comments »

Darwin’s 200th – Happy Birthday Chuck!

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 12, 2009

Well, this Thursday is the BIG day – it’s the 200th anniversary of that famed naturalist, Charles Darwin, and it also happens to be the 150th anniversary of the publishing of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. Seeing as how important the entire scientific concept of evolution is to our daily lives, and Darwin’s specific theory of evolution through natural selection in particular, I think it is only fitting that we pause to honor the man who helped to revolutionize biology & many other aspects of science. It should be noted that evolution is a concept that spans the sciences – in fact, it is so broad-reaching a concept that Scientific American magazine recently called evolution “the most powerful idea in science.”

darwin

In celebration of this event, there are events being organized all over the world. Here are some of the groups organizing these events, so feel free to browse and see if there’s something going on near you! In addition, I’ve included below a series of links specific to learning more about evolution and science in general…

Darwin Day
Evolution Weekend
National Center for Science Education
Understanding Evolution
Understanding Science
Evolution Series from PBS-NOVA

And if you are into taking on the pseudoscientific claims of creationists, then you might find these links of use…

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense
TalkOrigins Archive
Answers In Genesis BUSTED!
Expelled Exposed: Why Expelled Flunks
Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster
Panda’s Thumb
Pharyngula
Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Last, but not least, I wanted to provide you with a couple of special links. The first is a link to the TalkOrigins Archive and outlines the vast amount of evidence that clearly establishes the reality of evolution. Take some time to read that link (it’s a lot of material) and convince yourself that the evidence for evolution is rock solid.

The second is a hilarious video, basically a challenge to creationists from Answers In Genesis BUSTED!, that asks a lot of questions of creationists which they never seem to address…

In closing, take some time this weekend to celebrate Darwin’s birthday and his great achievements. Have a drink, throw a party, and tell your friends & family about the importance of the man and, more importantly, his contributions to science.

Happy Birthday, Chuck! Wheeeee! 😀

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Ben Stein – Not Expelled, Just Flunked

Posted by mattusmaximus on February 4, 2009

Note: Read up on my recent post, Creationism is Evolving Again, for the full context of this entry.

Well, today I have good news. It seems that would-be “defender of truth & freedom” Ben Stein has received a rather public smackdown. For those of you who may not recall, Ben Stein – in addition to making Clear Eyes eye-drops and the phrase “Bueller? Bueller? Bueller?” famous – was the poster child for the disastrously-received creationist propaganda film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.

expelled ben stein

When promoting the film last year, in addition to spewing the usual creationist nonsense such as insisting that “Darwinism” was responsible for Nazism & the Holocaust and alluding to an “Darwinist” conspiracy to rid academia of “people who just want to ask questions”, Stein reached new lows during an interview on the Trinity Broadcasting Network (TBN). In this interview, Stein stated, unequivocally…

When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

…Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

You can see the entire exchange in the TBN interview in the first part of this online video, Why do people laugh at creationists? (part 24)

Well, it seems that Stein was asked to give the 2009 commencement address at the University of Vermont (UVM). Apparently, when word got out that Stein was to deliver this speech at UVM, where he tried to promote Expelled last spring, there were plenty of people who got upset about it. Think about it: here was a man who had promoted a film which blatantly misrepresented both the scientific & academic communities in the promotion of a pseudoscientific & pseudohistorical agenda giving the commencement address at a major university? Yeah, it didn’t make sense to me, either.

Long story short, there was an organized campaign, by people inside and outside of the university, to express displeasure with the choice of an anti-science nut like Stein to deliver such a high-profile speech. Much of the negative feedback the university received is outlined at this transcript of an interview with UVM President Daniel Mark Fogel. Eventually, after such a public outcry, Stein voluntarily withdrew from giving the commencement speech, and he stated so publicly.

From the press-release outlining Stein’s withdrawal from the speech…

I am writing to inform you that Ben Stein, a renowned economist and public personality, has informed me of his decision to withdraw from our Commencement ceremonies in May.

… Mr. Stein has also expressed opinions on subjects unrelated to economics, most notably with respect to evolutionary theory, intelligent design, and the role of science in the Holocaust. Those views are highly controversial, to say the least. Following the announcement of Mr. Stein as Commencement speaker, profound concerns have been expressed to me by persons both internal and external to the University about his selection. Once I apprised Mr. Stein of these communications, he immediately and most graciously declined our Commencement invitation.

Now, what’s really interesting about this whole affair is the creationist reaction to Stein’s voluntarily withdrawing from speaking at UVM. True to form, those consummate whiners at the mega-creationist “think” tank called the Discovery Institute have decided to spin this whole situation as another example of the supposed dogma promoted by Darwinists. They further maintain that because Stein voluntarily withdrew that it is evidence for a vast conspiracy to prevent open & honest criticism of evolutionary science. If these IDiots keep spinning in their tin-foil hats any faster, they’re going to achieve liftoff.

Of course, the irony behind the creationists claiming that they aren’t being allowed to freely criticize science & evolution specifically is that these same people shut down open debate and criticism of Expelled when they were trying to promote it! From attempting to blatantly manipulate the media at press events to employing dishonest interviewing tactics, the creationists behind this waste of a movie displayed an astonishing level of hypocrisy. Talk about the pot calling the kettle black – sheesh!

Well, all I can say to Ben Stein is this: you weren’t expelled Ben, you just plain flunked. And to the all the creationist whiners out there, it’s time you grew up and joined us in the 21st century.

Posted in creationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Creationism is Evolving Again

Posted by mattusmaximus on January 23, 2009

Well folks, those wacky creationists are at it again. Once more, their tactics to push their religious beliefs as science have evolved in response to the changing environment. Let’s take a brief look at the recent history of the creationist movement in the United States…

then a miracle occurs

1987 – In Edwards v. Aguillard, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that “scientific creationism” (SC) was not science, but a religiously-motivated concept which had no place in public school science classes. This is because SC was based upon literal interpretations of the Bible as espoused by certain denominations of Christianity, so policies pushing SC in public school science classes were clearly a violation of the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment.

1987 to early 1990s – Shortly after this ruling, unable to thrive in the legal environment of the day, the creationist movement in the United States mutated to promote a new species of creationism, namely so-called “intelligent design” (ID). Interestingly, rather than formulate testable hypotheses, perform experiments, and publish the results in peer-reviewed scientific journals as a way of promoting their views, the creationists chose to simply re-label SC as ID (presumably because “intelligent design” sounded more scientific). The biggest push for ID came from an organization called the Discovery Institute, which clearly outlined its real goals (hint: it isn’t to teach science) in an internal memo – the now infamous Wedge Document (get an actual copy of the “Wedge” at this link). Among other things, the “Wedge” states…

Design theory promises to reverse the stifling dominance of the materialist worldview, and to replace it with a science consonant with Christian and theistic convictions.

And the “Wedge” illustrates as its 20-year goals:

* To see intelligent design theory as the dominant perspective in science.
* To see design theory application in specific fields, including molecular biology, biochemistry, paleontology, physics and cosmology in the natural sciences, psychology, ethics, politics, theology and philosophy in the humanities; to see its influence in the fine arts.
* To see design theory permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life.

[emphasis mine]

Hmmm – so the creationists specifically want to see their version of Christianity “permeate our religious, cultural, moral and political life”? Yup, that sure sounds like science to me!

1990s to 2004 – ID is pushed hard by the Discovery Institute, and the creationists publish numerous popular books (not peer-reviewed articles in science journals) in an effort to advance their religious agenda.

2004-2005 – The creationists finally attempt to push ID in the public schools in Dover, PA. This move backfires on them badly, as evidenced by the smack-down they received in the Kitzmiller v. Dover ruling by Judge John Jones in December of 2005. In part, Jones found that ID also violated the First Amendment by attempting to promote religion as science in public school classes. Here are some excerpts from the ruling (which can be found at this link in its entirety)…

“The overwhelming evidence at trial established that ID is a religious view, a mere re-labeling of creationism, and not a scientific theory.”

“Throughout the trial and in various submissions to the Court, Defendants vigorously argue that the reading of the statement is not “teaching” ID but instead is merely “making students aware of it.” In fact, one consistency among the Dover School Board members’ testimony, which was marked by selective memories and outright lies under oath, as will be discussed in more detail below, is that they did not think they needed to be knowledgeable about ID because it was not being taught to the students. We disagree.”

And here’s the real money shot…

“After a searching review of the record and applicable caselaw, we find that while ID arguments may be true, a proposition on which the Court takes no position, ID is not science. We find that ID fails on three different levels, any one of which is sufficient to preclude a determination that ID is science. They are: (1) ID violates the centuries-old ground rules of science by invoking and permitting supernatural causation; (2) the argument of irreducible complexity, central to ID, employs the same flawed and illogical contrived dualism that doomed creation science in the 1980’s; and (3) ID’s negative attacks on evolution have been refuted by the scientific community.

[emphasis mine]

So what happened next? Did the creationists at the Discovery Institute admit their views weren’t scientific? Did they respond by publishing rigorous, peer-reviewed research in science journals which supported ID? Nope!

2007-2008 – After a little time flailing in the wilderness, the creationists realize that the phrase “intelligent design” is synonymous with “scientific creationism”, so their tactics mutate once again. They decide to cease actively promoting ID (that is, their religious beliefs) in public science classes, and instead they push to “teach the weaknesses of evolution.” Of course, this is an obvious logical fallacy, because even if there were fatal “weaknesses” in evolutionary theory (there aren’t), it would do nothing to actually promote ID-creationism.

The creationist attack on science took another turn in 2008 with the release of the creationist propaganda “documentary” named, ironically, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Starring Ben Stein, the movie is a horrid compilation of standard creationist gobble-de-gook, revisionist history (“Darwin was responsible for the Holocaust”NOT!), and outright strawman arguments regarding those who accept evolutionary science (“accepting evolution makes you an atheist”NOT!).

Aside: To show just how nutty Ben Stein got when promoting Expelled, check out this story where Stein says, “Science leads you to killing people.”

At the same time Expelled came out, so-called “Academic Freedom” laws were being pushed in many states in mid-2008. The argument was that teachers should have the “freedom” to teach “alternate views” – such as crappy notions like ID-creationism. Such a law did pass in Louisiana, so now I assume that in addition to teaching ID-creationism in biology class, it’s now acceptable in Louisiana to teach geocentrism & astrology in earth science/astronomy classes, psychics & ESP in physics class, the debunked theory of phlogiston and the Four-Element version of chemistry, and so on! See here for more humorous examples of “academic freedom” gone wild.

2008 to present day – The creationists have further pushed their current agenda in the state of Texas. Because Texas is such a huge market for textbooks, the state has a disproportionate influence on nationwide textbook selection. Unfortunately, the governor of Texas (a staunch creationist) has tried to stack the State Board of Education with enough creationists to push their agenda in the textbook selection process. This battle in Texas is ongoing, with some interesting developments (some good, some bad) taking place just today. (If you’re interested in learning more or getting involved, I strongly encourage you to look up the Texas Freedom Network or the Texas Citizens for Science, who are both fighting against this anti-scientific nonsense)

texas BoE

Last Word: Lest you think those wacky creationists are done, they’re not. In recent days, I’ve seen indications that our pals at the Discovery Institute are evolving their anti-science rhetoric yet again. What was once “scientific creationism” mutated into “intelligent design” – and it now seems that ID is mutating into “front-loaded evolution” (FLE). Be on the lookout for this latest bit of creationist-speak – it could pop up at a school board meeting near you.

Posted in creationism | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

 
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