Tuesday, March 18, 2008

And the never ending freak show just goes on and on and on...

PZ is the ring-master under the circus big top with his top-hat, tails and cane and he directs our attention to ring number one where an "American-style ministry" (our country is now an adjective for theological idiocy) pretends to offer medical treatment and psychiatric care, but instead tells their patients that they're not good enough Christians to rid themselves of their demons. And after being locked away from society for so long, the patients start to believe them. You can hear the old familiar chant off in the echoing distance; "one of us, one of us, one of us..."

Then PZ directs our attention to another ring where the odious Sally Kern, the Oklahoma legislator who babbles about gay conspiracies while her gay son is essentially deleted from her public life because he's not... "one of us, one of us, one of us, one of us..."

Then, dramatic music and a drum roll, and then PZ unveils, in the center ring, the main attraction, the makers of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” And boy did this monster freak draw in the crowds! The news is all over the internet. Even the New York Times has taken note.

You probably know the story by now, and if you don't, you won't have any problems finding information if you follow the links in the above paragraph. However, to make the flow of this post at least slightly coherent, here's a brief recap: PZ and Richard Dawkins (among others) were interviewed under false pretenses for the "Expelled" film. PZ noted this on his blog. The film is supposed to be about a lack of academic freedom for people who hold to the Intelligent Design "theory." The film even thanks PZ and Dawkins in the credits. Then the film makers started screening their opus for selective audiences -- you know, they wanted viewers to be "one of us, one of us, one of us..." And when PZ and Dawkins tried to attend one of the screenings, PZ was expelled, he wasn't allowed to see a film he was in (yet Dawkins got in).

You can sure tell who is one of us, one of us, one of us and who is one of them by their reaction to this movie. ID proponents and creationists loved it. Science defenders were appalled by it.

I haven't seen the film myself, but from the reviews it seems like all its "rational," supposedly fact based, arguments can be easily defeated. The idea that Darwinism and atheism lead to Hitler is an old lie I've already dealt with here and here.

However, the film isn't about rational arguments, it sounds more like its about psychological manipulation and it exploits how we judge the thoughts of others. It will probably be effective, in a limited way, in increasing the divisiveness of the theist/atheist debate and push a certain group of theists deeper into a delusional interpretation of science, history and the nature of the current culture war. Atheists will be provoked into becoming more insulting and dismissive of all theists.

There's something very Rovian about this movie:

It may work to the advantage of the Republican think tanks that want to prevent the political compromises some evangelicals might want to make with the Democratic side.

It wasn't too long ago that this debate seemed to take place at a higher level. When people argued about why irreducible complexity wasn't a valid biological concept and the arguments were academic. But after the Dover trial things started to get nasty.

Knowing now that they can't win either a legal or scientific battle the proponents of ID and creationism have shifted into a new strategy. I'm not exactly sure what they are trying to do with this Expelled movie (I haven't even seen it) but it wouldn't surprise me if increasing divisiveness and pushing the argument down to lower levels is exactly what they want. Their reasons are probably political and have little to do with either science or academic freedom. This is, rather, a Swift-boating of science and academy.


1) Greg Wright claims to have discovered that one of the three publicity firms now handling Expelled is CRC Public Relations, the firm employed by the Swift Boat veterans. They crafted press releases about the Myers flap and Stein’s visit to Missouri.

2) Tyler DiPietro left a comment here saying he thinks "Expelled!" goes farther than identity politics and fear-mongering. He thinks the film-maker's real goal are aimed at getting Horowitz-style bills through local legislatures that hamstring the academy. He left a link to his blog, here.


Tyler DiPietro said...

This was pretty much my conclusion as well. However, I think it goes farther than simply identity politics and fearmongering. The real goal is probably to get Horowitz-style bills through local legislatures that hamstring the academy.

PixelFish said...

Hi, Norman:

Sorry to diverge from the topic at hand, but I figured you might like the most recent XKCD comic (given your love of the CERN accelerator) if you haven't already seen it. :)