Michael Shermer, John Rennie and others: SciAm podcast on ‘Expelled’

| 12 Comments

banner.jpg In Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed–Scientific American’s Take, Scientific American ‘flunks’ the movie.

John Rennie, Michael Shermer and Steve Mirsky all watched Ben Stein’s new antievolution movie. Here’s what they had to say about its design flaws.

Shermer reviews ‘Expelled’

In a new documentary film, actor, game show host and financial columnist Ben Stein falls for the pseudoscience of intelligent design

In Ben Stein’s Expelled: No Integrity Displayed John Rennie reviews the movie

A shameful antievolution film tries to blame Darwin for the Holocaust

However, they provide us with an even more precious resource namely two mp3 files of a Podcast with Mark Mathis, one of the associate producers of the movie.

Download part 1

Download part 2

Why are these Podcast files so important?

During the conversation between some of the editors of Scientific American and Mark Mathis we hear about how Mathis has fallen victim, like so many before him, of the rhetoric of the Discovery Institute and its fellows. Whenever Rennie asks Mathis to describe his sources, Mathis presents ‘secondary sources’ such as the majority report on Sternberg, or the claim that 92.5% of the opinion and ruling by Judge Jones in Kitzmiller was copied verbatim from the ACLU, based on a statement by John West. In neither case, Mathis has taken the time to actually review the original data or review the rebuttals of these claims.

I hope to have transcripts available soon of some of the more salient discussions which show how ignorance leads ‘Expelled’ to flunk.

The editors of Scientific American promised to do some research into the claim by Mathis about Judge Jones having copied the ACLU document verbatim

One point requires response here. Mathis charged that some 92 percent of the judge’s decision in the Dover intelligent design trial was copied directly from papers filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). We said we would follow up and find out the truth. We did. In fact, Mathis was wrong in three ways. One, even the Discovery Institute’s own charge is that the judge copied 90.9 percent of ACLU material for one specific section in the judge’s decision. Second, a correct statistical workup finds that the number is as low as 35 percent, depending on whether you include material filed that is not included in the decision and the length of word strings. But the most important point is one that I guessed at in the conversation. We spoke to actual legal experts who told us that when the sides in a trial file their facts, it is with the hope that they make the case strongly enough for the judge to incorporate their texts into the finding of fact section of the decision. Therefore the charges that Mathis makes against Judge Jones are both incorrect in detail and spurious in spirit. For more information, you can go to footnote 88 in the Wikipedia entry on the Discovery Institute. There’s more info on the permissibility of using filed facts in a decision at The Panda’s Thumb Web site, pandasthumb.org. It’s an entry called “Weekend at Behe’s” dated December 12, 2006.

References:
http://vangogh.fdisk.net/~welsberr/kvd/
http://pandasthumb.org/archives/200[…]at-behe.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Discov[…]gn_campaigns

I find it fascinating how time after time well meaning people are being misled by the flawed rhetoric of ID creationists, whether it be claims about Judge Jones, Sternberg or the fallacious claim that natural processes cannot explain the information in the genome. In none of these cases Mathis has shown any familiarity with the issues and just parrots the claims as presented by the Discovery Institute.

Others have provided partial transcripts such as Chris Heard at Higgaion in Why Ken Miller isn’t in Expelled

12 Comments

In the podcast, it was amazing how many times that Mathis dodged questions by saying that “it wasn’t my decision,” or “this is the way they wanted it,” or similar. One would think that his title would give him more hand in the content. Hm.

It’s Shermer, not Schermer.

Pardon my dutch (Shermer not Schermer)

If you don’t have an hour to hear Mathis squirm, here’s what it reduces to:

Mathis keeps repeating that he’s not a scientist, yet essentially admits that he gets relevant information exclusively from DI personnel (West, Behe, etc.) and makes no attempts to critically analyze it, except to dismiss Miller’s mousetrap tie clip analogy (which is at most 1 ppm of the total scientific criticism of ID). Mathis keeps repeating that he didn’t make the decisions on what and what not to include in the film, but gives no indication of any significant disagreements with those decisions.

Unfortunately the interview did not touch on “what the designer did, when and how,” either in terms of ID’s official position (which is “don’t ask, don’t tell”) or Mathis’ own “best guesses.”

Hey Mark, you’re free to come here and add anything that you may have overlooked under the pressure of the interview.

Frank J, I, too, would be interested in seeing what Mathis has to say for himself. In particular, I’d be interested in finding out why he considers lying to some of his interviewees (e.g. PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins) to be a valid tactic when attempting to present an argument about the immorality of “Darwinism”. If you ask me, that alone kinda undermines his “moral high ground” approach (and that is without considering all of the lies in the film’s content).

Frank J, I, too, would be interested in seeing what Mathis has to say for himself. In particular, I’d be interested in finding out why he considers lying to some of his interviewees (e.g. PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins) to be a valid tactic when attempting to present an argument about the immorality of “Darwinism”. If you ask me, that alone kinda undermines his “moral high ground” approach (and that is without considering all of the lies in the film’s content).

This is in keeping with everyone behind Expelled. During his brief time at ATBC, I repeatedly asked Kevin Miller how he reconciled Christian doctrine with the Expelled people lying about movie showings to keep undesirables out. He never deigned to answer the question, big surprise.

This is in keeping with everyone behind Expelled. During his brief time at ATBC, I repeatedly asked Kevin Miller how he reconciled Christian doctrine with the Expelled people lying about movie showings to keep undesirables out. He never deigned to answer the question, big surprise.

He could have used the Mathis defense ‘I am just an associate producer’ or ‘I am just one of the writers’. Seems that most reviewers quickly detect the dishonesties in ‘Expelled’ and quickly expose them as such.

He could have used the Mathis defense ‘I am just an associate producer’ or ‘I am just one of the writers’.

He tried that. I then asked him whether he thought this dishonesty was compatible with his religion, and whether he approved of it. He never answered.

Arden Chatfield Wrote:

He tried that. I then asked him whether he thought this dishonesty was compatible with his religion, and whether he approved of it. He never answered.

Like Mathis, did Miller also undermine his loophole by refusing to criticize any of the choices that were made outside of his control? IOW, Mathis all but shouted “I didn’t make the decisions, but if I were in charge I would have made all the same ones.”

I’m just listening to this and, wow, Mark Mathis makes a complete idiot of himself. Among many other things, he can’t even explain what the Dover decision said. But he’s completely certain that Judge Jones is a liberal activist who was just waiting for his one moment to strike. Crackpot.

Chris Andrews Wrote:

But he’s completely certain that Judge Jones is a liberal activist who was just waiting for his one moment to strike.

And he admitted several times that he got the information only from a DI source, with no attempt to devote a minute, much less “equal time,” to the critics version.

A particular irony for me is that I’m probably even less of a fan of the ACLU as Mathis is, yet he repeatedly referred to the ACLU instead of Pepper Hamilton, let alone those Christian witnesses like Kenneth Miller and John Haught. But I understand. That would “complicate” things, which is “Mathispeak” for saying “that would show that we are wrong, and only advocate ‘equal time’ if it suits our political agenda.”

Ah, but was that information complex and/or specified?!?!!11!eleventy!

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by PvM published on April 13, 2008 9:21 PM.

The Bad Idea Blog: Expelled was the previous entry in this blog.

Behe versus ribonuclease; the origin and evolution of protein-protein binding sites is the next entry in this blog.

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