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As we reflect upon the amazing body of work left behind by this giant of the movie scene, readers of the Thumb should know (if they don’t already) that Roger Ebert was a passionate defender of science, and of evolution in particular.

His passion was not un-noticed by creationists (of both young-earth and intelligent design categories). William Dembski had this to say about Ebert in an Uncommon Descent blog from 2006:

Roger Ebert: Film Critic, Expert on Evolution, ID Basher, and Overall Supergenius .….. Or is Ebert just another clueless bonehead whose imagined expertise is in exact disproportion to his actual knowledge …

Here are some memorable comments by Ebert on creationism, evolution, and religion.

Win Ben Stein’s mind, December 3, 2008

The more you know about evolution, or simple logic, the more you are likely to be appalled by the film. No one with an ability for critical thinking could watch more than three minutes without becoming aware of its tactics. It isn’t even subtle. Take its treatment of Dawkins, who throughout his interviews with Stein is honest, plain-spoken, and courteous. As Stein goes to interview him for the last time, we see a makeup artist carefully patting on rouge and dusting Dawkins’ face. After he is prepared and composed, after the shine has been taken off his nose, here comes plain, down-to-earth, workaday Ben Stein. So we get the vain Dawkins with his effete makeup, talking to the ordinary Joe.

I have done television interviews for more than 40 years. I have been on both ends of the questions. I have news for you. Everyone is made up before going on television. If they are not, they will look like death warmed over. There is not a person reading this right now who should go on camera without some kind of makeup. Even the obligatory “shocked neighbors” standing in their front yards after a murder usually have some powder brushed on by the camera person. Was Ben Stein wearing makeup? Of course he was. Did he whisper to his camera crew to roll while Dawkins was being made up? Of course he did. Otherwise, no camera operator on earth would have taped that. That incident dramatizes his approach throughout the film. If you want to study Gotcha! moments, start here.

How I believe in God, April 17, 2009

During in all the endless discussions on several threads of this blog about evolution, intelligent design, God and the afterworld, now numbering altogether around 3,500 comments, I have never said, although readers have freely informed me I am an atheist, an agnostic, or at the very least a secular humanist–which I am. If I were to say I don’t believe God exists, that wouldn’t mean I believe God doesn’t exist. Nor does it mean I don’t know, which implies that I could know.

Let me rule out at once any God who has personally spoken to anyone or issued instructions to men. That some men believe they have been spoken to by God, I am certain. I do not believe Moses came down from the mountain with any tablets he did not go up with. I believe mankind in general evidently has a need to believe in higher powers and an existence not limited to the physical duration of the body. But these needs are hopes, and believing them doesn’t make them true. … No, I am not a Buddhist. I am not a believer, not an atheist, not an agnostic. I am still awake at night, asking how? I am more content with the question than I would be with an answer.

Darwin survives as the fittest, February 11, 2009

The True Believers. Found in both parties. One side declares God without any doubt does exist, and created the universe and everything in it. A much smaller subset of this group is convinced that God did this in fairly recent times–as little as 6,000 years ago, or in any event too recently for Darwin’s evolutionary process to have had enough time to take place. The other side declares that God without any doubt does not exist, and it is equally certain. Both sides frequently quote the Bible, on the one hand citing its truth, on the other side citing its falsity. Christianity is the only religion involved; my blog has readers from all over the world, but apparently those from elsewhere find Intelligent Design a uniquely American notion.

The longest thread evolves, September 4, 2009

The zealots of Creationism are indefatigable. Even now there are attempts to legislate that the pseudo science of Intelligent Design must be taught in school systems as a “debate” with Evolution. In common sense terms, that debate was over a century ago. Yet there are votes out there for politicians who support such legislation, and at the 2008 GOP presidential debate, no less that three candidates said they do not believe in evolution. I suppose I should be gratified that there weren’t more.

New Agers and Creationists should not be President, December 2, 2009

My only purpose today is to state early and often that if a Presidential candidate believes early humans used saddles to ride on the backs of dinosaurs, as they are depicted at the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky, that candidate should not be elected President.

And if a candidate counts among close friends and advisors anyone in communication with the spirit world, that candidate should not be elected President.

And if a candidate accounts for the fact that humanoid and dinosaur bones are never found at the same level in the fossil record by evoking the action of sediment after the Great Flood, that candidate should not be President.

And if a candidate has a spirit guide, consults his or her Chart and takes more than a passing amusement in the horoscope, that candidate should not be elected President.

There’s a category page linking these and other blogs, appropriately titled “Darwin My Hero”.

Comments about Roger Ebert are welcome. Comments that are nonsequiters, religious rants, or are otherwise irrelevant, will be tossed onto the Bathroom Wall.

A Thank You from TOAF

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On behalf of the TalkOrigins Foundation, I would like to thank everyone who contributed to our campaign to bid on the motion picture “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.” Unfortunately, we were unable to bid high enough to purchase the film.

The response to this last-minute campaign was overwhelming. I had expected we might raise about $5,000. If we had raised $8,000, I would have been very pleased.

Instead, between Thursday (June 23), when we announced the campaign, and yesterday (June 27), we received 394 donations through our Paypal account, totaling $16,152.66. We also received pledges of funds from several individuals, including Professor Richard Dawkins, totaling another $32,200.00.

Combined with the funds the Foundation already had on hand, we had just over $50,000 available to bid on the film (and pay the 10% buyer’s premium). The winning bid, however, was $201,000. Because all of the bidders were anonymous, we do not know identity of the winning bidder.

Although we were unsuccessful in purchasing the film, I do not believe this campaign was a waste of time. If nothing else, it demonstrated the commitment so many of you have to the tenets of scientific inquiry.

The Foundation’s directors have discussed what to do in the event we were unsuccessful in purchasing the film. We had stated in our fundraising solicitation that we could not guarantee a return of any donations. That said, it has been our intent from the beginning to return all of the donations to this campaign, if that could be done. It appears that Paypal will allow us to refund contributions made by credit card or from a Paypal balance. (I do not know yet about those few eCheck transactions we received, but we will attempt to refund those as well.)

It will take some time for the refunding to be completed. We cannot even begin refunding donations until we can transfer funds back from the Foundation’s bank account to Paypal, which will take a few days to clear. Rest assured, however, that we will move as quickly as we can to complete the refunds.

Many of you have stated that you were happy with the Foundation keeping your donation in the event we were not successful in bidding on “Expelled.” Although we greatly appreciate the sentiment, it will be simpler for us to return all donations made since June 23 than to sort out who does and who does not want their donation returned. Our thanks again to all of you who contributed to this campaign.

Kenneth Fair
Secretary/Treasurer, TalkOrigins Foundation, Inc.

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.

Update: Professor Richard Dawkins has chipped in to help the TalkOrigins Archive Foundation “Win Ben Stein’s Movie”. If you haven’t taken a moment to visit the Foundation’s donation page and chip in your own stake, remember that our bid amount tomorrow (Tuesday) will be based on what can be cleared through the system into our bank account today (Monday).

Via John Pieret’s excellent Thoughts in a Haystack blog I learn of an ongoing controversy about the teaching of evolution at Adventist Universities. (See also this Sept. 1 article from Inside Higher Ed.) The latest event is that the board of trustess of La Sierra University in Riverside, California, voted to endorse young-earth creationism:

La Sierra’s board of trustees last week unanimously voted to endorse Adventist beliefs that the world was created in six 24-hour days and said the teaching of evolution must be “within the context of the Adventist belief regarding creation.”

The board also proposed that all 15 North American Adventist universities develop a curriculum that includes a “scientifically rigorous affirmation” of Adventist creation beliefs.

At first glance, it is confusing that this is news. Those of us who are familiar with the history of creationism and have read Ronald Numbers’ classic The Creationists, and learned that the Seventh-Day Adventists were virtually the only fundamentalists who produced major advocates supporting belief in a young earth and global flood in the early 20th century – based on the literalist visions of Adventist founder and prophetess Ellen White. It was only in the 1960s that the young-earth/global view became dominant within American fundamentalism/conservative evangelicalism in general, primarily through the efforts of Henry Morris and John Whitcomb in The Genesis Flood.

After 20 days, Religulous has grossed more than Expelled during its six months in US theatres.

TitleLifetime GrossTheatresOpening GrossTheatres
Religulous $9,201,458 568 $3,409,643 502
Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed $7,720,487 1,052 $2,970,848 1,052

Funny how despite give aways, pre-screenings and discounts, and much marketing to the religious, Expelled did not manage to attract more audience than Religulous. What is even more ironic is that Religulous outperformed Expelled from the opening weekend with half the theatre count.

In a Comment in the journal Genome Biology Gregory Petsko, Professor of Biochemistry and Chemistry Protein Crystallography at Brandeis University discusses the latest shenanigans of the Intelligent Design movement. ( Gregory A Petsko It is alive Genome Biology 2008, 99::106)

They’re at it again. Armed with another new idea from the Discovery Institute, that bastion of ignorance, right-wing political ideology, and pseudo-scientific claptrap, the creationist movement has mounted yet another assault on science. This time it comes in two flavors: propaganda and legislative.

What is Petsko talking about?

The Columbus Dispatch reports that a much awaited report on the activities of John Freshwater, a Mount Vernon teacher, has finally been released.

The conclusions are straightforward and shocking

A Mount Vernon teacher undermined science instruction in the public school district by discrediting evolution in his classroom and focusing on creationism and intelligent design, a probe has found.

Worse, the teacher “burned crosses onto students’ arms, using an electrostatic device, in December. Freshwater told investigators the marks were Xs, not crosses. But all of the students interviewed in the investigation reported being branded with crosses.”

While his defenders argued that the teacher merely used the device to draw ‘X’, the picture shows otherwise.

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To me this clearly looks like a cross, not an ‘X’.

NCSE: Proving ID = Creationism

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expelled movie exposedNCSE’s staff worked behind the scenes in the archives to find the missing links tying “intelligent design” to its creationist ancestry.

An outstanding video explaining how through hard work, the NCSE staff uncovered the missing link “cdesign proponentist” (oops they already mutated from their native form “cdesign proponentsists”).

Expelled gone missing…

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According to the charts at Box Office Mojo the data for expelled for the weekend have gone missing. Although we know that in the 5th week, the theatre count drop almost 50 % from 402 to 210.

In other news, the United Methodist Church passed several relevant resolutions, one apologizing repenting for eugenics, and the other one expressing their displeasure with intelligent design and public schools

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the General Conference of the United Methodist Church go on record as opposing the introduction of any faith-based theories such as Creationism or Intelligent Design into the science curriculum of our public schools.

No updates on the lawsuit by Yoko Ono against Premise Media.

And despite the efforts by the Discovery Institute and Premise Media it was reported that

Despite the fanfare over Expelled in Missouri, the antievolution House Bill 2554 has died

The score so far: “academic freedom” antievolution bills have died in Florida, Alabama, and Missouri, and South Carolina’s looks poised to die as well.

The study was published in the Journal Science. It’s a good week for science and faith.

More “Expelled” News

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expelled movie exposedIt’s been a good week for science, and evolutionary science in particular so let me mention a few newsworthy events.

And in late breaking news:

Turkish Islamic author Oktar aka Harun Yahya given 3-year jail sentence

Oktar’s teachings echo those of Christian fundamentalists in the United States. He has publicly denounced Darwinism and Freemasonry in high-profile attacks.

Expelled Theatre count

Week Theatres Change
May 09 402 -254
May 02 656 -385
April 25 1041 -11
Launch 1052 0

NCSE: Eyeing ID

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While legislatures focus on antievolution bills, a new video at Expelled Exposed helps students see how evolution works.

Oakland, California, May 6, 2008 As attacks on evolution education remain in the news, with proposed antievolution legislation in Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Michigan, and Missouri in the headlines, a new video rebutting the basic premise of intelligent design creationism is now available on www.ExpelledExposed.com.

John Lennon’s widow Yoko Ono has filed a copyright infringement lawsuit against the makers of Expelled, on the grounds that they did not get Ono’s permission to use portions of Lennon’s hit song “Imagine” in the movie. The case is Yoko Ono Lennon, et al. v. Premise Media Corporation (S.D.N.Y., No. 08-03813).

(Read the rest at Freespace…)

Ben Stein lies about Sternberg and Kitzmiller Lauri Lebo reviews Expelled

PvM: My apologies to Lauri Lebo for misspelling her name as Laurie

Unevolved “Mark Mathis”

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expelled movie exposedThis interview is just too good to ignore. The Real Detroit Weekly reports on the movie “Expelled”. The interview shows what had already become painfully clear to me having listened the SciAm interview: namely that Mathis is poorly informed on the issues of evolutionary theory. Whenever challenged by the SciAm editors, Mathis would first try to respond only to find himself overwhelmed by the facts and respond with “I am just an associate editor” and claim unfamiliarity with the facts. Why is it that ID works best in the shadows of ignorance?

Point in case

I confront Mathis with this point, and he counters that evolutionary theory is also untestable. This is patently untrue—to give just one example, scientists have witnessed speciation, the arisal of a new species from an old one.

When I point this out, he interrupts me immediately: “Whoa! Wait a minute! Please send me whatever material you have that demonstrates that we can observe speciation because I have not seen anything. I’ve never heard anyone even claim that!”

Is he serious? He’s just produced a film about evolution, and he’s never heard of the fact that speciation has been observed and thoroughly documented in the scientific literature? I’m stunned. I send him peer-reviewed research confirming this fact via e-mail, and he later responds, “This isn’t an important argument for me.”

expelled movie exposedThe God Connection

Baylor University’s newspaper the “Lariat” reports on “Expelled”, exposing once again that Intelligent Design is a theological concept.

Robert Marks, a professor at Baylor and Intelligent Design proponent, commented

“I thought it portrayed things pretty well as they are ­– that science by decree of entrenched Darwinism has no room for a God hypothesis,” Marks said. “I on the other hand think that one cannot pursue truth without consideration of a creator.”

Marks said if science defines science as void of a creator, then it’s not a pursuit of truth.

Same with associate producer Mathis

“You have a science department that’s denying a god,” Mathis said

expelled movie exposedThe first Box Office numbers are in. Expelled opened in 8th place with $1.2M in revenues in 1,052 theatres resulting in a $1,141 per theatre revenue. You do the math. At an average of 5 showings this makes $220 per showing or 30-40 people. Expelled ranks 4th in the list of “new releases”

While the weekend has just started the movie will have to do some hard work to match the expectations of the PR people:

“He said they would consider the opening weekend successful if the movie sold 2 million tickets (earning $12-15 million).”

[Update: Source: Brad in Stranger Fruit Comment section]

In context, Fahrenheit 9/11’s opening weekend grossed $23.9 million in 868 theatres grossing $27,558 per theatre and $8,565,000 on it’s first day

Remember that the movie is also heavily subsidized and Churches etc will receive large discounts.

expelled movie exposedFrom Dembski’s ‘backyard’ comes a review by the Waco Tribune of “Expelled”

Carl Hoover Wrote:

Though Stein presents himself as a man of rational logic, his film’s arguments are a rhetorical mishmash of straw men, red herrings, guilt by association, quote harvesting, gotcha interviews and post hoc ergo propter hoc (after this, therefore because of this) associations that may cause your head to pop. It’s a propaganda form highly polished by director/activist Michael Moore on the other end of the political spectrum.

Not bad for starters.

expelled movie exposedThe NY Times has a hard hitting review titled “Resentment Over Darwin Evolves Into a Documentary”

JEANNETTE CATSOULIS Wrote:

One of the sleaziest documentaries to arrive in a very long time, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” is a conspiracy-theory rant masquerading as investigative inquiry.

and

JEANNETTE CATSOULIS Wrote:

Mixing physical apples and metaphysical oranges at every turn “Expelled” is an unprincipled propaganda piece that insults believers and nonbelievers alike. In its fudging, eliding and refusal to define terms, the movie proves that the only expulsion here is of reason itself.

expelled movie exposedSteve Mirsky from Scientific America reports on Never You Mine: Ben Stein’s Selective Quoting of Darwin

Steve Mirsky Wrote:

One of the many egregious moments in the new Ben Stein anti-evolution film “Expelled” is the truncation of a quote from Charles Darwin so that it makes him appear to give philosophical ammunition to the Nazis. Steve Mirsky reports.

Ayn Rand Institute: Expelled Gets an F

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expelled movie exposedThe Ayn Rand Institute has released a Press Release

“Intelligent design advocates will do anything to advance their views–except science.

“The reason for that is simple: doing science has never been their goal. Their goal is to make biblical creationism appear scientific in order to skirt the constitutional ban on religion in public schools. Contrary to the film’s claims, the real dogmatists are not the defenders of Darwin, but the religiously motivated advocates of intelligent design.”

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