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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.

I’ve been dealing with creationists for a long time now, and I thought that I’d gotten over being surprised by dishonest behavior in their ranks. In fact, I thought I’d gotten over it even when I’m on the receiving end of the false witness, and when the person dishing it out is someone who really should know better. As it turns out, I might not have quite as far over it as I thought.

As regular readers know, Dr. Michael Egnor is one of the more impressively credentialed denizens of the Discovery Institute’s media complaints blog. He has decades of experience as a neurosurgeon. He’s on the faculty at Stony Brook University School of Medicine, where he serves as a professor of neurosurgery. And, based on the level of intellectual integrity that he just demonstrated, he’s not someone I would trust to train a dog, much less a doctor.

That’s a harsh statement, I know, but I just got through reading his response to my recent critique of some of his Discovery Institute ramblings. Or, rather, his response to what he says was my recent critique. It was actually an interesting experience. He managed to take what I wrote so far out of context, and distort it so thoroughly, that I actually had problems recognizing some of the quotes as being my own work.

I may (or may not) deal with the nonexistent scientific merit of Dr. Egnor’s reply later on. I’m not even going to try and catalogue all of the cases where Egnor was less than honest in his characterization of my writing. Instead, I’m simply going to highlight the most egregious case of flat-out, nose-growing, pants-on-fire lying.

Read more at The Questionable Authority, where comments may be left:

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?

Ron Bailey on Expelled

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

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.”

Contest: Set Ben Straight

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expelled movie exposedExpelledExposed.com has announced a contest to “Set Ben Straight

In promoting the creationist propaganda film Expelled, Ben Stein managed to stick his foot in his mouth over and over again, issuing what seemed to be a ceaseless stream of ignorant, offensive, and just plain daffy claims. Here’s your chance to set Ben straight. Send your favorite claim to [Enable javascript to see this email address.] along with a refutation. We’ll post the best for all the world to see. And five lucky entrants will receive a year’s subscription to Reports of the NCSE along with their choice of a book from NCSE’s shelf – including such useful books as Mark Isaak’s The Counter-Creationism Handbook, Eugenie C. Scott’s Evolution vs. Creationism, and the AAAS’s The Evolution Dialogues: Science, Christianity, and the Quest for Understanding. But you only have ten days, and a wealth of silliness to examine, so act now!

expelled movie exposed

A series of interviews with ID true believers has him playing Michael Moore–dumb—no hard questions for the folks at the Discovery Center, whose infamous leaked 1993 “wedge memo” stated as one of its primary goals the propagation of the idea “that nature and human beings are created by God.” ID’ers protest that they’re simply interested in secular alternatives to Darwinian evolution; their scientific opponents, meanwhile, are potential Communists and Nazis. Bizarre and hysterical.

BeliefNet: Expelled review (D)

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expelled movie exposedBeliefNet reviews Expelled

There may be a good argument to make on behalf of teaching Intelligent Design in science class, but this documentary from Ben Stein does not make it. The movie itself is an example of design by faith and emotion rather than intelligence, defined as rationality grounded in proof. Instead of making a straightforward case for Intelligent Design as a scientific theory, Stein employs misdirection and guilt by very tangential association to try to make his case.

TV Guide: Expelled (1 1/2 star)

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expelled movie exposedTV Guide reviews Expelled

It’s hard to pinpoint the most insulting aspects of this obvious propaganda piece from Ben Stein, the eye-drops spokesman, conservative writer and pundit whom most people remember from a bit part in FERRIS BUELLER’S DAY OFF.

expelled movie exposedIn Paste Magazine we read:

The filmmakers confirmed that they did use the track without permission, but they insist that their legal counsel told them it was fair use protected under the First Amendment due to the fact that they only used 25 seconds of it.

expelled movie exposedIn the Salt Lake Tribune we read about the dishonesty

Alas, the movie’s makers (Stein and co-writers Kevin Miller and Walt Ruloff, and director Nathan Frankowski) don’t debate honestly. Stein mocks university officials for not “getting off [their] script,” but says nothing about the repetitive talking points from the ID crowd. The ID folks complain that the term “evolution” is too vaguely defined, and yet never adequately define what “intelligent design” is. They swear they aren’t espousing religion, then try to discredit the leading evolutionary biologists - such as Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers - because they are atheists. Oddly enough, the tactics employed in “Expelled” undercut the movie’s argument, most notably in the interviews with Dawkins and Myers and in Stein’s trip to Darwin’s British home (now a museum). Either the filmmakers suckered these participants under false pretenses, or the evolutionists are more open to debate than Stein suggests. Perhaps the intelligent-design proponents know that in a truly open debate, their argument isn’t fit enough to survive.

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