On Austringer, Wesley Elsberry discusses Michael Shermer’s (Scientific American) posting how during the showing at Pepperdine University, ‘extras’ were brought in as ‘students’ since the movie producers were concerned that there would otherwise not be enough attendees.
It was with some irony for me, then, that I saw Ben Stein’s antievolution documentary film, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, opens with the actor, game show host and speechwriter for Richard Nixon addressing a packed audience of adoring students at Pepperdine University, apparently falling for the same trap I did.
Actually they didn’t. The biology professors at Pepperdine assure me that their mostly Christian students fully accept the theory of evolution. So who were these people embracing Stein’s screed against science? Extras. According to Lee Kats, associate provost for research and chair of natural science at Pepperdine, “the production company paid for the use of the facility just as all other companies do that film on our campus” but that “the company was nervous that they would not have enough people in the audience so they brought in extras. Members of the audience had to sign in and a staff member reports that no more than two to three Pepperdine students were in attendance. Mr. Stein’s lecture on that topic was not an event sponsored by the university.” And this is one of the least dishonest parts of the film.
Elsberry points out the irony of how gluing moths to a tree for educational purposes is somehow fraudulent but bussing in ‘extras’ to serve as ‘students’ isn’t.
Food for thought
As an interesting sidenote
In 1974 I matriculated at Pepperdine University as a born-again Christian who rejected Darwinism and evolutionary theory—not because I knew anything about it (I didn’t) but because I thought that in order to believe in God and accept the Bible as true, you had to be a creationist. What I knew about evolution came primarily from creationist literature, so when I finally took a course in evolutionary theory in graduate school I realized that I had been hoodwinked. What I discovered is a massive amount of evidence from multiple sciences—geology, paleontology, biogeography, zoology, botany, comparative anatomy, molecular biology, genetics and embryology—demonstrating that evolution happened.