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Sunday, March 23, 2008 | Reason : Commentary | print version Print | Comments |

Document Lying for Jesus?

by Richard Dawkins

The blogs are ringing with ridicule. Mark Mathis, duplicitous producer of the much hyped film Expelled, shot himself in the foot so spectacularly that the phrase might have been invented for him. Goals don't come more own than this. How is it possible that a man who makes his living from partisan propaganda could hand so stunning a propaganda coup to his opponents? Hand it to them on a plate, so ignominiously and so UNNECESSARILY.

In writing this for, I have assumed that our readers will already be familiar with the facts of the case, from Pharyngula and the more than 40 other blogs that have picked up the story and are listed at
For the same reason, I shall not discuss the main message of the film -- that American creationist scientists are being victimized for their views -- except to say that it was very much NOT its main message when the film was called Crossroads, and when I, together with PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott and others, were conned into taking part.

Now, to the Good Friday Fiasco itself, Mathis' extraordinary and costly lapse of judgment. Just think about it. His entire film is devoted to the notion that American scientists are being hounded and expelled from their jobs because of opinions that they hold. The film works hard at pressing (no, belabouring with a sledgehammer) all the favourite hot buttons of free speech, freedom of thought, the right of dissent, the right to be heard, the right to discuss issues rather than suppress argument. These are the topics that the film sets out to raise, with particular reference to evolution and 'intelligent design' (wittily described by someone as creationism in a cheap tuxedo). In the course of this film, Mathis tricked a number of scientists, including PZ Myers and me, into taking prominent parts in the film, and both of us are handsomely thanked in the closing credits.

Seemingly oblivious to the irony, Mathis instructed some uniformed goon to evict Myers while he was standing in line with his family to enter the theatre, and threaten him with arrest if he didn't immediately leave the premises. Did it not occur to Mathis -- what would occur any normally polite and reasonable person -- that Myers, having played a leading role in the film, might have been welcomed as an honoured guest to watch it? Or, more cynically, did he not know that PZ is one of the country's most popular bloggers, with a notoriously caustic wit, perfectly placed to set the whole internet roaring with delighted and mocking laughter? I long ago realised that Mathis was deceitful. I didn't know he was a bungling incompetent.

Not just incompetent at public relations, incompetent in his chosen profession of film-making, for the film itself, as I discovered when I saw it on Friday (and this genuinely surprised me) is dull, artless, amateurish, too long, poorly constructed and utterly devoid of any style, wit or subtlety. It bears all the hallmarks of a film-maker who knows nothing about the craft of making films. I'll come to that in a moment.

But first, I should deal with some questions that have arisen over the Good Friday Massacre of Mark Mathis' reputation (some commentators are publicly wondering whether the film will ever be released, speculating that its financial backers will pull out for fear of being tarnished with some of the ridicule?)

In a desperate effort to scrape some of the egg off their faces, the creationist wingnuts are spinning the story to make it look as though PZ and I were 'gatecrashers'. The ill-named 'Discovery' Institute heads its web article, "Richard Dawkins, World Famous Darwinist, Stoops to Gate-crashing Expelled." The article says that I "apparently acknowledged that I was not invited". Mark Mathis himself said something similar about PZ in the Q & A after the showing, when I publicly challenged him to explain why he had expelled him, claiming that this performance was by invitation only, and PZ had not been invited. But, as many commentators have pointed out, this was most certainly not an invitation-only affair. The way to get into this showing of the film was simply to go on the Internet and apply. This was exactly what PZ did. He went on the Web and put his name down for a place at the showing, just like everybody else, including several others from the American Atheists annual conference in Minneapolis. Not a man to hide behind a false name or false beard, PZ openly sported his own. Like many other people, including his daughter and Kristine Harley (see her Amused Muse website), PZ took advantage of the generous offer to let him book guests in as well, and then kindly invited me to be one of them. There was no request to give the names of guests, and no machinery to do so, which was why my name did not appear on the list.

Many people have wondered why, if PZ was expelled, I managed to get in. This has been adduced as further evidence of Mathis' bungling incompetence, but I think that is unfair. It was easy for Mathis to spot PZ Myers' name on the list of those registering in advance. Like all guests, my name was not on any list, and therefore Mathis didn't spot me. So I think he can be absolved of stupidity in not spotting me. But convicted of extreme stupidity in expelling PZ when he spotted him. What was he afraid of? What did he think PZ would do, open fire with a Kalashnikov? Now that I think about it, that would have been all-of-a-piece with the overblown paranoia displayed throughout the film itself.

The whole tone of the film is whiny, paranoid -- pathetic really. The narrator is somebody called Ben Stein. I had not heard of him, but apparently he is well known to Americans, for it is hard to see why else he would have been chosen to front the film. He certainly can't have been chosen for his knowledge of science, nor his powers of logical reasoning, nor his box office appeal (heavens, no), and his speaking voice is an irritating, nasal drawl, innocent of charm and of consonants. I suppose that makes it a good voice for conveying the whingeing paranoia that I referred to, so maybe that was qualification enough.

Now, to the film itself. What a shoddy, second-rate piece of work. A favourite joke among the film-making community is the 'Lord Privy Seal'. Amateurs and novices in the making of documentaries can't resist illustrating every significant word in the commentary by cutting to a picture of it. The Lord Privy Seal is an antiquated title in Britain's heraldic tradition. The joke imagines a low-grade film director who illustrates it by cutting to a picture of a Lord, then a privy, and then a seal. Mathis' film is positively barking with Lord Privy Seals. We get an otherwise pointless cut to Nikita Krushchev hammering the table (to illustrate something like 'emotional outburst'). There are similarly clunking and artless cuts to a guillotine, fist fights, and above all to the Berlin wall and Nazi gas chambers and concentration camps.

The alleged association between Darwinism and Nazism is harped on for what seems like hours, and it is quite simply an outrage. We are supposed to believe that Hitler was influenced by Darwin. Hitler was ignorant and bonkers enough for his hideous mind to have imbibed some sort of garbled misunderstanding of Darwin (along with his very ungarbled understanding of the anti-semitism of Martin Luther, and of his own never-renounced Roman Catholic religion) but it is hardly Darwin's fault if he did. My own view, frequently expressed (for example in the The Selfish Gene and especially in the title chapter of A Devil's Chaplain) is that there are two reasons why we need to take Darwinian natural selection seriously. Firstly, it is the most important element in the explanation for our own existence and that of all life. Secondly, natural selection is a good object lesson in how NOT to organize a society. As I have often said before, as a scientist I am a passionate Darwinian. But as a citizen and a human being, I want to construct a society which is about as un-Darwinian as we can make it. I approve of looking after the poor (very un-Darwinian). I approve of universal medical care (very un-Darwinian). It is one of the classic philosophical fallacies to derive an 'ought' from an 'is'. Stein (or whoever wrote his script for him) is implying that Hitler committed that fallacy with respect to Darwinism. If we look at more recent history, the closest representatives you'll find to Darwinian politics are uncompassionate conservatives like Margaret Thatcher, George W Bush, or Ben Stein's own hero, Richard Nixon. Maybe all these people, along with the Social Darwinists from Herbert Spencer to John D Rockefeller, committed the is/ought fallacy and justified their unpleasant social views by invoking garbled Darwinism. Anyone who thinks that has any bearing whatsoever on the truth or falsity of Darwin's theory of evolution is either an unreasoning fool or a cynical manipulator of unreasoning fools. I will not speculate as to which category includes Ben Stein and Mark Mathis.

Stein has no talent for comedy, as he demonstrates in a weird joke about scratching his back, which falls completely flat. But his attempt to do tragedy is even worse. He visits Dachau and, when informed by the guide that lots of Jews had been killed there, he buries his face in his hands as though this is the first time he has heard of it. Obviously it was not his intention, but I thought his rotten acting was an insult to the memory of the victims.

More sinister than the artless Lord Privy Seals, and the self-indulgent and wholly illicit playing of the Nazi trump card, the film goes shamelessly for cheap laughs at the expense of scientists and scholars who are making honest attempts to explain difficult points. Cheap laughs that could only be raised in an audience of scientific ignoramuses (and here Mathis' propaganda instincts cannot be faulted: he certainly knows his target audience). One example is the treatment of the philosopher Michael Ruse: a decent man, bluff, bearded, articulate, and with a genuine and sincere desire to explain difficult ideas clearly. Stein asked Ruse how life originated. Ruse's immediate impulse (as mine would have been) was to launch into an honest effort to explain a difficult scientific idea. He began by saying that he doesn't know how life originated, and nor does anybody else. At this point in his interview, Ruse probably had no notion that his interlocuter had a completely different agenda to promote, with no hint of sincerity to balance his own. Ruse patiently explained that the origin of life (nothing to do with the Darwinian theory itself but the necessary precursor of Darwinian evolution) is an interesting and unsolved mystery, one that scientists are actively working on. By way of example, Ruse could have chosen any of a number of current theories. He chose just one (it would have taken too long to explain them all) purely as an illustration of the kind of properties such a theory must have. He happened to choose the theory proposed by the Scottish chemist Graham Cairns-Smith, that organic life was preceded by a strange and intriguing world of replicating patterns on the surfaces of crystals in inorganic clays. At no time did Ruse say he believed the Cairns-Smith theory, only that it was the KIND of theory that scientists are actively examining, as a CANDIDATE for the origin of evolution. Stein just loved it. Mud! MUD! The sarcasm in his grating, nasal voice was palpable. Maybe this was when Ruse realised that he had been had. Certainly it was at this point that he started to show signs of exasperation, although he may still have thought that Stein was merely stupid, rather than pursuing a malevolent and clandestine agenda. Stein kept returning, throughout the film, to the phrase "on the backs of crystals", and the sycophantic audience in the Minneapolis cinema dutifully tittered every time.

Another example. Toward the end of his interview with me, Stein asked whether I could think of any circumstances whatsoever under which intelligent design might have occurred. It's the kind of challenge I relish, and I set myself the task of imagining the most plausible scenario I could. I wanted to give ID its best shot, however poor that best shot might be. I must have been feeling magnanimous that day, because I was aware that the leading advocates of Intelligent Design are very fond of protesting that they are not talking about God as the designer, but about some unnamed and unspecified intelligence, which might even be an alien from another planet. Indeed, this is the only way they differentiate themselves from fundamentalist creationists, and they do it only when they need to, in order to weasel their way around church/state separation laws. So, bending over backwards to accommodate the IDiots ("oh NOOOOO, of course we aren't talking about God, this is SCIENCE") and bending over backwards to make the best case I could for intelligent design, I constructed a science fiction scenario. Like Michael Ruse (as I surmise) I still hadn't rumbled Stein, and I was charitable enough to think he was an honestly stupid man, sincerely seeking enlightenment from a scientist. I patiently explained to him that life could conceivably have been seeded on Earth by an alien intelligence from another planet (Francis Crick and Leslie Orgel suggested something similar -- semi tongue-in-cheek). The conclusion I was heading towards was that, even in the highly unlikely event that some such 'Directed Panspermia' was responsible for designing life on this planet, the alien beings would THEMSELVES have to have evolved, if not by Darwinian selection, by some equivalent 'crane' (to quote Dan Dennett). My point here was that design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity. Even if life on Earth was seeded by intelligent designers on another planet, and even if the alien life form was itself seeded four billion years earlier, the regress must ultimately be terminated (and we have only some 13 billion years to play with because of the finite age of the universe). Organized complexity cannot just spontaneously happen. That, for goodness sake, is the creationists' whole point, when they bang on about eyes and bacterial flagella! Evolution by natural selection is the only known process whereby organized complexity can ultimately come into being. Organized complexity -- and that includes everything capable of designing anything intelligently -- comes LATE into the universe. It cannot exist at the beginning, as I have explained again and again in my writings.

This 'Ultimate 747' argument, as I called it in The God Delusion, may or may not persuade you. That is not my concern here. My concern here is that my science fiction thought experiment -- however implausible -- was designed to illustrate intelligent design's closest approach to being plausible. I was most emphaticaly NOT saying that I believed the thought experiment. Quite the contrary. I do not believe it (and I don't think Francis Crick believed it either). I was bending over backwards to make the best case I could for a form of intelligent design. And my clear implication was that the best case I could make was a very implausible case indeed. In other words, I was using the thought experiment as a way of demonstrating strong opposition to all theories of intelligent design.

Well, you will have guessed how Mathis/Stein handled this. I won't get the exact words right (we were forbidden to bring in recording devices on pain of a $250,000 fine, chillingly announced by some unnamed Gauleiter before the film began), but Stein said something like this. "What? Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN INTELLIGENT DESIGN." "Richard Dawkins BELIEVES IN ALIENS FROM OUTER SPACE." I can't remember whether this was the moment in the film where we were regaled with another Lord Privy Seal cut to an old science fiction movie with some kind of android figure — that may have been used in the service of trying to ridicule Francis Crick (again, dutiful titters from the partisan audience).

Enough on the film itself. Quite apart from anything else, it is drearily boring, the tedium exacerbated by the grating monotony of Stein's voice. At the end, Mathis came on the stage to answer questions. He had of course taken the precaution of removing the one individual whom he apparently saw as a likely source of knowledgeable questions, Professor Myers. He must have been surprised when I stood up and asked him to explain why he had expelled PZ, given that the film was an attack on such expulsions, and given that the film's acknowledgments had thanked PZ for his role in the film. Mathis trotted out the lie that Myers had been excluded because he was not invited. This seemed to satisfy the loyal audience, even though they presumably knew perfectly well that they hadn't been invited either, and that they, like PZ, had simply booked their seats on the Internet. I pursued the matter until the audience's hostile demeanour persuaded me that there was no point in continuing. The point was made to all whose minds were not completely blinded by religious zeal.

The New York Times picked up the story, and caught Mathis in the act of perpetrating yet another piece of dubious spin-doctoring.

Mark Mathis, a producer of the film who attended the screening, said that "of course" he had recognized Dr. Dawkins, but allowed him to attend because "he has handled himself fairly honorably, he is a guest in our country and I had to presume he had flown a long way to see the film."

As I said before, Mathis almost certainly detected Myers' name on the list of those who signed up on the Internet. Since my name was not on that list, it is highly likely that Mathis didn't spot me until the moment I stood up in the Question session, when it was too late to expel me. So all that stuff about allowing me to attend because I have handled myself fairly honourably is almost certainly dishonourable spinning. As for the implication that I might have flown all the way from England to see his disreputable film, the very idea is as ludicrous as the film itself. Like PZ Myers, I was in Minneapolis for the conference of the American Atheists.

Josh Timonen and Kristine Harley took up the cudgels. Josh drew attention to the digraceful victimization of scientists espousing the Stork Theory of reproduction, by hardline members of the 'Sex Theory' establishment. And Kristine asked Mathis to explain what had become of a film called Crossroads which had mysteriously morphed itself into Expelled. The import of her question was the widely known fact, which I have already mentioned, that PZ and I had been tricked into participating in Crossroads without ever being told that the true purpose of the film was the one conveyed by the later title Expelled -- the alleged expulsion of creationists from universities. Mathis said that it was common practice for films under production to have working titles, which later change in the final version. That is indeed true. However, yet again, Mathis shows himself up as a wilfull deceiver. As Kristine herself said on her blog (

It would appear that Expelled's producer Mark Mathis was not being truthful when he told me tonight that Crossroads was a 'working title' for the film Expelled. As Wesley Elsberry points out, the domain for Expelled was purchased before most, if not all, of the interviews were conducted -- and yet Richard Dawkins, Eugenie Scott, PZ Myers, and others were told they were being interviewed for a film called Crossroads.

Mr. Mark Mathis, do you want to come here and explain yourself?

Could Mathis have been sincere when he originally told PZ and me the film was an honest attempt to examine evolution and intelligent design? The evidence that they had already purchased the Expelled domain name argues against this. Certainly Mathis' friendly demeanour disarmed me into cooperating with him -- indeed, I went out of my way to HELP him on his visit to Britain -- in a way that I never would have if I had had the slightest suspicion that his outfit was in fact a creationist front. I may have misremembered the details of our exchanges, by eMail and by telephone, but I vividly remember his reassuring me, over the telephone, that he was on the side of science, and he made no attempt to distance himself from my sarcastic jokes about 'Intelligent Design'. I am reluctantly driven to wonder whether he is an inveterate liar, as well as a dreadful film-maker. Yet another example of Lying for Jesus?

Comments 1 - 50 of 9019 |

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1. Comment #148668 by Geoff on March 23, 2008 at 3:12 pm

 avatarCheers, Richard!

Other Comments by Geoff

2. Comment #148670 by sarah95 on March 23, 2008 at 3:19 pm

 avatarThanks, Richard. This was great. I've found your review of the "film" the most informative yet. I am ashamed that the ignorant and malicious audience came from my home state.

The bit I found most entertaining was this gem:
As for the implication that I might have flown all the way from England to see his disreputable film, the very idea is as ludicrous as the film itself. Like PZ Myers, I was in Minneapolis for the conference of the American Atheists.

Theism and conspiracy theory do tend to make people think the world revolves around them.

Other Comments by sarah95

3. Comment #148671 by Cassio on March 23, 2008 at 3:20 pm

 avatarWhile I sympathize with Richard's anger, this form of sarcastic ridicule is perhaps not the best way to react to "Expelled."

Other Comments by Cassio

4. Comment #148673 by hello_goodbye on March 23, 2008 at 3:22 pm

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

As always Richard (Dawkins) a very well written and witty document. It upsets me that people do not want to understand their 'opponents' view points but rather ridicule and actively lie at and about them without knowing anything at all in what they don't believe...I often wonder if they wonder what they do believe in as well.

If they honestly think anything surly look at it, then look at their opponents and then decide. Do not pick X, stick with X and laugh at others who pick not-X without knowing what not-X is.

again oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.

Other Comments by hello_goodbye

5. Comment #148674 by Chris H. on March 23, 2008 at 3:24 pm

Ben Stein has reached a low point in his career. He went from being a speech writer for a President, to being a second rate actor, to doing Clear Eye commercials, and finally a narrator for a Lord Privy Seal infested documentary.

Thanks for the documentary tip Dawkins.

Other Comments by Chris H.

6. Comment #148676 by Matt H. on March 23, 2008 at 3:28 pm

 avatarBravo Richard, I've been awaiting your response to this piece of trash for a while now, and what a cracking response it is.

Other Comments by Matt H.

7. Comment #148677 by Geoff on March 23, 2008 at 3:30 pm

 avatarChris, don't forget his disastrous financial advice column!

Cassio, I disagree, I think that's exactly the way to deal with it. Anything else would give it credibility it doesn't deserve.

Other Comments by Geoff

8. Comment #148678 by ThoughtsonCommonToad on March 23, 2008 at 3:31 pm

 avatarVery good. I wonder how the Stork question went down?

On a side not, does anyone know when Richard and PZ Myers discussion will be posted?

EDIT:Does anyone else think that the rule of no such thing as bad publicity applies? It does the cause of intelligent design harm no doubt, but who seriously thinks that was the film-makers main motivation? Who thinks the passion of the Christ's main motivation was to show Jesus' suffering and condemn the Jews? $$$?

Other Comments by ThoughtsonCommonToad

9. Comment #148679 by Bobington on March 23, 2008 at 3:33 pm

I still believe that Dawkins has undisclosed Ninja skills which allowed him to go unnoticed by security.

Other Comments by Bobington

10. Comment #148680 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 3:34 pm

 avatarOh dear...

Professor Dawkins understandably and rightly criticises the "Nazi trump-card" used in the film. Comparisons with the crimes of the Nazi-regimes are not to be made lightly - in fact they (rightly) carry so much emotional baggage that they obscure the matter at hand rather than enhance the understanding of it. They should be avoided if possible.

But then Professor Dawkins commits the same mistake, by calling the guy who anounced that there will be a very high fine for bringing a recording-device a "Gauleiter".

As much as I admire Professor Dawkins and his work - this was a blunder, especially in an article criticising a film in which just that is done - and what is a more, in an article that talks about the people from the other side metaphorically shooting themselves in the foot.

I do wonder what possesed one of our 'heroes of enlightenment' (and I mean that in the sincerest way possible) to commit that kind of blunder.

Other Comments by MPhil

11. Comment #148681 by eric.malitz on March 23, 2008 at 3:35 pm

Stein is the only Jewish ID proponent I can think of. I thought this movie would be good for a laugh, but apparantly not.

Other Comments by eric.malitz

12. Comment #148682 by acidhouser on March 23, 2008 at 3:37 pm

 avatarThere is now a torrent of the film up.
Not so sure I can stomach watching it after reading that.
Bad medicine.

Other Comments by acidhouser

13. Comment #148683 by DamnDirtyApe on March 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm

 avatarNicely done you guys.

Other Comments by DamnDirtyApe

14. Comment #148684 by The Soilworker on March 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm

 avatarWhile I AM sorry you had to sit through that schlock film (without PZ with you for good-natured under-your-breath film critique), I would have LOVED to see the look on Mathis' face when you stood up in the audience! Priceless! Oh the knots in his stomach and lumps in his throat! I can't wait to watch this film (and the nonsense it advocates) implode on itself...

Other Comments by The Soilworker

15. Comment #148685 by sane1 on March 23, 2008 at 3:38 pm

 avatarThanks for the writeup Richard. Thanks for clearly pointing out what a sad situation this dishonest film really is.

Other Comments by sane1

16. Comment #148686 by reedbraden on March 23, 2008 at 3:40 pm

 avatarThis article seems to have been written in haste. It isn't as easy to read and elegant as Richard usually writes. But what a brilliant article still! I want to see this schlock film laughed out of every theatre it plays in.

But seriously... did any of you think that a film narrated by Ben Stein would be interesting? Really?

Other Comments by reedbraden

17. Comment #148687 by righton on March 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

Thank you Richard. Well said as always. I think this clears up a lot of confusion that has been going around. I would give anything to have been at that movie theater.

Other Comments by righton

18. Comment #148688 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 3:41 pm

 avatarAddendum to my last post:

I do think a rewording would be appropriate. The more I think about it, the more I feel that Professor Dawkins should not let this stand.

Other Comments by MPhil

19. Comment #148689 by The Soilworker on March 23, 2008 at 3:46 pm

 avatarCalm down, MPhil:

Comparing scientists and Darwinian processes to Nazism and genocide is HARDLY on par with calling a puffed-up security/copyright enforcer a "Gauleiter". To be honest, I had to Wiki it to know what it was. I'm sure it was an analogy to the guard's inflection and "presence" rather than to his intent, which was the low road that EXPELLED took...

Other Comments by The Soilworker

20. Comment #148690 by LeroiJones on March 23, 2008 at 3:50 pm

 avatarThanks for posting that Richard. Has this story got into any of the UK newspapers yet?

Other Comments by LeroiJones

21. Comment #148692 by Dr Benway on March 23, 2008 at 3:52 pm

 avatarMPhil, you must appreciate the context:

- security ejecting PZ with threats of arrest
- warnings to the audience that "enemies" are trying to prevent the movie from being seen
- warnings that the FBI is involved
- warnings that stormtroopers - er, persons - would be patrolling the isles with night vision goggles to suss out illegal recording

If this doesn't justify the fascist analogy, what ever would?

I'm trying to imagine how I would feel, if I gave an interview for a film, and the film was being shown in my home town, and if I attended a screening, and if then, without explanation and with threats of arrest, I was ejected from the theater.

I would be absolutely livid. I would be outraged beyond words.

Something has gone terribly wrong with any society that thinks it's ok to treat people the way that PZ was treated by these people.

Other Comments by Dr Benway

22. Comment #148694 by Greywizard on March 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm

Ben Stein has reached a low point in his career. He went from being a speech writer for a President, to being a second rate actor, to doing Clear Eye commercials, and finally a narrator for a Lord Privy Seal infested documentary.

Does he have a career now?! Only in America?!

Other Comments by Greywizard

23. Comment #148695 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 3:54 pm

 avatarI'm confident you're right, The Soilworker...

...still, it's a Nazi-comparison nevertheless. Comparing someone to a Nazi-functionary in order to make a point that he was unpleasent, commanding and arrogant is very inadequate and morally questionable. The implications of such terminology go far beyond that...

I am completely calm - I just think it's highly inapropriate - especially in context with that article.

Other Comments by MPhil

24. Comment #148696 by CJ2116 on March 23, 2008 at 3:55 pm

 avatarExcellent article. What was Ben Stein thinking when he signed up for this gig?

Other Comments by CJ2116

25. Comment #148697 by Kamikaze Cricket on March 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm

What a fantastic example of ideological treason by incompetence and fear! A truly hilarious freebie victory for us!

However, I feel that I must question the fairness of labeling the policeman a "uniformed goon." After all, he was simply doing his job. Mathis was the true goon here.

Of course I was not present during the incident so this is merely a reaction to the language used to describe it.

I thoroughly enjoyed The God Delusion, by the way. I finished it last night and I plan to read it again, but with a pencil this time in order to help me prepare my own defense of atheism.

Other Comments by Kamikaze Cricket

26. Comment #148698 by Mark Smith on March 23, 2008 at 3:56 pm

If this doesn't justify the fascist analogy, what ever would?

And don't forget the film itself is aligning Darwinism (and by association, Dawkins) with nazism. He surely is justified in pointing out the irony.

Other Comments by Mark Smith

27. Comment #148699 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 3:58 pm


If this doesn't justify the fascist analogy, what ever would?

..being a functionary in a regime that strives to take over the world and kill, torture and enslave entire peoples as they see fit?

Other Comments by MPhil

28. Comment #148700 by Madmaili on March 23, 2008 at 3:58 pm

 avatarOne does not have to be well versed in biology or philosophy to understand the gigantic flaws of ID theory.While i can understand avoidance as a method of maintaining this myth I wonder if there is more to it ......Are people simply lying to themselves ? I wish I could lie to myself so convincingly.

Other Comments by Madmaili

29. Comment #148701 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 4:02 pm

The word Gauleiter as defined by the Oxford English dictionary also means 'an overbearing official', which is how most people use it today

Ah, see - I didn't know that. That explains it - but it doesn't change anything. Using such a term as an ordinary word to describe simply an overbearing official seems to me to be belittling the suffering of the victims of the Nazi-regime.

Maybe I'm a bit oversensitive - but I think taking care not to belittle the Nazi-regime, its crimes and the suffering of its victims is an honorable thing.

He surely is justified in pointing out the irony.
As I see it, the irony (sadly) is that he uses a Nazi-comparison in an article that criticises a film for making comparisons and allegations of allegiance with Naziism.

Other Comments by MPhil

30. Comment #148702 by Chris H. on March 23, 2008 at 4:03 pm


He was famous because of his monotonous voice. People during the 80's and 90's thought it was funny I suppose.

I still think it is funny...just not in this context.

Other Comments by Chris H.

31. Comment #148703 by KrisRamJ on March 23, 2008 at 4:06 pm

 avatarAwesome review, amazing events. Hopefully this movie will be about as popular as the fleas. When's TGD: The Movie out then?

Other Comments by KrisRamJ

32. Comment #148704 by Dr Benway on March 23, 2008 at 4:07 pm

 avatarLingering on my sense of outrage on PZ's behalf -

Have these Judeo-Christians never heard of the "Golden Rule," of treating others as you would be treated?

This movie is of course a political film. Ben Stein is a booster for the Republican Party. I just want to know when the next film about global warming and Hitler will be in theaters.

Other Comments by Dr Benway

33. Comment #148705 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 4:09 pm

When's TGD: The Movie out then?

You mean something like this:

The Root of All Evil?

Other Comments by MPhil

34. Comment #148706 by Socrates on March 23, 2008 at 4:10 pm

 avatarWell-done Richard! Please never stop reminding people that "Organized complexity cannot just spontaneously happen" and that "design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity." Eventually, it's got to sink in. Can you think of any ways you popularize these ideas, as explicitly and clearly expressed as possible?

Other Comments by Socrates

35. Comment #148707 by Kell on March 23, 2008 at 4:10 pm

But seriously... did any of you think that a film narrated by Ben Stein would be interesting? Really?

Yes, really, did anyone? Class? Anyone? Anyone? Class...?

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36. Comment #148708 by Duff on March 23, 2008 at 4:11 pm

A "gauleiter" is not necessarily a reference to nazism. A gau is a region, or division, and a leiter is a leader. But, since the Expelled boys are the ones invoking concentration camps, I think Professor Dawkins use of the word, even in that context, is perfectly acceptable.

You may object to ridicule, but I'm a firm believer, like the late Lord Reith, that there are some people whom it is one's duty to offend. And ridicule. Suck it up and get over it!

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37. Comment #148709 by Robb.B on March 23, 2008 at 4:18 pm

fantastic post

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38. Comment #148710 by Eamonn Shute on March 23, 2008 at 4:19 pm

more than 40 other blogs that have picked up the story

It is now over 100 and counting!

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39. Comment #148711 by Glen Davidson on March 23, 2008 at 4:20 pm

The truth is that you could not sign up for the "private screenings" at the regular Expelled or Getexpelled websites. The site you got to at the latter was:

But that only had events up into January.

The "private screenings" website is this one:

It used to have the remaining screenings. It is most likely the one that PZ Myers used, and it was not easy to find (I found it and put it onto Pharyngula, AtBC, Atheistnetwork, FCS, PT, and Talkorigins). But in any case, it was out on the web and the search engines, only not so easy to find as to merely go to the Expelled website.

Glen Davidson

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40. Comment #148712 by rod-the-farmer on March 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

 avatarI tend to agree with MPhil. The use of the words "goon" and "Gauleiter" are slightly over the top, and for someone as articulate as the good Professor, I am sure he could have found words less demeaning/inflammatory. After all, we ARE trying to take the high road when debating with these characters.

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41. Comment #148713 by clearthinker on March 23, 2008 at 4:24 pm

Dr Dawkins,

Could you please tell us what Mark Mathis has to do with Jesus? How do you know his motivation for lying was 'for Jesus'? Is this not just another cheap shot in a rather silly 'culture' war?

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42. Comment #148714 by Mark Smith on March 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm

I understand where you are coming from. An insinuation of naziism is pretty serious. But an ironic reference by RD need not be taken that way, and I doubt very much that is what he intended. I think he intended simply to point up the irony of PZ's treatment given the attempt by the film to tar Darwinism with naziism.

Of course, politically, it can be and often is a mistake for well known people to use the ambiguous language necessary for irony and wit, because it is open to misinterpretation and even malicious interpretation. In my view, though, that is a different matter.

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43. Comment #148715 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 4:25 pm

A "gauleiter" is not necessarily a reference to nazism. A gau is a region, or division, and a leiter is a leader.

While the analysis is correct, the first part isn't.
"Gau" comes from Old High German "Gouwe" and was already severely antiquated in the early 20th century. The Nazis invoked it (and other antiquated terminology) to giva off an air of upholding old, honourable traditions and returning to the 'glory' of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation.

The term "Leiter" is absolutely common, even today - but the term "Gauleiter" was solely used by the Nazis in the German language.

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44. Comment #148716 by MIDVALCRE on March 23, 2008 at 4:27 pm

I can only imagine the cold water shock Mathis felt when seeing world reknown Richard Dawkins, the lead devil's advocate stand up to ask a question in the Q A session. Could anyone actually hear the sweat beads form from his pores? Did he stammer? How I wish there WAS video of that.

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45. Comment #148717 by Steve Zara on March 23, 2008 at 4:29 pm

 avatarDr Benway wrote:

I would be absolutely livid. I would be outraged beyond words.

Something has gone terribly wrong with any society that thinks it's ok to treat people the way that PZ was treated by these people.

I agree. Myers' restraint was admirable.

The use of a security guard was offensive and cowardly. If there was an issue with Myers' presence it should have been dealt with in person.

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46. Comment #148718 by MPhil on March 23, 2008 at 4:30 pm

I think he intended simply to point up the irony of PZ's treatment given the attempt by the film to tar Darwinism with naziism.

If that is the case, I agree it is appropriate... and in that case I take back my suggestion of reformulating it. I'm simply not certain it was meant that way - but I do hope it was.

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47. Comment #148719 by Socrates on March 23, 2008 at 4:31 pm

 avatarCan anyone think of ways we can you popularize the ideas that "Organized complexity cannot just spontaneously happen" and that "design can never be an ULTIMATE explanation for organized complexity", as explicitly and clearly expressed as possible?

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48. Comment #148720 by RobDinsmore on March 23, 2008 at 4:34 pm

 avatarI blame Darwinian evolution for Hitler. What else am I supposed to blame, Satan?

sorry I couldn't resist the inappropriate and unfunny attempt at humor

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49. Comment #148722 by Glen Davidson on March 23, 2008 at 4:40 pm

Cross-post from a post I made at Skatje's review:

That's one of the funniest things these bozos believe, that if someone can accept that aliens made of ordinary matter and using ordinary physics just could make life, why couldn't a magical elf, Thor, or Yahweh do the same thing?

You know how they're "thinking," purely religiously. If an non-omniscient alien can do it, surely God can. Whereas Dawkins is thinking, "aliens might very well have evolved by known means," so grant that aliens making life is possible. God, of course, is not known to be a possibility on any level.

It's sheer religious bias, something that Stein seems utterly incapable of recognizing.

Glen D

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50. Comment #148725 by Geoff on March 23, 2008 at 4:54 pm

 avatarClearthinker, lets see now.

The maker of a creationist film? OK, could be lying for Allah, not Jesus, I suppose, although it seems unlikely.

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