False Accusations of Dishonesty: Jonathan Adler and Expelled the Movie
Jonathan Adler, on the widely read blog The Volokh Conspiracy, gives his post the title "ID Documentary Deception," and says:
In early 2008, Premise films will release Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary film featuring Ben Stein arguing that those who believe in "Intelligent Design" face persecution in the academy and scientific institutions. For the movie, the producers arranged interviews with prominent scientists who point out that ID is not a scientific theory or who argue against a belief in God. Yet according to this NYT story, the film producers explained they were with a different production company and making a movie about the intersection of faith and belief, rather than about the alleged persecution of ID proponents.
To start out, Adler gets one key fact totally wrong: they explained that they were making a movie about the "intersection of science and religion," not the intersection of faith and belief" (which would not seem like much of an intersection). He also does not disclose that Premise Films and Rampant Films are part of the same company.
Here is the letter that PZ Myers got, asking if he would agree to be interviewed:
Hello Mr. Myers,
My name is Mark Mathis. I am a Producer for Rampant Films. We are currently in production of the documentary film, "Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion."
At your convenience I would like to discuss our project with you and to see if we might be able to schedule an interview with you for the film. The interview would take no more than 90 minutes total, including set up and break down of our equipment.
We are interested in asking you a number of questions about the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.
Please let me know what time would be convenient for me to reach you at your office. Also, could you please let me know if you charge a fee for interviews and if so, what that fee would be for 90 minutes of your time.
I look forward to speaking with you soon.
So the letter states that they will be asked questions about "the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement," and that the working title was "Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion." Is the new film about those topics? From the trailers it is clear that it is. The overview on the web site states this:
Ben realizes that he has been “Expelled,” and that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired – for the “crime” of merely believing that there might be evidence of “design” in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance.
Does this mean that the film is not about the intersection of religion and science or "the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement"? Of course it does not. What is interesting is that so many people, such as Adler, Cornelia Dean, Eugenie Scott and Richard Dawkins, think that one subject area excludes the other. This is simply bad logic. The original letter talks of the general subject matter, while the trailer and web site for the film talks about the editorial angle they pursued and how they decided to market it. The film is "about" what they said it was about. I do not see any deception.
I think this shows that for some people, the only proper editorial angle is the Scopes Trial Mythology, and not the Scopes-In-Reverse dynamic, which the film documents. The impression I get is that the people complaining were misled not by the producers or Ben Stein, but by their own prejudices, stereotypes and unfounded expectations.
Did all the people complaining sign release forms? They apparently did. What did these forms say? What was disclosed in these forms? Adler, a law professor writing on a law blog, does not seem to care.
What is also interesting is that all these complaints are coming before anyone has seen the film! Jumping to conclusions and making false accusations before seeing the evidence is not good science.