Expelled creators only want some people to preview it

ScienceBlogs blogger PZ Myers was pulled out of a theater queue and told he would not be allowed to preview Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at a screening at the University of Minnesota last night. The organizers of the event did permit Myers’ family and their guest, noted biologist Richard Dawkins, in, however. Myers and Dawkins both appear — somewhat unwillingly — in the movie. Myers is a UM biologist and an atheist, and excoriates creationism and Intelligent Design regularly in his blog. If the creators of Expelled have a dartboard in their office, Myers’ photo is probably thumbtacked to it. In order to attend a preview of the movie, you visit their site and register for the screening. Registrants have to provide name, address, email and phone number.* Myers is well known in his town, and on the blogosphere, so his registration probably alerted their watchdogs. Either that, or they were specifically looking for him in the crowd. Dawkins, another well known “evilutionist,” was spotted later in the audience. As this eyewitness report on the Expelled website puts it, he was “crashing the party.” (The report also alleges Myers tried to sneak in without a ticket. No tickets were required, ...

Happy vernal equinox!

At 1:48 am tonight (the 20th), the Sun will be right on the celestial equator. At sunrise, it will come up due east of your location. We northern hemisphere dwellers call this event the vernal (as in spring) equinox. Southern hemisphere types call it the autumnal equinox. Either way, for one day, we each get about 12 hours of day and 12 of night. Ancient civilizations held big celebrations around the time of the equinox, since it marked both the end of winter (in the northern hemisphere, anyway) and the beginning of the planting season. Two religious observances, Passover and Easter, are tied to the season. Easter bunnies and Easter eggs are signs of fertility and reproduction, celebrating the rebirth of the land in spring. Speaking of eggs, it’s a myth that the only time you can balance an egg on its end is during the equinox. In fact, you can do it any old time. The Bad Astronomer, Phil Plait, shows you how here:

Academic freedom or academic tomfoolery? 1

The Ben Stein movie, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” champions academic freedom, purporting to demonstrate how faculty who believe in Intelligent Design or Creationism are being forced from their jobs by some kind of “evolutionist” hegemony. The movie, which I have not seen, supports the opinion that someone who does not accept the theory of evolution cannot debate or question the theory in the classroom without fear of reprisal. The rights of anti-evolution faculty and students must be protected, the movie’s creators claim. It’s another version of the “teach the controversy” canard that IDists and creationists have been passing around for the last few years. First, they create a false controversy (many people doubt evolution is valid). Second, they contend that “evolutionists” are forcing this “controversial” theory down students’ throats. Then, they insist that other theories must be given “equal time” somehow in the classroom to give students a full education. This strategy to introduce ID and creationism in the public school classrooms failed miserably in Dover, Penn., after a federal judge (a Republican appointee) ruled that ID was just another form of creationism, that is, it was religion. Therefore, he said, ID cannot be taught in a public school without ...

Florida lawmakers stand up ‘Expelled’ date 3

Ben Stein’s crowd invited Florida legislators to a private screening of “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” the so-called exposé of intellectual bullying of Intelligent Design/creationism advocates. Only a hundred people showed up. Some blockbuster … Renting the IMAX theater for the screening cost the movie’s marketing company $940. I’m not sure they got their money’s worth. Might have been cheaper to ship each legislator a DVD of the flick, to use as a coaster. Details are here. Hat tip to PZ Myers at Pharyngula.

The perils (?) of high fructose corn syrup 2

The idea for this entry came from one of my ninth graders, who was trying to convince a fellow student that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) is bad for you. He thinks it’s some kind of “liberal” thing, and wanted more evidence. M. (the anti-corn syrup student) looked to me for support. Since biochemistry is not my strong suit, I demurred, but said I had heard that HFCS created some health problems. Specifically, based on evidence provided by her physician father, M. says HFCS blocks the receptors in the brain that tell the body when it’s had enough to eat. Eating or drinking food with HFCS as an ingredient fools the body into thinking it’s still hungry. Thus, M. says, there is a causal link between HFCS consumption and over-eating. (Well, she didn’t exactly put it that way, but it’s what she meant.) I wish her luck convincing A., her classmate. After poking the Internet for verification of this causality, I’m sure of two things. One, I’m glad I don’t do nutrition or biology research; there are too many variables. I’ll stick with physics, thank you. And two, lay readers take scientific research and extrapolate and/or exaggerate the findings to ...

Vatican plans Galileo statue, 400 years after his trial for heresy

It took a while, but the Roman Catholic Church has finally accepted Galileo was right after all. A statue of the 17th century scientist is planned for the Vatican Gardens. Four centuries ago, Galileo’s image would instead have been on the Vatican’s post office “most wanted, feared armed with pen and dangerous” bulletin board. He stepped on a lot of ecclesiastical toes, including the Pope’s (never a good career move for a Catholic), by stating in print for all to read that the Church was wrong about the Sun orbiting the Earth. Instead, Galileo, using observational evidence obtained with a telescope of his own design, argued that Polish astronomer and cleric Nicolaus Copernicus was correct. The Earth and the other planets orbit the Sun. Galileo insinuated that the Bible, the Church and Greek philosopher Aristotle were all wrong in teaching the Earth was stationary. We know now Galileo was correct. In fact, the Vatican might have suspected the same even while arresting and trying Galileo for heresy. After all, Copernicus intended that the Church use his work in developing a new calendar, which it did in 1582. It was Galileo’s attitude that ticked off Church authorities, who were in the ...

Get Expelled? Get real! 8

In my snailmail box today was a postcard from the purveyors of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a film that argues how “evolutionists” are quashing intellectual debate by keeping intelligent design out of science classrooms. The shill for this flick, which two film reviewers have panned, is comic actor Ben Stein, of Ferris Bueller, game-show and eye-drop commercial fame. His name appears above the film’s title, as he co-wrote the script and appears in the flick. His head is pasted onto the poorly dressed “school-boy” model’s body above. The postcard invites teachers to enter a contest to win “up to $10,000 for your school” by getting as many people to see the film in the theatres and sending their ticket stubs to the getexpelled.com website. As if I would. While the Expelled creators are actively recruiting educators to bolster ticket sales, they have actively discouraged anyone invited to preview the film from disclosing anything about it. This, I might add, contradicts the standard Hollywood practice of allowing advance publicity about theatrical releases. Those invited to preview the film had to sign a non-disclosure agreement, saying they would not discuss the film with anyone nor publish anything about it. They were probably ...

Happy Leap Day!

It’s Feb. 29, the day the Gregorian calendar adds (almost) every four years to bring the calendar in line with the apparent motion of the Sun across the heavens. Our calendar normally has 365 days in it, but the purpose of the civil calendar is partly to keep the equinoxes and solstices on the same days each year. Trouble is, the Earth takes a little more than 365 days to orbit the Sun, so over time the calendar “runs slow,” losing almost a day every four years. Since we can’t slow down the Earth in its orbit, the Gregorian calendar adds a day every four years to keep it in step with the Earth. It’s not precise, actually. Earth refuses to observe our petty attempts at scheduling the solstices and equinoxes, and actually takes about 365.2422 days to orbit the Sun, instead of the more convenient 365.25 days. So the additional leap day every four years, over the course of 400 years, means the calendar would be about 3 days ahead of the Earth’s motion. The Gregorian calendar fixes that little detail by adjusting the add-a-day rule. The rule is a bit obscure. It goes like this (sing along if ...

Creationist lies and innuendos

Ken Ham, the Aussie creationist that brought Kentucky the Creation Museum, has published a new book of lies that says the theory of evolution fuels racism and genocide. Ham and his co-author-in-crime Charles Ware, president of Crossroads Bible College in Indianapolis, have written Darwin’s Plantation: Evolution’s Racist Roots, arguing that the theory inspired the Nazi belief in racial superiority and the despotism of Soviet dictator Josef Stalin. “What Darwinian evolution did I would say is provide what people thought was a scientific justification for separation of races,” Ham said in an interview with the Associated Press. Uhh, wrong … what weed are these guys smoking? Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species says nothing about the superiority of one human race over another. Social scientists and politicians warped Darwin’s idea of “survival of the fittest” to justify their abuse of power, but to blame Darwin for the Holocaust and Stalin’s purges is just a lie, plain and simple. Rather than deal with evolution in an intelligent manner, Ham and Ware are throwing stones at biology’s underlying theory in an attempt to discredit it. Their hidden agenda is to associate evolution with racism so much that clueless school boards (like the ...

In Ireland and the UK, ‘Obi-Wan’ is not a nice man 5

In the interests of free expression and free press, I am jumping on the bandwagon to publicize the quashing of a fellow blogger’s criticism of a homeopathic “doctor,” Joseph Chikelue Obi. Le Canard Noir, a skeptic who runs the Quackometer blog, wrote a couple of articles about Obi, a self-styled expert in all things medical, in which the Black Duck implies that Obi is full of shit. Obi then promptly threatened the blogger with a libel suit, and the blogger’s web host forced Le Canard Noir to pull the offending posts. Libel laws there favor the complainant, not the defendant, so a libel suit would have expensive and perhaps damaging to the blogger and the web host. Fellow bloggers are coming to Le Canard’s assistance and reprinting his articles on their sites, partly to stick it to Obi but mostly to print the truth. So-called medical practitioners like Obi are frauds trying to hide their medical quackery (and thriving businesses) behind the screen of libel laws. So, these posts may seem like they are out of context here, but I am trying to serve the higher good by reprinting them verbatim. ============== Right Royal College of Pompous Quackery – Dublin, ...
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