Ben Stein Plays Dirty With ScientistsBen Stein's big movie about how evolution haters are ruthlessly marginalized is working its way toward release, and in the meantime the loopy New York Times columnist is having fun marginalizing real scientists who want to see the film, including two who appeared in the movie and were thanked in the credits. One evolutionary biologist, PZ Myers of the University of Minnesota, signed up on the Web for a free screening of Stein's film, Expelled, then got tossed out of line because he wasn't sympathetic to the cause. But his buddy, Darwinist Richard Dawkins of Oxford, got in - this is what happens when you try and hold a creationist pep rally while an atheism conference is in town - and filed a review of the film (shocker: thought it sucked), including this summary of how Stein twisted his words:

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...



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...



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).

Another gem from Dawkins' post: Stein's team went around telling scientists they wanted to interview that their film was tentatively called Crossroads, only later to change the title to Expelled, which is apparently a giveaway that the movie was going to be pro-creationism. They claimed to have decided on the title only after interviews were complete. Turns out? They had registered the domain name ExpelledTheMovie.com well before talking to the scientists.

[Dawkins via Daringfireball]