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Sunday, April 20, 2008

The Expelled film: The box office and other important stuff

Many people were hoping that the Expelled documentary about the suppression of evidnce for intelligent design of the uiverse and life forms would tank at the box office. It seems to have stayed in the top ten, opening on many fewer screens than the films that ranked higher. Says Entertainment Weekly:

Also of note, Ben Stein's political/science documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed (No. 9) earned $3.2 mil. That's a very respectable total for a documentary, although non-fiction fare rarely opens in 1,052 theaters, as this right-leaning movie did. It's also, as you'll no doubt read elsewhere, substantially smaller than the $23.9 mil that the left-leaning Fahrenheit 9/11 debuted with in 2004 — but I'm not sure that's a fair comparison given how Michael Moore's film was about a much more resonant topic, had broad mainstream buzz, and opened during the summer.

Nevertheless, Expelled performed much better than the weekend's other new current-affairs documentary, Where in the World Is Osama Bin Laden? That movie, the second feature from Super Size Me's Morgan Spurlock, banked a mere $143,299 in 102 locations, for a terrible $1,405 average.

Here's Daily Box Office on the details.

One source, Darwinian Fundamentalism, notes,
The full weekend estimates for Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed are in, and these numbers indicate that it will end up doing 43% better than expectations. Before the weekend, I found 3 estimates which averaged $2.2 million. The indications are that it will end up at $3.153 million, which is 43% above estimates and a huge opening for a documentary.

Several important observations: while it ended up 9th overall, it ended up #5 in per screen average, and #3 in per screen average on Sunday. This is a very key number, because it means it was successful for theater owners, and they are likely to keep it around longer.

My own view is that Expelled's biggest enemy will be the people who are disappointed that it is not a holler for Jesus. I am hearing from some of them already (or would be if I hadn't turned the sound off).

Also, Vic Holtreman at Screen Rant offers a surprisingly sensible estimation of the critics' frothing over the Expelled documentary. He begins by observing that

Your opinion of the film will with almost complete certainty be predicted by your opinions on Darwinism vs Intelligent Design.

Yes, exactly. In consequence, most reviews are a waste of time. You should see the film yourself.

It all reminds me of the frantic campaign by Darwin fans to pull down the ratings of the critical Design of Life textbook supplement. It didn't work, but the effort they put into it was pretty impressive.

Also, David Klinghoffer comments on the link between Darwin and Hitler:
The Darwin-Hitler connection is no recent discovery. In her classic 1951 work The Origins of Totalitarianism, Hannah Arendt wrote: “Underlying the Nazis’ belief in race laws as the expression of the law of nature in man, is Darwin’s idea of man as the product of a natural development which does not necessarily stop with the present species of human being.”

The standard biographies of Hitler almost all point to the influence of Darwinism on their subject. In Hitler: A Study in Tyranny, Alan Bullock writes: “The basis of Hitler’s political beliefs was a crude Darwinism.” What Hitler found objectionable about Christianity was its rejection of Darwin’s theory: “Its teaching, he declared, was a rebellion against the natural law of selection by struggle and the survival of the fittest.”

John Toland’s Adolf Hitler: The Definitive Biography says this of Hitler’s Second Book published in 1928: “An essential of Hitler’s conclusions in this book was the conviction drawn from Darwin that might makes right.”
For more on Hitler's "Second Book (Zweites Buch)", go here.

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Expelled: Not your father's documentary?

Matt Barber's take is that the Expelled movie is Darwin's Kool-aid:
This is not your father's documentary. Expelled rocks the house both literally and figuratively. It's gripping, music-packed, comically wry and always entertaining. But its entertainment value is yet surpassed by its educational merit. Throughout the film, Stein boldly shines a light of honest inquiry, revealing time and again that Evolution's Emperor has no clothes. In his trademark deadpan fashion, Stein skillfully debunks the dogmatic neo-Darwinist programming we've all had relentlessly rammed down our throats ever since Big Science went bananas over that cute little Scopes Monkey

[ ... ]

Nonetheless, there are those who won't like it, not one little bit.

Indeed, and we will be hearing from those who don't like it for months, disproportionate to their numbers and irrelevant to the film's box office and DVD sales.

Our fathers' documentary would seek to convince us that Big Science is right, irrespective of contrary evidence or disreputable behaviour. That sort of thing is slowly changing, and I am almost beginning to think that our culture could be renewing itself.


Earth to planet D'Souza - check your space time co-ordinates before wading deeper into Darwinism-ID controversy

Recently, Dinesh D'Souza, whom I generally respect, has gone on a sort of campaign to convince the public that Darwinism works as a science theory but it is taught in such a way as to promote atheism.

He's right about the atheism. For example, he notes,
Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson writes in his widely-assigned book On Human Nature: "If humankind evolved by Darwinian natural selection, genetic chance and environmental necessity, not God, made the species."

Biologist Stephen Jay Gould writes in his essay in the book Darwin's Legacy: "No intervening spirit watches lovingly over the affairs of nature...whatever we think of God, his existence is not manifest in the products of nature."

Douglas Futuyma asserts in his textbook Evolutionary Biology: "By coupling undirected, purposeless variation to the blind, uncaring process of natural selection, Darwin made theological or spiritual explanations of the life processes superfluous."

Biologist William Provine writes, "Modern science directly implies that there are no inherent moral or ethical laws...We must conclude that when we die, we die, and that is the end of us." Evolution, Provine has also said, is the "greatest engine of atheism."

In his essay on "Darwin's Revolution" in the book Creative Evolution, Francisco Ayala credits Darwin with proving that life is "the result of a natural process...without any need to resort to a Creator."

but then, remarkably, D'Souza announces,
Most Christians don't care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether evolution can account for macroevolution or only microevolution. What they care about is that Darwinism, which is “chance alone” or “by mere accident” evolution, is being used to deny God as the Creator. For those who are concerned about this atheism masquerading as science, there is a better way. Instead of trying to get unscientific ID theories included in the classroom, a better strategy would be to get the unscientific atheist propaganda out.

Now, this is so wrong, it is hard to know where to begin, so I will make only three points:

1. Natural selection is simply the fact that only those life forms that possess a narrow band of traits are likely to survive to produce offspring. So natural selection explains why all wild dogs tend to look alike but tame dogs, segregated from nature and bred by artificial (not natural) selection, can look very different from each other. These differences are not caused by the evolution of new traits, but by the development of latent existing traits that would not permit a dog to survive in nature. The same is true of horses, incidentally. There are very few examples of natural selection acting on random mutations so as to cause the evolution of new structures. That was precisely what Darwin's theory asserted, and it is simply wrong, as Michael Behe shows in Edge of Evolution.

2. Most major changes in life forms - for example, the Avalon and Cambrian explosions, occur very suddenly in geological time, not slowly, as Darwin's theory needs. So whatever happened, natural selection was not likely the cause.

3. I find D'Souza's glib assertion,
Most Christians don't care whether the eye evolved by natural selection or whether evolution can account for macroevolution or only microevolution.
troubling to say the least. Many of us oppose Darwinism because it is a false official account of the history of life, and thus a major obstacle to developing a correct account. We want to provide accurate information. If "most Christians don't care" it is either because they do not know the facts or because they do know them, but do not mind promoting falsehoods. Either situation is a cause for concern.

D'Souza then naively insists,
No need to produce creationist or ID critiques of Darwinism. All that is necessary is to parade the atheist claims that have made their way into the biology textbooks and biology lectures.
Oh? Darwinism is passionately embraced precisely because it promotes atheism, as the luminaries that D'Souza quotes amply demonstrate. Such people do not usually embrace the much better attested Big Bang theory with any similar passion because that does not promote atheism, but rather the reverse. (And remember, 78 percent of evolutionary biologists are pure naturalists - no God and no free will.)

If D'Souza imagines that the courts will prevent these people from using tax funds to promote their propaganda, he does not know North America as well as he thinks.

My sense is that Dinesh D'Souza, having performed ably in many areas, has now wandered into one that he does not really know and has not given himself the trouble of researching carefully. I hope he rectifies this error soon. He could begin by reading serious ID books like Edge of Evolution and The Design of Life.

Note: Here's D'Souza making more sense on origin of life.


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1. Time pressure. Interest in both the intelligent design controversy and the mind vs. materialism controversy has exploded. I cannot manage all my current desks nor train people fast enough without cutting back on all non-essential activities.

2. Canada's current "human rights" regime has created significant difficulties for bloggers with comboxes for which they are responsible. I am one of the people campaigning for reform, but I don't know when or whether reform will happen. If you want to know more about that kind of thing, go here or here.

If reform happens and I have the time, I will reenable the combox.

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