Kevin Mooney and Josiah Ryan | Staff Writers | Wednesday, April 2, 2008
Dawkins - an Oxford University professor, biologist, and author of "The God Delusion" - attempted to gain entry to a private screening of the film, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," on March 20 in Bloomington, Minn., as did Myers, a biology professor at the University of Minnesota.
Dawkins was successful; Myers was not.
However, Myers managed to intrude upon a telephone press conference call the next day that included Ben Stein, the film's narrator, and the film's producers.
"Expelled" calls attention to the plight of highly credentialed scholars who have been forced out of prestigious academic positions because they proposed Intelligent Design as a possible alternative to Charles Darwin's 150-year-old theories about the origins of life .
Instead of entertaining a debate on the merits of competing theories, the scientific establishment has moved to suppress the ID movement in a "systematic and ruthless" way at odds with America's founding principles, the film asserts.
The private screenings are designed to help build grassroots support for the film and to call attention to the mistreatment of scientists who are working to open new doors of inquiry that could help to advance human knowledge, Mark Mathis, an associate producer for the film, said in an interview.
A computer glitch, however, made it possible for certain individuals to RSVP to some screenings when they in fact had not been invited, Mathis said. The same glitch also occurred on March 19 in Boston where at least 30 percent of the audience members were antagonistic toward the film's message, he said.
Although the filmmakers noticed that Dawkins had arrived at the Minneapolis screening uninvited, they decided to let him in anyway after he signed in as "Clinton Dawkins," Mathis said.
Meanwhile, about a half hour into a telephone press conference last Friday - designed to allow reporters to question Stein and the film's producers - a caller identified himself as PZ Myers after he had been patched into the call and demanded the producers cease and desist from supposedly twisting the truth.
"You do know that both PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins have posted substantial criticism of your movie don't you?" said Myers.
Prompting laughter and astonishment from Stein, the producers, and the reporters on the conference call, Stein said to Myers, "You are a very persistent person."
Mathis asked Myers to leave the call, saying, "Mr. Myers, as you have done previously with trying to sneak into the film, you have come uninvited to this call, and I am going to ask you to do the honorable thing."
Myers responded: "You will ask me to do the honorable thing while you do the dishonorable thing of continuing your policy of lies."
At the screening that Dawkins entered, Myers also tried to enter but was spotted by an "Expelled" staffer.
Mathis told Cybercast News Service that for months Myers has been disseminating information through his blog about the film that is not accurate and for this reason he was asked to leave.
Mathis said Myers is welcome to see the movie but he wants him to pay admission "like everybody else. I don't want this person seeing our film for free," Mathis said. "I want him to come back on [April] the 18th and pay his own money."
Although Myers and dozens of blogs have seized on the idea that the "Expelled" filmmakers, who complain about scientists being expelled from academia are now doing the same thing, Mathis said that the real irony is being missed.
"Myers is free to see the film once it is officially released," said Mathis. "But those individuals who have devoted their lives to scientific study might not ever regain their posts after exploring new avenues of inquiry simply because they do not concur with the Darwinian view."
After the Minneapolis screening ended, the filmmakers fielded questions from the audience. Dawkins demanded to know why his friend Myers was not permitted into the screening, said Mathis.
"Most of what he had to say did not have anything to do with the content of the film," said Mathis. "He did get into how we did the interviews under false pretenses, which is not true. And then I said, 'Who invited you? This is a private screening. You are here under false pretenses,' I said as a dig back at him."
Stein - a former White House speechwriter who now works as a Hollywood actor - interviewed academics and scientists on both sides of the debate throughout the film.
Dawkins and Myers are outspoken proponents of evolutionary theory who have been critical of "Expelled." They contend the film is edited and crafted in a duplicitous and misleading manner that misrepresents their views, but Mathis denied that and said the interviews were not set up under false pretenses.
Dawkins discussed this episode and other aspects of the film in his own blog.
In the film, Dawkins revealed that his belief in evolution helped to push him toward a belief in atheism. "I'm bad news for the science lobby," Dawkins said in an interview with Stein.
If called to testify in a court case, he could not deny the connection between Darwinism and atheism, Dawkins said in the film.
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