Mar 22, 2008

"Here's how it is..."

Thursday night, Grant and I went to see an advanced screening of Expelled, the new movie by Ben Stein documenting the lack of academic professional when it comes to the concept of Intelligent Design (ID). Originally, the pastor of our church was invited, but due to travel plans, gave his invitation to Grant. Grant then RSVPed for both him and I to attend this free, no tickets required, screening.

Before the movie, I witnessed from no more than five feet away a man being asked to leave because he wasn't invited and, according to theatre management, "didn't have a ticket." I thought nothing of this at the time; security was already tight, actual police officers were present, and we had been warned previously not to bring in any bags, cameras, or cell phones. It wasn't til after the screening that the importance of that man being turned away was revealed.

Following the film's conclusion, one of the producers of the piece, Mark Mathis, hosted a brief Q&A. The second question was asked by a rather eloquent British gentleman, who we all had just seen projected on the theatre screen: Richard Dawkins, premiere atheist, neo-Evolutionish, and professor at Oxford. Perhaps you know him as the author of The God Delusion. Having Dawkins show up at a screening of "Expelled" would be the equivalent of having George W. Bush show up after a screening of "Fahrenheit 9/11."

Dawkins initially asked two questions. The first was why was his friend Dr. Myers, a professor at University of Minnesota - Morris and another person interviewed for the film, not allowed to attend and was in fact that same man that was turned away? Mark Mathis answered this question by simply stating that Myers was not invited, and neither were you, Dr. Hawkins. Hawkins second question was more of a protest, really. He claimed that everything he said in that movie was in fact under the assumption that he was being filmed for a different movie known as Crossroads, a movie that supposedly was not "pro-Creation" and was more evenhanded.

Mathis politely explained that "Crossroads" was the working title of the film at the time, and it and many other titles were debated until "Expelled" was finally chosen. (Since then, it has been revealed that "Expelled" was registered months in advance, and "Crossroads" never was. But how does that contradict anything Mathis said? Are you not able to copyright multiple prospective titles for a film in advance?) Mathis also appeared to continue an old argument him and Dawkins had had before, that Dawkins was not in any way deceived, knew full well what movie he was being interviewed for, etc.

Overall, a pretty exciting and eventful night. Grant and I even managed to snag one of the posters they had hung up for the evening.

When I got home, I wrote up a brief review of the film and the events surrounding it and sent it off to Jeffrey Overstreet, who published it on his Looking Closer blog.

I went to bed shortly thereafter. When I woke up, the first thing I checked was of course Jeffrey's blog. Seeing several dozen comments was a bit daunting. But then I checked my email, and discovered that many people had discovered my "Stu Station" blog, and had seen fit to leave many hateful spam messages on numerous blog posts. You know, the usual "why are you a liar??", "God is just as fictional as the grinch" (irony on that one, ask Grant or I sometime), and of course the base "you should be ashamed of yourself for defaming this man!"

I deleted most of them. I left at least one, which appeared to be the form letter "inviting" Dr. Myers to the event. I assume he left it, although it was of course unsigned, as were most of the comments (although I did recognize the blog name of one, as I had read him once or twice).

Cowriter of the film, Kevin Miller, picked up the story. Christianity Today picked up the story (woohoo!). Other film reviewers, such as Peter Chattaway, picked up the story and reported it. Later on, so did the Pioneer Press and the New York Times, but I didn't get any love from them. (Why should I? I wrote about the opposite thing they wanted to report on.)

Ok, Blogger is screwy. PZ Myers wrote a quickie blog post detailing his "joy" at getting kicked out of the movie. That is not all he wrote though:

Stuart Blessman, the student at UM who made that claim at the lookingcloser blog, is a liar.

A shameful liar and a disgrace to the university...We do have some idiots who get enrolled at this university. I like to think that they're a minority, but I'm rather surprised that someone so ethically challenged is a student here.

Yup, that's me. Can't say I'm really ashamed of anything though.

So what's the bottom line of all this? Free publicity for "Expelled" of course...more book sales for Richard recognition, and a victim complex, for PZ Myers...and a new record on Looking Closer for unique visitors (you are so very welcome, Jeffrey! Lets do lunch sometime).

BTW, for a really decent review of the content of the film, with many SPOILERS, you can't do much better than PZ Myers' own daughter's blog. (EDIT - I guess this is his daughter's blog. I just read the post about the movie, and the site I used to find her article said it was Myers' son who wrote the blog. My sincere apologies.) I'm sure you can tell that the review is slanted, a little, but you gotta respect a kid who stands up for his own dad. It is interesting that of all the reviews and pans of the film I've read online, they are almost all focused on the quality of the film making itself, and not on the content or ideas expressed in the film. (Just to cut off a comment or two - perhaps the reason for this is that the content is not worth "even insulting a child with", to quote a professor in "Expelled.")

It appears that several people are interested in continuing this discussion on my blog. I welcome good comments related to "Expelled" and my account of what happened at the screening...but as soon as people start attacking my other blog posts (other than rational, debative thought) and IMMEDIATELY if anyone says "U2 SUCKS" or some variation, I am shutting it all down.

Who knows? Perhaps Bono or even Edge is following this with some interest. If he is, he should be in the studio rerecording the Pop album, dangit. We can discuss later (and I would love to cut a new edit of "Mofo", incidentally).

"And now you know the rest of the story..."


Skatje said...

"you can't do much better than PZ Myers' own sons blog. I'm sure you can tell that the review is slanted, a little, but you gotta respect a kid who stands up for his own dad."

Are you sure you were five feet behind us? I would think it's difficult to mistake someone's gender at such a close proximity.

Also, where in that post do I defend my father? It's a post about the movie--not about the shenanigans beforehand.

Fletch said...

Are you sure you were really there? I don't think PZ has a son... Dude, that was his DAUGHTER, Skatje. Really? No more than five feet away? And who is this Dr. Hawkins fellow you refered to?

Stuart B said...

Whoops. Sorry! I found that through a link on, of all places. I guess this is just another example of my lack of journalistic integrity. I should be ashamed.

My apologies. Of course, I didn't recognize anyone while I was standing in line. So I "suppose" that I never even saw PZ Myers get asked to leave at all! I just saw a random guy get asked to leave; it wasn't until Mathis and Dawkins started talking that I realized who it must have been.

I hope you and your whole family realize that I was in no way attacking your father, Dawkins, or anyone else. I was just passing along what I had seen.

"You will find that the truths we hold to depend greatly upon our own point of view."