Mar 26, 2008

Final word on the Expelled debacle

A final word. Everyone, please read this before leaving comments.

The most important part of the text:

I wanted to thank you for posting Stuart’s comments on the Expelled issue and — most of all — for noting and complementing his gracefulness in reply.

He is a student of mine this semester in a class I’m teaching about Biblical arguments. He is more conservative than I am, too be sure. All the more reason for me to note that in person he is as civil as his postings to you were. Very even tempered person. He tells me he has received a large amount of hate mail and threats that he should be expelled and so on. Amazing.

I used to cover some of the Harris and Dawkins books in my Analysis of Argument class, but they are so shoddy and mean-spirited it hardly seemed worth the time. Hans Kung wrote a “does God exist” book and you could take his set-up of the various anti-God arguments, combine that into one book and you’d have something far superior to Dawkins’ effort.

Again, thanks.

John Nordin
Lecturer, Communication Studies

Mar 22, 2008

Noapathyplz, fellow attendee of "Expelled", writes...

Taken from their comment left on Looking Closer:

I must say that I was at the screening and thought that the film was quite well done. A bit refreshing as well. I also find Stuart’s comments refreshing, even though we are all still sorting through the facts of ‘expulsions.’

I was very pleased to see Dawkins there…it shows to me an open-mindedness from the film’s sponsors to allow this. As far as I am concerned, since it was a special engagement with security and all that jazz, they get the final say in who attends. I personally received an email invite and so did Stuart. In fact, I am the one who requested for his name to be on the list, which it was.

I think we must digest Stuart’s comments as one person’s account of what he saw. Sure, I agree he went a bit far in his characterization of the Meyers incident, but he was there and that is what he saw. I am sure that Myers is right when he says he signed up online because I saw this feature available the day of the event. Registration was closed at the time of that inquiry, although.

There is no reason do deny that Myers signed up online and was ‘on the list’ but I am sure that the sponsors still reserve the right to allow admittance to those whom they wish. Mark Mathis said it best…paraphrase…”I actually want Professor Myers to put his ten dollars down after the release and see it then.” Sounds fine to me. It is their film and it hasn’t been released to the public yet, so they call the shots. He also explained the change of name and interview correspondence with Dawkins and others. There were no objection by Dawkins or others to the answers of Mathis in this regard. Please, people, go see this for yourselves on April 18th and then make conclusions.

Maybe, as Dawkins eludes to, we’ll all come to the understanding that possibly aliens designed us and started the process of evolution along as we know it today. He was bending over backwards in this regard, and I appreciate that from him, but we still have the right to critique these presuppositions.

One final thing…Dawkins made it sound like Myers was being expelled from the discussion. On the movie’s own website there are links to Myers’ blog and his arguments on this issue. They are encouraging discussion, not editing it. I read Professor Myers’ comments for myself and found them to be wanting.

Stop being so close-minded, my macro-evolution-yet no idea on origins friends. Thank you Stuart, keep fighting the good fight.

"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..."

Mar 3, 2008

Ruminations on the Gospel of Mark

So the Gospel of Mark might have been written around 68 AD. One theory has it that Mark, the author, was an associate of Peter who wrote down many of Peter's teachings (and in this case, remembrances of Jesus). Some also think that Mark might have been the young man who ran away naked after being seized by the Romans.

It is possible that Mark might have been all of the above. In Jewish culture, a young man was roughly 12 or 13 years old. If he had been that age, and let's say that happened roughly around 32 AD (or even 28 AD), that would make Mark around 48 years old at minimum. So it is highly possible that Peter's disciple Mark wrote the Gospel of Mark.

My professor argues that Mark was written in Galilee for Galileans. Not so sure...there is a strong Roman presence in Mark. I'm thinking Mark wrote it for the persecuted Christians in Rome under Nero.

So is Mark a story of Jesus or can we accurately treat it as an eyewitness report, since the majority of Mark would have been from the perspective of Peter? Story vs first hand account, or report, is the question. My professor argues that Mark is a story, written through the lens of one or multiple people, and that the book was shaped by many factors (Roman persecution, nationality, age, etc). Obviously he doesn't subscribe to the belief that the Holy Spirit might have had a hand in things.

Pretty interesting that God used a disciple of an apostle to write a Gospel. So I guess Peter must have laid hands on Mark and baptized him in the Holy Spirit. But I guess that when Mark died, the Holy Spirit died with him. Or at least his "apostles'" power, since as everyone knows, the gifts of the Holy Spirit were only for the apostles and the early church.