While sick last week I missed quite a show, with a a head-on confrontation between atheist headliners Richard Dawkins and P.Z. Myers, and the producers of the pro-Intelligent Design film Expelled. What made the whole story newsworthy, really, was that P.Z. Myers – of the popular Pharyngula blog – was ‘expelled’ from seeing an early preview screening of the film by the producers while literally lining up for a ticket (public release is scheduled for April 18). Well, that wasn’t really the newsworthy bit – it got more interesting when they kicked out Myers but completely missed the fact that also lining up for a ticket with Myers was Richard Dawkins…who simply walked in and viewed the film (sans P.Z. Myers):
…have you ever heard of a sabot? It’s a kind of sleeve or lightweight carrier used to surround a piece of munition fired from a gun. It isn’t the actually load intended to strike the target, but may even be discarded as it leaves the barrel.
I’m a kind of sabot right now.
They singled me out and evicted me, but they didn’t notice my guest. They let him go in escorted by my wife and daughter. I guess they didn’t recognize him. My guest was…
He’s in the theater right now, watching their movie. Tell me, are you laughing as hard as I am?
Subsequently, Richard Dawkins has posted his review of the film (and the Myers expelling) on his website, titled “Lying for Jesus?” (as has P.Z. Myers’ daughter, Skatje). In turn, the producers of the movie had put their own twist on the controversy. And lastly, Dawkins and Myers sat down for a video chat about the entire fiasco. Mention of the story has even made the big newspapers, although it’s hard to tell whether the producers of the movie would see that as a bad or good development (as the old adage goes, “there’s no such thing as bad publicity”).
Unfortunately, the affair continues bring the dialogue about Darwinian evolution down to the level of monkeys throwing crap at each other across the room (a graphic analogy, but probably apt for the subject matter!). It’s hard to blame anyone for it, it’s just simply the way it is with competing ideologies. No doubt the Expelled producers have used dubious tactics when it comes to interviewing Dawkins et al, but then it’s hard to be sympathetic when Rupert Sheldrake gives this account of Dawkins’ own tactics when filming. The reviews of Expelled certainly cast it as a Creationist propaganda film (admittedly, the reviews are by the ‘enemies’ of the film), and that disturbs me because I have no wish to support that particular belief. On the other hand, the over-arching theme of the film (of the ‘expelling’ of heretics in science) is one that interests me greatly. And even though Dawkins praises P.Z. Myers’ “caustic wit”, most times I just find his blog postings to be obnoxious, obvious rants about religious nutters. Really, it’s just a continuation of polarisation…and as mentioned above, the controversy probably plays more into the hands of the film-makers, despite the best intents of atheist bloggers.
Which leads me to saying, it would be nice to see more subtlety to this debate rather than Darwinians versus Creationists. I find some apostate views on evolution rather fascinating (though I hardly have the background to speak authoritatively about the topic) – things like Francis Crick’s version of Intelligent Design/panspermia (happily, mentioned by Richard Dawkins in “Lying for Jesus?“), odd pieces of supporting evidence for a hint of neo-Lamarckism, and Rupert Sheldrake’s own ideas of ‘morphic resonance’, and the ‘conscious evolution’ speculated on by people like Charles Muses (I’m particularly interested at the moment in the thought that consciousness may be an intrinsic, perhaps essential, part of the cosmos). I’m certainly not claiming that any of these non-Darwinian theories are correct, but I do enjoy contemplating possibilities (making me, of course, a whacko non-critically thinking grubby!)…
For further updates on this story (from the evolutionist standpoint), keep an eye on the “Expelled Exposed” website.