Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent Design

Expelled, a slick-looking documentary which looks to put a shiny new gloss on the Intelligent Design movement is due out this coming February. Though it went public a little while ago, the news that the Intelligent Design movement is going the Michael Moore route is starting to trickle through the science and skeptical community.

This is, of course, part of its intended marketing strategy: taglines such as “whatever happened to freedom of speech?” are so ingeniously irritating that most advocates of science will find it hard to resist as a target, adding to the buzz. A movie blog featuring its cranky star Stein is already up as well: we’ll see how open and accepting of “free speech” it is. No comments had passed through moderation as of writing, but I have a feeling that the main function of the comment function will be as a showcase of the nastiest responses and arguments, all of which will be portrayed as more evidence of “the man” trying to keep the film down.

The other, perhaps more interesting, part of selling this film will be the work of Motive, a PR and marketing firm made famous by its highly successful campaign to promote Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ via direct outreach to churches and faith-networks. Since, according to’s summary of some early clips and showings the film is going to go straight for the “evolution = athiesm = Nazi concentration camp” school of nuanced scholarly criticism, the film seems rather openly aimed at recruiting your average churchgoing believer into what it portrays as a stark, ideological fight. Outreach and educational efforts by scientists seem positively paltry as competition.

Considering the audience and marketing, the focus of the film is savvy: almost entirely on the meta-issue of the alleged intellectual suppression of ideas, complete with folks like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris as the boogeymen getting ready to man the gulags. Especially with the 2008 elections close by, fanning anger and resentment over alleged oppression serves the political message a lot better than obscure debates over protein formation and embryology. Scientists are stuck having to explain complicated biology and empiricism to defend and explain themselves: meanwhile ID needs only snark and a running litany of supposed slights. Intelligent Design may still be missing a theory to defend, but who needs one when you have martyrs?

Some brief digging on where the movie came from didn’t turn up much. The movie is being produced by a company called Premise Media, which as far as I can tell, was founded in 2005 and for whom this film is their one and only credited film project, though their bio also cites the production and international distribution of DVDs and books. Co-founder A. Logan Craft is a Minister & TV Producer on the board of the Canadian Center for Cultural Renewal (not to be confused with the Discovery Institutes’s Center for Renewal of Science and Culture/Center for Science and Culture), a fairly subdued and scholarly religious think-tank that seems to advocate for “Cooperation of Church and State.” Also based out of Canada is Craft’s partner (and most likely the chief financial muscle behind the project) Walt Ruloff, described as a former software developer who found himself rich and idle in the early 1990s at the age of 32 after he sold his software to Microsoft.

The production is also rather defensively described as not being a product of the Discovery Institute. Maybe so, it’s still highly likely that the film is going to become a major vehicle in an across-the-board relaunch of the Intelligent Design movement, trying to reach popular audiences in a new way and ingrain their claims into popular culture.

I also think it’s very important, in the face of this, to not take the naive view that they will be preaching to the converted. Especially by working through local communities, school groups, and churches, the filmmakers will be appealing to ordinary citizens in places that they trust and care deeply about. For all the worry about the huge numbers of Americans who reject evolutionary science, the reality is that most of these people are still pretty ambivalent in practice, and willing to give scientists and science a shot. There is a battleground here, and plenty to lose.

Update: Marine biologist Randy Olson, maker of the pro-evolution documentary “Flock of Dodosweighs in on PZ’s blog warning folks not to take this flick lightly. I’m inclined to agree. This thing is not likely to be a blockbuster in the theaters, but it most certainly stands a chance of having a powerful cultural and political impact, especially considering who it’s going to be pitched to. If you want, think of its target audience as “school board voters.”

Update2: The Discovery Institute today announces that it’s known about the movie for two years, but was too depressed to get its hopes up. Apparently, though, it has now decided that the film is the sort of fair and balanced take on the subject of evolution=Hitler that they’ve always hoped for.

Update3: Another PZ poster notes that the film’s associate production company, Rampant Films, apparently interviewed none other than PZ Myers without telling him the thrust of the film or who was producing it (which, though that sucks, seems sadly common in the documentary industry). You can officially add Myers to the list of boogeymen, I suppose, confirming the claims in the movie’s press release.

Myers is now celebrating his star turn on the big screen, but wondering why they didn’t just ask him about the interview upfront instead of misrepresenting themselves.

14 Responses to Ben Stein in Hot-Pants for Intelligent Design

  1. It was Revealed to me though my Visions that this Ben Stein Movie will proove to be the last nail in the mahogany coffin of Evilution and Secular Naturalism, that has for so many years distorted His work on this Earth.

    I Know through Prayer that Mr Ben Stein will be true to His Word, and expose natual progressivism for what it is, the Demon’s tool, paid for with Euro’s and the mongrel cultures of Europe

  2. Bad says:

    I wanted to find out if you were kidding or not, so I checked out your blog. I have but one question: wouldn’t a “Gay Homosexual” technically be a straight person?

  3. I have Prayed to Our Lord that people ignore your blog so that when they see His work exposed in the movie Expelled, they will not doubt its truthfulness.

    I see my prayers are answered.

  4. Bad says:

    I’m touched that you cared, but aren’t you violating His Will by paying attention to me yourself?

    In any case, while I would indeed greatly enjoy on topic comments, I’m really not looking to be part of a vaudeville act, or provide a stage for one. So, last warning before your parody project ends up in my spam file.

  5. […] “underground railroad” With the PR campaign for the anti-evolutionary film Expelled! ramping up, it seems like the Intelligent Design movement is well prepared for its next big PR […]

  6. […] — as evidenced by Ben Stein’s megaphone and the graffiti font. As The Bad Idea Blog states, “Considering the audience and marketing, the focus of the film is savvy: almost entirely on […]

  7. […] opposing view that these cases have been grossly misrepresented for PR purposes. As I noted in my first post on Expelled, focusing nearly exclusively on victimhood is a very clever PR strategy: you can work to build […]

  8. This sort of thing is a travesty…not just for the damage that it could do to our education system, but for the desperate misrepresentation of faith that comes from I.D. and creationist thought.

    Unlike your “Rev.” friend, I’m actually one, dagnabbit, and this sort of this massively cheeses me off.

    There are undoubtedly “believers” who’ll take it seriously…much the same folks who get their faith from the teevee and their science from the Creation Science museum.

  9. Maximus says:

    I would like to see a continuation of the topic

  10. Not Rev. Anyone says:

    Right… and the scientific community would NEVER engage in such lowlife tactics as a bait-and-switch or “interview entrapment.” Oh wait, except for that Richard Dawkins interview of Ted Haggard for the BBC series he did…

    Not that I am defending such tactics, but the all the moral indignation about this movie is a bit of the pot calling the kettle black, I’m afriad.

  11. Bad says:

    You’re going to have to do better than simply referring to the incident: what’s the nature of the interview with Haggard? What was deceptive about it? How was it edited to change the context?

  12. Nathan Privittia says:

    I think this movie will be the last nail in the coffin for me. Christianity is no longer for me. I am leaving the religion. This is really sad. You can’t fight against science because it is based on mountains of provable empirical observations, and data. It seems like many Christians are sadly distracted with the hopeless political quest of trying to disprove the science of evolution. That is like trying to disprove gravity. Scientists are using genetics, evolution, biology and medicine to create new cures and treatments for illnesses. Not only is evolution real, it is moving the field of biomedicine and biotechnology along. My country is falling behind the rest of the world in the sciences because our education system is failing. I.D. will only hurt us more. Christianity has failed to coexist with scientific truth, and has lost another member.

  13. Bad says:

    I think your reasoning here is off a little, at least as an indictment of Christianity. In reality, it’s only a rather small percentage of Christians, and mostly in English speaking nations, who are either creationists, or even care much about the issue. Catholicism, which still makes up the bulk of Christians, even has the official position that evolution is fine as a scientific description of nature: which is exactly what it is. Obviously they believe other things in addition to that, but the point is they aren’t theologically committed to go after science as a target.

    If you’re giving up your faith for lots of other reasons, that’s one thing. But you shouldn’t think that you need to give up Christianity just to escape creationists… though this is exactly what creationists want people to think.

  14. Mack says:

    Finding relevant sites on this topic is sometimes hard to find. You did an excellent job covering the subject and I look forward to more posts from your site. Do you offer RSS Feeds or feedburner to get more content for our blogs?

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