So, I was Expelled from a Pro-Expelled Blog…
Initially, I wasn’t going to post on this out of consideration for the blogger that took my posts down – or didn’t let them go through in the first place. But given the importance of the issue, the fact that I know that I am not the only one who has been silenced in this way by people claiming to be for the free exchange of ideas and wanting to hear “both sides”, and given the incredible amounts of dishonesty, ignorance and information-filtering that surrounds this crocumentary, I’ve decided otherwise. Read on to hear about how I, like surely many others, was expelled from commenting on Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.
On Monday I came across William Petruzzo’s WordPress blog, William Petruzzo. He had just posted a flattering review extolling Expelled, and strongly recommending it to others. It was plainly obvious that he had fallen hook, line and sinker for every lie and misrepresentation that the film had on offer. He clearly had heard only side of the issue: theirs, and uncritically accepted it. And so did the four commenters who commended him for his write-up, and echoed the film’s banner claim of being the little guy standing up for free speech against a supposed tyrannical dogmatic totalitarian regime.
Enter me. I give a fairly detailed post, explaining how Expelled is a dishonest propaganda film. You’ll have to bare with me, as I am summarizing the posts I made and the one reply I received on the site from memory as they no longer exist online.
In my first post, I write that Expelled misrepresents science, evolution, ID, etc., that it had to trick people like PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins to appear in it, that ID is not science, that evolution is overwhelmingly well supported, that acceptance of evolution has nothing to do with Nazism, and so on. This post is allowed to appear on the blog – temporarily.
Petruzzo promptly replied to my comment thanking me for my thoughtful comment, but saying that my strong response suggests insecurity on my part with respect to the truth of evolution. I quickly replied to this post, immediately dispelling his assertion of insecurity. I wrote that I am in no way insecure about the truth of evolution or the possibility that ID may usurp it. I explained the two reasons for my security with evolution: 1) given the amazing amount of evidence in its favour and the complete absense of evidence behind ID, that evolution could be disqualified and ID become the dominant paradigm seems highly unlikely; 2) If research were to show that evolution was substantially in error and that ID actually is the best idea we have, I would accept this as a matter of simply following the evidence. What I am worried about, as I wrote, is that roughly 40% of Americans are primed and ready to eat all of this propaganda up because it is what they want to believe. A huge minority of Americans place Biblical literalism at a far higher level of priority than intellectual honesty, investigative rigor, and open-mindedness, and this disingenuous “documentary” with its implied credibility (by virtue of featuring a known public figure in Ben Stein and a few Christian scientists) will only serve to give them a false sense of justification, arm them with more untruths with which they can promulgate their intellectually-vacuous ideology, and will serve as a prominent propaganda film for those who want to peddle Christian literalism and establish and maintain distrust in the mainstream academic community.
I also provided more evidence indicating that this is a propaganda film that is filled with lies and misrepresentations, and was marketed by a team that selectively presented the film to those who it thought would give it good reviews and went to great lengths to exclude critics. I cited that ID is not only disqualified as being scientific by atheists and scientists, but has also been spoken against by numerous religious organizations, Christian scientists (e.g., evangelical Christian and prominent geneticist Francis Collins, Director of the National Human Genome Project in America), and was denounced strongly by Conservative Christian Republican Bush-appointed judge John Jones in the Dover Trial as being non-scientific and clearly religiously rooted. I also pointed out that there are many religious people who comfortably accept evolution, but ID doesn’t seem to have any non-fundamentalist advocates – though I was once linked to a site said to be authored by a pair of atheist scientists who support ID; however, the biographical info of one of them was dubious and regardless, they remain (at best) the only 2 non-fundamentalist scientists I have ever heard of that have any respect for it at all. Furthermore, I pointed out that the total proportion of scientists worldwide that support ID is well under 1%. I could have gone on way more, but I felt like that was sufficient. I also presented a link to Expelled Exposed.
So a few hours later I checked Petruzzo’s website for replies. I didn’t find any replies. I also didn’t find any of my posts – they all had been taken down, along with his one reply. Well, this isn’t completely honest. What I found was that all of my comments, even the one that had previously been admitted, were said to be awaiting moderation, and his reply to mine was gone. Had another visitor visited, they would have seen none of the comments by he or I in this conversation. Then a little while later I checked my email, and received the following note from Petruzzo:
Thanks for your thoughts and writing them down. I have a policy to keep extended debate
out of the public comment string (regardless of topic). It just isn’t usually fruitful.
I feel this debate is important, so in no way do I intend to attempt silence the debate.
However, the conversation needs to be moved into some other forum for discussion. Please
don’t take my moderation of the comments personally or offensively.
If you decide to move the conversation to another location, please let me know. I may
want to join the debate.
Thanks for the understanding,
// Bill Petruzzo
I replied as follows:
Greetings. I have to say that I do find it somewhat concerning that you remove comments that invalidate the film that you posted on with positivity. I don’t know why you would not want debates occurring in your comment section. It’s not like it would detract from other comments – people can still drop by and drop in their 2 cents unimpeded.
Given that I was the only commenter there who took a position contrary to yours, and given that I presented good argumentation as well as a link, I think that my comments deserve to be left up there.
People are going to read through your comments and they’re going to have an illusion that everyone that has commented there has agreed with you and with Expelled, which is not true.
Whether this decision was done in order to abide with an existing policy or not, it is stifling an important discussion, creating a false impression to readers, and is *expelling* an honestly presented and evidentially-backed argument.
On the topic of expulsion, as I pointed out in a comment and would have gone into in more detail later on: it is the people who made and who support Expelled that seem to be doing the expelling. Myers was expelled. Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel received an invitation by accident (of the promoters of the film) and when they realized what they had done and that Moore wasn’t a Creationist, they attempted to revoke it. During there entire pre-screening period they were carefully selecting their audiences. Outside of Anonymous [EDIT: Here I meant to say "Expelled" - I've been posting on Scientology way too much...], people who run ID blogs (e.g., Uncommon Descent) are known for regularly censoring critics. Send emails to Larry Moran of Sandwalk (http://sandwalk.blogspot.com) or PZ Myers (http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula). Each of them will be able to give you a bunch of names – including themselves – who’ve been banned from posting on ID/Creation blogs. And you should absolutely check out this post, which chronicles a number of expulsions for evolutionists which were based not on academic integrity or anything else commendable, but simply on the fact that the people endorsed evolution and would not pretend that ID is science: http://www.sunclipse.org/?p=626
You can do what you want with your blog. I would hope that someone endorsing a movie that claims (dishonestly) to be for academic freedom and freedom to share ideas would exhibit these lauded qualities themselves, even if it means reconsidering some rules, even if for just this one post.
In closing, I’ll say it again: the film is dishonest propaganda. If you look around online, you will even see conservative sources saying this (e.g., Fox News reporters). Even Francis Collins, evangelical Christian geneticist who was/is Director of the Human Genome Project, dismisses ID. It really is the world versus the religious right on this one – and even some people who often side with the religious right are opposing this dishonest base.
Again, thanks for the thoughts.
I understand your concern. On almost any topic, the blog does not stand as a discussion forum. I don’t write with the intention of persuasion, I write for people who are already persuaded. You’ll find that my blog is overtly Christian and I don’t make defense of Christian doctrines a regular topic. It’s just not my job here in this venue. Folks who are looking to have the debate can find many other places to have it, but my writing is not for that intention at all.
I’m sorry that you feel expelled, and I hope that you will trust that censorship is not my intention, however, proper venue is.
To which I replied:
But what you are doing right now is nevertheless a diservice to yourself and all of your
readers. You are endorsing a movie that is without a doubt a deceitful propaganda film.
And this is not just atheists saying this. It’s not even just scientists. It’s atheists,
scientists, liberal religionists, even some conservatives (e.g., at least one Fox News
correspondent; John Jones slammed the IDists in Dover, as I mentioned; Francis Collins,
evangelical geneticist, also dismisses this movement as bogus). In posting the item you
have posted and then not even allowing for people to disagree with you in your comment
section, you are serving as an enabler of deceit and slandering of both atheists and
scientists of all stripes. Just because atheists and scientists are not Christian,
Jewish, Black, female, Hispanic, Gay, or disabled in someway does not somehow make it
okay to slander and lie about them.
I have yet to receive a reply to this email, despite the 4 days that have elapsed. Petruzzo claims that he is not expelling me, but is simply abiding by a long-standing policy of not allowing debate on his blog. As I pointed out in an email to him, if ever there were a time to temporarily lift that rule, it’s here. How hypocritical is it to endorse a film which *claims* to be rallying against suppression of speech (and hypocritically engaged in constant censorship and audience engineering throughout its promotions), and then suppressing dissent in one’s own comment section for that very post? And does having a no-debate policy make this situation that much better? He claims that his site is for the converted, and is not a haven for debate on Christian apologetics. So basically what he’s saying is that he has a permanent policy in place to silence anybody who comes in and tries to criticize/debate his and his intended audience’s beliefs. He’ll respond to this by saying that his no-debate policy spreads beyond Christian apologetics, but lets be honest here: is there another subject that is more likely to lead to such an “unproductive” debate than the subject of the intellectual validity of his religion? He is endorsing a movie for taking the stance that the scientific community is a dogmatic and dissent-suppressing organization when dogmatism and prevention of dissent are at placed at the very core of his blog when he, from the outset, sets up rules that him and his co-believers from having to face intellectual challengers.