Expelled, a new documentary that argues the case for Intelligent Design from a Judeo-Christian perspective, has been in the headlines lately, prior to its April 18 theatrical release.
The film, hosted and narrated by Ben Stein, has been screened to invitation-only audiences at churches and for various Christian groups. But several critics have worked their way in to some of the screenings, most notably Roger Moore of The Orlando Sentinel, who recently trashed the movie in his blog.
A critic of another kind "crashed" a screening in Minnesota on Thursday night--Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion and arguably the most outspoken critic of Intelligent Design and Creationism. Dawkins himself appears in the documentary--but claims he was duped into believing it was going to be an objective account of Darwinism vs. ID.
Jeffrey Overstreet, a film critic for CT Movies, broke the news on his own blog Thursday night after receiving an e-mail from a college student who was at the screening.
Stuart Blessman, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities student, told Overstreet in the e-mail that Dawkins' appearance "was quite a surprise" to both the audience and associate producer Mark Mathis, who fielded questions afterward.
Blessman reported that Dawkins asked several questions, and complained that "any statement he made in the film was in fact under the assumption that he was being interviewed . . . for a film that was to take an even-handed look at the Intelligent Design/Evolution controversy."
It's not the first time Dawkins and other Darwinian experts say they were duped by the filmmakers. The Guardian reported last fall that Dawkins said, "At no time was I given the slightest clue that these people were a creationist front," he said. And The New York Times quotes Dawkins and other atheists who appeared in the film under a "deceptive invitation."
Blessman also wrote that "the Q&A then proceeded pretty uneventfully, with several of the questions addressed to Dawkins himself. Mathis and Dawkins also clearly had spoken on numerous occasions and appeared to continue an argument that they had started previously."
Blessman also reported that Dawkins complained that a colleague of his was turned away even though he (Dawkins) was admitted to the screening. That colleague, PZ Myers, a biologist and prof at the University of Minnesota-Morris, is actually featured in the film. Myers later blogged his own account of what happened here and here.
Myers wrote that he caught up with Dawkins and friends after the film, "which I hear is not only boring and poorly made, but is ludicrous in its dishonesty. Apparently, a standard tactic is to do lots of fast cuts between biologists like me or Dawkins or Eugenie Scott and shots of Nazi atrocities. It's all very ham-handed. The audience apparently ate it up, though. Figures. Christians have a growing reputation for their appreciation of dishonesty."
Read more about Expelled in earlier editions of Reel News at CT Movies.
3/26 UPDATE: There has been much discussion about the use of the word "crash" to describe how Dawkins got into the screening. Since this story posted, CT has learned that the screening was not an "invitation-only" event, but that attendees had simply signed up on a website--that it was open to anyone who signed up in advance. Tickets were not needed. CT regrets the choice of the word "crash" in the title and in the story, because neither Dawkins nor Myers were trying to "crash" the event, but had legitimately signed up for the screening as did everyone else who attended.