Dracil’s BlogJournal

May 22, 2008

Injunction against Expelled continues

Wikinews and AP

Key points:

EMI filed its own separate lawsuit against Premise in a New York state court alleging that Premise’s usage of the song is harming EMI’s ability to license “Imagine,” which has only been licensed in one film (The Killing Fields).

In court, Judge Richard Lowe, according to the Wall Street Journal, “seemed skeptical” about Falzone’s arguments. Lowe asked Falzone why the film’s producers did not read the lyrics to the song or flash the lyrics on the screen. Lawyers also pointed out that Premise Media licensed all other music in the film except for Lennon’s song.

So, they’ll probably just make them remove that segment of the movie and/or make them pay a bunch of money.  I don’t think they’ll really prevent the film from being shown in Canada or distributed on DVD.

May 19, 2008

Expelled Weekend Performance: Week 5

This will be my last weekly update on Expelled’s theater performance. At this point, it’s like watching a gazelle with its throat ripped out bleeding to death. They should just shoot it. So the next update will probably be a post-mortem. Last week’s numbers are here.

Number of theaters: 210 (-192)
Weekend gross revenue: $102,690 (-$226,146)
Weekend rank: #30 (-9)
Weekend revenue/screen: $489 (-$329)

Week 1: $3,902,920 ($932,072 weekdays total)
Week 2: $2,032,032 ($637,092 weekdays total)
Week 3: $971,048 ($292,744 weekdays total)
Week 4: $490,439 ($161,603 weekdays total)
Week 5: $102,690 + weekdays revenue

May 11, 2008

Expelled Weekend Performance: Week 4

Edit: Updated with actual numbers.  Gross revenue went up by $26,836, but its rank dropped an additional 3 places.

It’s time for yet another update on Expelled’s number. Again, I will compare with last week using preliminary numbers first and update when the actual numbers are released on Monday.

Number of theaters: 402 (-254)
Weekend gross revenue: $328,836 (-$349,468)
Weekend rank: #21 (-6)
Weekend revenue/screen: $818 (-$283)

No changes with ratings again.  Instead, here are what it has earned by week.

Week 1: $3,902,920 ($932,072 weekdays total)
Week 2: $2,032,032 ($637,092 weekdays total)
Week 3: $971,048 ($292,744 weekdays total)
Week 4: $328,836 + weekdays revenue

At this rate, it may only reach about $8m total box office (I had estimated it reaching $9m last week)

Not a good sign considering that the judge ordered the defendants to stop distributing the film while the trial is still proceeding.

May 9, 2008

Ken Miller criticizes Expelled

Ken Miller, a Catholic biology professor at Brown University, has actually written an op-ed piece for the Boston Globe.

Much of this has already been said before, but it certainly helps to have one of the most prominent people in this debate (he was a witness for the evolution side at the Dover Trial) come out and speak out against Expelled.  Naturally, the producers of Expelled don’t like him, even before this piece:

The movie also uses interviews with avowed atheists like Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” to argue that scientific establishment is vehemently anti-God. Never mind that 40 percent of the members of the American Association for the Advancement of Science profess belief in a personal God. Stein, avoiding these 50,000 people, tells viewers that “Darwinists” don’t allow scientists to even think of God.

Puzzled, the editors of Scientific American asked Mark Mathis, the film’s co-producer, why he and Stein didn’t interview such people, like Francis Collins (head of the Human Genome Project), Francisco Ayala, or myself. Mathis cited me by name, saying “Ken Miller would have confused the film unnecessarily.” In other words, showing a scientist who accepts both God and evolution would have confused their story line.

Fascinating how Creationist’s idea of “teaching the controversy” means not showing things that would break their entire argument, isn’t it?

Since every paragraph of the piece brings up a good point against Expelled, it would be rather pointless to try quoting them or I’d end up just pasting the entire article here, so I’ll just leave it with the last paragraph.

“Expelled” is a shoddy piece of propaganda that props up the failures of Intelligent Design by playing the victim card. It deceives its audiences, slanders the scientific community, and contributes mightily to a climate of hostility to science itself. Stein is doing nothing less than helping turn a generation of American youth away from science. If we actually come to believe that science leads to murder, then we deserve to lose world leadership in science. In that sense, the word “expelled” may have a different and more tragic connotation for our country than Stein intended.

May 4, 2008

Expelled’s Performance: Weekend 3

Edit: Post has been updated with actual weekend numbers

Here are preliminary changes from last week based on estimates. This post will be updated on Monday afternoon when the actual numbers are out.

Number of theaters: 656 (-385)
Weekend gross revenue: $678,304 (-$716,636)
Weekend rank: #15 (-2)
Weekend revenue/screen: $1034 (-$306)
Rotten Tomatoes Critical Rating: 9% (3/33) (no change)
Rotten Tomatoes Top Critics Rating: 0% (0/13) (no change)
Rotten Tomatoes Community Rating: 50% (366 votes) (no change)
IMDB rating: 3.7/10 (3353 votes) (no change)
Boxofficemojo rating: B- (363 votes) (no change)
Yahoo movies community rating: B- (4000 votes) (no change)
Yahoo critics rating: N/A (None!)

One of the things that should catch your attention is that it’s lost over 1/3 of its theaters, and its average weekend revenue/theater also dropped (which actually isn’t that uncommon). At this rate, it’s unlikely to reach $10m. With production cost figures between $3.5-$5m and all the ads they bought for it on TV, it’s still unknown if they will actually break even from the just the box office, especially given that theaters take a share of the revenue as well. But it’s possible they will make it back from DVD sales, assuming they don’t end up simply giving a big chunk of them away again (as they are doing with schools by bribing them with $5-$10/movie ticket)

It did worse than the estimates again, dropping from $684,000 gross to $678,304, which put it in 15th place instead of 14th, and the average/theater went down by an extra $8.

The other striking thing is that its ratings have pretty much stabilized across the board and is unlikely to change significantly in the future.

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial

Judgment Day: Intelligent Design on Trial is a must-watch for anyone interested in learning more about Intelligent Design.  Since it’s part of PBS’s Nova series, you can watch it for free online, but it’s also available by DVD if you prefer that.

The show covers the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial from three years ago, from the the events leading up to the trial to a little afterward.  One thing to note which is interesting since Ben Stein and co. don’t mention it in Expelled is just how many anti-Intelligent Design people received death threats over just this trial, including the judge and the lead plaintiff.  And that’s not including the hate mail and other forms of hateful slander they received, nor the amount of lying done by the pro-ID people, including the regular folks.  Really makes those six people in Expelled (none of who were fired BTW) seem like nothing, and it highlights the REAL side that needs free speech in the United States.  There’s a large list of people who have been fired, forced to recant, physically assaulted, and received death threats just for teaching evolution or speaking out against Creationism/Intelligent Design.  Again, not a peep from Ben Stein about it at all.

Anyway, as far as the film goes, since cameras were not allowed at the actual trial, they had to hire actors to reenact the trial proceedings, but it catches all the major events of the trial.  From how the Discovery Institute pulled out of the trial after realizing that they were about to be crushed by the scientific evidence brought on by the plaintiff’s witnesses, to the infamous “cdesign proponentsits“, to Michael Behe admitting that under his definition of a scientific theory, even astrology would be a scientific theory.  About Behe, it’s really a shame that the Discovery Institute hung him out to dry, because he was actually quite a likable guy in Flock of Dodos, and of course, he was one of the only ones with the courage and conviction to stay and fight for his beliefs.

Again, if you’ve seen Expelled, you owe it to yourself to watch this, as well as Flock of Dodos to understand what the rest of us know about Ben Stein and co.’s motives with Expelled that you may not.

May 3, 2008

Florida anti-evolution bill dies

Evolution bills die in Legislature as session ends

But it’s like the evil dead.  We all know it’s going to crawl back from the grave, so keep those shotguns and chainsaws ready.  :)

It’s funny though.  John West of the Discovery Institute actually thinks there’s some massive conspiracy and the House intentionally voted on the version with “critical analysis” so that it would be rejected by the Senate.  He even called “critical analysis” a “poison pill“.  Now hold on a minute.  “Critical analysis” is one of Discovery Institute’s favorite terms that they gladly trumpet when it suits their purpose, such as when gloating about which states now require it in their classes when teaching evolution.  In other words, he’s advocating lying to Congress about the true motives of the Intelligent Design movement just so he can sneak some bills in.

But as we have learned from the people arguing for the bill during the proceedings, none of the people there truly believe in “academic freedom”.  Otherwise they should be all too happy to extend “academic freedom” to sex education so that alternatives to abstinence are taught.  It’s also telling that they only talk about “academic freedom” and “critical analysis” in the context of evolution.  What about the rest of science?  Don’t we deserve the “academic freedom” to teach alchemy in chemistry classes, astrology in astronomy classes, phrenology in neurology classes, and Intelligent Falling in physics class?  Shouldn’t we be “critically analyzing” all these fields as well?

Nah.  That’s because all these politically loaded terms, including “Intelligent Design”, are nothing more than a trojan horse for Creationism, which the Supreme Court ruled was unconstitutional in 1987.

May 2, 2008

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus

Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus, by Randy Olson, came out 2 years ago.  As the title states, it explores the debate between evolution and intelligent design.  However, unlike a certain other film in theaters right now, this film is actually rather balanced and funny. It treats the people it interviews with respect, even if they’re on the other side, which again, is quite unlike that other film.  I think the following quote given by John Cashill, one of the ID supporters in his film, states it perfectly:

The good thing was that Randy did not hide his biases.  You know it wasn’t like one of these fake, neutral observers.  You know, he was part of it, and we knew where he was coming from.  But he did not, what I liked, is that he did not betray anyone’s trust. I mean, he made everyone look like they thought they looked, rather than what you could do in an editing room, and turn anyone into a monster if you wanted to.

Olson even invited the ID people to panel discussions after some film showings.  Again, something in direct contrast by what Mark Mathis of the other film did. Not only did Mathis not invite the interviewees from the other side, but he kicked PZ Meyers out just so he could generate some additional attention for his film.

Of course, the Discovery Institute hated Flock of Dodos (no surprise) and even set up a website to attack Olson and the film.  Their misunderstood (which is putting it nicely, it was quote mined) complaint about Haeckels Drawing was addressed in both the Pulled Punches: Outtakes in the DVD and by PZ Meyers.  As for their complaint about misrepresenting DI’s funding?  Someone found some of their tax returns.

Anyway, this film was not hyped up and was limited to mostly single screenings at film festivals and academic settings, which is certainly a shame.  The DVD came out the same year and contains a lot of goodies, like the Pulled Punches: Outtakes mentioned above, as well as a Top Ten Questions segment, which is probably the most educational part and lasts almost an hour.

Like Cashill said, Olson laid his bias straight out, and even wore an “Evolutionist” hat in the film.  But he was fair and treated people with respect.  He didn’t try to paint the ID supporters unfairly and he didn’t hold back on his portrayal of the scientists either.  In fact, he showed that for the most part, these ID supporters were nice, likable people you could sit with and play a game of poker.  In contrast, the scientists, while they certainly knew their stuff better, were shown to be rowdy and bad at communicating their knowledge, which is one of the main points of the film.  Scientists may have the knowledge and better evidence, but if they cannot get it out to the public, they will lose to the public relations firms and sound bites employed by places like the Discovery Institute and eventually go the way of the dodos.  It’s a good film, and I’d certainly recommend watching it.

As a bonus for the curious, the top ten questions addressed in the DVD are:

1. Why is this controversy so uniquely American?
2. Can a Christian accept biological evolution?
3. Why do people fear evolution?
4. Should the bible be taught as literally true?
5. Isn’t it only fair to “Teach the Controversy?”
6. What is the difference between creationism and intelligent design?
7. Do intelligent designers practice good science?
8. What is “irreducible complexity?”
9. What is the difference between a “law of nature” and a theory?
10. Has the media done a good job with this issues?

April 30, 2008

Florida’s anti-evolution bill

Update: The bill has died

The NCSE has some news on Florida’s anti-evolution bill. It’s clear to anyone who’s looking at this that the proponents of the bill have ulterior motives. This isn’t about academic freedom at all. They claim that the bill will not allow the teaching of intelligent design, but their words betray them.

To begin with, their wording is rather suspicious:

“As passed by the council, the bill would require teachers to provide a ‘critical analysis’ of evolution, a phrase that the Associated Press (April 28, 2008) recognized as ‘one used by intelligent design advocates,’ although noting that its sponsor claimed that it would neither require nor allow teaching ‘intelligent design.'”

Also, as the Florida Citizens for Science put it:

“What are some examples of critical analysis of evolution that have no religious connotations and are based on legitimate, up-to-date scientific ideas?”

I would certainly love to see the answers to that. But continuing with the original discussion, Representative Alan Hays also said this:

“Too many people are afraid to even mention the theory of intelligent design.”

Wait. What? Didn’t you guys just say this bill wouldn’t allow teaching intelligent design? Then why does that even matter? Also, intelligent design is not even a scientific theory. Finally, their silence to some questions is simply deafening:

“Opponents have voiced concerns that Storms’ bill will open the door to teaching religious-based theories, like intelligent design, in public school classrooms. But Storms, one of the Senate’s most conservative members, repeatedly refused to answer questions on whether that could happen.”

This whole thing stinks of “cdesign proponentsists“. But kudos to Senators Ted Deutch and Nan Rich for speaking out against the bill, in particular Deutch for the following:

“We’re talking about academic freedom … In an abstinence-only sex education program, a teacher may wish to answer a student’s question and provide additional information that may protect a life or stop an unwanted pregnancy.”

Not surprisingly, Senator Ronda Storms slippery sloped the argument:

“I’m concerned about prematurely deflowering kindergartners and first and second graders.”

Interesting, I had no idea Storms was interested in educating kindergartners, first, and second graders about sex! That certainly says a lot about her. ;)

But I think Deutch’s argument is a good one, and I’ll start employing it against the conservatives who still naively think this issue is really about “academic freedom”.

That said, all this may end up being a non-issue since they only have two more days to pass this (Senate and House versions of the bill must agree).

Anti-Defamation League denounces Expelled

It’s about time! I think it’s saying a lot when Ben Stein (who’s Jewish) has basically been called out by the Anti-Defamation League for defaming Jews.

Anyway, they issued the following statement in their press release:

The film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed misappropriates the Holocaust and its imagery as a part of its political effort to discredit the scientific community which rejects so-called intelligent design theory.

Hitler did not need Darwin to devise his heinous plan to exterminate the Jewish people and Darwin and evolutionary theory cannot explain Hitler’s genocidal madness.

Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry.

Note that this isn’t the first time they’ve spoken out against those who’ve tried to Godwin Darwin for their own agendas. They blasted Coral Ridge Ministries two years ago for doing pretty much the same thing that Expelled‘s doing now.

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