Here in the UK we don’t have many problems with creationists. We have to be vigilant because it looks like they might be on the increase, but currently we mainly just point and laugh at them. It’s therefore hard sometimes to understand how much of a problem creationism is over in the US.
Unless you keep a close eye on our transatlantic cousins you might not have heard of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed – a forthcoming film which claims that a number of educators and scientists are being persecuted for their belief in “Intelligent Design” (the modern rebranding of creationism). The film first came to my notice last year when Richard Dawkins mentioned that he had been interviewed for the film under false pretences. Amongst the other people tricked into appearing in the film was PZ Myers, the Minnesota biology professor who is well-known for his blog Pharyngula.
Dawkins is currently in the US on a speaking tour. As part of the tour, he was in Minnesota on Thursday where he was due to speak at the American Atheists Conference. That evening he met up with his colleague and friend Myers. Also in Minnesota that evening was a screening of Expelled. This was one of a number of pre-release screenings of the film which have been held all over the country in order to build awareness of the film. Myers had reserved seats in the screening for himself, his family, Dawkins and some people who work on Richard Dawkins’ web site. He did this by registering on a web site. He didn’t use a false name or in any way try to disguise that he would be attending the screening.
Whilst the party was waiting in the queue, a security guard approached Myers and told him that couldn’t attend the screening and would have to leave – apparently missing the fact that Richard Dawkins was standing right next to him in the queue. Myers went off to the local Apple Store (where he posted this blog entry) and Dawkins watched the film with the rest of Myers’ family. In the Q&A session following the film Dawkins asked the film’s director why he asked for Myers to be removed and the director just lied in reply.
This is a brilliant own goal by the creationists. They seem to be as inept at public relations as they are at science (and also, if reports are to be believed, at filmmaking).
Myers published another, more detailed, account later and the story has also made the NY Times. The account on the Expelled web site seems extremely unlikely to anyone who knows anything about either Myers or Dawkins.
Finally, here’s a film of Dawkins and Myers discussing the incident.
Update: Here’s Richard Dawkins on both the incident and the film.