Home > Anti-evolution, History & Philosophy > Creationists lie to historians and deny subterfuge.

Creationists lie to historians and deny subterfuge.

June 21, 2009

Veteran creationist watchers will remember how the producers of Expelled used a front to con folks such as Genie Scott, Richard Dawkins, and PZ Myers into getting involved with their little dog and pony show. (See here for details on that). Now it seems Creation Ministries International used a front company and lied (there is no other word for it) to notable historians of science to get them involved in their docu-drama The Voyage That Shook The World, a blockbuster that is scheduled to be shown in churches throughout the US.

The historians in question are well know experts on Darwin (Peter Bowler, Sandra Herbert and Janet Browne) who only learned that they had been contributing to a creationist documentary the month before it was released. Bowler

says he is unhappy to be appearing in what he regards as an “anti-Darwinian” film which offers an historically distorted portrait of Darwin. He claims that the film’s narrative implies that Darwin’s theory led him towards racism, whereas recent historical work by James Moore and Adrian Desmond shows that Darwin’s scientific work was partly motivated by the naturalist’s passionate opposition to racism.

When asked whether their tactic were “deceptive,” Phil Bell replied

“Well, it could be called deceptive. But I think, at the end of the day, I would say that more people are concerned about how we’ve made a documentary, that’s a world-class documentary, clearly with wonderful footage, with excellent interviews, and balanced open discussion.”

No. At the end of the day, people should be concerned that you showed no compunction about deceiving noted historians – who, by the way, have always been nuanced in their discussions of opposition to evolution – so as to be able to better skewer Darwin. You lied, pure and simple.

There is a “study guide” over at the movie website and the study questions (with suggested links) are here. A quick browse of the suggested links will show that it is highly unlikely that Darwin (or modern evolution) will be treated either fairly or accurately.

Welcome to Son of Expelled.

Update (6/27): I respond to CMI’s response here.

Update (6/29): Further thoughts here.

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  1. darwinsbulldog
    June 21, 2009 at 6:32 pm | #1

    Shortly after learning about this film, I emailed Bowler, Browne, and Herbert asking about their involvement. No response from Herbert, but Bowler and Browne both said they did not know it was a creationist production, but asked that I don’t share that info on my blog. I guess it’s out now!

  2. korotiotio
    June 22, 2009 at 3:32 am | #2

    Following William Crawley’s original blog on this issue, I posted some comments that offer an alternative perspective. You might care to take a look…

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/blogs/ni/2009/06/creationists_defend_darwin_fil.html

    BTW, there is a subtle but important difference between subterfuge and a bald-faced lie.

    If the producers had been asked whether they were creationists and they replied,”no”, then that is clearly a lie, and from a Christian perspective, wrong. Perhaps you should ask the interviewees if this was the case. But if the producers are operating under the banner of a legally created entity, i.e. the production company, Fathom Media, who says they have to voluntarily disclose the identity of the commissioning entity? There could be all sorts of commercial reasons why that is not prudent…

  3. June 22, 2009 at 7:17 am | #3

    More voodoo history from creationists.

    It seems odd to me that these guys are so hung up on inventing links to racism and communism that do not exist in reality. And it’s odd they keep coming up with answers that are almost always contrary to history and fan flames of conflict.

    There’s a warning in scripture about people who sow strife.

  4. June 22, 2009 at 8:28 am | #4

    Update: Apparently Dembski thinks I’m “whining“. He’d know.

  5. ERV
    June 22, 2009 at 9:37 am | #5

    Bonus: I think Denyse thinks youre her ‘Boo’!

  6. June 22, 2009 at 9:53 am | #6

    Dembski, as many people of limited emotional quotient, like to put superior people in embarrassing circumstances — he thinks its grand that noted people were hoodwinked.

    Yesterday was Father’s Day — in Dembksi’s book, he doesn’t need to be respectful of elders or superiors today.

  7. June 22, 2009 at 10:59 am | #7

    @ erv

    Boo, you say? Doesn’t look a bit like me :)

  8. GHitch
    June 29, 2009 at 5:24 am | #8

    This is no different that what was done by Darwinists to many creationists and ID proponents including Dembski and others.

    The funny thing is that, under the materialist paradigm, there is nothing wrong with lying, stealing or rape- its all just evolutionary adaptations for survival.

    Journalists regularly get interviews under spurious pretexts and no one bats and eye. How about Beaver’s inane stealth tactics? The list is long indeed.

    Curiously, on this very web page we see an add for the book, “The Darwin Myth: the life and lies of Charles Darwin”. Yet none of you Darwinian fundamentalists complain.

    All this goes to demonstrate how Darwinists react to anything they don’t like when they don’t actually have an argument and their science for macro evolution is bankrupt of anything but “mountains of overwhelming” smoke and mirrors.

  9. ElitistB
    June 29, 2009 at 5:57 am | #9

    @GHitch, in response to:
    “The funny thing is that, under the materialist paradigm, there is nothing wrong with lying, stealing or rape- its all just evolutionary adaptations for survival.”
    Well:
    1. There is nothing wrong with lying, stealing, or rape under any of the Desert Dogma’s paradigm. In fact in all of their literature it is often blessed by God to perform such acts, especially if it is done to unbelievers.
    2. Actually under a materialistic paradigm, it is pretty obvious that such acts are detrimental to society as a whole. Very few societies, and no atheistic ones that I can think of, advocate lying, stealing, or raping. Unlike religious paradigms, those societies which can generally be called “atheistic” extend these courtesies even to opponents, something many religious societies do not.

  10. Robert Edwards
    June 29, 2009 at 9:46 am | #10

    I would love to know the responses these individuals would haven given (if any!) had they known. Would we have been subject to misleading remarks, half truths or……lies!
    Let your yes be yes……

  11. June 29, 2009 at 10:34 am | #11

    I would love to know the responses these individuals would haven given (if any!) had they known. Would we have been subject to misleading remarks, half truths or……lies!
    Let your yes be yes……

    A guy cheats your mother by promising to blacktop her driveway, but just used water-based spray-paint instead. Your mother is embarrassed, out $500, but doesn’t want to press charges.

    You had been by her house when the guy showed up. You remember what he looks like, though his business card and his receipt for the work bear false names, phone numbers and addresses.

    Your doorbell rings. It is the same man who swindled your mother. He offers to repair your roof next week if you pay him in advance about half what it should cost, today.

    Do you write him a check?

    Our experiences with creationists is that they cannot make a case for creationism for more than about 5 minutes without resorting to gross distortions of the statements of others, and outright falsehood.

    If anyone knew in advance that their interviewer was a liar and a cheat, wouldn’t they treat the interviewer as you’d treat the guy who swindled your mother?

    And, in justice, shouldn’t that be appropriate?

  12. June 29, 2009 at 1:23 pm | #12

    “used a front company and lied (there is no other word for it) ”
    “You lied, pure and simple.”

    Seems like this is an exaggeration. CMI created a front company to conceal the fact that the makers of the film were creationists (for reasons stated in the BBC article). The straightforward understanding of “to lie” is “to make false statements with the intent to deceive”, not merely “to conceal information.” A lie pure and simple would have been e.g. to create a front company that claims to advocate evolution and combat creationism. Did CMI do that? Or did their documentary distort Bowler’s statements about Darwinism?

    If a journalist goes to report on a skinhead convention and neglects to tell the people at the door that she is not a racist, is she “lying, pure and simple?”

    If “creationist watchers” resort to exaggeration in reporting on creationists, what does that tell us about the watchers?

  13. June 29, 2009 at 1:40 pm | #13

    If “Christians” resort to subterfuge to get their way, what does it say about the “Christians”?

    Matt 5:16 Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

  14. June 29, 2009 at 2:49 pm | #14

    This begs the question. You’ve changed “lie” to “subterfuge,” which is vaguer, but you haven’t answered whether your original accusation of “lie” was indeed an exaggeration. Are you retracting the “lie” accusation?

    Mark 11:31-33: They began reasoning among themselves, saying, “If we say, ‘From heaven,’ He will say, ‘Then why did you not believe him?’ “But shall we say, ‘From men’?”—they were afraid of the people, for everyone considered John to have been a real prophet. Answering Jesus, they said, “We do not know.” And Jesus said to them, “Nor will I tell you by what authority I do these things.”

  15. June 29, 2009 at 2:52 pm | #15

    @ Lars

    No retraction. I used “subterfuge” purposefully to generalize the point.

  16. June 29, 2009 at 3:02 pm | #16

    Could you address my original comment…
    Isn’t “lie” an exaggeration when applied to CMI’s actions?
    I described why I believe it is.

  17. June 29, 2009 at 3:12 pm | #17

    They presented a false impression, i.e. they lied. Furthermore, they admit to cherry-picking the interviews to suit their own ideology. If you find such tactics acceptable, fair enough. I don’t.

  18. June 29, 2009 at 3:15 pm | #18

    I should add that the fact that your home page displaying a banner for Expelled seems to indicate a certain disdain for historical accuracy on your part. So it’s not surprising you are supporting CMI’s tactics.

  19. June 29, 2009 at 3:29 pm | #19

    Let me put it another way. Your “subterfuge” comment returns to the main point of your post, which is contingent upon the question of whether or not CMI lied. If the accused is innocent until proven guilty, the burden is on you to demonstrate that they did. So far, as I’ve pointed out, the evidence says that they didn’t. Since your headline still proclaims the accusation, the burden is on you to defend it. I am trusting that you do not want to be a false witness yourself.

    “Subterfuge” is a fuzzier term. One could imagine situations of nondisclosure for morally good reasons, which some people could nevertheless label subterfuge. In that case, categorizing an action as subterfuge does not help us determine whether it was morally wrong or shameful (in regard to e.g. your Matt 5:16 quote). It would be like applying a layer of mud before measuring something with a ruler. Or making goalposts out of smoke.

    My interest is in whether your original statement is true: did they lie?

    “They presented a false impression, i.e. they lied.”

    That seems to me a very succinct summary of equivocation on your part. Omission of information is not “a lie, pure and simple” for which “there is no other word.” Since you continue to defend that statement with equivocation, you lose credibility as an honest witness.

    Wouldn’t it be more honest to say in your headline “Creationists conceal position from historians”?

    I should add that the fact that your home page displaying a banner for Expelled seems to indicate a certain disdain for historical accuracy on your part.

    That would be a convenient excuse to ignore my argument. If I took the same approach to your blog, I would say that your post begins with a link to expelledexposed.com, which seems to indicate your agenda and bias. So it’s not surprising your are attacking CMI.

    I should take that banner down though… it’s pretty old.

  20. June 29, 2009 at 3:41 pm | #20

    You seem remarkably comfortable with deception being used as a method to trick individuals into participating in something they would not otherwise participate it. CMI admit their deception which, by presenting a false impression, was a form of lying. You seem to want to engage in semantics (and accusations) in an effort to whitewash what CMI did. They lied and you are defending them. If you are comfortable with that, fair enough.

    We have moved on. You might want to as well, as it is clear that you will continue to defend their actions.

    My last word on this issue.

  21. June 29, 2009 at 8:18 pm | #21

    Typical creationist. Looks through microscopes and telescopes the wrong way.

    If a journalist goes to report on a skinhead convention and neglects to tell the people at the door that she is not a racist, is she “lying, pure and simple?”

    But if a skinhead goes to a journalists’ convention and neglects to tell the people at the door that he is not a journalist, he is presenting a falsehood.

    Is there a hierarchy of falsehoods? Scripture does not excuse telling falsehoods to promote ignoble ends, to hide the truth, or to propagandize against science.

    What in heaven’s name could be the excuse for such a false face, Lars? Why would Christians need to go undercover against science?

    Here we have people who claim to be Christian, hiding their intentions, editing the remarks of the people they hoaxed in order to make the statements appear contrary to what the people actually advocate, making their mere presence on the film lend credibility to a hoax. There’s a warning in scripture against this film: O Timothy, keep that which is committed to thy trust, avoiding profane and vain babblings, and oppositions of science falsely so called: Which some professing have erred concerning the faith.

    This film is nothing more than vain babblings; you defend opposition to the movie on the basis of what you falsely call science, Lars. This is embarrassing to all Christianity.

  22. ElitistB
    June 29, 2009 at 8:25 pm | #22

    I think the point with “subterfuge” is: Most people consider subterfuge in the name of truth to be a justified to some extent. Subterfuge in the name of untruth is usually not considered justified to any extent.

    The producers of this video used subterfuge to neither gain information about how the participants actually felt nor about the reality of the situation. They used subterfuge so that the participants would actually be present to be quote mined. The producers were completely aware that the participants would not have participated otherwise, as the participants would have been fully aware of the likelihood of their opinions being grossly distorted.

    Subterfuge for the purpose of lying and misinformation, in short.

  23. ElitistB
    June 29, 2009 at 8:29 pm | #23

    Frankly the producers didn’t care WHAT opinions the participants had, what information the participants would present, or even really what the participants might have said. ALL they wanted was the participants presence to lend an air of credibility to their video that it could not have gained on its own merits.

  24. Robert Edwards
    June 30, 2009 at 7:09 am | #24

    Silly lad,

    I challenge you to refute ANY point covered in Dr. Jonathan Sarfati’s publication ‘Refuting Evolution’ How about ‘By Design: Evidence for nature’s Intelligent Designer—the God of the Bible’
    Be Careful! you may not want to go there. He stopped dragging his knuckles serveral moons ago! Please, don’t bother to respond unless you are able to reply with ANYTHING tangable or thought provoking that even you can believe.

  25. June 30, 2009 at 9:05 am | #25

    Obvious troll is obvious.

  26. Olorin
    June 30, 2009 at 3:00 pm | #26

    The theme of this movie escapes scientists for the same reason that it appeals to creationists.

    Creationists are unable to grasp a simple but basic difference between theology and science. It is possible to argue against, say, the truth of Islam by showing that Mohamed was a bad person or held evil beliefs. This is a valid theological argument. But you cannot argue against the evidence for the theory of evolution by impugning the character of one of its proponents—or even of its founder. You can only falsify a scientific theory by controverting the evidence for it.

    So the creationists who see the movie will feel smug that Darwin’s racism falsifies the theory that has his name attached to it. Even though a scientist would say that even an admission by everyone on the planet that Darwin were the devil himself, would have no effect upon the theory.

  27. June 30, 2009 at 7:51 pm | #27

    So the creationists who see the movie will feel smug that Darwin’s racism falsifies the theory that has his name attached to it.

    Darwin’s racism is a figment of their imaginations. Imaginary disproof that doesn’t work against a science proposition. No wonder they felt they had to be deceptive to get people with real academic chops to interview for the movie.

  28. Micky Mollallegn
    July 1, 2009 at 4:48 am | #28

    This is directed at hard-core atheists on this blog, not fair-minded readers.

    Dear hard-core atheist, since you are bent on rejecting explanations of who we are, and what it means to be human that credits the God of the Bible, why do you pretend to be searching for truth in Origins research? The Origins debate is controversial because it touches the core of what it means to be human. Clearly you are not interested in truth or finding out what being human is really all about. Indeed, you have designed a set of constructs (methodological naturalism in science) that rules out the God of the Bible in investigations of the origin of life and the universe. You think you are being clever while you tell yourself that there is no God, and deceive others into joining your dream world by spreading fears of a looming Theocracy if Evolution is dumped into the dustbin of history to secure your rule of intellectual tyranny and ignorance in society. You are blind fools. You are intellectual hypocrites who speak of openness, freedom of enquiry, and seeking the truth, yet you are utterly opposed to Jesus Christ who is Truth.

    Well, I also have a dream. I have a dream that one day your stranglehold on academia and the media will be utterly demolished, and school children will learn about Science, Evolution, and Creation with freedom to think for themselves and make their own decisions.

  29. Helen Bensilum
    July 1, 2009 at 6:45 am | #29

    I have had the opputunity to veiw this documentary. For creationists it probably isn’t hard hitting enough. The idea presented in any publicity all along was to get people to think and ask questions. This is not about attack. People were once told that the Earth was flat but that turned out to be incorrect. So what’s the bother with raised awareness? Have a look with open eyes!

  30. July 1, 2009 at 10:07 am | #30

    Helen,

    You claim that “[p]eople were once told that the Earth was flat” – who told the people that and when?

  31. July 2, 2009 at 9:22 am | #31

    This is directed at hard-core creationist Micky on this blog, not fair-minded readers.

    Dear hard-core creationist Micky, since you are bent on rejecting explanations of who Christians are, why they should value science rather than try to kick sand in in its face, and what it means to be human that credits the God of the Bible, why do you pretend to be searching for truth in Origins research?

    The Origins debate is controversial because only because creationists wish to restrict God to something they can control; creationism has no support from the Bible. Clearly you are not interested in truth or finding out what being human is really all about. Indeed, you have designed a set of constructs (irrational rejection of methodological naturalism in science) that rules out using the reason that the God of the Bible asks us to use always, especially in investigations of the origin of life and the universe. You think you are being clever while you tell yourself that God left no mysteries and dances to the creationist tune, and deceive others and even yourself into joining your dream world by spreading fears of a false looming [pick one: world war, genocide, Nazi totalitarian government, communist totalitarian government, imposition of increased library hours, requirements that people attend the opera and a few plays, reading assignments over the summer including The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, eugenics, lack of eugenics, increased science standards for high schools, end of the designated hitter rule, requirements that people who call themselves Christian actually read the Bible and follow the theology in it, membership in the Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts, cole slaw, kimchee, single-payer health care system] if anyone dares to study biology, God’s creation, and evolution theory, or just gets a little ahead of you in understanding what evolution is (which isn’t difficult since you appear never to have read anything on evolution). You fear that your cult will be dumped into the dustbin of history if there is not your rule of intellectual tyranny and ignorance in society. You are blinded, fool. You are an intellectual and religious hypocrite who speaks of openness, freedom of enquiry, and seeking the truth, yet you are utterly opposed to Jesus Christ who is Truth, and seek to substitute creationism for His Word, and even His words.

    Get thee behind us. Then follow. Your chances at salvation will be improved if you study the topic before you spout off.

  32. July 2, 2009 at 9:30 am | #32

    You claim that “[p]eople were once told that the Earth was flat” – who told the people that and when?

    Here, John, in “Hare we go,” about 40 seconds in:

    (In English: Columbus: “The world! She’s a-round, like my head.”

    King Ferdinand delivers a mallet blow flattening Columbus’s head.

    King Ferdinand: “The world, she’s a-flat like your head.”)

  33. July 2, 2009 at 9:33 am | #33

    Okay, here’s the whole thing in English. It says it was done in 1951:

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