2008-03-20 Expelled screening

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There was a private screening of (presumably of a rough cut of) the intelligent design movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed at the Mall of America in Minneapolis, MN on March 20, 2008. Attendance was free, with admission by check of identification against a list of those who had signed up at a web site. Confirmation emails received from the web site specifically stated that no ticket was necessary for admission. The film included interviews with both PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins, who had apparently been told that they were being interviewed for a film to be called Crossroads, which was to be an examination of the debate between Darwinism and intelligent design.

PZ Myers and members of his family were in the line with Richard Dawkins and the entire crew of the Richard Dawkins Foundation when the film's producer, Mark Mathis, spotted Myers in line and told a security guard to escort Myers outside, claiming that he was not allowed inside without an invitation. A theater employee named Jared apparently backed this up, saying "The producer said that he doesn't want you here. You don't have a ticket, and this is a private screening." Myers complied quietly, stopping only to confer with his family to let them know where he would be after the film was over.

At the end of the film, producer Mathis held a Q&A session during which he apparently called (metaphorically?) on Dawkins; Dawkins stood up and replied, apparently surprising Mathis with his presence despite the fact that he had registered using his real name, as had everyone in the group. During the Q&A, Mathis also made a statement about the changing of the film's title from Crossroads to Expelled!, claiming that "Crossroads" had been a working title; as a result of blog entries about the event by PZ and Kristine Harley ("Amused Muse"), this claim was examined more closely and found to be inconsistent with the registration date of the film's web site domain name, which had been registered before most or all of the interviews were conducted – with no registrations at all found for any "Crossroads" movie.

Later, Stuart Blessman, a University of Minnesota student who was at the screening, posted a hugely contradictory account of the event, claiming that "Management of the movie theatre saw a man apparently hustling and bothering several invited attendees, apparently trying to disrupt the viewing or sneak in. Management then approached the man, asked him if he had a ticket, and when he confirmed that he didn’t, they then escorted him off the premises.", with the implication that PZ Meyers was that man. Blessman also describes Dawkins as "a gatecrasher to the movie" and "uninvited".

PZ Myers and Kristine Harley, another audience member who witnessed the event, backed up PZ's original account in the face of Blessman's.


Stuart Blessman said:

...the real highlight of the evening occurred after the showing, during the Q&A. Mathis led this discussion, and the second question was asked by a surprise member of the audience: Richard Dawkins, author of “The God Delusion,” and arguably the biggest name in the movie other than Mr. Ben Stein himself. As this screening was by invitation only, Dawkins appearance was quite a surprise to both the audience and Mathis.

Dawkins asked a simple question: Why was one of his colleagues interviewed in the movie denied a chance to come see this movie and protest it and in fact was escorted out by security prior to admittance to the theatre? The irony apparently escaped Mr. Dawkins that he himself was a gatecrasher to the movie and was uninvited; nevertheless, he wanted to know why his colleague was turned away even though he himself was admitted as were his colleague’s family.

I just happened to be standing directly in line behind Dawkins’ academic colleague. Management of the movie theatre saw a man apparently hustling and bothering several invited attendees, apparently trying to disrupt the viewing or sneak in. Management then approached the man, asked him if he had a ticket, and when he confirmed that he didn’t, they then escorted him off the premises. Nowhere was one of the film’s producers to be found, and the man certainly didn’t identify himself. If a producer had been nearby, it’s possible that he would have been admitted, but the theatre’s management didn’t want to take any chances.

Kristine said:

That's a fucking lie. I saw PZ in line with Dawkins behind us. PZ came up to me, said hello, and said, "They're kicking me out." Then "Jared" told him that he had to have a ticket and that this was an invitation only private screening. I had no ticket or invitation.

It's up at Christianity Today as well. I can tell you that I heard what I heard. Mark Mathis also repeatedly stated that the reason PZ was not let in was that he had no ticket. He said nothing about creating a disturbance.

PZ Myers said:

Stuart Blessman, the student at UM who made that claim at the lookingcloser blog, is a liar.

A shameful liar and a disgrace to the university.

No, I was not bothering anyone. I went forward and got copies of the form we had to sign to get in, brought them back to my group, and the people in front of us asked me if they could have some, too. That was my only interaction with other people in line.

Nobody had a ticket. You reserved a seat online, and they checked your name off their list at the front of the line.

I was not trying to sneak in. I reserved my seats under my own name.

I was called aside by a security guard, who asked if my name was PZ Myers, and who said that the producer had specifically asked that I be removed.

We do have some idiots who get enrolled at this university. I like to think that they're a minority, but I'm rather surprised that someone so ethically challenged is a student here.