About a billion words have been writ thus far about Expelled and the controversy that has sprung up around it—some would say “manufactured by its promotion”—over recent several weeks. Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk for twenty minutes with Mark Mathis, Associate Producer on the film and one of the figures at the center of that controversy. (I published the transcript of my interview with P.Z. Myers, the other major player in that controversy, a couple of weeks ago.)
Rather than rehash a wealth of issues already covered in depth here at SteinWatch—or at Pharyngula, the official Expelled site, and now collected and distilled at the NCSE’s Expelled Exposed site (with just a tinge of biased reportage)—I dove right in to try to get some hard answers from Mathis about open questions related to those existing controversial issues.
You may judge for yourself how successful I was in getting satisfactory answers. Personally, I’d feel better knowing a bit more yet before I write my own review of the film later this week.
Greg Wright: The latest “big news” is the letter from XVIVO that is being touted as a lawsuit—which is nothing more than a letter of intent to pursue legal action—regarding the animated sequence in Expelled.
Mark Mathis: Right.
GW: Obviously, if there were a lawsuit in process, you clearly wouldn’t be able to comment on anything related to that. But my suspicion is, based on the letter itself—which has been disseminated on the web in PDF format, which I find a little odd—that the folks who wrote that letter haven’t yet seen the finished film. Do you know whether they have or not?
MM: I think that your suspicion is probably well-grounded; but I couldn’t tell you if they have. I suspect that they have not.
GW: Now, I’m also under the impression—and I don’t know the facts here, so you can straighten me out—that the animation that was on the DVD that was handed out at word-of-mouth screenings is not the animation that appears in the final film.
MM: That is correct.
GW: So as I see it, XVIVO issued a letter asking for animation to be pulled from the film that isn’t even in the film.
MM: Yes. I would say that is correct.
GW: I have compared the original Harvard footage with the promo DVD version that Myers has posted at Pharyngula, and though I’ve only seen the film once, as I recall, there are very, very substantial differences between the final cut of the animation and the version that appears on the promo DVD. Is that right?
MM: You know, I haven’t made— I believe that’s the case; but I haven’t actually watched what Myers has posted. I haven’t made my own comparison. I apologize; I should have done that, because I have the DVD version. I have the film on PC, too, so I can do that. My problem has been that I’m running so hard and fast doing twenty-seven other things that— I know that we’ve got Executive Producers who have dealt with this specifically, and this is kind of in the periphery of what I’ve been involved in. But I’m glad you brought that up, because I need to make that comparison myself, just for my own. But I know, because I’ve watched both, that certainly there are significant differences and improvements, and I believe that, because of those substantial differences, there isn’t any merit to the charge.