Monday, September 22, 2008

Poe'd by Roger Ebert

I've oftimes stated what a fan I am of film critic Roger Ebert. He does what any good critic should do: present his ideas and opinions clearly so that you can understand exactly where he's coming from even when you disagree with his review.

Today, though, he's pulled a lovely prank on us all, and has maintained the poker face of a pure professional throughout. An article at his site, bizarrely titled "Creationism: Your Questions Answered" immediately catches the eye, as it seems so out of place. But Ebert's subtle satire, which was such a successful application of Poe's Law — that little law of the internet that asserts it is impossible to create a parody of fundamentalist religious beliefs so absurd that no one will mistake it for the real deal — it startled PZ Myers, makes itself known right from its opening salvo, which calmly presents "Questions and answers on Creationism, which should be discussed in schools as an alternative to the theory of evolution." What follows is conveyed in such a dry, non-histrionic style that it's actually fooled a lot of people into thinking Ebert, who has made his support of good science and his full-on agreement with evolutionary theory and disdain for ID or other creationist pseudoscience plain, had gone over to the dark side.

Still, it becomes obvious we've been Poe'd with this gem:

Q. How long did the Great Flood last?

A. We know that Noah was 600 years, two months and 17 days old when he sailed. Using that as a starting point and counting forward, Genesis tells us it lasted for 40, 150, 253, 314 or 370 days.

Until he fesses up, it remains to be understood why Ebert chose just now to pull this little prank. It may have to do with the fact that this week, he's posted a review of Adaptation, the 2002 Spike Jonze movie starring Nic Cage, to his "Great Movies" section. This review boasts the headline "Evolution Is God's Intelligent Design," and I can imagine that sparking a miniflood of indignant emails from creationists, pulling out all their tiresome "evilushun is not siyunts nuh-uh, lookit all the evidense for creashunz!" canards, and demanding "equal time." So, that's what Roger gave them.

Thumbs up, old chap!


  1. Word on the street (see some of the early comments) is that Ebert isn't at all a creationist; he apparently even refused to review Expelled because he knew it would be a waste of time and energy. The best guess so far at PZ's seems to be that his site was hacked in revenge.

  2. The line about Neanderthal Man was a dead giveaway (at least to me) that it was a joke.

  3. Actually Akusai, he replied very drily to my very own comment in his blog (Roger Ebert's Journal), where I half-seriously floated the hacking idea, with "My site was not hacked." So yeah, he's just having a laugh.

  4. Is it me or is September national Poe's law month. I've seen at least 4 cases of it this month(though I'm pretty sure it is 5, but its hard to tell due to poe's law). I say that we should invoke poe's law on AiG, they have to be the poeiest people of all.

  5. Good to know he hasn't gone off the deep end.

    Also good to know he wasn't hacked. A joke is better than a lame web attack by deluded creationists any day.

  6. I'm interested to see what he says about this.

    To be fair, I've had legitimate creationists give me a variety of time frames that are possible for how long the flood lasted (although I'd agree that he's having some sort of laugh here).

  7. Creationism article has been enlightening, and a little depressing. I expected better from evolutionists."

    Roger Ebert


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