I was initially impressed that Bill Maher interviewed Francis Collins, the brilliant scientist who led the human genome project and who has written eloquently about being both a believer and a scientist. But in the movie, Collins seemed uncharacteristically confused, as he discussed the accuracy of the Bible, a topic I’d not seen him comment on before. I suspected some slippery editing so I asked Collins about the interview. He emailed me:

“I thought my interview with him was going to be about the so-called controversy between science and faith, and whether someone could both believe in God and evolution. I was willing to discourse on that.
But in a rambling discussion, Maher migrated into other territory where I am hardly an expert (like the historicity of the Gospels). As you could see, that was the part he chose to include, though he presented a very limited excerpt.
If Maher were seriously interested in hearing a discussion on this topic, he might have lined up an interview with someone like N.T. Wright.
So yes, I felt a bit misused. But I guess no one would claim this was an attempt to find the real truth.”

I wonder whether we’ll hear about other examples of deceptive editing besides this one and the misleading John Adams quote I mentioned earlier. Religulous is a comedy based on making believers look foolish. Yet while he attacks the intellectual dishonesty of religion, his movie seems to be chock full of it.
UPDATE: The original proposal from Maher’s production company said the “documentary” would be a “journey toward understanding,” focusing on the “human genome and its relationship to his faith. Not really the way it turned out.
Full email below the fold.

Sent: Wednesday, January 17, 2007 7:02 PM
To: Metcalfe, Heidi
Subject: Bill Maher Interview Request – Dr. Francis S. Collins
Thank you for taking the time to speak with me earlier.
I wanted to detail the project for you further and now I have the most up to date information.
Ideally, we would like to secure an hour or so of Dr. Collins’ time in DC on either January 25th or 26th. This interview does not necessarily need to be at the Institute as we have decided to focus on “The Language of God”. The interview will likely be in the same vein as his interview on the Colbert Report – but as I”m sure you are aware, Bill has a unique style and wit. Also, as a documentary film, we are approaching this project as a journey toward understanding during which it is crucial to consult experts from a variety of fields.
Dr. Collins’ explanation of the human genome and its relationship to his faith will express a key point of view on the subject. We are very hopeful that he may have some time to sit down with Bill during the 25th or 26th. We will do our best to work around his schedule.
We are in talks with distributors and intend on a theatrical release internationally. Please let me know as soon as possible Dr. Collins’
availability and contact information so that we can secure the interview.
Thanks so much!

More from Beliefnet and our partners