From Abracadabra to Zombies
is a commentary on
mass media treatment of issues concerning science, the
paranormal, and the supernatural.
Skeptimedia replaces Mass Media Funk and Mass Media Bunk. Those blogs are now archived.
Ben Stein blames Darwin for Nazism and the Holocaust in his new movie. He might as well blame Jesus.
The Ben Stein Conspiracy
"If evolution is worth debating, it's worth debating well, and by a more intelligently designed film than this one." --Variety
"...the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed …that’s where science leads you....science leads you to killing people." --Ben Stein
April 9, 2008. I don't plan to see Ben Stein's new movie, an alleged documentary called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, but I have watched his promotional interviews with Pat Robertson, Glen Beck, and Bill O'Reilly. I have no quarrel with his shameless anti-science stance. He can remain as ignorant as he wants about the nature of the universe and it won't bother me a bit. What disgusts me about the man is his claim that there is some sort of scientific cabal that is blacklisting creationists and denying them their right to free speech. He didn't name anyone in his interviews who has been persecuted, but he's quoted in Newsweek as saying
There are a number of scientists and academics who've been fired, denied tenure, lost tenure or lost grants because they even suggested the possibility of intelligent design. The most egregious is Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian, the editor of a magazine that published a peer-reviewed paper about ID. He lost his job. --Ben Stein (Newsweek, April 14, 2008)
I know something about Mr. Sternberg, so I posted an entry for him in the Skeptic's Dictionary. The Sternberg case is no case at all. If Stein calls this "the most egregious" case, the other cases must be truly without any merit.
In any case, the scientific community isn't secretive at all about keeping religious views separate from scientific views. It is very open and up front about not confusing science with religion. There is no secret about trying to keep intelligent design out of the science classroom. We've gone to court over it and won. It's all been very public. Nobody's religious views have special preference in this society and nobody's religious views have a right to be considered as alternatives to scientific views. At least that's how it's supposed to be in America, but in places like Texas the creationists play by a different set of rules, as the video below demonstrates:
People are free to believe in intelligent design, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Thor, Votan, Wotan, Zeus, Athena, or whatever religious idea or entity they feel like believing in. But they don't have the right to call their beliefs science or to be given a hearing along with scientific views in the science classroom. Why is Stein whining about creationists as if they should be allowed to teach biology because they believe an intelligent designer created the world? Everybody's free to believe or not in an intelligent designer and in our society everyone is free to express that belief. Being a lawyer, Stein must know that freedom of speech doesn't mean anybody can go anywhere and say anything at any time. I can't go to his synagogue uninvited and disrupt services by reciting my poetry. He can't break into my house and give a lecture on the evils of Darwinism. Creationists can't claim a right to go into anyone's classroom and tell the students that in their view intelligent design is a viable alternative to natural selection. Intelligent design is the belief in a creator. Stein's ignorance about the fact that many people believe in a creator and accept evolution is evident from what he says in interviews. He's an educated, intelligent man, but he's also a lawyer so he knows how easy it would be for an incompetent or unproductive scholar who is an outspoken creationist to claim that he's being denied tenure because of his religious views. His colleagues might not like him for a variety of reasons but if he cries religious discrimination he might get what he wants even if he doesn't deserve it.
Fortunately for Stein the people who interview him on television are as ignorant of science as he is and can be led down the path on which he wants to take them. In American television, the ignorant leading the ignorant is an anthem, a creed. It's one of our main forms of entertainment and amusement. If it weren't for YouTube and those who post clips from these TV shows, I wouldn't know anything about Ben Stein and his clumsy attempt at anti-science propaganda.
The main lesson I am learning from people like Stein and his minions is that anti-scientific religious people don't care about the truth at all. They make no effort to educate themselves about science. They think they know the truth from the Bible or from their upbringing. They're intelligent and articulate enough to buffalo their way through life seeming to understand what they're talking about because for the most part they communicate with people who are even more ignorant and less caring about science than they are. Not only don't the Ben Steins of the world care about truth, they seem to have no feelings of guilt at lying and deceiving and misleading others about both science and religion.
What next? Acupuncturists and Indian herbalists claiming they are being persecuted because they aren't being allowed to teach their alternatives in medical schools? Actually, the alternative quacks have already won the war and many medical schools now offer junk science along with evidence-based medicine. Will biology departments give in as medical schools have? Will we one day have alternative science taught in all our classrooms? When that happens I'll make my own documentary. I'd call it Stupid and Stupider, but that might mislead people into thinking it was about foreign policy.
As a propaganda film, Expelled had had at least one success. A young Jewish man claims to have had his eyes opened while viewing Minister of Propaganda Stein's Meisterwerk and wrote to Michael Shermer:
Now I truly understand who you atheists and Darwinists really are! You people believe that it was okay for my great-grandparents to die in the Holocaust! How disgusting. Your past article about the Holocaust was just window dressing. We Jews will fight to keep people like you out of the United States!
I have learned a lot from Ben Stein, a Jewish brother, who has opened my eyes up a bit.
Shermer passed the letter around and Richard Dawkins has written a very eloquent reply that is posted on his website. It is worth a read for those who want details about Hitler and Darwin.
On the other hand, I have been combing the WWW for reviews of Expelled and have found only a few that are favorable: one by Chuck Colson, another by Chuck Norris, and another from that bastion of integrity: the Discovery Institute. My local paper, the Sacramento Bee didn't even review it. Instead, it gave it one star (of 5) and posted a review from Roger Moore of the Orlando Sentinel, who said mean things like:
Expelled relies on the viewer's inability or unwillingness to wrestle with a complex corner of science, double-talking its way toward a "must be a miracle" solution to anything that science may not claim to have an answer for. Dismiss that for having no basis in fact, and you're infringing on "academic freedom."
Stein has a history of moronic reasoning and in some ways the fact that he has survived as a celebrated person of some intellect is a strong indication of the degeneration of respect for the intellect in the United States. Wikipedia notes that
After Mark Felt's identity as Deep Throat was revealed, Stein stated that Richard Nixon would have prevented the rise to power of the Khmer Rouge if he had not been forced to resign. For his actions leading to that resignation, Stein said:
If there is such a thing as karma, if there is such a thing as justice in this life or the next, Mark Felt has bought himself the worst future of any man on this earth. And Bob Woodward is right behind him, with Ben Bradlee bringing up the rear. Out of their smug arrogance and contempt, they hatched the worst nightmare imaginable: genocide.
Yes, Ben Stein reasoned that the genocide in Cambodia was the responsibility of those who exposed Richard Nixon's attempt to cover-up crimes committed by one of the greatest collections of enemies of free speech who have ever run the White House (present company excluded). With reasoning like that, one wonders how he has survived as a public figure. You'd think he'd have drowned in the ridicule by now.
further reading about the dishonesty of Ben Stein
Education Agency director of science curriculum fired for
announcing Barbara Forrest talk (a real martyr)
--Science After Sunclipse (more real martyrs for science)
--Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin by Michael Shermer, Scientific American
--Ben Stein's Expelled: No Integrity Displayed by John Rennie, Scientific American
--Expelled Explained - Science Talk podcast hosted by Steve Mirsky
--Common Sense 'Expelled' in New Movie by Benjamin Radford, LiveScience's Bad Science Columnist
--Lying for Jesus? by Richard Dawkins
--Are ID proponents being silenced? by Amanda Gefter, New Scientist
--Skeptic's Guide to the Universe interview with Eugenie Scott
--Skepticality interviews with Richard Dawkins and Michael Shermer
--Expelled producers accused of copyright infringement
--Yoko Ono sues the makers of Expelled for using John Lennon's song Imagine without permission
--'Expelled' ripped off Harvard's 'Inner Life of the Cell' animation by David Bolinsky
--Richard Sternberg Exposed
--Guillermo Gonzalez Exposed
--Caroline Crocker Exposed
--Robert Marks Exposed
--Pamela Winnick Exposed
--Michael Egnor Exposed
* AmeriCares *