The Shame of Ben Stein, Intelligent Designer


Ben Stein, yes, the Ben Stein in Ferris Bueller's Day Off and yes, the Ben Stein of Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money" is the host/interviewer for an intelligent design documentary entitled, Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. One tagline asserts, "Big Science has expelled smart new ideas from the classroom." The "new idea" is the old argument from design for the existence of God.

Expelled basically asserts that science is intolerant of brave scientists who question Darwinian orthodoxy on the evolution of life. They lose their jobs, don't get grants, and so forth. Anyway, the New York Times is running an article today in which various supporters of Darwinian evolution claimed to have been hoodwinked into participating in the documentary.

Now it's not nice for journalists and documentarians to mislead interviewees, but it happens all the time. When journalists mislead they generally do it by not telling interviewees everything they know. The seductive aspects of reporting were controversially discussed in Janet Malcolm's famous essay, "The Journalist and the Murderer". Now people like Richard Dawkins and Eugenie C. Scott, who were both interviewed for the movie, are highly media savvy and should not be surprised by this booking technique.

In any case, I'm sure the evolutionary biologists didn't say anything they didn't believe. The real shame of Expelled is that a prominent public personality like Ben Stein would enthusiastically participate in this project. According to the Times Stein:

…said in a telephone interview that he accepted the producers' invitation to participate in the film not because he disavows the theory of evolution — he said there was a "very high likelihood" that Darwin was on to something — but because he does not accept that evolution alone can explain life on earth.

He said he also believed the theory of evolution leads to racism and ultimately genocide, an idea common among creationist thinkers. If it were up to him, he said, the film would be called "From Darwin to Hitler."

Stein's Hitler remark is reminescent of the comment by fundamentalist Rev. John Roach Straton in the run-up to the Scopes trial that "Monkey men means monkey morals."

If Stein were genuinely intellectually curious about the "debate" over intelligent design, he would do well to read Judge John Jones' decision in Kitzmuller v. Dover in which the judge found it unconstitutional to teach intelligent design in public school science classes. Why? Because it is a religious belief, not a scientific theory.

Whole New York Times story here.

Some of my observations about ID and the Dover decision here