Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Ben Stein: Crouching theocon, hidden nit-wit

Take a look at Ben Stein’s Introductory Blog on the website for the movie, "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed." Being a speech writer for Republican presidents, Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, one might suspect he was a theocon waiting to pounce. But I didn't know until recently that the man was a nit-wit. He's a financial columnist for the New York Times and he seemed so smart on his Comedy Central show “Win Ben Stein’s Money.” Such is the magic of television that it can make utter morons appear to be geniuses.

But a nit-wit he must be for only a nit-wit would repeat a creationist lie so obviously false that it only takes a few minutes on Google to prove it utterly wrong, and that's what Ben Stein did.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's look at some of what Stein wrote:

...a new anti-religious dogmatism, scientists and educators are not allowed to even think thoughts that involve an intelligent creator. Do you realize that some of the leading lights of “anti-intelligent design” would not allow a scientist who merely believed in the possibility of an intelligent designer/creator to work for him… EVEN IF HE NEVER MENTIONED the possibility of intelligent design in the universe? EVEN FOR HIS VERY THOUGHTS… HE WOULD BE BANNED.

Wow! He thinks atheists can read minds! Well, he's right, we can. I guess Sam Harris will be hooking up every scientist in America to his fMRI machine and then firing the ones who believe in God. Alas we don't have the money to put them all in an fMRI machine and I'm sure the courts would never allow it if we could. Besides, Sam Harris doesn't have the authority to fire anyone. In fact, most scientists are hired and fired by non-scientists. So, even if the majority of scientists are atheistic and agnostic most of their careers depend on business men, college administrators, politicians and others who are in the majority religious people.

And then Ben Stein digs his hole even deeper: America, an Einstein or a Newton or a Galileo would probably not be allowed to receive grants to study or to publish his research.

They cannot even mention the possibility that–as Newton or Galileo believed–these laws were created by God or a higher being. They could get fired, lose tenure, have their grants cut off. This can happen. It has happened.

The idea that the laws of physics, as discovered by Einstein, Newton and Galileo, were created by God or a higher being is not Intelligent Design. Intelligent Design as it is defined by its major proponents is about biology, not physics. Intelligent Design is the claim that Darwin could not have been right because certain features of life are too irreducibly complex for evolution to create. Darwin himself answered that argument and admitted that if it could be demonstrated that any feature of life that couldn't be arrived at in a long series of gradual steps he would be proved wrong. The lie of ID is the claim that they have proven this -- they have not. It has been demonstrated that the features that ID proponents have claimed were irreducibly complex were not in fact so. For example, the bacterial flagellum; Biochemistry professor Michael Behe, an ID proponent who hasn't so far been fired for supporting ID, claimed the bacterial flagellum was irreducibly complex but during the Dover trail it was shown that the bacterial flagellum could be produced by the gradual stages of evolution called for by Darwin. In fact, nature still retains many of the not quite flagellums that it may have evolved from.

Ben Stein is also claiming that an Einstein or a Newton or a Galileo would probably not be allowed to receive grants to study or to publish his research. What exactly does it mean to be an Einstein or a Newton or a Galileo? Just believing in some kind of God? Does it mean being a "creationist"? If he means a creationist, he shouldn't have Einstein on the list. Einstein wasn't even Christian. Newton and Galileo could be called creationists, but that's because they died before Darwin was born. We don't know what they would have made of Darwin's arguments.

Assuming he means their belief in God this is what I mean when I say it only takes a few minutes on Google to prove it utterly wrong because I can not only find working scientists who believe in God I can find prominent evolutionary biologists who believe in God, who claim to be Christian, and who are still working and getting grants. Here are a few names for you:

Kenneth R. Miller of Brown University. Working biologist who wrote "Finding Darwin's God."

Francis Collins, physical chemist, medical geneticist and head of the Human Genome Project. A very successful working biologist who wrote a book entitled “The Language of God.”

Michael J. Behe, still a professor of biochemistry at Lehigh University in spite of writing several ID books.

If Michael J. Behe is still working and getting published how can Ben Stein claim ID proponents will be fired? By the example of a few who claimed they were fired because of their beliefs? I bet I could come up with atheists who make the claim they were fired for their atheism.


Allen MacNeill has some comments on Panda's thumb that further indite the Expelled film maker's agenda.

...unlike PZ Myers and Richard Dawkins, the interviews with Will [Provine] and I were not included in the film. Why not? Because (as many posters at this site are well aware), we regularly invite ID proponents (such as Michael Behe, John Sanford, Hannah Maxson, and Phillip Johnson, among many others) to make presentations in our evolution courses at Cornell. But this fact would clash in an unfortunate way with the premise of the film, which is that “Darwinists” unfairly discriminate against ID supporters and creationists.

In other words, “Expelled” is a propaganda piece, pure and simple, as are virtually all of the public pronouncements of the Discovery Institute and their supporters. Scientists don’t make propaganda movies (although we are sometimes invited to participate in them under fraudulent pretenses). No, we go out into the field and the laboratory and investigate nature.

Some people do give ID a hearing. However, that's at the University level. At the high school level there has already been a trial concerning the presentation of Intelligent Design in a public high school. It was Kitzmiller v. Dover. According to U.S. District Judge John E. Jones III: "Intelligent Design is a religious view, not a scientific theory."

Would Ben Stein speak up for historians who were fired from teaching history for questioning the Holocaust? Would he support teachers in public high schools who wanted to teach astrology? How about drivers ed instructors who want to teach that speed limits, stop signs, and red lights are mere suggestions?


Janine said...

Please correct me if I am wrong but did not Einstein come up with the theories that made his reputation while work as a patent clerk. That he had no funding at all at the beginning of his career?

Also correct me if I am wrong but was not Newton royalty? He was part of the ruling class in England. Kind of a free ticket there for him.

Also correct me if I am wrong, was not Galileo jailed by the religious authority of the time.

I would say that Ben Stein lacks historical understanding. But that would fit under your idea that Ben Stein is a nit-wit.

normdoering said...

Yes, Einstein came up with the theories that made his reputation while a patent clerk. After that, however, he certainly did get "funding" if you're willing to call his work at the Institute for Advanced Study funding.

He proved himself in ways none of the guys Stein would use as an example of "an Einstein."

I don't think Sir Isaac Newton was royalty exactly - maybe. I think you may be confused because he was a member of the University of Cambridge Royal Society. That doesn't mean he was royalty. I think the "sir" means he was "knighted." He was certainly upper class and privileged from birth.

I don't think Galileo was jailed exactly -- he was put under house arrest.

I could be wrong, does anyone know for sure? If I have time later I'll look it up.

Janine said...

About Newton, I must have thought he was noble because he was Warden of the Mint He came up with the ridged edges in order to prevent people from shaving coins. And he was rather ruthless about punishment. Which is typical of England at the time.

As for Galileo, house arrest may not be as unpleasant as being jailed but there is the lose of freedom. Funny thing, Distort D'Newsia argues that The Catholic Church was being reasonable about this.