Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Ben Stein's "Expelled": Why Serious Evolutionary Scientists Can't Take Us Seriously

I saw (seriously don't go watch it yet, I have to tell you about it first) this YouTube video on my friend Roger's blog, promoting an upcoming movie. Now don't get me wrong; I happen to be a Classical Theist. What's more, I happen to be a Christian. But that doesn't prevent me from noticing that like a laughable cultural icon controversially demanding something as serious as full custody of her own children, a small but arguably snowballing movement of "Intelligent" Design theorists throw back their heads in laughter, wallowing in their own creations of culturally textured satiric propaganda targeting the Common American Groundling whilst demanding to be taken seriously by the small but clearly influential, highly educated postmodern international scientific community at large:

Meanwhile Stein's film is laughed at by those to whom legitimate scientific and philosophical argumentation and the display of excellence and love is actually imperative for life-altering, destiny-altering, paradigm-shifts.

Of course I laughed at this YouTube video; I am already atheist (whoops - I am am already a theist), and I just so happen (incidentally and independently) to not be a Classical Darwinist. But what's more, I laughed at this video because it's goofy.

Take me seriously.
"Take me seriously."


  1. man, you're such a nerd, which isn't a bad thing, just an observation.

  2. Louis,
    Perhaps you are not aware of Ben Stein's credentials. Here is just the first 2 or so paragraphs:
    Ben Stein (Benjamin J. Stein) was born November 25, 1944 in Washington, D.C., (He is the son of the economist and writer Herbert Stein) grew up in Silver Spring, Maryland, and attended Montgomery Blair High School. He graduated from Columbia University in 1966 with honors in economics. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1970 as valedictorian of his class by election of his classmates. He also studied in the graduate school of economics at Yale. He has worked as an economist at The Department of Commerce, a poverty lawyer in New Haven and Washington, D.C., a trial lawyer in the field of trade regulation at the Federal Trade Commission in Washington, D.C., a university adjunct at American University in Washington, D.C., at the University of California at Santa Cruz, and at Pepperdine University in Malibu, CA. At American U. He taught about the political and social content of mass culture. He taught the same subject at UCSC, as well as about political and civil rights under the Constitution. At Pepperdine, he has taught about libel law and about securities law and ethical issues since 1986.

    In 1973 and 1974, he was a speech writer and lawyer for Richard Nixon at The White House and then for Gerald Ford. (He did NOT write the line, "I am not a crook.") He has been a columnist and editorial writer for The Wall Street Journal, a syndicated columnist for The Los Angeles Herald Examiner (R.I.P.) and King Features Syndicate, and a frequent contributor to Barrons, where his articles about the ethics of management buyouts and issues of fraud in the Milken Drexel junk bond scheme drew major national attention. He has been a regular columnist for Los Angeles Magazine, New York Magazine, E! Online, and most of all, has written a lengthy diary for twenty years for The American Spectator. He currently writes a column for The New york Times Sunday Business Section and has for many years, a column about personal finance for Yahoo!, is a commentator for CBS Sunday Morning, and for Fox News.
    He has written, co-written and published thirty books, including seven novels, largely about life in Los Angeles, and twenty-one nonfiction books, about finance and about ethical and social issue in finance, and also about the political and social content of mass culture. He has done pioneering work in uncovering the concealed messages of TV and in explaining how TV and movies get made. His titles include A License to Steal, Michael Milken and the Conspiracy to Bilk the Nation, The View From Sunset Boulevard, Hollywood Days, Hollywood Nights, DREEMZ, Financial Passages, and Ludes. His most recent books are the best selling humor self help series, How To Ruin Your Life. He has also been a longtime screenwriter, writing, among many other scripts (most of which were unmade ) the first draft of The Boost, a movie based on Ludes, and the outlines of the lengthy miniseries Amerika, and the acclaimed Murder in Mississippi. He was one of the creators of the well regarded comedy, Fernwood Tonight.
    Ben Stein is a highly educated, well respected jurist, teacher and thinker who also happens to be hysterically funny. Don't for one minute think he is a Hollywood buffoon. He is not.

    I love you, Lou.

  3. PS RE PZ Myers: Did you know that the screening of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed that he crashed was by invitation only? That particular screening was for a group of like minded supporters only. He and Dawkins actually hacked into the rsvp list online and put their names on it (Dawkins very cleverly used his middle name, Clinton, to throw them off)!! How juvenile is that?? Then they spent valuable time and adrenaline ranting and posting very long blogs. Seriously, it reminded me of jr. high boys.


  4. The movie's target audience is not serious evolutionary scientists. It is the public at large, and if the academic community pays attention and gets it, so much the better.

    The point of the movie is free speech. Pure and simple. Univeristies are no longer places where intelligent ideas can be talked about freely and openly, without discrimination. The point of the movie is to get this message out to as many people as possible.

    Those of us who know you have had the pleasure of laughing so hard at your humor that we gasped for air. Just because you have a keen sense of humor and the ability to make people laugh does not for one minute cause us to not take you seriously when you are addressing a serious topic.

    Love always and forever,

  5. Re: The YouTube video. Dawkins and Myers have put themselves and their ideas in the public forum. They are fair game for YouTube videos and such. By the way, I am pretty sure that it was not the scientific community who made that video.

    Dawkins and Meyers are taking themselves far too seriously. What are they afraid of? To quote Dr. Caroline Crocker: "Think about it. If it's true, you can think about it and it will still be true." If Darwinism is true, they can think about it outside the box, listen to what other scientists w/ impeccable credentials have to say, and it will still be true.

    Re: The movie's trailers: I don't see a problem w/ Ben Stein using humor to call attention to a very serious subject. I have only seen clips from the movie, but what I did see indicates that the movie is a serious documentary, lightened at times by Ben's dry humor. Believe me, when we heard Ben speak at Biola, he was very, very serious.


    PS I am not trying to be secretive by posting anonymously. I just can't figure out how to post it otherwise w/out opening a blog of my own, which I am not quite ready to do yet.

  6. gls,

    Thanks again for your comments. I am always pleased to receive notification emails that someone has posted on my blog, and that pleasure increases when I see that it is my own mother - and commenting extensively and eloquently, and with compliments no less!

    I am aware of Stein's credentials and his aHollywood baffoon-like nature, and do embrace any effort toward defending things like free speech, due process, and habeas corpus.

    However I would like to note that the objections you raised are largely addressed in the comments on the Panda's Thumb post to which I linked.

    As to the audience of Stein's film, I can only say that while targeting those being taught has its time and place, I estimate it to be far more urgent in the case at large to target the authorities doing the teaching.

    Let's spend our limited time finding out who is throwing toddlers into the river rather than exhausting our vapor of an opportunity rescuing an armful of toddlers (some of whom might just crawl their way out on their own [Insert case for freewill?] or be supernaturally seized [Insert case for Predestination of one ilk or another?]) to the exclusion of future generations (-and further provoking the source of the problem!).

    One person I think makes commendable efforts in this direction is Alister McGrath, and another one is John Lennox. I might also cite William Dembski (et al.) for some of his stellar, ground-breaking philosophical and scientific work (especially in Specified Complexity and Bayesian Theory), with the caveat that he too occasionally succumbs to childish Flash video horseplay that hurts our rapport with those with whom we should be most concerned, more than it helps those who already sympathize with our worldview.

    Free speech is important, but has little to do with the facts about Origins. The Catholic church censored dissenting beliefs (and humans) for years (and still does, although more humanely), but that says nothing about the truth or falsity of Christianity.

    Thus Stein's film should be considered much more of a contribution to a conversation about the limits of university administrations' ability to control the boundaries of the unifying platform on which they require their professors to stand (think about Biola's doctrinal statement, for example), and less about the subject of Intelligent Design (a particular camp to which I am not certain I belong by way of worldview or with which I am prepared to identify publicly, despite my outspoken Christianity).

    Although I may find myself surprised on a number of fronts, or even persuaded about one thing or another come the 18th.



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