Ben Stein, Scientific Crusader

Update: I’ve been Bad Astronomered! Welcome to everyone coming here from Phil Plait’s site.

Ben Stein has crabs.

(Image from Ono.)

You’re probably aware that fundie clowndick Ben Stein has a forthcoming movie about the alleged “Darwinist” conspiracy to suppress science. I’m expecting the film to be something on the order of the infamous Fox TV Moon Hoax “documentary”, which was full of outright lies and deceptive editing. When it comes out, maybe we can compare the two and see which is worse.

Fundiecast Cybercast News Service has published an interview with Ben Stein. Let’s take a look.

Intelligent design theory…

Wow! They don’t waste any time. The very first phrase is a lie! Intelligent design creationism is not a theory. The American Heritage Dictionary has a good definition of “theory”.

A set of statements or principles devised to explain a group of facts or phenomena, especially one that has been repeatedly tested or is widely accepted and can be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

As you can see, ID creationism fails on three counts:
1. It has not been repeatedly tested.
2. It is not widely accepted.
3. It can not be used to make predictions about natural phenomena.

Let’s get back to the Cybercast article:

[A] new movie, “Expelled” starring Ben Stein explores how an “elitist scientific establishment” is apparently muzzling and smearing scientists who publicly discuss ID.

There’s no question that anybody claiming that ID creationism is science is being laughed at — not only by scientists but just about anybody with even a remote understanding of science — but there is no vast conspiracy to muzzle anybody.

The First Amendment is under brutal attack in the scientific community, Ben Stein, a former presidential speechwriter-turned-actor and commentator, says in the film, which opens in theaters on Feb. 12.

Really? Now the First Amendment is “under brutal attack”. Actually, that part is true. The attack isn’t coming from scientists, though. It’s coming from crackpot organizations like the Discovery Institute and Access Research Network that are trying to get their religious dogma (ID creationism) taught in the schools.

In an exclusive interview with Cybercast News Service – with audio clips below – Stein contends that rigid Darwinists are silencing their critics in academia, which the film explores, and discusses how ID ideas are helping in cancer research and similar work.

Really? ID creationism cures cancer! Please, Ben Stein, tell us how!

Hello?

Bueller?

Bueller?

Apparently no one’s home. As is typical of creationist asshats, he makes wild claims and then never bothers to back them up.

Yet the ID research that could potentially produce medical breakthroughs, says Stein, is also being undermined by Darwinian scientists who don’t want ID research viewed as legitimate.

According to Ben Stein, there is cancer research being stifled by Darwinists because of some sort of philosophical agenda. I agree that would be bad. But apparently it’s OK to stifle stem cell research because fundies don’t like it. Yeah, Ben. Real consistent.

Now we get into the actual interview between Cybercast News Service (CNS) and Stein. In the interests of brevity, I will only excerpt parts of the longer answers. (You can go to the article to see that I’m not quote mining):

Stein: Science should always be in the business of attempting to disprove itself. Neo-Darwinian science is exactly in the opposite business of endlessly trying to rationalize itself – and reprove itself, you might say – reprove that it’s right without any kind of test.

Science is in the business of attempting to disprove itself. He is mischaracterizing modern biology, and not providing any support for his allegations. He also suffers from Kevin Wirth syndrome. He’s so fixated on Darwin that he has blinded himself to the advances in evolutionary theory that have happened since. No wonder he thinks evolution is outdated. He’s using a 150-year-old definition.

CNS: What sort of separation do you see or perhaps don’t see between creationism, on the one hand, and intelligent design?

Stein: I believe in God and God created the heavens and the earth and all the life on the earth. But what other people, who are intelligent design people, think, I could not characterize.

At least he’s honest about his own motivations. Apparently old Ben isn’t above mischaracterizing others on his own side, though. Intelligent design is creationism, just a different flavor.

CNS: …[N]eurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, and another scientist, Jon Wells, who indicate that given how the cells are put together, with eye toward intelligent design, and with the idea that animal cells have tiny turbines – or if viewed as tiny turbines – he was able to formulate a theory that said in the event these things malfunction and don’t properly shut down and could break apart, this is the first step on the way to cancer.…

First of all, that isn’t a theory. It’s a hypothesis. Second, intelligent design creationism is irrelevant here. Viewing the organelles inside the cell as turbines may be useful, but ID creationism is not needed. If proponents are lumping this into their pile of breakthroughs resulting from ID creationism, they’re just plain cheating.

CNS: …He doesn’t explicitly say ‘a cure for cancer,’…

Wait. Is this the great big scientific breakthrough in cancer research that these retards alluded to earlier? It’s not even connected to their “theory”!

Stein: [T]here is this big issue about RNA and DNA, and whether RNA and DNA can respond to changes in the world around them. I think we say it can respond to changes in the world around them and that neo-Darwinians say it can only do that by random chance…

Again, Stein shows his colossal non-grasp of science. Evolution isn’t random. The mutations are random, but they are acted upon by the environment.

Stein: …We say the cell may have the possibility of doing itself in an intelligent way that there may be some intelligence in the cell itself…. We believe there’s some possibility the cell could have an intelligence of its own.

Ben Stein thinks that the cells can intelligently respond to the environment and reprogram their DNA accordingly. That’s pretty far-fetched, but we should never rule anything out. If it’s true, and they’ve yet to provide any data that it is, the mechanism would be naturalistic. If it’s naturalistic, then it isn’t intelligent design!

Stein: I was just overwhelmed by the fact, at least as I am told, that Darwinists have never observed natural species being originated…

Lie.

Stein: There’s not even a clear definition of what a species is…

Another lie, although nature doesn’t fit into clean boxes. There are always things at the edges that don’t quite fit our definitions.

Stein: …and the Darwinists have no theory whatsoever about the origin of life, none whatsoever, except the most hazy, the kind of preposterous, New Age hypothesis.…

A completely irrelevant separate issue.

Stein: …And I think our theory that there is a creator strikes even some people, even Dawkins very possibly, as more likely than it all happened by total chance.

Now Stein even knows what Richard Dawkins thinks!

Stein: [Richard Dawkins’] idea that there is a complete rock solid consensus [in favor of evolution] is completely wrong.

And Ben Stein is clearly more qualified to make that assessment than Richard Dawkins.

CNS: Why do you think the very idea or suggestion of intelligent design is so antagonistic to scientists who claim they have evidence?

Stein: That’s a deep question.… One, if they are Darwinists and they owe their jobs to being Darwinists, they are not going to challenge the orthodoxy because that would challenge the whole basis of their jobs and their lives. So they are not going to challenge the ideology that has given them lush positions in real life.

Hey, Ben! Where are all of these Darwinists you’re always talking about? I’ve never met any.

Secondly, the whole point of science is to challenge itself. You made this unfounded claim before that there is some sort of conspiracy to retain a set of beliefs against all outside attacks. The only place I’ve seen that behavior is at the Discovery Institute.

Stein: Second thing, once people are locked into a way of thinking, they are unlikely to change.

OK. There is truth to that statement, but that refers to individuals. There are so many scientists out there looking at new things that there is no stagnation in science.

Stein: Third is, if they acknowledge the possibility of intelligent design and that intelligent design is God, then they may think God has moral expectations of them and they may be falling short of those moral expectations, and they may be worried about some sort of judgment upon them.

Holy crap! What a pile of holy crap! So Ben Stein knows that scientists cling to evolution, because they’re afraid of God’s judgment!

Stein: There is a very powerful Marxist establishment within the intelligentsia that does not allow questioning of its premises.

I give up. That’s so batshit crazy I can’t even respond to it.

Stein: [T]his to us – at least to me…- is a bit like the Civil Rights movement. You want to have freedom, where our goal is freedom. We want freedom. We want all our rights, not some of them, all our rights to free speech. We want them here in America, and we want them now.

Martin Luther King!!

Thurgood Marshall!!

Ben Stein??

56 Responses to “Ben Stein, Scientific Crusader”

  1. Brian Says:

    MattFunke,

    I think you make an excellent and oftentimes overlooked point. The god one must conjure up within an ID explanatory framework is a pale imitation of the god most Christians believe in. Whenever they hitch their hopes of spreading the word to ID’s broken-down horse, they fail to realize how they’ve fundamentally undercut one of their most treasured fantasies.

    One of our local NPR stations does a regular Monday morning show called “Interconnect”, which usually focuses of faith and spirituality. One morning last year while driving to work they had as a guest one Micheal Corey, who was an astrophysicist pushing his new book, “The God Hypothesis”. This man claimed to be a scientist, and was claiming that the structure of the universe indicates a designer. I couldn’t help myself. I called in and got on the air, and told him that as a religious belief, what he was saying was fine, but it wasn’t science. He rebutted something about God starting everything and letting it proceed apace, and I said something to the effect of “But that’s not the God everybody imagines exists”, which other subsequent callers took him to task for. Its not everyday when one gets to confront an astrophysicist on the air.

    Anyway, good point.

  2. bipolar2 Says:

    Ancient Egyptians surmised that a dung beetle created the Earth. I accept a fecal gospel of “intelligent design” as long as it is extended — the entire cosmos emerged from the collective wisdom of committees.

    They’re still in charge . . . and having some problems (as committees always do):

    ** The Arthropodic Principle — note from HQ **

    To: All
    From: CEO, Sentient Beings Inc.

    Subject: Major anthropic screw-up, causes and proposed solutions

    It was the Corporate Committee on Systematic World Ordering which initiated an RFP, cost-plus basis. Failure to recognize that Hellaburton was an unreliable contractor, created certain problems with shoddy workmanship and substandard materials which quickly emerged.

    These however were plastered over for at least 4 billion years until the first multicellular creatures appeared in planet’s Precambrian oceans. By then it was too late to adjust any nucleotides. After all, it is a double blind test.

    The last 550 million years, however, have proved one unforeseen disaster after another, culminating in Nature’s Greatest Mistake, humanity. Currently, almost 7 billion cases of hypertrophy of ape prefrontal cortex! [Walking and talking mutants all of them!]

    Delicious irony though. The defect provides an illusion of having “free will.” Of course, homeostatic causes are still causes. But, as delusions go, this one is a sicko. Unfortunately, the trait is far too entrenched now to be wiped out by laws of population genetics.

    Looks like human heads must roll. The Corporate Committee on Oort Cloud Exploitation hopes to find a suitably large comet in the next 65 million years, give or take 5 million years.

    However, let there be light. The standing Corporate Committee on Bio-organics has estimated that the average species lasts only about 2 million years. Patience hath its rewards.

    Personally, I want the testing to continue. I find myself inordinately fond of beetles. Let it be called the arthropodic principle.

    bipolar2
    © 2008

  3. Alex Says:

    What stuns me about Stein- and most creationists/ID/whatever they call themselves – is that his argument mainly consists of smearing evolution. This fails on the basic logical fallacy of bifurcation. Any closer they get to disproving evolution gets them no closer to proving creationism.

    I have to hand it to Stein, though, he ticks all the boxes for infuriating creationist rhetoric. His Marxist conspiracy ‘theory’ sounds like cold war propaganda.

    I hope this doesn’t get released in the UK.

  4. Mike Says:

    I see absolutely no beauty (or logic) in Intelligent Design as they like to call it. To me the idea of evolution holds much more wonder and indeed makes much more sense.

    These people are blinded by their own faith to rationalize the whole situation. Firstly all religious texts out there are as far from truth as African Pygmies are from arctic ice. So if we can’t logically trust the texts, why would we trust any ideas emerging from them?

    This whole debate about ID vs. Evolution is nothing but a means to introduce religion back into our education system and hence indoctrinate and propagate religion into the future.

    Evolution has proof, whereas ID has nothing but faith, which for science means absolutely nothing.

  5. John Says:

    Don’t be so hard on the fundies, ya’ll, they’re motivated largely by fear of their own death. This is evidenced by their insistence on a “personal” saviour, immortal soul, etc.. I, like Scott, was raised in a Catholic household but one which revered science. I was encouraged to read about evolution at an early age and always understood that science is neutral on the subject of God.

    If Scott is still a Catholic, perhaps he’s unaware of Papal encyclicals which view evolution as not antithetical to Catholic theology or the eloquent way in which John Paul spoke of “a commitment to the truth”, however science reveals it.

    I am no longer a Catholic, more of a zen buddhist, but I am disappointed with christians who think that embracing science means abandoning spirituality. If your mind is truly open to the wonder of the universe that science reveals to us then this is itself an inspiration and a means of nourishing your “spirit”.

    As Alan Watts put it, “We are all simply apertures through which the universe is examining itself.” Our highest, noblest calling is the exploration and understanding of the universe we live in. Science is the method. Timid, Fundamentalist, mindsets are a hindrance.

  6. Frank Says:

    To start with a theory and then observe, to then explain your observations to fit your theory is not an act of scientific process.

    It is important that observation precedes explanation and conclusion, and that the establishment of a theory follows. We have seen time and time again what enormous errors have occurred in placing too much faith in a preformed hypothesis.

    To follow an idea from thousands of years ago, only because you were told by another that it is fact, and to hold strong to that idea despite what evidence to the contrary crosses your path is to be a fool.

    Also Stickly above makes a good point about how the argument against evolution is often carried by the thought that unlikely somehow means impossible. If something has a million to one chance of occurring and there are one billion events then it stands to reason that the unlikely event would occur one thousand times. It is not the chance of something eventuating rather the opportunity for it to occur that we have to examine. If science, or nature rather, allows for an event to occur then we cannot dismiss it, no matter how unlikely.