This Stein is No Einstein

Ben Stein

(Get the full-size original at Freethoughtpedia.)

Creationist misinformation site Access Research Network has a brief blog entry called “‘Expelled’ Gaining Attention”. Although it was originally scheduled for a February release, their article indicates that this accidental mockumentary is now scheduled for April. They don’t tell us why. Maybe the producers needed to scrounge up additional funds to pay for all of the bribes they’re making to get people to see the film. They also write:

The blogs are starting to heat up over the film. Many of the comments are just ad hominem attacks on Ben Stein, or those rascally professors who think there actually may be more to Reality than material processes. Others don’t care for the tie-in with Hilter or the Berlin Wall.

That paragraph is loaded with laughs! Let’s take them in reverse order.

Let’s start with the Nazi tie-in. Fundies love to blame the Holocaust on Darwin. First of all, how is the fact that species evolved in any way to blame for Hitler’s gas chambers? There’s no connection. Period.

Second, eugenics predates Darwin. By a lot. Plato was one of its earliest advocates. Ancient Rome and Sparta actually put it into practice. In fact, Hitler praised Sparta’s eugenics program.

Eugenics had a resurgence after Darwin, but that would be blaming the man for the misuse of his discoveries. Isaac Newton figured out orbital mechanics, but we don’t blame him for ICBMs.

Eugenics was a misunderstanding and misapplication of what was then known of evolution. Don’t blame the natural scientists for the blunders of the social scientists. Your beef is with Sir Francis Galton and his cronies, not Darwin.

I also find it amusing that Access Research Network, of all people, would flaunt the Nazi connection. They threw a fit when I said they were using Joseph Goebbels’ propaganda techniques.

The second funny line in ARN’s paragraph is:

…those rascally professors who think there actually may be more to Reality than material processes.

ID creationists have yet to provide any plausible or credible evidence that their fairy stories have anything to do with reality. For them to claim that reality is on their side goes beyond laughable.

The third funny line in that paragraph is:

The blogs are starting to heat up over the film. Many of the comments are just ad hominem attacks on Ben Stein….

Is that true? I don’t know. ARN provides no evidence to back up that claim. That ought to be easy to do. Just go out to the blogosphere and grab a few quotes. (And if there is anything ARN loves, it’s quote mining!) But no! They can’t even do that! You’d think that an organization called “Access Research Network” would be capable of doing a tiny bit of research! Or at the very least know how to access some!

Researching the Blogosphere

I did get curious to see if the comments about this film are mostly just “ad hominem attacks on Ben Stein”. I shouldn’t have to do ARN’s work for them, but I decided to do a Google blog search on “Ben Stein”. Let’s look at the first page of results.

Of the 20 results returned, two were to unrelated spam sites. Of the 18 remaining:
5 were pro-Ben Stein (mostly creationist sites)
1 was neutral (and that was at Beliefnet!)
6 were financial or legal articles
6 were critical of Stein

That doesn’t exactly look to me like the blogosphere is “heating up” over Stein and his movie, but maybe quality is a better indicator of heat than is quantity. Let’s look at each of these categories in turn.

Full of B.S.

Among the articles supporting Ben Stein was a very short one by Jeff Doolittle. It contains this enlightening quote from Ben Stein himself:

In my experience, people who are confident in their ideas are not afraid of criticism.

I would agree with that statement, but that raises the fun question: Why was Access Research Network so upset about my article critiquing them?

Let’s skip the neutral article and move on to:

Financial or Legal Articles

Two articles in this category are very critical of Stein, but neither resorts to ad hominem attacks, as ARN alleges. Referring to one of Stein’s investment columns, Marek Fuchs of TheStreet.com writes:

I have seen a lot of bad business journalism in my day, but nothing as irresponsible and so wholly unsupported by facts. Actually, by even a single fact.

Wow. And economics is one of Stein’s specialties. Imagine how bad Expelled must be, since it’s on a topic Stein knows much less about.

The Big Picture specifically addresses the claims of ad hominem attacks:

I frequently mention that I loathe ad hominem attacks. They are a lazy way to avoid responding to a challenging argument. However, there comes a certain point in a pundit’s career arc where their credibility, intellectual honesty, and quite bluntly, their entire world view comes into question. Mr. Stein is at that point; he has jumped the shark, and it’s time for the rest of us to move on.

Stein, a former Nixon speechwriter, has made his opposition to Darwinian evolution public. He is ideologically committed to creationism and intelligent design, and is the star of the upcoming documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Once a commentator eschews logic and reason, once they deny science, then their readers are forced to question their entire analytical approach to ANYTHING — be it economics, markets, stocks, whatever. Ideology trumps facts, theory trumps data. For better or worse, this is the turf Stein has staked out as his own.

Ouch! They’re right. There is a threshold. Once you cross it, how can anybody believe anything you say?

The Critics Weigh In

Of the blog articles critical of Stein, “Ben Stein, Scientific Crusader” in particular caught my eye. It very effectively refutes, in a point-by-point manner, all of the lies Stein promotes. I can’t believe how good this article is. Hey wait! It’s mine! If the best that ARN can do is find my stuff, there must not be that many anti-Stein articles out there.

In a similar vein is an article from the Orlando Sentinel. It, too, rips apart Stein and his movie, point by point.

Travis Vocino calls Stein a “raving lunatic creationist”. The other articles in this category are similar. They refute Stein’s claims. Some of them also toss out the occasional characterization of Stein’s behavior. None of these articles was “just ad hominem attacks on Ben Stein” as ARN alleges.

We must conclude, therefore, that the blogosphere is (at most) running a slight fever, but it certainly isn’t “heating up” with “ad hominem attacks”. Not very many articles even mention the movie, and many that do mostly focus on debunking it. Poor ARN. Once again, we’ve caught them lying.

Appendix

Speaking of appendix, if humans were designed, why do we have one? Anyway, below is the list of 18 non-spam articles that Google blog search gave me this afternoon when I entered “Ben Stein”. I’m not recommending that you visit them. It’s just common practice in science to make your data available. This is another thing ARN knows nothing about.

Pro-Ben Stein (mostly creationist sites)

Ben Stein Expelled (Jeff Doolittle)
Ben Stein Civil Rights Activist (Darwinian Fundamentalism)
Ben Stein’s Expelled (In Light of the Gospel)
“Expelled”: A Ben Stein Documentary on Bias Against Intelligent Design (Children’s Ministry and Culture)
EXPELLED in Baptist Press (Uncommon Descent) (Given their practice of removing articles at will from their site, I’m not going to bother to try to link to it.)

Relatively Neutral

Ben Stein: The Michael Moore of Darwinism? (Beliefnet)

Financial or Legal

Ben Stein Must Be Stopped (Evolving in Kansas [Reprinted from The Street])
Farewell to Ben Stein (Big Picture)
The Ben Stein Pile-On (Portfolio)
Ben Stein Bats .500 (Skeptical Texas CPA)
Ben Stein on How Not to Ruin Your Life (Fora.tv)
Ben Stein is an Idiot (Silicon Alley Insider)

Critical of Stein

Ben Stein, Scientific Crusader (Bay of Fundie)
Is Ben Stein the New Face of Creationism? (Orlando Sentinel)
Is Ben Stein the New Face of Creationism? (Travis Vocino)
Orlando Sentinel: Is Ben Stein the new face of Creationism? (Panda’s Thumb)
Ben Stein’s Greatest Hit(ler)s (Amused Muse)
A Look Back in Time; Ben Stein was also an Idiot Back Then (Pro-Science)

19 Responses to “This Stein is No Einstein”

  1. blue collar scientist Says:

    Thanks for pointing out Hitler’s praise of Sparta. (For others interested: It is in footnote 13 on the wikipedia page linked to.)

    I’ve spent a lot of time in the last six months responding to pointed questions about Hitler and his relationship with evolution and eugenics – I can only assume one or more of the creationist propaganda centers is pushing it on the foot soldiers. Adding some pointed quotations of Hitler’s to my responses to these questions seems to help.

  2. Troy Says:

    Your points hit the mark completely.

    Hitler was a Catholic. This “atheist” compelled a tithe taken from taxes to be given to the donor’s particular denomination. Obviously, the Pope couldn’t hate him after that. Atheists were also persecuted by the Nazi regime.

    As for eugenics, doesn’t this occur whenever two people decide whether or not to marry and/or mate? I’m all for eugenics so long as it is parents not governments that make the decisions.

    Even if belief in evolution did cause all the alleged social ills from abortion to rebelliousness, is this a valid reason to dismiss it? That has always baffled me. If believing in unicorns gave me a special feeling would that be any reason to believe they exist?

    I commented earlier about Ben Stein. Was it a pun when you used his initials B.S.?

  3. Ron Britton Says:

    BCS:

    I’ve seen this Darwin = Hitler meme a lot in the last few months. It shows up often in various emails I get from different fundie organizations. I’ll try to pay more attention to where it’s coming from. As with any misinformation, shedding light on it will probably help to dispell it.

  4. Ron Britton Says:

    Troy:

    As for eugenics, doesn’t this occur whenever two people decide whether or not to marry and/or mate?

    Actually, that’s a form of sexual selection, which is one of the primary non-random selective forces in evolution.

    You can’t tie eugenics to evolution, because one is a natural process and the other is an artificial one. The only thing you can do is to try to blame eugenics on Darwin. That’s not the same thing. If Jack the Ripper also discovered penicillin, it wouldn’t make penicillin any less effective. In any event, Darwin the man had very little to do with eugenics.

  5. DAC Says:

    You’re wrong about eugenics. Read Janet Brown’s biography of Darwin. She demonstrates a clear connection between eugenics and Darwin. The idea of eugenics may have been around for a while, but Darwin’s cousin Francis Galton developed the modern science of eugenics out of his desire to apply Darwin’s theory of evolution to society.

  6. Arkonbey Says:

    DAC: What is your point? You agree that eugenics as a practice has been around a while, what does it matter that Darwin’s cousin applied it? What does that have to do with evolution v. creationism?

  7. Ron Britton Says:

    Darwin’s cousin (Sir Francis Galton — read the article) is not Darwin.

  8. ParrotLover77 Says:

    ARN is, if nothing else, amusingly hypocritical.

    Isn’t tying Hitler and eugenics to Darwin as an attack on evolutionary theory, uh, well, an ad hominem attack? You’d think as often as they do it, they’d know how to spot it in the ‘heated’ blogosphere.

  9. ParrotLover77 Says:

    DAC – as others have said, so what, even if it was true? (according to wikipedia, it doesn’t appear to be.)

    Even if Darwin was a child-eating, monkey-raping, serial killer, wouldn’t change the fact that farmers have been proving evolution for centuries by selectively using only the seeds from plants that have the traits they want expressed more for the next growing season. Welcome to evolution.

  10. Tony Whitson Says:

    The movie appears to be thoroughly dishonest.

    I’m not sure that Ben Stein is as stupid as his critics allege. He’s just found easier ways to make tons of money since his days as an opinion journalist and political speech writer. I’m not convinced that he himself believes this nonsense that he’s peddling.

  11. Ron Britton Says:

    Tony:

    Ben Stein isn’t stupid, but (like many religious people) he has certain blind spots that interfere with rational thought. He cowrote the movie. I do think that he believes this stuff. He has said in interviews that he believes in evolution but doesn’t think it tells the whole story.

  12. Egaeus Says:

    The fact that you can breed animals (human or otherwise) to have desirable characteristics has been known for millenia, or as the YECs would say, since the beginning of time.

  13. ParrotLover77 Says:

    Ben Stein is very intelligent. I agree with Ron about the blind spots. Just from his game show way back when you could tell he has an encyclopedic recall of many historical facts. Being intelligent in many things does not preclude a person from being ignorant about many other things. And that is the problem with using him (or really anybody who does not specialize in a particular study) as an authoritative reference point for something they are not experts in! But this is done very frequently with anti-evolutionists. They’ll find some random intelligent person (astronomer, physicist, historian, CEO, actor, ANYTHING except biologist, or to a lesser extent, geologist) who doesn’t know much about modern evolutionary theory, and then they take one little statement like “well, I have my doubts” and then run with it as if that small doubt from this one non-expert means that every true expert on the planet is wrong and, through a gigantic leap in logic, the earth must be 5000 years old or some other silly nonsense.

  14. ParrotLover77 Says:

    Okay, I stretched a little there and built a little bit of a strawman in the last argument, but you get my drift, I hope! 🙂

  15. Larry Shallenberger Says:

    Hello from http://www.childrensministryandculture.wordpress.com.

    We haven’t taken any stance on the movie, we just note cultural trends that intersect with working with children and youth in the church. I did note Stein’s remarks about Social Darwinism but didn’t take a position on them.

    All the best…

  16. Warren Says:

    I think that from a strategic stand point what the IDers are doing here is pretty smart. I don’t know if it was a calculated plan but it reeks of PR spin. Just the idea of turning God into a “scientific theory” then writing some articles that have no basis in science, having said articles turned down because they have no basis in science and then claiming they were turned down because of a vast darwinist conspiracy is pretty good PR but then when you combine that with a society that as a whole has very little understanding of what science is or how exactly peer review works and you’re able to sow seeds of doubt into a lot of minds. Overall, if it’s intentional, it’s an underhanded practice but one that will work on a lot of people.

  17. D Says:

    I think that from a strategic stand point what the IDers are doing here is pretty smart. I don’t know if it was a calculated plan but it reeks of PR spin. Just the idea of turning God into a “scientific theory” then writing some articles that have no basis in science, having said articles turned down because they have no basis in science and then claiming they were turned down because of a vast darwinist conspiracy is pretty good PR but then when you combine that with a society that as a whole has very little understanding of what science is or how exactly peer review works and you’re able to sow seeds of doubt into a lot of minds. Overall, if it’s intentional, it’s an underhanded practice but one that will work on a lot of people.

    I agree. It also plays on the paranoid conspiracy theories that seem to be lurking just under the surface in a lot of less than rational people. Like, “ooh, Big Science is trying to hide something from us! The big bad ‘darwinists’ don’t want you to find out about their strangling dogmatic orthodoxy! They’re out to kill God! blah blah blah” It seems so easy to whip people up into a total frenzy over nothing. Add to this that a lot of fundy christians seem to think they’re oppressed anyway……

  18. Larry Shallenberger Says:

    That oppression swords swings both ways. As much as I appreciated much in the book “American Theocracy” it was irresponsible that he over estimated the membership of the Southern Baptists by 10,000,000. Of course, a bogeyman isn’t a bogeyman without ample size.

  19. Ron Britton Says:

    Larry, that’s kind of off topic here. We’re discussing Ben Stein and the ID creationists. You’re the only one who brought up American Theocracy. Errors in that book should be brought up with its author or on a thread devoted to it.

    If you’re trying to use that book as an example of oppression of Christians, it’s a pretty weak argument. One error made by one author in a book few people have read can hardly be considered oppression.