Ben Stein is wrong on every count

May 22, 2008

For those of you who don’t know, Ben Stein has been involved in the making of a horrible propaganda piece called Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. It is doing horribly at the Box Office. The movie’s official website is here, but a much more informative page on the movie can be found here. I haven’t seen the movie, nor do I intend to every pay money to see it. If I can ever see it for free I hope to write a detailed review. But the movie’s arguments are so tremendously weak that I need not see the movie to address them. The premise of the movie is essentially that

  • Evolution is false
  • Academics are being ‘expelled’ for expressing doubt of evolution, and many scientists secretly express such doubts
  • ‘Darwinism’ leads to ‘Social Darwinism’ and caused the Holocaust

Now the ExpelledExposed site does a great job of addressing the claims made in the movie and I urge you to check it out for yourself. However, I will try to summarize a few of them myself.

Claim: “Darwinism also has not one meaningful word to say on the origins of organic life, a striking lacuna in a theory supposedly explaining life”. (Ben Stein)

This one sentence shows on Ben Stein does not understand the first thing about evolution, the very theory he is trying to criticize. First of all, the use of the word ‘Darwinism’ is a red-flag the the person using it is an IDiot. Clearly the word ‘Darwinism’ is intended to imply some sort of dogmatic worship of Darwin. This is of course, false. The theory of evolution has changed much since Darwin’s day, due in large part to new discoveries like genetics. If biologists dogmatically worshiped Darwin, the theory would be unchanging, sort of like religion. If scientists worship anything, it is evidence. Now on to the meat of the claim: Stein says that evolutionary biology cannot explain the origin of life. No shit Sherlock! Evolution is the study of how living things evolve. Where there does it need to explain the origin of life? Precisely nowhere. Stein’s claim here is equally absurd to dismissing General Relativity because it does not explain how the human brain functions. They are completely different areas of study, just like evolution and the origin of life. Stein clearly does not even understand what the theory he is criticizing claims. Furthermore, on a recent interview, Stein makes the even more inane assertion that ‘Darwinism’ can’t explain why there are laws of gravity and thermodynamics, or where gravity comes from. Absolutely ridiculous.

Claim: In general the film claims that Intelligent Design is under attack by ‘Big Science’ (Yes he does say ‘Big Science’) which refuses to recognize its scientific validity because of commitments to atheism and materialism.

Again, another ridiculous claim. First of all, the use of the term ‘Big Science’ is clear red flag for a conspiracy nut, but let’s go on. The reason Intelligent Design is ‘under attack’ is not because of some systematic atheist conspiracy, but because it is not science at all.

  • Fact: Scientific Theories are testable. As Richard Feynman said, “The test of all knowledge is experiment’. Intelligent Design makes absolutely no testable predictions. In the Dover trial Michael Behe proposed a test for Intelligent Design, but really such tests are just trying to falsify evolution, not verify any prediction of Intelligent Deisgn. Furthermore, Behe said that he hasn’t done said tests because he “would prefer to spend time in what I would consider to be more fruitful endeavors.
  • Fact: Scientists publish in peer-reviewed journals. The peer-review process is how good science gets separated from the bad. As far as I know, no article advocating Intelligent Design in any form has ever been published in a peer-reviewed journal. This is not because of some conspiracy, it is because it is bad science. You can verify that it is bad science, and not some conspiracy for yourself. The Institute For Creation Research (ICR) posts articles for research in creationism (and we all know that’s what Intelligent Design really is). Most of them are of the following format: “Look at this organism! I can’t believe that it could have evolved! Therefore Goddidit, Praise Jesus!”. It is really a huge joke.
  • Fact: Science, by definition, deals only with the natural. Intelligent Design, by definition, requires a supernatural agent. The two are in direct conflict. I suppose we could always re-define science, but we would actually need some evidence for a reason to do so, rather than just a bunch of straw man arguments and arguments from ignorance.

Claim: “‘Darwinism’ led to Nazism and the Holocaust.

This is by far, in my opinion, the worst of the claims in the movie. Not only is it grossly offensive, it is just plain wrong, and wrong on so many levels. It is important to note, first of all, that even if this claim were true it has no bearing whatsoever on the truth of evolution. Even if the claim were true, Intelligent Design gains absolutely no credibility. Now onto addressing the argument itself:

  • Hitler’s motivations appear to be religious in nature:
    “What we must fight for is to safeguard the existence and the reproduction of our race … so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe. … Peoples that bastardize themselves, or let themselves be bastardized, sin against the will of eternal Providence.”

    Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.”

  • There is a long history of antisemitism in Europe, dating back to long before Darwin. Even if Hitler used elements from the theory of evolution as propaganda for his cause, the root of the cause can clearly be traced back much further.
  • The film tries to claim there evolutionary biology necessarily leads to eugenics. This is absurd. Evolution is simply a theory that describes the natural phenomenon of natural selection. If it is bastardized to support eugenics, then that is a reflection of those doing the bastardizing, not of the theory itself. Now even if one could say that evolutionary biology leads to eugenics, the step of going from eugenics to genocide is equally as absurd.

Stein’s blaming of the holocaust on the evolutionary biology is tantamount to blaming 9/11 on the Wright brothers.

To conclude: Fuck you Ben Stein. Stop trying to vindicate your stupid religious beliefs by promoting your intellectually dishonest propaganda by playing the sympathy card. It won’t work. Because you’re wrong about everything and intelligent people will see right through you.

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