On meeting Ben Stein, and a look at Expelled

Yesterday afternoon, as a result of flight cancellations due to the grounding of the Bombardier Q400 puddle-jumpers, I found myself in the Spokane airport waiting for a rescheduled flight to board and noticed a gentleman who bore a striking resemblance to Ben Stein.

If you don’t know Ben Stein, you probably do but just don’t know it. A former speech writer for Presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, Mr. Stein can be seen often on Cable TV news channels commenting on finance and politics, heard as voices in cartoons such as Jimmy Neutron, or seen doing eyedrop commercials. You may remember his game show, Win Ben Stein’s Money. Or, you may best remember him as the boring economics teaching in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. He’s an author, speaker, and now star of a soon to be released documentary, Expelled.

I wasn’t, of course, sure that he was the genuine Ben Stein, and am not one to randomly approach people inquiring if they are famous personalities. A few minutes later, I found myself sitting directly behind the Man Who Could Be Ben Stein on my flight, where I spent the next hour wondering if it was really him. After we disembarked, my curiosity got the better of me and I walked up to him with a very smooth “Are you Ben Stein?”

As it turned out, he was. He immediately lit up, shook my hand, and asked my name. He was off to catch a connecting flight, but spoke to me for about five minutes before he headed off. My impression is that he is a genuinely nice man who has never let his “public figure” status go to his head.

As I had been recently reading about his upcoming movie, I mentioned to him that the movie seemed to be causing a bit of a stir; he laughed and replied that he really didn’t understand why, as the movie was not even finished yet, being still in the editing process. “They tell me I’m the star,” he laughed, “and even I don’t know what’s going to be in it.”

Expelled is a movie dealing with the evolution-design debate, specifically concerning the myriad attempts to keep any mention of “design” out of the American education system. From the movie’s official site:

EXPELLED: No Intelligence Allowed, is an upcoming feature film in which host Ben Stein (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off) goes on a quest to expose the suppression by science’s anti-theist elite, and unveil new scientific facts that may suggest evidence of intelligent design in the universe.

Now, here’s the controversy: essentially, the anti-design contingent is pissed. Now that the promotional materials for the film are being released, folks who were interviewed for the film claim they were misled about the nature of the film, which originally had a different title, “Crossroads: The Intersection of Science and Religion.” According to PZ Myers, the letter he received asking for an interview stated, “We are interested in asking you a number of questions about the disconnect/controversy that exists in America between Evolution, Creationism and the Intelligent Design movement.” Apparently, even with this pretty out-front claim, he never bothered to ask if they were taking any particular side. You can read Myers’ whole thoughts about the film here.

It’s not uncommon for movie titles to change. It appears the film also moved from Rampart Films to Premise Media, but the producer is the same. The issues being discuss appear to still be the same as what was outlined in the initial letter Myers received. Now, I’m sure some of the fear is due to the hack job that happened to a few scientists a few years back with the film “What The Bleep Do We Know, which started out as a film about quantum physics but in reality was promoting some psycho cult whose leader says she channels the spirit of a 35,000 year-old Lemurian warrior.

It remains to be seen how Expelled will turn out, but I’m guessing folks like Harris, Dawkins and Myers will come across sounding like themselves; it’s pretty obvious how they stand on the issues, and I can’t imagine that they’re going to be edited to make them out to be Creationists. My guess is that the film will be no more biased, and hopefully more honest, than the recent documentaries by Michael Moore or Al Gore, and certainly won’t feature any dead Lemurians.

Ben Stein is an intelligent man, and I can’t wait to hear what he, and the others on all sides of the issue, have to say.

p.s. If you want to see an example of “no intelligence,” check out this post on The Panda’s Thumb.

14 thoughts on “On meeting Ben Stein, and a look at Expelled”

  1. “Making fun of born-again Christians is like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope.”
    P.J. O’Rourke

    Of course, the only people who shoot cows with high-powered rifles are the idiots who can’t tell cows from deer.

  2. “Making fun of born-again Christians is like hunting dairy cows with a high powered rifle and scope.”
    P.J. O’Rourke (1947- )

  3. “Really? Are they that insecure?”

    No. They just know that if you give someone many minutes of “talk”, they will find a way to twist your words in order to distort them.

    “I think it’s rather premature to argue about something that hasn’t been released yet.”

    Fine. Then let’s argue about all the lies that appear on their website. Wait – that’s a fact – there cannot be an argument. “ideas suppressed” LOL This is the time of the Spanish Inquisition and heretics are put in prison or worse? silly silly silly

    “it can’t be any more biased (or untruthful) than the recent Moore or Gore documentaries”

    And you wish to register approval of such terribly biased “mockumentaries”? Let’s mock 100 years of biological research? stupid stupid stupid

    “But, I at least hope for truthfulness.”

    If they were truthful, they wouldn’t waste their money on this topic. The truth is sooo boring, no one would bother to go see such a movie. An editor, as his last act, gets a off-topic article published and suffers NO consequences except that real scientists are really irked. How exciting! A professor fails to publish, gets no grant money, and teaches no students – then fails to be granted tenure. How exciting! NOT.

  4. A review of the “director’s cut” by one side indicates that it is very biased towards the other side.

    So, who’s to say which side is biased more than the other?

    If the other side had really known what the bias of the film would be, it is very likely that they would have declined to be interviewed.

    Really? Are they that insecure? Or, would they have changed in any way what their answers to the questions were?

    Let’s just take a deep breath, be patient, and let the film be released. I think it’s rather premature to argue about something that hasn’t been released yet. Besides, I would expect a documentary to be biased. And, as I said above, it can’t be any more biased (or untruthful) than the recent Moore or Gore documentaries. But, I at least hope for truthfulness.

  5. “My guess is that the film will be no more biased, and hopefully more honest…”

    A review of the “director’s cut” by one side indicates that it is very biased towards the other side.

    The purpose of the film is to make political mountains out of some tiny molehills. If a lawsuit won’t fly, make a film.

    “I can’t wait to hear what he, and the others on all sides of the issue, have to say.”

    But you will be hearing what the director has allowed the other side to say. Take an hour of film using a misleading title and edit it to say what? Person X interviews someone on the other side and asks question Y. Then Ben Stein is shown in the film asking question Z. Then part of the answer to question Y is shown as the answer to question Z?

    If the other side had really known what the bias of the film would be, it is very likely that they would have declined to be interviewed.

    “We all believe that the universe operates by sets of rules.”

    Maybe so, but my definition of supernatural is something that operates outside of the “natural” rules. Do you have some good “supernatural” rules? Rule 1: don’t create a worldwide flood without a good reason. Rule 2: don’t create a new species if it will cause the extinction of more than 10 existing species. Rule 3: don’t send that hurricane to Florida if thay have already had 2 bad hurricanes this year. These rules seem rather arbitrary to me.

  6. Thanks for the kind comment, and providing the 2 definitions of Creationist. You are correct; in fact, often both meanings are used in the same argument. I suspect that this is at times intentional, to try to lump all IDists into definition #1.

    It would be helpful if every discussion started with a definition of terms.

  7. I read the above points with interest. Unlike some sites where people just “name call” I enjoy the dialogue here.

    But I see these possible stumbling blocks to clear discussion terms (on various sites):

    1. CREATIONIST – formerly used to describe persons who believe in literal 24 hour days, and would be of the Christian faith. Other Christians might have somewhat different views of HOW God created the earth.

    2. CREATIONIST is also used to describe anyone in the “intelligent design” tent. This could include an agnostic, a Muslim, a Jew, a Christian, and others. These people see some kind of “intelligent designer”. Once again, they need not subscribe to one particular faith, or even any faith.
    ————
    I have read various posts where people assume a “creationist” is just LURKING AROUND THE CORNER with a big NET to set up a THEOCRACY. (The people with this fear obviously have forgotten or never learned the full history of this country!!!)

    Ben Stein, a devout practing Jew with a movie coming out about designer versus no designer and censorship of the discussion, would be a “creationist” under definition two but NOT under definition one.

    I’ve read people who have blurred the two “CREATIONIST” definitions criticize him by assuming he’s something he’s not – some one of the Christian faith with a specific view of Genesis that I don’t think Stein may hold. (Actually I am not sure of Stein’s EXACT view of HOW God did it.)

  8. Square water melons and genetically engineered food are samples that once in a while, life is created. Not a proof, but a plausibility.

  9. I’m still waiting for someone on the ID side to explain how one could do science without assuming so-called “naturalism” (that is, ruling out the supernatural). The very notion of a “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron, that is to say, it’s the same as no explanation at all.

    This shows a basic misunderstanding. Just because you accept the existence of a supernatural doesn’t meant that you don’t recognize the existence of the material world. I believe that God created math, but I don’t try to explain that 2+2=4 is some kind of miracle. I believe that God designed the laws of physics… so why can’t we try to understand how those laws work? That is exactly how scientists who happen to be Christians work; just the same as scientists who are atheists.

    We all believe that the universe operates by sets of rules. Gravity seems to work the same way each time, and so on. For the most part (until you get to the quantum level) things are predictable. It is this predictability that allows us to use the scientific method to figure out how they work. The main difference between materialists and the rest of us is that materialists have chosen not to believe that anything outside of the material world exists, so the ramifications of what science discovers are more limited for the materialist.

    Science is really no problem for the Theist, as we neither deny the supernatural or the natural.

  10. I just wanted you to see this comment from Panda’s Thumb:

    http://www.pandasthumb.org/archives/2007/09/where_teaching.html#comment-207454

    It reflects something I have been trying to say, only a bit more cogently:

    Posted by Bill Gascoyne on September 14, 2007 2:58 PM (e)

    I’m still waiting for someone on the ID side to explain how one could do science without assuming so-called “naturalism” (that is, ruling out the supernatural). The very notion of a “supernatural explanation” is an oxymoron, that is to say, it’s the same as no explanation at all. Another name for a supernatural explanation would be a miracle, that is, an event or phenomenon that cannot be explained (and if I’m mistaken, please explain how). As soon as you declare that something is miraculous, you stop looking for an explanation. And if you accept an explanation for it, it’s not a miracle. In science, you don’t classify the unknown as miraculous, you admit that you don’t know and leave the problem for the next generation. Or maybe you put forth the best explanation that you can, and the next generation shows that you were wrong. But the scientific endeavor as a whole does not just give up. Now, can we logically consider that this is proof that the supernatural does not exist? Of course not! Why is it so difficult to accept that, if the supernatural exists, it will forever remain beyond scientific proof, no matter how smart we become? Isn’t that called faith? Aren’t they limiting God by assuming we have the ability to catch up to him and tread where we shouldn’t? Assume for the sake of argument that what we are studying really does come from the supernatural. Either we’ll never find an explanation and we’ll look forever and be forever unsuccessful, or we’ll find an undetectably incorrect explanation. Science would survive either situation just fine. But if science were to start accepting supernatural “explanations”, it would cease.

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