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.