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Ben Stein Tells of “Extremely Hurtful” Attacks

“One of the great benefits of being a Jew is that you’re used to being attacked”

Evangelical website ASSIST Ministries carries an interview between Dan Wooding and Ben Stein, maker of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a documentary which alleges that scientific evidence favouring Intelligent Design is being suppressed by evolutionary biologists (“Darwinists”) and other scientists, who are ruining the careers of dissenters and questioners. The film also suggests that Charles Darwin bears responsibility for the Holocaust.

Wooding, a former UK tabloid hack now based in California, was surprised to find the Jewish Stein championing the cause of ID:

Stein said, “Well, first of all, Evangelicals are not the only ones who believe in Intelligent Design. Anyone who believes that there was a God who created the heavens and the earth and created life believes in Intelligent Design. God is the most intelligent being there ever was; He’s the ultimate in intelligence. So I’d say the great majority of people who believe in religion believe in Intelligent Design.

This is an attempt to conflate religious belief with scientific method. It is one thing to believe that God created and mystically directs the universe, but quite another to propose that this is a scientific theory which can be directly inferred from the existence of flagellum on certain bacteria and the like. Scientists who have seen the film (or in one case, attempted to attend a preview only to be “Expelled” from the cinema) have offered in-depth critiques of the its argument; this site has numerous links.

Despite his vicious attacks on the personal integrity of evolutionary biologists (some of whom were interviewed for the film under false pretences), Stein complains that some people are now saying nasty things about him:

“Well, I’ll put it this way, Dan, I’ve had a lot but nothing compared to what I’m going to get,” said Stein. “It’s going to get worse and worse. Some of the attacks have been extremely hurtful to me. Nevertheless one of the great benefits of having worked for Richard Nixon was that I’m used to being attacked. I’ve been being attacked all my life. One of the great benefits of being a Jew is that you’re used to being attacked…

…and therefore any attacks on Stein must be invalid, and perhaps based on anti-Semitism? How else are we supposed to read this?

Stein also tells us that his Nixon days are used against him:

“I was a speech writer for Mr. Nixon and for Mr. Ford and I also did some legal work for Mr. Nixon. I can say that the parts of his defense in Watergate that I wrote were the only parts that flew and the only parts that the Watergate investigating committee said, ‘Ok, we think you’re clean on this.’”

He added, ” would say that this movie is the most controversial thing I’ve ever done aside from working for Nixon. And I’d say that working for Nixon was really, really, controversial. I must say at the time that I didn’t realize how controversial it was going to be. But it has sort of followed me all of my life and even now people who are mean-spirited nasty people invariably bring it up in a negative way. However, people who are open-minded will bring it up in a more positive way…

So, it’s OK to try to incite hatred against scientists today because of the Nazi appropriation of some discredited pseudo-scientific ideas, but only a “mean-spirited” and “nasty” person would suggest that Stein’s support for Nixon shows poor judgement.

This whining, of course, is a familiar rhetorical strategy: Stein can dish it out, but when he has to take it he becomes a victim of unfair abuse – and what’s more, this is a pattern in his life because he’s Jewish. In the same way, explanations of the shortcomings of ID are in fact attempts to “silence” proponents of the theory, just as a poor review of the movie is an attempt to “stop” it (as I blogged here, this was alleged by Christian film critic Ted Baehr).

4 Responses

  1. What a silly comment from Stein.
    Also, he might be surprised that his statement “Anyone who believes that there was a God who created the heavens and the earth and created life believes in Intelligent Design,” is false. I was surprised to find out that the evangelical apologist Alister McGrath rejected Intelligent Design (in his book The Dawkins Delusion). ID is clearly not synonymous with belief in a creator, but specifically with the spurious, “scientific” arguments employed to support it.

  2. What a silly comment from Stein.
    Not a surprising one, though!

  3. I am delighted to have fallen over this blog. I cannot see anywhere to email this affirmation so it will just have to go here :-) I run a Christian spirituality and worship website called “Liturgy” at http://www.liturgy.co.nz it includes a blog, and hence news and reflections in relation to that. I’d be interested in swapping links if you visit and find it a useful site. I certainly think your readers would appreciate some of what I provide, and my readers be interested in what is here. So drop me a line.

    Bosco Peters (www.liturgy.co.nz)

  4. just saw Expelled; the fact that Ben Stein isn’t trying to win any popularity contests helps to validate his message… his goal was to promote free thought, especially more thinking about motivations that drive American academia and a lot of other behind-the-scenes worldview that we tend to take for granted.

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