Ben Stein Takes On Darwin(ists)
January 11, 2008
The foremost place of dialogue and free thought should be the scientific arena. I would expect any scientist worth his graduate degree to agree heartily with this statement. After all, we have seen what happens when this is not the case. Galileo, Copernicus, and many other revolutionaries of scientific discovery were the victims of thought-repression and censorship (the aforementioned cases were threatened by a controlling Church/State fellowship which grossly misinterpreted the meaning of certain Bible verses). Yet, even though their contemporaries shunned them, we now know that not only were they correct in their theories (most notably the heliocentric solar system), but also that they pioneered scientific thinking that unlocked much of what the modern world has greatly benefited from.
So it stands to reason that utmost care should be taken to preserve free academic thinking within science. Furthermore, the complete demise of the church-state government within developed countries essentially ensures that scientists can discuss and debate with utmost freedom from censorship or rebuke. Right?
Academic elitism, scientific censorship and thought repression are rampant throughout the modern scientific circles. Need proof? Walk in on an Ivy League school discussion on origins and say two words: “Intelligent design.”
At best, you will probably be met with sneers and questions regarding the Bible-thumping, homophobic parents who obviously are responsible for such an insult to the human intellect. At worst, well, we’ll just hope for the best.
Of course, it is one thing to note sneers and jeers at an idea. It is quite a different thing to talk of oppression and censorship. But you can talk it, and one man who will be more than happy to talk is Ben Stein.
Stein, the actor/political pundit, has produced a documentary which examines the academic repression given to proponets of Intelligent Design. Only a trailer has been made available, but Stein wastes no time giving his thoughts on the blog portion of the site:
Darwinism, the notion that the history of organisms was the story of the survival of the fittest and most hardy, and that organisms evolve because they are stronger and more dominant than others, is a perfect example of the age from which it came: the age of Imperialism. When Darwin wrote, it was received wisdom that the white, northern European man was destined to rule the world. This could have been rationalized as greed–i.e., Europeans simply taking the resources of nations and tribes less well organized than they were.
Them’s fightin words. But they’re not without content. Just ask Stephen Meyer, whose scholarly essay questioning the sufficiency of the Cambrian explosion to explain life was published and subsequently treated like heresy. The Biological Society of Washington found it appropriate to draft a corporate statement on such a thing. Note the careful wording of the statement; it smacks heavily of Medieval church proclamation:
The Council, which includes officers, elected councilors, and past presidents, and the associate editors would have deemed the paper inappropriate for the pages of the Proceedings because the subject matter represents such a significant departure from the nearly purely systematic content for which this journal has been known throughout its 122-year history. For the same reason, the journal will not publish a rebuttal to the thesis of the paper, the superiority of intelligent design (ID) over evolution as an explanation of the emergence of Cambrian body-plan diversity. The Council endorses a resolution…which observes that there is no credible scientific evidence supporting ID as a testable hypothesis to explain the origin of organic diversity. Accordingly, the Meyer paper does not meet the scientific standards of the Proceedings.
Does this sound odd? A scientific body, banding together to condemn the publication of a scientific paper?
One thing that needs to be said at this point is that intelligent design (or Creationsim) is not exactly the pink elephant theory. Great scientists (Newton and Pasteur, just to name a couple) of old, and many Ph.D. holders across the world today hold to something more than traditional Darwinism. To deny an idea its day in court comes awfully close to elitism.
Stein’s documentary is proposing to deal with just that: Elitism. Intellectual arrogance has been around a long time, and the origin of life is not the only issue which sees it come to surface. But it is rampant across educational establishments in the United States.
I close by referencing an op-ed that I believe will prove my point. It was written about the Creation Museum, I place I have visited and I will gladly testify that it is “as advertised.” It offers a tour of natural history from a staunchly Biblical worldview, and never leads on to anything else. No one paying for a ticket is unaware of what they’re about to hear. So with that insert for free speech, let us look at James K. Willmot sounds oddly…religious:
If adults want to believe in a 6,000-year-old Earth, that dinosaurs and humans lived together in harmony (all dinosaurs were vegetarians, you see) and that Noah saved all of the Earth’s animal species by placing them on his ark, then they have the right to do so. What I object to is that thousands of children, particularly the growing number of Christian home-schooled children in this country, are visiting the museum in droves, much to the delight of the museum’s founder, Ken Hamm.
These kids are learning that despite a fossil record that clearly shows a progression of simple life forms becoming more complex life forms over billions of years (the first bacteria are believed to have established themselves approximately 3.8 billion years ago), they are taught that the first man was made from clay and that the first woman was made from the man’s rib. Instead of learning that the process of natural selection, over 3,800 millions of years, has changed populations of organisms into the approximately 10 million species (conservative estimate) that inhabit the Earth today, they are taught the “poof” theory of creationism.
I like these two paragraphs because, interestingly enough, they are ALL Mr. Willmot has to say about the Museum. He casually tosses the name and a couple facts about, and then proceeds to immediately dismiss it’s claims without any serious editorial work. But even more than that, the pot then decides to start calling the kettle black:
We do not need citizens who are closed-minded, anti-knowledge fundamentalists who want to see the world move closer to the Biblical prophecies of an Armageddon. (AIG also believes in a literal interpretation of the Book of Revelation.) Unfortunately, the creation museum in Northern Kentucky has been very successful at encouraging their non-thinking, anti-reasoning philosophy, especially among young, dinosaur-loving children. Inaction in this matter may come back to haunt us in the future.
Who is encouraging non-thinking? The person censoring alternative ideas, or the man encouraging dialogue? The answer is not difficult, but for people like James K. Willmot, whom Ben Stein will most certainly have some words for, it apparently is unthinkable.