Monday, October 29, 2012

Ben Stein: Anti-Science Extremist with Mainstream Credentials

The problem with Ben Stein is that he is too likable. Too cute. He's smart, he's funny. Ben is the son of Herbert Stein, a top economic advisor to Nixon. He's undoubtedly a well connected and influential voice in American politics and popular culture. He's a prominent Republican. He's a "player." And, he's fun. Who could resist his Hollywood roll as the boring economics school teacher in Ferris Beuller's Day Off ?

Actor, game show host (Win Ben Stein's Money), movie maker, Nixon and Ford speech writer, lawyer, economist, degrees from Columbia University and Harvard Law, he's politics-made-for-TV entertainment's equivalent of Ironman. He can do it all.

Ben Stein (right), in tennies. Photo by Alex Mazerov, Wikimedia Commons.
Stein writes a regular column for the American Spectator, published by the right-wing 501(c)(3) American Spectator Foundation, which apparently holds that tax-deductible status by offering internships to young journalists. He's also a frequent guest on CNBC's Kudlow Report. It seems safe to say Ben Stein is not associated with the far right likes of Quran-burning Pastor Terry Jones. Stein's a mainstream elite guy - who says scientists are murderers.

In 2008, while promoting his anti-evolution movie Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, Stein gave an interview to Trinity Broadcasting Network, where Stein's remarks were so off-the-wall, that even the conservative journal National Review couldn't tolerate them.

From the transcript, as reported by John Derbyshire in the National Review:

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.

With the general election approaching, the Republicans are busily portraying themselves as moderates. Is such an extreme view of science a "reasonable centrist" position? If given more power in Washington, would Republicans be champions of the advancement of science and technology with the goal of inventing and manufacturing products that advance the arc of civilization? It's seems pretty hard to do that if you've decided "science leads you to killing people."

Scientific American has responded to Ben Stein, particularly his movie, in the following related articles.

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Scientific American's Take

Six Things Ben Stein Doesn't Want You to Know

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed--Ben Stein Launches a Science-free Attack on Darwin

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