Politics, Foreign Policy, Current Events and Occasional Outbursts Lacking Couth

Monday, May 05, 2008

Ben Stein is Dim

On the heels of his recently released documentary defending intelligent design theory, Ben Stein was interviewed on Trinity Broadcasting Network by Paul Crouch Jr. Via NRO, a snippet of that conversation:

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.
What a patently imbecilic process of reason. I've got no issue with those that defend intelligent design, but Ben Stein isn't doing organized religion or the intelligent design theorists any favors with such baseless vitriol.


Dan tdaxp said...

I've been following reaction on National Review Online (mostly John Derbyshire) and scienceblogs (mostly Razib).

The consensus (I haven't seen the film) it's that it's a creationist version of Fahrenheit 9/11, well produced but specious in its arguments. It's also dangerous to the conservative cause, because the sciences are a bastion against Marxism in the universities.


G said...

Down here in the topsy turvy world of Australia the greatest proponents of ID still come from the political right (opposition leader Brendan Nelson is a proponent of ID in schools), yet the most vocal guys holding out against the left-leaning postmodernists have traditionally come from the humanities. The late philosopher David Stove (who was a bit of a conundrum, as he was right leaning but an athiest philosopher who ripped into leftist thought and some flaws within modern scientific thought) and the historian Keith Windschuttle come to mind.

It really depends on how you frame the conflict I guess (If it is a conflict). If the two were in a battle ground of justifying whatever their position is, then science uses impersonal normative justification against cultural marxists (if there is such a massive, far-reaching ideological conglomerate) i.e. to hell with what marxists believe, you should accept a scientific argument on objective grounds.

Whilst neutral humanities versus cultural marxists fight them on their own ground through scholarship inherent to their argument and truth-finding style. This makes use of a personal justification style that takes the cultural marxists beliefs into account i.e. Humanities prof: "Do you believe A?" Marxist: "yes" Humanities Prof: "Do you believe B?" M: "Yes" HP: "Then you'd have to agree on C. Would you not?"

Both have their pros and cons. Whilst a scientific argument is inductively stronger than a cultural marxists argument will ever hope to be (Popper put this argument to rest) it won't really make cultural marxists convinced to the scientists position because their personal beliefs haven't been taken into account. Without persuading them that there are other ideas out there, how do you hope to get rid of them? (If that were a persons aim).

That's where personal justification comes across as more rhetorically persuasive than the normative justification as it plays to the internal belief systems of cultural marxists.

So the scientists method of argument, which I totally agree with, is strong. However, it really comes across to me as attrition-style ideological war.

For instance, scientist argues A (that doesn't take into account audience belief B). Marxist counters with not-A because of B. This could go on for some time because of such a fundamental clash.

On the other hand, humanities prof argues A (and does take into account audience belief B). Marxist has to accept B and may be more likely to accept A. Or they may question their fundamental beliefs. Or something else may happen.

So both style of argument have their purposes, but I don't think Science is the only bastion against marxist thought (and may be weaker depending upon your epistemological standards of what good thought is and your specific aims of each type of thought).

G said...

Oh, and I forgot, Science isn't a complete bastion to marxism, PC thought, pomo, whatever you want to call it. Stove has a number of examples in his book 'Anything Goes' which show scientific methodologists like Feyerabrand, Popper, Kuhn et. al. falling to the same line of postmodernist-type thinking.

G said...

Actually, re-reading my comment makes me think I'm being a little bit vague. I might have to rethink it all.

Jay@Soob said...

Actually I thought you illustrated your point quite well.

I'd point out that science is traditionally based on evidence and evidence is widely regarded to be reality. Hence the traditional image of scientists being prone to realism, which runs contrary to the idealism that drives uber-liberal/Marxist, utopian dogma.

That said, I think you'd find the opinions here in the States to be that humanities is the bastion of leftist ideals. Here's an NAS article I dug up that challenges an assertion of "moderation" among professors and illustrates what I've mentioned above.

Hardly conclusive, but it gives one a taste of the largely left leaning aspects of academia and were they stem from.

ortho said...

Who is Ben Stein?

I don't know what U.S. universities you boys are talking about. Mine is full of reactionaries.

Dan tdaxp said...


Ben Stein was a speechwriter for the Nixon and Ford administrations. Subsequent to that, he went on to a successful commedy career. Most recently, he's the narrator of an anti-evolutionist documentary.

As you label the neo-Marxist field of post-colonial studies as "counter-revolutionary" [1], I'm sure nearly everything strikes you as reactionary. But then, once one adopts a Facauldian post-structuralist perspective, one can say whatever one wants, in the hope that that discourse will create reality!


ortho said...

Dan, thanks for telling me about Ben Stein and making me laugh.

You make me sound like Ronald Suskind ("We're an empire now and when we act we create our own reality.")

You're right about my thoughts on the scholars who work in what you call "the neo-Marxist field of post-colonial studies." They can spout their supposedly "radical" ideas because they're relatively secure with tenure and most live in highly-developed Western societies. Most talk about being a "radical" but do nothing. Slavoj Zizek elaborates upon this line of argument in "The Prospects of Radical Politics Today" (

An example of an academic who calls herself "radical" is the Tenured Radical. She is so radical, she initially supported John Edwards for U.S. President [1]. She is so radical, she wrote a whole post that explored "What to Do With an Honorarium." She decided the radical thing to do was to deposit the honorarium into a Roth IRA [2].

This is typical of most of the "bastions of Marxism in the universities." They are paper tigers: revolutionary in speech and counterrevolutionary in action. For that, they deserve the label "reactionary."


SnoopyTheGoon said...

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

That goes beyond dim. He should stay a comedian. Here is a great answer: