Bueller

by

Ben Stein wrote speeches for Richard Nixon. In 1976, Time Magazine speculated that he was “Deep Throat.”

Ben Stein is an actor whose most famous role came in his very first film. In 1986, he played the boring economics teacher who uttered the famous words, “Bueller? Bueller?”

Ben Stein is a lawyer. He graduated from Yale Law School in 1970 and taught at several law schools, including a lengthy tenure at Pepperdine’s School of Law from 1990-1997.

Ben Stein is a television star. He stepped down (or up?) from teaching law at Pepperdine to star in Comedy Central’s “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” the gig that launched the career of Jimmy Kimmel.

He did bunches and bunches of other interesting stuff, too (which you can read about HERE).

But now, Ben Stein is star and co-writer of a brand new controversial documentary titled, “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” which is airing at a theater near you. The reason behind the movie, as explained on its official website is, “…that educators and scientists are being ridiculed, denied tenure and even fired – for the ‘crime’ of merely believing that there might be evidence of ‘design’ in nature, and that perhaps life is not just the result of accidental, random chance.”

I haven’t seen the movie yet. A friend told me it was great. Wikipedia told me it has lots of holes.

I am about to go to a conservative law school nestled in one of the most liberal small towns in America. I’m really looking forward to all that.

I am not a conservative. On Facebook, I claim to be liberalish. I really have many conservative values, but I’m not much on having to choose sides. And since I really hate that Jesus-followers are reputedly on one side looking down at the other side, I have this huge tendency always to identify with the other side.

This is why I probably won’t like “Expelled” that much. Seems to me to be the same old game: Christians masquerading as victims – making Christians want to fight, and ticking everyone else off.

The movie might be good, but I just can’t see who wins.

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13 Responses to “Bueller”

  1. DeJon05 Says:

    Albert, I haven’t seen the movie, but I can identify with much of what you say when describing how you line up for ideological labeling.

    But I did find this bloggers story set at a screening of Expelled to be pretty funny. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2008/03/expelled.php

    I hope you can impact Pepperdine more than the other way around.

  2. alsturgeon Says:

    That was pretty funny!

    I hope Juvenal is still around to pipe in, what with his science background and all.

  3. Terry A. Says:

    I’ve got history with Ben Stein.

    I did not win his money.

  4. alsturgeon Says:

    Yeah, but that was a scam. I mean, you should have BEEN Jimmy Kimmel, not someone trying to weasel a place on the show as a contestant.

    Although – and seriously – your humor reminds me much more of Jon Stewart. I think he studied you.

  5. Michael Lasley Says:

    That was a great article, Dejon.

    Al….when do you get out here?

  6. alsturgeon Says:

    The plan right now is midday Thursday, August 7th. Will you be out there then?

  7. captmidknight Says:

    Al,
    I’ve seen some ads for Ben Stein’s movie, but haven’t seen it yet. I do, however, have a few thoughts about the Intelligent Design dust up.

    As a layman with a basic science background as well as a Christian background, I’ve always been interested in trying to understand the two diametrically opposed explanations of origins offered by the Bible and Science, which today means some flavor of Darwinism. Both approaches have some basic assumption which are not negotiable or “provable” and which essentially set the rules for each method.

    The basic assumption of the Bible and several other theistic approaches is that all we are and all see around us was created by some being or power which would necessarily have had to have existed prior to and outside the world or universe it created. That outside being or power also had in the past and still has the ability to influence things in our world. Everything else flows from that assumption.

    The basic assumption, as I understand it, of the scientific approach to origins, at least as proposed by Charles Darwin in 1859 and expanded on by many since, is that all we are and all we see around us is the result of the random interaction of matter and energy governed only by natural laws, unguided by any plan or outside force. Everything else flows from that assumption.

    There are millions of different details, and have been almost 150 years of arguments, mostly between preachers and bishops who knew little science and scientists who knew even less theology. Predictably, both sides went away claiming victory and nothing much was accomplished. All the arguments, however, can probably be traced back to the fundamental assumptions always held but seldom expressed by each side.

    Now we come to the “Intelligent Design” question.
    It’s not particularly new. I first encountered it, before it even had a name, over 20 years ago in the form of a book by Michael Denton called “Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.” I think, other than some work by my chemistry professor at Harding, it was the first thing I had ever read questioning any of the tenants of classical Darwinism by someone with real scientific credentials (Denton has a PhD in Biochemistry from Kings College, London). I think Denton has since backed away, for whatever reason, from some of the other prominent names in the Intelligent Design movement, but his work and the questions he raised are still part of the discussion.

    Unfortunately for the ID folks, no matter whether their positions are well reasoned or foolish, the very fact that they suggest ANY element of design, from whatever source, means that their position violates the most basic assumption of classical Darwinism and is, therefore, doomed. From a scientific standpoint, we cannot know anything about what may or may not have existed before The Big Bang, some 15 billion or so years ago, but scientists operate on the assumption that, even if there is a being or power outside the universe, it doesn’t have any effect on what goes on here. Darwinism, Scientific Materialism, call it what you want, doesn’t accept the possibility of any sort of outside element imposing any sort of design on the random actions of matter and energy following natural laws.

    That’s the problem in a nut shell, as I see it. Whether it is the current Intelligent Design proponents or any other group proposing any sort of action by any outside element, in the final analysis, the arguments and the evidence won’t matter. Whatever the evidence may be, it simply can’t be interpreted to allow even the possibility of design because that conclusion isn’t allowed by the basic assumptions of the discipline.

    I admit that I don’t know if the Intelligent Design folks are on to something or not. I do know that the mainstream scientific community has tried to cast their arguments as just another religious claim in disguise, even though most of the ID proponents are not religious – agnostic at best – and they say so up front. It’s also interesting to reflect on the fact that almost every breakthrough idea in science was initially viewed as heresy by many in the established scientific community.

    I’m sure that most of your reading for a long time will be out of the Pepperdine Law Library, but, If you have the time, and are open minded and brave enough to defy the current scientific establishment and actually examine their arguments and evidence yourself, here’s some suggested ID reading, in addition to Denton’s book:

    Books by Michael Behe, PhD in Biochemistry, University of Pennsylvania 1978.
    [Behe is currently Professor of Biochemistry at Lehigh University where his writings, including the two books below, are sufficiently heretical to have prompted the university to issue the following disclaimer:
    “While we respect Prof. Behe’s right to express his views, they are his alone and are in no way endorsed by the department. It is our collective position that intelligent design has no basis in science, has not been tested experimentally and should not be regarded as scientific.”]

    Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge. 1998

    The Edge of Evolution. 2007

    By Francis S. Collins, Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Yale University, and M.D. from the University of North Carolina, and, for the last few years, head of the Human Genome Project:

    The Language of God. 2006 (Collins IS a self styled evangelical Christian)

    Again, I’m not claiming that ID is a valid link between the Bible and Evolution, or even good or bad science. It’s just interesting that classical Darwinism’s most vocal opponents today are not from the religious community, as was the case for most of the last 149 years, but from people with PhDs in medicine and biochemistry.

  8. alsturgeon Says:

    That is interesting, Cap’n. I can see how scientists would be apt to lean toward non-intelligent-design, but it seems that assumption is going to be hard to completely believe in, too.

    And though I do consider myself both brave and open-minded enough to read your bibliography, the time factor is a problem right now.

    But further, to tell the truth I don’t find either argument (evolution or ID) all that interesting. I always made good grades in all my classes, but science was far and away my LEAST favorite class.

    I’m weird in the religious world, too – on the flip side, I’m also bored by eschatological discussions.

    It’s fair to say that I don’t expend a lot of neurons worrying about how we got here or what happens to us after we’re gone. I’m so eat up with practicality that – since there’s no way to “know” either – it just doesn’t interest me that much.

    As a lifelong Christian, I have a basic belief that God exists on both sides of the unknown – and I’m good with that. I do get all excited talking about how to live in between.

    Is this bad for me to be this way? It just “is” – I don’t think I did it on purpose.

  9. captmidknight Says:

    Al said:
    That is interesting, Cap’n. I can see how scientists would be apt to lean toward non-intelligent-design, but it seems that assumption is going to be hard to completely believe in, too.
    And though I do consider myself both brave and open-minded enough to read your bibliography, the time factor is a problem right now.
    But further, to tell the truth I don’t find either argument (evolution or ID) all that interesting. I always made good grades in all my classes, but science was far and away my LEAST favorite class.
    __________
    Al,
    “I can see how scientists would be apt to lean toward non-intelligent-design.”
    _______
    Wouldn’t the term “Non-Intelligent Design” be an oxymoron?

    My point was that the classical Darwinist can’t tolerate any sort of design at all. Any evidence or data that may seem to point in the direction of design from any source simply must be assumed to be in error. It can’t mean (or be allowed to mean) what it seems to mean because that conclusion isn’t allowed under the rules of science, which today means evolution in some form. For a scientist to seriously suggest such a thing is to risk professional suicide.

    I’m not a rabid anti evolutionist. Many of Darwin’s observations were quite correct – in fact, they’re pretty simple and obvious, looking back on them. Much of his micro evolutionary thought has been demonstrate to be more or less accurate. In fact the average dog or sheep breeder of the mid 19th century was already familiar with many of them. The main thing that was new about Darwin’s theory was the proposing of a mechanism for the observed diversity and the creation of new species – survival of the fittest. It was completely “scientific” and required no outside “God.”

    It’s the macro evolutionary claims of the theory that I have trouble believing – the claim that the mechanism that can produce resistant strains of bacteria or different color patterns on butterflies is sufficient to explain all the diversity of life as well as the emergence of life itself from non-living chemical elements. IMHO, most scientists believe this to be true, not because they can prove it scientifically, but because it MUST be true since their whole system of belief and inquiry depends on it. In their minds, there is no other possible explaination. In their own way, they are just as much true believers as Christians.

    Finally, I agree that most of the reading on either side of the question is firmly in the “Seriously Geeky” area. Best to concentrate on moving to Malibu. It’ll be more productive.
    _______

    “Is this bad for me to be this way? It just “is” – I don’t think I did it on purpose.”

    Of course not. We love you just the way you are.

  10. alsturgeon Says:

    Thanks, El Capitan!

    Now I like reading boring stuff, too. Or, I’d better, given my choice for the next three years. Just not “science” boring stuff. 🙂

  11. Joe Says:

    *nibble*

    *nibble, nibble*

    OK, I’ll bite.

    Al, you do realize that Ben Stein is Jewish as are many of the folks he talks with as ID proponents in this film. So the “Christians masquerading as victims” mantra so often chanted here doesn’t exactly fit.

    I saw the movie yesterday. I wasn’t blown away. I didn’t like the style or the imagery he used. He “Michael Moored” it, using sensationalistic imagery like the Berlin Wall and the Nazis. The discussion is worth having, but I have to agree with Al in that I don’t think this movie did much to foster an environment for that discussion.

    His whole thesis wasn’t that ID is a correct theory or idea. It was that the Darwinism establishment is so completely intolerant of the concept that an academic that chooses to study or explore the possibility of ID is ostracized completely, to the point of being denied tenure or losing their position altogether.

    Dejon –

    Funny that you should link to that story about Dawkins getting in to see the movie. I doubt the author was chortling quite so gleefully after actually seeing the movie. I wonder how Dawkins felt while watching himself agree on camera that ID is a possible theory of biogenesis.

  12. alsturgeon Says:

    Point well taken, mi amigo. Change all my “Christian” lingo to “Judeo-Christian” lingo for much improved accuracy.

    Hope all is well with you and Whit. Got an OPM call on your beautiful wife today – will try to call the investigator back tomorrow. She doesn’t have any skeletons in her closet does she? 🙂

  13. DeJon05 Says:

    For the record I wouldn’t dare step toward one side or the other in this “where did we come from” debate. I am neither informed on nor interested in such weighty matters.

    I do reap a macabre utility when watching the antics of one side against the other. This debate would suffer a precipitous decrease in entertainment value, but a massive increase in usefulness were both sides to cut out the emotionally charged rhetoric, and impassioned but childish antics.

    I just can’t reconcile the faithless underpinnings of empiricism with my epistemology. Nor can I imagine the creator of the universe expressing appreciation for the way the ID proponents champion his cause.

    But its entertaining to mix the two together and watch the fireworks.

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