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WORLD interviews Ben Stein

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With the big release of EXPELLED planned for next weekend, the interviews of Ben Stein keep coming:

Mocked and Belittled
By Megan Basham | WORLD Magazine

Interview: Ben Stein’s new documentary may give macro-evolutionary theory a deserved hard time, and he plans to have fun with it along the way

Though audiences probably know Ben Stein best as the economics teacher from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, the actor had a distinguished career preceding the classic ’80s movie—just not in the entertainment industry.

Long before ad-libbing the world’s most famously boring free-market lecture, Stein was a Yale-trained trial lawyer, a professor at Pepperdine University, an economist, and a speechwriter for presidents Nixon and Ford. Even today, along with his acting, voice-over, and game-show-hosting work, he writes regular business columns for The New York Times and Yahoo! Finance Online, as well as numerous books and articles on various political topics. Of all of Hollywood’s politically outspoken celebrities, Stein’s impressive resumé makes him the likeliest candidate for most credible.

Recently WORLD chatted with the modern Renaissance man about his latest film, Expelled—a documentary opening nationwide on April 18 that makes a compelling case against Darwinism and for academic freedom.

WORLD: How did you get involved with Expelled?

STEIN: I was approached a couple of years ago by the producers, and they described to me the central issue of Expelled, which was about Darwinism and why it has such a lock on the academic establishment when the theory has so many holes. And why freedom of speech has been lost at so many colleges to the point where you can’t question even the slightest bit of Darwinism or your colleagues will spurn you, you’ll lose your job, and you’ll be publicly humiliated. As they sent me books and talked to me about these things I became more enthusiastic about participating.

Plus I was never a big fan of Darwinism because it played such a large part in the Nazis’ Final Solution to their so-called “Jewish problem” and was so clearly instrumental in their rationalizing of the Holocaust. So I was primed to want to do a project on how Darwinism relates to fascism and to outline the flaws in Darwinism generally.


Phinehas says, Furthermore, in a film that sets out to expose the existence of academic persecution, the notion of “balance” seems a little odd. The promotional material I've seen does not emphasize "existence." The word "many" seems to come up pretty often. Why aren't there many persecuted ID people interviewed in the film? Do many exist? The scale of persecution seems to be very small. Is the way to get more oomph to say that Darwinism caused the Holocaust? (I listen respectfully to what ID people have to say about ID, but this is a crazy take on history.) Even if this was true, what is the connection to people losing their jobs unfairly? austin_english
Bob: ...deciding not to balance this angle by showing people whose opinion might not accord with the angle they wanted to take (I’m thinking of Allen MacNeill here).
I'm not really sure why Allen MacNeill's "opinion" is necessarily relevant to the film. Based on what Allen shared here, it seems he only discussed what happens at his particular university in his interview with Expelled's producers. What does his interview have to do with a film exposing that academic freedoms are being suppressed at some institutions? Must the film have listed all the institutions where academic freedom is not suppressed in order to be considered balanced? That seems like an arbitrary requirement to me. Furthermore, in a film that sets out to expose the existence of academic persecution, the notion of "balance" seems a little odd. If you are writing to expose the horrors of prostitution, must you really strive to balance your work by including the fact that some pimps don't beat their prostitutes? How useful is such a standard for judging this kind of documentary? Phinehas
Davescot, Amen. Frost122585
Stein was Nixon's speech writer, too bad Henry Kisinger's dead, Probably could have gotten the zealots to say alot more... Then again, the dialogue between his droll voice and Dawkins' squeaky obnoxious condescending one, would have probably caused me to hurl. Stone
leo I live on a planet where - using $500 million in private investment capital to produce the first fully sequenced human genome is far more impressive than - using $2 billion in taxpayer revenue to produce the first fully sequenced human genome Venter did it in the same amount of time at one fourth the cost. If the calculators on your planet work the same as on mine it shouldn't be hard for you to figure out which achievement was more noteworthy. DaveScot
Why should a movie which purposefully tries for the first time to make that known to a vast audience be “balanced”?
As I noted above, I have no problem with that. But once you've decided to make an unbalanced movie, it seems disingenuous to claim it was anything else. Bob O'H
----Deep Design: "Have you read the Edge of Evolution by Dr. Michael Behe?" Hi Deep Design. Yes. StephenB
Hi StephenB. Good to know my thinking is sound. Have you read the Edge of Evolution by Dr. Michael Behe? DeepDesign
-----"I think I used “unsetteling” appropriately." -----"As I understand it. Collins think that God set off the big bang and let things work themselves from there." Your instincts are sound and well worth trusting.Typically, TE’s believe that organisms evolved through a Darwinian process, which, by definition means, NOT DESIGNED. What they mean is that, while design is “illusory,” it is, nevertheless, “inherent in the evolutionary process.” In other words, God designed a Darwinian “non design” process. So, evolution is designed, except that it isn’t; the process is directed, except that it isn’t; the universe has purpose, except that it doesn’t; God had us in mind; except that he didn’t. We must understand that, for a TE, contingency is all part of God’s plan. But wait, contingency means “without plan.” Not to worry. For God contingency is certainty. We do not understand the world the way God does. He made it one way so we could see it another way. It’s an intellectual madhouse. So now we are now prepared to do our comparison contrast to determine the champion of irrational assumptions? Dawkins (something came from nothing) vs. Collins (something came from nothing, except that God created it). Collins wins in overtime. StephenB
Francis Collins a household name? Maybe on your planet. Craig Venter ran circles around Collins then left him in the dust. DaveScot
People of faith, Seekers, Agnostics, lovers of freedom. This movie is going to be alot of fun. DeepDesign
I agree with you entirely Apollos. But. People of faith are the folks who can make the difference here. I think. This film is for everyone. DeepDesign
I don't see Expelled as a rally cry for Christians. If it mobilizes Christians to some sort of awareness, then fine. If it illuminates academia's bigoted attitudes towards all things "design" then better. If it demonstrates that philosophical materialism is being foisted upon the general public under the guise of science then best of all. Apollos
If Expelled does not mobilize Christians and people of faith to action (good action not bad action). Then what does that say about the future of religion in this country? DeepDesign
I think I used "unsetteling" appropriately. As I understand it. Collins think that God set off the big bang and let things work themselves from there. DeepDesign
Hi nullasalus. Unsetteling in that I cannot figure out how to reconcile traditional Christianity with a God who works through chance and did have us in mind. DeepDesign
What's the 'something' that's unsettling? It seems rather tame to me. nullasalus
There is something about Francis Collin's "Biologos" that I found deeply unsetteling and unchristian. DeepDesign
At # 10 I just called, apparently you don't need to purchase tickets in advance. DeepDesign
If anyone would know about cop outs, it's Dawkins. Though I disagree with his estimation of Collins' position. Ask Dawkins to explain the random chance that is his answer to God - where did it come from? What is its origin? You'll get the same answer as Collins gives. The only difference between their positions is that design is the one thing we're certain exists (since we ourselves are designers) - unguided chance is merely speculated or assumed. By the way, has anyone noticed that Dawkins' names and thoughts are plastered all over the wikipedia? I even find his opinion in cosmology or physics related entries. It's as if his fan club thinks that, so long as Dawkins made a passing comment about it, it's worth including his take in the article. nullasalus
-----This too from the same Wikipedia article: “During a debate with Richard Dawkins, Collins stated that God is the object of the unanswered questions about the universe that science does not ask, and that God himself does not need an explanation since he is beyond the universe. Dawkins called this "the mother and father of all cop-outs" and "an incredible evasion of the responsibility to explain." Dawkins is, or course, correct. The only thing more irrational than a materialist atheist is a Christian Darwinist. StephenB
Since I bothered to check out Collins' view on things here it was on wiki encapsulated nicely. 1-5 are more or less agreeable but he completely loses me at 6 where he takes a complete departure from science and physics and dives headlong into mysticism. The universe is actually very young at 14 billion years old. It'll be capable of supporting life for hundreds of billions if not trillions of years more. What makes man unique among life so far is we're the only form that can conceivably get off this third rock from the sun before it's inevitably cooked to a cinder in 5 billion years or less. What a waste if this all goes away while there's a perfectly good universe out there with a trillion years of useful service life left in it.
(1) The universe came into being out of nothingness, approximately 14 billion years ago, (2) Despite massive improbabilities, the properties of the universe appear to have been precisely tuned for life, (3) While the precise mechanism of the origin of life on earth remains unknown, once life arose, the process of evolution and natural selection permitted the development of biological diversity and complexity over very long periods of time, (4) Once evolution got under way no special supernatural intervention was required, (5) Humans are part of this process, sharing a common ancestor with the great apes, (6) But humans are also unique in ways that defy evolutionary explanation and point to our spiritual nature. This includes the existence of the Moral Law (the knowledge of right and wrong) and the search for God that characterizes all human cultures throughout history.
I have a kind of love-hate relationship with Francis Collins. I have given him good reviews in popular Christian mags because, if you don't think too deeply, he is okay, maybe even useful. My long review at Access Research Network probed more deeply. Collins reassures, and for many people that is good enough. But at a university level, students should be given serious thinkers to read. O'Leary
Francis Collins? Great scientist of our age? Got Nobel? Maybe you meant to say Francis Crick. DaveScot
-----"Or, for that matter, Francis Collins, who despite being tagged with the sobriquet “lightweight” by our resident journalist and grandmother, is considered one of the great scientists of our age. That he is an Christian should make him of interest to his fellow evangelical Protestants who, based on the movie’s marketing strategy, are their target market. Apparently, Premise Media isn’t quite committed to the idea of teaching the controversy." Like most specialists, research scientists can be surprisingly naïve about matters outside their area of expertise. As a scientist, Francis Collins is thoughtful and competent; aa philosopher/theologian, he is inconsistent and presumptuous. TE’s are not conspicuous for their ability to reconcile religion and science in a coherent way. StephenB
"There are many truths". There is probably only one truth, but there are certainly billions of different ideas about truth, and I think that no human "idea" of truth should ever be considered the real "truth". The map is not the territory. Never. gpuccio
Bob O'H: "It’s difficult for me to see how this could be viewed as balanced" Balanced? There is nothing balanced in the current treatment of ID by the scientific community. Why should a movie which purposefully tries for the first time to make that known to a vast audience be "balanced"? The simple fact that there are exceptional cases, like allen MacNeill, who have a more balanced attitude towards ID (politically, if not cognitively) is just further proof of how much biased and unfair is the general attitude of the scientific establishment. So, calling from "balance" from the side which has never been balanced is really, at best, ironic. gpuccio
There are many truths Not really. While uncertainty is the normal state of knowledge anything can be boiled down to a single state of truth given the means. tribune7
"From what Stein says, they had decided before they started making the film what angle they wanted to take..." Same thing with Dodos and Monkey Girl. Funny thing is that Casey Luskin, for one, questioned whether their "fair and balanced" would even remotely resemble his "fair and balanced". Hence he declined to an interview. Dawkins, Genie, PZ, et. al., OTOH, were all too eager to jump in front of the camera and provide us with their heartfelt honesty. Now, the nation gets the opportunity to get a better understanding of their views about science and religion. Sounds fair and balanced to me!!! FtK
Is telling the truth one sided?
There are many truths (as well as falsehoods), and one can give an extremely unbalanced view by picking them carefully. From what Stein says, they had decided before they started making the film what angle they wanted to take, and deciding not to balance this angle by showing people whose opinion might not accord with the angle they wanted to take (I'm thinking of Allen MacNeill here). It's difficult for me to see how this could be viewed as balanced, and from what Stein says, it was never intended to be. Well, OK. If they want to make a partisan film, I've no problems with that. But this does contrast with Mathis' claims that the film, Crossroads was an investigation into science and religion, and the more partisan angle only appeared afterwards. Bob O'H
No need to have Dave sign anything, I've got Ed Humes autograph on the rag. Of course, the only reason I stood in line to get his sig. was to ask him a question. Unfortunately, I almost came uglued at his lecture at KU. But, I did manage to write a lengthy article about the blatant misinformation he was spewing. FtK
Or is it like any other movie? DeepDesign
So should you buy tickets in advance for the Saturday (April 19th) showing? I'm hoping to go with a couple of friends. DeepDesign
*flicks* FtK
Bob, I agree with Davescot, but you might also consider that Flock of Dodo's and the book Monkey Girl were paraded as "fair and balanced". Darwinists thought they were, ID supporters certainly didn't. Monkey Girl was repulsively one sided. I'd imagine that after seeing the film, most ID supporters involved in this debate are going to believe it to be very fair and balanced - Darwinists unplugged without any "framing" safety nets. In fact, this may be one of the most fair and balanced flicked ever made. FtK
Stein is only partially right. The loudest voices will be mocking and belittling, but us small fry will be saying, "Well done!" Jack Golightly
Bob O'H, "Interesting that Stein is admitting that the producers knew a couple of years ago that the film was going to be one-sided." Is telling the truth one sided? It may seem that way to those who cannot do it. We will have to wait and see what the movie actually says to debate what is true or not. When Stein says Darwinism has holes in it, that is what we understand here as accurate. We have repeatedly asked evolutionary biologists like yourself to defend it and refute these claims, all we ever get is radio silence, deflections or irrelevancies. jerry
BobOH In my opinion the soldiers for Darwin indicted themselves. They gave candid answers to the questions. Were they misled in any way into giving candid answers? You bet. They were easily gulled by being given one possible title and theme of the documentary and no promise that it wouldn't be changed. They signed binding contracts. I think the point of how easily they were outsmarted is a larger point. They aren't half as smart as they think they are. So let's all wag our fingers at once at those Premise Media rascals for using misdirection to get honest answers and move along to something else. DaveScot
Sort of slightly on topic - See Dr. John Angus Campbell speaking on the topic of his book, "The Rhetoric of Charles Darwin". It's just over 55 minutes long but towards the end, discussing Phillip Johnson's "Darwin on Trial", Dr Campbell says about certain of his academic colleagues that, to them, "[Scientific naturalism] really is an ideology". They, "really do want to keep other points of view out." And, "the prevailing paradigm really is dogma." Well worth watching. Janice
Interesting that Stein is admitting that the producers knew a couple of years ago that the film was going to be one-sided. Despite telling their interviewees differently. Didn't Mathis claim that they hadn't decided on the angle the film would take when they were doing the interviews? Bob O'H
STEIN [laughing]: No I don't expect any Oscar attention. I think we will be mocked and belittled for this production. Now thats powerful IMO! godslanguage

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