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…on “oppression”

Ben Stein says …

… If they are Darwinists and they owe their jobs to being Darwinists, they are not going to challenge the orthodoxy because that would challenge the whole basis of their jobs and their lives. So they are not going to challenge the ideology that has given them lush positions in real life. – interview with CNS News, January 17, 2008

WORLD: After spending so much time listening to scientists on both side of the issue, why do you think so many actively oppose even the consideration of intelligent design?

STEIN: For one thing, these people’s lives and livelihoods depend on having Darwinism as the dominant scientific idea. And if that idea starts being questioned, their position becomes more tenuous. Nobody wants their livelihood rendered more tenuous.

WORLD: Do you think that’s their primary motivation?

STEIN: No. I also think they don’t want there to be a God because if there’s a God they’re going to be judged, and they don’t want to be judged. And I don’t blame them for that – that’s sort of standard for human nature. But what we would like is for people who do have a belief in God to be able to express themselves without getting pushed out of their schools and jobs. – interview by World, April 19, 2008

and Zachary Feakins replies

Stein’s implication that there is an atheistic party line among scientists, with persecution of any who dare believe in God, might be amusing if there were not far too many people deceived into believing it. In reality, the question of whether God exists is not directly addressed in scientific research; hence, there can be no scientific consensus on it, and scientists like Ken Miller show that it is possible even to be an openly Christian ID critic. Yet even religious scientists research natural, not supernatural, causes. Why? First, searching for natural explanations has proved successful in the past, and there is no reason to expect this to change. Second, natural explanations are generally more testable than supernatural explanations, and therefore provide more fruitful directions for research.

and Cris Waller replies

Ah, the old “cushy science jobs” myth! Obviously, those advocating it have never been scientists.

According to (, the median salary of a postdoctorate scientist in the U.S. is $41,941. Not chump change, but certainly not enough to live the lifestyle of Ben Stein, either.

And how do scientists gain fame, prestige, and a bigger paycheck? Well, if money was their primary motivation, they would get the heck out of academia and into industry – the average industrial scientist earns $116,000, nearly three times the salary of his research compatriots.

Secondly, scientists could find out something new. Challenge the orthodoxy. Make a discovery that no one would have ever guessed could be done. Prove their colleagues wrong.

So, after a century or so, if there were big faults to be found in Darwin’s theory, you can bet that they would have been found by now. They haven’t been.

and Jonathan Weintraub adds

Scientists as a general category don’t have an attachment to a specific industry that both promotes and depends on consumption patterns There is no academic industry that is comparable to the tobacco, oil, weapons, junk food, or junk religion industries. Professional educators are motivated by a quest for truth and knowledge, not the preservation of dogma. The same can’t be said for religious authorities. New scientific theories are welcomed by the scientific community because they provide new and better tools to explain natural phenomena. Corrupt religious authorities, on the other hand, despise scientific discovery because it tends to undermine their “absolute truth” claims about God, nature, and society. Think Galileo.

and Josh in Marburg adds

There is a difference between academic freedom and not doing your job. If, for instance, I was to hire someone to teach Shakespeare’s comedies for the Fall 2008 semester, and that person were to teach advanced chemistry, while I might be impressed that a Shakespearean also does advanced chemistry, I would fire that person for not teaching the required material. The same goes for teaching Creationism/Intelligent Design in the science classroom; if you’re hired to teach science, then teach science.

Ben Stein says …

We don’t see any reason why you surrender your free speech rights and your free inquiry rights when you pick up your registration card in high school or college. – Missouri State Capitol Press Conference, April 3, 2008

and Patrick May replies

Framing the rejection of intelligent design creationism as a free speech issue is disingenuous. The real issue is that the scientific method requires evidence and the intelligent design “researchers” have none. Even leaders of the intelligent design movement admit that there is no scientific theory of intelligent design and no evidence on which to base such a theory. (See, e.g., Paul Nelson, in Touchstone July/August 2004: “Easily the biggest challenge facing the ID community is to develop a full-fledged theory of biological design. We don’t have such a theory right now, and that’s a problem. Without a theory, it’s very hard to know where to direct your research focus. Right now, we’ve got a bag of powerful intuitions, and a handful of notions such as ‘irreducible complexity’ and ‘specified complexity’ – but, as yet, no general theory of biological design.”)

Ben Stein says …

Neo-Darwinists ask us to believe in things not seen. We’re not supposed to have an established religion in America, but we do, and it’s called Darwinism. – Citizen Link: Friday Five: Actor Ben Stein, April 4, 2008

and Julie Balazs cheerfully replies

Damn, is Stein’s wordplay seductive! It’s so … anti-oppression! So pro-religious-freedom! We’re Americans, by gum! We love freedom! Down with those red communist bastards! I almost fell for it! Except that funny feeling in the pit of my cerebral cortex demanded I look closer. Best start by spelling out the underlying syllogism:

Religion is based on belief in “things not seen”; “Darwinism” asks us “to believe in things not seen”; therefore “Darwinism” is a religion.

The argument is unsound because, even though the first premise is true (religions openly celebrate belief in various spiritual effluvia without material or logical evidence), the second premise (and, therefore, the conclusion) is false. “Darwinists” believe only in things we can see. Stein – along with the whole Intelligent Design fun-fest – isn’t specific, but we must assume that “Darwinism” refers to belief in evolution by natural selection, and we can see natural selection. An example is sickle red blood cells. They are poor hosts for malarial parasites, so people who are threatened by malaria and have mutated cells are more likely to survive – and reproduce, and pass down the genetic code for sickle cells. As we might predict, there is a much higher incidence of sickle cell anemia in people who inhabit malaria-stricken areas, including sub-Saharan Africa and India. There are many other examples of visible natural selection just like this one, neatly supporting the premise that Darwinism is not a religion. And that pretty much means it can’t be an established religion. Hence, no religious oppression here.

Ben Stein says …

… [Intelligent design is] an effort to try to fill in some very obvious gaps. – interview on The O’Reilly Factor, October 22, 2007

and Jeremy Mohn replies

“My teacher hates me!”

That’s the excuse parents sometimes hear when their kid brings home a bad grade. In many cases, the real reason for failure is a consistent lack of effort.

Ben Stein would like you to think that ID is a genuine effort to answer scientific questions.

Unfortunately, he’s pulling your leg.

The problem for ID advocates is not that their ideas are being suppressed. The few ideas they have produced, such as the notion of “irreducible complexity,” have been thoroughly criticized and resoundingly rejected by scientists.

The real problem is that they haven’t even tried to develop their ideas into a viable scientific research program. Their own “peer-reviewed” journal, Progress in Complexity, Information, and Design, lasted only 9 issues before grinding to a halt in 2005. If ID advocates are truly the victims of suppression, it is self-inflicted.

ID advocates haven’t been “expelled” from the scientific community. They have flunked out. And now, in order to distract you from all those zeroes in the gradebook, they have made a movie about how much the teacher hates them.