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Ben Stein's Dangerous Idea

May 2008
By Robert Meyer

Ben Stein has a dangerous idea. His idea is that professors and teachers who express skepticism about Darwinism are likely to find themselves not granted tenure, castigated and ridiculed, and disqualified from the opportunity to have research papers published.
  Stein documents this in his new movie “Expelled, No Intelligence Allowed.” As you would expect, it is drawing highly critical reviews from the usual suspects. One agitated reviewer on a blog said the movie was filled with half-truths and outright lies. It would be interesting to see what this same source had to say about the latest documentary movies promoted by Al Gore and Michael Moore.
 
Having reviewed the movie myself, it appeared that Stein was trying to make the case for academic freedom, not attempted to convert anyone to a particular ideological position. Stein, in fact, never makes it known what particular beliefs he holds personally, he merely makes it known that he is disgusted by the idea that someone could lose their job over honest doubts about Darwinism.
 
Critics will respond to all of this by saying that “Intelligent Design” is not science. Of course not, for to say so would be a semantic or categorical confusion. ID is “science” in the same way that a snowball is “weather.” The snow ball is a result of weather, but not weather itself. Intelligent Design is not science, but a conclusion inferred by applying the scientific method. Asking whether or not a particular object of study is too complex to have evolved by chance is a question germane to scientific examination. Such questions can be quantified by mathematical probabilities.
 
Any form of “science” that claims it is possible disprove Intelligent Design is no longer applied science, but philosophical speculation. That is really what is so egregious.
 
The customary way of attacking “crackpots” who have doubts about Darwinism, is usually with appeals to expertise. We will be told that 99.9% of credible scientists believe in Darwinism. The problem is the word “credible.” Since one must believe in Darwinism to be considered credible in the first place, the only question is why the number isn’t 100%. We basically have a meaningless tautology of circular reasoning on our hands.
 
What I always tell these people is that I don’t care to hear about an appeal to expertise, I want a methodology. Even those who are not scientifically astute should want to philosophically cross examine the cogency Darwinist assertions for themselves.
 
The are three false assumptions here. First, an implication that expertise equals perfect objectivity. No agenda or orthodox dogma is seen as responsible for the virtually unanimous compliance. Secondly, that all scientists who are cited began with no preconceived biases, and came to their conclusions by following the evidence wherever it led them. Finally, coercion and intimidation have no influence or effects in maintaining the monolithic consensus.
 
One quickly realizes that both Darwinists and Intelligent Design theorists, use the same scientific methodology in their investigations. What differentiates them is the interpretation of the evidence, the ultimate conclusions, and the presuppositions each group have going into their endeavors.
 
A belief in either Darwinism or ID is a metaphysical (philosophical or religious) preference, not a scientifically demonstrable fact. As far back as 1874, John Tyndall, in his famous Belfast Address, stated…
 
“The strength of the doctrine of Evolution consists, not in an experimental demonstration (for the subject is hardly accessible to this mode of proof), but in its general harmony with scientific thought.”
 
In the 20th century, Aldous Huxley commented about the implications of accepting Darwinism in his treatise Ends and Means…
 
 “For myself, as, no doubt, for most of my contemporaries, the philosophy of meaninglessness was essentially an instrument of liberation. The liberation we desired was simultaneously liberation from a certain political and economic system and liberation from a certain system of morality. We objected to the morality because it interfered with our sexual freedom.”

In Nancy Pearcey’s essay from a few years back, “You Guys Lost, Is Design a Closed Issue?” she states…
 
“If it can be shown that historically the primary motivation for advancing Darwin’s cause was not so much scientific as philosophical, then the theory loses much of its persuasive force. For scientists have authority to tell us how the natural world functions, but they have no comparable authority to tell us what philosophy we ought to hold. If the motivation for accepting Darwinism was primarily philosophical, then we in the twentieth century are justified in calling for a resurrection of the old debate.”
 
If we had no other reason for believing that Darwinism was not merely a scientific explanation of origins, but something far more encompassing, any doubts would quickly be dispelled by observing the fervor by which this piece will be rebutted. Had I claimed that gravity was not a physical law, nobody would bother which angry responses. Question Darwinism and  you arose passion reserved for those who wantonly desecrate a sacred shrine.
 
So the important question is not whether ID is science, but whether Darwinism is really philosophy with a scientific patina. One seems to be the opposite side of the coin from the other, but one idea is taught in public education, the other is taboo.
 
That circles us back to Ben Stein. Stein’s motivation may have been merely to blow the whistle against threats to academic freedom. Maybe the genie that Stein is trying to let out of the bottle is even bigger than he thought.

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