Ben Stein, Others Party For New Flick Like It’s 1999

Belo8 film critic Gary Cogill was among hundreds partying at the Palomar Hotel Wednesday night after the world premiere here of Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed, a controversial new documentary about the Establishment jihad to suppress proponents of “intelligent design.” The flick stars Ben Stein, a prolific writer but probably best known as the boring teacher in the movie Ferris Bueller’s Day Off. “I’ve always admired Ben Stein,” Cogill said at the party. “He’s one of the few intellectual conservatives who have a sense of humor–something that’s rare among conservatives and intellectuals.” Jump to find out how Ben Stein reacted to that.

The film’s premiere at the Angelika Film Center was packed, and marked by plenty of gourmet snack food, long black limos and uniformed cops–at least 12, by one count. They were out in force because Expelled is so controversial–it describes “the persecution of scientists who dare to disagree with atheistic neo-Darwinism”–that the film has attracted troublemakers, though most are attacking it via the Web. It’s also the target of copyright-infringement claims, which the filmmakers–Dallas-based Premise Media Corp.–answered by filing a declaratory-judgment lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court here.

Following the Angelika screening the crowd repaired to the Palomar, where they found a lavish spread, a rocking soul band and more flowers than you’d see at a rich guy’s funeral. Stein, characteristically droll in a sport coat, slacks, tie and tennis shoes, grabbed the mic and toasted the partygoers, many of them friends of the filmmakers, or investors in the flick. “We hope this movie goes somewhere, and you get your money back,” he told the crowd. “Remember Will Rogers said, it’s not the return on your money–it’s the return of your money.” Then he added: “OK, everybody. Party hearty.”

Asked how he got involved with Expelled, Stein later said, “I went in thinking: ‘I’m not going to find out that Darwinism is a fraud. I’ll probably find out these (intelligent design proponents) are frauds.’ But I wound up knowing a lot more than when I started. I learned that Darwinism is being overhyped, and that it doesn’t really convey what’s going on. Sometimes if you follow a ‘truth’ far enough, it becomes a lie.”

On the lighter side, the former speechwriter for Presidents Nixon and Ford–and current columnist for the likes of The New York Times, The American Spectactor and Yahoo Online–said he visits Dallas half a dozen times a year, and loves it. “I remember when Dallas was riding high on the oil boom in the late ’70s. This party tonight reminds me of those days,” Stein said. “The people in Dallas are really friendly and nice. There are lots of pretty girls here. People in L.A. look crazy, but people here look sane.”

And, what of Cogill’s comment about conservative intellectuals and humor? “Quite a few conservatives have a good sense of humor,” Stein countered. “There’s a lot of people at the Wall Street Journal, Bob Tyrell at the Spectator, David Brooks, William Buckley Jr., Laura Ingraham, Ann Coulter, Rush has a very good sense of humor.” Maybe Cogill said that, Stein conceded, because “I work very hard at being likeable.”

Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed opens this weekend in more than 1,000 theaters.

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33 comments on “Ben Stein, Others Party For New Flick Like It’s 1999

  1. It’s important that journalists not adopt the inflated rhetoric being used by those they cover. “Establishment jihad” is loaded language, used to bludgeon, not to persuade.

  2. I like and respect Ben Stein but when I heard him in an interview talking about the Nazis being inspired by Darwin it just got silly.

  3. Bill, the establishment jihad against ID is a veritable concentration camp of holocaust.

  4. Anyone who believes in intelligent design is a complete fool and most likely lacks basic reasoning skills or critical thought. I wouldn’t hesitate to punch an ID proponent in the face.

  5. Stephen’s comments are exactly what the movie is about….he makes a fool of no one but himself.

  6. I’m not a fool for being disgusted by this dangerous and disgusting affront to science. I don’t blame the religious zealots, after all, most human minds are by naturally frail and easily led astray. I guess, if you have lived a major portion of your life believing in fairly tales and never developing an appreciation for how complexity and structures arises from pure randomness, then of course its easy to take comfort and try to pretend that being under attack brings validity to the ideas being attacked. Guess what? It doesn’t. Just because an idea is attacked with furor doesn’t make the idea any more valid.

  7. It is exactly that kind of arrogance that blinds many to the possibility that there could be a higher power with the ability to take “pure randomness” and form it into order.

    Is it really plausible that “pure randomness” just happened to evolve two separate complex structures that just happen to need each other to survive? One breathes air and emits carbon dioxide while the other does the opposite?

  8. rc, what is your educational background? a “higher power” is devoid of meaning. I realize overly religious and unthinking types use it as a placeholder for things outside of their understanding or control, but science has higher standards. Define it, show me where to find it, test it, hypothesize about it, and then we can talk.

  9. rc, to answer your question, it is not only plausible but almost trivially seen to be true.

    Lets say I gather 100 stray cats, and toss them into an open pit about 9 feet high. Eventually, some cats escape and eat(their attributes are random) and some die. The descendents of the cats who escaped the pit might claim some sort of divine intervention saved them, if they were to develop self-awareness in the future, but I would know the truth. They just had the right attributes due to random selection, that simple.

    Configurations of physical systems are much the same way. So no matter how astronomically small the chances of carbon/oxygen/etc exists, if the system randomly “runs” long enough then stable systems will form almost surely. “Almost surely” is a mathematical way of saying “with probability 1″ which also means “it will DEFINITELY happen at some yet-to-be-determined point in the future”.

  10. Thanks, Stephen, but you’re not really helping the cause of science all that much.

  11. Nazism is linked to Darwinism and that cannot be denied. If anyone gives the movie a chance they will see that. That said, the movie also says that not all Darwinist are Nazis. Just give the movie a chance and don’t believe all the lies.

  12. Isn’t it unusual for a documentary to be released in 1000 theaters? Nice budget.

    ID is a lot of things to a lot of folks, but it isn’t science, its creationism with a new name…sort of like compassionate conservatism. These folks would have you believe that the Earth is only 5000 years old.

  13. Stephen, what does my education have to with anything? The master’s degree I earned was given to me simply because I had the time and resources to go to an institute of higher learning where I learned to regurgitate what that institute required of me. Does that make me special? No.

    A “higher power” is no more or less devoid of meaning than “almost trivially seen to be true,” “almost surely,” or “it will DEFINITELY happen at some yet-to-be-determined point in the future”. I thought you said science has higher standards. It appears to me that overly scientific and unthinking types use it as a placeholder for things outside of their understanding or control.

    The fact is neither side of this issue has definitive proof of who is right and who is wrong, which is the very point of the movie. You say “Define it, show me where to find it, test it, hypothesize about it, and then we can talk.” but until then you “wouldn’t hesitate to punch an ID proponent in the face.” Your attitude is a perfect example of what is happening in the scientific community. If you truly believe in science and its higher standards, then what is the harm in allowing others to explore ID. If it truly is baseless, would they not prove themselves wrong and ultimately support your views?

    Your arguments, at best are based on hypotheses and philosophy. In your example of the 100 cats, couldn’t the descendents of the cats who escaped the pits just as easily claim that they randomly emerged from the mud due to a thunderstorm that had just the right conditions? In either case, who chose the pit? Who gathered the cats? Who put the cats in the pit? Regardless of their ability to be self aware, who knows the truth? In your own example, you are the intelligent designer that influenced the conditions. The only random selection that occurred was when you chose which pit to use and which cats to put in it.

    For someone who makes statements like “Anyone who believes in intelligent design is a complete fool and most likely lacks basic reasoning skills or critical thought,” you sure didn’t think out your argument very well.

    By the way, if everything evolves from pure randomness, wouldn’t the very laws of mathematics and science evolve as well. With your theory of systems, no matter how astronomically small, if the system randomly runs long enough then 1+1 definitely at some yet-to-be determined point in the future will equal 3.

  14. Ellie, Nazism is linked to Social Darwinism, which although it has the name “Darwin” in it, really has nothing to do with Charles Darwin’s scientific theory of evolution by natural selection. Moreover, I believe the man himself rejected it.

  15. I believe we should teach students that we are actually living on an the earth that rest on the top shell of a large turtle that lives in the cosmic sea, and that the sun revolves around the earth. That’s what my religion says is the truth, so that’s what we must teach in public schools.

  16. For those who are so inclined: please sign the Texas Freedom Network’s Stand Up For Science petition to keep real science including evolutionary biology in Texas science classrooms.
    http://www.tfn.org/

    And please remember that science need not be at odds with faith.

    By the way, I love Ben Stein and enjoy his Sunday Business column in the NYT, but I am disappointed to see him involved in this project.

  17. I’m assuming the Gwyons and Steven Crowleys have already seen the film, so they must know what they’re talking about. In the movie, by the way, one of the most eloquent Darwinists posits that the human race may have been “seeded” here by more intelligent beings from outer space. (Er, did somebody mention “zealots” and “fools”?)

  18. Glenn, Ellie’s statement that “Nazism is linked to Darwinism” was vague enough to be meaningless. Moreover, it was misleading, so I explained the “link.”

    But I haven’t seen the film, so any objective fact I post here is irrelevant.

  19. Hello Stephen,
    Let me ask, from an intellectual point of view, which makes more sense? Believe in God only to discover after death that He did NOT really exist OR reject the concept of God’s existence today only to discover, after death, that He does exist. For me, I would rather be a Fool for God.

  20. Glenn: not so much on the Darwinist positing that the life here was seeded by aliens. That quote has been dishonestly taken out of context.

    While evolution attempts to explain how life on this plant changed from the smallest of singular celled organisms to ourselves, Intelligent attempts to write it all off by claiming that creation of life is unexplainable and impossible to understand. One tries to explain how things have happened and continue to happen while the other one is an attempt to hide the ball. Claiming that something is unexplainable and therefore you should not try is not science, it’s dogma.

    Oh, and something else: claiming Darwin was wrong because he didn’t understand the actual mechanics of evolution (chiefly Genetics) is like claiming that Newton was wrong because he didn’t understand either Relativity or Quantum Mechanics. We have had a need to refine Newton’s model over time has we came to understand more and more about our universe; Darwin is no different.

  21. Fred, not believing in an afterlife makes more sense. If god exists, he presumably KNOWS that you are believing in him just to save your ass, and hence its not a true belief by choice by a self-serving belief. I choose to not bury my head in the send, if there is a god, may he strike me dead!

  22. rc,

    the master degree means nothing for the purposes of this discussion. I’m only interested in knowing how much intellectual effort you put towards contemplating logic, nature, and science. If you have a masters in philosophy, or business, or economics, then it hardly matters to the subject discussed here(maybe philosophy a little but its useless unless grounded in a hard physical science). A background in science, physics, or biology would be more relevant.

    And “almost surely” is not devoid of meaning, it is a very specific term that any mathematician, statistician, or mathematical physicists would understand and know very very well. Read up on “ergodic theory”, can be found http://www.cscs.umich.edu/~crshalizi/notabene/ergodic-theory.html and there are numerous books on the subject. It is not a matter of conjecture. One can start out with minimal assumptions, setup the equations, and solve them for the infinite time and by following the proofs you will see that any point in “phase space” is eventually reached with probabiltiy 1. I can set up this simulation on my computer with a simple example and watch this process unfold, you would be quite surprised to see it in action. The behavior “looks” like it has purpose or patterns, but it doesn’t.

    “Science” is not responsible for “proving” that ID is bogus. EVERY IDEA is bogus until proven otherwise. This is basic to science, if you don’t understand this, then that is an extremely serious error in logic on your part.

    I understand that I selected the cats. If you would like, I’ll create a random number generator based on creating random sequences from interstellar background radiation, and then use that to help me select the cats. Or, I’ll go find some population of animals and just watch them, without any interaction at all, my point still holds.

    Mathematics does not evolve, 1+1 will never equal 3. Mathematics is a set of mental notions and proofs that are valid are valid forever. Science does evolve in that science is more about gathering data and making hypothesis in the face of incomplete data. Mathematics is different altogether.

  23. Stephen,
    I would like to talk to you and tell you what I think of you and your mumbo-jumbo, but I only have a Bachelor of Arts degree. I’ll use my frail mind to pray for you instead.

  24. Yes, it is true. I do not spend much intellectual effort contemplating the cosmos, and no, my degrees do not meet your requirements of relevance. Does this mean I then do not have the capacity to understand concepts, or your permission to debate them?

    I know what “almost surely” means. It is a very specific term that any honest mathematician, statistician, or mathematical physicist uses to disregard any anomalies and outliers that do not support the majority of the data for the purpose of assuming the majority is fully representative of the whole. It is a way of treating “usually” as if it has the same weight as “always.”

    By your own argument, the probability of ID is just as likely to be reached in “phase space” with a probability of 1. The problem with the application of ergodic theory is that for it to work, by definition the starting point is ignored. For example, play roulette and make the same bet every time. Statistically, if played an infinite number of times, you will eventually win. Or create random sequences of bets using your handy-dandy interstellar background radiation calculator to determine the amount of each bet, on what the bets should be placed, and how fast, or slow the wheel should be spun. Either way, you play long enough, you will eventually win a bet at that yet-to-be determined time. The only problem is that you only had $50 when you walked into the casino.

    I agree that science is not responsible for proving that ID is bogus, nor is it responsible for proving that ID is not bogus. The notion that there is not an Intelligent Designer also is bogus until proven otherwise. I also agree that mathematics do not evolve, but I would argue that science does not evolve either. Only our own understanding of it changes. Math and science is based on order, not pure randomness.

    Again, the purpose of this film is to promote an environment where those who wish can “gather data and make hypothesis in the face of incomplete data” as it pertains to where it all started. If we can definitively answer that question, regardless of the answer, then we will be better equipped to explore and understand all areas of science.

    By the way, can you explain who put the “god” in erGODics? It seems He is in the middle of everything these days.

  25. rc, these things we are discussing are actually complex, so, the amount of knowledge one possesses does qualify or disqualify someone from having valid input on a discussion, unfortunately, people get to vote and influence others regardless of the validity of their ideas. If it weren’t for people who pursued rigor and higher knowledge rather than superstition, the world would be in a much worse state. I personally do not hold strong beliefs in areas that I have not devoted a large amount of time to. The loudness of speech should be proportional to the amount of thought and critical analysis put into the speech. So if you feel you are qualified, please go ahead.

    “Almost surely” does not have anything to do with disregarding outliers. That involves another sub-branch of statistics altogether.

    Also, the “probability of ID” is not a reachable state.. it doesn’t even make sense. ID is a proposition that is either true or false and it has already been determined (to be false imo). For a system to be ergodic, all the possible states have to be reachable from all other states. No amount of hoop-jumping can make ID make sense. It’s a logical fallacy.. if you were to graphically draw the logical flow chart, you would see that the “intelligent designer” himself would need to be designed or come into being somehow, and you are back to where you started!

    Also, the “notion that there is NOT an intelligent designer” is not a notional at all. Any logician would know that EVERYTHING(infinity) minus 1 thing is still infinity, so there is no way to enumerate and search the “space of possibilities” to exclude ID from the space, thats why we only make positive statements and try to prove them.

    Gathering data for ridiculous ideas is a total waste of resources and prevents humanity from progressing as fast as it could be progressing.

    Ergodic comes from the word Ergoden.. not sure of the roots.

    Nice essay on math/physics link by Wigner, the guy who is famous for random matrix theory.

    The Unreasonable Effectiveness of Mathematics in the Natural Sciences
    http://www.dartmouth.edu/~matc/MathDrama/reading/Wigner.html

  26. I was an invited guest at the screening at the Angelika. I had no idea what it was about. It is a film promoting Intelligent Design… not necessarily the religious kind… but promoting more discussion of Intelligent design over Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. It was pretty heavy propaganda. They pretty much equate people who believe in Darwin to Nazis, while showing old film of jews in the concentration camps… AND equate them also to atheists. They pretty much say if you believe in Darwin… you are atheist….. and deny the existence of God.

    They did have a valid point in that whenever educators discuss Intelligent design, other educators and college administrations would over-react and get the colleague fired or he would otherwise lose his job….. thus the title “Expelled”. However, I feel that they really beat you over the head and insult folks who do not believe in Intelligent Design.

    Their main point was that there ought to be more discussion of Intelligent Design, but that is not happening because the establishment has build a wall preventing ANY discussion of ID, all the while showing old film of the East Germans building the Berlin Wall.

    My feeling is that you should not shut out any discussion of ID, but until there is some science research data to support Intelligent Design, like there is supporting Darwin, then you are wasting your time. And until that science data supporting ID is forthcoming, then ID should not be taught in schools, as you are only promoting beliefs …. not science.

  27. You should see

    http://www.expelledexposed.com/

    this guy is a fool. And this “wall” built by the establishment is a good one. No, this isn’t “walls” like they build in politics.. based on lies, science builds walls of reason. That is why it has been so successful and why idiots like Ben Stein and his followers need to be suppressed in any way possible.

  28. “What Stein and friends are doing is trying to say that it’s appropriate to judge science based on what kinds of moral judgements a lunatic can derive from it – and further, they’re basically trying to argue for suppressing the truth when they don’t like the results of trying to infer morality from that truth.”