Flunked, Not Expelled: Ben Stein Contradicts Mark Mathis

Remember how Mark Mathis, producer of “Expelled”, kept going on about how the “Crossroads”/Rampant Films thing was what they had in mind while interviewing Richard Dawkins, PZ Myers, Eugenie Scott, and others, then they decided to chuck all that and go with the “Expelled” concept? It seems that Mathis should have had a session with Ben Stein so that they could make their stories match. Stein was interviewed by the New York Sun and by the WORLD magazine, and there are several interesting things about the content of his responses.

One of the things that has dogged Mathis is the fact that the “expelledthemovie.com” domain was registered at the beginning of March, 2007, about a month earlier than the invitations for interviews went out to Eugenie Scott and PZ Myers. No similar domain seems to have been registered by Mathis for the alleged “Crossroads” concept. Ben Stein adds another piece to the burgeoning chronological evidence stack that argues against taking Mathis at his word. When did Ben Stein get the word that he’d be the front-man for an attack piece? According the WORLD interview, that would be sometime in 2006:

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.

Emphasis added.

So, starting sometime in 2006, Mathis or his fellow producers were engaging Ben Stein with precisely the concept of “Expelled”. There is no mention by Stein of any such thing as “Crossroads” or of being intrigued by the “Crossroads” concept.

And Stein in the New York Sun interview contributes a little something extra to the discussion over the animation used by the “Expelled” project.

Mr. Stein became involved with the film when he was approached by Messrs. Ruloff and Sullivan during pre-production. “They sent me an absolute torrent of information, some of which I read, some of which frankly I did not read,” Mr. Stein said. Intrigued by what he did absorb and by a segment of computer animation commissioned by the producers that depicts life at a cellular level in its nearly infinite complexity, Mr. Stein signed on. “It just became a gigantically bigger project than I even had the slightest clue it was going to be,” he said.

So part of what brought Ben Stein aboard the project was being shown an animation of processes occurring inside the cell… a couple of years ago, if Stein’s statements are in any way consistent. (Hint to Mark Mathis: you can argue for your version of the past by attacking Stein’s credibility in recall of when he was approached for this project.) Now, the whole flap over unauthorized use of the Harvard/XVIVO “Inner Life of the Cell” video didn’t get going until around September, 2007, when IDC advocate William Dembski’s lecture in Oklahoma revealed its use there to people who recognized the source of the animation. It was shortly after Dembski was hit with cease-and-desist requests that the projected release date of “Expelled” was shifted from around February 12th to April 18th, apparently to give time for the copycat animation to be made and edited in to “Expelled”. So essentially the New York Sun gave these folks a pass when they reported,

Intrigued by what he did absorb and by a segment of computer animation commissioned by the producers that depicts life at a cellular level in its nearly infinite complexity

There is no evidence that the producers had commissioned any such animation at the time that Ben Stein was recruited. It appears that the “Expelled” producers were using the Harvard/XVIVO product, “Inner Life of the Cell”, as a recruiting tool for their project. There is evidence that the copycat animation was only “commissioned” relatively recently, certainly long after Ben Stein was signed on to the project.

Remember to visit Expelled Exposed.

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23 thoughts on “Flunked, Not Expelled: Ben Stein Contradicts Mark Mathis

  1. Frank Lovell

    It seems inescapably clear now that Stein’s (and EXPELLED’s) Holocaust-connection argument is (among other things) a fallacious Argument from Unwanted Consequence against “Darwinism” (a fallacious argument flawed even further by the fact that for many decades “Darwinism” has NOT been what evolutionary biologists embrace and teach, having supplanted it with the modern synthesis of evolution theory). The reality that life has historically diversified via evolution is utterly independent of fact that evolution theory (or it’s earlier formulation as “Darwinism”) was misapplied by Nazis as an element of the rationalization for waging genocide of Jews, and Stein’s being opposed to the reality of evolution “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” is like arguing against the factual reality of cancer because it is instrumental in leading to the unpleasant and unwanted premature death of so many fellow human beings. An unpleasant or unwanted consequence of X does not logically constitute evidence against the factual reality of X. Neither do residual unanswered questions by (“or “holes” in) the work-in-progress of a theory to explain the reality of X constitute evidence against the factual reality of X. It is sad to see the clarity of Stein’s logical analysis when applied to economics falter so severely when he turns his attention to evolution.

  2. Torbjörn Larsson, OM

    I dunno about the veracity of Stein’s analysis on economics – I haven’t followed it and I’m not an economist – but I’ve seen criticism of its historical and factual content. FWIW, here is a recent comment:

    Stein’s convinced that there are some other even more secretive billionaires, with even more money, who were shorting Bear’s stock and making a fortune. And the great thing about this theory – just like any conspiracy theory, and just like Intelligent Design – is that it’s impossible to disprove.

    Every so often I get comments on this blog saying that I’m an idiot because something I said has turned out to be wrong. But that just doesn’t make sense to me. The real idiots, to me, are people like Ben Stein. Stein makes factual errors, but that doesn’t make him an idiot. What makes him an idiot is his evident belief in his own infallibility, to the point at which he clearly doesn’t allow the NYT’s editors to do even a cursory fact-checking run over his copy before it’s published. And what makes him more of an idiot is his steadfast refusal to engage with his critics – indeed, he will even stoop to outright deception in order to avoid having any kind of real debate.

    With surprising frequency, differences in the blogosphere end up being settled by events. On the question of Wall Street bonuses I was right and Jesse Eisinger was wrong; on the question of the Bear Stearns share price I was wrong and Jim Ledbetter was right. In both cases, the debate itself was illuminating. The problem with Ben Stein is that he doesn’t listen, he doesn’t debate; instead, he simply panders. It’s an attitude which might go down well among fundamentalist Christians, but it’s not one which belongs in the New York Times.

    Btw, when I googled for same fresh criticism on Stein’s abilities in economics, I also found out that Ben Stein has won financial awards from Phillip Johnson for his effort in the Expelled movie and that he has confused secularism with atheism for a long time.

  3. mojoandy

    The delay could have been due to the pending conclusion of the Gonzales tenure decision as well, can’t be sure the video was the (only) reason.

    Either that, or they were waiting for the rapture to save them the embarrassment of actually releasing the movie.

  4. Brian

    *blort*

    That last one is my new favorite theory.

  5. Michael R Honer

    If you do a word-count on Mein Kampf (the only real Hitler document, which he dictated in prison) you will find “Darwin/Darwinism” – zero counts; “evolution” – few inocuous mentions in terms of development of ideas &c.,so the principal nazi document does not rely on “Darwinism” at all. The number of mentions of “God ” and the “church” is another matter.
    Hitler was a “Darwinist” – !!
    mrhoner

  6. Michael

    Crossroadsthemovie.com was registered March 21, 2008 by domains made easy…lol

  7. Austringer Post author

    I’ve been told that the domain was grabbed by an IDC critic so that the “Expelled” folks couldn’t have it. I’m not sure that I see the point, since the date of creation of the domain would be accessible and still give the producers no excuse if they had bought it at this late date.

  8. Dave S.

    Buying the domain now would be rather pointless for the “Expelled” folks. On the contrary, it’d be yet more damning evidence of incompetance and dishonesty.

  9. Shebardigan

    “Crossroadsthemovie.com was registered March 21, 2008 by domains made easy…lol”

    “I’ve been told that the domain was grabbed by an IDC critic so that the “Expelled” folks couldn’t have it. I’m not sure that I see the point, since the date of creation of the domain would be accessible and still give the producers no excuse if they had bought it at this late date.”

    I did indeed register the domain, mostly to have a potential spot for pointing folks to more complete collections of information.

    I finally got around to putting up a rudimentary page this afternoon (good excuse to put off finishing my taxes).

    http://www.crossroadsthemovie.com

  10. Peter Zachos

    I concur with Frank’s assessment of Ben’s Argument for Unwanted Consequences. Ben Stein is an idiot. The nazis used IBM “Hollerith” machines to help document and organize files pertaining to the Final Solution. Does that mean Ben never uses a computer?

    “oh,” I hear, “but what computers they used has no connection to the ideology! Darwinism is directly related to the ideology of the Nazi’s belief in a superior race!”

    Go back to school.

    paz

  11. ellazimm

    I guess hiring four marketing firms wasn’t a good investment then. Who is paying for all this anyway?

  12. Shebardigan

    Update:

    Much as it pains me to have to exhibit some fairness to the Expelled crowd, there is evidence that crossroadsthemovie.com was in fact owned by a domain squatter until 2 Feb 2008. At least, this is the substance of http://www.bizprolink-internet.com/0802/080208-2.htm

    The real import of this is that, rather than the 8 bucks it cost me to acquire it, they would have had to spend perhaps a thousand or so.

  13. Paul Flocken

    I assume that contracts were signed by all parties when the interviews were conducted. Since the evidence is mounting that the interviews were conducted under false pretenses, is the situation actionable, by Myers, Dawkins, et-al.

    Sincerely,
    Paul

  14. BW022

    Thanks for the new take.

    It was pretty clear that Expelled copied from XVIVO, but evidence that they only started fairly recently would be a rather damming slam-dunk if they somehow did within a few months what it took Harvard/XVIVO years to do.

    We know they are liars. However, for the most part, lying isn’t illegal. The XVIVO copyright is another matter. It could easily delay or kill the film, if they comply and it could be even worse if they go to court. Dembski and Steins statements are just so bad, you can just feel the panic about potential discovery. Certainly, each of these folks would be dragged into court for possible testimony.

  15. Randy

    Just saw an add for Expelled last night. It said April 18th as the opening.

  16. Randy

    its sad when you spell ad wrong!!!!!!!!!!

  17. Jon Klement

    The one thing that is starkly lacking in criticism of the movie, alleged legal improprieties aside, is dialogue concerning the movie’s content.

    The producers did this. The producers said that. Ben Stein is dumb.

    Enough already.

    To respond to one comment above about the Nazis “misapplying” evolution and about modern theories of evolution being any different from the 1940′s versions, I would say the Nazis got it right.

    If we are just bags of reacting chemicals, then there is no absolute morality. All morality would be subjectively invented by humans. If killing you (and getting away with it) furthers my personal idea of what the world should be like (in this facetious hypothetical example, a place without you in it) then nothing is wrong if I just make you disappear one day.

    I’ve judge you as stupid and unfit for the gene pool. I have the power to pull off your murder and get away with it. You can’t stop me.

    You don’t fit into MY version of the world, just as the “useless eaters” didn’t fit into the Nazi version.

    You will be dead. I will continue to reproduce and teach my children that there is no morality either.

    I win.

    Ta da! Natural selection at work.

  18. Austringer Post author

    What is confusing about the difference between “natural selection” and “artificial selection”?

    And why would anyone wish to cast themselves in the role of a totalitarian homicidal maniac? I think that falls under “too much information”.

  19. Austringer Post author

    Also, when I Google for relevant terms, I find *lots* of discussion of the movie’s content on those grounds.

  20. Thomas Jones

    Ben Stein? After the Watergate scandal I certainly would not take an X Richard Nixon speech writer seriously. How can one be certain he doesn’t have some kind of political agenda like he did when he was speech writer for the Nixon administration by throwing out a “red herring” issue like this? Due to his prior dealings I would certainly be a lot more skeptical of him than mere blind faith or devotion without exploring all the aspects of science, including evolution theory…(which they propose we should just toss out.) If the biblical account given in the book of Genesis is a completely accurate account of both creation and history, it would not only have to explain why dinosaurs becameextinct but, also why geographically isolated species such as the polar bear did not die in the flood. For that to happen, the Polar Bears would have to be strong enough to swim across the Atlantic Ocean 3000 miles from the North Pole to the Mesopotamian Basin to reach Noah’s ark. To assume they could swim such distances much less stay afloat during a 40 day flood goes against all logical sensibility, especially when we know polar bears die from drowning deaths because the arctic ice upon which they habitat is currently melting due to global warming. Polar Bears would have died during the “Great Flood” just as surely as the dinosaurs would have yet, there are no fossils records which support a massive polar die off which scientists could then use to carbon date. If the Polar Bears really were indeed direct descendants of the bears which came from Noah’s Ark, their change in fur color makes one point glaringly obvious, it changed because of evolution. However, these observations make me skeptical that a literal account of “Great Flood” really happened. If the account of Noah’s ark given in the bible is inconsistent with scientific observation, common sense, or reality, what’s to say the account of creation given in the same book of the Old Testament is also inaccurate, inconsistent, or contradictory? ID theorists treat their assumptions as if they were completely infallible yet, if we are to have a balanced unbiased discussion of all creation theories involved (including evolution theory), why are ID theorists unwilling to discuss weaknesses in their hypothesis? No Intelligence Allowed lives up to it’s moniker. ID theorists are allowed to discuss Intelligent Design Theory yet, they refuse to concede any
    weaknesses in their theory. When I visited the official “Expelled” website to elaborate my scientific skepticism based on this discussion, my blog was conveniently moderated and quickly deleted. Talk about “No Intelligence Allowed” an honest, unbiased discussion of competing
    theories were not allowed at their website. What will Ben Stein think of next? The effort to quell any educated discussion on behalf of the “Expelled” promoters seems more like one sided, right wing, fundamentalist propaganda promoted by close minded individuals who are unwilling to openly discuss all the associated issues. Now Avian Transport Theory? How much more fanatical, magical thinking like this can people base their assumptions on without shred of evidence to
    back it up? Fundamentalist theories that claim “The Stork” is responsible for conception under the name of “Avian Transport Theory?” Come on, this getting ridiculous already.

    P.S. Even some conservative Christians think you have gone off the deep end Mr. Stein so, you can’t make the absurd claim that only liberals believe in evolution theory or that everyone who believes in evolution is a liberal. That assumption is just inconsistent with social reality.

  21. Jeremy

    I find these comments to be quite amusing. You guys are calling Stein an idiot because you confuse his motivation with his argument. His motivation for being inclined to do a project that deliberately exposes the holes (and there are holes in it, otherwise it would be known as a law)in evolution theory (which hasn’t been done, at least on this scale for the public) is NOT HIS ARGUMENT AGAINST IT. His argument is contained in the film. Again, the Holocaust “argument” was never an argument at all, it was an explanation of his motivation, or inclination.

    How truly ironic that you guys are using a fallacious premise to expose a fallacious argument. Yes, if one were to attempt to build a case against the veracity of evolution based simply upon Nazi’s using it as a tool of oppression, they wouldn’t have a leg to stand on. That’s as fallacious an argument as saying that God doesn’t exist because so many people throughout history have done bad things in an effort to please their god(s). This post makes me laugh the most, “Holocaust-connection argument is (among other things) a fallacious Argument from Unwanted Consequence against “Darwinism””

    What argument was made? I hope you’re not making the case that the Nazi’s didn’t use, “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” because they most certainly did, whether or not their understanding was spot on is immaterial because Stein is not building a case against it based upon that “argument” (as you seem to confuse it with). In the very same paragraph he says, “So I was primed to want to do a project” which even further reinforces the point that he was merely explaining why he took it, as opposed to building a so-called, “argument.”

  22. Jeremy

    More gems from the comments-

    “I concur with Frank’s assessment of Ben’s Argument for Unwanted Consequences. Ben Stein is an idiot. The nazis used IBM “Hollerith” machines to help document and organize files pertaining to the Final Solution. Does that mean Ben never uses a computer?

    “oh,” I hear, “but what computers they used has no connection to the ideology! Darwinism is directly related to the ideology of the Nazi’s belief in a superior race!”

    Go back to school.

    paz”

    Like I said before, motivation is not an argument. Seems like you could use a refresher course or two. Few things make me laugh more than seeing someone call someone an “idiot” and then saying, “go back to school” while in the midst of a complete lack of understanding of what the person is saying. Remember that this was an interview asking him why he took the job, not why he feels evolution is wrong.

  23. Austringer Post author

    There is the issue that in science theories are generally more useful than laws, and there is no promotion path that would lead from theory to law. Theories adduce mechanisms that explain observations; laws simply codify relationships in those observations.

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