Saturday, June 21, 2008


Drinking Steins

Can you stand one more word about Expelled?

Lucky Canadians are getting a chance to see what happens to IQs when subjected to certain versions of religious belief that require that brains be put on hold so as to not get in the way. Peter McKnight of the Vancouver Sun, who I've found to be a reliably intelligent and sensible voice on the topic of science and religion, has a look into Stein's misshapen stepchild and turns up some interesting -- and highly amusing -- tidbits.

The deprecations of the movie are now familiar but McKnight recounts them well and clearly. The interest starts to go up with mention of the Holocaust, however:

Nowhere does Stein mention the centuries of anti-Semitism before Darwin -- in fact, Expelled all but ignores anti-Semitism as a reason for the Holocaust. Consequently, the Anti-Defamation League issued a statement saying, "Using the Holocaust in order to tarnish those who promote the theory of evolution is outrageous and trivializes the complex factors that led to the mass extermination of European Jewry."

When I asked Stein about this statement, his response revealed his hostility toward the Anti-Defamation League more than anything else, as he told me bluntly, "It's none of their f---ing business."
Really, Ben? The rhetorical uses people put the Holocaust to and the effect those uses have on history's view of the Holocaust as both a memorial to the dead and a moral lesson to future generations is none of the Anti-Defamation League's business, f---ing or otherwise?

But then there's this to show why Stein could have such an ignorant opinion in the first place:

[T]o support the Darwin-Nazi thesis, Stein quotes a passage from Darwin's The Descent of Man, which supposedly indicates Darwin's support for eugenics: "With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination. We build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed and the sick, thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man. Hardly anyone is so ignorant as to allow his worst animals to breed."

Now the first thing to observe here is that this is not a literal quote -- parts of sentences are excised so the passage effectively says the opposite of what Darwin said. Further, Stein fails to quote the very next passage, which includes the lines: "Nor could we check our sympathy, even at the urging of hard reason, without deterioration in the noblest part of our nature . . . if we were intentionally to neglect the weak and helpless, it could only be for a contingent benefit, with an overwhelming present evil." ...

When I alerted him to the alteration of the Darwin quote and read him the full passage, he said he was "kind of dismayed if that's true."
So here's Ben Stein, self-proclaimed member of the intelligentsia, and he can't even find a copy of The Descent of Man to check out a quote he uses on camera in a movie he is listed as a writer on?

But McKnight, tongue in cheek or not, is being unreasonable if he expects this:

[Stein] also said he would check it out, so I look forward to Stein disavowing at least that part of the movie.

Oh, dear. Poor Mr. McKnight. I hope he's got the gift of longevity, because he's going to be waiting a looooong time for Stein to disavow any bit of Expelled.

I'm actually almost glad this got inflicted on Canada. Looks like they're going to take the Expelled Exposing to a whole new level.
As with a lot of American culture, I suspect the Canadians will scratch their heads and put it all down to something in the water south of the border.
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