After a revolt among students and alumni, comedian and game show host Ben Stein has withdrawn as the paid spring commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree. Critics have cited Stein’s attacks on the theory of evolution and controversial views of science. He was to be paid $7500 for the speech.
UVM President Dan Fogel was obviously relieved by the withdrawal of Stein: “Commencement obviously is an occasion where we celebrate the achievements of our graduates and it should bring people together, it shouldn’t present a speaker who divides the community amidst heated controversy.”
Stein, 64, has denounced the theory of evolution and championed the intelligent design model. He has also tied the rise of the theory of evolution to eugenics and the Nazi movement.
As graduate of Yale Law School and former trial lawyer for the Federal Trade Commission, Stein served as a
speechwriter for presidents Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. His most notable gigs, however, were as the host of the Comedy Central game show “Win Ben Stein’s Money,” or as the dry school teacher in “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” Now that Ben Stein has a day off, it is not clear who the UVM will ask to serve as his replacement.
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90 thoughts on “Taking Back Ben Stein’s Money: Ben Stein Pulled As Commencement Speaker for the University of Vermont”
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Glad you enjoyed it. I have re-read it several times and find something new or hilarious every time despite its brevity. I commend it to all the regulars and especially to the religious among us. It skewers the romantic notion that propositions may be judged by other than rationalist standards, on some higher plane of understanding. While that might be true (we bow to Kant here), it is incredibly naive to believe that higher plane consists of Iron Age superstition, and incredible leaps into fantasy.
My man, you are the gift that keeps on giving. Thanks for the link. The Edge is now permanently bookmarked.
Stein’s insistence on promoting ID, got me reading more. I am currently enjoying an hilarious exchange between Sam Harris and an assortment of pseudo and actual intellectuals on the topic of the compatibility of science’s and religion’s claims about the universe. If anyone is interested,I suggest reading the brief comments seriatim and then enjoying Harris’ concluding tongue-in-cheek rejoinder, wherein he feigns an epiphany of divine revelatory truth at the expense of both his rationality and religious skepticism. Harris is fast becoming my favorite wordsmith for the quality of his writing style, and his joyous use of language to evince both humor and ethos. Here’s the link:
You’re the one attempting to argue. I’m the one with the degree.
I happen to know a smidge about research myself, having had full access to our own lab for several funded studies at my hospital. Harvard and ‘medical research’ are practically synonymous, don’t you know?
Yet another part of the scientific method is the integration of new information, as it becomes available…
Here’s another quote from Einstein you might appreciate:
“It would be possible to describe everything scientifically, but it would make no sense; it would be without meaning, as if you described a Beethoven symphony as a variation of wave pressure.”
Maybe the issue is in using absolutes. A state of perfect knowledge isn’t mathematically possible. A reasonable “Theory of Everything” needs not be perfect to function as a working, predictive model. Just look at the huge numbers of theories that have had predictive value in application only to be later usurped by a later, more refined theory that produces “higher resolution” results? Even Newton and Einstein received later corrections. This in no way invalidates relativity or the still useful parts of Newtonian physics. Something to consider.
I would think that there’s a big difference between a process and the result. While the pool of knowledge is constantly changing and getting corrected, science itself stays the same. Unfortunately I don’t have the time to look up the relevant quotes from Shermer, Sagan, etc. but that is a pretty consistent theme running through the body of literature on science.
I admit we’re arguing semantics here, but I think the implication is major when we’re discussing a statement like “…not everything we do is explainable scientifically.” If we’re talking of science as a finite state of knowledge then that is accurate. If we’re talking about science as a process of gaining knowledge then I have to disagree. Do I think it’s possible for humanity to know everything? Nope. Do I think that science combined with the right knowledge base could in theory explain everything we observe? Yes.
I also think you misread my earlier post, I never implied that laboratory research was the only method of data gathering that science could use. I was just giving an example of how it is harder to research certain medical theories because of the ethics involved.
I thought you might appreciate this quote, sorry I don’t recall the source, but I think it was Ian Ketterling.
“Logic is a way to go wrong with absolute certainty.”
“All UFO’s are beige.
All telephones are beige.
Therefore all telephones are UFOs.”
My favorite one is:
All celestial bodies are made of green cheese
The moon is a celestial body
Therefore the moon is made of green cheese
“How do you use reason to invalidate reason?”
The theme of The Critique of Pure Reason is not to invalidate reason but to explore its facets and examine its limitations.
And I think that’s about the shortest summary I’ve ever written about that book.
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