Taking Back Ben Stein’s Money: Ben Stein Pulled As Commencement Speaker for the University of Vermont

310px-bensteindolAfter a revolt among students and alumni, comedian and game show host Ben Stein has withdrawn as the paid spring commencement speaker and recipient of an honorary degree.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”

  1. Mike S.,

    I’m glad you mentioned adaptation. It has been my thought for some time that the next step in evolution is the conscious abandonment of a competitive model and adopting a cooperative model for human interaction and building civilization. If this means we have to eliminate the “overly competitive” from political process and positions that impact other’s lives, so be it. Hence my insistence that the Neocons must be excised from the body politic like a cancer and corporate greed put on a short (very short) leash. Hyper-competitive behavior is a function of ego and we all know what that means. It’s also outmoded as a survival mechanism. We need to consciously walk away from instincts that may have served well on the savanna, but are killing us as a species right now. We simply aren’t physically evolving fast enough in the face of technology and uncontrolled population growth. Our instincts are geared for hunting mammoth and fighting cave bears with pointed sticks while keeping those guys from over the hill from stealing or raping the women. I don’t know about you, but I haven’t seen any Pleistocene critters roaming about KC or anywhere else. And Facebook seems to have replaced the club and drag method of exercising “The Booty Call”. Our next leap must be a conscious decision using the “wetware” and “software” we already have. After all, it’s our mental capacities that differentiates us from animals, not the ability to feel emotion. Dogs love, dogs hate, but they don’t build nuclear weapons. Chimps love, chimps hate, chimps use tools, but they don’t know how to weaponize anthrax. We need as a species to make this choice and we need to make soon or the stars will most certainly not be our destination.

  2. Gyges & Buddha,
    If Kant wasn’t enough I have to also deal with Cosmology and theories of the creation of the Universe. What’s next? A discussion of the 11 dimensions posited by some string theorists? When I was in High School the Periodic Table had only three lines of elements and the model of the atom was a lot more stable. The only saving grace for me since then is my addiction to SF and the Science Channel.

    Mike A.,
    To sort of get back on topic you make an excellent point in that today’s fundamentalism, across all religions, is essentially not in line with traditional theology or theological history. In Islam, Wahabism is less than 200 years old; Jewish Hassidism is slightly older; Christian fundamentalism ignores older theological thought and Roman Catholic intellectualism; The Book of Morman is about 180 years old and there have been at least two more fundamentalist schisms there; While I’m on shakier ground I assume there is a strain of fundamentalist Hinduism that has also morphed away from traditional thought; and so it goes.

    This seems to stem from a fear of a rapidly changing world and a person’s inability to keep up with change. As someone in my 60’s I understand how this can lead to fear, confusion and a desire to return to a simpler time and mode of thought. Unfortunately, this returns us to Darwinian thought in that the species that survive are able to adapt to a rapidly changing environment, surviving and prospering from it. We humans face a complexity of change in all areas and if we are to survive and grow, we must learn to adapt.

  3. Mike S.,

    If it’s any consolation, it’s been by experience that Kant causes even the most ferocious of intellects to reach for the aspirin. Most quit reading him when once it’s no longer a class requirement unless they are linguistic masochists. And knock out the “false” modesty, buddy, you hang in just fine for an “old social worker”.

  4. My heavens Bob, I have enough trouble keeping up with the intellects commenting here, and those attorneys like yourself who show my why my flunking out of Law School was a necessity. Now I have to decipher Kant’s logic? It’s too much for my old brain to do. Have mercy on this old social worker.

  5. “Try? There is no try. There is only can and Kant.”

    Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back, Draft 1

  6. Mike Appleton:

    “Therefore, the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in the classroom is a effort to promote a very narrow and specific theology in the public schools. It is unconstitutional for that reason alone.”

    “At the risk of appearing dogmatic, anyone who disagrees with what I just wrote is wrong and, in a perfectly just world, would be shot.”

    I Kant understand a word…



    There belongs to the world, either as its part or as its cause, a being that is absolutely necessary.


    The sensible world, as the sum-total of all appearances, contains a series of alterations. For without such a series even the representation of serial time, as a condition of the possibility of the sensible world, would not be given us. ++ Time, as the formal condition of the possibility of changes, is indeed objectively prior to them; subjectively, however, in actual consciousness, the representation of time, like every other, is given only in connection with perceptions.

    P 415a


    An absolutely necessary being nowhere exists in the world, nor does it exist outside the world as its cause.

    If we assume that the world itself is necessary, or that a necessary being exists in it, there are then two alternatives. Either there is a beginning in the series of alterations which is absolutely necessary, and therefore without a cause, or the series itself is without any beginning, and although contingent and P 416a
    conditioned in all its parts, none the less, as a whole, is absolutely necessary and unconditioned.
    P 415 But every alteration stands under its condition, which precedes it in time and renders P 416 it necessary. Now every
    conditioned that is given presupposes, in respect of its existence, a complete series of conditions up to the unconditioned, which alone is absolutely necessary. Alteration thus existing as a consequence of the absolutely necessary, the existence of something
    absolutely necessary must be granted. But this necessary existence itself belongs to the sensible world. For if it existed outside that world, the series of alterations in the world would derive its beginning from a necessary cause which would not itself belong A454 B482 to the sensible world. This, however, is impossible. For
    since the beginning of a series in time can be determined only by that which precedes it in time, the highest condition of the beginning of a series of changes must exist in the time when the series as yet was not (for a beginning is an existence preceded
    by a time in which the thing that begins did not yet exist).”


  7. Gyges,

    I’m a little out of date myself. Last thing I read was a calculation of dark matter mass as being insufficient to cause contraction, but dark matter study evolves fast, I know there’s new stuff out there I haven’t read. So many books, so little time.

  8. CCD,

    You can believe it is. I was in Oklahoma when they first got concealed carry rights. The churches opened at 12:00 a.m. for permits. People were lined up out the door. I am right with Pastor!!!

  9. Buddha,

    I do realize that with Linde’s our universe could be either of those two options. I haven’t really been keeping up with that particular field, so I have no idea what the current findings seem to confirm.

  10. Jill

    Is your concealed carry permit up to date?
    You could be in a world of hurt with Pastor if it isn’t!

  11. The literalist approach to reading the Bible has no basis in traditional theology; it is actually part of the modern fundamentalist movement. By rejecting the historical-critical method of biblical interpretation, literalists ignore history, culture, literature, language and all of the other elements that provide a context. Thus fundamentalism is intellectually naive and consciously anti-science. It is essentially reactionary. Before anyone explodes, I am not personally attacking individuals who may have adopted fundamentalist views. But it should be understood that the observations of Darwin and his successors are no more a threat to informed Christian belief than were the observations of Copernicus and Galileo. The Catholic Church and mainstream Protestant denominations have matured tremendously in matters of science. Unfortunately, there are plenty of people who regard Darwin the same way the Catholic Church once regarded Galileo, as a heretic. Since Darwinists cannot be burned at the stake, an effort has been made to demonize them by re-branding creationism, a religious belief, as intelligent design, a species of pseudo-science. Therefore, the teaching of creationism or intelligent design in the classroom is a effort to promote a very narrow and specific theology in the public schools. It is unconstitutional for that reason alone.

  12. FFLEO,

    Consider it done. If I cash out on it, your royalty check is in the mail.

    Hmmm . . . maybe I should write a book.

  13. Buddha said:

    “I’m telling you right now, FFLEO. I’m going to be using that one.”

    You are welcome to use it Sir. However, if you write a book and make a million…..

  14. I am not talking about meterology or chemistry, or biology, I am thinking of the beginning how did it all start where did the universe(s) come from, that type of stuff.


    If you’re talking about evolution, you’re talking about biology. If you’re talking about biology, then you’re talking about science?

    If meteorology needn’t concern itself with supernatural explanations, then why should biology?

    Besides, the Theory of Evolution does not address the origin of the universe (that’s the field of cosmology). Nor does it address the origin of life; it addresses the origin of species.

    This is not meant to offend believers in God in any way, but “God did it” is just as scientific as “it’s turtles all the way down.”

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