Okay, just when I thought that I had said all that I could about Ben Stein's documentary, it seems as though the guy is an even bigger idiot than I had previously surmised. "But Lance, how can he be an idiot? He knows all sorts of stuff! I know, 'cause I saw him answer all sorts of trivia questions on 'Win Ben Stein's Money'!" This might be true. He actually is smart in some ways, as he definitely has a head for facts, but he is willfully ignorant when it comes to some basic facts.
I've been doing a bit of browsing on YouTube lately, and I've been watching a series by a guy who calls himself Thunderf00t. He has a 24 (and growing, no doubt) part series entitled, "Why Do People Laugh at Creationists?" It can be pretty dry, as he goes into a lot of real specific detail on all sorts of scientific issues, but he does a pretty good job of countering the various creationist arguments with actual facts (as opposed to the made up ones that creationists like so much). One of his better ones is the following:
If you don't want to take the time to watch it, the main problem is that he makes assertions how scientists use Darwinian theory for every kind of science including gravity, astronomy, etc.
Where do you even begin with a guy like that? Here's a person who made a documentary that critiques the theory of evolution, yet he has absolutely no clue as to what it is. Shoot, I think I knew more about it when I was in eighth grade than he apparently does. He also makes assertions about how evolution talks about life starting by lightning hitting a puddle of mud. (That could be another one of the videos - I watched a few of them, and he's the subject of a few of them.) Lightning hitting mud? Really? Admittedly, I haven't read Origin of Species in its entirety, but I bet that I can read it forwards and backwards and not find a single reference to mud and lightning.
So, what am I supposed to conclude here? Yeah, I'm resorting to an ad hominem attack by calling him an idiot - but what kind of a person makes a movie about a subject and the result is that he knows less about it than I do?
Of course, we are left with an alternative. He could be a deliberate liar. That's not exactly better though, is it? And of course, I don't just blame Ben Stein. I blame this entire Intelligent Design movement for deliberately trying to mislead the public. What's really galling is he also talks about how the universities teach all sorts of foolishness (again, that could be another one of the videos). Now, I don't think that we should just take the information coming out of universities on blind faith - let it stand or fall on its own merits - but for him to talk this utter horse shit and then accuse the universities of being stupid?
What's worse is that I imagine many uneducated people sitting around watching him and nodding their heads, thinking, "Yeah, I don't need an education. I'm smarter than people who learn things and use evidence." (Okay, probably not the actual thoughts.)
I'm certainly not the first person to bemoan the movement towards anti-intellectualism in our society, but nothing illustrates it better than that. "Oh, the people who actually spend time researching things don't know as much about it as I do." I mean, that's pretty much the attitude, isn't it? Again, we shouldn't automatically believe somebody because of his or her credentials, but shouldn't their opinions be given a little bit more weight on their field of expertise than the average layman?
What's really galling is that you see Stein on all sorts of shows like The O'Reilly Factor and Hannity & Colmes and he just goes on and spews his crap with abandon. Absolutely nobody seems to be challenging him. Yeah, Colmes takes him to task for saying that Darwinism brought about the Holocaust (which is stupid on many levels - don't you think Hilter might have at least mentioned Darwin once or twice if he was such a big influence?) but that's about it. Why is there nobody saying, "Ummm...lightning in a mud puddle? Are you fucking stupid?" (Or words to that effect, of course.) My guess is that Hannity and O'Reilly are just as willfully ignorant as Stein. Shoot, O'Reilly (see the video below) talks about how he can poke holes in the Big Bang Theory. Yeah, Bill, sure. You're the one who's going to pull that one apart. Does anybody really believe that O'Reilly has any clue what he's talking about? (Okay, millions of people seem to.)
I've been in discussions with people about the media and whether it has a liberal bias or not. Of course, there's Fox News which has a definite conservative bias. The thing is, I really don't even care about a bias, so long as it's transparent. What's really galling, and Fox seems to be the bigger offender, but I don't let any of the rest of them off the hook, is that they're not biased towards FACTS. Apparently, you can say any crazy thing you want, and if it's going to get ratings, that's all they care about.
Do people like Ben Stein have free speech? Of course. Should they be allowed to say them in a public forum? Of course.
I just wish that there was somebody there to tell them how full of shit they are (and why).