Tuesday, March 11, 2008

More Hatred Towards Ben Stein

I just came across another example of remarkable "two minutes hate" directed at Ben Stein and his movie Expelled. This comes from someone apparently associated with the Encyclopaedia Britannica. It is a comment on Stein's post linking Darwinism to Imperialism. After repeated name calling, insults and attacks on Stein's logic, the writer hits you with a sledgehammer of a straw man argument:
By the time he’s through, every kook and monster who ever used the word “evolution” has become the satanic spawn of Charles Darwin.

Stein says or implies nothing of the kind, of course. Rather, by the time he is through, Stein concludes with striking humility:

Now, a few scientists are questioning Darwinism on many fronts. I wonder how long Darwinism’s life span will be. Marxism, another theory which, in true Victorian style, sought to explain everything, is dead everywhere but on university campuses and in the minds of psychotic dictators. Maybe Darwinism will be different. Maybe it will last. But it’s difficult to believe it will. Theories that presume to explain everything without much evidence rarely do. Theories that outlive their era of conception and cannot be verified rarely last unless they are faith based. And Darwinism has been such a painful, bloody chapter in the history of ideologies, maybe we would be better off without it as a dominant force.

Maybe we would have a new theory: We are just pitiful humans. Life is unimaginably complex. We are still trying to figure it out. We need every bit of input we can get. Let’s be humble about what we know and what we don’t know, and maybe in time, some answers will come.

It may be that Stein overstates his case. But Social Darwinism is a fact, and any thoughtful person should be open to grappling with the broader impact of Darwinism on the intellectual history of the world. David Brooks' observations are worth remembering:

And it occurred to me that while we postmoderns say we detest all-explaining narratives, in fact a newish grand narrative has crept upon us willy-nilly and is now all around. Once the Bible shaped all conversation, then Marx, then Freud, but today Darwin is everywhere.

. . .

Looking at contemporary America from here in Jerusalem and from the ancient past, it's clear we're not a postmodern society anymore. We have a grand narrative that explains behavior and gives shape to history. We have a central cosmology to embrace, argue with or unconsciously submit to.