Ben Stein misses his own point

John Derbyshire finds a rather disturbing comment from Ben Stein in an interview he did with TBN earlier this month, promoting his new film Expelled: The Movie. In explaining his reaction to researching the Holocaust by visiting Dachau and Hadamar, Stein railed against the distortions of Darwinian theory that led to the systematic eugenics murders and genocide of the Nazi regime. However, Stein misses the target by a mile when he says this at about the 28-minute mark:

Stein: When we just saw that man, I think it was Mr. Myers [i.e. biologist P.Z. Myers], talking about how great scientists were, I was thinking to myself the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed … that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.

Crouch: That’s right.

Stein: …Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.

Crouch: Good word, good word.

I found a lot to recommend about Expelled, but this leaves me wondering if Ben Stein missed the point of his movie. Science does not lead to Dachau; ideology perverting science led to Dachau. The Holocaust occurred when raving anti-Semites and materialists latched onto scientific theory as a philosophy, making it into a rationalization for what they would have done regardless.

How could Stein say this without a hint of irony? The best themes in Expelled take Academia to task for the same destructive sin. Instead of pursuing all paths of scientific pursuit, the academics have imposed their philosophy and their ideology against religion as a means to keep anyone from testing the theories of random, accidental beginnings of life. In a similar manner to what’s seen in the global-warming debate, dissenting voices are excoriated as heretics and idiots, rather than letting the science speak for itself.

Instead of making the proper point that Stein makes in the movie, he now suggests that science itself is evil. That’s absurd. Scientific knowledge has for centuries gone hand in hand with the quest to come closer to God through understanding His creation, as Stein’s own movie argues. The application and expansion of science has led to huge advances in life, health, knowledge, and living standards. Can evil acts come from scientific advances, and can some scientists be evil? Of course — as with any other profession, but the acts come from overt human actions, not from the science.

The pure scientific method ignores ideology in favor of reproducible results, which leads to knowledge — not genocide. Expelled wants Academia to stop applying ideology to science, which is absolutely correct. Stein’s quote above discredits that message and makes the effort sound like an argument against science altogether, and Stein’s broad accusation against scientists is grossly unfair. It sounds like Stein is applying his own ideology instead of supporting the scientific method.