From Kevin Mooney and CNSNEWS.com.
Intelligent design theory, or ID, is opening new doors of scientific research, particularly in cancer and other disease research, according to its adherents, but a new movie, “Expelled” starring Ben Stein explores how an “elitist scientific establishment” is apparently muzzling and smearing scientists who publicly discuss ID.
The First Amendment is under brutal attack in the scientific community, Ben Stein, a former presidential speechwriter-turned-actor and commentator, says in the film, which opens in theaters on Feb. 12.
“I always assumed scientists were free to ask any question, pursue any line of inquiry without fear or reprisal,” he says. “But recently, I’ve been alarmed to discover that this is not the case.”
In an exclusive interview with Cybercast News Service – with audio clips below – Stein contends that rigid Darwinists are silencing their critics in academia, which the film explores, and discusses how ID ideas are helping in cancer research and similar work.
Yet the ID research that could potentially produce medical breakthroughs, says Stein, is also being undermined by Darwinian scientists who don’t want ID research viewed as legitimate.
Cybercast News Service: Is this controversy about science versus religion, or is this more science versus science? Simply, is this about scientists with different worldviews -with one group more willing to open themselves up to alternative explanations than others – as the film suggests?
Ben Stein: Well, first of all, I question your premise. It’s not just scientists versus scientists. It is a particular subset of science which does not admit any kind of questions – it is a kind of perversion of science, which doesn’t allow for any kind of questioning of itself. Science should always be in the business of attempting to disprove itself. Neo-Darwinian science is exactly in the opposite business of endlessly trying to rationalize itself – and reprove itself, you might say – reprove that it’s right without any kind of test. So it’s not scientists – it’s really, I would say, scientists are the ones willing to look into intelligent design. The people who are anti-science are the ones unwilling to look at anything new or different. So I’d say it’s a perverted kind of science versus what I would call a more classical science. But it is also science versus at least the possibility of belief.
Cybercast News Service: There is a fair amount of discussion of creationism and how it might relate to intelligent design, and there are a lot of critics who say this is just folks with religious convictions trying to use intelligent design as a Trojan horse to advance a form of creationism. … What sort of separation do you see or perhaps don’t see between creationism, on the one hand, and intelligent design? Do you have your own definition of intelligent design, and is it distinct and different from creationism?
Ben Stein: Well, I would say it’s creationism by someone. For me, I’ve always believed that there was a God. I’ve always believed that God created the heavens and earth – so, for me it’s not a huge leap from there to intelligent design. I think for some of the people who work on intelligent design, they’re not as long-time believers as I am. So, I would answer that question, in brief, by saying, I believe in God and God created the heavens and the earth and all the life on the earth. But what other people, who are intelligent design people, think, I could not characterize. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: There is a segment in the film, where it’s made clear that intelligent design can open up new areas of inquiry that could improve the human condition. One involves a neurosurgeon, Michael Egnor, and another scientist, Jon Wells, who indicate that given how the cells are put together, with eye toward intelligent design, and with the idea that animal cells have tiny turbines – or if viewed as tiny turbines – he was able to formulate a theory that said in the event these things malfunction and don’t properly shut down and could break apart, this is the first step on the way to cancer. He seemed to be suggesting that intelligent design theory could open up a lot of possibilities into improving the human condition. He doesn’t explicitly say ‘a cure for cancer,’ but at least providing additional insight into new areas of treatment or a better understanding of how cancer is formed. What is your reaction to that part of the film? What sort of potential is attached to research going forward?
Ben Stein: Well, I think, I wouldn’t say, if you say intelligent design is the answer and we’re all created by an intelligent designer – that does not by itself provide the cure to cancer or any other disease or does not provide any ideas about how to deal with a stroke or with the heart hammering blood into the brain. But I would say, if you accept a broader, an even broader premise than intelligent design, namely, don’t foreclose anything in your study of the human body and of the cell, then you are a lot more likely to get somewhere. I’d put it like that. I don’t think saying intelligent design just automatically gets you anywhere. (Listen to Audio)
Ben Stein: But I think if you say we are going to study everything, and we are not going to let anyone close down our rights of inquiry, then I think we are getting somewhere. But also, there is this big issue about RNA and DNA, and whether RNA and DNA can respond to changes in the world around them. I think we say it can respond to changes in the world around them and that neo-Darwinians say it can only do that by random chance – it only happens by random chance. We say the cell may have the possibility of doing itself in an intelligent way that there may be some intelligence in the cell itself so that’s probably a big difference between the two of us. We, on this side, think at least there’s a possibility. We believe there’s some possibility the cell could have an intelligence of its own. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: The film spends a fair amount of time on the complexity of the cell and makes the point that no one at the time, including Darwin himself – no one could have anticipated that level of complexity …
Ben Stein: Not even close. (Listen to audio)
Cybercast News Service: In what way did the film have any influence or change in your thinking and how it relates to intelligent design or scientific inquiry?
Ben Stein: Oh, when I first started working on this, I had no remote clue of how complicated the cell was, and I was believer just because I’d always been a believer and the idea that an intelligent being created the universe. But after working with these scientists and interviewing them and learning about how complex the cell was and how unlikely the proposition was that it all happened by random chance, then I was just overwhelmed by this data. And I was just overwhelmed by the fact, at least as I am told, that Darwinists have never observed natural species being originated … There’s not even a clear definition of what a species is – and the Darwinists have no theory whatsoever about the origin of life, none whatsoever, except the most hazy, the kind of preposterous, New Age hypothesis. And I think our theory that there is a creator strikes even some people, even Dawkins very possibly, as more likely than it all happened by total chance.
Cybercast News Service: Mr. Dawkins describes the proponents of ID as being ignorant. They don’t buy into the scientific consensus – a lot of arguments made that there is a rock solid consensus in favor of evolution to explain biology. What is your reaction to this notion of consensus, and how does this complicate the journey for scientist or academics open to the idea?
Ben Stein: It doesn’t complicate it at all because Dawkins, at least in my opinion, is completely wrong, and we produced a number of people who are bona fide scientists who clearly believe there is a possibility of intelligent design. So, his idea that there is a complete rock solid consensus is completely wrong. I mean, God bless him, he’s obviously an intelligent guy, but it’s obviously wrong. The people we produced weren’t actors pretending to be scientists – they were scientists. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: Why do you think the very idea or suggestion of intelligent design is so antagonistic to scientists who claim they have evidence? Why not have the debate? If they are so confident, why not have debate?
Ben Stein: That’s a deep question. That’s a sociological, psychological and ethical question. One, if they are Darwinists and they owe their jobs to being Darwinists, they are not going to challenge the orthodoxy because that would challenge the whole basis of their jobs and their lives. So they are not going to challenge the ideology that has given them lush positions in real life. That’s one thing. Second thing, once people are locked into a way of thinking, they are unlikely to change. Third is, if they acknowledge the possibility of intelligent design and that intelligent design is God, then they may think God has moral expectations of them and they may be falling short of those moral expectations, and they may be worried about some sort of judgment upon them. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: The film starts with you giving a presentation about American freedom, and when you get near the end of the film there’s a Polish official – I believe a member of the EU Parliament – who said there’s actually more freedom and latitude in Poland than here in the United States to explore these questions, and he blames it on political correctness. Mr. Stein how did we get to this point? … If there’s more latitude for scientific inquiry overseas in a recently released communist country than there is in the United States of America?
Ben Stein: That is a very, very, very good question. How did we get here? I don’t know. How did we get to this point in Hollywood? There’s (sic) only certain attitudes allowed about military, religion, or small towns or about business? I don’t know how we got to this, this kind of orthodoxy. I think there is this kind of Marxist establishment in this country that has been overthrown in other countries, but not overthrown here. There is a very powerful Marxist establishment within the intelligentsia that does not allow questioning of its premises. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: What do you think needs to happen in academia? What suggestions or prescriptions do you think will come out of the film?
Ben Stein: We want more freedom. I just spoke to some young people in Orlando. And I said, this to us – at least to me, I don’t know what it is to other people in the film – is a bit like the Civil Rights movement. You want to have freedom, where our goal is freedom. We want freedom. We want all our rights, not some of them, all our rights to free speech. We want them here in America, and we want them now. That’s what we want; we’re not going to get it. But we hope to open the door wider to some serious debate on these issues. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: The point is made that journalists have a tendency to embrace the establishment position …
Ben Stein: If the establishment position is the sort of left-wing establishment position. They are certainly not going to embrace the Republican establishment position. (Listen to Audio)
Cybercast News Service: This reminds me of the global warming debate. The Union of Concerned Scientists, exactly one year ago, put out a report on Exxon Mobil for their position on global warming, and in their report they say too often journalists’ inclination to provide political balance leads to inaccurate reporting – and that members of the media should not quote ExxonMobil officials or anybody who questions the scientific consensus.
Ben Stein: Yes, that is precisely the analogy. Very well done. I totally agree. There are still plenty of scientists who question fossil fuels’ role in global warming, but you’re not allowed to question that anymore. (Listen to Audio)