Tuesday, April 29, 2008

My email to Ben Stein

So, I sent this email yesterday:
Mr Stein,

I was deeply disappointed to read in your recent interview with
Christianity Today that you are quoted as saying: "Anyway, I couldn't
give a [profanity] whether a person calls himself a scientist. It
doesn't earn any extra respect from me, because it's not as if science
has covered itself with glory, morally, in my time. Scientists were
the people in Germany telling Hitler that it was a good idea to kill
all the Jews. Scientists were telling Stalin it was a good idea to
wipe out the middle-class peasants. Scientists were telling Mao
Tse-Tung it was fine to kill 50 million people in order to further the

As a scientist working hard to find and develop new antibiotic and
anticancer drugs for the betterment of mankind, I was deeply offended
by your statements. I don't understand where you are getting such
information, and what leads you to believe it, but surely you can
understand that thoughout history there are people in positions of
power who want to kill and destroy, and there are other people,
whether scientists, clergy, intelligence experts, political advisors -
or speechwriters - who are only too willing to tell them what they
want to hear to justify their evil. To blame science for the Holocaust
or any other horrific evil in history is absurd and distressing.

I have not seen your film, but if this is the level of discourse it
contains, I don't think I'll bother.

And then left my contact information. Click the comments for his response.


DrX said...

He wrote back:

Does the following sound scientific to you....

I have not seen your film, but if this is the level of discourse it
contains, I don't think I'll bother.

DrX said...

Way top elevate the discourse yourself there, buddy. Take the most irrelevant statement in a very short letter and respond to that. A statement lamenting his quality of discourse. Maybe Ben Stein is a genius-level master of irony?

I actually assumed this was just the response from some email answering lackey, so I've responded to that email with:

Well, I wasn't commenting on the film. I was commenting on a quote in an interview, which is only peripherally related to the subject of the film, as I understand it. Perhaps I'm mistaken, but seeing the film seems irrelevant to my concern, regardless.

If the message of the film is, in fact, a treatise that Darwin caused the Holocaust, then I've completely misunderstood all of the film's promotional material I've been exposed to (which is admittedly extremely limited), and I'm only more disappointed in Mr. Stein. Such a message is misguided at best, and certainly morally indefensible.


He hasn't replied in about 48 hours, so whatever.

DrX said...

You too, can email Ben Stein!

kevthegreat said...

Go get 'em DrX! Where'd you get the email address from?

DrX said...

I Googled. He has a web page, with a prominent email address.

kevthegreat said...

Easy enough. I'm gonna email Ben Stein, too. I'll post something if he replies, which he probably won't.

kevthegreat said...

By the way, here's more wood for the fire.

Siriusbiznas said...

Actually, you cannot claim that he took that he took the most irrelevant statement in the whole letter and answered based on that, as your whole letter was irrelevant. Why should he take the time to respond politely to you and all of the other people out there who take quotes out of context and do not "bother" to get informed before you criticize them? In fact, the movie is ALL ABOUT that quote, and not in the way that you have misconstrued it. Whether or not you agree with a person, and no matter how many years of education you have, I question your intelligence if you believe it is the duty of everyone to pander to your childish need to be agreed with.

kevthegreat said...

Hey man, the interview that DrX is referring to is right here. He absolutely did not take it out of context. In fact Ben Stein has repeated this same claim in other interviews, just follow the previous link I posted. These are personal attacks on scientists, and that is what DrX is responding to. His email may be irrelevant to you, but I assure you it is not to the people Stein is slandering.

kevthegreat said...

One thing that Sirius here seems to be correct on is that a large portion of Stein's movie is about this theory that scientists caused the holocaust. Just read some of the reveiws.

kevthegreat said...

Ben Stein also replied to my email much the same way he replied to DrX's. I even tried to be really nice, hoping to engage him in discussion, but he just wanted to pimp his film. I guess I'll post it, but it's not that exciting.

Megan said...

I in no way agree with Ben Stein's comments. That said, I'd like to remind Dr. X that, on our first date, I asked him how his research was going to better mankind. I asked the question MANY times thinking it must have SOME practical application. His response "It doesn't really have an application. I just want to understand the chemistry of XYZ better." Perhaps Dr. X overstated the importance of his research? Or, as his mother would say, "He has gotten a faculty attitude"?

DrX said...

Well, the work that I did in graduate school didn't have a clear, practical, beneficial outcome to human health. True. Times change, lady. Get with the program.

Now that I'm independent and can choose what I want to work on, the work to which I've decided to devote my life does have clear and unambiguous human health benefits. You can't possibly tell me that searching for (or creating) new anticancer and antibiotic drugs won't help mankind, can you?

Trish said...

If you wanted Dr. X to tell you what a wonderful person he was to want to try to solve the worlds ills,
you asked the wrong question. The value of a scientific enquiry does not correlate with a pre-defineed practical application.

Altruism in science is to be found in basic research, rather than applied research. Basic research is trying to understand something for the sake of it, as opposed to applied research which is aimed at solving a specific problem (and getting glory for it).

You want both kinds of research, but think of basic research as investment for the long term, and applied research as making a quick buck.

Applied research depends on basic research. The big ideas that change the world, like antibiotics and evolution, gravity and relativity, come from basic research.

Practical applications will follow increased understanding. If you want someone who only looks at practical applications, date an engineer.

DrX said...

Indeed, Trish. Thank you. Just because I've chosen somewhat more practically-based research today, doesn't mean what I did previously was valueless. I didn't mean to imply that.

Siriusbiznas said...

A) I'm not a man.

2) Of course he is plugging his movie, of COURSE that is the point of his interviews. It's Hollywood.

x) I bet your research has nothing to do with money. Nothing at all.

#) Perhaps "out of context" was poor phrasing. It is more that he missed the point. Tell me where Mr. Stein said ALL scientists are bad? All he said was that the mere fact that you ARE a scientist does not gain you respect. I am a psychologist, RESPECT ME. It doesn't work that way. I have to earn your respect like anyone else, including scientists.
Q) I would like to reiterate the fact that he took the time to reply at all. Granted, it was not polite and extensively debatey as you would have preferred, but how many emails do you think he is getting a day? This moie is controversial.

Y?) The only reason I responded to this was because I have become increasingly irritated these days with the way people, and I mean ALL people, I am not judging one particular ethnicity/religion/etc., do not stop to actually give though to someone else's point of view before they take offense based on their snap judgment. I love science, I have great awe for the intelligence it takes to be one, and am grateful to people like you who do research to help mankind. But I completely agree that scientists must still earn respect individually. And I also agree that MANY scientists act like the debate is over when and why they say it is. And not just on this topic.

Finally) I hope you do not think I am angry or hating on you. It just puzzles me how you can spend your life being offended by people who don't mean you offense. Maybe it's just me, but I have too many people who really intend to offend me, I don't need to look for more.

kevthegreat said...

First off, I am sorry for assuming you were a man.

Now, how can you say Stein means no offense? It's not like we're misinterpreting his viewpoint, he's stated it clearly several times. He's saying that "Darwinism" is responsible for, and scientists were the main participants in, the holocaust. How is this not offensive? The guy is twisting what may be the most horrible event in the history of mankind in order to fit his political/religious agenda, and directly assault the profession some of us have devoted our lives to. It's offensive! It's absolutely false! He deserves derision for it.

The problem is that, for some reason, Stein actually has a pop culture persona as being an intelligent man, which may help him mislead the less scientifically and historically literate. This is a very dangerous thing, and people should speak up loudly to let everyone know that this guy is lying to them.

DrX said...

Jeezus. You say "MANY scientists act like the debate is over when and why they say it is."

Go Google Godwin's Law. When someone calls me a Nazi the debate IS over. There's nothing more to debate here.

Anyway, I'm done with this Ben Stein crap and won't be posting anymore on it. Having read a bit more, I'm convinced that he's just being a prick to drum up controversy to get people to see his shit movie (9% positive reviews on rottentomatoes, btw). No rational debate can be had if you're saying that scientists put people in ovens. It's absurd, offensive, and purposely so. Ben Stein is an asshole. He's entitled to his rediculous, unjustifiable opinion, and he has a right to express it. However, I lament the fact that he gets interviews, and reporters do not metaphorically kick him in the testicles, or laugh him out of the studio.

Feel free to carry on defending the dickhead, and saying maybe we should listen and debate. I've listened, and heard enough. I read at least 6 interviews, and watched some video. I even attempted to debate. I'm not interested any more.

What happens when I have listened, and haven't made a snap judgement, and in doing so I only get more and more pissed? Maybe, just maybe, there isn't any substance to this particular "argument", and it's like a festering monkey corpse in the corner of the house that stinks and needs to be tossed in the trash?

And fucking besides that, the whole fucking point of science is to continue the debate. ID is saying "We have the answer. Debate over. Nope. It was God. Lala lala I can't hear you."

OK. Now I'm done. I need to go lay down.

kevthegreat said...

How come this thread gets 18 comments and my single scene interptretation of the Oxbow Incident gets none? Damn you Stein! Damn you to hell!

phishbone23 said...

Wow, reading all of these comments makes me want to put some of my Clear Eyes eydrops in. It really gets the red out....