Pharyngula

Fogel speaks

This gets better and better. President Daniel Fogel of the University of Vermont has given several interviews on the Ben Stein affair, and clarified quite a few matters. He explicitly says he did not ask Stein to withdraw from the commencement ceremonies, but when you read these comments, it’s clear that that there was a lack of support from the UVM administration and that he was confronted with some serious objections, and Stein withdrew knowing that if he persisted it was going to get ugly. Here’s one interview with Fogel:

I think the fundamental concern of the people that wrote to me was that, while they are quite open to having a speaker with Mr. Steins views on campus, they felt that he should not be honored at the commencement ceremony when so many of his views seemed to be affronts to the basic premises of the academy, about scientific and scholarly inquiry and collaterally, people were deeply disturbed by his views on the roll of science in the Holocaust.

But I have to say, the issue here, and this is important, is not freedom of expression. Ben Stein has come to our campus to speak, and some of the faculty that are colleagues here wrote to me to say that they have no objection to him coming here to speak.

It was the legitimate concern among members of the community regarding the implications of granting an honorary degree to someone whose ideas fundamentally ignore the basics of scientific inquiry.

That’s a smart and important point: this was not about freedom of expression, since Stein clearly has a surfeit of venues in which he opens his tendentious mouth, but a question of a scientific research institution giving a science denier and propagandist a platform to validate his anti-university views. He reiterates this position in another interview:

“This is not, to my mind, an issue about academic freedom or the openness of the campus to all points of view. Ben Stein spoke here last spring to great acclaim,” UVM President Dan Fogel said. “It’s an issue about the appropriateness of awarding an honorary degree to someone whose views in many ways ignore or affront the fundamental values of scientific inquiry and I greatly regret that I was not attuned to those issues.”

Fogel just shot way up in my esteem…and ouch, that has got to sting Stein’s well-padded keester.

Comments

  1. #1 ggab
    February 2, 2009

    Reading these statements, it feels as though a weight has been lifted.
    He really seems to understand our point on this.
    Perhaps UVM is in good hands.

  2. #2 AnthonyK
    February 2, 2009

    You see – he critisizes science and he’s expelled! Superb!

  3. #3 John
    February 2, 2009

    Was the honorary degree in economics? If so, I don’t see the problem. He actually did to academic work in that area.

  4. #4 Rob
    February 2, 2009

    people were deeply disturbed by his views on the roll of science in the Holocaust.

    Ain’t this the greatest thing since sliced bread.

  5. #5 Cliff
    February 2, 2009

    I really had no problem with Ben Stein speaking at UVM, since every time he opens his mouth he inserts his foot. It’s why the reason he speaks in a monotone; every time he inserts his foot, he abrades his vocal cords.

  6. #6 ggab
    February 2, 2009

    John
    The problem is that when he was asked to confirm that he would only speak on economic issues, he decided to pull out.
    Perhaps he had planned to touch on other issues.

  7. #7 Wowbagger
    February 2, 2009

    I like this; what Fogel stated is almost exactly what many of us wrote in the posts on the topic. So any of the inevitable morons who are going to pretend this is a stifling of free speech can cram it. With walnuts.

  8. #8 Troublesome Frog
    February 2, 2009

    Was the honorary degree in economics? If so, I don’t see the problem. He actually did to academic work in that area.

    Stein already has a bachelor’s degree in economics. As far as I can tell, the years of work in economics and finance that have followed that degree consist largely of making spectacularly and objectively wrong predictions in the public sphere. If I were in his position, I’d be satisfied that I had avoided an honorary revocation of my economics degree.

  9. #9 Porco Dio
    February 2, 2009

    wow guys… this is such a sweet victory i wont be taking sugar in my coffee for many weeks.

  10. #10 Bckcntry
    February 2, 2009

    I like how you close saying Ben Stein has a fat ass.

  11. #11 NFPendleton
    February 2, 2009

    But from whom did his speaking at UVM receive “great acclaim” in the spring? Did they bus the fundies in? Or is the majority opinion of students at the university sympathetic to Stein’s message?

  12. #12 skyotter
    February 2, 2009

    ?and ouch, that has got to sting Stein’s well-padded keester.

    or, hand ammunition* to the “see? they’re EXPELLING us!” crowd

    i mean, do you really think Stein (or any other IDer) will either understand or acknowledge the reason given? i’m under no such illusion, myself

    *even when the ammo in question is just blanks, it still makes a lot of noise

  13. #13 The Science Pundit
    February 2, 2009

    Fogel just shot way up in my esteem

    Ditto!

  14. #14 JD
    February 2, 2009

    In a time when unemployment rates are soaring, no one as stupid as Stein should be getting free degrees.

  15. #15 Crystal D.
    February 2, 2009

    This totally just proves his point, the poor guy! You can’t help but feel sorry for Ben Stein, I mean, now he’s losing speaking engagements, and for what? Only for being totally insane!! Life is just not fair… lol.

  16. #16 Michael Patterson
    February 2, 2009

    Couple of things.

    First, I think simple respect suggests that we should get the man’s name right–it’s Fogel, with an “F”–not Vogel.

    I was as outraged as anyone about this, and composed my own angry missive to him on Saturday (posted on a thread at Kevin Beck’s place). At risk, however, of being labeled a “concern troll,” I have to say that it’s interesting how we rationally-minded skeptical types jumped on the bandwagon when it was suggested that Fogel and Stein were old college buddies, and how prevalent the feeling was that Fogel had invited Stein out of bad motives, rather than simple carelessness, as it seems to have been.

    I’m a UVM alum, and live in the area, and my impression of the man is that he is an impressive scholar, although rather conservative and perhaps too tilted toward a business model for academia. Although that may be what is needed to keep a smallish state university sans big endowment going. I hope that’s not true, but maybe it is. He is credited with improving the quality of admissions overall.

    And NFPendleton: Stein’s previous lecture was a business school event, populated by b-school types. There was actually considerable protest from other students.

  17. #17 Skyblue
    February 2, 2009

    My daughter sent me a text message from the UVM campus this afternoon. She said Stein withdrew because of the “outrage from the UVM and non-UVM communities.”

  18. #18 Phineas
    February 2, 2009

    @Skyotter, #12:

    Sadly, any way this ended was going to hand ammunition to the “Expelled” crown. If Stein received an honorary degree, it would have been given to an underserving person and they would have taken it as vindication.

    As you point out, Stein withdrawing just feeds into their persecution complex.

    If there’s anything good to come out of this, it is Fogel’s short, but quite utterly sweet and brutal takedown of Stein.

    I mean, “whose views in many ways ignore or affront the fundamental values of scientific inquiry,” is something you need written down on a card to use whenever needed. It’s so good that he doesn’t waffle at all with that statement.

  19. #19 Turdus
    February 2, 2009

    Off the subject here, but I hope someone can help me. Did PZ post a comic a while back that showed a Xtian trying to beat another guy over the head with a cross in the first frame of the comic, and in the next frame the guy grabs the cross and tries to break it, while the Xtain cries foul and asks for a little tolerance (or something of that nature). Can some PZ or someone else, post a link to that comic? I am going crazy trying to find it. Sorry for hijacking the thread….

  20. #20 Max
    February 2, 2009

    My respect for Fogel has gone up as well.
    Must be awkward between him and Stein now, though.

    …I still can’t get past “Bueler? Anyone? Bueler?” when discussing Expelled

  21. #21 CalGeorge
    February 2, 2009

    Good job, President Fogel.

  22. #22 Vic
    February 2, 2009

    So, if you’re a total ass that believe mythology over science… you’re no longer considered to be a dependable authority. Must be a conspiracy.

  23. #23 ndt
    February 2, 2009

    I don’t know if the mistake is yours or the wordpress posting you linked to, but it’s “role” not “roll”.

  24. #24 charley
    February 2, 2009

    This is reassuring. And I apologize for calling him president dingaling in an earlier post.

  25. #25 Your Mighty Overload
    February 2, 2009

    Yeah, Fogel really shot up in my opinion as well – being a big enough man to admit he was wrong can be quite hard, especially for someone with a job like his. Still, he was in a damned-if-you-do, damned-if-you-don’t position there, and some will question his leadership and decision making ability whatever decision he made.

  26. #26 SC, FCTE, OM
    February 2, 2009

    I just posted this over at RI, but thought some here might be interested, too:

    Don’t know if this has been mentioned here before, but a reminder might be worthwhile in any event. Tonight at 9:00 Eastern (Sb) time PBS’ American Experience is “The Polio Wars”:

    http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/americanexperience/polio/

    (If you click on the link, beware of video playing automatically.)

    I’m assuming this shows across the US at the same time, but I’m really not sure of that, come to think of it.

  27. #27 ladyvincenza
    February 2, 2009

    I found Stein’s overt implication that the theory of evolution lead to the Holocaust counterproductive and offensive enough to make me want to vomit.
    I used to say “Jewish comedians for office!” (as in Kinky Friedman, Al Franken) until Expelled came out. Putz.

    Not My God
    http://www.sarahtrachtenberg.com

  28. #28 Frank Lovell
    February 2, 2009

    One of Ben Stein’s chickens has come home to roost?

    Well, ALL RIGHT! Time to pop the cork on that bottle of Deutz Champagne Brut 1996…

  29. #29 SEF
    February 2, 2009

    Did PZ post a comic a while back …

    Probably not the one you want but a recent and similar one. The other one I recall must be further back still – too far for the quick version of the humor tag to reach.

  30. #30 Emmet, OM
    February 2, 2009

    I have to say that it’s interesting how we rationally-minded skeptical types jumped on the bandwagon when it was suggested that Fogel and Stein were old college buddies, and how prevalent the feeling was that Fogel had invited Stein out of bad motives, rather than simple carelessness, as it seems to have been.

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that reputable universities don’t dish out honorary degrees without careful consideration, so many concluded that the careful consideration had been given, and the decision made to give BS an honorary degree in spite of knowing that he’s an anti-science education-undermining propagandist and either a creationist shill or a willfully ignorant gull. Under these circumstances, people come up with all kinds of crap while searching for an explanation that fit their assumptions. I’m reminded of the adage, ?never ascribe to malice what can be adequately explained by incompetence?.

  31. #31 Newfie
    February 2, 2009

    Poor Benny, snubbed by academia.
    *applesauce*

  32. #32 Sherry
    February 2, 2009

    The comic you are looking for may be here:
    http://www.freethunk.net/freethought.htm

    You will enjoy searching for it anyway!

  33. #33 Me
    February 2, 2009

    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

  34. #34 Kassul
    February 2, 2009

    imageshack has that comic now as well. Sherry’s page is also worth looking through to find others :)

  35. #35 mayhempix
    February 2, 2009

    definition:
    Ben Steined
    verb, past tense
    to be shamed into withdrawing.

    example:
    The hypocrite creationist wingnut was Ben Steined right off pharyngula.

  36. #36 Turdus
    February 2, 2009

    Thanks Sherry and Kassul. I knew I could find help here!

  37. #37 Wowbagger
    February 2, 2009

    Me bleated:

    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

    Seems appropriate to say this: Me so stupid!

  38. #38 Greta Christina
    February 2, 2009

    Anybody who asks, “Why are atheists suddenly always complaining and bitching and being in our face all the time?”

    This is why.

    Because — just like with any other movement for social change — speaking up works.

    Wahoo. Good on Fogel. And good on us for raising a ruckus.

  39. #39 mayhempix
    February 2, 2009

    @SC

    That really Salks!!! You Big Pharma Shill!!
    Didn’t you know that polio was stopped not by vaccinations but by the convergence of hygiene, heavy metal chelation and the realignment of energy flows that all cured suppressed immune systems? In fact suppressed studies by many scientists prove “vaccinations” caused more polio!!! The evidence is overwhelming if you would just look at!!!

  40. #40 'Tis Himself
    February 2, 2009

    Me #33

    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

    Stein can hold whatever opinions he wants. He can give speeches expounding these opinions. However, other people can hold other opinions and express these opinions to the man who invited Stein to speak. In other words, Stein can be as anti-science as he likes and it’s perfectly acceptable for people to point out they don’t think Stein should be invited to spout anti-science lies at a university commencement.

  41. #41 DrBadger
    February 2, 2009

    @#40

    Stein can hold whatever opinions he wants. He can give speeches expounding these opinions. However, other people can hold other opinions and express these opinions to the man who invited Stein to speak. In other words, Stein can be as anti-science as he likes and it’s perfectly acceptable for people to point out they don’t think Stein should be invited to spout anti-science lies at a university commencement.

    …and not to mention that it’s perfectly acceptable for people to think he shouldn’t get an honorary degree because of his stance against science and academics.

  42. #42 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 2, 2009

    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

    So you think an institution whose main purpose is to educate its students to the highest possible standards is wrong by not wanting a person working directly against those goals along with not giving him an honorary degree?

    So I guess you think that Planned Parenthood should have Randall Terry come and speak and then give him an award honoring his work supporting their organization and goals?

  43. #43 Ray S.
    February 2, 2009

    If Me doesn’t invite me to speak at his church and give me an honorary reverendship it must be a violation of my free speech rights. I demand justice.

  44. #44 defectiverobot
    February 2, 2009

    Here we go again, defining freedom of speech as “you must guarantee me a venue.” WRONG! Ben Stein is perfectly free to spout his nonsense whenever he wants. That doesn’t mean we have to give him a bullhorn.

  45. #45 JohnnieCanuck
    February 2, 2009

    Ray S, you have to start on your knees as an honorary altar boy and work your way up. Donations will speed up the process, especially large ones.

  46. #46 Wowbagger
    February 2, 2009

    That doesn’t mean we have to give him a bullhorn.

    I’m sure we can appreciate someone giving him one as long as it’s to be used for something other than to amplify his droning voice…

  47. #47 Don Smith, FCD
    February 3, 2009

    Mr Reading Incomprehesion@33:

    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

    Did you not see this?

    “Ben Stein spoke here last spring to great acclaim,” UVM President Dan Fogel said.

    So much for supposed suppression of freedom of speech.

  48. #48 Me
    February 3, 2009

    RayS: Me doesn’t attend church, so you’ll have to obtain clerical orders on your own.

    I think it bizarre that people who loudly object to religious people suppressing ideas and speech they dislike and who instead loudly affirm free speech and free inquiry resort without a second thought to suppressing the ideas and speech of religious people whom they dislike and thus deny the values they so loudly claim to affirm.

    But that’s atheist logic for you. At least on this blog, that is.

  49. #49 Wowbagger
    February 3, 2009

    I think it bizarre that people who loudly object to religious people suppressing ideas and speech they dislike and who instead loudly affirm free speech and free inquiry resort without a second thought to suppressing the ideas and speech of religious people whom they dislike and thus deny the values they so loudly claim to affirm.

    You’re religious; you believe in talking snakes and donkeys, and angels and demons, a virgin birth and an invisible magic man in the sky who grants wishes – I’m not exactly going to use what you think is bizarre as a yardstick for anything.

  50. #50 Crudely Wrott
    February 3, 2009

    Three Cheers for President Fogel!

    Forty ‘leven Cheers for those who sent him their reasons for objecting to the choice of Stein as commencement speaker!!

    Damn! That was a quick kill. And relatively painless.

    I feel flush with power. And I love the smell of intellectual honesty in the morning.

  51. #51 Crudely Wrott
    February 3, 2009

    And Me, objections to Stein are not a reaction to Stein’s religiosity. He is quite welcome to it and no one objects to him talking about it or fussing with it like a new hair-do. The objections were focused on his dishonesty and his blatant misrepresentation of history and the role of science in the scheme of human society.

    Please do make an attempt to understand. It is really quite simple. Hell, it must be if it is so plain to moi, Me.

  52. #52 EVolutiAN
    February 3, 2009

    Ultimately, a nice outcome to all of this will be Ben Stein being completely ostracized by the academic community and left speaking at fundamentalist universities and engagements.

    I hope he feels awful.

  53. #53 Capital Dan
    February 3, 2009

    Me | February 3, 2009 12:46 AM

    But that’s atheist logic for you. At least on this blog, that is.

    Yes, Me. Because it makes so much more sense to have an anti-intellectual like Ben Stein speak to a graduating class at a university whose foundation and mission he believes lead to genocide.

  54. #54 clinteas
    February 3, 2009

    A good feeling,to see that the blogosphere can have such influence on real life events.
    Although in all honesty,I assume it was the letter from Dawkins and pressure from the Uni admin that made Fogel diss Stein.
    But a great outcome,nevertheless.

    And for those whining morons screaming”freedom of speech”,he spoke there,last year,pay attention for fucks sake.
    And he is free to spout his nonsense anywhere he likes.

  55. #55 ArchangelChuck
    February 3, 2009

    Professor Dawkins’s clout was probably the most significant outside influence, but it’s apparent that the hundreds of emails that Dr. Fogel received from the blogosphere held some sway as well. Truly phenomenal. Clearly I was wrong to say that all of this had no real influence.

  56. #56 Sili
    February 3, 2009

    Will people be writing letters of support to Fogel now?

    I have little doubt he’ll likely need it soon enough. Uncommonly Dense will be all over this.

  57. #57 Logicel
    February 3, 2009

    In my letter to Fogel, I had suggested that if Stein would admit to his mistakes regarding the role of science in the Holocaust, then that would be a hugely inspirational speech. Otherwise, he would just be a blot on the intellectual reputation of the university. Fogel did what Stein should do; Fogel clearly stated that he was ignorant (as is my husband) of Stein’s egregiously incorrect comments regarding science, and once informed of them, sharply criticized them.

    I will now compliment Fogel via email for his intellectual/emotional honesty and his providing an excellent role model for us all.

  58. #58 Arne
    February 3, 2009

    Does anyone have any idea why Stein would have been given (or will be given?) a honorary degree?

    (And what degree would he be given?)

  59. #59 Arne
    February 3, 2009

    Oh, seems like it was just a customary exchange for giving the university the honour of being their commencement speaker (why they wanted him to speak is another question). So, no speech ? no degree! Happy end.

  60. #60 Josh
    February 3, 2009

    Me wrote:

    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

    You can really only say this and be internally consistent if you also think it would make perfect sense for Patrick Henry College to invite Richard Dawkins to give their commencement address. In order to be a teacher or a faculty member at PHC, you need to essentially affirm that all 66 books of the Christian Bible are true.

    http://www.phc.edu/statement_2.php

    If, for some odd reason, the administration of PHC decided to invite a prominent atheist to speak at their commencement, would you see the predictable uproar from the PHC student body as an attempt to suppress academic freedom? If not, then you’re not being consistent.

    You can whine about academic freedom if you like (and there may be some accuracy there), but the fact remains that Ben Stein is an enemy of rational thought and of science, and inviting him to send off the graduates of an institution with well respected science departments is a bit of a face slap to every professor on campus.

    My apologies to Professor Dawkins for using him as an example here.

  61. #61 SteveL
    February 3, 2009

    Patterson @#16:

    Stein’s previous lecture was a business school event, populated by b-school types

    I doubt he’s particularly respected by b-school types. Here’s what a finance blog has to say on Stein’s “widely acknowledged expertise on the economy”:

    I’d love to know what President Fogel thinks that “widely acknowledged” means. I fear it means “acknowledged to such a degree that the New York Times is happy to feature Stein as an expert”. Which is precisely why the NYT must stop publishing Stein’s inane, offensive, and largely fictional blatherings forthwith.

  62. #62 Ernesto García
    February 3, 2009

    @56:

    Yep. Bill Dumbski himself is whinning like a little girl about the whole affair right now:

    http://www.uncommondescent.com/education/judge-jones-gets-multiple-honorary-degree-ben-stein-has-his-withdrawn/

  63. #63 maddogdelta
    February 3, 2009

    Me@33
    Well, so much for freedom of speech at UVM. Ben Stein expresses ideas we don’t want to hear, so keep him out! Seems to me that both this shabby episode and the gloating on this blog validate Mr. Stein’s criticisms.

    It’s funny you should mention that. I have asked to give a talk entitled “Atheism: Why you are wrong!” as the homily at every church in my area.

    None of them took me up on my offer? So much for free speech.

  64. #64 Helfrick
    February 3, 2009

    @Ernesto

    What morons….

    I also notice that the article says that Stein connected something to the Hlocaust.

    Had he watched the movie- something that neither the NCSE nor Mike Shermer did for their review- he would have observed that OTHER people made the connection- not Stein.

  65. #65 Eveningsun
    February 3, 2009

    Fogel just shot way up in my esteem FWIW, Fogel was my dissertation co-adviser back when he was a Henry James scholar and a dean at LSU. A decent guy.

  66. #66 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 3, 2009

    I think it bizarre that people who loudly object to religious people suppressing ideas and speech they dislike and who instead loudly affirm free speech and free inquiry resort without a second thought to suppressing the ideas and speech of religious people whom they dislike and thus deny the values they so loudly claim to affirm.

    Me, this has nothing to do with suppressing ideas they don’t like. It has to do with not giving failed ideas more crednece than they are worth, namely zero.

    ID and creationism are failed ideas. Ben Stein’s movie was a failed idea with no bearing in reality. It was political propaganda hit piece.

  67. #67 SteveM
    February 3, 2009

    “Me” seems to be confusing “free speech” with the right to be given a platform to speak. The latter is not included in the former.

  68. #68 minimalist
    February 3, 2009

    I think it bizarre that people who loudly object to religious people suppressing ideas and speech they dislike and who instead loudly affirm free speech and free inquiry resort without a second thought to suppressing the ideas and speech of religious people whom they dislike and thus deny the values they so loudly claim to affirm.

    So you’re continuing to ignore the fact that Stein has spoken before at UVT, and probably will again, in formats where attendance is voluntary and that allow for some degree of audience response/interchange.

    And that that is significantly different from a commencement ceremony for a captive, mute student body, where a speaker could be given carte blanche to spout anti-intellectual, anti-education drivel and be rewarded a degree for it.

    Or that perhaps students and faculty could, perhaps, exercise their freedom fo expression and have some input into who is representing them, and who will be receiving honors from the university, on a special occasion that is very important to them.

    etc. etc.

    Fundies: is there anything they can grasp?

  69. #69 AC
    February 3, 2009

    This has really brought out the crazy righty-whities in Burlington! Yikes!

  70. #70 Kristine
    February 3, 2009

    Fogel says: ?Of course I did not go see ?Expelled,? why would I? I am myself a believer in science.?

    Well, I am a believer in science too, and found it important to go see the film. (I guess we can all agree that what happened that night surpassed in importance the thesis of this stupid flick.) While my respect for Fogel has risen as well, it?s troubling how clueless the academy is about what is happening in our culture.

    That obliviousness, and not ?Darwinian orthodoxy,? is today?s problem in academia. How do we get the academy to pay closer attention to the stances and attitudes of the taxpayers whose funds support land-grand institutions, which are charged not only to support their students but to serve the public at large? More importantly, how to we educate more students and faculty about the power that they really have in these situations to determine what the academy is about and who it serves?

    Fogel was not aware that Ben Stein is the Susan Smith of scientific inquiry? Why ever not? Why wasn?t he paying attention to what Stein said, and to the damage that he?s done and is doing to higher education by scaring naïve, credulous people away from knowledge? This is bigger than Ben Stein – this is about the academy confronting the fact that anti-intellectualism in America now threatens out educational system itself.

  71. #71 Cephus
    February 3, 2009

    Nobody “expelled” Stein, he decided not to show up on his own, long before the wave of negative public opinion washed over Fogel and the university. Now, Fogel realizes it was a mistake to offer the honorary degree and the speaking gig to Stein, but again, Stein begged off before any of that happened.

    At best, Stein “expelled” himself. Not that I wouldn’t expect Stein to spin it another way, we all know that “honesty” isn’t a word often used in his vocabulary.

  72. #72 David Wiener
    February 3, 2009

    Turdus – send me your email. I liked that one so much I saved it to my desktop.

  73. #73 Lambert
    February 3, 2009

    In a time when unemployment rates are soaring, no one as stupid as Stein should be getting free degrees.

    Actually I am entirely in agreement with the late, great Richard Feynman who was of the opinion that nobody should ever be given an honorary degree.

  74. #74 Me
    February 3, 2009

    I am once again astounded at the atheist logic on this blog: Ben Stein’s free speech was not suppressed because he was hounded out of a speaking engagment for perfectly good reasons–namely, we don’t like him and we don’t like what he says. So there! But we stil support free speech (as long as we like what people say).

    So atheists are rational people, are they?

  75. #75 skyotter
    February 3, 2009

    see? i *told* you those blanks were noisy

  76. #76 Helfrick
    February 3, 2009

    @me

    So you are saying we shouldn’t be free to voice our opinions? He is free to spout as much crap as he wants just like we are free to call him on it. You’ll notice we don’t agree with you, but your comments are here alongside those that we do agree with. Let’s not forget that he is a liar.

  77. #77 minimalist
    February 3, 2009

    #74:

    I am once again astounded at the atheist logic on this blog

    I’m not surprised, I suspect you get astounded at a lot of things: helicopters, clouds, buttons, shiny rocks…

    Is the problem that we weren’t using small enough words? Fine, then how about this:

    “There’s a time and a place.”

    Is that simple enough for you?

  78. #78 Josh
    February 3, 2009

    Jesus, Me. Did you even read anything we wrote? Are you people even capable of reading?

    Rebuttle fail.

  79. #79 CJO
    February 3, 2009

    #74:

    The right to free speech is just that. It is not usually conflated with the right to be paid to speak in any venue of one’s choosing. If it were, I would consider the failure of the Nobel committee to invite me to Stockholm to speak in acceptance of my award a violation of my rights.

  80. #80 PEZ
    February 3, 2009

    Speaking of Expelled, it looks like co-writer Kevin Miller has now switched to acting:

    http://kevinwrites.typepad.com/otherwise_known_as_kevin_/2009/02/smallville-requiem-trailer.html

  81. #81 Anton Mates
    February 3, 2009

    Fogel just shot way up in my esteem?and ouch, that has got to sting Stein’s well-padded keester.

    Apparently it did sting. Just a tad. From the Burlington Free Press:

    Stein called the university?s response to the furor ?chicken sh**, and you can quote me on that.?

    ?I like Dr. Fogel,? Stein wrote, ?and feel sorry he is caught in the meat grinder of political correctness. My heart goes out to him. He?s a great guy trying to do his best in difficult circumstances.?

    As for the commencement speech, he said, ?I didn?t really want to do it in the first place.?

    ?Mr. Fogel endlessly, endlessly asked me to do it? for a discount ? roughly 80 percent cut in his usual fee. No sum was ever agreed on, Stein said. The only reason Stein finally agreed, he said, was that Fogel is the brother-in-law of ?my best friend.? (Stein was referring to Fogel?s wife?s sister?s husband, who was his undergraduate roommate at Columbia University.)

    I’m thinking maybe Stein scripted all of Nixon’s reactions to criticism.

  82. #82 Me
    February 3, 2009

    Helfrick et al:

    I merely point out that people who (1) claim to support free speech and (2) object to attempts by religious people to suppress the free speech of others yet (3) use their free speech to hound a person away from a venue in which he was to exercise his free speech are (4) playing the old one-rule-for-me-another-rule-for-thee game.

    People who do not like Ben Stein and do not like what he says used their free speech to suppress Ben Stein’s free speech. Can’t you see the contradiction here? One either respects free speech or one does not. Plenty of folks on this blog do not.

  83. #83 tony
    February 3, 2009

    ME – you don;t get it, do you?

    No-one was infringing Stein’s rights to ‘free speech’. We were supporting the free speech rights of the scientists and educators not to have their school dishonored by granting an honororary degree to someone who equates science to the holocaust, and uses his ‘free speech platform’ to spew disinformation. Stein is still welcome to give a speech. Just not a commencement speech.

  84. #84 minimalist
    February 3, 2009

    “Me” will never get it. It’s been said at least a dozen different ways, and it shows no sign of penetrating his wall of invincible ignorance.

    Been a while since we had a jabbering theist who was quite this obtuse. Most of them at least talk in circles and give the illusion of having a conversation; this one just repeats itself without any sign of comprehension whatsoever.

  85. #85 Glen Davidson
    February 3, 2009

    Stein reacts, with (seemingly) typical dishonesty:

    Ben Stein described the brouhaha over his selection as commencement speaker at the University of Vermont as “laughable” on Tuesday called the whole episode ?pathetic.?

    In a phone call to the Free Press on Tuesday, Stein said that describing his views as ?antithetical to scientific inquiry? was ?a wildly unfair characterization.? He said he was by no means ?anti-science,? as some of his critics have described him.

    ?I am far more pro-science than the Darwinists,? Stein said later in an e-mail. ?I want all scientific inquiry to happen ? not just what the ruling clique calls science.?

    Stein?s comments came a day after UVM President Dan Fogel announced that Stein, whom Fogel had invited to address UVM?s commencement in May, would not be coming after all. Fogel said that his selection of Stein generated an intense protest, that he received hundreds of angry e-mails over the weekend, and that after he shared these ?profound concerns? with Stein, Stein ?immediately and most graciously declined our commencement invitation.?

    Asked the nature of those ?concerns? at a news conference Monday, Fogel said they pertained to views of science perceived by many to be ?affronts to the basic tenets of the academy.?

    ?If he said this,? Stein wrote, ?he is responding to complaints about an imaginary Ben Stein.?

    Fogel said he had invited Stein ? a comedian, lawyer, commentator and financial columnist ? to speak about the economy, as Stein had done at another speech at UVM last spring. Fogel said he had been ?vaguely aware? of the Stein?s opinions on other subjects.

    ?Mr. Stein has also expressed opinions on subjects unrelated to economics, most notably with respect to evolutionary theory, intelligent design, and the role of science in the Holocaust,? Fogel said in a statement to the UVM community Monday. ?Those views are highly controversial, to say the least.?

    Stein called the university?s response to the furor ?chicken sh**, and you can quote me on that.?

    ?I like Dr. Fogel,? Stein wrote, ?and feel sorry he is caught in the meat grinder of political correctness. My heart goes out to him. He?s a great guy trying to do his best in difficult circumstances.?

    As for the commencement speech, he said, ?I didn?t really want to do it in the first place.?

    ?Mr. Fogel endlessly, endlessly asked me to do it? for a discount ? roughly 80 percent cut in his usual fee. No sum was ever agreed on, Stein said. The only reason Stein finally agreed, he said, was that Fogel is the brother-in-law of ?my best friend.? (Stein was referring to Fogel?s wife?s sister?s husband, who was his undergraduate roommate at Columbia University.)

    Stein said the Holocaust references probably resulted from ?Expelled,? a film he worked on that came out about 10 months ago. ?In the movie, we visited a Nazi killing center called Hadamar,? Stein said. The center?s victims had included people with developmental disabilities. ?I asked the curator, ?Why did they do this?? and was told ?Darwinism.? That was in the film, and that?s what was said.? To portray Stein as ?anti-scientific? on that basis is ?a joke,? he said, ?nonsense,? ?just someone?s delusion.?

    Stein said he has spoken at many universities, including Columbia, Yale, Stanford, and American University, ?and no one has said boo. Somehow at UVM, it has become a big issue.?

    Stein, who writes an every-other-week column in The New York Times Sunday business section, also took issue with a paraphrase in the Free Press of his remarks on the economy at UVM last spring.

    ?What I said was, the Federal Reserve could prevent another Great Depression if it did its job,? he said. ?Well, it didn?t do its job in many ways, especially allowing Lehman to fail ? but of course, we?re still not in a Great Depression. Not even close.?

    http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20090203/NEWS02/90203038

    IMO, the most egregious dishonesty, a strawman, is his bullshit about the Hadamar comment being responsible for his being labeled anti-scientific. No, liar, it’s most likely because you revealed your anti-science credentials in the film, and more explicitly when you said that science leads to killing people.

    And now he’s claiming to be “far more pro-science than the Darwinists,” even as he mislabels the pro-science faction as “Darwinists,” when his ignorance of science is even greater than Dumbski’s and Berlinski’s, and of course, after all of his anti-science blithering. He seems to have gotten one thing from the Nazis, all right, the Big Lie.

    Typical class act, too, his calling the dislike of pro-endarkenment speakers “chickenshit.”

    By the way, the story I reproduced here ought to have done much better than it did, in that it should have questioned his lies, comparing them to the easily found anti-science statements that he’s made.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

  86. #86 Josh
    February 4, 2009

    Answer the Patrick Henry College question, ME.

    If, for some reason, the administration of PHC decided to invite a prominent atheist to speak at their commencement, would you see the predictable uproar from the PHC student body as an attempt to suppress academic freedom or an attempt to infringe on the rights of free speech of that atheist?

  87. #87 Troublesome Frog
    February 4, 2009

    People who do not like Ben Stein and do not like what he says used their free speech to suppress Ben Stein’s free speech. Can’t you see the contradiction here? One either respects free speech or one does not. Plenty of folks on this blog do not.

    You’re free to speak all you want. You’re not free to be treated as an expert when you are, in fact, a crank. I would object to UVM hiring a physicist who subscribed to the phlogiston theory of fire. Arguably, I’d be squelching his “free speech” rights in keeping him from getting paid to spout nonsense to students, but I guess I would just have to live with that accusation.

    People are paid to speak at universities not as an exercise in free speech but because they’re genuine experts or otherwise contribute to the pool of knowledge. If you don’t fall into that category, hiring you as a speaker is stupid, and conferring an honorary degree is even worse.

  88. #88 Me
    February 4, 2009

    One last try before I am forced to concede that atheist thickheadedness is incorrigible:

    Let’s suppose that atheists’ favorite semi-divinity, Richard Dawkins, had been invited to give a commencement address at a university but a ferocious, hostile campaign by creationists against the university obliged him to withdraw. What would you say about free speech then? Would you defend the creationists? Would you insist that their actions were proper?

    If you answer no, then can you take that small, next step and ask the same questions about the campaign against Ben Stein? And if you can, why would you answer the same questions any differently? Is fairness an idea too abstract for the atheist mind to grasp?

  89. #89 tony
    February 4, 2009

    OK
    Me. What part of this is hard to grasp.

    1. A venue that confers ‘payment’ for speaking, is not an open venue. It is by invitation.
    2. Invitations are at the sole behest of the invitee. free speech does not enter into this at all.
    3. A commencement address is not ‘any old speech’. It should generally be a positive message for the assembled student/faculty body – positive being whatever the group define positive to be (it could be about eating scrapple, for all I care)
    4. Someone invited to speak at a commencement, therefore, should be expected to deliver a message that would be considered “positive” by the audience.
    5. Ben Stein’s position on science, education, and universities was unknown to the UVM leadership – who merely considered him a ‘celebrity’ at the time of his invitation
    6. Ben Stein has unequivocally stated his position as ‘anti-science’ on many occasions – not least in his ‘tour’ for the film expelled.
    7. On hearing of Ben Stein’s position on science and education, UVM withdrew the invitation to speak at the commencement as is their right.

    Note: BS is still free to speak. No-one has silenced him. He has simply been denied a PAID VENUE by the people who control that VENUE because of his stated positions, which are contrary to those the VENUE wish to be expressed at that PAID event. He can still speak at UVM whenever a group at UVM wish to invite him.

    What is so fucking hard for you to understand?

    You then asked if the same criticism could be laid at the feet of Dawkins. The answer is no.

    If he was invited (somewhere), then disinvited (regardless of the reason behind the retraction) it is quite within the rights of the paying organization to retract an invitation, and none of my or your damn business why.

    Or do you know something I don’t? is Dawkins continually compaining about being denied his right to speak at Liberty University?

  90. #90 Me
    February 4, 2009

    This just gets more and more bizarre.

    In point of fact, Ben Stein withdrew his prior acceptance; the university did not withdraw its invitation. At least try to stay with the empirical, scientifically established facts. (I put in that empirical/science stuff just to irk you.)

    You dear atheists keep missing the point. I am discussing *your* behavior.

    You pretend to support free speech (as opposed to those wicked religious people who squelch it), but you deny free speech to Ben Stein. (Your idea of venue-less free speech is so absurd that I’m astonished that your fingers didn’t spasm while you were typing it.)

    You pretend to reasonableness (as opposed to those zany religious people who make things up as they go along), but you concoct all sorts of preposterous rationalizations for abusing Ben Stein’s free speech. (I really laughed about that “positive speech” stuff–how can Ben Stein give a “positive speech” when you deny him a venue in which to speak?)

    You celebrate in yourselves what you most certainly condemn in others–namely, intolerance. And the worst of it is that none of you can see how you are denying everything you pretend to affirm and imitating exactly what you fault in religious people: dogmatism, knee-jerk reaction, self-righteousness, and self-delusion.

    I understood that the atheist mind was bereft of belief, but I didn’t realize that as a consequence it was a complete blank.

  91. #91 Steve_C
    February 4, 2009

    Ben Stein’s free speech instead impaired one bit.

    It’s just been pointed out that he lies and spreads propaganda againsts science and scientists. His lies make him unworthy of any respected university’s recognition.

    Expelled and Stein’s shilling of it show how low on the intellectual totem pole he is. Not a great thinker. Not even a good comedy writer.

  92. #92 Troublesome Frog
    February 5, 2009

    Let’s suppose that atheists’ favorite semi-divinity, Richard Dawkins, had been invited to give a commencement address at a university but a ferocious, hostile campaign by creationists against the university obliged him to withdraw.

    It depends on the venue. A religious university? Wouldn’t bother me a bit. Some of his public positions and behaviors run totally contrary to the religious missions of some universities, and bringing him on as a commencement speaker could reasonably be considered endorsing those positions. It would certainly be fine (and admirable) for them to bring him in to give an attendance-optional lecture, but a commencement speech would probably be inappropriate. There’s a time and a place for everything.

    That being said, if it’s a secular university, I really don’t see the problem. We wouldn’t withdraw a professor from the math department due to outcry from people who believe that pi is a rational number. We might consider withdrawing him if he was teaching that pi is a rational number, because that would make him full of crap by current academic standards and something of an embarrassment to the university.

    Your idea of venue-less free speech is so absurd that I’m astonished that your fingers didn’t spasm while you were typing it.

    Really? Seriously? It’s your position, then, that free speech means that anybody should get any venue he chooses to speak in front of a large captive audience for pay regardless of his message or history as a crank? Weddings? Bar mitzvahs? If not, where do you draw the line?

    People here are explaining actual rationales. You seem to be claiming the position of free speech (actually “paid venue with captive audience”) absolutist. I seriously doubt that this is the case, but you haven’t bothered to distinguish your position.

  93. #93 CJO
    February 5, 2009

    when you deny him a venue in which to speak

    A venue, that’s right. One venue. Just one. Stein can go to Vermont, set up shop on the quad, and speak to his shrivelled little cinder of a heart’s content, just like anybody else. He’d probably draw an audience, too. “Look, it’s the weird little eye-drops guy!”

    Is it seriously your belief that the right to free expression entails the right to be paid to speak in any venue of one’s choosing? If so, you’re a moron and you have no argument at all. If not, then I can’t for the life of me understand what you’re on about.

  94. #94 minimalist
    February 5, 2009

    Let’s suppose that atheists’ favorite semi-divinity, Richard Dawkins, had been invited to give a commencement address at a university but a ferocious, hostile campaign by creationists against the university obliged him to withdraw. What would you say about free speech then? Would you defend the creationists? Would you insist that their actions were proper?

    Well, on the laughably distant chance that any campaign by some pipsqueak creationist noisemaking club could ever “oblige” Richard Dawkins (of all people) to withdraw, we would just have to exercise our free speech to argue the case for reinviting Dawkins.

    Just as the dipshit creationists had the free-speech right to make their (dumb) case for withdrawing the invitation.

    There, that was easy.

    (Please, too, keep in mind that the two persons are not in the least bit analogous, since Dawkins is a man of scholarship and importance, well-respected by his peers in the university community, and Stein is a minor character actor who has managed to not only be objectively wrong about just about anything he has ever opened his drool-hole to bloviate about — making him reviled by a wide swath of academicians, economists and scientists alike — his viewpoint is also, as others have pointed out, fundamentally counter to the principles of higher education. In other words, the objective case for Dawkins is far, far stronger than you could ever even conceive of making for Ben Whine.)

    Why do you come back here to continually show off your complete, utter inability to grasp the current situation, the atheist viewpoint, or indeed the fundamental principle of free speech? Are you… “into” humiliation?

  95. #95 Rev. BigDumbChimp
    February 5, 2009

    You pretend to support free speech (as opposed to those wicked religious people who squelch it), but you deny free speech to Ben Stein. (Your idea of venue-less free speech is so absurd that I’m astonished that your fingers didn’t spasm while you were typing it.)

    And you’re inability to understand it is not surprising but very telling.

  96. #96 Glen Davidson
    February 5, 2009

    You pretend to support free speech (as opposed to those wicked religious people who squelch it), but you deny free speech to Ben Stein.

    Dear moron, someone else’s free speech was clearly violated by the fact that Ben was giving the speech, and not that other person. Persecutor, you want to continue censoring whoever had lost out to Stein.

    For what it’s worth, I’d have been happy to see Stein give the commencement speech, so long as his anti-science, anti-free speech, stances were thoroughly exposed on the UVM campus. Indeed, it appears that Stein chickened out precisely because he’d have been boiled in oil over his totalitarian Stalinistic tactics of trying to force science to treat bullshit as if it were science.

    Stein simply couldn’t take the heat, not when everyone knows that (in his opinion) science leads to killing people, and his utterly stupid statements about “Darwinism’s” inadequacies at explaining gravity and thermodynamics. So he’s not only an ignorant liar, he’s a cowardly liar as well. It’s no surprise that he generally avoided venues where his lies could be exposed, and his recent retreat appears to be motivated by the same impulse to protect his dishonesty from being scrutinized.

    Glen D
    http://tinyurl.com/6mb592

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