Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Ben Stein is a jackass.

And to think, I used to like the guy. Thanks to Archaeopteryx and Pharyngula for setting me straight.

Addendum: I don't agree with everything the commentator has to say on this clip. His response to Stein's silly assertion that "Darwinism" (i.e. natural selection) implies "social Darwinism" (i.e. the belief that altruism in social arrangements is counterproductive because it goes against the grain of "survival of the fittest"), and Stein's equally silly extension of that concept to include Nazi racism, is off target. In particular, the commentator's analogy between Nazi ideology and the notion of the covenant between God and the Jews is not only wrongheaded but offensive. He should instead have pointed out that evolutionary theory supports the notion that altruistic behavior can be beneficial not only for species but for individual survival.

Also, the commentator's apparent belief that economic globalization provides proof against war is wishful thinking. World War I is the most recent and perhaps strongest historical counterexample to the notion that extensive trading relationships between nations prevent them from going to war. Nevertheless, I think it is valid to say that, all other things being equal (which, admittedly, they seldom are), nations that trade with each other are less likely to fight each other than those that don't. In particular, I think that a nation like China that depends greatly on export markets is unlikely to risk military confrontations with its customers.

Update: Read about the dishonest content of Stein's movie Expelled, as well as the lengths to which its makers went to suppress intelligent criticism of it (ironic in light of their assertion that there is a scientific conspiracy to suppress criticism of evolution) here. (Again, a tip of the hat to Archaeopteryx.)