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.)

1 comment:

  1. guns don't kill people, science kills people!

    i agree with your disagreements. frankly, the whole ID thing is ridiculous. i've never quite understood what is so damn frightening about evolutionary theory. then again, i don't understand why people think life cannot have meaning and purpose if it was not spawned by some divine being.

    that many people believe morality would not exist without a god, that we only view things such as murder as wrong because some supernatural being tells us it is, terrifies me far more than the idea that we are here, but briefly, by chance. just another reason i'm an atheist. i do consider altruism, morality, ethics to be evolved, adaptive traits that allow for social creatures to survive. not killing other group members, stealing from them, etc. allows the group to function. this goes for humans, chimps, wolves, dolphins, ants, bees, and so on.

    people forget that "divine laws" like the 10 commandments were applicable only to intra-group behavior. it was okay to kill, pillage and rape other peoples, just don't do it to your own. one of the most remarkable of human abilities, one of the behaviors that truly allowed for our astounding success as a species, is the application of intra-group behavior to inter-group relations. activities such a trade, for instance. instead of simply killing our neighbors, we tolerate them, perhaps even trust them and work with them.