Dennis Miller vs. Ben Stein

I’ve loved Dennis Miller since before he even became a conservative, and Ben Stein has written some very worthwhile stuff about economics and the culture wars (although he also made the movie Expelled, which I criticized here).  These are both very smart and very entertaining guys, so I was excited to hear that the former was hosting the latter on his radio show this morning. 

Audio of today’s interview is here.  Stein spent his air time endorsing higher taxes, mostly saying, “Rich people can afford it–they won’t be hurt if they pay more.”  It was almost shocking to hear such a brilliant thinker explain a point with no more intellectual grounding than a child would bother to use.  Literally–I remember a class in junior high where the teacher discussed the national debt, and one clown announced that he could solve the problem: “Let’s mug Donald Trump!” 

Miller, for his part, responded fairly well, but most of his time dwelt on the fact that government tends to waste money, and that new taxes would be largely wasted, also.

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Evolution Expelled

I haven’t seen Ben Stein’s Expelled–his alleged expose of how evolutionary scientists who also believe in God are systematically silenced in the academic world–but I’ve read enough detailed reviews to suppose that it’s a political hack job on the order of your average Michael Moore dreck.  Significant quotes and interviews (even some that Stein actually filmed) are left out of the movie, and logical fallacies are piled on top of each other to make sinister implications that can’t be defended rationally. 

Too bad.  Rather than go into all the counter-productive nonsense of Intelligent Design activism, I’ll reprint my essay that ran in Las Vegas CityLife, a liberal weekly, about two and a half years ago:

I’m breaking ranks here. I wouldn’t hesitate to describe myself as a conservative and a Christian, but on at least one recent national issue, we’re just wrong. There’s been a lot of talk lately about including a discussion of intelligent design in science classes, even the bizarre idea of defining evolution and intelligent design as “equal theories.”

Isn’t this creating a conflict that many of us have long privately avoided by realizing that there is not anything inherently anti-religious about evolution?

If intelligent design is just evolution plus God, then what’s the point in teaching intelligent design? What exactly does it add to the teaching of science? Obviously, the only purpose it could possibly serve is to help convince students of the existence of God. This is where the conservative argument shows its fanatical side — even if we’re right, even if we can reasonably infer the existence of a purposeful guiding hand from a close study of evolution (and that may well be the case), this concept has no place in a classroom.

How is a science class — a public science class where the majority of families today probably want to avoid a discussion of religion like the plague — an appropriate arena to pontificate about theology? The whole scenario reeks of Orwell.

This is not an instance of America’s paranoid fear and irrational dismissal of all things Christian (a very real trend); this is not about squelching anybody’s public expression of belief or whitewashing the historical values of our great republic. Conservative editorials I’ve read on this subject are quite straightforward about their agenda here — they want to promote a belief in God in the classroom. Not just allow or mention, but promote.

The Christian complaint is that modern society has steadily eroded the long-standing Christian infrastructure of America, but when was God ever the answer to a question in our science classes? Nothing’s being protected or restored here.

What also bothers me is that we’re playing right into the hands of our critics. Why would conservative Christians actually indulge in the kind of intolerant indoctrination they’ve so long been unfairly accused of, and have spent so much time defending themselves against?

When did religious Americans become so desperate? Isn’t it a staple of conservative thought that you don’t force others to accept your views, that when you want to have a debate, you go to the marketplace of ideas? If intelligent design is so viable an idea that it deserves a place alongside Darwin, prove it through the media, but don’t try to weasel it in with the established curriculum.

After your children learn how amazingly complex the mechanisms of life are, if you want them to understand that those intricate processes are the handiwork of God, you’re free to tell them so … at home.