Friday, April 17, 2009

Ben Stein, Liberty University and the Evangelical War on Evolution

This might not ordinarily make the news except that it relates to/resonates with something that I read last night on Steve Martin's site. Christa Desrets of the Lynchburg News Advance reports that Ben Stein is being asked to give the commencement address at Liberty University. Stein was the host of the movie Expelled! and has also had a career as a speechwriter for several presidents and an acting career (Ferris Buehler's Day Off, The Mask). But according to Jerry Falwell, that is not why he is being asked to speak:
Falwell said Liberty welcomes Stein’s views.

“They rejected him because he was anti-evolution,” he said, “and our community will embrace him for the same reason.”

They, I guess, being the popular press and mainstream scientists. In his paper Why the discussion matters, Martin asks why it should matter what evangelicals think about evolution. It is largely true that most practicing scientists could care less whether or not there are religion classes in schools. They are mostly happy to go about their business doing science. That is not true on the other side, however. Martin correctly notes that there is an "Evangelical War on Evolution." He writes that, while dialogue is the ideal:
Unfortunately in the real world the ideal is not always possible. What if one group of Christians considers another group’s origins view not only wrong, but also diametrically opposed to the gospel? What if our origins view is condemned as heretical, and our accusers refuse to acknowledge that we belong to the body of Christ? How can there be any mutual understanding in this situation?
Falwell's perspective seems to be pervasive. I am reminded of Don McLeroy's comment "I disagree with these experts. Someone has got to stand up to experts" as if somehow being an expert in a particular scientific discipline automatically made you evil.

Steve's whole set of articles is a wonderful read, full of observations and questions that we, as scientists and Christians ought to be asking ourselves and others. The DI and others have launched a "crusade" against evolution. Like Urban II, they feel that they are tasked by God to remove the scourge of evolution from society. Falwell, in his Monday morning address stated about Stein:
“He has served as a college professor, attorney, author, speechwriter, and even an actor but the most compelling reason for Liberty University’s choice this year is this man’s work in exposing the evils and dangers of Darwinism through the documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Falwell said. “This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and a fitting time to have Mr. Ben Stein bring our commencement address.”
Would Mr. Falwell recognize evolutionary theory if it were sitting next to him on a bench? Doubtfully. That doesn't matter as long as the charge can be led.

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