Stein's Propaganda

26 April 2008

Ben Stein is a former Nixon speech-writer, a psychiatric patient who cannot stand to lose (seriously), and a frequent user of Godwin's law (see here and here). Unfortunately, he is also now a documentary film maker. But despite the fact that his new anti-evolutionary film is riddled with errors, Chris Mooney warns us that we shouldn't be too cavalier about his new propaganda venture.

Who knows how much money Expelled will make, or how many minds it will influence. I suspect its strong opening will create additional buzz and attention, but even if not, this horrible but also damaging film ought to serve as a massive wake-up call to all who care about science in this media age. From Michael Crichton’s State of Fear to Stein’s Expelled, there is nothing to prevent the most awful, misleading drivel from reaching and influencing mass audiences. There are no standards. There is no filter. And the truth is not just automatically going to win in the competition of ideas when the playing field tilts against it.

The important point here is that "the truth is not just automatically going to win in the competition of ideas when the playing field tilts against it." When Stein is speaking to an American public that is more likely to believe in the devil than Darwin, and he is speaking through a one-sided uncontrolled medium, you can bet that he'll have a real influence on some people. So it becomes necessary to push back on these kinds of things. You can't just brush this stuff off, and you can't just preach to the choir about how ignorant Stein's film is.

It's not entirely clear to me what form popular science education should take going forward, but it at least helps to understand what the problem is.

UPDATE: Check out Expelled Exposed.

UPDATE II: For more on Stein's film, check this out.
Part I: Ben Stein misrepresents Guillermo Gonzalez's denial of tenure
Part II: Ben Stein misleads his interviewees
Part III: Ben Stein misrepresents the Sternberg affair
Part IV: Ben Stein compares evolutionary theory to Naziism
Part V: Ben Stein appears on the O'Reilly Factor to compare creationism to relativity theory
Part VI: Ben Stein compares evolutionary scientists to Nazis

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