Ben Stein loses all intellectual credibility

On his blog Stein espouses one of the weakest attacks I’ve heard yet against evolution, and not even original. It’s a pathetic set of logical fallacies. Basically, he starts from the assumption that scientific theories arise if they serve the prevailing ideology of the time period, and because “Darwinism” was developed during the Victorian/imperialist age, it represents nothing but the worst aspects of that era.

Let’s make this short and sweet. It would be taken for granted by any serious historian that any ideology or worldview would partake of the culture in which it grew up and would also be largely influenced by the personality of the writer of the theory.

In other words, major theories do not arise out of thin air. They come from the era in which they arose and are influenced greatly by the personality and background of the writer.

Darwinism, the notion that the history of organisms was the story of the survival of the fittest and most hardy, and that organisms evolve because they are stronger and more dominant than others, is a perfect example of the age from which it came: the age of Imperialism. When Darwin wrote, it was received wisdom that the white, northern European man was destined to rule the world. This could have been rationalized as greed-i.e., Europeans simply taking the resources of nations and tribes less well organized than they were. It could have been worked out as a form of amusement of the upper classes and a place for them to realize their martial fantasies. (Was it Shaw who called Imperialism “…outdoor relief for the upper classes?”)

But it fell to a true Imperialist, from a wealthy British family on both sides, married to a wealthy British woman, writing at the height of Imperialism in the UK, when a huge hunk of Africa and Asia was “owned” (literally, owned, by Great Britain) to create a scientific theory that rationalized Imperialism. By explaining that Imperialism worked from the level of the most modest organic life up to man, and that in every organic situation, the strong dominated the weak and eventually wiped them out,

Darwin offered the most compelling argument yet for Imperialism. It was neither good nor bad, neither Liberal nor Conservative, but simply a fact of nature. In dominating Africa and Asia, Britain was simply acting in accordance with the dictates of life itself. He was the ultimate pitchman for Imperialism.

Alas, Darwinism has had a far bloodier life span than Imperialism. Darwinism, perhaps mixed with Imperialism, gave us Social Darwinism, a form of racism so vicious that it countenanced the Holocaust against the Jews and mass murder of many other groups in the name of speeding along the evolutionary process.

Wow. There are so many fallacies here I don’t know quite how to start. For one, if one assumed that his assumptions were correct, this would just be a genetic fallacy. But since we know this is absurd, and that evolution has persisted as a theory because of the consistency of the theory with observation of the natural world, we can reject this idiocy out of hand. But then he devolves into the fallacy of appeal to consequences – again based on false premises. Including the pathetic Darwin lead to Hitler canard. Again, even if this were true, it would be like saying we shouldn’t believe in physics because it leads to nuclear weapons. However, it decidedly isn’t true, and as we’ve discussed previously, is based on a disingenuous reading of history that the ADL has attacked as disturbing tactic to try to shift blame for the holocaust from anti-antisemitism to science. This is a doubly disgusting tactic. It attempts to shift the blame for the holocaust away from the antisemitic ideology of Hitler and Nazism (suggesting antisemitism is scientifically justified by evolution!), while simultaneously trying to exploit the victims of the holocaust for the benefit of the anti-evolution cause. Stein should be ashamed.