Saturday, February 16, 2008

Ben Stein is a Complete Moron

I know that's not a nice thing to say, but the evidence allows for no other conclusion. There's quite a bit of evidence for his stupidity out there (and the pile seems to be growing), but this quotation takes the cake:
"Assuming it all did happen by Random Mutation and Natural Selection, where did the laws of gravity come from?"
This prize-winning absurdity is offered by Ben Stein in a telephone press conference staged by the producers of Expelled (a forthcoming pro-creation anti-science movie starring Stein). It's quoted in a very nice article by Dan Whipple that discusses the ironic fact that this "press conference" refused to field questions from journalists. The irony is compounded by the fact that the central complaint of Expelled is that free speech is (they claim) being stifled by the pro-evolution forces in academia. It is only too obvious that the creationists aren't interested in an honest and fair exchange of ideas; actual informed discussion invariably leaves their so-called arguments in tatters.

But let's get back to the quotation. I'm sure the complete, mind-numbing stupidity of the question is obvious to most readers, but I'll point it out just in case: The theory of evolution by natural selection is a biological account that has nothing whatsoever to do with explaining gravity! The very concept of evolution requires replication; it results in novel organisms and a variety of species -- it has nothing to do with explaining physical laws!

It might be helpful to quickly indicate four separate issues that creationists too often fail to distinguish. The following are distinct issues:

1. The origin of species. Given that there exists a population of replicating organisms in an environment, how do we end up with different species whose members have quite different traits? This is the question that Darwin offered an excellent answer to, and modern biology has fleshed out his tentative account in an extremely impressive way. This is what evolution is all about: biology.

2. Abiogenesis. The origin of life. How did the first replicators, the first organisms, come into being? This is a question for which we do not yet have a very good answer (though we can say a fair bit with confidence). But this question is irrelevant to the biological theory of evolution; it is a question about the border of chemistry, biology, and geology (& potentially theology -- though this is unlikely).

3. The cosmological evolution of the universe going back to the big bang. How did the Earth get here, in its orbit around a sun? This question has nothing to do with biological evolution.

4. The Grand Ontological Dilemma (G.O.D.): Why is there something rather than nothing? This is the province of philosophy. fundamental physics, and (perhaps) theology. Here we face the question of whether we should suppose that there was a "cause" of the Big Bang, or of the laws of physics, of the universe itself. Once again, this has nothing to do with biological evolution.

Stein is faulting the biological science of evolution for failing to answer question number 4! This is beyond foolishness, it is utter moronic stupidity! Random mutation and natural selection have absolutely nothing to do with explaining gravity!!!

Stein's challenge (which he claims "is overwhelming, and just sort of blows the whole theory of Random Mutation out of the water") is like someone rejecting a detailed explanation of how a car engine functions because it doesn't explain atomic structure. "Assuming it all happens by gasoline burning in cylinders and pushing pistons, where does the rigidity of iron come from?"

Actually, Stein's question is even stupider because at least the properties of iron are relevant to automobile locomotion. Stein's question is, "If it's all gas and pistons, why is there gravity?" Stupid, stupid, stupid. There's nothing else to say.

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