Go Catamounts!

I thought my alma mater had screwed the pooch pretty hard when it dropped men’s track and field a few years ago (the program has since been reinstated), but as it turns out the University of Vermont was only warming up its loins.
As PZ Myers reports, UVM has invited Ben Stein, myxedematous character actor turned “Darwin begat the holocaust” producer of Expelled!, to deliver the commencement address to the class of 2009. Note that the school press release makes no mention of Stein’s rightfully maligned and trivially debunked film.
I’m sure the choice of Stein thrills the faculty, in particular the biology professors whose lively instruction paved the way for me and many others to gain admission to graduate schools in the life sciences, and otherwise make hay of what these men and women made available to us. To me this is little different from Morehouse College asking Thomas Sowell to speak at graduation, or–just to turn things around a little for fun–Liberty University bestowing the same honor on Ken Miller.
Think what you will of the conduct on both sides of the creation versus evolution wars, but Stein has proven beyond any doubt that he is a shameless liar. To me it is stomach-churning that a publicly funded university–an institution ostensibly valuing intellectual honesty above all else (including publicity)–is hosting Stein.
I still receive the “Alumni News & Events” e-newsletter and other correspondence, but this won’t be the case as of next week. I do plan to write a letter to the school newspaper.
Hell, they at least could have asked pro athleles Kirk McCaskill, John LeClair, Judi St. Hillaire, or Martin St. Louis; actor Ben Affleck (didn’t graduate, but was there when I was); Jessica Sklar (Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld); or a wino on Burlington’s Church Street Marketplace to perform this task, assuming this hasn’t been done in the past. And if Stein is going, I like to think that it’s because the winos were asked and already had plans for the morning and afternoon of May 17.
Any UVM students or fellow grads out there? Sound off and maybe we can arrange for a coherent missive bearing a huge pile of names to land on the shores of Lake Champlain in a timely manner.

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  1. #1 by Will DeWitt on January 31, 2009 - 1:09 am

    at your service. I’m a physics grad student here. What do we do?

  2. #2 by Crudely Wrott on January 31, 2009 - 1:55 am

    I have an image of the audience of graduates, proud parents and enthusiastic boosters at the end of Stein’s address; eyelids at half mast, chins on breastbones and respiration dangerously slow and shallow.
    If I’m still current on basic first aid, these can be symptoms of shock, indicators of deep fatigue or a silent, sullen faced manifestation of that so common question, WTF?
    I eagerly await the reportage and reviews . . .

  3. #3 by The Science Pundit on January 31, 2009 - 8:14 am

    As I noted over on PZ’s blog, I think that the students and and faculty in Burlington should give Ben Stein the same kind of reception that Amherst gave Andy Card back in 2007. I mean seriously, shouldn’t an honorary degree go to someone with at least a scintilla of honor?
    ps–If you haven’t seen that video I just linked to, trust me that it will be time well spent.

  4. #4 by Michael on January 31, 2009 - 9:40 am

    I am not a student of the school, but it is outrageous that any school would choose a lying anti-science nut to speak at graduation. I would be extremely insulted if after 4 years of hard work I had to listen to a man who lies for a living giving me advice about my future.

  5. #5 by Stefan on January 31, 2009 - 10:01 am

    UVM should be ashamed of themselves for inviting that vile man to speak. As an Australian commencing a university biology course this year, I am very disappointed that any university could make such a despicable choice.

  6. #6 by Stefan on January 31, 2009 - 10:01 am

    UVM should be ashamed of themselves for inviting that vile man to speak. As an Australian commencing a university biology course this year, I am very disappointed that any university could make such a despicable choice.

  7. #7 by Chad Massey on January 31, 2009 - 10:15 am

    As a resident of Louisiana and a former resident of Texas and Oklahoma, I know the danger of letting these quacks in the door. You’d expect they’d get laughed out of the room but there are plenty of takers for every goofball idea out there. Put the heat on the school and show them that this isn’t a controversial choice but simply a stupid one. As someone who works in the sciences, I have great hope that our current decline in scientific understanding and funding will soon turn around but we can’t stop fighting just yet (obviously). Make Darwin Day a real party this year!

  8. #8 by Jim on January 31, 2009 - 10:30 am

    Inviting Ben Stein is a huge mistake. Someone apparently did not do their research to find out who he really is. Guaranteed to turn the commencement into a circus of disrespect which will permanently scar the University.
    Ben Stein is poison in the university community.

  9. #9 by Porco Dio on January 31, 2009 - 10:34 am

    hope he gets the same love as Card got.

  10. #10 by Porco Dio on January 31, 2009 - 10:36 am

    hope he gets the same love as Card got.

  11. #11 by Gingerbaker on January 31, 2009 - 10:41 am

    I’m a UVM grad (Biological Sciences). Happy to sign on to a letter. :)

  12. #12 by Ryan Stone on January 31, 2009 - 10:47 am

    UV isn’t my alma mater but I would like to sign the letter simply as a member of the human race, concerned that anyone anywhere would be invite Ben Stein to speak.

  13. #13 by Ryan Stone on January 31, 2009 - 10:47 am

    UV isn’t my alma mater but I would like to sign the letter simply as a member of the human race, concerned that anyone anywhere would be invite Ben Stein to speak.

  14. #14 by ERV on January 31, 2009 - 11:06 am

    I didnt go to my college graduation because they invited some right-wing conservative fuckwit Senator to give the address. Douchebags speak at graduations all the time.
    I would be more annoyed by that ‘honorary degree’ Stein is going to get. Thats a little much.

  15. #15 by Frank Lovell on January 31, 2009 - 11:09 am

    What? Ben Stein — the infamous anti-science, anti-logic $ell-out shill-for-hire for “God did it” as science — to deliver the 2009 UVM commencement address???
    To borrow from anger-management poster-fellow John McEnroe:
    You can NOT be SERIOUS!
    What could the good folks at UVM who made this selection of commencement speaker have possibly been thinking? Or (better question) not thinking?
    What message will this send to prospective future UVM students?
    Truly, the mind reels (no kidding!)!

  16. #16 by Gingerbaker on January 31, 2009 - 11:11 am

    Letter I just sent to the fellow in charge of the commencement:
    As a 1977 grad of UVM ( B.S., Biological Sciences), I am shocked at the choice of Ben Stein as 2009 commencement speaker. Are you aware of what a slap in the face his speaking engagement would be to your Sciences program?
    Ben Stein is a creationist and an avid spokesman for an explicitly anti science crusade. His film, “Expelled”, is an infamously dishonest screed against scientists, atheism, and secular reason itself. It explicitly says that the theory of evolution leads to Naziism, and that atheism is anti American.
    These ideas are antithetical to public education. Ben Stein’s very public philosophy is an anathema to the ideals upon which the University Vermont is dedicated, which will make Stein not an amusing raconteur at the ceremony, but an embarrassment to the very mission of the University.
    I urge you in the strongest terms possible to replace Mr Stein with a suitable speaker.
    Sincerely,
    Roger Lambert
    Burlington, Vermont
    However, I wish that I had read, and included, some of what PZ Myers readers had posted – go there for some excellent and despicable quotes from Stein, and as juxtaposition to a UVM encomium to its own Professor Emeritus Raul Hilberg, renowned Holocaust scholar.

  17. #17 by Dr P on January 31, 2009 - 11:30 am

    I’m a medical sciences PhD living in New Hampshire, I don’t want this type of thing eeking over the borders. I’ll write a letter!

  18. #18 by Dr P on January 31, 2009 - 11:30 am

    I’m a medical sciences PhD living in New Hampshire, I don’t want this type of thing eeking over the borders. I’ll write a letter!

  19. #19 by heddle on January 31, 2009 - 11:59 am

    Oh stop whining. If Angela Davis speaks, it doesn’t mean the university or the student body endorsees her politics. Or Condoleezza Rice. Or Pete Singer. Or Patrick Buchannan.Or Ben Stein. Universities have controversial commencement speakers all the frigging time. If you haven’t figured out that, then sue you own schools for failing to educate you, you bunch of sissies. Personally I’d rather hear a speaker with notoriety with whom I disagreed with than one who just validated my own positions. But then again, I’m not an insecure wuss.

  20. #20 by Dave C on January 31, 2009 - 12:26 pm

    Geez, Heddle. Bad day?

  21. #21 by heddle on January 31, 2009 - 12:29 pm

    Dave C,
    No–but this anti-intellectualism crap pushes my buttons.

  22. #22 by Patricia, OM on January 31, 2009 - 12:30 pm

    That’s right Heddle. You’re much worse than an insecure wuss. Another day praying hard for total depravity?

  23. #23 by Patricia, OM on January 31, 2009 - 12:30 pm

    That’s right Heddle. You’re much worse than an insecure wuss. Another day praying hard for total depravity?

  24. #24 by Gingerbaker on January 31, 2009 - 12:40 pm

    Heeddle:
    “No–but this anti-intellectualism crap pushes my buttons.”
    Riiiight. Protesting the guy who says that scientists caused the Holocaust is anti-intellectual. Hypocrisy thy name is Heddle.

  25. #25 by slpage on January 31, 2009 - 12:40 pm

    As an associate professor of biology at Norwich University, I am sickened and saddened that an institution of higher learning in my state would so lower itself as to provide Ben Stein, hack economist, media whore, promulgator of malicious lies and disinformaiton, a soapbox from which to proclaim his relevance.
    Shame on UVM.
    Shame.

  26. #26 by slpage on January 31, 2009 - 12:43 pm

    I might add that it might be justifiable for the science faculty to boycott commencement this year.

  27. #27 by Jim Bob on January 31, 2009 - 12:47 pm

    Ben Stein isn’t a controversial figure and he doesn’t hold an opposing viewpoint. He’s an idiot who will tell you someone else’s viewpoint if they pay him enough.
    He has not done anything with his life except be boring on purpose and get paid to sell eyedrops in a monotone.
    The reason it is insulting for him to be a commencement speaker is that he is mercenary and a force of ignorance; his presence is a slap in the face to the hundreds or thousands of people at the university, both teachers and students, who spend their lives trying to use science to make the world a better place.

  28. #28 by Jim Bob on January 31, 2009 - 12:47 pm

    Ben Stein isn’t a controversial figure and he doesn’t hold an opposing viewpoint. He’s an idiot who will tell you someone else’s viewpoint if they pay him enough.
    He has not done anything with his life except be boring on purpose and get paid to sell eyedrops in a monotone.
    The reason it is insulting for him to be a commencement speaker is that he is mercenary and a force of ignorance; his presence is a slap in the face to the hundreds or thousands of people at the university, both teachers and students, who spend their lives trying to use science to make the world a better place.

  29. #29 by Adam Cuerden on January 31, 2009 - 1:01 pm

    I think the sensible thing to do is for all the graduates, particularly the biology ones, to boo and heckle him the moment he appears.

  30. #30 by Bill from Dover on January 31, 2009 - 1:17 pm

  31. #31 by heddle on January 31, 2009 - 1:21 pm

    You all should hook up with these people. They are your intellectual cousins. Peas in the same pod as it were.

  32. #32 by heddle on January 31, 2009 - 1:21 pm

    You all should hook up with these people. They are your intellectual cousins. Peas in the same pod as it were.

  33. #33 by Sherry on January 31, 2009 - 1:26 pm

    Heddle
    What’s your take on the Holocaust?
    a) planned by god to get the “born-again” to heaven
    b) due punishment (by god) because the Jews don’t accept Jesus
    c) (insert your own delusion here)

  34. #34 by JD on January 31, 2009 - 1:29 pm

    Tardensity levels are off the chart whenever that snotty- sinus-breath-tub-of-tard walks in a room with his rotten tennis shoes and his simpering smirk.

  35. #35 by Martin Stone on January 31, 2009 - 1:33 pm

    OPEN LETTER TO MR. DANIEL FOGEL:
    Greetings Mr. Fogel:
    I recently came to my attention that Mr. Ben Stein is being undeservedly honored with delivering the commencement address to this year’s UVM graduating class, as well as being the recipient of an honorary degree from UVM. What could you possibly be THINKING??????
    After years (and perhaps, in some cases, decades) of immersion in study, learning and thoughtful research, UVM has now decided to send off your 2009 graduating class with the words and thoughts of a foolish and willfully ignorant hate monger of scientific illiteracy ringing in their heads. BRILLIANT! What could you possibly be THINKING??????
    As you may be aware, Ben Stein is the infamous narrator/protagonist of the recently (and less than miserably received) “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” movie. A movie that is so full of logical fallacies, straw men, outright lies, anti-science propaganda and misinformation – that if would have made Josef Goebbels (the infamous Nazi Minister of Propaganda) blush. In fact, any clear thinking person would be loathe to associate with someone of Mr. Stein’s mendacity, let alone invite him to speak at your university’s commencement ceremony. What could you possibly be THINKING??????
    If you are somehow unaware of the level to which Mr. Stein has lowered himself, please take a few moments to look at the following website: http://www.expelledexposed.com/.
    Then, please tell me, what could you possibly be THINKING??????
    Mr. Stein is a proponent of “Intelligent Design” which is neither intelligent or, in itself, a well designed argument/body of ‘knowledge. Those of the so-called Discovery Institute (and those of their ilk) seem to completely miss (or misrepresent) the point that the ‘theory’ which Darwinian evolution puts forward is DESCRIPTIVE at its heart.
    It is a terrible shame that there are people like Mr. Stein, who enjoy a similar and all too ordinary state of willful ignorance with regards to the power of observation, documentation and subsequent reflection (including logic, reasoning, deduction, and the constant testing of hypotheses and conclusions). Or what is commonly known as the SCIENTIFIC METHOD. And it is exactly what science helps us to understand – the nature of things – through what is ultimately a descriptive process. The Physical, Natural, Biological laws and/or rules are simply the BEST DESCRIPTIONS of reality that we have – at the moment.
    That which determines if a scientific theory (let us take Darwinian evolution, for example) is worth a damn is if it helps us to make predictions about the future. And the genius of Darwin’s ‘theory’ is that it is very good at helping us to make accurate predictions about the future of speciation in the natural world. It even predicted a mechanism for inherited traits when Darwin himself had no idea of genes, DNA, RNA, etc.
    What is clear from Mr. Stein’s willfully ignorant dribble is that he has never read “Origin of Species”, “The Descent of Man”, or even modern texts like those of Dawkins (“The Ancestor’s Tale, “The Blind Watchmaker”, or “The Selfish Gene”) when he (and his ill fated movie) links science and knowledge with the Holocaust – as if human history had never seen genocide, warfare or the insanity of despots and tyrants before Darwin began to study the natural world. To equate modern societal ills as having arisen out of the publication of what is most certainly one of the greatest scientific discoveries of any age, is beyond the pale. Humanity, and indeed nature herself, was cruel – and remains cruel and viscous – before Darwin set pen to paper and provided an honest description of the likely process of speciation. In fact, the phrase, “survival of the fittest” was never written (nor likely uttered) by Darwin. Yet it does provide a powerful synopsis of the theory of evolution, as it is only those individuals who reproduce (i.e. are fit) that pass on their inheritable characteristics to the next generation.
    I can only hope that your 2009 graduating class is composed of intelligent clear thinking adults who will see Mr. Stein for what he is (and his inane notions for what they are) and will have the maturity not to hold it against UVM – for perpetrating such an insult on their hard won academic achievements.
    What could you possibly be THINKING??????
    Rationally yours,
    Martin Stone

  36. #36 by Claudio on January 31, 2009 - 1:33 pm

    It should be easy to abort this from happening:
    First make sure the governors (president, etc) watch the video of the Card booing at UMass. Then let them know that something like that is being plotted. They’ll have two choices: either change the speaker or organize a strict audience screening for the ceremony. I bet they’ll pick option one.

  37. #37 by JoshS on January 31, 2009 - 2:04 pm

    I’m not a UVM grad, but I work in Burlington and am appalled at this. If you can see my email address, Kevin, on the back-end interface of your blog, feel free to add it to any list of people willing to help out.

  38. #38 by JoshS on January 31, 2009 - 2:04 pm

    I’m not a UVM grad, but I work in Burlington and am appalled at this. If you can see my email address, Kevin, on the back-end interface of your blog, feel free to add it to any list of people willing to help out.

  39. #39 by Kevin Beck on January 31, 2009 - 2:31 pm

    Think what you will of the conduct on both sides of the creation versus evolution wars, but Stein has proven beyond any doubt that he is a shameless liar. To me it is stomach-churning that a publicly funded university–an institution ostensibly valuing intellectual honesty above all else (including publicity)–is hosting Stein.

    I wrote this specifically with a nod toward people like Heddle: those comparatively few souls with an ample background in–and at least a superficial respect for–science and the processes by which people gather, evaluate, and propagate information, yet have reserved a diseased chunk of their brains for bizarre and, to be honest, pathetic apologetics.
    David, with all of the respect you are due based on this and things you have written in the past, you are an intelligent man, but if you can genuinely regard criticism of Stein as “anti-intellectualism,” you come across as more pathetic in your bumbling hypocrisy than adversarial. And a suggestion to “stop whining” from a Christian who vidly and continually immerses himself in the most anti-unreason subsites of Scienceblogs.com for the express purpose of whining is something else–even if your were right, one would thing you would at least appreciate the compulsion to set other people straight.
    I would think it would be difficult to maintain some of the stances you do given the avidity with which you read, write, and cogitate, but you’re not the only example.

  40. #40 by Dr Seattle on January 31, 2009 - 2:51 pm

    Hi,
    I AM a UVM grad of the biological sciences department…and went on to become a physician and a scientist. I can just imagine my old faculty cringing over this selection of Ben Stein to speak. Outrageous, and from an institution that prides itself on its medical, scientific and technical training, UVM should feel ashamed. Portraying evolution as a balanced theory against creationism just gives creationism and anti-science wack-o’s credibility. Just ask the new administration, they know that keeping down science for 8 years hasn’t helped our country one bit, its just pushed into the lagging category of scientific eduation and invention. Tsk, tsk to my beloved UVM.

  41. #41 by Dr Seattle on January 31, 2009 - 2:51 pm

    Hi,
    I AM a UVM grad of the biological sciences department…and went on to become a physician and a scientist. I can just imagine my old faculty cringing over this selection of Ben Stein to speak. Outrageous, and from an institution that prides itself on its medical, scientific and technical training, UVM should feel ashamed. Portraying evolution as a balanced theory against creationism just gives creationism and anti-science wack-o’s credibility. Just ask the new administration, they know that keeping down science for 8 years hasn’t helped our country one bit, its just pushed into the lagging category of scientific eduation and invention. Tsk, tsk to my beloved UVM.

  42. #42 by Brownian on January 31, 2009 - 3:28 pm

    Yes, Heddle, it is indeed the height of anti-intellectualism to criticise a university for inviting to give the commencement address a man who publicly and knowingly went on the record as saying, “science leads to killing people.”
    What’s he going to say to the science grads, Brainiac: “Congratulations on earning your degree; I hope you never use it”?

  43. #43 by Kevin Beck on January 31, 2009 - 3:31 pm

    The local newspaper is the Burlington Free Press.
    Submit a 250-word letter to the editor or a 650-word “My Turn” essay: guidelines here.
    There’s also the student-run paper, the Cynic. Again, letters are capped at 200 words, but as with the Free Press, there is always the guest-column angle.
    I’m not sure what e-mails sent directly to UVM admins and PR types will do, since the selection of Stein seems to have been predicated on his longstanding friendship with UVM’s president more than anything else. At the same time, the possibility that a lot of people involved with this know Stein only as a game-show host and character actor rather than the contemptible bullshitter he is, so contacting school officials is not an entirely impotent course of action, either.
    I will probably post this separately as a blog entry, and those of you with Burlington and UVM connections will hear from me by e-mail.

  44. #44 by Reed on January 31, 2009 - 4:03 pm

    Ben Stein: “Darwinism cannot explain gravity, it cannot explain thermodynamics”



    (about 3:00 in)
    UVM, do you really want to give this guy a degree, even an honorary one ? Really ?

  45. #45 by heddle on January 31, 2009 - 4:06 pm

    Kevin,
    Nice red herring. But I don’t label criticism of Stein as anti-intellectualism—in fact I have criticized Stein and ID and Expelled as much as anyone. I label as anti-intellectual a visceral reaction to have an invitation revoked because you don’t like the speaker. If you think that is criticism then I’m here to tell you: it’s not. It is anti-intellectual bullying. It’s an activity as highbrow as the other prime extracurricular activity of science blog commenters: poll crashing.
    The correct response is to write papers, op-eds, letters to the editor, give relevant lectures to your students exploring the weakness in Stein’s viewpoint, etc. After all that, you should go and politely listen to the man. It’s a university for crying out loud. It should be effin’ obvious. If not, then you have no concept of what a university is all about.

  46. #46 by Kevin Beck on January 31, 2009 - 4:17 pm

    Heddle:

    I label as anti-intellectual a visceral reaction to have an invitation revoked because you don’t like the speaker … The correct response is to write papers, op-eds, letters to the editor, give relevant lectures to your students exploring the weakness in Stein’s viewpoint, etc.

    This is interesting, because I wrote nothing about having Stein’s invitation revoked, but I did write, “maybe we can arrange for a coherent missive bearing a huge pile of names to land on the shores of Lake Champlain in a timely manner,” and subsequently posted comments aimed at facilitating precisely those things you suggested. What was that about a “red herring”? I mean, dude!
    Indeed, I would much rather see Stein deliver his speech with an audience exquisitely attuned to what the guy is all about than see him replaced. Graduation is over three and a half months away and it won’t take more than two weeks to have all of literate Burlington and the entire student and faculty community aware of the worst of Stein’s utterings.

  47. #47 by Vronvron on January 31, 2009 - 4:35 pm

    heddle @37 says “you have no concept of what a university is all about.”
    So universities are “all about” giving an honorary degree to people who don’t deserve to be honored? What does honor/honorary mean then?
    As well, regarding your comment #16,
    I’m sure people wouldn’t be “whining” if Stein were just giving a speech; however, UVM is “honoring” him with a degree.
    If my university were to “honor” someone like Stein I would be embarrassed for and ashamed of my university.

  48. #48 by Jim Bob on January 31, 2009 - 5:03 pm

    I would be glad to listen to a speech by Ben Stein. I would invite him into my house. He seems like a pretty nice guy, and he would probably be more reasonable in those positions than he has been in public for the past several years.
    However, giving him an honorary degree and letting him spew his bullshit to a mass of people that just spent years of their lives learning to do the opposite of what Stein preaches is just insulting. If they really want him to speak, let him speak. Just not at their graduation, and just not while also giving him an honorary degree that devalues the degree that every legitimate graduate in the room worked so hard for.
    I can’t imagine that they will remove him in favor of another speaker at this point, but I hope he at least tones down his garbage or, failing that, gets viciously booed off the stage.
    And heddle, say no more heresy against my favorite pastime poll crashing. It is hilarious and fantastically juvenile, in a good way.

  49. #49 by Michael Heath on January 31, 2009 - 5:57 pm

    David Heddle – you are flat out wrong on this (in my opinion). The problem with Ben Stein is not that he’s controversial, I agree controversial speakers should be considered and if the best candidate, invited to speak. It’s the fact that Stein is intellectually dishonest that warrants our disgust that he will speak.
    We should welcome dissent while at the same time loudly and publically ridicule, while also doing our best to socially ostracize those that are systemically dishonest.
    I wrote my letter to the University yesterday evening. I did not condemn them for inviting a conservative creationist speaker. I instead condemned their pick for his rank dishonesty in both economics and his description of scientific methodology and its attendant theories.

  50. #50 by Michael Heath on January 31, 2009 - 5:57 pm

    David Heddle – you are flat out wrong on this (in my opinion). The problem with Ben Stein is not that he’s controversial, I agree controversial speakers should be considered and if the best candidate, invited to speak. It’s the fact that Stein is intellectually dishonest that warrants our disgust that he will speak.
    We should welcome dissent while at the same time loudly and publically ridicule, while also doing our best to socially ostracize those that are systemically dishonest.
    I wrote my letter to the University yesterday evening. I did not condemn them for inviting a conservative creationist speaker. I instead condemned their pick for his rank dishonesty in both economics and his description of scientific methodology and its attendant theories.

  51. #51 by MH on January 31, 2009 - 6:00 pm

    heddle:

    It’s an activity as highbrow as the other prime extracurricular activity of science blog commenters: poll crashing.

    Poll crashing is simply a bit of fun. Take that crucifix out of your arse and lighten up.

  52. #52 by benjdm on January 31, 2009 - 6:21 pm

    Ben Stein at his best:
    http://friendlyatheist.com/2008/04/28/scientists-are-murderers/
    “Stein (speaking about the Holocaust): …that was horrifying beyond words, and that’s where science — in my opinion, this is just an opinion — that’s where science leads you.
    Crouch: That’s right.
    Stein: … Love of God and compassion and empathy leads you to a very glorious place, and science leads you to killing people.”

  53. #53 by Brownian on January 31, 2009 - 7:06 pm

    Heddle’s disingenuity speaks far more eloquently than he can, even when he’s so moved as to use pseudo-profanity to punctuate his comments.
    Naturally, as Stein is nominally on his side (they’re both anti-evolutionists, after all) we’re compelled to “politely listen to the man” in defense of ‘intellectualism.’ Pointing out that Stein is the furthest thing from a scholar both in attitude and practice is anti-intellectual, as of course Who are we to determine what constitutes science and what constitutes an affront to it?
    Notably, Heddle feels no need to hold himself to such high minded standards (and if you’ve ever had the masochistic pleasure of reading his exegeses, you’ll see how little he feels he needs to regard the opinions of those he deems less expert than he), since he and he alone knows what constitutes intellectualism. After all, those who disagree with him necessarily “have no concept of what a university is all about.”
    So evolutionists need to consider the opinions of anti-evolutionists in the interest of fair-minded scholarship, but the converse is rarely true.
    In short, don’t expect a warm invite to speak at Heddle’s church anytime soon.

  54. #54 by Brownian on January 31, 2009 - 7:06 pm

    Heddle’s disingenuity speaks far more eloquently than he can, even when he’s so moved as to use pseudo-profanity to punctuate his comments.
    Naturally, as Stein is nominally on his side (they’re both anti-evolutionists, after all) we’re compelled to “politely listen to the man” in defense of ‘intellectualism.’ Pointing out that Stein is the furthest thing from a scholar both in attitude and practice is anti-intellectual, as of course Who are we to determine what constitutes science and what constitutes an affront to it?
    Notably, Heddle feels no need to hold himself to such high minded standards (and if you’ve ever had the masochistic pleasure of reading his exegeses, you’ll see how little he feels he needs to regard the opinions of those he deems less expert than he), since he and he alone knows what constitutes intellectualism. After all, those who disagree with him necessarily “have no concept of what a university is all about.”
    So evolutionists need to consider the opinions of anti-evolutionists in the interest of fair-minded scholarship, but the converse is rarely true.
    In short, don’t expect a warm invite to speak at Heddle’s church anytime soon.

  55. #55 by chuckgoecke on January 31, 2009 - 8:27 pm

    I’m not an alumni of UVM, but I am of UMM, PZ’s college, and I love him. I sent the following to the only email address related to UVM comencement I could find, academic_ceremonies@uvm.edu
    Dear Sirs or Madams,
    I was dismayed to hear that Ben Stein has been contacted to speak at your commencement. This man was involved in the production of one of the greatest insults to intelligence and higher education ever, Expelled, the movie. This movie wasn’t just a pack of lies, or a Michael Moored styled attack on establishment academia, but it was one amazing piece of crappy film making. Besides the lies, quotes out of context, cheap shots, the worst were the horrid use of indicating, not allowing the viewer one second to use his or her imagination. The appeal was to the lowest mental abilities of its intended fans, the fundamentalist Christians. It was a dire, career-ending, mistake for Stein to get involved with this movie, and you should just allow him to fade away. I am not a student, nor do I have any family members at your university, but I feel compelled to plead with you to reconsider having Stein as your speaker.
    Charles Goecke

  56. #56 by Will on January 31, 2009 - 9:15 pm

    I sent my feedback in to the UVM PR department within 20 minutes of receiving the email announcing Stein’s honorary degree. I received a response saying that my feedback had been forwarded to those responsible for granting the degrees, but I have a feeling that it really means it was put into the garbage.

  57. #57 by Michael Patterson on January 31, 2009 - 9:19 pm

    Below is my contribution. If there’s a petition effort or other organized protest, please let me know how to participate. Incidentally, Daniel Fogel’s email address is Daniel.Fogel@uvm.edu
    President Fogel,
    I am a graduate of UVM, and the father of another. I just learned that UVM has invited Ben Stein to give a commencement address and receive an honorary degree–a man whose celebrity, such as it is, seems based on a mediocre show business demi-career, whose economic prognostications in the NY Times have proven disastrously wrong, and (most of all) who lately has been loudly promoting the notion that we should blame science, scientists, and particularly Darwin for the evils of German fascism and the extermination of the six million. His recent film, “Expelled,” is a stunning example of bad faith and dishonest argument.
    I can only imagine how the faculty and students in the various scientific disciplines at UVM feel about this. I do know that if I were in the graduating class, I would sadly decline to attend the ceremony. And if I were a student earlier in my studies I would be contemplating a transfer to another institution. Stein is not just a poor choice. He represents a repudiation of what universities stand for, or ought to–critical, rational, secular thinking. And I can’t help wondering–what would Raul Hilberg think?
    I hope you reconsider. This choice makes me profoundly ashamed of my alma mater.
    sincerely,
    M. Patterson

  58. #58 by Kevin Beck on January 31, 2009 - 9:23 pm

    Here’s my just-dispatched letter to the Cynic, a paper whose name I now view in a more sober light:
    Ben Stein? Is Fogel out of his mind?
    I understand that current UVM president Daniel Fogel and Ben Stein were college pals, but for Fogel to overlook Stein’s proven mendacity in–and you can look all of this up–the making of the pro-creationism film Expelled!, his manic distortions of history (e.g., blaming “science” for the Holocaust), and his open contempt for academia in general is inexcusable, and to award him an honorary degree in anything besides failed showmanship is lunacy.
    Stein’s presence not only devalues the experience of this year’s graduates, but threatens to render my alma mater a laughingstock, particularly in the view of biologists and life scientists. Richard Dawkins and Dan Dennett, among other notables, have already written Fogel to express their alarm; you should all feel free to do the same.
    In any case, I trust the student body will give the man a proper reception when he arrives wearing whatever face he feels is most appropriate for self-glorification that day.
    Kevin M. Beck
    Class of 1992

  59. #59 by JoshS on January 31, 2009 - 10:01 pm

    Kevin,
    I don’t know if the excellent 7 Days newspaper had yet been born when you were in Vermont, but it’s a Burlington-based arts/weekly/politics paper. It beats the pants off the Free Press for covering corruption, social issues, etc. I’m on very good terms with one of their feature writers, and I’m betting I could interest him in writing about this. His expose on the Vermont Health Dept. giving citizens faulty information that deprived them of important legal rights (I was involved in this from the consumer advocacy side) finally got the state to admit wrongdoing and correct their ways.
    When you compile your list of Vermont people to email, let me know what you think of this suggestion. I’m betting we could accomplish more by plugging for a real story than we can by writing letters alone.

  60. #60 by JoshS on January 31, 2009 - 10:01 pm

    Kevin,
    I don’t know if the excellent 7 Days newspaper had yet been born when you were in Vermont, but it’s a Burlington-based arts/weekly/politics paper. It beats the pants off the Free Press for covering corruption, social issues, etc. I’m on very good terms with one of their feature writers, and I’m betting I could interest him in writing about this. His expose on the Vermont Health Dept. giving citizens faulty information that deprived them of important legal rights (I was involved in this from the consumer advocacy side) finally got the state to admit wrongdoing and correct their ways.
    When you compile your list of Vermont people to email, let me know what you think of this suggestion. I’m betting we could accomplish more by plugging for a real story than we can by writing letters alone.

  61. #61 by JoshS on January 31, 2009 - 10:01 pm

    Kevin,
    I don’t know if the excellent 7 Days newspaper had yet been born when you were in Vermont, but it’s a Burlington-based arts/weekly/politics paper. It beats the pants off the Free Press for covering corruption, social issues, etc. I’m on very good terms with one of their feature writers, and I’m betting I could interest him in writing about this. His expose on the Vermont Health Dept. giving citizens faulty information that deprived them of important legal rights (I was involved in this from the consumer advocacy side) finally got the state to admit wrongdoing and correct their ways.
    When you compile your list of Vermont people to email, let me know what you think of this suggestion. I’m betting we could accomplish more by plugging for a real story than we can by writing letters alone.

  62. #62 by Shirley Ellis on January 31, 2009 - 11:35 pm

    Heddle, Heddle, bo-beddle,
    Banana-fana fo-feddle,
    Fee-fi-mo-meddle,
    Heddle!

  63. #63 by Richard Simons on January 31, 2009 - 11:39 pm

    Have I got this right? Someone who is publically anti-intellectual as well as dishonest has been invited to give a speech and be awarded a degree at a ceremony when a large number of people will be honored for their intellectual activities. Heddle thinks those who consider an anti-intellectual is not the best choice to be themselves anti-intellectual? Isn’t that a bit like saying that people who object to a voodoo practioner officiating at a Jesuit seminary are being un-Christian?

  64. #64 by Bill from Dover on January 31, 2009 - 11:48 pm

    WTF! Was Ken Ham unavailable?

  65. #65 by Rev. BigDumbChimp on January 31, 2009 - 11:51 pm

    Dave C,
    No–but this anti-intellectualism crap pushes my buttons.

    that’s rich

  66. #66 by Kristine on February 1, 2009 - 12:52 am

    If Ben Stein goes through with this I think it only fair that he be searched, be told that he cannot bring his cell phone into the auditorium, be required to sign his name again in front of university staff, be informed that no cameras are allowed and that this prohibition will be enforced by scary security hooligans wearing night-vision goggles, and to have his young date (since he reportedly doesn’t see much of his wife but hangs creepily around young girls) thrown out of the commencement event before it begins!
    Oh. And then be hit up in a follow-up e-mail for financial support of the university.
    A taste of his own form of “academic freedom.” It would be only fair!

  67. #67 by ArchangelChuck on February 1, 2009 - 3:10 am

    The choice of Ben Stein is a terrible one, and it’s clear that discretion wasn’t exercised at all in inviting him to speak at the commencement. Or maybe the deans hate their science faculty and thought it would be a great way to push their buttons. I don’t understand how revoking Ben Stein’s invitation would not be university-like; rather, I think it would be fitting for such a place considering Stein’s track record as a liar and a crackpot. Last time I checked, they were supposed to be the pinnacle of intellectual elitism in our society.
    All the best to UVM, and I sincerely hope that they reconsider this poor decision.

  68. #68 by Porco Dio on February 1, 2009 - 8:00 am

    can we please have a postal address to which i can send a physical manifestation of my disbelief.
    thanks

  69. #69 by Grace Conyers on February 1, 2009 - 8:46 am

    I’m neither a former of this school, nor an upcoming graduate of University of Vermont, but I do believe in having inspiring people come to the school to cheer the new generations on. Stein is an oxygen stealer. The oxygen he would steal from the ceremony would be better placed into breathing new life, courage, and excitement into the graduate students there. Add me to your list!

  70. #70 by Grace Conyers on February 1, 2009 - 8:46 am

    I’m neither a former of this school, nor an upcoming graduate of University of Vermont, but I do believe in having inspiring people come to the school to cheer the new generations on. Stein is an oxygen stealer. The oxygen he would steal from the ceremony would be better placed into breathing new life, courage, and excitement into the graduate students there. Add me to your list!

  71. #71 by Jean McLain on February 1, 2009 - 10:30 am

    Kevin, I’m IN (B.S., UVM, 1982). I recently pledged $200 to UVM but retracted that pledge yesterday — but I’d like to make a stronger statement. Tell me what we need to do.
    Jean McLain

  72. #72 by Jean McLain on February 1, 2009 - 10:30 am

    Kevin, I’m IN (B.S., UVM, 1982). I recently pledged $200 to UVM but retracted that pledge yesterday — but I’d like to make a stronger statement. Tell me what we need to do.
    Jean McLain

  73. #73 by Jim Lippard on February 1, 2009 - 10:35 am

    Heddle: If Stein were merely being invited as a speaker by a campus group (such as an IDEA Club), I would agree with you. But he’s being invited by the university to give the commencement address.
    Is it your position that a university’s selection of commencement speaker may not be challenged on the basis of any criteria of quality or appropriateness? Would your position be the same if the commencement speaker were a Holocaust denier, a racist, or a mass murderer?

  74. #74 by heddle on February 1, 2009 - 1:19 pm

    Jim Lippard,

    Is it your position that a university’s selection of commencement speaker may not be challenged on the basis of any criteria of quality or appropriateness? Would your position be the same if the commencement speaker were a Holocaust denier, a racist, or a mass murderer?

    Yes. I consider Pete Singer just about as vile and worthless as any creature as I can possibly imagine. (Not to mention a fraud.) But I’d go listen to him respectfully. Hell, if the university could get Satan to come speak, I’d go listen to him. (Not that he’s Satan, but I have tried to get my University to invite PZ.)
    MH,

    Poll crashing is simply a bit of fun.

    It is? The image it conjures up is that of the movie Heathers. PZ is the top mean-girl Heather, and the rest of you are prepubescent Heathers that live for acceptance. After doing Heather number 1’s bidding, you return tee-hee-ing about what you’ve done. No–if that is fun then you need to get a life. Maybe a little less internet.

  75. #75 by Kristine on February 1, 2009 - 1:28 pm

    Heddle, I find it interesting that none of the articles announcing Ben Stein’s commencement address mention his latest “masterpiece,” Expelled. Who and what is really being expelled here? Is Stein expelling Expelled from his life now that’s he’s speaking in front of all the people he recently held responsible for the Holocaust and the Stalinist purges? By all means, allow him to speak – but there’s no reason for the students to refrain from holding up placards that say “Science leads you to killing people,” is there?

  76. #76 by Tyler DiPietro on February 1, 2009 - 1:37 pm

    As far as poll crashing goes, it must be mentioned that the people running them leave the polls dangling there in plain sight, and are therefore asking for it.

  77. #77 by heddle on February 1, 2009 - 1:42 pm

    Kristine,
    Kristine,

    but there’s no reason for the students to refrain from holding up placards that say “Science leads you to killing people,” is there?

    Of course not. That would be an appropriate way to protest Stein’s imbecilic position on science. And more effective than lobbying the University to rescind the invitation. That sort of silent protest would or at least could lead to discussions about Stein’s position whereas the policy being perused, to disappear him like a UD comment, is, in my opinion and as I stated, anti-intellectual and contrary to the spirit of a university.

  78. #78 by heddle on February 1, 2009 - 1:42 pm

    Kristine,
    Kristine,

    but there’s no reason for the students to refrain from holding up placards that say “Science leads you to killing people,” is there?

    Of course not. That would be an appropriate way to protest Stein’s imbecilic position on science. And more effective than lobbying the University to rescind the invitation. That sort of silent protest would or at least could lead to discussions about Stein’s position whereas the policy being perused, to disappear him like a UD comment, is, in my opinion and as I stated, anti-intellectual and contrary to the spirit of a university.

  79. #79 by Kevin Beck on February 1, 2009 - 1:59 pm

    The Burlington Free Press did run an article a copy of the press release to which commenting is allowed.
    I have to wonder how many of these detailed, thoughtful, and impassioned letters will be read by Fogel and other higher-ups from outside the university. One hates to think that the sheer amount of outpouring would functionally limit these messages’ reaching their target(s). So I think that bombarding Fogel with evidence of what he already presumably knows (that Stein is a shifty cretin) is only one part of an effective strategy, the other being making him aware that others know this as well and that more still are soon to find out. That’s where other media come in.

  80. #80 by ArchangelChuck on February 1, 2009 - 3:21 pm

    @heddle: Why in the world should students and alumni wait until the day of to express their outrage at the choice of commencement speaker? Why dismiss the importance of the opinions of those around the world who value academic excellence and shun the intellectual terrorism of the likes of Stein?

  81. #81 by ArchangelChuck on February 1, 2009 - 3:21 pm

    @heddle: Why in the world should students and alumni wait until the day of to express their outrage at the choice of commencement speaker? Why dismiss the importance of the opinions of those around the world who value academic excellence and shun the intellectual terrorism of the likes of Stein?

  82. #82 by Roger Cooke on February 1, 2009 - 3:22 pm

    I retired from the UVM Mathematics Department in 2003. I’m really appalled that UVM would do such a thing. We try to teach our students to do their homework and not argue a case unless they know what they are talking about; then we give an honorary degree to a scientific illiterate who had the arrogance to produce a movie aimed at discrediting science.
    The University honored me twice, once with the Kidder Outstanding Faculty award in 1996, then four years with a University Scholar award. I’m now ashamed of those awards and will do my best to conceal my connection with the University of Vermont. I’m thinking a letter to the local paper signed by all the living recipients of these awards (sadly, the best of us, Raul Hilberg, died in August 2007) might be the way to go.

  83. #83 by heddle on February 1, 2009 - 4:22 pm

    I’m now ashamed of those awards and will do my best to conceal my connection with the University of Vermont.

    Oh give me a friggin’ break.

  84. #84 by Charles Goodnight on February 2, 2009 - 1:56 pm

    The word is that Stein will be unable to attend the commencement. Fogel has assured several people (including Dawkins) that this is true, and reported that his motivation for inviting him was because of his “economic expertise”.
    I can not vouch for how much of any of this is true, but I am confident that Stein will not be speaking at our commencement. I thank all who wrote letters to Fogel. I am sure that that is the real reason that Stein had to decline. Working together we prevented this travesty from occurring. Thanks again for your help.
    I am a professor of biology at UVM.

  85. #85 by Jim on February 4, 2009 - 3:09 pm

    Could you imagine Nicolaus Copernicus or Kepler Galileo being invited to speak at a university commencement after presenting their “anti-scientific” heliocentricity theory contrary to Aristotle’s geocentric “fact”.

  86. #86 by Kevin Beck on February 4, 2009 - 3:21 pm

    Jim @ #69:
    I assume your point is that Ben Stein, like Copernicus and “Kepler Galileo” (who may be either Johannes Kepler or Galileo Galilei; it’s not clear from the context) before him, had been unfairly ridiculed for advancing visionary scientific ideas that may well prove to have a basis in truth one day after they are properly evaluated.
    Please, do elaborate. This should be good, in the same way watching someone cram huge mouthfuls of human waste into his mouth and scream about how tasty it is might be called “good.”

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