Stein discatamounted

Well, that didn’t take long. With a swiftness made possible only in the Internet age, the president of UVM has announced that Ben Stein will not be attending the school’s May 17 graduation ceremonies or receiving an honorary degree.
Note the careful wording of Dan Fogel’s letter:

“…we have recently learned that Mr. Stein will be unable to receive the honorary degree here or to serve as Commencement speaker…”

PZ’s post is titled “Stein backs out,” but it’s not clear from Fogel’s letter if the decision was really Stein’s. With a happy resolution in place, perhaps it is going overboard to speculate as to the mechanics involved, but I have to wonder: What are the odds that Stein had a prior commitment vs. those of Fogel seeing the response from scientists and others from around the world, muttering “Oh my freakin’ Dawk,” and having a private chat with ol’ Ben?
Anyway, this one goes into the “W” column, and the mutual hectoring between David Heddle and everyone else on Science Blogs can return to its customary theaters.

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  1. #1 by Crudely Wrott on February 1, 2009 - 8:24 pm

    I only regret that my fantasy of the entire assemblage turning away from the stage as Stein is introduced is now toast. Ah, just as well, I suppose. At least he has risen to his highest potential which must be a comfort to him. Stand by for reasons excuses any moment now.
    It appears that contrarians such as atheists, agnostics and related ne’re do wells such as I have found a way to make our voices heard. This is good. Wicked good.
    We should keep doing what we are doing, which is to simply offer a measure of reason to those who have little. Not that it will amount to a hill of beans to all of them. Yet I can’t shake the notion that some who have wavered and dallied on the cusp of reason and faith have been persuaded to follow the path of reason for no other cause than that Stein has opted out. His capitulation shows his weakness of character as much as it shows his dearth of comprehension. If he is transparent to me he must be transparent to many, many others.
    Not that I am dense. I just don’t pay attention as much as I should, given that I’ve many other things to attend to. It’s just that I take honesty and reality seriously. And damn the torpedoes!

  2. #2 by Crudely Wrott on February 1, 2009 - 8:24 pm

    I only regret that my fantasy of the entire assemblage turning away from the stage as Stein is introduced is now toast. Ah, just as well, I suppose. At least he has risen to his highest potential which must be a comfort to him. Stand by for reasons excuses any moment now.
    It appears that contrarians such as atheists, agnostics and related ne’re do wells such as I have found a way to make our voices heard. This is good. Wicked good.
    We should keep doing what we are doing, which is to simply offer a measure of reason to those who have little. Not that it will amount to a hill of beans to all of them. Yet I can’t shake the notion that some who have wavered and dallied on the cusp of reason and faith have been persuaded to follow the path of reason for no other cause than that Stein has opted out. His capitulation shows his weakness of character as much as it shows his dearth of comprehension. If he is transparent to me he must be transparent to many, many others.
    Not that I am dense. I just don’t pay attention as much as I should, given that I’ve many other things to attend to. It’s just that I take honesty and reality seriously. And damn the torpedoes!

  3. #3 by The Science Pundit on February 1, 2009 - 9:36 pm

    You had to go and give heddle attention in a main post. :-P
    I agree. When I first read that, the analogy that popped into my head was of a boss saying “I’m not firing you, but I expect your resignation letter on my desk within the hour.”

  4. #4 by JoshS on February 1, 2009 - 10:05 pm

    I’m almost sorry. I was so looking forward to raising some hell, public humiliation style.

  5. #5 by Kristine on February 1, 2009 - 10:21 pm

    This was an opportunity for Stein to confront the beast he helped to create, this “controversy” that we’ve heard so much about. It was also an opportunity to raise the question as to why students have no say in their commencement speaker choices, and what the hell the “honorary degree” is supposed to mean anyway. It was an opportunity for Stein to apologize and to explain himself for the reprehensible charges that he leveled at the academy and at scientists at a time when our nation faces real problems.
    The result is another opaque decision by top brass ending the matter to save institutional face. Opportunity lost, but if Ben Stein thinks he can now back away from everything he said in Expelled and on the snake handler circuit since, he’s in for a surprise.

  6. #6 by Z12 on February 1, 2009 - 11:36 pm

    I’m not sure this is such a good thing. Yes, Expelled was lunacy and, yes, Stein was an idiot for getting involved, but are we now supposed to direct seething hate at every molecule of matter that comes into casual contact with Ben Stein? Supposedly his talk was to be on global economics. I’m reading all these comments and seeing pitchforks and torches, and that’s not such a good thing. Will you people still be protesting Stein appearances 20 years from now? Maybe someone should draw up an enemies list?
    But I’ll just get labeled a “concern troll” I guess. Labels are so easy, aren’t they?

  7. #7 by Z12 on February 1, 2009 - 11:36 pm

    I’m not sure this is such a good thing. Yes, Expelled was lunacy and, yes, Stein was an idiot for getting involved, but are we now supposed to direct seething hate at every molecule of matter that comes into casual contact with Ben Stein? Supposedly his talk was to be on global economics. I’m reading all these comments and seeing pitchforks and torches, and that’s not such a good thing. Will you people still be protesting Stein appearances 20 years from now? Maybe someone should draw up an enemies list?
    But I’ll just get labeled a “concern troll” I guess. Labels are so easy, aren’t they?

  8. #8 by Kevin Beck on February 1, 2009 - 11:52 pm

    @Z12

    Yes, Expelled was lunacy and, yes, Stein was an idiot for getting involved, but are we now supposed to direct seething hate at every molecule of matter that comes into casual contact with Ben Stein?

    I think everyone who took issue with UVM’s choice made a pretty clear case for why it was a questionable one. Someone on the other side plainly saw things in the same light.
    If in the future people employ “seething hate” or otherwise act inappropriately, this, too, will be properly evaluated.
    There was no mention, by the way, of the supposed topic of Stein’s talk until Fogel disclosed it in his letter to Dawkins (as clear a PR move as his vague mention of why Stein will not be going). I don’t know that this would have made a difference given the entirety of Stein’s track record, but it’s foolish to pretend that people clamoring about the choice of Stein were acting with this information in hand.

  9. #9 by Jim Fiore on February 2, 2009 - 7:33 am

    You do realize that Stein will use this as fodder to “prove” the “ivory tower elitist liberal nature” of colleges and universities, right?

  10. #10 by Captain Obvious on February 2, 2009 - 10:48 am

    Just as he’d use it not happening as proof he has a shred of support from anyone reputable.
    What lunatics claim can’t be managed. :)

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