PZ has been following Ben Stein’s withdrawal from the commencement ceremonies at University of Vermont (UVM). Stein won’t speak at the graduation or get an honorary degree from the institution. This was not a forced withdrawal; Stein did this on his own.
Apparently there has been much backlash among the students and faculty at the university. These criticisms are well justified. After all, the university engages in scientific research, and Stein once said :
the last time any of my relatives saw scientists telling them what to do they were telling them to go to the showers to get gassed
University of Vermont president Daniel Fogel has given several interviews on the subject. He sums up the feelings of the university in this quote from an interview with the Vermont Cynic:
It’s an issue about the appropriateness of awarding an honorary degree to someone whose views in many ways ignore or affront the fundamental values of scientific inquiry
The Discovery Institute is all up in arms over this. Both John West and Casey Luskin have posts about the subject.
Both seem to be arguing that Stein was forced to withdrawal just because Stein believes in the pseudoscientific principle of intelligent design (ID). Take for example, this quote from Luskin:
the fact that he(Fogel) won’t give honorary degrees to someone simply because they support ID demonstrates the lack of academic freedom for ID proponents in the academy(sic).
They are both really missing the point. Ben Stein is openly anti-science. Just look at the quote from Stein above. That quote has nothing to do with ID vs. evolution; it has to do with his out right dislike and distrust of scientists and the scientific process. Anyway, Stein gave a lecture less than a year ago on the campus of UVM. I really don’t understand how Luskin and West can argue that his “academic freedom” is being violated since he was just there.
President Fogul said he got hundreds of emails from both within and outside of the university complaining about the choice of Stein as speaker. He also says that there was a Listserv going around where many faculty were voicing their disproval. But, as Luskin points out, only about “a half dozen” faculty members wrote to him on the subject. I don’t know how many faculty members there are at UVM, but you have to remember that these half-dozen faculty members were taking a risk in complaining to the president of the university about the situation. These letters could have really hurt their careers.
One of Luskin’s points in his post is that people outside the university were calling and writing in to complain about Stein being included in the ceremonies. The title of the post is even "Darwin Defenders get Ben Stein expelled from University of Vermont’s Commencement Address." Ironically, John West calls for the exact same thing in his blog post:
"Let your voice be heard: If you think it was wrong for Ben Stein to be pushed out as this year’s commencement speaker at University of Vermont, send a message to University President Daniel Fogel at Daniel.Fogel@uvm.edu or 802-656-3186."
One thought occurs to me. What if Stein is using this whole episode as a publicity stunt? He undoubtedly is going to use this as a talking point in the future He will say how even he was expelled.
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