Comedian/economist/lawyer Ben Stein backed out of delivering a spring 2009 commencement speech because of complaints to the university about his views on evolution.
The University of Vermont’s president, Daniel Mark Fogel, was bombarded with angry messages, including one from British atheist and Darwin fanatic Richard Dawkins, after inviting Stein to deliver the university’s commencement speech. Stein had given a sold-out economics lecture at UVM on April 25, 2008, and it was for his economics expertise, not his views on evolution, that Fogel invited Stein back.
After Fogel shared “profound concerns” with him over the protest, Stein voluntarily withdrew from the May 17 appearance and declined the 7,500 (USD) honorarium that came with the invitation.
“I did not ask him to withdraw,” Fogel said at a news conference. “I wrote to Ben and, because his talk last spring was about the economy, I had always assumed that that would be the subject of his talk.”
“[L]et me be clear, I did not ask Ben Stein not to come,” he reiterated. “I had invited him and I was not going to retract the invitation. But I was not going to let him be blind-sided by the controversy…. I asked him to confirm that he would speak about the economy and it was at that point that he withdrew.”1
In a university press release, Fogel wrote:
Mr. Stein has also expressed opinions on subjects unrelated to economics, most notably with respect to evolutionary theory, intelligent design, and the role of science in the Holocaust. Those views are highly controversial, to say the least. Following the announcement of Mr. Stein as Commencement speaker, profound concerns have been expressed to me by persons both internal and external to the University about his selection. Once I apprised Mr. Stein of these communications, he immediately and most graciously declined our Commencement invitation.2
Stein, who has spoken at Columbia, Yale, Stanford, and many other universities, told The Burlington Free Press that he initially didn’t want the UVM engagement but agreed to it, as well as an approximate 80 percent cut in his usual fee, because of mutual friends he and Fogel share. Stein called the whole episode “pathetic” and the university’s response “chicken sh**, and you can quote me on that.”
“I am far more pro-science than the Darwinists,” Stein told Free Press. “I want all scientific inquiry to happen—not just what the ruling clique calls science.”3
The Holocaust reference in the press release, Stein said, probably came from the 2008 documentary Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed when he interviewed the curator of a former Nazi “hospital” called Hadamar, who had cited “Darwinism” as the reason behind the horrific killings that happened there.
“I like Dr. Fogel and feel sorry that he is caught in the meat grinder of political correctness. My heart goes out to him. He’s a great guy trying to do his best in difficult circumstances.”3
Fogel said he received hundreds of emails, but only a few came from people at UVM, a signature implication of evolutionists and their intolerance bullying their way into arenas where they are not concerned, invited, or involved.
- UVM’s president responds to questions about commencement speaker Ben Stein. Straight from the Source. Posted on straightfromthesource.wordpress.com on February 2, 2009, accessed February 4, 2009.
- Office of the President, Campus Communication. The University of Vermont press release, February 2, 2009. Available on straightfromthesource.wordpress.com
- Johnson, T. Ben Stein responds to UVM flap. The Burlington Free Press. Posted on burlingtonfreepress.com on February 4, 2009, accessed February 4, 2009.
* Ms. Dao is Assistant Editor.
Article posted on February 9, 2009.