June 20th, 2011
Encounters with a robotic anti-evolutionist.
A nice man when you talk to him at his local grocery store (but so was Hitler, probably).
Ben Stein, the funny man who made a movie saying Darwin and Hitler were soulmates (“Expelled,” 2008) shops at my local grocery store. I’ve seen him a couple times and wanted to say something, but never had the right circumstances. Yesterday evening I finally found myself in the store near closing time with it pretty much just him and me. I held off as best I could until I finally went out to the parking lot and there he was, parked next to my car loading his groceries into his trunk. As much as I hate accosting celebrities, I had to say something. Here’s roughly how it went.
RO: Do you think the intelligent design thing is pretty much dead and over?
BS: Oh, heavens no, it’s stronger than ever.
RO: Really? And are you happy with the work you did in “Expelled”?
BS: Very much so. One of the best things I’ve ever done.
RO: Is that right?
BS: Absolutely. You wouldn’t believe the number of people who come up to me at airports to thank me for that film. It was very, very well received. Probably not in places like the 90265 (the Malibu zip code), but in the center of the country — the heartland — there is overwhelming appreciation for it.
RO: Well, I’m actually from the heartland — from Kansas — I made a film from the evolution perspective called, “Flock of Dodos.”
BS: Oh, well good for you, I hope it did well. No, that film did very, very well. So many people comment to me about it.
RO: Is it the most common thing for people to recognize you for.
BS: Oh, no, Ferris Bueller is the most common, of course. But still, I get so many people thanking me for that movie.
RO: Are you planning to do another movie about evolution?
BS: Definitely not. It was a one shot deal, and the group behind it has disbanded, I don’t even know where they are.
Then he asked my name, shook my hand, and skeedaddled.
No point in badgering him. He made a film I didn’t like or respect. What’s more important is to see his sort of empty detachment from the issue. He’s just an odd old man who likes to be a contrarian and is proud of his ability to stand up to the prevailing tide of liberal thinking no matter what it involves.
Maybe next time I’ll be a little more confrontational. But I don’t know what good it would do. His answers all seemed to be so well rehearsed they were almost sing-song in their rhythm.
Made me want to say, “Mr. Stein? Mr. Stein? Anyone? Bueller?”