I Would Have Expelled Him, Too …

Ben Stein vs. Kyocera

Based on statistics, I suppose it is true that disagreeing with scientific consensus and being a conservative Republican would strongly imply that you’re also pretty religious, but it’s not a religion in itself.

Unless you’re Ben Stein.  According to PRRI, “the actor and sometimes-political commentator was fired from a series of commercials by an environmentally conscious company that discovered he did not believe in climate change, is now suing the company for infringing on his religious freedom.”

A shorter summary, with commentary, is here. I have provided an even shorter version below:

  • Kyocera wanted Ben Stein to do some commercials for them because they wanted an economist character.
  • They had made all of the arrangements (pay, hours worked, etc.) but it is unclear whether a contract was signed.
  • They then learned about his difference of opinion with the majority of the scientific community regarding humankind’s role in climate change.
  • Kyocera decided to back out of the agreement and go with someone else.

First, I’m not a legal expert, but I have some thoughts. If the contract was not yet signed, then Kyocera does appear have the right to back out for any reason. If it was already signed, then I’m not sure what they can legally do unless he breached its terms (or there were words in there that said either party could back out for any reason). Second, let’s say it had already been signed and they got rid of him. How is not believing in human involvement in climate change related to religion? If anything, it would be some sort of political discrimination since according to Stein’s lawyer:

Hurwitz told defendant JAO that she was perplexed by the inquiry since as far as she was concerned, the deal was done than that Ben Stein’s political and scientific views on the subject were not part of the contract for Ben Stein to discuss the merits of computer printers.

Stein corrected her afterward, saying:

Ben Stein said he was by no means certain that global warming was man-made, a position held by many scientists and political conservatives. He also told Hurwitz to inform defendants that as a matter of religious belief, he believed that God, and not man, controlled the weather.

Note he didn’t say the view was held by others of his faith.  One of the problems with Ben’s playing the religious card, as pointed out by Felix Salmon, is that the belief that God controls the weather is difficult to find in Jewish teachings or current consensus on the topic:

A word to the wise, Ben: you weren’t fired for your religious beliefs. Indeed, in a world where it’s hard to get a large group of rabbis to agree on the day of the week, the Jewish religion’s views on the subject of global warming are very clear. Consider this letter, for instance, signed by more than 600 rabbis:

“We have established Interfaith Climate and Energy campaigns in 21 states that are educating congregations on the link between energy conservation and renewable energy sources that benefit climate change reduction…

“We have longstanding distress about other health and environmental effects of energy policy, including global climate change…

“The same energy policies that will help achieve peace for humankind by reducing our dependence on oil will create greater harmony within creation by protecting the environment.”

Here’s much more detail on the question of Jewish attitudes to global warming, summed up by saying that

“… we must take responsibility for maintaining and preserving G-d’s Creation not only for the here and now, but also for the benefit of posterity. This is something that must be taken very seriously, and we are required to follow the guidance of the experts in taking practical measures of conservation and preservation to save the world from irresponsible and destructive consumption.”

Given this, I can only conclude the following about the entire situation:

  • Kyocera really needs to do a little more research before beginning contract negotiations with people.
  • What the hell one’s political views have to do with his or her ability to sell printers I have no idea.  Does it even matter?
  • Ben has a number of beliefs that cannot even begin to be justified by way of legitimate science despite his claims to the contrary.
  • He wanted to up his chances of winning a lawsuit by saying that his opposition to the majority (90% now?) of the scientific community regarding global warming is based on his religion.
  • … a religion that supports caring for the environment and overwhelmingly agrees with the conclusion that global warming is man-made.
  • Ben’s SOL if the contract was never signed, so who cares why they backed out?

I personally wouldn’t want to work with Ben Stein on the sole basis that he is an insufferable right wing tool who wouldn’t know good science if it beat him about the head and shoulders with a three-foot long summer sausage.  Anyone who advocates the implementation of Creationism into public school science classrooms does not deserve to be taken seriously, nor should his opinions on any other matter involving science, facts, or critical thinking. It doesn’t matter that some of his work in the area of economics might actually hold some weight.  The fact that he believes that an invisible, undetectable supernatural being created the world and all living things in six days – and that the phenomenon of evolution that we have concluded IS responsible for the diversity of life is FALSE because it conflicts with this belief – makes everything he says, good or bad, entirely suspect.

And that’s why I bristle at the concept of “religious discrimination”.  I understand why we have laws against it, and I think they should stay.  The problem is that there is an increasing number of people who cry foul when they’re being told that they can’t “exercise their religious beliefs” by doing things like discriminating against homosexuals / women / people of other religions, or refusing to offer emergency birth control to women as part of their job as a pharmacist.  Ben, for example, is upset because his religious and political beliefs go beyond personal and private philosophy and into the realm of selling intellectual dishonesty and outright lies to the public.

Personal beliefs are one thing.  When they affect other people, it’s a different story.  Ben’s anti-education, anti-science, anti-environment “religion” is the very thing that is going to hold us back and allow countries like China and India to leap forward to dominate the 21st century.  And, as the sea levels rise, we will keep chugging along, denying the role we have in it until we can’t do a thing about it if we wanted to.

Oh, and if you want to see some anti-science discrimination, let’s consider the kind of environment created by the GOP against climate scientists – regardless of their political affiliation. Here’s a story about a Republican climatologist who dared to argue for the party to return to a position of reason on the topic. No such luck. Now he and his wife are being harassed and threatened with violence on a daily basis.

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