His resume is loaded: lawyer, economist, presidential speechwriter—and beloved monotone teacher. Now Ben Stein ("Bueller? Bueller?") is taking on the role of moral crusader. In "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," a documentary that opens April 18, Stein dissects Darwinism and what he calls its monopoly on American classrooms. He spoke with NEWSWEEK's Jessica Bennett:
Why did you make this film?
Darwinism is a brilliant theory, but to say it has all the answers would not be truthful or sensible. And today's students aren't learning that.
And academia has a role in that?
There are a number of scientists and academics who've been fired, denied tenure, lost tenure or lost grants because they even suggested the possibility of intelligent design. The most egregious is Richard Sternberg at the Smithsonian, the editor of a magazine that published a peer-reviewed paper about ID. He lost his job. Some of the people we interviewed wouldn't even talk on camera for fear of the repercussions. Our goal is to encourage free speech.
In the film you compare Darwinism to Nazism. Is that fair?
Darwinism was very popular with Hitler's Nazi party, who explicitly said life is about survival of the fittest. [That] led to horrible consequences.
Are you worried you'll be called the right-wing Michael Moore?
I don't purposely try to make myself look goofy or offensive. But if our movie ... provokes as much thought and consideration as his do, we'd be happy.