Ben Stein to Deliver Liberty Univ. Commencement Speech

Ben Stein, who has frequently spoken against Darwinism, has been selected as the commencement speaker at Liberty University.

Stein, widely known for lead role in the film "Ferris Bueller's Day Off," has had a wide-ranging career from politics to acting. He was a speechwriter and lawyer for both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford, a political commentator, a professor on topics spanning from constitutional rights to libel law and a former host of his Comedy Central show "Win Ben Stein's Money."

Despite Stein's various experiences, LU Chancellor Jerry Falwell, Jr. said the most compelling reason for the university's selection of Stein was his "work in exposing the evils and dangers of Darwinism through the documentary 'Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed.'"

"This year is the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and a fitting time to have Ben Stein bring the Liberty University commencement address," Falwell said Monday at the university's convocation.

Falwell, son the late conservative evangelical leader Jerry Falwell, said the university chose Stein from a list of 20 possible commencement speakers compiled by seniors, faculty, staff, consultants and board members.

In "Expelled," which debuted last March in theaters, Stein makes the case that Darwin's theory of evolution has become ingrained as the orthodoxy in the scientific community and that anyone offering a critique of the teaching has been punished or ostracized. The film highlights a number of educators and scientists who have been ridiculed, denied tenure or even fired in some cases for supporting Intelligent Design or challenging Darwinism.

Although Stein interviewed proponents of Intelligent Design, he has maintained that the movie's purpose was to encourage dialogue and academic freedom around the evolution issue, not to support their arguments that the creation of life and the universe are results of an intelligent "designer."

In press conferences promoting his movie, Stein has argued that the theory of evolution is partially responsible for the eugenics movement, the rise of Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

Falwell said Stein is expected to "touch on the Darwinism issue" in his May 9th speech although he has yet to discuss the topic of his speech, News & Advance reported.

"Mr. Stein has also been a champion of the pro-life movement, but his work as the nation's most prominent advocate for bringing integrity and academic freedom back to the American scientific community has been legendary," he said.

Just two months ago, Stein withdrew as the University of Vermont's commencement speaker because of complaints about his critical views on evolution in favor of intelligent design. The school's president said he received hundreds of e-mails opposing the invitation, some describing Stein's views of science as "affronts to the basic tenets of the academy," according to the Burlington Free Press.

Stein called the controversy "laughable" and "pathetic." He defended his views in an e-mail to the Burlington Free Press, saying "I am far more pro-science than the Darwinists. I want all scientific inquiry to happen not just what the ruling clique calls science."

Falwell said he expects the university community to welcome him for his views on evolution even though, like the University of Vermont, it may not share all of his theological and political views.

"They rejected him because he was anti-evolution and our community will embrace him for the same reason," he told News & Advance.