Watching this interview of Ben Stein by Bill O'Reilly is amusing and maddening at the same time. In less then five minutes, the two, combined, make so many false and/or misleading statements that it is hard to keep count.
To begin with, Stein says that Darwinism is a relic of the age of imperialism, as if that disqualified the validity of the theory by association or by suggesting that it is an old, tired theory that needs to be supplanted by something new. He goes on to say that it is a great theory but that it does not answer the question of how life began. Of course, evolutionary theory was never intended by Darwin to give an answer to how life began, but as a comprehensive description of the mechanisms by which new species appear on (and old species vanish from) our planet.
Moving on, Stein says that while Intelligent Design may be wrong, it is an attempt to fill the many gaps in Darwin's theory. Of course, the fact that there are currently gaps in evolutionary knowledge no more requires Intelligent Design for help than gaps in our knowledge of astrophysics require the help of astrology. Evolutionary theory is capable of providing solutions to unanswered questions, much has it has done for 150 years. Should it fail or be subverted, it will be at the hands of another scientific theory, not by Intelligent Design.
Next, Bill O'Reilly baits Ben Stein by saying that people like Cristopher Hitchens, Bill Maher and others will accuse Ben Stein of being "a primitive, [...] an intellectual deficient, [having] no right to intrude upon the American secular culture by bringin up that there may be a creator...". While to my knowledge such accusations have yet to be leveled, Stein takes the bait and... switches to an issue of first amendment rights. This is a classical fallacy of ID. The right to propose and speak of Intelligent Design as an alternative to evolutionary theory does not extend to the right to say it in science class, once it has been shown (as it has been) that Intelligent Design is not a scientific theory, but the latest transformation of a god of the gaps theory, a fundamentally religious theory. As GB suggests in his post, perhaps it can be discussed in an anthropology class, in a philosophy class, or in a theology class, but it certainly does not belong in a science class. In those forums, other theories of the origins of life can be entertained, including those that originate in Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam (and, why not, Pastafarianism, since its adherents will certainly make an incontrovertible demand for equal time).
It is fascinating to hear Ben Stein lecture (Fox) viewers on how societies progress, by free inquiry, in his role of spokesman for religion (the basis, despite to claims to the contrary, of Intelligent Design), which has a mixed record in promoting free inquiry and in stifling it.
O'Reilly and Stein gang up on scientists and atheists who have been on O'Reilly's show for their inability to give a definitive answer to the origins of life; once again they confuse the issue of the origin of life with evolutionary theory, a stale tactic of opponents of evolution.
The interview concludes with a restatement of the movie's idea that religious scientists are being persecuted. I guess I will have to wait to see specific cases portrayed in the movie before I express my views on the subject, but it is common knowledge that many cases of alleged persecution have been largely exaggerated by their victims.