BURLINGTON, Vt. – Comedian Ben Stein has withdrawn as the University of Vermont's commencement speaker because of complaints about his critical views on evolution in favor of intelligent design.
UVM President Daniel Fogel said he chose Stein based on the warm response to a lecture he gave on campus last spring. Fogel said, however, he was deluged with e-mail messages from people offended by Stein's views of science.
When told about the criticism, Stein — who was to be paid $7,500 — backed out of the May 17 commencement, Fogel said.
"I did not ask him not to come," he said. "I was not going to let him be blind-sided by controversy."
The former host of Comedy Central's "Win Ben Stein's Money" quiz show, Stein has drawn fire previously for criticizing evolutionary theory and speaking in favor of intelligent design.
That view holds that life is too complex to have developed through evolution alone, implying that a higher power must have had a hand in creation.
Stein told the Burlington Free Press that he was not "anti-science" as some critics have labeled him.
"I am far more pro-science than the Darwinists," Stein wrote in an e-mail to the newspaper. "I want all scientific inquiry to happen not just what the ruling clique calls science."
He said the controversy over him as commencement choice was "laughable" and "pathetic."
Fogel said he was sorry that he did not anticipate the extent and intensity of the concerns expressed about Stein.
Stein, 64, a graduate of Yale Law School, worked as a Federal Trade Commission lawyer and wrote speeches for presidents Nixon and Ford. As an actor, he is best known by some as the droll teacher in "Ferris Bueller's Day Off."
In a 2008 documentary entitled "Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed," he asserted that scientists are afraid to challenge the theory of evolution because they fear they'll be ostracized or fired.