Thursday, December 27, 2007

Monkey Business

It looks like South Carolina will be the next battleground in the seemingly never-ending, Whack-a-Mole style guerilla war on Darwin.

The state which lists on its registry of cultural landmarks that Mecca of grotesque roadside kitsch "South of the Border" (a designation which one would assume takes into account the 200 miles of billboards on either side of it along I-95 shamelessly playing Mexican stereotypes for a cheap laugh) will likely be taking up the "debate" over evolution next month. That's when the State Board of Education will meet to consider whether or not to endorse a high school biology textbook after a series of complaints were lodged against it by a weed researcher from Clemson University who goes by the amusing name of Horace D. Skipper.

Professor Skipper is challenging the book's assertion -- and stop me if you've heard this one before -- that Darwin's Theory of Evolution is the basic foundation of any lesson about the development of life on Earth.

With an eloquence one might expect from, say, a Wal-Mart greeter, Skipper rails against the conclusions posited by the authors of the book, saying that when they write about "the origins of life and stuff -- I didn't see where they had the scientific support that I think public schools need in a textbook."

He goes on to say that while he's not for teaching creationism exclusively, he considers it a viable, one would have to assume "scientifically supported," supplement. "If you're going to teach 'historical science,' that would be an alternative," he says.

As if science can ever legitimately be subject to the caprices of perspective.

It's a little like arguing that cavemen once believed 2-plus-2 equals rock, therefore such a possibility should be lent serious consideration 350-thousand years later.

"If we're going to have good, honest truth taught to our students, they need to be taught about weaknesses or gaps in these theories," Skipper says.

The fact that Horace D. Skipper, a weed expert, has any free time on his hands at all being from a state so perpetually overrun by botanical vermin is noteworthy; that he feels it's his place from both a scientific and legal standpoint to insert himself into a controversy regarding a high school textbook -- particularly when there is no controversy whatsoever -- is simply staggering in its level of arrogant stupidity.

In the 2005 case Kitzmiller v. Dover, an entire Pennsylvania school district was given the unconditional legal smackdown for trying to pull an end-run on centuries of scientific authenticity through the quiet insertion of ridiculous religious apocryphy. Instead of "creationism" they gave their nonsensical, unprovable hypothesis the impressive sounding label "intelligent design," as if simply removing "God" from the name in fact removed him from the equation. The court easily saw through the charade and ruled that attempting to teach intelligent design to public school students as anything other than irrational voodoo violated the Establishment Clause of the Constitution.

Anyone who believed however that, following such an explicit rejection, the God Crowd would slink back to their churches and temples and leave science to the scientists has apparently never lived near a Southern Baptist church and therefore not found him or herself subjected to weekly visits from Stepfordesque Christian-folk all filled with the Holy Spirit and determined to stay put until they can rightfully say that they've claimed another home for Jesus. These people don't give up; they answer to a higher authority than your insignificant little Constitution (and they damn sure don't care what some silver-tongued elitist from New York City has to say about how they live their lives).

The fact that South Carolina is the next stop on what, to the untrained eye, seems to be the intelligent design travelling circus should surprise no one. The state is the official target of the secessionist movement known as "Christian Exodus." For the past few years, it's promoted the mass migration of fundamentalist Christian whack-jobs to South Carolina with the hope of influencing governmental policy there and essentially creating the first "Christian Republic" on U.S. soil.

Think Saudi Arabia, only without the Muslims, the oil, the money, or the culture -- and with an even more direct influence over the American government.

These are people who believe that the U.S has strayed from its Puritanical roots (the ones sane individuals would refer to as nightmarishly oppressive) and are now determined to seize power so that they can cleanse the land, thus preparing it for Jesus's triumphant return which will no doubt play out just like the crap they've read in those Left Behind books. For the rest of us, this means a repeal of our basic rights -- those not supported by Biblical scripture -- and essentially the outright suppression of most of the freedoms we've cultivated throughout the years, particularly the ones that infringe on the God-given entitlement of white men to do whatever the hell they want. If the Christian Exodus folks can't make this work though, they're content to simply secede from the union and as far as they're concerned, South Carolina represents the perfect place to make this little paranoid fantasy come true, as it was the first state to withdraw at the onset of the Civil War.

So how's the effort going so far?

On its website, the group advanced a goal of relocating 12,000 like-minded Christians to South Carolina by 2006.

As of this year, only about 15 families have actually made the move. (By comparison, there are now somewhere in the neighborhood of 8,000 same-sex couples in South Carolina; one town alone, Sumter, has the highest concentration of black, gay, committed couples in the country -- a rare trifecta of offensiveness to fundamentalist Christian sensibilities.)

The issue however is not whether a serious threat is posed by the possibility of South Carolina seceding from the U.S. -- there isn't. What's notable is that the Christian Exodus looneys figure they'll find a friendly audience waiting for them when they get there -- that they'll be greeted as liberators as it were.

Unfortunately, guys like Horace D. Skipper aren't doing much to prove them wrong on this -- quite the contrary in fact. Once again, a very public battle is about to rage over scientific certainty against which there is no legitimate argument. Once again, there will be slight-of-hand, there will be misdirection and there will be euphemism, but in the end it will all add up to nothing. Once again, it will be reality versus nonsense -- proven fact versus cleverly decorated superstition for which there isn't a shred of evidence.

Just a "historical" tradition of True Belief and blind acceptance.


girl with curious hair said...

It's a little like arguing that cavemen once believe 2-plus-2 equalled rock, therefore such a possibility should be lent serious consideration 350-thousand years later.

Chez, everyone knows cavemen didn't exist 350,000 years ago. The planet isn't even that old. Haven't you ever read the Bible?

Paul said...

The above statment is absolutely true. Ask those pized historians Hanna-Barbara. Cavemen and dinosaurs lived together in harmony. I would be willing to put together a field trip to the "creation" museum down in Kentucky. We could get together, toss back a few cold ones, pop up some popcorn and have a great time. I don't even think any episode of "The Office" could top the pure comedic genius running through that place.

Juju said...

The last time I drove with my family to Florida, my parents insisted we stop at South of the Border because it would be fun. A trail of cockroaches chased me. I have never been back. That place is hell.

Dave said...

I just drank a whole bottle of bleach and spoke to god, he told me we were wrong on several other accounts

1) The holocaust was just a big misunderstanding.

2) The world is flat and the sun revolves around it.

3) Pauly Shore is funny.

4) Stonehenge wasn't built, the rocks just fell that way.

So take that logic and reason.

Anonymous said...

Yes, but Chez - Horace is no ordinary professor of weeds he is Clemson's Professor Emeritus of weeds. Perfectly fitting for a religious zealot.

Anonymous said...

Yes lets scrap biology simply because we don't have a complete 100% comprehensive knowledge of it. Hey you know gravity is still just a theory and we still don't entirely understand it yet so lets scrap physics while we're at it.

faux mccoy said...

i'm wondering if i could score some weed from prof skipper???

anyway, what i really wanted to say is that this biology debacle is more than i can stand. give me a pure science any day. take math -- it's simple, straight forward, even baptists can't argue with it. i have two apples, you have two apples. together, we have four apples. then eve eats one and all hell breaks loose. oh, nevermind.

but let us not overlook the power of imaginary numbers. i love them; use them all the time. my checkbook balance??? 12i. my jeans size 72i. imaginary numbers are gods gift to women. oh there i did it again, i brought god into a pure science.

must go back to my re-programming.

you rock chez,

Janean said...

It's funny; I live in SC and never heard of South of the Border before just now - everything in that part of the state is bound to be embarrassingly tacky. It's where the tourists go.

I am not surprised at all to hear about the weed professor and the biology textbook; I live in the county next to Clemson and we are still arguing over whether or not we can get rid of ridiculous outdated blue laws. While I am not an atheist (I guess you could say I am sort of a Christian), the super-religious Baptist nuts that I am surrounded by make me despair that our state will ever get any better.

As an education major what I find more disturbing than this particular story is what just recently happened with our state board of education. The new chairperson of the SC state board of education home schools her children and is a co-founder of South Carolina Parents in Education - a group that supports abstinence education, tax dollars for private schools, and........the teaching of intelligent design!!! The woman at the head of our board of education!!

With all of that being said, even with things as nuts as they are here - Christian Exodus really isn't welcome. Not even the Baptists want them here. There was recently a huge backlash in our community when it became public knowledge that the organization was moving some people to our local area.

Stephanie said...

I feel I have to preface this by saying I'm not an uber Christian nut-job.

One of the things that's always irritated me about the Bible thumping creationists AS WELL AS the scientific community is that a few basic facts tend to get wholly ignored. Namely:

Darwin originally started the entire theory as a way to prove the existence of God, god, or gods. Probably God, though, as he had also been schooled to be an ordained Anglican Minister.

That Darwin eventually became an agnostic and later lost all faith in God had nothing to do with the fact that his theory neither proved or disproved the existence of the divine (for example: Why are deep sea creatures created if no one seas them?), but more to do with the death of his daughter.

My point, though convoluted, is that religion and science have got it all wrong by going at odds with each other. Science is full of holes. FULL of 'em. But then, so is religion. Stick 'em together and maybe you'll get solid ground to walk on.

Anonymous said...

Oh god, I went through the "south of the border" tourist trap once on the way to Myrtle Beach. It's god-awful.

On a similar topic - have you seen what Ben Stein has been up to lately?


foolery said...

I say, let 'em secede. Just see how far the movement gets when they want to cross into Georgia to go see a movie or buy some food and find they need a passport and have to go through customs.


Or maybe it's too much coffee on my part, yet again?