Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tuesday is Recycling Day

"Monkey Business" (Originally Published, 12.17.07)

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 apocrypha. 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 Stepford-esque 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 traveling 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 loonies 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 sleight-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.


oskar said...

Would an infallible God really have created such imbecillic followers?
& Wouldn't it be more to His credit if His chosen people were a few rungs higher on the evolutionary scale?

Not that there *is* a God, or anything...

Chris said...

I work in the oil business here in Texas, where we make our living on the fossilized remains of dinosaurs.

I work with a seemingly intelligent engineer, who a few months declared over lunch that he home schools his kids since he doesn't believe in evolution. I had to excuse myself to avoid spitting my sandwich over him in amazement. Never underestimate humanity's ability to deceive itself and ignore the evidence even when it's written in 6 ft tall letters.

Ref said...

In the interest of fairness and certainty, I always like to point out that the judge in Kitzmiller was a REPUBLICAN!

James Yonkman said...

"2-plus-2 equals rock"


Cheryl Robbins said...

I don't see anything wrong if they just want to sit their kids out of the classroom during Evolution instruction and exchange that part for a home-school education. I really don't mind the idea of my kids having an educational and analytical advantage over them. Let them mentally and philosophically falter in this competitive world. I'm not hurt by them removing themselves from the race -- it'll give others a better chance to succeed. The "American Dream" cannot exist without people who will never achieve it.

Tenth grade biology class isn't the only opportunity in life one has to learn these things, scientifically or in the faith. However, that little class is treated as though teaching a single two week topic over another is going to seriously damage the future of America.

Let them sit out all of science if they want to. It'll deliver more intelligent scientists. Letting those people become scientists is what leads to pharmacists making moral decisions at the counter. We don't want them as scientists, we don't want them taken seriously in that arena. Religious scientists are the ones who come up with intelligent design and try to force that square peg.

Just leave them to be stupid if they want to be. We need to reobtain a manufacturing class and our more highly-educated class is overpopulated anyway.

Bill White said...

Evilution is just one of the many reasons why we are in the mess we are in today. When we accept such a fantasy concocted by Godless scientists, we disrepect life which leads to promiscuity, homicide, cannabilism and an unhealthy worship of Rip Taylor.
Yes, the Gays are living in the Palmetto state. I think we should offer them a safe haven anywhere from Vermont, Rhode Island to New York -- the Secular Northeast US. Then, we should invite all good clean Christians to move to South Carolina to form the first-ever exclusive newly seceded God-Fearing Community. SC can survive on its own -- it doesn't need anyone else. It has the ocean for men to fish and land to farm. The ladies can stay in their villages and teach the boys and girls that we did not come from apes. Then when they're old enough, South Carolinians can train for their own military on the several outposts that exist for our current US Military. Parris Island can become theirs where good, straight Christian soldiers can train to be the best they can be. Within five years, we will see a ton of success which will have the secular world in a state of so much envy, that they might find the word of God. Amen.

Anonymous said...

"evilution" that's funny Billy. it (EVEolution) is, after all, a natural process - just like.... GRAVITY! here's another natural process for you BW.... drop dead.

rwiawa said...

What is your resource, for the Sumter stats? We here have a truly hard time believing that.

Chez said...

Can't remember where I got the figure but it's legit -- it's not like I pulled it out of my ass or anything. Unfortunately, I don't have time to re-research it. Feel free to Google.

Stevie said...

This post was reason enough to come back to the 'Chez' fold, you may remember this is a pet subject of mine. Here in the UK we are (relatively) lucky to have very little in the way of christian fundamentalism to contend with, our biggest enemy in this particular battle has always been the rather gentle, (very English) attitude of letting people believe whatever they like so long as it doesn't make too much fuss or noise. This has gradually led to religion having an apparently large influence on our society, but in reality, quite a small one in many cases, but it does let the odd (very odd) fundamentalist victory get through the wire of liberalism.

I don't envy you the strength of fundamentalism you have to fight in the US, but I admire immensely your strength in doing so.

drater said...

Rip Taylor!!!??? Bill, this time you've gone too far!

Chez said...

Bill is the Phil Hendrie, or maybe Borat, of this place. Love him.

Anonymous said...

What's interesting is to compare the semi-historical film Inherit the Wind to incidences like this.

Matthew Brady, however, was much more eloquent than Skipper.