"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.