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Jesus versus the flying spaghetti monster

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In early August, President Bush showed support for the teaching of Intelligent Design, the antithesis to Darwin's theory of evolution, in schools. Intelligent Design is sometimes referred to as "creationism lite," in that it claims to explain the origin of life by employing an omniscient creator without aligning itself with a particular religion. Funny then, that the most fervent supporters of ID are the hardcore Christian right. While the president has refused to align himself with either the Intelligent Design or Evolution camp, his publicly known Christian beliefs and massive Christian base make it pretty easy to extrapolate the direction he leans.

Shortly after Bush condoned the teaching of ID in American schools, Australian Federal Education Minister Brendan Nelson told reporters that ID would be taught alongside Darwinian evolution in Australian schools. With Kansas already on the ID train, Australia's decision only added a little more coal to Bush's religious steam engine. While it's completely fair to educate young minds on two opposing schools of thought, it's ludicrous to teach something that so clearly belongs in a philosophy class as a mandatory component of the science curriculum.

The essential argument that ID falls back on is the tried-and-true "god of the gaps." Basically, it states that not everything can be explained with science so... god! It's just about as plausible to teach a class about the history of dragons as an archeology elective. To make a clumsy metaphor even less coordinated: we have never found dragon bones, yet there are museums full of dinosaur skeletons. We can't teach speculation and superstition alongside something that has overwhelming observable evidence backing it.

Even if ID makes it into American schools, there's still the matter of whom it may offend. It doesn't matter what flowery language they dress it up in, ID is still rooted in Christian ideology, and teaching it over another religion's creation myths seems like a pretty blatant violation of a people's freedom to religion. Bobby Henderson, a graduate of Oregon state university made this point rather well by inventing his own parody religion, "Flying spaghetti monsterism," a religion that worships a winged beast composed almost entirely of Italian noodles. Henderson then wrote a formal letter to the Kansas board of education asking that his religion be given equal time in classrooms next to Intelligent Design and evolution.

While Henderson's critique is certainly a valid one, we can't ignore the fact that speculation and superstition is a viewpoint held by a good number of people, especially in the southern states. If President Bush wants to teach ID in schools, that's fine, but it should be taught alongside Thales and Aristotle, not Darwin. That way, both viewpoints are still allowed to be heard, but the school board is no longer forced to affirm Christian teachings as fact. Taking the ID elective along with biology would be a good option for those who wanted to check out both sides of the coin before they tossed it. I know I would have.

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Comments

What a fantastic piece on an issue that promises to erode over 150 years of scientific progress. Science is secular and despite efforts of the religious right to conceal the duplicitous nature of ID it is not far removed from the dogma of creationism. Congrats to Kyle on bringing the issue home!