Thursday, April 3, 2008

Flying Spaghetti Monster Invades Cumberland County Tennessee, Reveals Great Need for Improved Science and History Education

The Flying Spaghetti Monster has invaded Cumberland County, appearing on the courthouse lawn in the form of a sculpture by Crossville artist Ariel Safdie. Her stated reasons were:

"We are lucky enough to live in a country that allows us, its citizens, the freedom of speech. I have chosen to put up a statue of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to represent the discourse between people of all different beliefs...The Flying Spaghetti Monster is a pile of noodles and meatballs, but it is meant to open up discussion and provoke thought."

The Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) was created to illustrate the absurdity of the Intelligent Design mantra that they "don't inquire as to the nature of the designer". The designer then could be anything, and the FSM was as reasonable as any other gods people could conjure up. Since then, it has been applied more broadly, ultimately challenging the notion that it is reasonable to believe in something and effect public policy based on those beliefs simply because they can't be disproved.

Sadly, some are still missing the point:

County Mayor Brock Hill said, "...I feel the Flying Spaghetti Monster is an effort on the part of non-Christians to try and minimize Christianity and the images that have been placed there. I'll go as far as to say that I think it's an attempt to minimize and ridicule the good intentions of Christians in Cumberland County, but I don't deny their right."

Poor Mr. Hill can't seem to put the pieces together. Yes, to the extent that Christianity is belief by faith, the FSM does minimize the credibility such a view should get. It's a kind of proof by contradiction. Mr. Hill needs to ask himself why it has this effect on Christians. It certainly would have no such effect if it was placed next to a science building. Why not? It's not so hard to grasp once you take off the religious blinders.

Speaking of blinders, columnist Josh Hayes of the Crossville Chronicle has them not only for religion, but for science as well as his ill-informed article on the story clearly demonstrates. He clearly misses the point above:

Hayes: ...I do think it’s safe to say there are some out there who look at someone allowing his or her faith to influence his or her views on government to be as ridiculous as considering the Flying Spaghetti Monster as a respectable deity.

No sir. The point is that having certain views on the government because one thinks Yahweh said it should be so is no more nor less absurd than having said views because one believes the FSM said so. Unfortunately Hayes is unlikely to be responsive to such arguments because he has already drunk deeply of the evolution-denier Kool Aid. His language gives it away, as he uses this FSM story to segue, and clumsily, into an ignorant rant against...wait for it...Darwinism! Not only is it now responsible for the Nazis, poor Charles is also responsible for certain well-established views of the First Amendment:

Hayes:In spite of their best efforts to appear as the objective, rational party, those opposed to Intelligent Design and the influence of religion upon the state have shown themselves to not be so “neutral” after all.

Always watch for the scare quotes. Right wing rants just can't be written without them. It gives them away more than the use of the term "Darwinism" to refer to modern evolutionary theory. So does that tired old horse of claiming no ideology is itself an ideology, and atheism is religion.

Upholding something as tangible as the spaghetti monster affirms a connection to an ideology through a symbolic bond. This ideology holds that “separation of church and state” means one must divorce any conviction gained from religious faith from public policy in addition to prohibiting any discussion of a Creator in the realm of “science.”

As noted above, the FSM is satire. It challenges the notion of belief without evidence, and the appropriateness of such beliefs in the public square. This is not an ideology, nor does it have anything to do with legal opinions about the meaning of the First Amendment. It does illustrate quite nicely WHY we might find it a good idea to have something like the First Amendment to prevent constant battles over public policy based on beliefs that cannot be proven wrong or corrected. But one can clearly discern the meaning of the first amendment whether one agrees with the satirical position of the FSM or not.

There is also nothing in the satire of the FSM to suggest that no discussion of creators can occur in science (again, note the intellectually dishonest use of scare quotes by Hayes). Forensic scientists and archaeologists make design inferences to creators all the time. What those of us who support the position of the FSM creator oppose is the use of mythical creator gods with no supporting evidence as an ignorance-filler in place of genuine scientific research. This is what Intelligent Design amounts to, as evidenced by the complete lack of any research or any scientific accomplishments by the IDers. And since ID is not science (as ruled by a Bush-appointed Judge, as well as the entirety of the scientific community), it does not belong in science classrooms.

Hayes however, is following the ID script to a tee. First, misrepresent the issue. Second, engage in some equivocation and post-modernist denials of an objective reality:

Hayes: However, no one comes to the public square without drawing their ideas from some source whether it’s secular humanism, Marxism or federalism. By a fallacious interpretation of the First Amendment, many in our society believe government cannot legislate based on ideas derived from ideologies deemed religious. Furthermore, it begs the question, who determines what’s considered “religious”?

And this view is fallacious why exactly? It is noteworthy that Hayes does not support this amazing assertion. Perhaps he is unaware that the First Amendment had many rejected versions, not the least of which was one that prohibited the establishment of a state church. Obviously the Founders had something more broad in mind, namely that issues of conscience (as they were often referred in those days) should not be forbidden or required in law. The endless battles in areas of the world without this protection supports their wisdom. With no objective standard by which to resolve disputes, violence is often the only remaining option. Better to leave the purely personal, subjective beliefs in the private sphere.

Hayes also lets a bit of intellectual dishonesty slip. Any time someone asks "who decides", it is an excellent indication that they are merely being argumentative rather than actually seeking an answer. The reason is simple, for the answer is pretty easy: the courts. That is what courts do: resolve our conflicts and interpret our laws. If Hayes has a problem with that, and it seems he does, I suggest he take it up with the founders. With every word his lack of understanding becomes more clear. Following now with a common theocratic view, he actually argues that preventing religious discrimination IS religious discrimination:

In our present context, those advocating for a completely secular state discriminate against those who appeal to Christianity or the Bible for guidance in public policy by merely labeling their agenda as religious. In a country with a constitution that promises the right to free speech and freedom of religion, people from all worldviews should be able to argue their positions on public policy based on ideas drawn from their particular belief system.

So if, for example, the majority Christians decided to make it a law that all religious services must be held on Sunday, and that no one is allowed to work on that day (except apparently, the church employees), this would actually qualify as an example of religious freedom to Hayes. Never mind that the Jews can no longer worship on their designated day. I wonder if Hayes considers shouting down a public speaker an example of freedom of speech as well.

He can't acknowledge any of this argument because it tears out the throat of his, which boils down to claiming all ideologies are religions. Again, watch the scare quotes:

In a liberal democracy, the free exchange of ideas should include arguments from those who are self-consciously religious, such as evangelical Christians, and arguments from those who may be unknowingly “irreligiously” religious, such as secularists.

So now Hayes has stood the language on its head, and those without religion are now religious. I wonder if he considers not collecting stamps a hobby too. Notice also how he slipped in the word "unknowingly" in there as well. That allows someone like Hayes to be relieved of his evidenciary responsibilities when he accuses a nonreligious person as being religiously irreligious. If they protest, he can just claim they are unknowingly so.

Not satisfied with his butchering of philosophy and constitutional government, Hayes then goes on to show he is equally ignorant of science:

"While the idea of creation via the Flying Spaghetti Monster may seem ridiculous, modern Darwinist dogma is even more ridiculous in saying the universe came into existence out of nothing. To put it in mathematical terms, nobody multiplied by nothing equals everything. If Congress is to give no precedence to one religion over another, let’s make sure the Church of Darwin is treated no differently."

Paragraphs like this are embarrassing. Does Mr. Hayes not have an editor that checks his basic facts? Darwin wrote about the origin of species, not the origin of the universe. He was a biologist, not a cosmologist. Darwinism says ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about how the universe came about. Further, Darwin's theories have been modified greatly over time, his many errors corrected, his incomplete theories fleshed out more fully as more evidence was uncovered. The resulting modern evolutionary theory is something that Darwin would hardly recognize. Calling it a dogma is ignorance of the highest order. Ditto Hayes mauling of cosmology and mathematics.

And of course, there is the question people like Hayes will always dance around: WHY is creation via the FSM ridiculous, but creation via Yahweh isn't? Aye, there's the rub. There is no reason aside from the comfort of many people, through being raised with the concept, in Yahweh. It's the same exact comfort 99% of those people would have in Muhammad where they born to Muslim parents. And this belief, caused more by where one is born than any other factor, is what Hayes wants to be allowed to guide public policy and be considered science? One does not need a Church of Darwin to oppose such nonsense. But we apparently need a Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster to make some people understand it.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great dissection of something that it saddens me to imagine was taken seriously by anyone.
Thanks a lot.