Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Competing intelligent design theories in Florida: both lose

It's becoming more and more well known that there is more than one version of intelligent design theory out there. Both could be used with equal efficacity to replace our current notions of science, and both are equally valid. And both recently went to war with each other to wield influence in the Polk County, Florida school board.

The more widely known version of intelligent design holds that life is so miraculously complex that only a supremely intelligent, omniscient and divine mind could have designed it, which is why and how we have all the life there is today. It doesn't specifically state that a particular deity (or deities) created all life, but intelligent design does jibe pretty well with the story of the god of Abraham, who, as the story goes, created all things and all life in just six days, and is the god around whom all sects of Judaism, Christianity and Islam are based. This version of intelligent design was gaining traction in Polk County, where school board members were preparing to vote for it and against the teaching of evolution. Evolution is science and not religion. It makes no reference to any kind of god whatsoever; it just talks about how life came (and comes) to be.

Now this is America, where we respect free worship. And since we obviously will accept substitutes for science that are fueled by the god of Abraham, we need also consider substitutes for science that are fueled by, well, pasta. That's to say, when the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster piped up and insisted that *its* version of intelligent design also be taught in Polk County schools, the school board reacted in a peculiar way: it denied everyone the right to have science taught alongside a particular theology's divine notions and just went with evolution. The ascent of man and the simultaneous descent of the god of Abraham and the descent of pasta. Is it really right that schools should expose children to the notion that the god of Abraham basically *thought* the world into existence in less than a week, while not offering them the equally plausible (if not *more* plausible) explanation that the Flying Spaghetti Monster intelligently designed the entire universe with his noodly appendage? This is easier to believe. After all, if you walk down the aisles of your local supermarket, you'll see spaghetti, but will you see God? Try this some time and find out. Your tired religious convictions might do well to have something of a fresh perspective. One of the school board members who had been pushing for the teaching of the (god of Abraham-style) intelligent design said that when she originally proposed it, she didn't realize she'd be "on the front page of the [Lakeland, Florida] Ledger indicating that I opposed evolution."

So god of Abraham-style intelligent design has gone down to defeat, and so has Flying Spaghetti Monster-style intelligent design. I suppose this is fair, though I'm disappointed in the way children are denied the opportunity to learn about both of these equally valid theories. It's also a bit impractical at the moment to do this. Consider that the revelations of the Flying Spaghetti Monster happened only in 2005. Consider also that they have spread faster and more widely than any of the Abrahamic faiths ever did this early on—this is solid testament to these revelations' intrinsic truths. But the literature about the Flying Spaghetti Monster is pretty sparse. There's the Gospel of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, available at Amazon.com for thirteen bucks, but there's no textbook out there that teaches both Darwinian evolution and Flying Spaghetti Monsterist intelligent design, much less a text book that also includes that bit from Genesis. Some publisher could no doubt whip one up that teaches all three, should the need arise, but unfortunately this case in Florida ended with the kids being stuck with nothing but science.

I've never seen the Flying Spaghetti Monster's noodly appendage, but I know it's there and is just as real as the hand of God. Let us pray with all the power of the spiciest meatball that Flying Spaghetti Monsterism gets its fair shake in our shaky education system that is closed-minded enough to consider only two possibilities.

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