A little while ago I was e-mailed a video which was fairly amusing from an agnostic point of view, but linked to it was another clip from a kid's show called “Circle Square.” The first video was worth a trite chuckle, however the second video gave me the willies. It's not that I have a problem with the show itself. To be honest, way too many fundamentalist children's shows have the same worrying features; the eerie flat songs and blank expressions that seem either forced or enticed. But that's not my problem with it either. After all, that might just be a budget thing inherent to small production kid's programming or lack of experience or talent on the part of the crew. No, the problem I have is with the topic: That God has all the answers.
This is a theme that is recurrent among fundamentalists no matter what religion is in question. It basically says that “my god is all powerful and all knowing”, a concept that by itself can imply tremendous things. It can intone that the deity has a plan, and that suggests order prevails in a perceptually entropic universe. But while there are implications that are positive, of course there have to be people that take it too far and use it to justify their own positions regardless of the cost.
Why we do this again and again is nearly maniacal. Like the Chinese proverb where a man walks down the same street each day and falls in the same hole, it's as if by repeating the same actions we can alter the outcome. Which is insane.
Charles Darwin published Origin of Species in 1959, and it's often neglected to mention that it wasn't a spur-of-the-moment decision. He took an incredibly long time to research, write and edit the work. However he took an incredibly ling time to publish it as well. It's frequently assumed that Darwin dropped a sudden bomb on the scientific community and the world, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many scientists of Darwin's day had similar beliefs. Darwin is simply one of them that put forth a diligent, robust, and eloquent theory. Yes, he was aware that it wasn't perfect, but scientists do not try to obtain perfection. They try to uncover data and test it's veracity.
But of course there were almost immediate nay-sayers. The Wilberforce-Huxley debate at Oxford in 1860 was indicative of that. The fundamentalists of the time did not appreciate the idea that mankind was not a singular creation of God. Nevermind the concept that in Genesis God created man after he created the animals, implying a logical progression. But that was simply a debate, not a legal argument, and in the end both sides claimed victory.
However, over the next 60 years more and more scientists had to yield to Darwin's ideas. That's another essence of what science is. One group puts forth a theory while other groups attempt a polemic; that is to say they try to poke holes in it. A theory that only winds up with a few holes and is generally accepted by scientific consensus is said to be 'robust' and it's maintained until someone can either tear a huge gash in it or until it's replaced by a better theory. But in 1925 the theory had to stand up to legal debate in the United States in the case of The State of Tennessee v. John Thomas Scopes.
Now, it's important to note here that scientific arguments are different than legal arguments and debates. Scientific arguments have the same ground rules, often based on empirical mathematics, because math is something that's hard to argue against. If a scientist discovers that by adding one sodium and one chlorine it always equals table salt, it's hard to disprove the math. Legal arguments are fairly solid, too, but they have a different set of rules that are not math based but language based. Still, language holds up fairly well over time so it's not a bad system either. But both of those fly out the window with the concept of 'debate'. Debate has rules of conduct (usually) but the arguments are based on style, not on laws. So in summary; a scientist establishes what salt is, a lawyer establishes if salt can be used in certain ways, but someone who is debating salt can make any claim that they like regardless of how silly it sounds as long as they have style.
In the 1925 trial, John Scopes was found guilty of teaching evolution (many people erroneously believe he had been exonerated) but the important thing was that it brought the concept of the separation of church and state to greater light, and in the end many states drew up a total of about 40 anti-evolution bills or riders, most of which were outright defeated. Only Mississippi and Arkansas managed to pass legislation in that regard, and even Scopes's fine was waived. Legally, the victory was minor and Pyrrhic. Scientifically, the theory of evolution marched on.
Another 40 years into the game, and the Arkansas legislation was up for another legal battle in the 1968 case of Susan Epperson, et al. v. the State of Arkansas. This actually did put the separation of church and state on trial as the argument was that it was unconstitutional for any state to tailor learning to support the 'principles or prohibitions of any religious sect or dogma.' The trial only lasted a day, and it ultimately determined that the 1928 law was contrary to the 1st amendment and in violation of the 14th. This caused an avalanche of anti-creationist cases such as Wright v. Houston School District (1972), Willoughby v. Stever (1973), Daniel v. Waters (1975), Hendren v. Campbell (1977), Segraves v. California (1981), McLean v. Arkansas (1982), Edwards v. Aguillard (1987), Webster v. New Lenox School District (1990), Bishop v. Aronov (1991), Peloza v. Capistrano School District (1994), Hellend v. South Bend School (1996), Freiler v. Tangipahoa Parish Board of Education (1997), Edwards v. University of Pennsylvania (1998), and LeVake v School District 656 (2000).
It has now been nearly 150 years since Darwin's theory, and although it is not perfect it still has very few holes (and many of the holes it did procure have been patched by new scientists with new technology such as DNA research.) But apparently, fundamentalists still do not want to give up this fight. Legally and politically, this would be the equivalent of Oregon declaring it no longer wanted to be a part of the United States. After 15 decades of successful implementation, that it never did like being part of the republic.
Which is part of what led to Bobby Henderson to protest this by forming the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster . Oddly enough, in the same year that Selman v. Cobb County and Kitzmiller v. Dover school districts suffered defeat for Creationist agendas, in 2005, the Kansas State Board of Education decided to teach Creationism under it's new facade: Intelligent Design. Although, to the credit of the state of Kansas they went back to the old definitions in 2007.
But the term Intelligent Design persists and was the topic of a movie that was written in part and starred Ben Stein. The movie Expelled was released in 2008 and claimed that the theory of evolution was responsible for communism, atheism, Planned Parenthood, and Nazis. Yes. That's right. Nazis. Because Marx and Engels started publishing in 1844 (a full 15 years before Darwin) and that Hegel was writing his philosophies at least as early as 1810, even allowing the assumption of a relation between communism and evolution, that's like saying that eBay is responsible for inventing computers. It puts the cart so far in front of the horse it becomes a joke. Atheism extends that even further, as the first Atheist philosophies started surfacing in the West in the late 1500's. And as far as the Nazi thing? Fine, maybe Hitler wrote Mein Kampf in 1925, but he bases the Nazi model on his ideal of the Teutonic order, a religious order, then misuses evolutionary theory in some very bad 'science' (that more closely resembles 'debate' – see, I told you there was an importance there) to justify his religious views.
Yet I recently picked up a copy of Ferris Bueller's Day Off (The Bueller... Bueller... edition) and once again there was Ben Stein in the commentaries. Or, I should say, two Ben Steins. One was an interview he did shortly after the movie was made in 1986. That was supplemented with material that was from an interview almost 20 years later. The 40-ish Stein praised the movie and said he loved the opportunity to work on it with the cast and crew. The 60-ish Stein was saying the same thing, with a new twist. Now it wasn't just his hard work, luck and connections that had gotten him the seconds-long spot in the movie. It was only with the help of God. He then goes on to praise the lord, even comparing the character of Ferris Bueller to Jesus Christ. If that wasn't a WTF moment then I don't know what else would be.
So what changed? Was it that Ben Stein was now getting old so he felt the need to suck up to who he felt his creator was? Who knows. As was thoroughly illustrated in NOVA's episode Judgement Day: Intelligent Design on Trial, fundamentalists notoriously hide their agendas behind creative speech. Which is what “Intelligent Design” is. The attempt to repackage Creationism by inventing new words (...you remember, legal arguments are made through words...) to try and sell the same baloney.
Why can't Creationists, Fundamentalists, or Intelligent Design advocates accept Evolution. After all, Evolution does not disprove God exists. If anything, it can substantiate him even further by saying he had the foresight to cause us to evolve from the big bang 14 billion years ago, and that we are not perfected in his eyes yet. That's much more poetic than saying someone plopped an imperfect form onto a dirtball 6000 years ago and told him to get busy. So then why not adopt a more aesthetic view? Or a view with more veracity?
Like I said, I can't be sure because fundamentalists tend to hide their agendas. But let me take an opinionated stab at it: Because someone in authority put their foot down a long time ago and they don't like the idea of being wrong. They don't want to have to revise their views so they fit in with the real world, so they would rather argue that everything else is wrong.
Maybe Ben Stein, if he did have so much respect for Ferris Bueller's Day Off, should have paid better attention to it. Ferris says in the movie: Not that I condone fascism, or any -ism for that matter. -Ism's in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, 'I don't believe in The Beatles, I just believe in me.' Good point there.
Yes, Ferris. Good point indeed.