Writing on the Double Yellow Line

Militant moderate, unwilling to concede any longer the terms of debate to the strident ideologues on the fringe. If you are a Democrat or a Republican, you're an ideologue. If you're a "moderate" who votes a nearly straight party-ticket, you're still an ideologue, but you at least have the decency to be ashamed of your ideology. ...and you're lying in the meantime.

Location: Illinois, United States

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Fundamental Differences

Fundamental Differences
– or –
Praise God and Pass the Ballots
© 2005 Ross Williams

I'm reading a news article this morning.[1] The University of Kansas has a Religious Studies[2] professor who wanted to teach a class on the "mythology" of christian fundamentalist notions of Creationism and the new-fangled "creationism in sheep's clothing" – Intelligent Design. Kansas has a state school board that continually gets hijacked by fundamentalist christians and wants to eliminate science classes in Kansas public schools and teach religion instead. So this Religious Studies prof at KU – who would seem to not be too devoted to his subject – wanted to give a "nice slap“ in the “big fat face" of his state’s fundamentalists.

I'm typically leery of college perfessors; they tend to be smart people with few brains and an overriding need to redefine the world in theoretical abstractions such that the center of this new world becomes the college perfessor.[3] And the Religious Studies prof in question seems to display some of that talent himself. But only some.

Paul Mirecki apparently thinks what I do about Creationism and "ID". Anti-science masquerading as academic inquiry. A huge leap down the road to intellectual incompetence, and thereupon to economic irrelevance. Teaching a course outlining the historical disputes at the boundary between science and religion has value. Science has always won; always. Religion has always had to retreat. The religious usurpers of Science ought to be reminded of exactly how many times they’ve lost, and the soft-headed dinks who think it is “fair” to include Intelligent Design in the curriculum need to be apprised of Religion’s 0-for-Eternity won-loss record.

Olympus is just another mountain in Greece, and has no resident Immortals spinning webs and siring tragic heroes and other genetic abominations. Thunder is the shock wave caused by static discharges ripping the atmosphere at supersonic speeds, and not the hammer of Thor pealing in Valhalla. Diseases are caused by bacteria, and not evil spirits, in the blood; you don't get rid of the disease by getting rid of the blood, you get rid of the disease by getting rid of the bacteria in the blood.

Generally speaking, the judeo-christian view of our cosmological origins is an adequate outline. A template. An allegorical-metaphorical synopsis. If you were creating Existence from the bottom up, how would you do it? First, you'd create the universe, then you'd create stars, then planets, then oceans, then atmosphere, then plants, then fishes in the oceans, then birds in the air, then creatures that walk on the land ... and if you were seriously into intelligent design, you'd finally design an intelligent creature. Pretty much as the first chapter of Genesis says[4] – absent the understandable geocentrism ... and the presumption that Man is, in general, intelligent.

Anyone who's ever looked at any "Executive Overview" – such as Genesis – knows, it isn't a detailed blueprint or a design document. To mistake it for one is to use a sales brochure from the auto showroom as a repair manual. It's fine only if you aren't trying to make any repairs.

Creationism and Intelligent Design are just such an exercise. It's non-scientists attempting to explain science in Crayola terms – and not even the 64-box. They are using the 8-box. The fat crayons for little hands. It's just too complicated to figure out, so we shouldn't try...

If Professor Mirecki wants to teach a course on the boundaries between science and religion, it'd be a worthwhile project. But it would need to be done objectively, and civilly. And not as an attempt to put "fundies" in their place, or give them a "nice slap in their big fat face."

Here's a hint to the good Professor: a person's religion is like his wife; it is beautiful and sacred and beyond gratuitous insult. It is never a good idea to slap anybody in their face, big, fat, or otherwise, for believing something you don't or that is objectively false, or calling him names for it. You don't change minds; you only breed resentment. Resentment tends to come out in socially unacceptable ways.

Such as getting beaten along the side of the road by persons you gratuitously insulted.

I am happy to hear that Paul Mirecki apologized for being a putz and insulting christian fundamentalist unnecessarily, and I'm sorry to hear he was waylaid by ruffians. I'm also sorry to hear that his class won't be given – it is a worthwhile project.

Considering that this perennial grievance against christian fundamentalism is still occurring in this post-9-11 world, and considering that there hasn't been any real comparative analysis between various religions' fundamentalisms, I think it's time to start. The religions with the most renowned fundamentalists are christianity and islam.

Fundamentalist christians tend to be judgmental. Some are extremely so. They clearly delineate between right and wrong, between moral and immoral. Their world is black and white.

Fundamentalist muslims tend to be judgmental. Some are extremely so. They clearly delineate between right and wrong, between moral and immoral. Their world is black and white.

Fundamentalist christians call the people who do wrong or immoral things names. The names they use are "secularist", "humanist", "atheist", "liberal".

Fundamentalist muslims call the people who do wrong or immoral things names. The names they use are "zionist", "infidel", "western", "America".

Fundamentalist christians tend to act on their judgmentalism. What they do most often is preach on television for hurricanes to hit godless cities, organize boycotts of television shows, theme parks or department stores that advertise with "Happy Holidays" rather than "Merry Christmas". They also get politically active against gay rights and abortion, and in favor of Intelligent Design school boards. They badger women who want abortions. Once in a while a fundamentalist christian will bomb an abortion clinic or kill an abortion doctor. There may be as many as a dozen who have done this, and the rest of them are usually aghast.

Fundamentalist muslims also tend to act on their judgmentalism. What they do most often is preach on Middle Eastern television for death to Israel and America, organize recruitment campaigns for muslims who will do so, and strap the C4 to his chest so he can. They bomb buses and schools and sidewalk cafes, burn cars, hijack planes, kidnap people and cut off their heads. They also get politically active against homosexuals and women, not merely their rights, and kill those who violate the fundamentalist muslim religious dogma. Thousands have done these, thousands more are lining up to follow, and the remaining millions are cheering.

As far as fundamentalism goes, the christian variety is awful namby-pamby. A lot of what it stands for is not an objective truth, but a metaphysical belief, and what it does about those metaphysical beliefs in our temporal reality is – let's be honest – a whole lotta whining and carping and political maneuvering. Not, in fact, very different from their ideological opponents, the secular humanist atheist liberals they love to hate.

The muslim version of fundamentalism, on the other hand, and with its own metaphysical beliefs which defy objective proof, does its own share of whining and carping and political maneuvering, but is a bit more hands on. Hands on and heads off. ...and limbs scattered...

To the Holy Roller Reverend, "stoned" is the indication of immorality, and ends up as the topic for a sermon condemning liberal hyper-tolerance. To the Grand Mullahs of Sharia, "stoned" is the cure for immorality, and is its own end, without the sermon. Or even a trial.

It’s understandable that one would want to be free from both of these rigid ideologies. But that’s not realistic. Ideological absolutism is a natural phenomenon within human societies; some people are always willing to go to extremes to tout their own ideas, toot their own horns, beat their own drums. In a relatively free society, opposing absolutisms tend to spring up together. Opposites attract. Or, as Isaac Newton might have said if he were a sociologist instead of a physicist, "Every -ism has an equal and opposite -ism."

If you are a secular humanist atheist liberal carping and whining nonstop about the extremist christian fundamentalists, then it would seem that you are the equal-n-opposite extremist – effectively, the secular humanist atheist liberal you are viewed as. If you think secular humanist atheist liberals are extreme, then it would seem that so are you in reverse. That's pretty much the way it works. The great conservative gasbag anti-icon of Rush Limbaugh wasn't created in a vacuum. He was a response to something.

Frankly, I'd take fundamentalist christianity over fundamentalist islam any day of the week, and twice on the sabbath. And since we're going to be subject to extremist -isms anyway, it is, in a very real sense, a choice between them.

Would you rather have religious fundamentalism that goes on television and whimpers about South American banana republicans, and nags school boards, and boycotts "Happy Holidays", and badgers pregnant women, and scolds dissenters? or would you rather have the religious fundamentalism that preaches death in the pulpit, and blows up your kids' school, and bombs your favorite cafes, and stones adulterous women pregnant or otherwise, and beheads infidels?

We got it lucky in this country, and I don't think there's many of us who understand that. Too many of us are grousing about how hard we have it because fundamentalists have targeted our school district for school board-packing. These bozos can be defeated by ballots; so vote. Other fundamentalists can only be defeated by bullets, because they don't allow votes.

Better the devil you know.

[1] http://www.foxnews.com/story/0,2933,177793,00.html
[2] People often believe things that cannot be proven; we call some of these beliefs “religion”. Test tomorrow.
[3] Why else would they continually republish their textbooks and require next semester's students to buy the 47th Edition? If the first 46 were so wrong that they are unusable, wouldn't that tend to indict the professor as a poor scholar?
[4] And in just about as many words.


Blogger Jason said...

I could be loosely descibed as a secular-humanist atheist liberal, except that most secular humanists creep me out. And liberal's a little dicey - one needs to distinguish better social and economic with these things. Atheist? Absolutely.

How is this extreme? Or fundamentalist? Since there's no actual reason to believe in a god in the first place, there is nothing extreme in not having that belief. It is just downright logical.

I have concerns regarding fundamental *anything* entering the schools system because one day my kids will be in that school system and I don't want an kid of mine to be taught that evolution and creationism are on par with each other.

Basically, though, excellent article. I'll also take the fundamentalists we have over their guys...I'd just rather have neither.

January 06, 2006 1:50 PM  
Blogger rwilymz said...

How is this extreme, you ask?

Extremism, like so much else, is in the eye of the beholder. You don't believe you're "extreme". Big hairy deal. Neither does the fundamentalist christian. Yet you believe he is.

And surprise of surprises!! He believes you are as well.

The magic of perception at work.

The fundamentalist muslim doesn't believe he's extreme, either. Yet we self-righteously presuppose ourselves to know better.

Who's right? In the end, the one who wins is right. Might does make right.

...unless it doesn't, of course. But then I'd strongly suggest that if you don't want "might" to make "right" that you get down off your high horse and urge everyone around you who shares your beliefs to get down off theirs as well and stop making your community a battleground for either-or reality.

Cooperation is supposed to mean significantly more than "you do what I want the way I want it". Because if all parties are attempting to "cooperate" in that manner, you have -- for example -- the perpetual Kansas School Board two-step, and the Dover Area "intelligent design" fiasco, and the whole generalized prayer in school shinola, abortion, gun control, and ... the War in Iraq.

Funny how so many people can conceive of cooperation for "diplomatic solutions" on international issues without them having a real direct stake in the outcome, yet when the subject becomes cooperating on a local issue that affects their taxes, their roads, their schools or their children, they toss out their theoretical ideals and reinstitute age-old dictatorial prerogative.

And then they whine when their ideological opponents do the same.

Funny, also, that the ideological opponents are invariably the ones not being fair or objective about it, too.

Yeah, funny how that works...

February 21, 2007 11:14 AM  

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