Barry Price

Linux sysadmin in Bangkok, Thailand

Religion Etc

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Most people who know me are well aware of my beliefs (or lack thereof) concerning religion.

For those who don’t, Douglas Adams described himself as a “radical atheist”, which seems to fit my own approach quite nicely:

I think I use the term radical rather loosely, just for emphasis. If you describe yourself as “Atheist,” some people will say, “Don’t you mean ‘Agnostic’?” I have to reply that I really do mean Atheist. I really do not believe that there is a god - in fact I am convinced that there is not a god (a subtle difference). I see not a shred of evidence to suggest that there is one. It’s easier to say that I am a radical Atheist, just to signal that I really mean it, have thought about it a great deal, and that it’s an opinion I hold seriously. It’s funny how many people are genuinely surprised to hear a view expressed so strongly. In England we seem to have drifted from vague wishy-washy Anglicanism to vague wishy-washy Agnosticism - both of which I think betoken a desire not to have to think about things too much. #

Recently, it has been suggesting that Intelligent Design should be taught alongside evolutionary theory in the science classrooms of American schools. Alarmingly, this suggestion is being seriously considered - not least by the Kansas School Board.

The argument goes something like: “since evolution is only a theory, the school system should be teaching alternative explanations as well”. All well and good, except that gravity is also technically a theory - should it therefore be taught alongside the “theory” of Intelligent Falling? Where the approach falls down, at least for me, is the postulation that since evolution cannot be categorically proved to the creationists’ liking, the only acceptable alternative must be “Intelligent Design”.

Adams said this - on a slightly different subject, but relevant:

I don’t accept the currently fashionable assertion that any view is automatically as worthy of respect as any equal and opposite view. My view is that the moon is made of rock. If someone says to me “Well, you haven’t been there, have you? You haven’t seen it for yourself, so my view that it is made of Norwegian Beaver Cheese is equally valid… - then I can’t even be bothered to argue. There is such a thing as the burden of proof, and in the case of god, as in the case of the composition of the moon, this has shifted radically. God used to be the best explanation we’d got, and we’ve now got vastly better ones. God is no longer an explanation of anything, but has instead become something that would itself need an insurmountable amount of explaining. So I don’t think that being convinced that there is no god is as irrational or arrogant a point of view as belief that there is. I don’t think the matter calls for even-handedness at all.

Bobby Henderson has founded his own satirical religion - The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, and has written an Open Letter to the Kansas School Board:

I am writing you with much concern after having read of your hearing to decide whether the alternative theory of Intelligent Design should be taught along with the theory of Evolution. I think we can all agree that it is important for students to hear multiple viewpoints so they can choose for themselves the theory that makes the most sense to them. I am concerned, however, that students will only hear one theory of Intelligent Design.

Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him.

It is for this reason that I’m writing you today, to formally request that this alternative theory be taught in your schools, along with the other two theories. In fact, I will go so far as to say, if you do not agree to do this, we will be forced to proceed with legal action. I’m sure you see where we are coming from. If the Intelligent Design theory is not based on faith, but instead another scientific theory, as is claimed, then you must also allow our theory to be taught, as it is also based on science, not on faith.

Which brings to mind yet another favourite quote:

“I contend we are both atheists, I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.” -Stephen F Roberts

Wikipedia points out that:

Though not all ID proponents are theistic or motivated by religious fervor, the majority of the principal ID advocates (including Michael Behe, William Dembski, Jonathan Wells, and Stephen C. Meyer) are Christians and have stated that in their view the designer of life is clearly God. #

The story should surely now come have a sensible and happy ending - the creationists have painted themselves into a corner by separating their Intelligent Design argument from Christianity, and therefore surely can’t insist on Christian creationism being taught in schools without embracing Islam, Buddhism, Sikhism, Judaism, Flying Spaghetti Monsterism etc, which largely negates the whole point of trying to force Christian indoctrination into the classroom in the first place.

However, stranger things have happened, and according to responses from members of the Kansas School Board on Bobby Henderson’s site, those supporting bringing ID into the science classroom are still in the majority‚Ķ