Thursday, December 29, 2005

Letter To The Editor of SciAm

In the editor's blog of Scientific American's website, the editor John Rennie wrote an article about how he feels the Flying Spaghetti Monster is too antagonistic towards the religious, and thus sets back the goals of scientists in relation to evolution. At the end of his article, he invites letters of disagreement. Here's mine:

Mr. Rennie,

You asked at the end of your FSM article if you were wrong, and I have to say that, at a basic level, you're not. FSM and the Darwin Fish ARE antagonistic to the religious. They always will be, because they say that there are those out there that believe differently. The religious, at least not the brand grown down here in the South, don't care about evolution. They literally don't care what the evidence is. You have to thrust it into their faces aggressively for them to even notice the fact that there might be a different idea out there. And being told that you are potentially wrong about something, like the origin of man, is never an easy pill to swallow. Tack on the existance and final disposition of one's soul, and pretty much all reasonable responses go out the window.

For instance, I make no bones about being an atheist myself. My lab partner at work told me the other day that in her entire twenty-nine years of life, I'm the first openly atheist person she's ever met. This is a college graduate from South Carolina, and she's never met an atheist before me. She has a biology degree and only had evolution mentioned to her in passing during one of her core classes. Let me reiterate. She has a biology degree and doesn't understand evolution, much less know about the bulk of evidence that supports it. She also intimated to me that I shouldn't tell other people about my atheism, because it's none of anyone else's business. Of course, when the breaktime talk gets around to church-related stuff, she's right in the middle of it.

So, you see, there's a very obvious double standard here. It's a veritable "separate but equal" situation, without the "equal" part. Somehow, I don't think you would advocate toning down the symbols of African American pride in this country. Don't ask atheists to tone down their own symbology. Because I'm an atheist, I'm supposed to keep my big mouth shut about my beliefs. And those include evolution. Atheists and evolution go hand in hand. Evolution does not automatically cause atheism, but most atheists are solidly behind evolution, as am I. I refuse to hide those facts, and if FSM, the Darwin Fish or even a t-shirt with Darwin's picture on it can help to spread the word, then I'm all for it. Because the church-goers already run the country. The fundamentalists set policy for the church-goers, whether anyone admits to that or not. I would advocate for larger symbols if I could. Evolution needs it's own Martin Luther King and it's own Malcolm X. Dawkins and Myers don't even come close to being that controversial. They stir up more buzz within the scientific community than they ever will outside of it. I'd love to see them, and the rest of us, do more, not less, to further evolution education in this country. The United States is the largest Western country in the world, and we produce the fewest scientists, per capita. The United States is the most religious Western country in the world, and I don't think those two facts are unrelated. Scientists are sneered at and looked down upon in certain segments of this country.

Put in that light, I just don't see the Darwin Fish or the Flying Spaghetti Monster as all that antagonistic. They don't go nearly far enough.

Revolvo Inritus

I wonder if he'll respond.


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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu