By John Aloysius Farrell, Thomas Jefferson Street blog
Lest we think, as we celebrate the anniversary of the Scopes Monkey Trial, that the forces of ignorance and superstition have been thoroughly vanquished on the issue of evolution, news arrives from Texas, where its loony secessionist governor has appointed a flat-earth type to chair the state board of education.
It could have been worse. Gail Lowe is not quite so zealous as a rival candidate, Cynthia Dunbar, who believes that "intelligent design"—i.e. religion—should be taught in public school biology classes. Nor is she as bad as Don McLeroy, a creationist whose appointment for another term as chairman was rejected by the state Senate.
Lowe is a trimmer. She is not as outspoken as Dunbar or McLeroy, though she often voted with them in a bloc of seven social conservatives. She apparently believes that there is scientific evidence to support the notion that a supernatural Supreme Being created Man and Earth, and wants this weighed equally with Darwin's theory of evolution, which she finds inherently flawed. She told Texas Monthly that she and other creationist sympathizers "don't believe evolution ought to be taught as a fact."
Which is sad, as it contributes to the general dumbing down of our nation. And it is a bit scary, for those whose kids attend public schools in other states, in that textbook publishers tend to ponder the huge Texas market when they edit their biology texts.
For a good (if painful) laugh about creationism and other bits of American lunacy, try our pal Charles Pierce's new book Idiot America. It's a funny, sly version of an argument made recently by Al Gore in The Assault on Reason, and by the brilliant Susan Jacoby in The Age of American Unreason.
Pierce opens with a tour of the Creation Museum in Kentucky, where dinosaurs are depicted, living Flintstone style (some of them have saddles!) in Eden, and being taken on Noah's Ark, two by two, T-Rex and Raptor and the rest, with the other animals and Noah's family.
But Pierce makes some serious points amid the craziness, in these days when so many people believe—because they saw it on the Internet—that cell phones can pop popcorn, or that President Obama wasn't born in the United States.
"The rise of Idiot America... is essentially a war on expertise," writes Pierce. It "reflects—for profit, mainly, but also, and more cynically, for political advantage ... the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good."
In Idiot America, the years of study and hard-won wisdom of a scientist "carry no more weight on the subject of biology than do the thunderations of some turkeyneck preacher out of the Church of Christ's Own Parking Structure in DeLand, Florida," Pierce writes. "Less weight, in fact, because the scientist is an 'expert' and therefore, an 'elitist.'"
It would be funnier, if Pierce wasn't so right.
Yabba Dabba Do.