Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Today's wingnut and Freddy the Pig

The wingnut of today has something in common with Freddy the Pig. For those who don’t know Freddy, he was the creation of Walter R. Brooks, the property of Mr. Bean (the farmer, not the moron), spoke American English just like the rest of the animals on the Bean farm, was a detective with much more appeal than Lord Peter Whimsey, and was the hero of more than two dozen books.

In addition to the fine qualities mentioned, Freddy was also a writer. He would spend time in a shed equipped with a desk and typewriter and, when in need of inspiration, he would gaze out the window. The window was always dusty and its glass a bit wavy, lending a surreal appearance to whatever outside activity Freddy could see. Freddy never cleaned that window; indeed, he preferred it that way, making the mundane appear somehow mysterious, more interesting, more inspirational.

When I was a lad reading Freddy the Pig books, this description seemed just as one would expect for a poet and a writer. I did not realize how more generally applicable it was because I never thought that there are some people who always prefer fuzzy, mysterious, magical appearances over the explainable and substantive. But now I look around me and I see people who have seen alien spacecraft, people who wiggle a stick and determine where ground water flows, people who are aware of incredibly complex conspiracies, and people who are convinced that modern biodiversity was “poofed” into place. These people view the universe through a dusty, wavy window pane and prefer the fanciful images they perceive over the down-to-Earth, real objects that are out in the world. Imagination and inspiration are wonderful (some might even say divine) things and they spark creativity, which is one of the attributes that makes us human. Unfortunately, some people don’t realize when it’s important to recognize things for what they really are and not some fantasia.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Dover voters chuck anti-science school board

The great news from Dover, Pennsylvania, is that the eight incumbent school board members (all Republicans), and all in favor of teaching mystical claptrap as science, were all given the boot in yesterday's election. The winners (also Republicans, but running as Democrats) have indicated that they believe Intelligent Design Creationism should be taught, but as part of an elective philosophy class and not as science.

The incumbents lost because of their own bad behavior. They tried to sneak religious prosyletizing into science class, and thought they could cover up their motivations. Eleven parents sued the board (for favoring a particular religious point of view) and the trial has just finished--Judge John E. Jones III will reveal his verdict around January). The attempted coverup led to inconsistencies in sworn testimony (what some people might call "lying" or "perjury") as well as all manner of well-deserved ridicule being hurled at the school board, its supporters, and the witnesses called in its defense. The board members brought shame, ridicule, and wasted expense to Dover because of their adventure in ignorance.