Sunday, June 12, 2005

The Yellow Brick Road

The US state of Kansas has a reputation for being flat. In fact, it has been scientifically proven that Kansas is flatter than a pancake. After examination of NASA topographical maps of Kansas and laser microscope observations of test pancakes from an International House of Pancakes restaurant, it was determined that there is less relative difference in the high points and low points of Kansas than there is in a typical pancake. But, historically, Kansas has experienced significant differences between high points and low points. Its low point probably occurred before the US Civil War when the state was known as ‘Bloody Kansas’ and pro-slavery and anti-slavery residents battled each other. Its high point might have been being selected as the scene of Dorothy’s farmhouse in L. Frank Baum’s famous story, ‘The Wizard of Oz’.

In 1900, the big political battle was about whether the United States should remain on the gold standard or move to a currency based on a combination of gold and silver. Baum was a passionate ‘silver’ man and he wrote his story to show the dangers of gold. ‘Oz’, the name of the false wizard is, after all, the standard measure of the weight of gold. But that dispute is long over and the historical highpoint it produced for Kansas has been somewhat eroded. Of course, new interest might be revived in The Wizard of Oz. After all, Dorothy was probably on a heavy mix of Mexicali Mushrooms and Columbian Marching Powder when she imagined the whole thing. The Scarecrow could have been the illegitimate child of the Wicked Witch and the Cowardly Lion after a BDSM night gone horribly wrong. The Tin Man could feature in a safe-sex commercial.

What Kansas really needs is to be at the centre of a new big political battle. In an ingenious strategy to make their state more interesting than the topographical surface of the average pancake, some residents of Kansas have decided to go to court to force state schools to include the Intelligent Design concept as well as Evolution in the school science syllabus. Their point is that since the world is so complex it must have been designed by God. They use reasoned and balanced arguments to buttress their position. Mr John James argued that teaching evolution ‘leads to nihilism and the gates of Auschwitz’. ‘Are we producing little Kansas Nazis?’ he asked. Mr James’ logic could use a bit of intelligent design but he is obviously serious about his point. The pro-evolutionists are equally fervent in their stand. ‘They are trying to create a climate where anything an individual teacher wants to include in science class can be considered science,’ said Harry McDonald, a retired biology teacher and president of Kansas Citizens for Science Education. ‘They want to redefine science.’ (Students in Kansas are not convinced by this argument. They would actually like science to be redefined - as basketball, listening to iPod tunes and snogging in the bed of the family pickup truck.)

This is becoming a very nasty battle. Either there is no ultimate being involved in any of this or there is a God who designed the whole thing. The battle lines are drawn: either scientific reason or divine inspiration must be correct. There seems to be no compromise possible in Kansas. On the other hand, perhaps another Bloody Kansas can be avoided. Perhaps our world is not the result of a scientific process called Evolution. Perhaps the Deity is not responsible for everything. If science did not do it and God did not do it…perhaps the Wizard did it!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your columns are always funny and yet have an edgy quality. Very enjoyable!
Kitty Teltscher, London

12:28 PM  
Blogger Whymrhymer said...

"The pro-evolutionists are equally fervent in their stand. ‘They are trying to create a climate where anything an individual teacher wants to include in science class can be considered science."

Wow! What a revolutionary concept!

Great post!

Did you make that up about L. Frank Baum and the Gold standard?

9:18 PM  
Blogger Abby Taylor said...

Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain.

12:27 AM  
Blogger carrie said...


7:20 PM  
Blogger Zack Brown said...

Please come visit The Big Red Blog: A Political Road Sign Transcending State and Party Lines.

11:56 PM  
Blogger birdwoman said...

You should have called this Goodbye YellowBrick Road - in honor of my Elton John post...

this is one of those topics that gets my goat (maaaah), and I find it hard to laugh at it. So, a tangential funny:

did you hear about the dyslexic agnostic insomniac? Stayed up at night wondering if there was a Dog.


3:10 PM  
Blogger Ken Grandlund said...

Ahhhhh, sweet Kansas. Such dulcet tones. Such flowing manes. Such screaming riffs. (Oops- I'm actually referring to the 70's rock band Kansas and their hit song "Carry On Wayward Son.)

Yes, Kansas, land of the current science-religious debate. Once again asking reasonable and unreasonable minds alike to gnash teeth and stand with hands in the air in search of a compromised position.

Surely the god of the world (?) has already scripted this act, knows the outcome, and just enjoys the show. (If this is true, the ID folks may have some claim to accuracy.) Or perhaps not. Could be a case of irreconcilable differences in which case science can be taught in the science class, religion in the religion class, and throw in an elective or two about mixing the two together.

Another good post.

1:10 AM  

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