Monday, August 08, 2005

more...heaven and earth...your philosophy...blahdy blah, Horatio



"Alice laughed: "There's no use trying," she said; "one can't believe impossible things."
"I daresay you haven't had much practice," said the Queen. "When I was younger, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I've believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast."

 
I have of late, but wherefore I know not, experienced much uncharitable schadenfreude at the explosive displays of outrage in the blogosphere, all focussed on U.S president George Bush's off-the-cuff comments about "Intelligent Design." It's been an absolutely hilarious week – within my narrow web wanderings, I particularly love these reactions from Al Swearengen and Kung-fu Monkey.
 
When he's not representing a dire threat to the known world, Bush is just so fucking entertaining.
 
Alas, the discovery that city schools could be front for evangelists shattered my mirthful exo-skeleton, leaving me thrashing in a puddle of frustrated tears.
 
Almost half the Government's planned new flagship city schools are sponsored by religious organisations, prompting fears that the programme could become a 'Trojan horse' for radical evangelicals.

The next wave of privately-funded City Academies includes at least one school planning to teach children creationism - the doctrine that the earth was created by God and that the Darwinian model accepted by scientists is therefore wrong.

Holy crap. Western civilization wants to know: who turned out the lights?
 
However, after I remembered that evolution has granted us the mental ability to overcome the stimulus-response imperative, I reconsidered my reaction. Does this development really presage the collapse of our way of life? Of course not. Does it herald the birth of a new evangelism? I doubt it. This is not about indoctrination. What it offers is the chance for children to embrace and evolve contradictory world-views - evolution is a process that advances over millions of years from protozoic mollusks to life as we know it, AND the world was created 6,000 years ago through the grace of God's utterances - and thus widen their capacity to experience awe and wonder.
 
Some of the greatest minds in history have belonged to people who were capable of assimilating contradiction. The seventeenth century Fellows of the Royal Society didn't renounce their God or burn their bibles just because some of their discoveries indicated that they would be wise by our standards to do just that. Their devotion to the word of God can hardly be said to have kept them mired in ignorance.
 
It looks to me that the only winners in this debacle will be our kids' imaginations. Inquiring minds will still enquire, their pursuits no doubt enriched by their broad-spectrum secular/devotional education. Closed minds…well, it's the lesser of two evils isn't it? Would you rather live in a society of devout rationalists or unforgiving fundamentalists?
 
Chesterton would disagree, but any good chaos magician will tell you that a more valuable skill than believing in one thing, is believing in everything. Not on different days of the week, but all at once. Such is the way to true enlightenment, my friends.
 
As with any point in history, this is a great, great time to be alive.
 
Writing this evoked memories of: Daemonic Reality and The Diamond Age.
 
Category: don't appear to have one for this; must rethink my taxonomy

UPDATE: I have rethought things, and this is:

Category: Newsround

2 comments:

  1. Man, I love Neal Town Stephenson. Have you ever read the Cryptonomicron? Essential reading.

    A decent analysis of the ID debate, and thoughtful quote!

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  2. Cryptonomicon is a huge favourite of mine, but I think he outdid everything with the Baroque Sequence. Those books have seen some slack from certain reviewers, but I think they're just brilliant.

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