|Antediluvian cousins: Don in front|
I was thinking about my cousin Don the other day, and wondering what he was doing. I was hoping it wasn’t the dog-paddle. Don lives in Minot, North Dakota, where the Mouse River has been over-expressing itself of late. It’s not a really big river, but it doesn’t have to be to cause trouble, because it runs through really flat terrain. Any water that breaches the banks will flow wide and far. There is some variation in elevation in Minot, but a lot of it is caused by moles, and I don’t know the town well enough to know if Don’s house is built on a molehill.
Obviously it isn’t completely flat there, because otherwise there wouldn’t be a river. It would just be a sea. That’s what used to be in North Dakota, a big inland sea. We know that for a fact because of the work of scientists in the fields of geology and paleontology. Discovering things like the origins of our topography allows us to have topography of our own. Everything we learn builds on everything else we learn and directs what we might learn next, until our knowledge accretes in hills and ridges and uplifts and moraines from which we can see splendidly. It’s a beauty and a joy.
Looked at that way, and only that way, the contestants in the last Miss USA pageant are really flat. Each was asked the same simple question: should evolution be taught in our schools? And nearly every aspiring queen had the same answer. Only two betrayed the slightest familiarity with science. They reacted as though the interviewer had farted in church, then regained their poise and merrily allowed that maybe evolution should be taught “too,” so that children have a chance to learn “both sides” and decide for themselves what to believe. This is a land of freedom, and every child should have the opportunity to conclude that she is living on a five-thousand-year-old landscape the shape of a dinnerplate under a whirl of spinning stars that have a say in her love life, if that’s what she wants to believe. God bless America!
Meanwhile the Mouse floods like it’s never flooded before, tornadoes strafe the prairies and speculate into New England, islands sink and glaciers die and vintners prospect for land in the Yukon, all of which was accurately foreseen by scientists from the high ridges of their own hard-won education, and nothing can be done about any of it because a small number of powerful people have enough money to buy a controversy where none exists. And when years of deliberate miseducation have flattened out our population, a little stupid can flow wide and far.
Excellent post. I read about this a year or two ago — about 90 million years ago there was a vast shallow sea between the Rockies and the Appalachians, covering most of the part of the country where, today, so many people believe that nothing is more than 6,000 years old. Hence the fossils of ancient sea creatures found all over the area.
Reality is so much more interesting than the tiny, limited, dull universe (and tiny, limited, dull God) of the fundie mind.
As for global-warming denialism, it will eventually become untenable as the weather gets increasingly out of whack. As you say, the fake controversy over climate change persists because it's well-funded by people who have a strong economic interest in doing so. Decades ago the tobacco industry did the same thing with fake science denying the health hazards of smoking, and it worked for a while, but not many people still buy into that form of delialism today.
I once taught in a religious school and had to teach biology backwards, starting with humans so no one would even see the patterns that led to the theory of evolution.
And when our school children can't tell fact from opinion and grow up never learning the difference, and when we live in a society of instant gratification and learn to look out for number one and never learn to respect the earth, we get the mess we have today.
Aw c'mon. Those contestants were not flat.
But…but…but….evolution is just a THEORY. (Does this bikini make my brain look small?)
First, let me just say that cousin Don looks like the kind of boy who I would have wanted to be the first boy I ever kissed. And, is that Grandma behind you?
Second, damn, you're good. You can say more with a few well-used and well-placed words than a thousand other folks with a thousand words. Your last sentence here is a perfect conclusion to the impending mess we'll be in if the tide doesn't turn. And soon. Time's a wastin' and it seems stupid is already starting to flow.
Thank you for saying all the things that need to be said.
And thank you for making me laugh despite the mess we're in.
It's so much easier to debate than fix. And the greater the culpability, the more urgent the need for denial.
Although South Africa happily embraces global warming, for years the government denied the link between HIV and AIDS (it's not been proven!). Why? South Africa had the highest proportion of HIV positive people in the world.
I kept thinking you were going to make some comment about the "flat" contestants, too (AnvilCloud beat me to it). And Teresa is so right about your ability with words. And humor. How can you make me smile at something so dire? But you do.
Most of the religious people I know (particularly Christians) embrace evolution. But then, I live in Canada. In fact, I don't know anybody who believes we are "living on a five-thousand-year-old landscape the shape of a dinner plate."
But maybe that's an accident of geography. Or something.
Vineyards in the Yukon — sounds like a bit of a stretch. The rest of the changes I understand. Like the loss of permafrost across the Arctic, which is now well-documented.
I'm much in favor of topography. Have never been to North Dakota but have visited South Florida and observed that a twenty foot tidalwave would roll right across the entire state. Intellectual topography is also important. We need the peaks like Steve Hawkings to attract the lightning bolts. And we need the dips, like the creationists, to channel off the effluvia. I feel myself to be a verdant valley in the Cascades.
A little stupid can go a long way and many years, at least as long as the earth survives the humans.
You're kidding about the Miss USA pageant, right? And who are all those starving girls up there standing around in their underwear, anyway?
I am not kidding: take a look. Oh Roxie, I only wish they were channeling off the effluvia, but all I see is a flat, stagnant quagmire. I like the idea though: "if you could be any kind of topography, what would you be?" (I hear Baba Wawa's voice.)
Another good post, Murr. I'm afraid it wont cut much ice here right now…we're snowed under with Carbon Tax. Oh, yes! Also with phone-hacking scandals.
Good grief on many fronts; flooding, America in general, and pageants in particular; my heart goes out to those affected by the water.
As for the pageant, what an back-asswards question. Should EVOLUTION be taught in schools? Yes, in Science classes; it's SCIENCE. This question positions Science as the interloper.
The question *could* have been, "should Creationism and/or Intelligent Design be taught in schools?" Again, yes, in Religion classes; it's one of many RELIGIOUS BELIEFS, like Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and so on.
But I'd liked to have seen them ask "should Creationism and/or Intelligent Design be taught in Science classes?". THAT is the controversial question, not the one they asked.
Tho I imagine they'd get the same hedgy, bland answers.
Ok, rant over, sorry for the column inches! Indigo
The correct answer to the Miss America question is "World Peace." But what I really love are the people that believe that scientists have spent their entire lives planting fake fossils all over the freaking world just to prove evolution. I'm with Roxie, effluvia for brains.
Okay, back to writing my sermon on the Rapture. Don't get my started….
Oh Anvilcloud and DJan, while Murr does enjoy jokes that wallop us on the head like a frying pan, she'll also go for the subtle, tricksy humor. Reread that sentence, and in addition to that surprising last word, you'll see the nod you were looking for between the commas: "Looked at that way, and only that way, the contestants in the last Miss USA pageant are really flat. "
I'm still admiring how she wanders from cousin and moles to science and Miss America, and ends with a beautiful sentence that ties it all up and leaves me pounding the table in agreement.
What Indigo said. Religion should be taught in schools, but not in science class. It really doesn't matter, because it's too late. Mother's pissed and we ain't seen nothing yet.
We started watching the video and I turned it off after the fifth girl. Too disheartening. If I'd listened to all of them I'd probably have been suicidal.
I went to school with a lot of pretty fundamental types as a redneck kid in central Florida, and a lot of them didn't believe in evolution either, but at least they had enough education to understand the basics of what they were against. I've thought for some years that the dumbing down of our educational system was intentional, and nothing I'm seeing at the dawn of the 21st Century is even close to changing my mind.
It's the nation equivalent of "barefoot, pregnant and in the kitchen."
When I was a little girl, I had a collection of all the seashells I found up in the hills behind our house. We were 80 miles from any beach and the seashells were blanched white from centuries of sun, but there they were, and very useful hands-on education for me too. An interest in the world around us can help with ignorance — pity it can't wash away all those oceans of stupid.
The ability to inject humor with real wisdom is rarely found. You've got a huge case of it and this post is one of the better of many excellent examples. I'm awed.
(Anyone who thinks scientists could conspire together in groups as large as two or three, in order to, say, conceal the theft of a cookie, has not met many scientists. Scientists may have their faults, but covering up for each other is not one of them.)
The news media reports on the floods, droughts, tornadoes, melting Arctic but they will never, as in NEVER, mention a word even hinting that it might be about Global Climate Change – that's a political issue, you see, not a scientific one. They want to be "fair and balanced" like Faux News.
Hmmm, my pen just feel out of my hand and hit the floor. Could it be GRAVITY? Donno for sure, could be the "Law of Attraction" and somebody on the other side of the globe wants my pen! After all, gravity is only a theory – there may be other equally valid explanations.
Don't mind me, I'm just disgruntled cause I was eliminated during the swimsuit competition.
Oh, Robert. I slipped through swimsuit, but lost it at poise.
Took Amtrak through Minot N.D. in June on a cross country train trip from Portland to NYC. Barely made it. Water was up to the track rails. I think we were the last train on the Empire Builder route to make it to Chicago, where we changed trains. You're the best Murr.