Satirical Monsters More Competition for Darwin
Satirical Monsters More Competition for DarwinSCIENCE STANDARDS DEBATEPlan to Require Evolution To Be Taught in Schools The Flying Spaghetti Monster, or FSM, is a satirical group that pokes fun at intelligent design. It first emerged in 2005 during the debate in Kansas over whether the belief should be taught in science classes.
By John Chambliss - The Ledger - 12/11/2007 - original
The group has sent dozens of e-mails to Polk County School Board members demanding that the idea of a Flying Spaghetti Monster creating the world receive classroom equal time with other views. The e-mail campaign began after four of seven board members said in November that they supported teaching intelligent design in addition to evolution.
While the idea that a Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world lacks backing in the scientific community, the point, according to those promoting the satire, is that neither does intelligent design.
FSM dates to 2005 when Oregon State University physics graduate Bobby Henderson sent a letter to the Kansas School Board saying "there are multiple theories of intelligent design."
"I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster," Henderson wrote.
"It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel. We feel strongly that the overwhelming scientific evidence pointing towards evolutionary processes is nothing but a coincidence, put in place by Him."
Polk board members' support of intelligent design came to light after they learned the proposed science standards for Florida schools listed evolution and biological diversity as one of the "big ideas" that students need to know for a well-grounded science education.
Evolution, the theory that organic life developed and diversified through small changes over millions of years, is opposed by some evangelical Christians and Orthodox Jews who believe in a literal biblical interpretation of the Earth's creation. Intelligent design holds that living organisms are so complex that they must have been created by some kind of higher force.
E-mails to board members can be seen on the Flying Spaghetti Monster Web site at www.venganza.org.
Here's one of the e-mails:
"I agree that children should be exposed to all sides of a scientific debate, but it is my fear you may leave out a theory that is equally as valid as traditional Intelligent Design," said one.
"I am of course referring to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. I'm sure you all know that the theory of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has much greater support in the scientific community than traditional Intelligent Design. You would therefore be doing a grave disservice to the students of Polk County, and science in general, if you were to leave this ever so important theory out of your curriculum."
Most School Board members declined comment, or did not return phone messages when asked about e-mails or telephone calls from supporters or detractors of the proposed science standards.
Board member Frank O'Reilly, who supports the new science standards, said he received about 50 e-mails from FSM supporters. "It's a lot," O'Reilly said. "Most of them are from the spaghetti monster."
In an e-mail, Henderson said he can't explain the idea for the FSM.
"I tell people it was combination of lack of sleep and divine intervention," Henderson said. "But the church has evolved into what it is today."
Henderson said he put out the open letter in 2005 to the Kansas School Board as a joke and it "snowballed from there."
Now, Henderson said there are more than a million Google results for Flying Spaghetti Monster.
"No telling where we will be in 10 years, 100 years, 1,000 years," Henderson wrote. "I heard Christianity started as a joke, too ... so who knows?"
Henderson said about 95 percent of the 60,000 e-mails he's received are positive.
He keeps his home address a secret and has had a "few death threats'' that he was concerned about.
"But the majority of Christians don't have a problem with our Church," Henderson wrote. "We try to be as tolerant of their beliefs as they are of ours."
Known as Pastafarians, Flying Spaghetti Monster supporters dress up as pirates. The Web site sells shirts, iPod covers and car stickers.
Currently on the Web site, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is wearing a Santa Claus hat.
Conservative voices outside of Florida also have chimed in on the science standards debate.
CitizenLink.com, an arm of the James Dobson-led group, Focus on the Family, urged its readers to take action to include intelligent design in the classroom by e-mailing the state.
So far, at least one state board member said she will vote against the new standards. Donna Callaway said she will vote against the proposed standards because evolution "should not be taught to the exclusion of other theories of origin of life," the St. Petersburg Times reported.
The state vote, which was planned for January, will likely be in February because two public meetings about the proposed standards were added in January.
The first meeting will be Jan. 3 from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at The Schultz Center for Teaching and Leadership in Jacksonville, 4019 Boulevard Center Drive.
A second meeting will be Jan. 8 in Miramar from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Everglades High School. 17100 S.W. 48 Court.
The new standards have been praised by scientists. (To see the proposed standards go to www.flstandards.org.)
Lawrence S. Lerner, professor emeritus of physics and astronomy at California State University in Long Beach, who has examined science standards in the various states, has graded Florida's proposed standards as a B+.
Lerner, who gave the previous standards an F, said that the proposals have the potential to be among the best in the nation.
"It's an enormous improvement," Lerner said. "The (current) standards were poorly written and bad all along."
The inclusion of evolution into the standards was imperative, Lerner said.
"When you ignore evolution, it is like trying to teach physics without Newton's Law," Lerner said. "It (evolution) is dealt with quite well (in the new standards)."
[ John Chambliss can be reached at email@example.com or 863-802-7588. ]