Theological Semolina

It suddenly dawned on me this evening that I had not yet written a post formally introducing my readers to The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The world first learned of the Flying Spaghetti Monster’s role in the creation of all that is when one Bobby Henderson, a “concerned citizen”, wrote an open letter to the Kansas School Board in which he explained that humans received the spark of life from His Noodly Appendage, and described the teachings of Spaghetti Monsterism. Mr. Henderson quite reasonably requests that the Pastafarian account of the origin of life be taught alongside Intelligent Design and Darwinism:

One third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.

In his letter he also insists that the correct presentation is essential:

Furthermore, it is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia. I cannot stress the importance of this enough, and unfortunately cannot describe in detail why this must be done as I fear this letter is already becoming too long. The concise explanation is that He becomes angry if we don’t.

In addition to the revealed Truth (which includes scientific evidence that “global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of Pirates since the 1800s”), the site also offers some nifty merchandise, and even a festive holiday card. Don’t wait another minute.

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14 Comments

  1. Bob Koepp says

    This is all good humor, at the expense of those (but not all) IDists who are, indeed, attempting to put religious doctrine into the science curriculum. But opponents of ID should be wary of making the same ill-informed assumption that is often found among IDists; namely, that the theory of evolution by natural selection addresses the question of the “origins of life.” It doesn’t. And while I’m pleased that the court has yet again determined that speculations about the modus operandi of a deity don’t constitute a scientific theory, I do worry that the backlash against ill-advised religiosity will dissuade scientists from raising perfectly legitimate scientific questions about the inherent limits of natural selective processes.

    This “debate” has brought out the worst in partisans of both sides.

    Posted January 3, 2006 at 9:47 am | Permalink
  2. Malcolm says

    Hi again Bob,

    Right you are, evolution-by-natural-selection doesn’t address the ultimate origin of life. Nor do any of its knowledgeable adherents, who understand that there must be something to select from (i.e. reproduction with variation) claim that it does. But it is more than capable of coping with the allegedly “irreducibly complex” structures put forward by ID advocates as “evidence” for the handiwork of a puissant Designer, and anyway, such a Designer is presumably more complex than the thing designed, so even ID just pushes that question backward (though obviously the “Intelligent Designer” is a thinly veiled Almighty God, so no problem for most IDers).

    The origin of life is an interesting question, but by no means an intractable one.

    Posted January 3, 2006 at 10:27 am | Permalink
  3. Bob Koepp says

    Hi Malcolm –
    I agree that the origin of life is an interesting scientific question, and I don’t know of any reason to think it is intractable to human intelligence. But bear in mind that positing an intelligent designer to explain complexity does NOT impose any requirement to be able to explain the origin or the complexity of the designer in question. Halting metaphysical/epistemological regresses is not a defensible requirement for explanatory hypotheses. If it were, empirical science would be indefensible.

    Posted January 3, 2006 at 12:04 pm | Permalink
  4. Malcolm says

    Hi Bob,

    True, positing an intelligent designer doesn’t impose any requirement to explain the compexity of the designer, but it does immediately lead to the question, which doesn’t seem to be a burning issue for ID advocates, to say the least. Of course if ID is just stealth creationism, it isn’t surprising that its proponents aren’t concerned with the problem. Empirical scientists, on the other hand, are generally eager to keep pressing any regresses backward in the hope of exhausting them.

    Posted January 3, 2006 at 12:38 pm | Permalink
  5. Wadard says

    You know what I am starting to think? The Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is just another Roman Church trying to tell us how to live our lives. What is it with Romans that they have to tell us what to believe in? And eat?

    And you know what else? If the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that worried about little old me having to be devout, then I’m experimenting with Chinese … even if it only satisfies for a short time.

    Posted January 4, 2006 at 5:54 am | Permalink
  6. Bob Koepp says

    Eagerness to keep pressing regresses backward is a personality or character trait, whereas the dispute between IDists and evolutionary biologists is about substantive matters of fact. And such eagerness is not all that common among workaday scientists, who generally don’t obsess about philosophical conundrums.

    Posted January 4, 2006 at 9:33 am | Permalink
  7. Malcolm says

    Hi Bob,

    Here I must respectfully disagree – as the son of two scientists, and having grown up in the midst of the scientific community, I’d say that when a problem is solved, it generally leads to new questions, and when that happens there are always those – often highly motivated graduate students, eager to leave their mark – who can’t wait to get after them. To be sure, there is a lot of “ordinary” science – the practical, unglamorous work of filling in blanks and fleshing out details, which can occupy the majority of scientists in a given discipline for decades on end (QM is a good example of that) – but there is always work being done at the frontiers of knowledge.

    Scientists generally don’t see unanswered questions as being “philosophical conundrums” – they usually aren’t philosophers, after all – but rather as fascinating puzzles they simply need to be clever enough to solve.

    But ID, of course, isn’t science, so the fact that their “research” program consists entirely of trying to pick holes in current evolutionary knowledge makes sense.

    Posted January 4, 2006 at 10:51 am | Permalink
  8. Bob Koepp says

    Malcolm –
    My reference to ‘philosophical conundrums’ wasn’t directed toward the bulk of “unanswered questions” that keep scientists busy, but was directed to the ever present possibility of initiating an explanatory regress. Since this sort of regress is an ever present possibility, it hardly counts as a criticism of a purported explanation that it doesn’t block the “regression gambit.” So the susceptibility of ID to this gambit doesn’t help to distinguish it from bona fide science. That was my only point.

    Posted January 4, 2006 at 11:12 am | Permalink
  9. Malcolm says

    Hi Bob,

    I think our views are not really so divergent here. I agree, of course, that scientific or philosophical inquiries might in some cases be confronted with non-unwindable regresses. What I was emphasizing is that the difference in this case is that a scientist is likely to see the origin-of-life’s-complexity regress (or any other, for that matter) as one that may eventually “bottom out” in some nonmiraculous way, and will be motivated to seek the facts of the matter, whereas ID advocates, with their disingenuously tacit assumption that the Designer is simply God, have no apparent interest in pursuing the question. It reminds me of OJ’s “search for the real killers”.

    Posted January 4, 2006 at 11:28 am | Permalink
  10. the one eyed man says

    Well, you can pull out the ever-handy Occam’s Razor, and simply recognize that Intelligent Design is results-based pseudo-science (i.e., an argument is formulated to justify a pre-determined result, which reverses the scientific process. ID has the twist of obscuring the putative role of God in an effort to pull the wool over school boards’ eyes).

    Or you could simplify still further and posit that the Intelligent Designer is Gloria Vanderbilt.

    Posted January 4, 2006 at 7:01 pm | Permalink
  11. Malcolm says

    Pete! Thanks for dropping by.

    Does that mean that Anderson Cooper is the Son of God? I thought he was doing inexplicably well…

    Posted January 5, 2006 at 12:30 am | Permalink
  12. the one eyed man says

    Well, Mac, this may be a shocker, but there are some things which I just do not know, and whether Anderson Cooper is the Son of God is among them.

    Posted January 5, 2006 at 9:20 am | Permalink
  13. Malcolm says

    Well, he’s the son of Gloria Vanderbilt, so I had to ask.

    Posted January 5, 2006 at 11:19 am | Permalink
  14. the one eyed man says

    True, and reportedly he is aghast at the revelation’s in her latest tell-all autobiography (“Mom, too much information”)

    Posted January 5, 2006 at 1:56 pm | Permalink