The Best Magazine Article Ever
Here's something I never thought I'd write: I bought the latest issue of Esquire magazine at the newsstand the other day. The reason for this unlikely step was a headline on the cover that read “Creationists and Other Idiots.” The rather fetching picture of actress Jessica Biel on the cover didn't hurt either.
The article's author is Charles Pierce, and its title is “Greeting from Idiot America.” The subhead reads:
Creationism. Intelligent design. Faith-based this. Trust-your-gut that. There's never been a better time to espouse, profit from, and believe in utter, unadulterated crap. And the crap is rising so high, it's getting dangerous.
I don't know of any other magazine that has had the courage to state the truth so bluntly. Sadly, it's not freely available online. So allow to me to transcribe a few choice nuggets for you.
After describing a visit to the nascent creationism museum being built in Kentucky, which features a dinosaur exhibit in which the fearsome creatures are wearing saddles, he describes some of the obvious contradictions in the museum exhibits. Then Pierce writes:
These are impolite questions. Nobody asks them here by the cool pond tucked into a gentle hillside. Increasingly, nobody asks them outside the gates either. It is impolite to wonder why our parents sent us to college, and why generations of immigrants sweated and bled so their children could be educated, if it wasn't so that we would all one day feel confident enough to look at a museum filled with dinosaurs rigged to run six furlongs at Belmont and make the not unreasonable point that it is all batshit crazy and that anyone who believes this righteous hooey should be kept away from sharp objects and his own moeny.
Dinosaurs with saddles?
Dinosaurs on Noah's Ark?
Welcome to your new Eden.
Welcome to Idiot America.
And later, still talking about creationism:
This is how Idiot America engages the great issues of the day. It decides, en masse, with a thousand keystrokes and clicks of the remote control, that because there are two sides to every question, they must both be right, or at least not wrong. And the poor biologist's words carry no more wieght than the thunderations of some turkey-neck preacher out of the Church of Christ's Own Parking Facility in DeLand, Florida. Less weight, in fact, because our scientist is an “expert” and, therefore, an “elitist.” Nobody buys his books. Nobody puts him on cable. He's brilliant surely, but his Gut's the same as ours. He just ignores it, poor fool.
The “debate,” of course, is nothing of the sort, because two sides are required for a debate. Nevertheless, the very notion of it is a measure of how scientific discourse, and the way the country educates itself, has slipped through lassitude and inattention across the border into Idiot America - where fact is merely that which enough people believe, and truth is measured only by how fervently they believe it.
If we have abdicated our birthright to scientific progress, we have done so by moving the debate into the realm of political and cultural argument, where we all feel more confident, because it is here that the Gut rules. Held to this standard, any scientific theory is rendered mere opinion. Scientific fact is no more immutable than a polling sample. This is how there's a “debate” over global warming, even though the preponderance of fact among those who actually have studied the phenomenon renders the “debate” quite silly. The debate is about making people feel better about driving SUV's. The debate is less about climatology than it is about guiltlessly topping off your tank and voting in tax incentives for oil companies.
The whole article is quite long, and it covers a lot more than just creationism. The tone of the article is exactly right and long overdue.
The next time you hear some condescending pseudoliberal columnist peddle cheap excuses for the fundamentalists; the next time you hear someone say they are just responding to misperceived threats to their faith or to an overzealous atheist like Richard Dawkins; the next time you hear some postmodern nonsense about people basing their worldviews on different assumptions; just remember the wise words of this article. Religious fundamentalism is born out of laziness and cowardice. It is the province of people who can't be troubled to educate themselves about anything, and who have no higher ambition in life than to be led by a charismatic preacher. It is nothing more noble than that.