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30 March 2005

Imax crap and South Parkies

SteveHeath commented:

If they outlaw IMAX films about evolution, only Outlaws will be in IMAX films abo---no wait...That's not how it goes...

Bud seriously, they can intimidate the IMAX owners I guess ("It's not going to draw crowds and it's controversial..") but they can't shut down the Net.

All in all it's just another attempted Brick in the Wall, but it's too late. Not enough Puritan Thumbs to plug the Dike which is now beginning to resemble Swiss cheese. Besides, many of them keep their thumbs reserved for other pleasu---errrr, activities, so I think we'll make it.

* * *

I've been playing fast and loose and playful with religion and theology, but the censorship of Imax movies finally moves these posts into Serious Business. It's not a direct attack by Organized Religion against Organized Science. It's something a lot creepier and more worrisome. It's part of an aggressive trend to go after children and form their attitudes about these ideas and debates.

One thing we notice in the Terri Schiavo unhappiness is that children are being pushed to the fore in the protests in the street in front of her hospice. I like children a lot, and I have pretty crisp memories of myself as a child, of the way I thought and saw the world.

But there's a question (not easy to answer): When Mom and Dad have issues with the Government, is it appropriate to encourage Sis and Junior to march with them?

I personally love to drive past a rally and see 10-year-olds among the throng calling for an immediate end to the war in Iraq. But I'm not happy to see 10-year-olds demanding the governor of Florida and the Supreme Court intervene -- almost no kids I've seen (two or three have been arrested) called for the government to stay out of this mess. All the kids' signs call on the government to re-insert the feeding and hydration tube.

It's not unfair or unreasonable to conclude that I think it's appropriate for a 10-year-old to publicly protest when he/she reflects my opinions, and I think it's troublesome and worrisome and bad parenting when a 10-year-old challenges cops and gets all CNN and Fox for opinions I diametrically oppose.

I really don't know how to resolve this paradox so cleverly that all 10-year-olds have equal rights to passionately express the full spectrum of controversial opinions. And if I can get busted down at the Air Force Base to protest Desert Storm (but they dropped the charges, myuhahahaha, one arrest, no convictions, aaaaargh!), why must we forbid minors from crossing the line into civil disobedience to express their passionate beliefs?

Remember yourself back to your Youth, and see how this massages your ears: "I'm sorry, we feel you're too young to make that kind of decision, so you can't go downtown to protest [insert terrible thing here]."

One difference between Terrible Things is that some passionate beliefs about some Terrible Things just tend to appeal to the South Park crew, while their opposing beliefs tend to be beliefs that slowly come into focus in one's 20s or 30s or even worsely superannuated.

Back during the Hot Years of our military adventure in Vietnam, "End The Draft Right Now" tended to be highly age-specific and gender-specific. But not exclusively. College women were purposely getting low grades to skew the GPA curve so guys had a better chance of keeping their student draft deferments.

In a little hilltown-farmtown about 15 miles from me, an entire elementary school class (at the helpful suggestion of their teacher) went down to Town Hall with homemade signs which said: PLEASE DON'T KILL OUR BEAVERS. (Farmers hate beavers -- that's probably an unfair stereotype, but if you lived in New England farm country, you'd reach that stereotype, too.) Their protest against Town Hall's beavercide plan made the morning news show on ABC-TV, it went nationwide, the Good Morning America hosts were holding live interviews with the adorable elementary school kids about why they wanted to save the adorable beavers.

After the Town Council backed down from their plan to exterminate every goddam beaver they could find, and chose humane relocation instead, a few Selectmen hinted to the teacher that if she ever pulled a stunt like that again with their adorable kids, she would be out of a job. They not only disagreed with her feelings about beavers, but felt it was inappropriate to conduct town business in an environment of adorable elementary school kids, particularly their own adorable kids. They were getting Crayola hate mail from Colorado.

Actually, because I like beavers and don't want them shot or poisoned, I thought the inclusion of adorable schoolkids was perfectly appropriate (because it worked bigtime and saved the beavers).

Well, just because this is complicated doesn't mean it's not a problem, or doesn't need some work to find a solution.

The notion that we have so many Imax patrons who'd be offended by references to Evolution in "World of the Giant Squid" that more and more Imax theaters won't book "World of the Giant Squid" just scares the shit out of me.

I happen to be a Big Fan of Evolution. I have Darwin posters on my bedroom wall. Actually no, but I have read "Voyage of the Beagle" and big chunks of "Descent of Man" and "The Origin of Species," and I think they're all pips. I've also read a lot by and about Alfred Wallace, who came up with the theory of Natural Selection independently of and around the same time as Darwin -- it was such a tie (like Napier and Bürgi)
that Darwin never tried to claim that he was first; Darwin and Wallace published a joint paper and shared the credit.

Darwin also has great papers about earthworms and racing pigeons, and Wallace has a scream of a kitschy long epic poem about naked aborigines cavorting and gamboling wild and free as Nature intended on the banks of the Amazon.

I actually did have to spend several years in Religious School (gazing out the window wishing I could cavort and gambol in Rock Creek Park), so I was, as a child, told by very serious adults that, according to the Word of God, the World was created in six days, and on the seventh day, He rested. (Before they let me escape, I had to learn to read that very Book in Hebrew. My brain was bleeding. But as lingos go, Biblical Hebrew is quite easy to learn, its rules are simple and rational. The Massachusetts Pilgrim Fathers kept their official colony journal in Hebrew.)

So why didn't it take? Why am I screaming about this attack against Evolution down at the Imax, and not rejoicing that the godless atheist bio-scientists and their giant-screen documentary-producing minions have been kicked in the economic and political tolchocks, and been dealt a crippling defeat during the Bush-era Fundie Culture Wars? What happened to my Faith, which was fed to me when I was a little South Parkie (because Faith is not instinctive, as the term-paper for sale said Luther said)?

If I got a Ph.D. in evolutionary biology from Oxford, and spent a year underwater in SCUBA gear with an Imax camera documenting the goings-on of the Squid, I would be one very annoyed scientist to find that The Houston Science Center refused to show my masterpiece because my narrator had mumbled stuff about how millions of years of Natural Selection had created these amazingly well-suited creatures. If my producer phoned and asked me to substitute some narration about how it was equally likely that God created the Squid on the Fourth Day, I'd go ballistic.

Did I mention the new buzzword? First the Fundies tried to put "Creation Science" in the public-school textbooks, and that worked pretty well, it sounded suffiently scientific to persuade most Texas schools (the biggest single textbook market in the USA) and school systems all over the Sun Belt. But in the last two or three years, they push "intelligent design" -- in other words, how could you possibly end up with so perfect a creature as a Squid unless some great intelligence was behind it? Compelling logic, if at the end of the day you want to convince schoolkids that God made the Squid, right there, all at once.

This Imax stuff is scandalous, but it ain't new. Public-school textbooks have been Dummying Down, and bleaching all the Evolution out of them, and substituting blatant versions of Genesis, for at least the last decade. Pizza slices for anybody who can research the recent American history of these creepy science textbook changes.

Of course this is just the latest development in an ancient and fierce fight. In Dayton, Tennessee in 1925, a high school teacher named John T. Scopes was arrested on a criminal charge of teaching a theory of the origin of living species that contradicted the Bible's Genesis account, and it's high on the list of loud ballyhoo scandals that the media dubbed "The Trial of the Century." (It's usually abbreviated as "The Scopes Monkey Trial.")

Actually Scopes agreed in advance to set himself up to be busted for lecturing his class about Evolution so the ACLU could challenge the Tennessee law. Two historical giants served as the opposing lawyers, Clarence Darrow for Scopes, and William Jennings Bryan (thrice Democratic candidate for president). But it's frequently been against USA state laws to contradict Genesis in a classroom, or within earshot of Youth. They don't come down on your head the way they do for selling drugs to Youth, but they have a mugshot and handcuffs and an overnight cell for you anyway.

More soon, I have to pick up the Chinese food from Tong Sing (highly recommended).


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