Friday, May 6, 2005

Follow the Yellow-Brick Road

It must be that number 66 that fundamentalist Christians fear so much, that old Devil at work again during this 66th anniversary of The Wizard of Oz and Kansas has gone nuts. The Scarecrow, in the incarnation of William S. Harris told an ‘approving’ Kansas State Board of Education on May 5th that ‘DNA is the work of an intelligent being.’


It’s another step up to the plate for the Kansas board, reaffirming its 1999 vote to remove evolution as a subject matter in standardized tests. Observers at the time believed that move effectively meant teachers would not teach evolution because students wouldn’t be tested on it. Are these people for real? If Harris believes DNA is the work of an intelligent being, the only thing that proves beyond a doubt is that being could not possibly be a member of the Kansas State BOE.


In our trip backwards through Kansas-time and Kansas-truth, predating the Wizard of Oz movie by fourteen years brings us to the John Scopes ‘monkey trial’ within which no less than Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan took off the gloves and faced one another (reinacted in another great movie Inherit the Wind).  H.L. Mencken's July 21, 1925 dispatch for the Baltimore Evening Sun quoted Darrow as saying that he wanted to "show up fundamentalism" and "prevent bigots and ignoramuses from controlling the educational system of the United States." He wrote that Bryan, his face purple, shook his fist in Darrow's face and yelled that he wanted to "protect the word of God from the greatest atheist and agnostic in the United States."


Sorry Clarence, but bigots and ignoramuses are still among us. 


Traveling back further yet in our time machine (the only direction allowed in Kansas), the Wizard presents us with none other than Thomas Jefferson weighing in on the subject. “Question with boldness even the existence of a God; because, if there be one, he must more approve of the homage of reason, then that of blindfolded fear.”


Perhaps in a more enlightened world than that inhabited by the three member Education Committee. Is there no one in the religious community who will stand up to defend creationism as a belief, a religious belief and not a scientific fact?  Religious beliefs are not permitted in state schools.  The deeply religious believe in virgin birth as well, but it’s not (as yet) taught in the biology curriculum.


In 1968 the U.S. Supreme Court ruled on the matter in Epperson v. Arkansas. The court ruled that evolution can be taught in public schools because it is a science, but not creationism, because it constitutes religion. The wall between church and state can be found in the establishment clause of the First Amendment.  Period! Done deal!


Not in Oz.  No deal is a done deal in Oz.  The issue once again reached the nation's highest court in 1987 in a case from Louisiana (all these cases and trials from southern states). In Edwards v. Aguilar, the court ruled that state-mandated teaching of evolution and creationism side-by-side is unconstitutional, again because teaching creationism meant the state was endorsing religion.


Intelligent Design is the new creationism.


So, these amusements keep coming up from time to time when tornadoes come to Kansas and the black-and-white of reality turns to the Technicolor of the Cowardly Lion.