Tag Archives: creationism

World’s first Pastafarian wedding: With this rigatoni, I thee wed

The wedding rings were made of pasta, the ceremony was held on a pirate boat, and when it came time for the kiss, the bride and groom slurped up either end of a noodle until their lips met.

New Zealand hosted the world’s first Pastafarian wedding, conducted by the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. The group, which began in the U.S. as a protest against creationism instead of science  in public schools. The central belief is that an invisible and undetectable Flying Spaghetti Monster created the universe.

Pastafarianism has gained legitimacy Poland, the Netherlands and New Zealand, where authorities recently decided it can officiate weddings.U.S. courts have ruled that it’s not a real religion.

Saturday’s ceremony was all about having fun. The guests came dressed as pirates and shouted plenty of hearty “Aaarrrhs.” The groom, Toby Ricketts, vowed to always add salt before boiling his pasta, while bride Marianna Fenn donned a colander on her head.

The church claims that global warming is caused by pirates vanishing from the high seas, and that there is a beer volcano in heaven.

“The Flying Spaghetti Monster created the world. We know that,” said marriage celebrant Karen Martyn, aka the Ministeroni. “We weren’t around then and we didn’t see it, but no other religion was around to see it either, and our deity is as plausible as any other.”

The church has been battling to gain legal recognition around the world, with mixed success. It was formed in 2005 as a way to poke fun at efforts in Kansas public schools to teach not only evolution, but also “intelligent design” — the idea that the universe must have had a creator.

Church founder Bobby Henderson said in an email that he thought it was odd that most weddings still have such an entanglement between religion and government.

“It’s sad that so many people feel pressured to do the traditional Christian wedding even when they don’t relate to much of the religion,” he said. “If people can find some happiness in having Pastafarian weddings, that’s great, and I hope no one gives them any flack about it.”

Ricketts, 35, a voiceover artist, and Fenn, 33, a lawyer and photographer, said they’ve been a couple for four years but decided just three weeks ago to get married, after another Pastafarian couple’s plans to be first to wed fell through.

Ricketts said he found out about the church because he’s been making a documentary about why religions don’t pay taxes.

Fenn said she grew up on a small New Zealand island where people had alternative ideas about how to lead their lives.

“I would never have agreed to a conventional marriage, but the idea of this was too good to pass up,” Fenn said. “And it’s a wonderful opportunity to celebrate my relationship with Toby, but in a way that I felt comfortable with.”

The wedding feast was an all-pasta affair, while the wedding cake was topped with an image of his noodliness, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Martyn said she hoped people could find happiness in eating, drinking, being with friends and being kind-hearted.

“That be what we’re all about,” she said.

 

‘Ten Questions’ asks us to balance science and faith

It’s been almost a century since the Scopes “Monkey” Trial so famously fictionalized in “Inherit the Wind,” yet the battle over teaching evolution and/or creationism in schools still rages on. But while the central question may have remained the same, the cultural landscape has changed since the 1925 trial that challenged a state law against the teaching of evolution, or that 1955 play that revived its themes and conflicts.

A new era of debate requires new plays to illuminate it, and Next Act Theatre has just such a play on tap. “Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution,” a world premiere work by Stephen Massicote, depicts a contemporary classroom thrown into chaos after an inquisitive 16-year-old derails a teacher’s biology class. 

Director Shawn Douglass says the play subsequently focuses on the relationship between the teacher, Ms. Kelly (Deborah Staples), and the student, Raymond (Kyle Curry), as they try to negotiate each other’s worldviews and come to an understanding. Each has an ally: Kelly is supported by interim principal Mr. Lester (David Cecsarini), who has ulterior, romantic motivations for helping, as well as professional ones; Raymond is championed by his mother, Lynn (Mary MacDonald Kerr), a single parent and evangelical Christian who sees “Darwinism” as a threat to her faith.

It’s this tight, intimate focus that Douglass believes is a strength of Massicote’s play. “A lot of the noise around this issue is around the political aspects of the fight,” he says. “Lawsuits and those types of things. What’s attractive about (“Ten Questions”) is that you get to see that play out on a very personal level.”

While the play ultimately comes down on the side of science, Douglass says it never ceases to paint a clear picture of the spiritual and emotional needs that faith can fulfill, and Raymond and his mother are treated just as sympathetically as the other two characters. In a sense, he says, the play is about how to bridge that divide, and teach those who place their trust in science and evidence and those who trust in a higher power and belief system to coexist and value each other despite their differences.

“Sometimes as we hear these discussions on the news,” Douglass says, “we tend to think of both sides in terms of ‘the other.’ ‘Those funny Christians’ or ‘those atheist scientists.’ What the play does masterfully is form a connection between two people who may not agree with each other all the time, but are open to each other, are interested in each other and care about each other.”

One of the challenges in working on a play as complex and sensitive as “Ten Questions” comes from having no other production to rely on. Douglass has never directed a Massicote play (although Next Act has previously produced two: “Mary’s Wedding” and “The Clockmaker”), and since “Ten Questions” is a world premiere, he and his actors must build their world from scratch. “That’s been a new experience for me, to build that reality from the ground up,” he says. 

To help them do that, Douglass asked actors in rehearsal to focus on talking with each other about the play’s issues, trying to understand where their characters’ attitudes come from.

The conflict between religious and secular worldviews is once more in the public eye of late, due to the firestorm set off by Indiana’s “religious freedom” legislation. Given that, Douglass thinks it’s more important than ever that society understand where many of their fellow Americans are coming from, to enable dialogue and understanding. “There’s a sense, I think, for many Christians, especially those on the right end of the spectrum, that they feel under threat, and they feel like they are being forced to live in a world with different values than they hold,” he says. 

He believes Ten Questions might offer a framework for coexistence — as long as both sides can accept each other for who they are, and care for each other as fellow human beings.

ON STAGE

Next Act Theatre’s world premiere of “Ten Questions to Ask Your Biology Teacher About Evolution” will run through May 3 at 255 S. Water St., Milwaukee. Tickets range from $28 to $38, and can be purchased at nextact.org or 414-278-0765.

Third of Americans, 48 percent of Republicans reject idea of evolution

A Pew Research Center survey released on Dec. 30 shows that six in 10 Americans agree that “humans and other living things have evolved over time.” And a third of Americans reject the idea of evolution, saying “humans and other living things have existed in their present form since the beginning of time.”

Pew, on its website, said those percentages are about the same as they were in 2009, the last time the center asked about evolution.

About half of those who expressed a belief in evolution said it is “due to natural processes such as natural selection” and 24 percent of those who expressed a belief in evolution say “a supreme being guided the evolution of living things for the purpose of creating humans and other life in the form it exists today.”

Evangelical Protestants were most likely to say humans have existed as they are now since the beginning of time and reject the idea of evolution.

By party affiliation, about 43 percent of Republicans and 67 percent of Democrats expressed a belief in evolution. The gap between partisan groups has grown since 2009 and Republicans are less inclined today than in 2009 to express a belief in evolution.

Law allowing teaching of creationism in school science classes to stay

A Louisiana law that allows public school science teachers to use supplemental materials in their classrooms will remain on the books, despite criticism that it’s a back-door way to teach creationism.

The Senate Education Committee voted 3-2 this week against a proposal by Sen. Karen Carter Peterson, D-New Orleans, to repeal the so-called Louisiana Science Education Act, in what has become an annual debate before the panel.

More than 70 Nobel Prize-winning scientists have urged the scrapping of the 2008 law. The repeal effort is led by Zack Kopplin, a Rice University student from Baton Rouge who has drummed up support from scientists around the country.

“This law is about going back into the Dark Ages, not moving forward into the 21st century,” Kopplin said. “Louisiana students deserve to be taught sound science and that means the theory of evolution, not creationism.”

Gov. Bobby Jindal and Christian conservatives are among those who oppose the repeal, saying the law promotes critical thinking and strengthens education. Some opponents of Peterson’s bill also challenged evolution as a scientific fact.

“If we can’t think critically, then we might as well throw out the scientific method,” said Mary Passman, a home-schooled 14-year-old from Baton Rouge. She said critics of the law oppose it “because they don’t want you to know that evolution has some serious problems.”

The law still requires science teachers to use approved textbooks. However, it allows use of supplemental materials on science subjects including evolution, cloning and global warming. 

Guidelines adopted by the state education board banned promotion of a religious doctrine in the supplemental materials and required that information presented by teachers be “scientifically sound and supported by empirical evidence.” The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education didn’t include a specific ban on the teaching of creationism, however.

BESE can prohibit supplemental materials it deems inappropriate, but teachers and local school boards don’t need its prior approval to introduce supplemental material.  

“The act is written very cleverly to create a loophole to allow (creationism) to be snuck in,” Kopplin said.

Sen. Elbert Guillory, D-Opelousas, said he worried that repealing the law could shut out debate of differing ideas and concepts. Other lawmakers opposing repeal said they’ve heard no instances where the law was used to introduce religion into science classrooms.

Education Committee Chairman Conrad Appel and Sen. Mike Walsworth, R-West Monroe, questioned whether any complaints had ever been filed about creationism being taught in schools since the law was passed.

Kopplin acknowledged no complaint has ever been lodged.

“I don’t want the message out there that we’re teaching bad science,” Appel, R-Metairie, said.

Jim Dugan, an anthropology instructor at Tulane University, called it “faint praise” to support the law simply because no one has reported a problem yet.

“Louisiana deserves national ridicule for having this act,” he said.

Senators supporting repeal said the law has created a view of Louisiana as anti-science.

“I think science would continue to be taught without this act, and I do think that it’s a problem for the national perception,” said Sen. Dan Claitor, R-Baton Rouge, who supported the repeal.

Voting against the repeal were Guillory, Walsworth and Sen. Mack “Bodi” White, R-Denham Springs. Voting for the repeal were Claitor and Sen. Eric LaFleur, D-Ville Platte. Appel didn’t vote.

Creationists protest Dr. Pepper over evolution graphic

Dr. Pepper faces protests from creationists incensed over the company’s Facebook parody of the “March of Progress” diagram.

The graphic posted on Dr. Pepper’s Facebook page shows the “Evolution of Flavor,” with humans evolving with the discovery of the soft drink.

The original post of the image received thousands of comments and likes, and also spawned an anti-Pepper campaign on the Web, especially on Facebook and Twitter.

“God Bless, Coke,” said one man objecting to the graphic showing a pre-Pepper chimp, the Pepper discovery and after-Pepper man. “I’ll never drink Dr. Pepper again.”

“I’m no longer a Pepper,” tweeted another. “And I never will be again.”

A woman on Facebook wrote, “Dr. Pepper: Mocking God and rotting teeth.”

But the protest doesn’t seem to have the legs of another Dr. Pepper boycott, this one over a legal battle between Dublin Dr. Pepper in Texas and the parent company.

Dublin Dr. Pepper had been making the soft drink for more than a century using the original recipe – which includes cane sugar not high-fructose corn syrup – and had a loyal consumer base. Dublin DP became entangled with Dr. Pepper Snapple Group, due to objections from other bottlers that apparently didn’t like Dublin’s continued courting of consumers with cane sugar.

A queer creation story can work for all

Conservative religious pundits look back to the Bible’s creation stories to justify their homophobia. So it’s time for our community to create a queer creation story. And there’s no better source than the old-as-scripture “Symposium,” a text sacred to Western philosophy and culture that also happens to be one of the gayest dinner parties ever recorded.

“Symposium” takes place at the house of Agathon around 400 B.C.E., about the same time as the Book of Genesis was taking its current form. The men at Agathon’s meal engage in flirty banter, deciding to try to outdo each other in describing love. Much of it involves Alicibiades, a heart-throb warrior whom everyone seemed to have a crush on. (Henry Cavill, who plays Theseus in the upcoming film “Immortals,” could cover the role well).

Two speeches that night particularly speak to our creation. Aristophanes wrote comedies. His modern equivalent might be Tyler Perry or Bruce Vilanch. He offers a comical reason for human love.

According to Aristophanes, the first humans were roly-poly. We had four arms and four legs and two faces and got around by rolling really fast. The Greek gods felt threatened by the power of these original humans so they split them into two, so that we moved around as we are now.

It was all meant as a joke. But underneath his funny images was the notion that each of us is looking for our other half, that in love we seek to find a companion who completes us. Each person, one-half of the original whole human, searches for his or her lost part.  Aristophanes understood love as any of us do who have said, “This is my better half.”

What makes Aristophanes meaningful for me is the unabashed way he included gays and lesbians in his view of love. Each of us – lesbian, gay, straight – is seeking a companion with whom, as Aristophanes says, “We are lost in an amazement of love and friendship and intimacy.”

Lesbians were once two women co-joined, gays once two men co-joined, straights once a man and woman co-joined. It’s an inclusive vision of human origins.

Socrates’ speech forms the more famous part of the “Symposium.” Socrates was also a war-hero. Alcibiades said of him, “When Socrates is present, nobody has a chance with the handsome ones!”

Socrates’ speech reports back what he learned about love from a woman named Diotima. According to Diotima, love expresses our desire for immortality. Heterosexuality can achieve this through reproduction. But the better path in Diotima’s view was same-gendered. Because this form of love will not lead to physical pregnancy, it can instead result in a “pregnancy of soul.” Such love leads one to grow morally and intellectually – from eros to wisdom.

Just as the Bible reflects cultural conventions we would condemn, so does the “Symposium.” But the insight of Diotima remains: Love’s blessing is not in reproduction alone, but in the way companionship shapes us for the better.

In all the debates about marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships, the religious right appeals to sacred texts. We ought to return to one of the sacred philosophical texts of Western culture, to that flirtatiously gay night when Aristophanes spoke of finding our better halves and Socrates spoke of the purpose of love as growing in virtue instead of reproduction. It’s a creation story that can work for all.

Poll. Most Republicans believe in creationism

Four in 10 Americans and 52 percent of Republicans believe in creationism, a theory that God created humans in their present form about 10,000 years ago, according to a recent Gallup poll.

Thirty-four percent of Democrats and Independents subscribe to the same view, the poll found.

Thirty-eight percent of all Americans believe that God guided a process by which humans developed over millions of years from less advanced life forms. Sixteen percent, a figure that is slightly higher than in past years, believe humans developed over millions of years, without God’s involvement.

The 40 percent of Americans who hold the creationist view is the lowest in Gallup’s history of asking this question. It’s down from a high point of 47 percent in 1993 and 1999. There has been little change over the years in the percentage holding the view that humans evolved under God’s guidance.

Differences of opinion on evolution were based primarily on education level, religion and political affiliation.