Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Scientific American looks at the "FSM"

The Flying Spaghetti Monster, loved by so many and loathed by members of the ID community has become one of the main symbols of the anti-creationism movement. Making fun of the fact the main ID proponents refuse to acknowledge their designer as "God" and instead propose things like time travelling space aliens, the FSM was inserted into the list of 'potential' designers to mock this apparent lack of transparency. As it turns out the FSM has become insanely popular and I've even seen a 'pastafarian' in full pirate regalia down here.

One of the problems that some see with the FSM analogy and is echoed by John Rennie of Scientific American here, is that it may be construed as an anti-religious argument. After all a large number of the things that make the FSM analogy so irritating to ID proponents is it targets the largely fundamentalist Christian beliefs that ID was born out of (and is supported by). For example, "pastafarians" make use of a corruption of "Amen" and instead say "RAmen". Additionally, they parody many other aspects of religion by dressing up in 'pirate regalia' and claiming those who follow the FSM will end up in a heaven with a beer volcano and strippers.

Now as John worries, this corruption of religious ideas and primarily from Christianity may have a negative effect. Speaking for myself and my particular beliefs (I am Christian) it doesn't really bother me because I understand the point of the analogy. To me, the FSM is an amusing parody and is very effective in attacking the 'soundbite' wars that creationists like those in the ID movement attempt to use. It's impossible to explain evidence for evolution, but it's not impossible to explain the fallacious logic in the opponents argument with a simple and succinct parody. It easily deconstructs the inherit silliness of the ID proponents refusing to name their designer or determine anything about it, you could say anything was the designer according to such logic.

Following on from that point, from a theological point of view the FSM demonstrates how worthless ID is even as a method for promoting Christianity. Remember that ID advocates 'pretend' that the designer isn't God and could be space aliens or any such nonsense, but in reality the question would be open in an initial 'wedge first' type scenario. In such a case, any manner of nutball minority religion or similar could try to hijack ID to promote any number of wierd religious creators such as alien cloners like Rael. This is the inherit twist in logic that the FSM relies on and so it inserts itself in there, alongside God, Rael, flying saucers, space lizards, Cthulhu and assorted great old ones for example.

So as a theist, do I feel any personal affront from the FSM? Well, no and really I couldn't care less. Some made up flying pile of spaghetti that touches people with it's noodly appendage, aside from being disturbing isn't going to bother me. It's a clear and obvious parody of the arguments that ID advocates make and if they get upset because it's 'mocking' Christianity then all the better. It simply helps expose the inherit connection between ID and fundamentalist Christian creationism, because the FSM is making fun of a lot of religions but in a specific context. Nowhere does the FSM (as an anti-ID parody at least) claim it's God except when we are talking about a specific argument put forth by those proposing intelligent design.

Then again, in saying all of this to many Christians in the US attacking ID=attacking Christianity. Even when Judge Jones presented his ruling meticulously detailing how ID fails as science and how board members lied on the stand, the likes of the Discovery Institute accused him of being 'activist' and others in the media accused him of 'attacking Christianity. Either way you are accused of attacking Christianity when criticising ID by many even when you don't bring up the parody. So I say keep the giant flying pasta monster and let it do as much damage to the ID movement as it can, because at least it's humorous.