“It is useless to attempt to reason a man out of a thing he was never reasoned into”

Jonathan Swift
"The Democrats have moved to the right, and the right has moved into a mental hospital." - Bill Maher
"The city is crowded my friends are away and I'm on my own
It's too hot to handle so I gotta get up and go

It's a cruel ... cruel summer"

Monday, August 15, 2005

here we stand / like an adam and an eve

When I pulled the dvd The Privileged Planet from its Netflix sleeve on Sunday afternoon, the S.O. immediately informed me that she needed to call one of her friends. It was her way of saying that she didn't know if she'd be able to sit through it. I understood. I fully expected intellectual torment akin to sitting through a two-hour long scold by William Bennett. Still, I felt some responsibility to watch the fool thing. It was the latest salvo in the Intelligent Design crowd's War on Science. And Jay W. Richards, whom I had known years ago, co-wrote the book on which it was based.

Matter of fact, I feel a little late-adopterish encountering the year-old documentary at this late date. Butbutbut, the Amarillo Globe-Republican has also only barely touched on it, despite the fact that they could use it to highlight three of their most beloved story angles: 1) religion, 2) right-wing politics, and 3) the provincial, local-boy-makes-good angle. (Shrug.) So sometimes the AG-R isn't just crazy-religious, wingnutty, and provincial. Sometimes they're just incompetent.

At any rate, a major argument of The Privileged Planet runs thus: The earth is uniquely situated in the universe for scientists to make the discoveries they have made. Therefore, an "Intelligent Designer" must've created the earth in six days and rested on the seventh. Jesus Chr-- sorry, the (wink, wink; nudge, nudge) "Designer"-- set up the universe for us to make the discoveries we have made. Except, of course, the discovery of evolution.

This is a true story about discovery and evolution.

Jay W. Richards, Senior Fellow and "philosopher" at the Discovery Institute in Seattle, grew up in Amarillo. I knew him when we were in Junior High. We both attended First Presbyterian Church downtown. I hung out with him and Chris-the-organ-prodigy when the First Pres youth choir travelled to Europe in 1981. Obviously, the church and most of its congregants were rather well-off. I was the only kid from the east side, and I've long assumed that Jay and Chris must've been the geekiest of the rich kids; otherwise, they never would've hung out with the likes of me.

And there was this Church Slut on that European Vacation. Her name was Donna. In the evenings, Donna would sa-shay out of her room in nothing but an Izod Lacoste polo extending just -- barely -- to her upper thighs.

So one morning Chris and Jay and I were walking back to the Chateau we were staying in near Geneva. This European trip had introduced many of us to Switzerland's and Germany's more, um, relaxed attitudes toward teen drinking and Chris had noticed something the previous night. "So," he said to Jay. "You had a beer last night."

"What?" Jay said. "Well, just a little bit. Someone gave it to me. I drank half a bottle. Not even that much. A sip, really."

"Hm," Chris answered. "Well, Don-na came downstairs this morning and told me"-- here Chris began to sa-shay back and forth and mimic Donna's voice-- "'You know what Jay and I did last night?'"

"What? No!"

"'He sure was good,'" Chris mimicked.

Jay was way totally flustered. "What? No. I've never done anything like that. I mean I only had a little beer. I don't remember-- I've never--"

And Chris grinned the wicked grin he generally reserved for the times when he'd kicked everyone's ass at the Greater Southwest Music Festival. "Yeah, you don't remember, that's too bad. A guy wants to remember his first time."

It was an obvious lie, and I was kind of surprised at how ashamed Jay acted. Poor guy. That shame could well have been avoided if he had only then known the philosophic trick he would discover much later in life. If only teenage Jay had understood adult Jay's circular Privileged Planet argument about how we make the discoveries that we make because the universe is set up for us to make them.

It's a convenient theory, and it might have been helpful to Jay as he thrashed guiltily about on that Swiss morning in the early 1980s. Don't worry, Jay, an Ultimate Someone set you up to "discover" the things you discovered. The German beer, its ready availability to teenagers, the church floozy naked beneath her alligator shirt: all were planned by an "Intelligent Designer".

It's easier, of course, but something's lost in that scenario. I mean, even the Garden of Eden myth gives us humans some room to throw our own party our own way.