The Flying Spaghetti Monster... a smart tactic?

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Bobby Henderson's Flying Spaghetti Monster theory of creation getting a lot of attention (see links in the Wikipedia page and links to FSM paraphernalia on BoingBoing). Now, I understand the urge to make fun of Intelligent Design, because, frankly, it's laughable. And FSM follows in a long philosophical tradition of making a serious point--in this case that intelligent design is just as consistent with any deity, even a silly one, as it is with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic deity.

The problem is that phrasing the criticism this way is that it's likely to alienate the people you're trying to convince. I suspect that most people who believe in ID are honestly ignorant, not mendacious. Making fun of them probably isn't the way change their minds. Worse yet, the FSMers aren't just saying that the FSM is an equally good explanation as Genesis, they've also made up a new parody religion based on it, complete with Jesus-fish parody logos. Unsurprisingly, most people who believe in ID are Christians. I'm skeptical that openly mocking their religious beliefs is the best way to convince them of one's point of view.

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11 Comments

The aspect of the FSM approach that I like is that it gets people to examine their position by the positions of those who agree with them rather than disagree with them. The FSM folks attacking Christian beliefs in Genesis wouldn't help, but the FSM folks agreeing with Christians who believe that evolution's critics should be heard might. There's a lot to be said for the re-think that comes when you show up at the protest and discover your lot are wonkier than the other lot.

Sure, but I think it's perfectly clear to everyone that the FSM folks *actually* think that ID is stupid and that they're just making that point in a particularly snarky way.

The only way to convince most ID believers that ID is wrong is not by using logic & science but by tailored messaging. You're right that the FSM approach is not tailored messaging to convince ID believers to change their minds.

Steve, can you expand on what sort of tailored messaging you believe is appropriate?


Note that I think there are really two camps here in the supporters of programs like Kansas's: those who truly believe in ID or creationism and are using this mechanism to get it taught, and those who believe that the creationists deserve an equal shot based on some other principle (e.g. a flawed parallel to the "equal time" rule for politics). The admittedly snarky FSM support can demonstrate to this second group that their position has some serious problems with its foundations.


Would the same tailored messaging hit both of these camps?

The FSM is really more as a good joke for those in the know. It is not a good rhetorical tool.

A BETTER rhetorical tool is the observation that not only is ID not science, it doesn't allow for the Christian god either. They can try to "nudge nudge, wink wink" all they want, but the Creator of the ID world is vastly, VASTLY flawed: Cruel, demented, and incompetent.

Do you really want to be teaching the children this false notion of creation? Leading them to the conclusion that if there IS a creator, God/Flying Spagetti Monster is so dementedly incompetent?

Skippy: based on the polling that I've seen, I would start by testing messaging which linked the teaching of ID to bad schools/bad school administrations/etc. to kids not being able to get a job.

Oh, for crying out loud.

There were four minority members on the Kansas School Board who were sympathetic with Henderson. If there was any rational arguing, civilized debate or tailored messaging to be had, they already tried it. (You can read the despair in their letters on Henderson's site.) And they failed. The McChristians are ignorant, but they're not innocent. They have an openly hostile agenda and any forum is blatantly used to merely stall the opposition while they implement their anti-science agenda by backdoor force.

Satire sometimes really is the last resort short of violence. I don't liken FSM to snark or insult. It's a 21st-century variation of Jonathan Swift's "A Modest Proposal" powered by the netroots. Unlike trying to reason with the wingnuts (which is foolish and futile), it JUST might work by waking up the moderates.

But if you're calling for rational argument, here's a wake-up call: If the FSM doesn't humiliate Kansas into seeing the light, then they probably also lack the reason you want to appeal to.

It's not the activists I'm concerned about. It's the half of American society who aren't activists but also don't understand or trust evolution. And I'm not expecting to appeal to their reason so much as avoid energizing them by mocking their religious beliefs. Remember that they think they're right and we're wrong. And from that perspective the FSM isn't humiliating, just insulting.

There is another point to the viral proliferation that should not be ignored. The creation of even a silly explanation, with no more basis in fact or science than ID, will have legal credibility.

I think the reason many people see this as a legitimate tactic is that the blindness of the law must dictate that given the equal "state of proof" for FSM and ID, you would need to either teach both, or neither, depending on whether you allow unscientific theories to enter the science curriculum.

Pastafarians aren't interested in spreading their religion beyond what it takes to legally challenge the inclusion of other similarly silly, if historically more prevalent, theory in science classrooms.

One hopes that faced with describing the decent of man guiding by invisible hovering pasta, even the Kansas School Board wouldn't have the meatballs to do it.

Faith belongs in church, whether you are Christian, or Pastafarian.

I am one of those stupid old fashioned christians that people look down upon because I'm too stupid to realize that my belief does not make any more sense than Flying Spaghetti Monsterism. I was also raised in a communist country where I was treated the same way and laughed at by the enlightened scientifically advantaged crowd. I know that even though it looks at the moment like we (conservative christians) are in the majority, it probably won't last and I'm not stupid enough to believe that this country is a "christian country" by any stretch of imagination, which is why I do not plan to send my kids to a public school where they learn a ton of bogus science along with a good dose of liberal crap, "safe sex" and get exposed to drugs. Yeah... folks go ahead and laugh and insult us with your parody religions. I for one sure hope you're right and creationism is just a bunch of bull because if it is, big deal, we all die and that's it... but if it ain't... well, you might have to answer to the spaghetti monster.

If you really think has anything to do with attacking your religious beliefs, then you are pretty stupid. The issue is whether the science standards for my state should be turned into a laughingstock because a minority of religious people regard one topic as heretical, and want to destroy any coherent teaching on the subject.

These people are arguing that science should embrace the supernatural, a view which is logically indistiguishable from accepting a mathematical proof which simply states "God said so." The supernatural, by definition, defies explanation, which is the exact opposite of how science has always worked. Yet they seem curiously reluctant to expand this principle to other areas of science (except the Big Bang). Why, e.g., should we not teach students in elementary schools about "non-consumptive combustion", i.e. the theory of combustion without fuel? Like ID, the scientific evidence for it is zero. However, an ancient book recounts one instance when a man named Moses witnessed this alternative form of combustion. Shouldn't we discuss this in our science classes? Why not?

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