[Paleopsych] NYT: But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?
checker at panix.com
Wed Sep 14 01:30:35 UTC 2005
But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?
By SARAH BOXER
Is the super-intelligent, super-popular god known as the Flying
Spaghetti Monster any match for the prophets of intelligent design?
This month, the Kansas State Board of Education gave preliminary
approval to allow teaching alternatives to evolution like intelligent
design (the theory that a smart being designed the universe). And
President Bush and Senator Bill Frist of Tennessee both gave the
thumbs up to teaching intelligent design.
Long before that, Bobby Henderson, a 25-year-old with a physics degree
from Oregon State University, had a divine vision. An intelligent god,
a Flying Spaghetti Monster, he said, "revealed himself to me in a
He posted a sketch on his Web site, venganza.org, showing an
airborne tangle of spaghetti and meatballs with two eyes looming over
a mountain, trees and a stick man labeled "midgit." Prayers to the
Flying Spaghetti Monster, his site says, end with "ramen," not "amen."
Then, Mr. Henderson, who says on his site that he is desperately
trying to avoid taking a job programming slot machines in Las Vegas,
posted an open letter to the Kansas board.
In perfect deadpan he wrote that although he agreed that science
students should "hear multiple viewpoints" of how the universe came to
be, he was worried that they would be hearing only one theory of
intelligent design. After all, he noted, there are many such theories,
including his own fervent belief that "the universe was created by a
Flying Spaghetti Monster." He demanded equal time in the classroom and
threatened a lawsuit.
Soon he was flooded with e-mail messages. Ninety-five percent of those
who wrote to him, he said on his Web site, were "in favor of teaching
Flying Spaghetti Monsterism in schools." Five percent suggested that
he would be going to hell. Lawyers contacted him inquiring how serious
he was about a lawsuit against the Kansas board. His answer: "Very."
This month, the news media, both mainstream and digital, jumped in.
The New Scientist magazine wrote an article. So did Die Welt. Two
online encyclopedias, Uncyclopedia and Wikipedia, wrote entries on the
Flying Spaghetti Monster. The Web site Boingboing.net mounted a
challenge: "We are willing to pay any individual $250,000 if they can
produce empirical evidence which proves that Jesus is not the son of
the Flying Spaghetti Monster."
Now, Mr. Henderson says on his Web site, "over 10 million people have
been touched by His Noodly Appendage." But what does that mean? When
push comes to shove, will the religion that has come to be known as
Pastafarianism do what it was intended to do - prove that it is
ridiculous to teach intelligent design as science?
Mr. Henderson, who said in an e-mail message that his divine vision
was induced by "a lack of sleep and a mounting disgust over the whole
I.D. issue," has wit on his side. His god not only resembles human
brains (proof, a fan writes, that "we were created in His image") but
also looks like the kind of bacteria that proponents of intelligent
design hold up as too complex to be the work of evolution alone.
Two dozen academics have endorsed the pasta god. Three members of the
Kansas board who already opposed teaching intelligent design wrote
kind letters to Mr. Henderson. Dozens of people have posted their
sightings of the deity (along with some hilarious pictures). One woman
even wrote in to say that she had "conceived the spirit of our Divine
Lord," the Flying Spaghetti Monster, while eating alone at the Olive
"I heard singing, and tomato sauce rained from the sky, and I saw
angel hair pasta flying about with little farfalle wings and playing
harps," she wrote. "It was beautiful." The Spaghetti Monster, she went
on, impregnated her and told her, "You shall name Him ... Prego ...
and He shall bring in a new era of love."
Parody is a lot of fun. And parody begets more parody, especially on
the Internet. It's contagious. But has anyone ever converted to a
The history books show that parody isn't always the smartest strategy
when it comes to persuasion. Remember Galileo? Some recent scholars
say that it may not have been his science so much as his satire,
"Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems," that got everyone
steamed up. Under threat of death, Galileo ended up recanting his view
that the earth revolves around the sun, and had to wait 350 years for
And yet the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster flourishes. It even
has schisms. A rival faction, based on SPAM (Spaghetti & Pulsar
Activating Meatballs), has formed. And there's bickering, Mr.
Henderson said in an e-mail message, about whether the god is made of
spaghetti or linguini. Those people, he noted, "give me a headache."
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