[Paleopsych] NYT: But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?

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Wed Sep 14 01:30:35 UTC 2005

But Is There Intelligent Spaghetti Out There?


    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, [4]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 [5]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
    parody religion?

    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."


    4. http://venganza.org/
    5. http://Boingboing.net/

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