Really?

Let’s start with creation.

There are so many things that interest me, so many things that get my goat, that boil my blood, that make me feel like dancing and make me shout for joy. I don’t mean simultaneously of course, but it’s been so long since I’ve expressed myself, that I feel like I’m just going to boil over with disparate emotions.

One of the things that got me thinking about writing a blog was an email exchange I had with the principal and superintendent of my old high school. Now it’s been a full 11 years since I walked the halls of Christian High School, but I still haven’t quite recovered from the experience. CHS is frighteningly similar to the evangelical high school perfectly portrayed in the movie Saved!. We had weekly chapels complete with a corny contemporary rock band, side hugs, class prayer requests, weak academics and creationism in the science class.

That last feature proved to be the root of my anger for many years, when, in college I learned that I loved science, loved evolution, but was so ignorant and brainwashed that I just did not yet have the foundation to pursue it. In my first freshman biology class on evolution, Stephen Jay Gould guest lectured and blew my mind. Actually what he did was take every argument I was ever fed against evolution and flush them down a huge shining toilet of reason. I met with him after class and asked how I could learn more. “Well,” he responded, “You could start with my books.” In that way I guess he was not so unlike many pastors I know.

In any case, I was pretty mad that science had been denied me and my CHS peers, and still am goddamnit. So a couple of months ago, I wrote to the principle and superintendent of CHS and admonished them for not teaching evolution. The first email went like this:

Dear Scott and Chuck,

I graduated from Christian High School in El Cajon, CA in 1998. My entire education up until that point was provided by CUSSD. Following graduation I attended New York University and found that the education provided to me during my formative years was a wholly insufficient  base for higher education, most notably in science. In any forum outside the narrow communities of fundamentalist religion, you simply cannot teach science properly without the fact of evolution. There is no argument, there is no controversy. You do a terrible disservice to children by teaching literal biblical creationism.  It is akin to teaching of a flat earth or bodily humors. Even the smallest amount of learning in a freshman biology class is enough to convince a not totally indoctrinated mind that evolution elegantly and perfectly explains the beautiful diversity of life around us,  just as an hour of instruction on the germ theory of disease would illuminate the mysteries of miasma.   Please, for the love of god, read a biology textbook and enlighten yourself. Read The Blind Watchmaker, read The Song of the Dodo.  Then go and enlighten your colleagues, enlighten your schools, enlighten the children who count on you for knowledge. I’m counting on you. Don’t let another poor ignorant child pass through your myopic system.  This is so important. The world we live in depends on science to feed, clothe and house its people. Sending your students out into the world sans a sound education in the fundamentals of science leaves them floundering in a world they cannot understand.

Here are some videos to jump-start your education:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GQKYyEtuMDE

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVRsWAjvQSg

Thank you.

Scott, the principal, responded quickly and kindly. We had a nice long dialogue over the course of many weeks. Chuck, the superintendent, responded not so quickly and not so kindly, and we have yet to resolve our issues.  More on this later.

First, your quote of the day:

“Most people can’t bear to sit in church for an hour on Sundays. How are they supposed to live somewhere very similar to it for eternity?”

Mark Twain

Dear Sir

Dear Sir David Attenborough,

I love you. Please adopt me.

Sincerely,

Nikki

Where to start?

I initially wanted to call this blog “Drink Deep,” which is a phrase from a favorite poem by Alexander Pope. It starts…

A little learning is a dangerous thing ;
Drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring :
There shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
And drinking largely sobers us again.

Isn’t that lovely? Yes, well, the title was taken by some lucky soul who has chosen to let it wallow in neglect.  But I was glad to find Darwin’s term Divergence of Character. We hear a lot about Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, but little about Divergence of Character. Isn’t that the interesting part? It the differences that make this universe interesting and dizzying, complex and confounding.That we are made of “star stuff” and yet so unlike a star is both glorious and maddening.

For me, personally, the term takes on another meaning.  Coming from a conservative Christian background, where truth is prescribed and fanciful, finding science makes me feel like Sir Launcelot in Yankee Connecticut. The world is oh-so-different, and oh-so-much-more-interesting than I ever could have realized with my head stuck in a dusty bible. My character has diverged, is diverging, and I want it to be as fit as can be.