BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Meg White
Talk about a back-to-school special! Watch out co-eds, ’cause this year, Kirk Cameron and his sidekick Ray Comfort are teaming up with Answers in Genesis (the pseudo-scientists who brought you the Creation Museum in Petersburg, KY) to convince you and your school chums that Darwin was misogynistic, racist Nazi.
Their “Origin Into Schools” effort will target 50 major college campuses on Nov. 21, where Creationists will be giving out free copies of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species on the classic tome’s 150-year anniversary. Only these special editions of the book that introduced the world to the concept of evolution will be prefaced with a 50-page introduction written by Comfort (whom I will henceforth refer to as the Banana Man, thanks to this classic video which illustrates the basic inability of Creationists to use logic with a simplicity I could never accomplish).
When I first saw this video promoting the event, my plan (after laughing hysterically) was to ignore it. Being on BuzzFlash’s religious wack-job beat, I’ve learned that you just can’t write about everything these people do. There are problems of granting free publicity, the precariousness of my blood pressure and countless other dimensions to consider before giving voice to the boisterous.
Then I saw this video response to Cameron’s pitch, which I recommend watching right now. Stop reading, if you haven’t seen this video from start to finish yet, and press play. It’s worth the six minutes.
First, I’d like to say “Bravo” to the woman in this video (who is unfortunately belittled as a “hot blond Romanian woman” by Salon.com’s Mary Elizabeth Williams, who otherwise writes up a great critique of Cameron and seems to enjoy the video as well. Not sure why Williams felt the need to jump on the YouTube bandwagon of comments below the video evidently made by horny 15-year old boys with ADHD, but oh well).
While her idea to get Richard Dawkins to write a 50-page intro to the Bible is priceless, I also love her suggestion of collecting as many copies of the modified On the Origin of Species as one can find, stripping out the introduction and using it for toilet paper, reserving the remainder for one’s library. Now that’s my kind of peaceful protest.
Maybe a person wouldn’t even have to remove the Banana Man’s contribution. He and Cameron must not have gone to university, or perhaps they’re too old to remember that college students don’t read introductions. I mean, how often do test questions come from there? Someone should find a better place for those “answers” than in Genesis.
Silliness aside however, Cameron’s plan is ingenious in several ways.
First, everyone knows that college kids love free stuff. They’ll do practically anything for a free T-shirt or tchotchke. That’s certainly a part of the reason why the Credit Card Responsibility and Disclosure Act signed into law earlier this year prevents credit card companies from giving away freebies specifically on or near college campuses.
Second, the reasoning has an appealingly patriotic surface, even though the underlying argument is a specious one. As Salon’s Williams points out:
Rather than resorting to the old tried-and-true method of simply attempting to silence evolutionary teaching, they’re leaning on the classic American standby: freedom of speech. Emphasis on the “free.”
On that rich-with-gravitas promotional clip, Cameron begins by declaring, “Our kids can no longer pray in public,” a provocative and completely inaccurate assertion, as anyone familiar with the term “public” knows.
Third, the physical design is smart. Cameron himself notes the packaging of the book is intelligent deception (though he doesn’t use my particular phrasing), in that it doesn’t have a label in some sort of comic sans font that says “evangelical wack-job version.” The cover itself is quite college-y looking, and something that might blend in nicely with the Principles of Macroeconomics text Sally Student is already lugging around for class.
Fourth, the introduction itself is an example of intelligent deception as well. The Banana Man intro begins couched in historicity, with pretty black and white images of Darwin, his family and the HMS Beagle. Then, suddenly the footnotes shift from the National History Museum’s Darwin 200 Web site to World Net Daily and Answers in Genesis.
You can read the introduction here, where you’ll find interesting discussion questions like, “Do you think that DNA’s amazing structure could have come together by accident? Or does it point to an intelligent Designer?”
Of course, discussion is not the point here, as we see in another set of questions that have the answers already filled in for the weary student:
What is the scientific basis for assuming that similar DNA means a common ancestor? When you see a biplane and a jet — which share common features of wings, body, tires, engine, controls, etc. — do you assume that one must have evolved from the other naturally, without a maker? That’s illogical. It’s more reasonable to conclude that similar design indicates a common, intelligent designer.
Yeah, that’s much more reasonable. Granted, there are some inconsistencies about Darwin’s theory of evolution. That’s why we call it a theory. Some of those inconsistencies were brought to light thanks to religious fundamentalists who see evolution as an affront to their religious beliefs (though not most; discoveries are more often uncovered by scientists and then promoted by said fundies to support their specious claims). Evolution continues to — ahem — evolve just as other scientific disciplines do.
But students don’t need the Banana Man to tell them about the hoaxes perpetuated in the name of evolution. As an anthropology major in undergrad, I learned about Piltdown Man, the repulsiveness of social Darwinism and some of the technical holes in Darwin’s theory. Instead of rejecting evolution outright, however, I was excited to track the constantly changing — and relatively new — discipline of studying humans.
Indeed, the most ingenious and scariest part of this Origin Into Schools plan is Cameron’s target audience. College kids are almost by definition in transition. They’re trying to figure out who they are, where they belong, and — most importantly for an Evangelist’s goals — what they believe.
The old-timely nostalgia of religion may comfort the homesick student this November, just as the excitement of college wears off. But the relatively attractive, young-looking Cameron (keep in mind that many college students today weren’t even born in the 1980s, much less early enough to remember watching Growing Pains), combined with the false sense of iconoclasm that comes with telling your cranky biology prof that he’s wrong about evolution, makes this version of religiosity especially appealing to the college set.
Cameron and his Banana Man are performing the ultimate after-school special by becoming that crazy dude on the quad preaching about how all us sinners are going to burn in hell.
Remember that guy? I’m sure you had one. Even I did during my undergraduate career at the quite liberal University of Colorado in Boulder. One particularly offensive preacher starting yelling in my face during a sunny outdoor lunch, so I calmly explained to him what fascism was, and how I’d appreciate it if he stopped trying to make me act and think exactly the way he does, please and thank you.
Well, maybe I didn’t actually say please and thank you.
But my point was that I was coming to class for an education, not indoctrination. And no matter how many times Cameron references our “God-given liberties” disappearing because of those terrible P.C. liberals or kids being forced to embrace atheism in school, the truth is that any educational institution worth its meddle will work to teach kids to think for themselves. And that’s what Cameron is really afraid of.