This evening I had a 90-minute IM debate over the Flying Spaghetti Monster. My friend is neither a creationist nor particularly religious, but after finding the FSM link on this site said that it seemed patronising. I’m not going to continue my argument in a one-sided blog post – that would be remarkably unfair – but I’ll try to articulate her point.
Bit of background: the Flying Spaghetti Monster is a deity created in response to the Kansas school board’s hearings on whether to include ‘Intelligent Design’ in US science classes. ‘Intelligent Design’ says that the world has clear elements of design, and that standard evolutionary theory is demonstrably false. It’s creationism in a hat. The Flying Spaghetti Monster is worshipped by many, and His followers believe that if ‘Intelligent Design’ has a place in science classrooms, so does the FSM. After all: He created the universe and everything in it, this much is clear. The standard scientific methods of evidence are insufficient because:
what our scientist does not realize is that every time he makes a measurement, the Flying Spaghetti Monster is there changing the results with His Noodly Appendage. We have numerous texts that describe in detail how this can be possible and the reasons why He does this. He is of course invisible and can pass through normal matter with ease.
[I]t is disrespectful to teach our beliefs without wearing His chosen outfit, which of course is full pirate regalia.
The FSM analogy works well, I think, because it results in creationists arguing against themselves. Every argument against the clearly insane FSM theory of creation applies equally to ‘Intelligent Design’.
So what’s the problem?
- My friend said that the nature of the FSM is childish and patronising. I disagreed, saying that the point is that it makes no sense and is clearly ridiculous.
- She said that the impression from the FSM is that we think creationists are idiots. I replied that I, and all Pastafarians, do not think (or, at least, recognise that such thoughts are not part of any valid argument) that creationists are idiots, just that their theory of ‘Intelligent Design’ is moronic – it’s fine to attack ideas, but not people.
- She said that they will react as if we’ve treated them like idiots, because of the initial impression the FSM gives. I conceded that this may sometimes be the case, even though it’s not the point of the argument. I said that the ‘teach all sides’ argument is compelling to many people and the FSM is a fast, clear analogy that does not directly criticise their religion, and causes them to argue against themselves. People should not be offended when they see the point.
- She said that she can see how the FSM works as an effective tool, but that it is nevertheless patronising because we should talk to them like adults: there are better ways to articulate the point without parodying creation myths and drawing cartoons.
And that was where we left it. It’s not a bad point, on the face of it. Even though the underlying message of the FSM is sound, it is vaguely conceivable that there could be somebody intelligent and logically-minded for whom it could be patronising, although I suspect this may be a straw-man creationist. I’m also not sure that they’re the intended target. This is the point I’m struggling with (although it’s 0130 and I’m not terribly awake :-)). While you could argue that when serious debate is needed it’s easily provided, and that the FSM has generated large amounts of useful publicity, could it actually cause resentment in otherwise rational people? Are there circumstances in which it’s reasonable to see the FSM as patronising?