Sunday, February 24, 2008

Oh. My. God.

Post-rant health warning: I seem to have done a certain amount of gratuitous swearing in this post. Approach with caution.

You know how some days you wake up with a song in your heart and a spring in your step, the sun shines, and the streets are filled with kindly old gentlemen and apple-cheeked urchins who smile as you give them a friendly clip round the ear as you pass?

Not today though.

I think it might have started here. Don't be fooled by the URL, this is nothing as innocent and harmless as hardcore pornography. If you've never encountered Jack Chick before, you're in for a treat. One very important point: this NOT a parody. This is NOT satire. I promise, it's real - this guy really puts the MENTAL in FUNDAMENTAL. So, let's dive in with:
  • Islam. Hilariously, the main planks of the reasoning by which Islam is declared to be false seem to be that its holy book isn't internally self-consistent, it's a mish-mash of ideas inherited from earlier, abandoned religions and that its adherents use circular reasoning to deflect questioning about it (i.e. the Koran is infallible because God is infallible and the Koran is the word of God, and we know these things because, well, it says so in the Koran). All of which is perfectly true, but, well, I'm sure I don't have to spell it out for you. Seldom have pot and kettle been in such close proximity.
  • In very similar vein, Buddhism;
  • And Mormonism;
  • The Freemasons;
  • Occultism;
  • The gays. Remember, kids: "if anyone tries to make you gay, stay away from them".
  • Sex in general, including the claim that wearing condoms gives you AIDS. This really is beyond satire.
  • And, inevitably, last but not least, evolution. You knew it was coming. And remember, kids: "if you believe in evolution instead of Jesus, you'll end up in hell".
On a good day like the one described in the first paragraph, the response to this might be pointing and hysterical cackling laughter. And maybe that's an appropriate response. But I have a feeling that's only because here in good old (mostly) secular Britain these things seem quaintly unbelievable to us, by which I mean the notion that this stuff is intended in any way seriously, and is fed to their kids by people. But it is. Much liberal hand-wringing followed Richard Dawkins' labelling of religion as a form of child abuse, to which I say, of course it fucking is. Any doubters might like to re-visit the links above, and pay a bit more attention this time.

And don't give me the "No True Scotsman" argument about Chick being an extremist, and how I shouldn't lump him together with the moderate majority. Of course I fucking should. The only difference between Chick and the nice cuddly old bearded Archbishop of Canterbury and people like him is that their mental illness takes a subtler form whereby they're able to compartmentalise their wacky beliefs in such a way that they're able to function as seemingly normal people most of the time. This is arguably more insidious and dangerous, given that it's the same barking nonsense they're peddling. There's an argument that the fundamentalists are being more intellectually honest - unless you're prepared to follow through with your belief in what it says in the Bible (and rest assured none of what Chick says is in conflict with it - those chapter and verse citations in the cartoons are real) then you're practising a form of Orwellian doublethink. Then again anyone who derides the theory of evolution and takes antibiotics for an infection is doing the same thing.

Speaking of evolution, gird yourselves up for an explosion of big-budget gibbering stupidity in April, when Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed hits the cinemas. Well, I doubt whether it'll hit many cinemas here in the UK, but you can bet your bottom dollar it'll be in a few in the USA. Not that the film's backers are leaving anything to chance - they're offering kickbacks to school administrators to get their kids to go and see the movie. That's some more child abuse, right there.

Sorry, I'm getting ahead of myself. Expelled tells the shocking story of how a sinister cabal of scientists have perpetrated a massive global conspiracy whereby scientists who differ from the received orthodoxy regarding the development of life on Earth are hounded out of their jobs and denied access to research facilities and funding - all for putting forward the exciting new scientific theory of Intelligent Design in place of the tired and largely discredited theories of Charles Darwin.

Let's rewind a paragraph or so - back in the real world, Expelled is the religious propagandists at the Discovery Institute's latest salvo in the war on reason. Very little surprises me in this area any more, but even I am mildly taken aback at the sheer quantity of money they must have to throw around - films with international distribution don't come cheap. These guys must be absolutely minted, because I cannot believe they're expecting to make a profit on the movie. Fortunately for them, that isn't really the point; the oxygen of publicity is what they're after. And their main weapon seems to be that they've paid minor character actor, ex-political speechwriter and TV quiz show host Ben Stein to front the movie. Stein's appeal presumably was that he's got some sort of spurious intellectual credentials with the credulous slack-jawed inbred hicks in Pigfuck, Arkansas owing to the aforementioned quiz show, as well as by virtue of wearing glasses and having grey hair and a comically monotonic vocal delivery. And he wasn't so very rich and famous that he could allow his conscience to override the offer to whore himself out for a nice fat wedge from the wingnuts at the DI. Or maybe he really believes this stuff. I'm not sure, as I've said before, which is worse.

It's almost pointless to say this, but the film seems to be, on the basis of the few reviewers who weren't either hired DI hacks or forced to sign non-disclosure agreements, unsurprisingly, a tired rehash of the usual tired, long-debunked, mendacious drivel about evolution, offers no actual definition either of evolution or of Intelligent Design (hardly surprisingly since it makes no scientifically testable claims whatsoever), and lapses shockingly early into the tired and intellectually absurd canard of blaming Darwin for the Holocaust (interestingly, Jack Chick blames the Catholics). And they're showing this to children, in schools. That's a form of child abuse probably not quite as bad as anally raping each and every one of them, without lubrication, but it's very much in the same ballpark. Promoting the notion that what you believe about reality has any bearing on reality itself, or that you get to have some sort of fucking popularity contest like the fucking X Factor to decide by what laws the universe organises itself, or that your batshit beliefs confer upon you the divine right to interfere in and constrain other people's lives, is not something I would be happy to have my children being taught. In fact I might be tempted to put the second HL Mencken quote in my earlier post into action.

So far, so depressing. However, there's been an entertaining spat between the film's producers and a few of the high-profile scientists featured in it - PZ Myers for one. It seems the film they were told they were being interviewed for was somewhat different from its final incarnation. As always, once PZ's cage has been rattled he won't leave it alone. Best of all, though, the response to Richard Dawkins' complaint was as follows - quote from the Expelled Wikipedia article:
The film's proponents point out that Dawkins participated in the BBC Horizon documentary "A War on Science", whose producers they allege presented themselves to the Discovery Institute as objective filmmakers and then portrayed the organization as religiously-motivated and anti-scientific.
Religiously-motivated and anti-scientific?! Say it ain't so! Like I say, beyond satire.


Anonymous said...

Loving your work, Mr Thomas...

electrichalibut said...

Cheers. Incidentally I'm glad to see you're back blogging again - keep it up! In fact I would have left a comment on your recent post, but your current set-up seems to require me to set up a WordPress account to do so. Sort it aht!

Anonymous said...

Great stuff. I just happened upon your blog and I'm glad I did. This made my evening. Let me repay the favor by suggesting some more Jack Chick lunacy. has nine short films based on actual Chick Tracts. I'm sure you will get a kick out of it. See ya round - Howard