I used to be a big fan of The Simpsons, but like a lot of people I started losing interest a few years ago. After more than a decade on the air the show seemed to have lost its spark. Well, maybe it’s time to start watching regularly again. Tonight episode was first rate. The following synopsis is from memory, so forigve me if I get some details wrong.

In tonight’s episode, Ned Flanders becomes outraged that the local natural history museum promotes evolution while presenting the Biblical story as a myth. His children are plunged into spiritual confusion by seeing the display. Flanders protests to Rev. Lovejoy. Initially annoyed, Lovejoy points out to him that the Bible really has to be taken with a grain of salt. But then the Reverand’s wife points out to him that making a fuss over a hot button issue like evolution could boost the sagging attendance at the church.

So Lovejoy and Flanders approach Principle Skinner to have alternatives to evolution taught in science classes. Skinner laughs at the idea, until he is reminded that he purchased his car from Christian Brother’s Auto Service, and that he will lose the sweet lease he got from them unless he goes along with teaching creationism. Skinner caves in.


This leads to a presentation of a video to Lisa Simpson’s science class, entitled “Are You Calling God a Liar?” The video describes Charles Darwin as a cowardly drunk, and shows him making out with Satan. Lisa is horrified, and protests to her mother. Marge Simpson tries to downplay the issue, telling Lisa that it is perfectly possible to believe contradictory things at the same time. Lisa presses her, saying that evolution and creationism are completely incompatible, and that she will have to choose. Marge runs out of the room rather than have to make a choice.

Lisa next raises the issue at a Town Hall meeting. She urges the town’s people that it makes no sense to teach both evolution and creationism, and that they will simply have to make a choice. The town agrees, and decides to teach creationism alone.

The next day in class, Groundskeepr Willie gathers up all the evolution textbooks, while the teacher bangs ominously on a drum. In response, Lisa tries to teach evolution to a small group of like-minded students. The gathering is broken up at gunpoint by Chief Wiggums and two of his deputies. Lisa protests that surely there are more serious crimes for the police to investigate, but Chief Wiggums explains that because of budget cuts they can only afford to enforce the last law passed.

Lisa is brought to trial where she is represented by an attorney from the ACLU. “I’m from New York,” she says, to boos and jeers from the crowd. The prosecutor is a folksy, country lawyer voiced by Larry Hagman, who casually refers to the theory of devil-lution. At one point in the trial he is seen feeding a baby deer from a bottle and saying, “Who started the fire that killed your mama, Bambi? What’s that? It was evolution!” Gasps from the audience.

The first witness is John Frink, the regular bumbling scientist character on the show. He is asked on the stand whether it is possible to accept both God and evolution. He replies that it is. Lisa breathes a sigh of relief. Then he adds (roughly) “As long as you believe that God is an incompetant bumbler.” Lisa looks nervous again.

The second witness is a clean cut gentleman who looked exactly like every creationist public speaker I have ever seen. He is described as holding a PhD in Truthology from Christian Tech. The jury is impressed. He confidently testifies that evolution is a lot of Hollywood hogwash and that the theory is nonsense.

Later that evening Marge decides to find out what all the fuss is about and reads The Origin of Species from cover to cover. She is amazed by how persuasive Darwin’s argument is, and tells Lisa that she has figured out how to help her win the trial.

The next day, in court, Marge hands Homer a bottle of beer that does not have a twist-off top. In his increasingly desperate struggles to get the bottle open, Homer starts acting very much like a gorilla. Flanders is on the stand while this is happening, and the ACLU attorney points to Homer and asks if it is really so inconceivable that that man evolved from an ape. Flanders is forced to concede that it is possible. The Judge dismisses the charges against Lisa and repeals the law.

In the show’s closing scene, Lisa approaches Flanders and says she appreciates how sincerely he holds his beliefs and how important they are to him. She just thinks that science classes shouldn’t be used to teach religion any more than Sunday school classes should be used to teach science. Flanders is impressed and takes her and his kids out for a “fundae.”

See what I mean? The show was completely uncompromising, did an excellent job of portraying creationist PR techniques, and most important of all, was funny. Could it be that the Simspons has its mojo back? I hope so!

Comments

  1. #1 coturnix
    May 14, 2006

    Great to see you here!

    And now I have to figure out where and when the Simpsons may have a rerun late tonight…

  2. #2 DFX
    May 15, 2006

    I thought it was a pretty good episode.

    Maybe if enough mainstream media outlets reinforce the idea that evolution is an uncontested theory, people will actually start listening. It’s clear they aren’t reading the scientific literature on the subject.

  3. #3 Fred J
    May 15, 2006

    Well… I’ve never watched the Simpsons but this was a great story. When Mash went off TV I lost interest.

    Glad to see you back Bloggin.

  4. #4 Dave Munger
    May 15, 2006

    Thanks for the heads’ up! I’ve got my TiVo set to record the Simpsons, but I usually don’t bother to watch any more. I’ll make sure to save the episode until I get a chance to watch it.

    Oh, and welcome to ScienceBlogs!

  5. #5 Dave S.
    May 15, 2006

    Welcome to the club!

  6. #6 Stanislav Zza
    May 15, 2006

    I keep your RSS feed on my ‘must see list’. Thanks! I like the new look too.

  7. #7 Kevin from NYC
    May 16, 2006

    A) I just gonna type KFNYC from now on.

    B) aside from South Park and the Sopranos the Simpsons are the only thing worth watching on TV…and I missed it…