My friends, there are certian times in your life when you are simply forced by events to reevaluate everything you believe and hold dear. For me, now is such a time. I have argued at length that the aggressive tone of the anti-religion books by Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens does not hurt the cause of promoting good science education. That position is no longer tenable, in light of events coming out of Sedalia, Missouri:
The shirts, which were designed to promote the band’s fall program, are light gray and feature an image of a monkey progressing through stages and eventually emerging as a man. Each figure holds a brass instrument. Several instruments decorate the background and the words “Smith-Cotton High School Tiger Pride Marching Band” and “Brass Evolutions 2009” are emblazoned above and below the image.
Assistant Band Director Brian Kloppenburg said the shirts were designed by him, Band Director Jordan Summers and Main Street Logo. Kloppenburg said the shirts were intended to portray how brass instruments have evolved in music from the 1960s to modern day. Summers said they chose the evolution of man because it was “recognizable.” The playlist of songs the band is slated to perform revolve around the theme “Brass Evolutions.”
The band debuted the T-shirts when it marched in the Missouri State Fair parade. Summers said he was surprised when he received a direct complaint after the parade.
While the shirts don’t directly violate the district’s dress code, Assistant Superintendent Brad Pollitt said complaints by parents made him take action.
“I made the decision to have the band members turn the shirts in after several concerned parents brought the shirts to my attention,” Pollitt said.
Pollitt said the district is required by law to remain neutral where religion is concerned.
“If the shirts had said ‘Brass Resurrections’ and had a picture of Jesus on the cross, we would have done the same thing,” he said.
Band parent Sherry Melby, who is a teacher in the district, stands behind Pollitt’s decision. Melby said she associated the image on the T-shirt with Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“I was disappointed with the image on the shirt.” Melby said. “I don’t think evolution should be associated with our school.”
Oh, sure, the usual suspects look at this and see a story about scientific ignorance and excessive religious influence in public education. Here’s P. Z. Myers stamping his little feet and Jerry Coyne huffing and puffing. ERV added some bashing of her own, as did Orac in this post.
Give it up, guys. Just give it up. When the facts are so unambiguous long-held dogmas simply must be let go. Is it even conceivable that you can read this article and fail to see how this is all Dawkins’s fault?
Those poor people in Sedalia, MO. Just minding their own business, maintaining a respectful distance between church and state, not wasting much emotional energy on the minutiae of modern scientific theories. Until that day a few of them strolled down to the local bookstore and noticed a copy of The God Delusion on the front kiosk. They could hardly miss it, what with its shiny silver cover calling to them like Homer’s sirens. Curious, a few opened the book and scanned some pages. And then they were gone….
Pandora had nothing on the horrors that were unleashed. The seeds that came to fruition in the great band shirt scandal were planted by Dawkins himself the moment he used the word, “faith-head.” How could the townspeople not recognize the obvious syllogism: Richard Dawkins is an atheist. Richard Dawkins defends evolution. Therefore we must summon forth the sort of single-minded humorlessness that leads us to get bent out of shape over a freakin’ band T-shirt, so as to oppose this massive atheist assault on our schools.
The parents filing the complaints are victims just as surely as the band members deprived of their shirts. Once that is recognized, the proper strategy becomes obvious. First, don’t criticize them! It only makes them angry and turns off moderates. Second, if you tend to agree that evolution poses challenges to certain common forms of religious belief, then sit quietly and do nothing. You will hurt the cause simply by showing up.
Third, let the theistic evolutionists go down to Sedalia and undue the damage wrought by Dawkins and his militant ilk. They are the perfect ones to do it, seeing as how they know best how to talk to their fellow religionists. I’m sure the band shirt complainers will be very receptive to talk of process theology, or to hearing that they can not understand the Bible without the help of scientists and academic theologians, or to the idea that the model of “God as creator” is totally passe and unsophisticated. As for Dawkins, c’mon, the man didn’t even present Aquinas’s third argument correctly. How can you listen to anything he says?
That ought to do it.
For myself, having been proved wrong so conclusively I will have to retreat for a while and ponder my situation. All the time I have wasted thinking that the problem had something to do with society’s excessive deference to religious belief, or to the respect granted to reading the Bible for reasons other than its historical and literary value, or to the idea that there is something inherently admirable in strong religious faith that is worth preserving despite its receding relevance in modern life, it pains me to think of it. I was blind but now I see.
Damn you Dawkins! Go down to Sedalia and explain to the students why they can not have their band T-shirts. Go see for yourself the casualties in that foolish war you started between science and religion. Ruminate on how much better things were before you wrote your book, when science and religion existed peacefully side by side and asinine brou ha ha’s like this never happened. Then hang your head in shame and think real carefully about the harm you have done. Villain!