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<   No. 949   2005-09-01   >

Comic #949

1 {scene: a lurid landscape of primary colours, with a conspicuous yellow brick road. A house nearby sits on top of a set of legs wearing red slippers. A girl with a little white dog looks around inquisitively}
1 Dorothy: Oh my, what a storm. Where are we? Oh, there's a sign, maybe that will help.
2 Dorothy [reading]: "Evolution is a theory supported by a vast amount of observational evidence. Like all scientific theories, it is amenable to testing - and disproof, should such evidence arise.
3 Dorothy [reading]: "Creationism is a bedtime story told by people who prefer blind faith to informed understanding. As it is unfalsifiable, it is in no sense scientific and has no place in schools."
4 Dorothy: Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore.

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This is of course a parody of The Wizard of Oz. And yes, that's the line exactly as she says it in the film. I was surprised when I viewed it recently and heard the line, as I'd assumed for many years that it was "I don't think we're in Kansas any more, Toto."

To do this, I had to recreate the yellow brick road I made for #319. I now have more yellow bricks, but was paving a larger baseplate and began to run out of red bricks this time.

The context of this parody is the ongoing and mind-boggling debate in the United States over whether evolution or creationism (or its new politically correct formulation "Intelligent Design") or both should be taught in school science classes. Kansas has been a particular stronghold of creationists seeking to undermine public education by promoting their religious agenda, with its State Board of Education voting in 1999 in favour of a new science curriculum that made no mention of the true age of the Earth, the age and origins of the universe, or of biological evolution. Quite how this qualifies as science is beyond me. The Board reversed its decision in 2001 after massive public outcry.

What really boggles me is that evolution is the single most profound and far-reaching discovery ever made in the entire science of biology, and a significant number of people simply refuse to believe it.

Wow. I got a lot of e-mails about this one. Many supportive, some politely disagreeing, and a couple rudely abusive.

If you disagree with me on this topic, fine. We'll just have to agree to disagree. I won't get into an argument about it.

I don't back down from what I said, however. Evolution is part of science. Researchers are constantly probing and testing its formulation, modifying the pieces that don't seem to work when evidence comes to light. This is the process of science. Postulating some sort of creator/designer is not scientific, as it cannot be probed and tested in any meaningful sense.

You can believe whatever you like. I have no problem at all with people holding beliefs or being religious. But they have no place in a science class.

And several people pointed me to the Flying Spaghetti Monster to show exactly why.

After about 50 e-mails, someone has pointed out that Toto was in fact a little black dog, not a little white dog. I made some investigations, examined the evidence, and now admit that I was incorrect and am adopting a new theory on Toto's colouration.
2014-11-10 Rerun commentary: I try hard not to actively offend people when I write stuff. But frankly, if you're offended by the fact that living things evolve over vast periods of time, and all living things on Earth are related by a common ancestry, then I'm afraid there's nothing I can do for you.

I refuse to compromise scientifically established facts with mythology. The creation stories of various world religions are just that, myths. They are allegorical stories composed in times before humanity had figured out just how complex and wonderful the real explanation of life is.

If we are to move forward as a species and deal effectively with the problems which face us in the future, we need to have the understanding and knowledge to deal with how the world really works. Hiding that, or suppressing that, or campaigning against that, or trying to prevent our children from learning that - in the name of some religion or for whatever reason - is tantamount to a betrayal of the human species and every other species on this planet.

I have restrained myself from being so strident on this topic in the past, but I need to make a stand, to express what needs to be said.

I fully expect to get some hate mail and lose readers over what I've written here now. But, frankly again, if you are going to hate me for what I've written here, then there's probably nothing I can do for you anyway. As a parting gift, save yourself the time and energy, because I'm not even going to bother reading any hate mail.

24 hours later and not a whit of hate mail have I received, which I suppose is good. Instead I have received several messages of support and approval.

One writer did take me to task for the somewhat insulting tone in the comic, and suggested that the text in panel 3 could be replaced just as effectively with:

3 Dorothy [reading]: "Creationism is a theology followed by some fundamentalist religions, it is an article of faith. As it is unfalsifiable, it is in no sense scientific and has no place in science class."
He's absolutely right. If I was writing this comic today, I'd probably go for something more like that.

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Last Modified: Tuesday, 11 November 2014; 02:28:45 PST.
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