Thursday, October 14, 2010

Scottish cuckoo's nest

In his Pharyngula blog [display], the biology professor PZ Myers warns us immediately of every tiny flame of crazy Creationism or insipid Intelligent Design that dares to flicker on the surface of our Darwinian planet. And that makes it easier for us ground troops, under the supreme command of Field-Marshal Richard Dawkins, to drag our fire hoses to the scene and quench the flame of the match before it attains the dangerous dimensions of a candle. Often we get airlifted to foreign lands. Today, for example, our front has moved to Scotland, where we're faced with a particularly nasty inferno: an entire cuckoo's nest has suddenly burst into flames!

The Centre for Intelligent Design has its base somewhere in Glasgow, and a website somewhere on the Internet. The fellow in the photo is its director, Dr Alastair Noble, a former school inspector who is now engaged in the promotion of faith-based teaching in schools. The president of C4ID—to use its trendy acronym—is Norman Nevin, a professor of genetics from Belfast who has received an OBE (Order of the British Empire) award. He believes sincerely that Adam was a real historical personage and that the stories of Genesis actually happened as stated. That's to say, the universe was created in a week, God extracted a rib from Adam in order to build Eve, and Noah had to do some rapid and expert boat-building in order to save various lucky specimens from the wrath of God. The vice-president of C4ID is another doctor, David Galloway, who belongs to both the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons and a local Evangelical church. So, the institution is apparently run by distinguished gentlemen with academic titles. But will that suffice to make it any less loony?

In hearing the titles of these fellows, I was reminded of the delightful sequence in One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest in which Jack Nicholson is about to embark on a fishing trip with his band of insane companions.

In an aura of dignity, he introduces them cursorily, one by one, to the puzzled boat-owner: "We're from the State Mental Institute. This is Dr Cheswick. Dr Tabor. Dr Scanlon. I'm Dr McMurphy." Miraculously, each of the mental patients remained calm, smiled and succeeded in looking, for an instant, as if he were indeed a brilliant physician.

But aboard the ark, it was soon joyous bedlam. Hey, talking of boats, a fascinating question has just sprung into my mind. Did Captain Noah actually invite an ancestor of Nessie (Scotland's Loch Ness monster) aboard his vessel? Obviously, the answer is yes, otherwise descendants of these creatures wouldn't still be there today.

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