Thursday, July 5, 2007

Among the Great Unwashed

George Packer, writing for The New Yorker, is appalled at the new Creation Museum in Kentucky. He can't believe people really believe what many Christians, including some of the greatest scientists in history, commonly believed up until about 100 years ago. He's especially upset that children might be brainwashed to accept this awful tripe:

Many of the quarter of a million people expected to visit the Creation Museum by the end of the year will be children. They will be indoctrinated into an ideology that systematically warps their understanding of the physical world and fills them with hostility toward the facts and concepts of modernity.

Well, one can hope. Modernity has certainly not been a uniform blessing as even Mr. Packer must know. At the very least, our children should be trained to have a healthy skepticism toward the assumptions of the modern era, particularly its metaphysical claims, and especially its simultaneous deification and debasement of man.

The Creation Museum, a combination of a natural-history museum and a Communist Party propaganda center, will help to arm and arouse the next generation of Christianists in the ongoing war against secular and scientific America.

Mr. Packer apparently believes that museums which indoctrinate youngsters in materialism and naturalism are just fine, but museums which challenge those worldviews are evil Communist propaganda centers for nefarious Christianists. Perhaps Packer also found Count Dracula lurking in the shadows of the Creation Museum waiting to pounce on the kiddies.

The mass of ordinary visitors were every bit as alien to me as the few Mennonite families in their nineteenth-century bonnets and long beards. We might speak the same contemporary American dialect, wear the same T-shirts, and eat the same fatty foods, but our basic beliefs are so incompatible that it's hard to know what political arrangement could ever satisfy us both.

Exactly so. Mr. Packer, unlike most of his fellow travelers on the left, evidently grasps the reason why there is a culture war in this country. There are millions of people out in the hinterland who don't think at all the way he and his friends do. The visitors to the museum believe, with good reason, that Western elites made a serious wrong turn when they abandoned traditional religion, and they don't want their children making the same mistake.

I had the sense of being a dissident surrounded by the lies of a totalitarian state, and I kept my reactions to myself.

A sentence like this leads us to wonder if Mr. Packer has a background in paleontology or evolutionary biology that enables him to recognize the lies perpetrated by the boneheads at the Creation Museum. But no. Mr. Packer is a journalist. A distinguished journalist, but, alas, just a journalist. Nothing in his background suggests that he has any expertise at all on the issues which he finds so offensive to his intellectual sensibilities. Nothing in his background suggests that he has any way of knowing exactly why the Young Earth Creationists are wrong.

Perhaps that's why he kept his reactions to himself.


Artful Insults

My friend Byron sends along a sampling of historical quotes that raise the act of insult to the level of art. In light of our post the other day on "Civil Discourse" I thought sharing these might be somehow appropriate:

"He has all the virtues I dislike and none of the vices I admire." -- Winston Churchill

"I have never killed a man, but I have read many obituaries with great pleasure." -- Clarence Darrow

"He has never been known to use a word that might send a reader to the dictionary." -- William Faulkner (about Ernest Hemingway)

"I've had a perfectly wonderful evening. But this wasn't it." -- Groucho Marx

"I didn't attend the funeral, but I sent a nice letter saying I approved of it." -- Mark Twain

"He has no enemies, but is intensely disliked by his friends." -- Oscar Wilde

"I am enclosing two tickets to the first night of my new play; bring a friend .... if you have one." -- George Bernard Shaw to Winston Churchill

"Cannot possibly attend first night; will attend second, if there is one." -- Winston Churchill's response

"I feel so miserable without you; it's almost like having you here." -- Stephen Bishop

"He is a self-made man and worships his creator." -- John Bright

"I've just learned about his illness. Let's hope it's nothing trivial." -- Irvin S. Cobb

"He is not only dull himself; he is the cause of dullness in others." -- Samuel Johnson

"He is simply a shiver looking for a spine to run up." -- Paul Keating

"He had delusions of adequacy." -- Walter Kerr

"Why do you sit there looking like an envelope without any address on it?" -- Mark Twain

"His mother should have thrown him away and kept the stork." -- Mae West

"Winston, if you were my husband, I would poison your coffee!" -- Lady Astor to Winston Churchill at a dinner party

"Madam, if I were your husband, I would drink it!" -- Winston Churchill, in response

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others, whenever they go." -- Oscar Wilde

Reading the quotes from Churchill, one can only admire a wit so quick and keen that it can, in a moment, think of such devastatingly clever retorts.