“This is bad,” says Mr. Fish, “for if we cannot swim to land we shall be carried into the country of the Wicked Witch of the West, and he will enchant us and prevent us from evolving a higher intelligence.”
His companions chime in: "And then I should get no brains," "And I should get no courage," "And I should get no heart," "And I should never get back to Kansas.”
In this fairy tale, these creatures expect to gain enlightenment in the prairie classrooms of Kansas.
Mr. Fish and his colleagues are in for a shock when they arrive. They will be told that any thoughts of developing brains or courage or hearts are pure fantasy. Teachers in Kansas have persevered in a world of mass starvation, natural disasters, civil wars, terrorism, and flu viruses. They have endured computer worms, spam, and phishing. They have even “stayed the course” through student revolts, student apathy, administrative intrusion, and administrative confusion.
But today they find themselves in a conundrum, unable to resolve the latest Catch 22 in American education. Teachers who teach evolution in the science classroom are attacked by the Intelligent Designers as atheists and anti-American. Teachers who attempt to introduce intelligent design into the science classroom are ridiculed for weakening our young people’s ability to think and analyze objectively.
No matter which side educators choose, opponents accuse them of triggering the decline and fall of Western Civilization. If teachers introduce a unit that requires students to consider both explanations for the origins of life, administrators threaten to exterminate their contracts for veering from the sanctioned curricula. Teachers are being steered into the land of Western Oz where the one remaining Wicked Witch reigns.
Most educators understand the two theories clearly enough to introduce them into the classroom. Simply stated, evolutionists teach that life evolved slowly from soggy one-cell blobs into more complex slobs and developed an attitude. Eventually these creatures grew arms and legs, stood up, shook themselves dry, and selected the biggest and baddest male to lead them out of the swamps. The journey of human beings has followed this lengthy, developmental path for eons as chance mutations, natural selection, and fixed elections spawned civilization. Some scholars today actually propose the theory that humans have attained a sophistication somewhat more advanced than the chimpanzees.
Intelligent designers, on the other hand, argue that physically and mentally human beings are far too complicated to be understood by the entire congregation of Darwinians. Difficult as it is for humans to grasp, the supreme creator had a definite purpose in mind when sketching out the blueprints for the universe and its contents. And the climax of creation, according to intelligent designers, occurred six or seven thousand years ago when the divine creator intentionally and independently sculpted Adam and Eve out of a handful of clay, placed them on the planet Earth in an apple orchard in the garden of Eden, promised them eternal life, and inserted brains far superior to that of the apes and monkeys.
Intelligent Designers have a powerful voice in their new spokesman, President George W. Bush. When reporters asked about his position on this vital issue in education, Mr. Bush said, “[If] You're asking me whether or not people ought to be exposed to different ideas, the answer is yes.” Convinced that his position shall prevail, Mr. Bush wants to expose America's youngsters to both the theories of evolution and intelligent design, so that they can formulate their own opinions.
I must agree with our president up to a point. If evolution explains how human nature has developed, then Mr. Bush and many of the officials working inside the Beltway are living proof that evolution is an incomplete and unsatisfactory explanation for contemporary human behavior. We have elected them as our leaders and granted them titles such as Congressman, Congresswoman, Senator, Vice President, and President; so they must be the deluxe models of our species. But do they offer any proof that humans have profited from evolution? Mark Twain answered this question best when he wrote, “Fleas can be taught nearly anything that a Congressman can.”
Assume for a moment that there is intelligent design. If true, then politicians have no choice but to act according to how they are programmed by the intelligent designer. In other words, approximately half of them are predestined to act like Republicans, while the rest are programmed to act like Democrats. Again, Mark Twain has an perceptive explanation: “man is not to blame for what he is. . . . [He] didn't make himself and he has no control over himself.”
After many years of struggling with these concepts for an explanation of my own inexplicable behavior, I am convinced that both theories are second-rate. To shed light on this apocalyptic struggle for truth, we must turn again to America’s favorite literary firebrand and maverick. After long years of intensive observations of and reflections on human behavior, Mark Twain traveled to the London Zoological Gardens to conduct his final experiments to verify his hypothesis about human nature.
He introduced the Mark Twain doctrine in an essay titled “The Damned Human Race.” With clear, inductive reasoning, he exposes the defects in Charles Darwin’s “Ascent of Man from the Lower Animals” theory. Twain then builds a powerful argument for a “new and truer” theory called “The Descent of Man from the Higher Animals.”
Today we could just as comfortably apply his reckoning to the intelligent design theory. Why would an intelligent designer create a species that degenerates in moral and ethical behavior, as is forever on display inside the Beltway, in professional sports, and in Hollywood? As Twain documented in his essay, human nature long ago took a wrong turn.
If I might speak, temporarily, as a representative of my species, I respectfully differ with the president on this one. I would like to propose that we banish both evolution and intelligent design from the sacred halls of our nation’s classrooms. Neither theory comes close to explaining the mystery of human behavior.
In place of these two discounted theories, I recommend that we pass a constitutional amendment that requires the teaching of the Twain doctrine, “The Descent of Man from the Higher Animals,” in all science classrooms, from pre-school through grad-school. To ensure that educators don’t sneak into their lesson plans an allusion to evolution or intelligent design, the penalty for rogues who transgress the law should be a lifetime of watching repeats of “Pet Star” on the Animal Channel.
Tony Zurlo is a writer/educator teaching at Tarrant County College in Arlington, Texas. His commentaries have appeared in many newspapers and journals, including the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Peace Corps Writers, Online Journal, Democrats.US, Writers Against the War, and OpEdNews. He has also published non-fiction books on China, Hong Kong, Japan, Vietnam, Algeria, West Africa, and Syria. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.