The very issue of Prayer News which brought such joy to the heart of Dr Alex Ritchie contained another story, one which told a tale of such heart-wrenching poignancy, that only the flintiest-hearted Skeptic could fail to be touched by it.
This yarn concerned a visit to Australia by one Bryce Gaudian, who revels in the title, "director of the Southern Minnesota Association for Creation". Lest the unwary reader imagine that this body represents some worthy group of inventors or manufacturers, I can only caution them to remember the source of the story. We're talking creationism here, and the only things that creationists invent or manufacture are "facts".
Now I fear I must digress here, if only to forestall the literate reader who will be saying to herself, "The silly old bugger has finally lost his remaining marble. You can discover facts, you can establish facts, you can even fly in the face of them, but you can't invent or manufacture them".
But the literate reader will have misunderstood me. Facts are as she describes them, but "facts" are altogether a different cauldron of barramundi.
While facts may be seen as "events or things known to have happened or existed", or "a truth verifiable from experience or observation" (Collins English Dictionary), "facts" are things invented or manufactured by creationists to account for the things that God unaccountably left out (or didn't know) when he sat down at the keyboard of the celestial Olivetti portable to write Genesis. (Now I think of it, this may well be the real definition of the term "creationist"; one who creates "facts".) I hope this has clarified matters to the satisfaction of the literate reader.
Fascinating as these excursions into the byways of philology and lexicography may be, we must return to our theme. Mr Gaudian, whom we left dangling a few paragraphs back, was about to embark on a journey of discovery, to experience "first-hand the level of evolutionary indoctrination" that has infested our fair land. And what a tale of heroism above and beyond, what a narrative of incredible resolve in the face of unmentionable horror, what a load of old cobblers, this epic journey turned out to be.
He did not have to wait long before his worst fears were realised. Barely had the wheels of the Jumbo cleared the Los Angeles runway than he chanced upon the Qantas in-flight magazine, which, to his horror, contained an article on Charles Darwin. Not a critical article, mind you, but one that was full of praise for that evil man, and which described him as "the most influential scientist of the 19th century". We can only imagine, gentle reader, what terrors must have clutched at the heart of our traveller as he realised that he had committed himself to a crossing of the most vast of the creator's watery bits, in the care of an organisation that can only fairly be seen as a tool of Satan.
However, he seems to have survived, and when next we meet him, he is plunging headlong into the depravity of that Babylon of the South Pacific, Sydney. There he is horrified to discover a sink of iniquity (the likes of which are never to be found in Southern Minnesota) going under the name of the Sydney Opera House. On a tour of this evil spot, his senses are assaulted by "references to evolution and the evolutionary timescale". (That must have been in an opera with which your correspondent, no slouch in the opera buff stakes, is unfamiliar.) But things go from bad to worse for our intrepid voyager, who finds that the Sydney Aquarium is "evolutionary in its displays on fish" and even a boat ride on the Harbour brings him no surcease, when a guide "brings up evolution" (which is probably far better than bringing up his lunch).
The final evidence that Sydney is a hotbed of Satanism comes when "Rock/fossil shops in Sydney talked about evolution"! (Talking shops! What is the next perversion the Prince of Darkness will foist upon the unhappy tourist?) Despondent, he heads for the hills, but even in the clean, cool, air of Katoomba there is no respite from Satanic assault. The Imax theatre there is showing The Edge - the ultimate Blue Mountains wilderness experience, "an unbelievable hour of evolutionary indoctrination".
Unable to face any more, he flees the evolutionary cess-pit of NSW and heads for the more congenial (or so he thinks) climate of Queensland. Alas, it is not to be. One detects a note of despair creeping into the narrative as he catalogues: a library in Brisbane that has "evolution signs outside the entrance next to dinosaurs"; a Courier Mail (a newspaper renowned for it raciness) story that "laid out evolutionary timescales for dinosaurs and even koalas"; a Cairns opal mine (opal mines in Cairns?) "had displays on evolution"; a book, Australian Tropical Reef Life, that claims "the Great Barrier Reef has taken literally millions of years to reach its present state"; another book, Wildlife Australia, that says "Today's crocodiles are very similar in appearance (and probably behaviour) to fossil crocodilians which existed millions of years ago"; and not to overlook stories about youth suicide, drug abuse, crime, unemployment, etc., that he attributes to the "fact" that "the pervasive teaching of evolution ... and the tragic ("fact") that less than 2% of the population of 17 million Australians attend church regularly (and many of those churches are liberal and embrace theistic evolution.)"
One can only feel sympathy for him that he could not steel even his heroic resolve to visit such unbelievably vile hotbeds of evolutionary vice as the Queensland or Australian Museums. There is just so much outrage that even the most doughty seeker after "Truth" can bear. (Note: "Truth" is to truth, what "facts" are to facts.)
But the final straw in this unhappy journey must surely have occurred while he was in Cairns, where "the TV aired an anti-creation program which blasted creation as 'bad science, bad religion, and bad business'". Did he but realise it, he was extremely fortunate to have survived that encounter with his faith intact, for the man who uttered those immortal words, on that TV program, was none other than Beelzebub himself, the Evil One, Prince of Darkness and Satan Incarnate, the one and only Professor Ian Plimer!
One can but admire the pluck of someone who would so selflessly put himself in harm's way so he could report that "the promulgation of evolution in Australia, compared with the US, is incredible. I can say, without exaggeration that evolution was blatantly pushed everywhere we stopped".
And so, sadder, but unfortunately no wiser, our traveller wended his weary way back to the ironclad, Bible-prescribed, certainties of Southern Minnesota.
However, we should not be harsh in our judgement of that delightful, and generally well-educated part of the United States, for blind ignorance can flourish in any climate.
But what can we, the benighted denizens of this evolutionarily indoctrinated, Southern Pacific backwater learn from this epic journey?
We can be grateful that whatever the biological and cultural influences that caused it, we Australians still have the capacity to treat ratbaggery with all the respect it deserves. We can thank whoever is responsible for our education systems that such anti-intellectual bilge is officially kept away from the minds of our young, impressionable, children. Most of all, as Skeptics, we can strengthen our resolve to keep it that way.