It all started with a humorous, but pointed, letter to a U.S. state school board protesting their decision to vote on whether to include the teaching of intelligent design alongside evolution in science classrooms. From there, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) has become a veritable industry, with T-shirts, mugs, car emblems, artwork and even jewelry all celebrating his Noodly Appendage.
Wonder what I'm on about? Never heard of Pastafarianism? Well, let's back up a minute and bear in mind that everything in this column relates to some form of pasta or other. In June of this year, Bobby Henderson, a 24-year-old physics graduate living in Oregon, got so incensed by an upcoming vote by the Kansas School Board that he penned an open letter to the board and posted it online at his venganza.org Web site.
Intelligent design is the idea promoted by some Christian groups, particularly in the U.S., that an intelligent designer must've played a part in evolution -- not quite creationism perhaps, but not a million miles away from that notion.
If intelligent design is OK to teach to children studying science, why not teach about another theory, say that a Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is responsible for the entire world, evidence of which is everywhere, Henderson suggested. After all, what's string theory but proof that such a being exists, he suggests on his Web site. His letter described how the FSM created the world and why it's important to wear full pirate regalia while teaching this theory. Why? "The concise explanation is that He [FSM] becomes angry if we don't," Henderson said in his missive to the board.
Why pirates? Well, Henderson has an answer to that too. "You may be interested to know that global warming, earthquakes, hurricanes, and other natural disasters are a direct effect of the shrinking numbers of pirates since the 1800s," he wrote, helpfully providing a graph showing that as pirates have dwindled, global average temperatures have risen.
In conclusion, he asked the school board to look forward to a time when a trio of evolution theories are given equal visibility in U.S. science classrooms. "One third time for intelligent design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence," he wrote.
Somewhat surprisingly, given he threatened some form of legal action should Kansas School Board not embrace FSM, several school board members replied fairly rapidly. The responses varied from those who opposed the inclusion of intelligent design and welcomed Henderson's letter as both a valid argument and much needed comic relief to one claiming he was mocking God. The board has received numerous e-mail messages from scientists around the world protesting the upcoming vote, according to one board member.
Henderson has since sent copies of the letter to 10 other school boards across the U.S. that are debating the same issue. At the same time, he's receiving between 100 to 200 e-mail messages per day from people on both sides of the intelligent design debate, the funniest and most vitriolic of which he's put on his Web site.
His site has grown to accommodate all the creative input he's received from other individuals, from artwork to all kinds of merchandise, as well as plenty of comments both profound and funny from scientists and folks who claim to have converted to Pastafarianism. There are also photos of people dressed up as pirates and the FSM either spreading the Pastafarian word or attending protests or parades. After bloggers discovered his site, mainstream media did too, and FSM articles have mushroomed, even appearing in such august publications as The New York Times and Scientific American. There are also French and German FSM Web sites. The FSM also has his very own entry on free-content encyclopedia Wikipedia.
Henderson's Web site includes a discussion forum and he's recently set up a FSM think tank, the Enlightenment Institute, on the site, asking for help in finding proof to support the Flying Spaghetti Monster's existence. Science publication the Science Creative Quarterly is offering a highly appropriate prize in this worthy endeavor of US$100 worth of Ramen noodles, about 1,000 packets, for the best evidence that FSM is out there. The competition is set to end in late December with the lucky winner to receive all those noodles in the New Year.
Of course with any new "religion", schisms occur, and the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster parody is no exception. SPAM (Spaghetti & Pulsar Activating Meatballs), a rival faction surfaced for a while.
As for what FSM looks like, artistic representations by Henderson and others show a mass of spaghetti with two meatballs and two eyes on stalks floating in the ether. And naturally, any prayers to his Noodleness close with a resounding "Ramen," not "Amen."
Other FSM beliefs are pretty fun too with every Friday being a religious holiday and Heaven containing a beer volcano and -- I'm not sure if this is for both guys and gals -- a stripper factory, according to Henderson.
|Henderson claims the FSM merchandise isn't making him rich, but he looks forward to bumping into someone wearing a T-shirt celebrating the Noodly one. Anyone can use FSM images and content featured on venganza.org so long as they give them away, he states on his Web site.|
Isn't amazing what the Internet makes possible, or was that all part of his Noodly plan from the get-go? Ramen! -- IDG News Service
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