Dinosaurs, Shrimp, and Stem Cells: A Conservative Schmorgasboard

This week’s column takes the form of an internal dialogue in which imaginary people solicit my opinions, occasionally by yelling at me, and I respond with equanimity. We will be discussing the American far right’s ongoing, successful intellectual war against the sleeping majority of reasonable people. Q: What is Dinosaur Adventure Land? A: Dinosaur Adventure Land, located in Pensacola, Florida, is a “creation-science”-themed Dinosaur theme park. According to its website,, You will discover: How awesome the world used to be and how it will be again very soon! Dinosaurs in the Bible and history! Dinosaurs alive today! Q: What else might you discover at Dinosaur Adventure Land? A: A “Noah’s ark ball pit,” as well as a large leg bone. A caption on the website reads, “Come and see this great big leg bone found in Egypt that belonged to a person who was almost 12ft tall! This is a great way to show that before the flood, people were living to be much larger and also much older. Many things have changed since the creation, this is an example of how much the world, and people have changed as a result to the fall of man. Goodness, we are so tiny now!” Q: And what is creation science? A: “Creation science” might be the same thing as “intelligent design theory.” It is said that nothing that must have “science” in its name is a science. For “creation science,” this is especially true. Q: Why is this problematic? A: People who believe the received truth about dinosaurs as presented by Dinosaur Adventure Land also have strong feelings about issues such as embryonic stem cells, abortion, and same-sex marriage. Many of these people vote. For those of us who accept the tenets of monotheism, a direct theocracy might be the ideal form of government if it were possible. There is a great gap, however, between government by God and government by people who believe they are acting in His name. Q: Let’s move on. Regardless of received truth, isn’t gay marriage antithetical to our common set of values? A:Consider If you do not approve of gay marriage, then I hope for your soul’s sake that you have never eaten shellfish, worn clothing of mixed fabrics, or done work on a Sunday. Actually, affording same-sex couples the right to get married just like everyone else is pro-family and fundamentally conservative. Q: Slippery slope! Slippery slope! What about polygamy? What about bestiality? A: In the American West, people have practiced polygamy for generations. To my knowledge, that has not led to same-sex marriage. Perhaps the slippery slope only slants one way. More likely, it does not exist. Q: And what about abortion? But, first, that last question-and-answer pair was a straw man! A: Got me. No one is changing his mind about abortion. A conviction that life begins at conception entails a belief that abortion is murder. People unconstrained by dogma support a woman’s control over her body. Q: And what is the deal with embryonic stem cells? Did you hear that they just opened a stem cell bank devoted to maintaining new lines of ES cells for research? A: Yes, the world’s first stem cell bank opened on Wednesday in Britain. Since President Bush signed an executive order prohibiting federally-funded research using new stem-cell lines, we have slowed down the pace of scientific advances that are likely to improve the quality of life for millions, and the scientific breakthroughs we will see are likely to come from other countries. All this because received truth, the same that believes in 12-foot-tall antediluvian men, holds that a blastocyst, the source of embryonic stem cells, is an inviolable life. In fact, a blastocyst is an unsentient ball of cells frequently discarded at fertility clinics. Q: What is the big deal? A: Marriage, abortion, ES cells, and much of our well-grounded scientific knowledge including evolution are theaters of war. If we open-minded types fail to win, the U.S. will fall behind in scientific progress with costs to health and the economy, and schoolchildren will learn discredited “creation science” rather than actual science. In the cases of marriage and abortion, if we let the far right wing win, our democratic liberties will suffer. Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty because without watchfulness, ideologies antithetical to democracy can come to power through a democratic process. Q: What did the Athenian orator Demosthenes say about safeguarding democracy? A: