Saturday, January 20, 2007

Truth can be very inconvenient

A school board in the US state of Washington has effectively banned Al Gore’s documentary An Inconvenient Truth after Christian fundamentalist parents objected to it, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer newspaper. It’s apparently the first time this has happened to the film, though similar events happen in the US all the time.

The gist of the story is that a fundamentalist who believes the earth is 14,000 years old and opposes sex education objected to the film being shown in a public school in the town of Federal Way, Washington. He told the paper, “Condoms don't belong in school, and neither does Al Gore.” Clearly a very scientific objection. “The information that’s being presented is a very cockeyed view of what the truth is. …The Bible says that in the end times everything will burn up, but that perspective isn't in the DVD.”

The documentary is a summary of scientific evidence on global warming and climate change. As such, it doesn’t present various religious views. Not to be outdone in this scientific debate, the fundamentalist’s wife added:

From what I've seen (of the movie) and what my husband has expressed to me, if (the movie) is going to take the approach of “bad America, bad America,” I don't think it should be shown at all. If you're going to come in and just say America is creating the rotten ruin of the world, I don't think the video should be shown.

In fact, the
US accounts for about a quarter of all greenhouse gas emissions, despite having only five percent of the world’s population. Per capita, it is the world’s biggest polluter overall, and the world’s largest consumer of fossil fuels.

Things like facts and truth don’t matter to the fundamentalists because they challenge their religious beliefs and assumptions. They want their particular brand of extreme Christianity presented as fact even though there’s considerable variation and debate about matters of faith among Christians.

As is often the case in these situations, school students can be more sensible than their elders. One student told the paper, “Watching a movie doesn't mean that you have to believe everything you see in it.”

It’s hard for people in other parts of the developed world to understand why
America continues to fight these battles with religious extremists over and over again. I’m at a loss to explain it. America promotes freedom and progress, but it seems that all anyone in America has to do is scream “Christian bashing!” and they get whatever they want, however illogical, irrational or undemocratic.

It seems
America has yet to learn that practicing religious tolerance doesn’t require pandering to people with particular religious views. If it did, we’d also have to take into account the views of all religions, like Pastafarians and their god, the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

I’d like to see
America stick to the truth—fact-based truth—however inconvenient it may be for some people.

Update 25/01/07: The Washington Post reported that the email the fundamentalist sent to the school board said "
No you will not teach or show that propagandist Al Gore video to my child, blaming our nation—the greatest nation ever to exist on this planet—for global warming." He apparently believes that global warming is a sign of the "End Times" some fundamentalist Christianists fervently believe in.

Update II (03/02/07): Reuters reports "The British government will distribute Al Gore's dramatic global warming film to all secondary schools in England…"

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