A few assumptions are almost always made about folks who play D&D. Socially retarded, out of touch with the real world, unable to deal practically with the differences between fantasy and reality. One reason is because D&D allows a bit of theological and scientific shorthand that makes it so much easier to handle than the hard and messy world we all live in. Whenever you come up against a situation or historical anomaly or (heaven forbid) an owlbear, the answer is always the same. “A wizard did it.” Of course there is very little emotional investment in this answer. No one is likely to be upset if they find out that the Tree City of Oaktonvillefordshire was actually created by a guy with a hatchet and too much free time on his hands rather than the oak tree god of giant wooden cities. And that’s where gaming veers sharply away from reality.
It’s hard for me to talk about this — mostly because it’s happening here, where I live, in Florida. This is exactly the kind of stuff I love to make fun of other people about, and now it’s right here in my own back yard. What is it, you ask? What has got me so cringing away from the subject in embarrassment that even now I’m still prevaricating rather than tear off the band-aid and simply tell you what it is? (I’m going to say. Just ahead there, in the next sentence…)
In a word, it’s creationists.
Now here’s the thing. I don’t care what kind of goofy horse crap you want to believe in the privacy of your own home. Generally speaking, it doesn’t affect me. I place religion in exactly the same category as I place sexual preference. As long as I’m not involved in it, I don’t care. Leave Jesus in the bedroom, where he belongs. But these creationist people, not only are they crazy, but they think that everyone else should be crazy just like them. (Sounds like self-esteem issues to me.)
There was recently a change in the curriculum here in Florida. In the old curriculum, evolution was not allowed at all, though there were a few vague references to “changes over time.” I think that may have been in discussions about women’s shoes though. In any case, the laws have been broadened to include the possibility of evolution in our science classes, as long as it is given as one in a range of possible theories. (You can’t hear it, but I’m screaming right now.)
Let me repeat that. In science classes, evolution is now allowed to be taught, as long as other theories of creation are given equal billing. In science classes. Not religion classes, or sociology, or any other kind of humanities, science. It’s like me teaching an auto shop class, and including a chapter on how all car engines are actually made of cheese.
The reason I’m so up in arms about this is because science classes are supposed to teach science. Evolution is science. Creationism is faith. That would be faith class, not science. Maybe instead of trying to impose their faith on everyone else’s science, creationists should look into discussing their religion for what it is — religion… except that our laws preclude religious teaching in our public schools because historically state-sponsored religion has always resulted in horrible suffering and death. Hm.
The thing about faith, is that’s what you believe in even when the evidence shows you you’re wrong. Belief is transcendent, worldly wisdom is transitory. God will reward your sacrifice of respect, dignity, and friends with a fast pass to heaven, streets of gold, buildings of silver, and all the cupcakes you can eat. Now science, on the other hand, is all about skepticism, proof, and observation. It’s basically the exact opposite of faith in every conceivable fashion. As has been observed, we teach science class in school, not faith class. The law is one reason, but behind that is the simple fact that faith is personal. Faith in creationism asks a person to put aside truth in favor of the fairy tale, and that’s simply not something that belongs in a science class. It is a personal, individual choice. Science is true no matter who you are. Despite what creationists will tell you, there are no “holes” in evolution, the jury is not out on it, it is not a theory. It is continually proven again and again with rigor and care. Creationism is based on a book written by people who claim to have been writing for an omnipotent and omniscient magic dude who for all his power and knowledge, wasn’t capable of writing it down for himself. (And as long as we’re on the subject, why did god need one of Adam’s ribs to make Eve? If he was all-powerful, couldn’t he have just snapped his fingers and made her appear? My theory is that it was sort of a joke on Adam. Since she was made out of him, sex with her was technically masturbation, and therefore against god’s law. Every time they screwed Adam would have to put a quarter in the sin jar. Or was Eve simply the first human cloning experiment?)
Getting back to Florida for a bit, it kills me that including evolution in the range of possible creation arguments is the step forward. It is further galling that so many of my fellow Floridians were so against it. Let me quote Nassau County Superintendent of Schools John Ruis. In defending his position against evolution, he said that presenting it as fact “is certainly contrary to the beliefs of many people, including myself.” In other words, if your facts conflict with my personal beliefs, then those facts shouldn’t be taught.
Let me bring this home here. If you have faith in your god, then anything taught in school is not going to matter. Your choices and beliefs will carry you past the distractions of this world. Similarly, if you don’t, the fault is yours, not the curriculum’s. Being worried that children will be led away from god by public schooling is exactly the same as saying that god can’t tell the difference between a good person and a bad one just because of what they were taught in Introduction to Biology. You want to believe the magic ghost whipped the whole universe up in six days and then took a siesta, (forever reserving Sunday as holy for beer and football) more power to you. But that’s your choice, your religion, and your wizard. It’s personal to you. Science doesn’t depend on the personal choices and beliefs of the person learning it to be true. It simply is.
And they say I’m the one with the reality problem.