There's a small sign with the above injunction stuck in the ground in front of a dilapadated house along the road near here. I drive by it often.

At first, I assumed it was a real estate sign inviting an adventurous buyer to buy and fix up. Then I noticed several more of the same signs stuck in the lawns of homes in town. On closer inspection it turns out they are campaign signs - inviting local voters to choose a slate of two candidates for the upcoming school board election. These two people promised to vote against the hot issue in these parts: whether to introduce the theory of "intelligent design" into the local school curriculum.

Intelligent design is a euphamism for creationism. Seven days and all that. Well, six. The seventh was a day off.

The town made national news a few months ago when its school board accepted a proposal put forward by a local minister to introduce the teaching of intelligent design as a kind of antidote to the teaching of evolution. Apparently there is quite a movement behind this in various parts of the country. There are books and tracts and polemics and even some attempts at science in defining this theory. From what I can make out, a good deal of the theorizing boils down to highlighting those areas in which evolution is less than watertight. Missing links, ergo, it must be wrong, ergo, that leaves the hand of you know who.

The controversy coincides with the end of term for two of the school board members. The timing is unfortunate for the proposal's supporters - but brilliant for the fun of seeing a community galvanized - or perhaps polarized - by an issue you can sink your teeth into. 500 dead Americans in Iraq? Brave soldiers. Tie a yellow ribbon for those serving.

But all the real conversation in homes, cafes and taverns is about The Vote. Many businesses in town put up signs declaring a position. If you see "FIX THIS MESS! etc." on the marquee in front of so-and-so's cafe, you know which side they are on: the side of quietly and decently burying this unseemly and embarrassing controversy and moving on.

If you see "VOTE FOR LOCAL CONTROL!" outside what's his name's mini-storage, you know he's voting for the intelligent design slate. "Local control" is more euphamism: evolution is obviously a foreign-inspired influence, imposed by outsiders who think they know better.

One of the LOCAL CONTROL! supporters is a shop owner on the main street. The hand of inspiration touched him recently and he spelled this out in block letters on his neon backlit shop marquee:
"A 'BIG MESS' Started When Darwin Entered the Classroom!"

Out through the windows of this particular shop stare a couple dozen pairs of doleful glass eyes, mounted in the former carcasses of bears, elk, moose, deer and various fowl. How's that? Why, it's a taxidermist's shop with all the wonders of the animal kingdom on display.

I imagine one of Darwin's workshops must have looked a lot like that.

UPDATE: The election was held this past week and the good guys won handily.

Steve | 04:34 |