12 November 2009

Culture Jamming With Charles Darwin

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication of ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, and some people aren't happy about that. Weird evangelical actor whose last name is not "Baldwin" Kirk Cameron is one of those people, and he's doing something about it: He's raising money to pass out 50,000 copies of a special edition of Darwin's work on Nov. 19 at college campuses, since that is where America's youth learn to be atheists from their godless professors. (His [slightly paraphrased] words, not mine.) This special edition features an introduction pointing out that Hitler loved evolution, the Big Bang doesn't make any sense and this one time some Girl Scouts came to Darwin's door selling cookies and he pretended not to be home.

Cameron announced this plan in a video not worth your time posted to the Hollywood Reporter, which calls the books "Trojan bibles" and compares him to Dr. Horrible -- but that is giving him way too much credit. (Sidebar: If you haven't watched "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog," yet, I will wait here until you're finished.)

As my italics might suggest, I am not an advocate of intelligent design, but that's not why I'm posting this -- though I do giggle at edition editor Ray Comfort's theory that God put fossils on Earth just to mess with us. He thought of everything!* Besides the obvious, this effort is misguided for three reasons: First, college students are too busy reading their assigned work (or not) to read a random book someone gave them in the quad. Second, if by slim chance they do, they're going to skip the introduction, making it ineffective as a culture jam. And third, if you're handing out your refutation of one of the most important scientific works of our time to a small army of people who are learning how to be critical thinkers, your argument had better be airtight -- and early reviews suggest it is not. I mean to begin with, the Girl Scouts hadn't even been established during Darwin's lifetime.

In terms of appropriation of forms, this is a really lazy way to get your point across. Anyway, I can't find a list of the lucky campuses that will be swamped with free books, but if you get your hands on one please report back on the insanity. I haven't read all of ON THE ORIGIN OF SPECIES, and now I sort of feel that I should -- post-anniversary book club anyone?

*This was not, I hasten to point out, a God angle explored by my own religious upbringing, which was about evenly split between the Methodists and the Presbyterians.


Elizabeth said...

I've also heard of people passing out different "special editions" of the book: ones that have been edited, without being marked so. If an unsuspecting student then reads it (which, as you point out, is pretty unlikely), s/he will think s/he's reading On the Origin of the Species by Charles Darwin, while in fact s/he is not.

Ellen said...

Well, I'm definitely not okay with that, just I wouldn't be okay with pro-evolution groups passing out editions that correct Darwin's mistakes to make him look better without them being marked as such.

Wade Garrett said...

I have always wanted to readOn the Origin of Species, but never really had a good reason to do so. This might be it.