December 20, 2006

A year ago today

[It was a year ago today that the Kitzmiller ruling came down from Dover. The confluence of the coming holiday and the palpable feeling of success that swept through the defense of science community led me to write and post the following piece last December. Re-reading it made me feel warm and toasty all over again so I thought I'd reprint it on this anniversary.]

Christmas came five days early this year

[6:30 AM, December 20th, 2005]

I don’t know how long I stood there at the door, a cup of tea in one hand and my mouth agape.

“Well,” he said, his voice betraying a distinct, if good natured, hint of frustration “are you going to ask me to come in?”

My lips formed something incomprehensible, but I managed an affirmative nod. As I moved aside he entered, his short round frame unaccountably filling the space.

“I didn’t come all this way to stand at your front door,” he huffed as he looked around my living room for a chair. Where he walked candles lit and Christmas lights came on by themselves. The fire brightened, the room took on a glow.

“Yeah, don’t mind all of that, it’s just a side effect of my conditioning program,” he waved as he sat down, “got to be at my physical, mental, and magical peak on the evening of the 24th, guess I’m throwing off a lot of powerful pheromones right now.”

I stared blankly.

“Anyway, I know it’s early, but I couldn’t wait to see your reaction,” he said. I must have narrowed my eyebrows because he continued, “you know, to your gift!”

Finally my brain was beginning to function well enough to instruct my mouth to form actual words, “gift?” I squeaked hoarsely.

“Oh, did I catch you before you got on the web this morning?” he said. I awkwardly turned and pointed at the computer with my cup hand, spilling the tea and babbling incoherently. “Okay, okay, no problem,” he said, “Off you go and we’ll chat after you’ve had a chance to catch up.”

I stood frozen. He walked over to me, pushed my lower jaw back up with an index finger under my chin, and said again, “Off you go,” while pointing at the computer cabinet.

The word was all over the web. Judge Jones in Dover had come back with a sweeping decision in the Kitzmiller vs. Dover Board of Education case. “Intelligent Design” was creationism, not science, he ruled, and it did not belong in the high school science curriculum. I was thrilled at this tremendous news. Jones’ decision was quite a broad one, setting an important precedent for those legal challenges that were sure to follow. In this one skirmish at least, science and reason were the clear victors.

An hour sped by as I scanned the decision, at times almost forgetting about the rotund red guy looking over my shoulder and giggling whenever I excitedly quoted from the text. Eventually I came up for air, sighed, and turned to look at him quizzically.

Walking back to his chair, he raised an eyebrow and explained, “you’ve hoped for this all year, haven’t you? Well, this and that silly soldering iron thing.”

“Hey, it’s cool to the touch in only 1.8 seconds,” I protested, finally summoning up the nerve to put together a complete sentence. But that wasn’t really what I wanted to talk to him about. I pulled another chair over to face him. The room smelled like gingerbread. Those are some great pheromones, I thought.

After clearing my throat I asked, “It seems like this is about more than just my reaction. Do you have a personal interest in this issue?”

“Do I…” he trailed off in exasperation. “Son, do you know of whom I am the modern manifestation? Do you know what he stood for, who he was?”

I gathered my thoughts and responded weakly, “I, uh, I think so.”

He continued, his voice a mix of pride and devotion, “The patron Saint of children, that’s who. I’m all about children, crazy about them. Heck I even brought you your gift five days early!” I thought that last bit was a little uncalled for, but who would know better than he that in the middle of the night on Christmas Eve I still got out of bed every year to check and see if there were more presents under the tree than when last I looked.

“What’s more, I respect children. And that means I value their right to the best, most honest education available.” The ambient jingling level in the room had increased, and he was standing now, getting on a good roll.

“How do you suppose I feel when I see creationists, however good they believe their intentions to be, attempting to misinform and misguide not only their own kids, but other’s? I feel like I’m watching them do these children a genuine injury.” With the last word he shuddered.

After a few seconds, he finally calmed, and sat again. All the bells and music boxes and little clinking things around the room settled down as he did.

He was quieter now, looking off into the distance, “I know what it does to their minds, it closes them to the wonders of the universe, makes them insular and afraid…” I could barely make out the whisper as his eyelids fell, “…I see them when they’re sleeping, I know when they’re awake.”

We sat in silence for a few moments. Then his eyes focused, and the familiar smile lit up his face. “Let’s just say it’s wonderful news for almost everyone. It’s not the end of this, of course…,”

Feeling more at ease, I jumped in, “No, that’s for sure. They’ll be back, probably more determined than ever,” and this observation prompted another thought. As I followed him toward the front door, I said, “you know, it occurs to me that the Dover decision means there are creationists out there who won’t get what they want for Christmas.”

He looked at me with quiet confidence, as a teacher would regard a student who naively thinks he’s discovered a glaring inconsistency. “Oh, they’ll still have their merry Christmas,” he said, “but of course I cannot give everyone everything that they wish for. There are some wishes, like a child asking for a car, or Pat Robertson pleading for the power to smite his foes, that must be considered in the context of the greater good.” He hitched up his belt and headed out, saying “I do my level best, but there are some desires I can’t fulfill.”

I held the door as he jingled past, “And while we’re on that subject,” he paused in the entryway and looked me in the eye, “maybe it’s time to stop wishing for the hops to slam-dunk, eh?”

“Oh, um,” I glanced sheepishly at the floor, poking at some non-existent something with my big toe, “I wondered if you, uh, knew about th…”

“Well, sure I did. But it’s okay,” he patted my shoulder and sympathized, “at least you finally stopped writing me those “NBA for just one day” letters.”

As he left I felt compelled to say, “So, this decision in Dover, I know it’s really not for me. I mean, it’s really for those kids in Pennsylvania and wherever else ID might come up. That’s what this is all about, right?”

He stopped and looked back at me, “What’s the difference? This is a win for everyone. I’m all about making people happy, so think of it in whatever way makes you happy.” He squinted sharply over his glasses and said with a wink, “Whatever floats your boat!” just before he disappeared around the corner.

I closed the door softly and smiled. “Cool,” I thought, strutting confidently back to the computer, “he got my letter about the boat.”


Anonymous Anonymous said...

That was fun.

Gary Hurd

8:36 AM  
Blogger RLC said...


Much appreciated. Will see you on Jan. 20.

4:36 PM  

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