My Dad’s Old Purple Dinosaur Tie and the Creation-evolution Debate

My Dad’s Old Purple Dinosaur Tie and the Creation-evolution Debate January 19, 2014

My wardrobe (if you could call it that) is, well, outdated, so Priscilla and I took the plunge and went to Nordstrom, where a guy named Nick helped me figure out what to do. I brought old slacks, old sports jackets, and about a dozen old ties. Natty Nick went nuts. He loved the old ties—silk ones that belonged to my dad, a gray knit one, paisleys in purple and light blue.

Natty Nordstrom Nick even liked my purple dinosaur tie. No, not Barney, but a purple tie with brontosauruses—or is it brontosauri?—on it. Years ago, my father bought the tie at the Museum of Natural History in New York City to irk the creationists in the church who thought the world was created in seven days. I remember laughing with him about it in the kitchen.

My father died in 1998, but his tie is still very much alive and dangling around my neck—or will be now that I know natty Nick at Nordstrom loves it. I’m taking that tie, with its dozens of darling little gray brontosauri—out of retirement.

As I look at the tie and think wistfully of my dad, I wonder: Is it possible that the issue prompting my dad to buy a dinosaur tie is still being argued? I’m afraid it is. It’s an American obsession. The debate over creation versus evolution is as American as apple pie. How American is it? Kentucky boasts a creation museum that will host a debate between Bill Nye the Science Guy and creationist Ken Ham. Conservative Christian Radio host Bob Dutko, on whose show I discussed Fresh Air last year (he was a good host, by the way), lists the truths he defends. Creationism comes third after the resurrection and the reality of God, and it noses out the historical accuracy of the Bible. Good company. At the other end of the spectrum from Bob Dutko, progressive Christian blogger, Benjamin Corey, in Formerly Fundie, devoted a few recent blog posts to the issue.

I taught on Genesis 1 on Thursday in my introductory religion class at Seattle Pacific University. During the first part of class, I showed  students how impossible it is to turn to the first page of the Bible without at least one wayward eye on the creation-evolution debate. Regardless of your point of view—Jewish or Christian, secular or spiritual, liberal or conservative—it’s invariably tainted by the creation-evolution debate. None of us can read Genesis 1 in a value-free way. None of us can escape this American legacy. Our innocence is bygone.

This is a required religion class, so to drive the point home, I showed several funny clips about the issue. With a wink and a nod to my father and his purple dinosaur tie, I’m giving you the links. Maybe they’ll provide respite from this annoying aspect of American culture. I hope so.

The first is Stephen Colbert’s interview of Don McElroy. A former appointee to the Texas State Board of Education by Governor Rick Perry, McElroy is a staunch creationist. Colbert makes some laugh-out-loud but telling points about “truth by majority vote.”

The second is a hilarious faux exposé from the Jon Stewart show on Dayton, Tennessee, where the Scopes Trial, or monkey trial, took place in 1925. Ed Helms (Andy from “The Office”) is the commentator, and he’s brilliant in a deadpan sort of way.

The third clip is my favorite. Comedian Lewis Black takes us to the heart of the creation-evolution debate. He also has some choice words (some curses, too, if you are sensitive) for Christians who use the book of his people—the Jewish people—to argue for creationism. If you can stop laughing, you’ll see just how incisive Black can be.

None of these clips supports creationism. If I knew of anti-evolution comedians, I would include their schticks. The point of the clips I’ve included is to show you how entrenched this issue is in the American psyche—not to dispute the validity of creationism. People of every stripe, from the middle-American, born again believers who listen in on Bob Dutko to the elite secular audience that listened to Lewis Black in Constitution Hall in Washington DC, it’s impossible for anyone to read the Bible without having American values, both good and bad, foisted onto their first glimpse of the first page of the Bible.

But I should be more honest than that. The real purpose of these clips is to make you laugh, to give you respite from this sad, old, tired debate. So, if you don’t mind, rather than taking yourself and the debate too seriously, laugh a little in honor of my dad’s old purple dinosaur tie, which just got a new lease on life.

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