TCS Daily


Ciao, California; Howdy, Kansas!

By Robert McHenry - November 30, 2005 12:00 AM

Great news for New Agers, Theosophists, spirit rappers, chiromancers, and advanced thinkers of every stripe! There's a new frontier a-beckoning, and you can get there by VW minibus. If you're not on the bus, you're off the bus, and last one to Emporia's a rotten egg!

This New Day in Kansas is brought to you by the Kansas State Board of Education, which has revised the state standards for teaching science and along the way changed the definition of science itself.

"Such power exists?" you ask, along with Dr. Barnhardt.

"Such power exists," I assure you, echoing Klaatu, who for all we know may have been the Intelligent Designer, since the Intelligent Design theorists are so very careful not to rule anything out unscientifically. Or it may have been Xenu, the Galactic Overlord worshipped by Scientologists (sorry if I didn't get this exactly right, folks -- it's a very complicated theology y'all got there).

What the Board did is the essence of simplicity, something we look for but find all too seldom in boards. They removed one word from their definition. Just one. The word is "natural." Where previously the aim of science was said to be the seeking of "natural explanations" for phenomena, now, in Kansas, they are looking simply for "explanations." You see how this broadens the field, or levels it. And this is so democratically apt, for there are many fields in Kansas, and they are mainly level.

Explanations there are in plenty in California; they are thick upon the beach and a (you should pardon the expression) drug on the market. It's high time to look for more fertile ground.

So if you subscribe to harmonic convergences as explanatory of what's happenin', or if you go in for some other kind of vibe, Kansas is prepared to welcome you and your illumination. Do you attribute the cosmos to Tiamat? Or Chaos? Are your personal or medical problems the result of voodoo? Did you miss out on Heaven's Gate? Do you hope to be buried in sight of a pyramid? Then go East, young seeking person, and grok Kansas!

Mind you, this sudden opening up of the prairie is not entirely without precedent. When I was in high school in Missouri, some of the brasher boys would make occasional forays across the border to obtain thaumaturgical quantities of 3.2 beer, and it was said that if you drove deep enough into Kansas you could even find the fabled Coors, the weekend drug of choice believed by some to be the soma of the Aryans. And did you never wonder why, despite the magical charms of Munchkin Land, Dorothy was so all-fired anxious to get back to Kansas? There has always been a certain alternativeness about Kansas. This recent development should be seen from that perspective.

You may anticipate difficulty in relocating some of the more established institutions -- your Esalen, your Self Realization Fellowship, your various Buddhist retreats. But this is materialism and hence mere illusion! When the Spirit calls, let not the flesh be weak. So, as Bishop Berkeley would have written had he been the kind of psychic I'm confident will soon bring enlightenment to Atchison, Goodland, Garden City, and all the rest,

Westward the course of empire takes its way;
    The first four acts already past,     
A fifth shall close the drama with the day:             
    Retreat! Retreat! This science stuff can't last.

Robert McHenry is Former Editor in Chief, the Encyclopædia Britannica, and author of How to Know.

For a different perspective on the Intelligent Design controversy, see Douglas Kern's article, "Denying the Undeniable Design."

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