Part 2 – Bertrand Russell’s Teapot
Part 4 – To come
According to its creator Bobby Henderson, the Flying Spaghetti Monster (FSM) is the satirical deity behind the religion Pastafarianism that opposes the teaching of creationism in public schools as well as the Intelligent Design movement. Henderson also satirically masquerades Pastafarianism as a legitimate religion which is also a way of poking fun at fundamentalist Christian creationism (1). Henderson explains it this way,
“Let us remember that there are multiple theories of Intelligent Design. I and many others around the world are of the strong belief that the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster. It was He who created all that we see and all that we feel” (2).
To my own surprise I find I have some agreement with Henderson. I say this is surprising because of just how dumb the parody really is to anyone who takes the atheist vs. religion debate remotely seriously. But I still think it makes some good points.
Firstly, although I have full respect and love for most people, including those with whom I ideologically disagree, I support the right for others to be satirical of beliefs that are rationally absurd yet still embraced in the face of reason (I’m starting to sound like Richard Dawkins here…). Things like “creation science,” “Jesus mythicism,” “holocaust denial” etc. fall into this category.
Second, I, nor the National Center for Scientific Education, nor any of the other mainstream science organizations in America for that matter, want creationism to be part of public school curriculum. This is a major focus of the FSM concept which it provides critical commentary on. Creationism, widely criticized as religion in disguise, is not science, nor will it ever be considered science. Science must be neutral and therefore cannot be impeded or constructed upon religious ideologies.
Now for a critique of the FSM.
Firstly, I think the FSM concept will be absurd for most monotheists given that it clearly posits a god that is obviously a delusion. By delusion I mean a proposition that is perceived or thought to be true by its followers on the basis of no evidence, no compelling evidence, or in the face of evidence. For instance, Henderson has drawn (as pictured above) a representation of his FSM and it is clear that it is composed of two large meatballs surrounded by a mass of spaghetti topped with two eyeballs. It’s evident that the FSM is supposed to be a finite, physical object which, for some unexplained reason, is not perceptible to our senses. It is also depicted as somehow in finite relation to the physical world given the surrounding trees and mountain. However, a concept such as this is no different to an individual fashioning wooden idols, calling them divine beings, and then worshiping them. Created entities, whether that be wooden idols, monsters, or bowls of spaghetti, claimed by its adherents/followers as being God are by definition a delusion.
Second, the FSM, despite any claims to the contrary coming from the ranks of its fans and supporters, is kind of like Santa: we all know that he is a fictional character created to excite children. Similarly, we all know that the FSM is an imaginary creation on the part of Henderson to challenge creationism, religion, and Intelligent Design. If Henderson and his supporters maintain that belief in the FSM is fully genuine then he must be declared deluded just as the adult person who believes in Santa would be similarly deluded. This would be the case for all fans and worshipers of the FSM unless they can bring some compelling evidence to the table that this entity exists. A pencil sketch will not suffice.
Thirdly, we could suppose that Henderson is the prophet of this FSM whose goal is to reveal this entity to human beings. After all, it is he who is the brain work behind the concept. But then suppose that Henderson maintains that we should take his belief seriously and that he is really convinced, then our recourse should be to want to know what reasons we would have to trust Henderson’s conviction and message. This shouldn’t be controversial, after all, we don’t accept Islam just because Muhammad tells us to, nor do we accept the testimony of Jesus Christ because he claimed to have come and rescue sinners without having reasons to trust the testimony.
Fourthly, this brings us to the importance of having reasons for belief, also known as arguments. What arguments have been posited for the FSM that attempt to justify belief in its existence? What intellectuals have come to believe in the FSM on the basis of arguments and reasons? To the contrary, when it comes to monotheism, many intellectuals have come to belief based on critical thinking and the evaluating of arguments. It would appear that Pastafarianism has some major work to do in this department. Philosopher William Craig explains,
“What about the other theistic arguments? The contingency argument, if successful, proves the existence of a metaphysically necessary, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, immaterial, personal Creator of the universe. That conclusion is also incompatible with the Sufficient Reason of all things being the Flying Spaghetti Monster, since as a physical object (even if invisible to our senses) he can be neither metaphysically necessary, timeless, spaceless, nor immaterial” (3).
These arguments deliver a hammer blow to any rational justification of the FSM. From Big Bang cosmology monotheists have grounds for believing in the existence of a beginningless, uncaused, timeless, spaceless, changeless, immaterial, enormously powerful creator of the universe. Again, a being with such attributes cannot be anything like the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Did the FSM somehow exist in its physical form prior to the Big Bang event? Could it bring the physical universe into being? As per the moral argument, can it ground moral values? One could argue similarly from the other several arguments for God’s existence. Craig thus concludes,
“The real lesson to be learned from the case of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is that it shows how completely out of touch our popular culture is with the great tradition of natural theology” (5).
So, as mentioned, in some ways I like the FSM concept. I think it brings much needed criticism of Intelligent Design and creationism which both seem to be a continual and unwanted hindrance. However, it is clear that the FSM concept possesses some obvious and glaring issues if it is to be taken at all seriously.
1. Henderson, B. Open Letter To Kansas School Board. Available.
2. Henderson, B. Ibid.
3. Craig, W. 2007. God and the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Available.
4. Craig, W. 2007. Ibid.
5. Craig, W. 2007. Ibid.