This intriguing article, published in 2005, details a lesser-known educational controversy that coincided with the Kitzmiller v. Dover trial: the debate over the theory of gravity vs. “Intelligent Falling”. Proponents of Intelligent Falling, or “IF” argued that there are too many “phenomena that cannot be explained by secular gravity alone”, and insisted that “they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue so they can make an informed decision.” The article explains the holes that IF supporters have found in gravitists’ logic, and offers IF’s alternative explanations.
Now, before anyone bites my head off: yes, I know this is a joke article, and that “The Onion” is a satirical news source. I know that The Onion’s articles are meant to be comical, and often absurd— but that does not mean that they are without value.
In our modern culture, it seems that there are almost as many comedic/satirical news sources as there are “legitimate” news sources. I’m willing to bet that far more of you watch “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” or “The Colbert Report” than CNN or NBC or FOX News. What is more, the line between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” has become more and more blurred in recent years— as American politics have become more polarized, so the news sources have become more biased and extreme, favoring one pole or the other. What is more credible? A source that is full of bias and sensationalism, while maintaining a façade of impartial reporting, or a source that is open in its intentions, with no false pretense of “serious reporting”? Even though satires almost always favor one side or the other, I’ve found the genre as a whole to be more credible. Jon Stewart, for example, knows how to make fun of both liberals and conservatives (though granted, conservatives are bullied far more often), and puts both sides in check when they’ve gotten out of hand. I would venture to say that he is equally biased as many of those news sources regarded as legitimate; the difference is that he doesn’t profess neutrality.
Am I saying that it is better to read The Onion than CNN.com? Or The New York Times? Of course not. But this article is really not that ridiculous. Replace the term “gravity” with “evolution”, and “IF” with “ID”, and you have a perfectly passable article for the Intelligent Design campaign. It uses parallel arguments (e.g. that the theory of evolution/gravity is “founded on great gaps in understanding”, etc.) and parallel language.
Of course, this is just my personal opinion. What do you guys think— is it useful to examine comedic pieces as legitimate cultural commentary? As actual news? If so, what new perspective do you think we can gain from reading this parody? Or any parody/piece of satire, for that matter? Did it make you notice any aspects of the ID argument that you hadn’t before? Do you think I’m wasting your time, having you read a fake article?