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W hen I saw the 1960 film "Inherit the Wind" as a teenager, I thought its lessons seemed obvious: of course evolution is valid science...of course it should be taught in schools.

That's naiveté for you. I soon discovered that for some -- especially fundamentalist Christians -- the debate has never been settled. Or rather, it has -- but in favor of "creationism," an annoying term that attempts to place theological beliefs in a scientific framework.

Creationists either want to limit evolution to "theory" status, or claim an equal or greater "fact" status for God only-based explanations of man's existence. To put it bluntly, their arguments are based on half-baked philosophy and half-hearted science: ontological arguments, criticism of dating methods that place the earth's age at billions rather than thousands of years, and invocations of the Second Law of Thermodynamics (even if they appear to have no idea what these laws actually are).

The most common creationist arguments have to do with a "missing link," or gaps in the fossil record -- nevermind how unrealistic it is to expect all fossils of all species to line up in neat, easy-to-decipher developmental rows. A dumbed-down version of the argument goes something like this: "You actually want me to believe man descended from apes"? To which the correct reply is: "Nobody ever made such a claim, though evolution does indicate man and apes share a common ancestor."

None of this would be a big deal except for the fact that a great many creationists want to inflict their beliefs on the public education system, and severely restrict (or prohibit) the teaching of evolution, mountains of evidence be damned. And they've got enough political power to make the threat serious, especially in the South. As this who's-who report from the battle lines of that region shows, the debate rages on.

Also in this week's edition of Weekly Wire, take a look at the precarious position antique gun collectors maintain on the periphery of a very hot issue; get the skinny on Tuper Saussy (an odd figure in the world of James Earl Ray); read up on the uneasy relationship between homophobia, privacy and free speech; and be sure to dig into Michael Ventura's latest "Letters at 3AM" column for more skeptical views of technological progress.

Now What? [12]
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May 18 - May 26, 1998  
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Monkey Trouble: Shaking the Family Tree [2]
Think evolution is a well-accepted fact? In Tennessee, home of the infamous Scopes Monkey Trial of 1925, the battle of words between Darwinists and creationists continues to this day.
— Jesse Fox Mayshark, METRO PULSE
The Gun Men [3]
A gun show in Rhode Island turns out to be the perfect place to get to know the Gun Guy.
The Amazing Tupper Saussy [4]
From Nashville ad man and songwriter to tax protester, champion of James Earl Ray, fugitive and, now, prisoner.
— John Branston, MEMPHIS FLYER
Vox Homophobuli [5]
The Daily Utah Chronicle had published contentious letters about homosexuals before, but never one quite like Abel Thompson's.
— City Weekly editors, SALT LAKE CITY WEEKLY
Hello (Again) [6]
Goodbye, Newton; hello, iMac.
— James Hanback Jr., NASHVILLE SCENE
Palestine Declared Israel Overnight [7]
50 years ago this week.
— Sue Schuurman, WEEKLY ALIBI

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Letters at 3AM [8]
Technology is not really progress -- it's simply an extension of what already lurked within us.
— Michael Ventura, AUSTIN CHRONICLE
Don't call 'em locusts [9]
Call 'em cicadas, call 'em pests, call 'em crunchy underfoot, but don't call 'em locusts.
— Walter Jowers, NASHVILLE SCENE
Odds & Ends [10]
Timed-release news capsules from the flipside.
— Devin D. O'Leary, WEEKLY ALIBI
Mr. Smarty Pants [11]
Our resident know-it-all unearths the latest trivia.

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