Darwinists Celebrate Raunchy Pagan Festival
The “Burning Man Festival” is an annual event in a remote Nevada desert that draws the weird and wild into an orgy of self-expression. About 50,000 free thinkers arrive with body paint and outlandish costumes or minimal clothing – often none at all. Sexual activity, drug use and alcohol consumption is open and uninhibited. The festival ends with the burning of a huge metal structure in the form of a man (thus the name). The rite can mean anything one wants it to mean, or nothing at all. The crowd cleans up after itself and goes home, counting the days till the next annual orgy. One would think respectable scientists would distance themselves from this theater of the absurd. This year, however, four Darwinists welcomed it and joined in, and Nature gave them good press, calling it “a creative celebration of evolution.”1
As a matter of fact, “Evolution” was the theme of this year’s Burning Man Festival. Ruben Valas and his three colleagues spoke in glowing terms of the unrestrained self-expression. They envisioned symbols of evolution everywhere:
Fittingly for the 2009 iteration of this social experiment, this year’s theme was ‘Evolution’. In the 23 years that Burning Man has been replicating, certain behaviours have been selected for by the inhabitants: radical inclusion and tolerance, self-reliance coupled with extreme altruism, a gift economy and a leave-no-trace environmental ethic. Add intense creativity, conscious participation, ingenuity and a propensity for hedonism, and the outcome is an unparalleled celebration of the human spirit.
But what does the Burning Man rite have to do with evolutionary theory? Using a slew of evolutionary buzzwords, they tried to explain:
This year, the 12-metre human shape hovered over a thorny forest – a tangled bank – atop a giant double helix. The DNA molecule provided a powerful artistic meme, representing both life’s capacity to evolve through genetics, and perhaps something that needs to be overcome through non-genetic evolutionary paths. Viewed from a different angle, the man seemed to float above a field of sea lilies, placing this celebration of human consciousness in an ancient evolutionary context.
The most striking image at this year’s Burning Man, expressed in various ways across the city, was the famous “ascent of man” progression from great ape through to modern human, with the Burning Man icon representing the next step.
Other evolutionary icons were constructed throughout the festival site. One can find whatever connections to a world view that one wants. Here, the very symbol intelligent design scientists embrace, the DNA code and information, became an evolutionary meme. How a burning human form represents the next step in evolution was not explained.
Not all the festival was sex and drugs and alcohol. Some came to learn. Here’s where the four scientists showed their altruism by imparting wisdom to the unwashed and unclothed:
We created a zone at Burning Man that explored atavisms – reappearances of past events in new contexts – in human social evolution. At our Atavism Camp we created ‘The Spandrel’, a shade structure built with materials salvaged from the ‘boneyard’ at the University of Washington’s Friday Harbor Marine Lab: leftover materials from past experiments, now reborn for a new purpose. At a symposium entitled ‘Evolution and Society’, we asked how society has interpreted evolution and whether, despite its shadowy past, its principles can guide us to a much-needed behavioural shift towards sustainability.
They did not explain how an unguided process could lead to purpose and guidance, or why they should position themselves as guides in some way. Nor did they explain why a behavioural shift would be needed, if evolution gave humans and animals their attributes which presumably represent fitness. Instead, they seemed caught up in the euphoria of hope and change that is evolution:
In the rampant transfer of culture at Burning Man, on a par with endosymbiotic events, we see hope. Evolution is evoked here on many levels: the adaptation and thriving of the individual in this extreme environment, the various camps as interactive and artistic spaces, the city as it alters over the seven days and from year to year, exhibiting emergent properties of altruism, shared community and free expression. ‘Burners’ become extremophiles. With resources scarce in the desert, intense sharing is the most efficient practice, suggesting that humans may yet realize a sustainable evolutionary trajectory.
It is clear they were viewing their fellow humans as no more significant than bacteria in hot springs or animals in the wild. That being the case, the burning down of man’s image seems portentous.
Nature included this report in their ongoing series, Darwin 200, celebrating the Darwin Bicentennial.
1. Hodin, Bishop, Sharpe and Valas, “A creative celebration of evolution,” Nature 461, 733 (8 October 2009) | doi:10.1038/461733a.
Are you surprised that evolutionary scientists will ridicule and repudiate Judeo-Christian tradition in the most scurrilous terms, then turn right around and embrace raw paganism? You shouldn’t be. They are fulfilling what Paul said happens when men forget God and reject His word (II Timothy 3). He warned that “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted, while evil people and imposters will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.” (v. 12). Deceiving and being deceived. That just about sums it up. As GK Chesterton said, “When people stop believing in God, they don’t believe in nothing — they believe in anything.”