And We All Sang “Amazing Grace”
Gilbert the Tour Guide and the “Intelligent Design”
Last month (September 2005), I have joined a busload of Korean tourist group in Vancouver hosted by the Skyline Tours for the 5-days/6-nights/2500km excursion toward the Canadian Rocky Mountain that circled the Banff and the Jasper National Park.
In a nutshell, the natural scene was a majestic, awesome, and whopping display of mountains, ice fields, and thick forests that left deep imprint upon my mind.
I also was amazed by the abrupt and unpredictable changes of weather in the region…on the bus, we encountered snowstorm in one locale and reached the balmy weather of sunshine in another in an interval of a few minutes …namely, we experienced two seasons at the almost same time in the same region.
In addition, we were somewhat blessed to have a tour guide named Gilbert who was experienced, knowledgeable, and energetic in guiding our tour group that mostly hailed from the South Korea for a short stay in Canada. (There were some Japanese stragglers in our group who could not afford to join the Japanese-run tour group due to the higher cost)
Overall, all the tourists appeared to be awestruck by the magnitude of the nature, even though they did not look it through the same lens, formulating different opinions and speaking in different tongues.
In addition, there were some flies in the ointment…and sadly, I found that our guide, Gilbert was a born-again gadfly Christian who attempted the trip as a religious pilgrimage, an expedition in search of evidence that the rock formation of the region was the result of Noah’s flood just as Scripture says. (He said Gilbert became his adopted first name because it has a phonetically sound Korean word of fellow traveler, sojourner, or the like.)
During the entire courses of trip whenever we were awed by the magnificent works of nature, Gilbert, as often as possible, reminded us that there ought to be some intelligent one out there who created the earth and that someone is surely his Father, the God.
And none among tourists raised hands to dispute Gilbert assertion that God created the earth in six days 6,000 years ago. (I found later that a majority of tourists belonged to an evangelical missionary and there were two pastors and their families from the Korean Church in Baltimore, Maryland.)
Another fly in the ointment was a snake-oil salesman of Korean descent hawking his ware of panacea, made out of honey collected by the native Indians at the top of high mountain where only the Indians can find it after tracing through the steps of the hungry bears.
And Gilbert corralled us like a herd of cows into a room with the rows of long benches.
In a few minutes, an amicable, dimple-cheeked and buxom gentleman appeared from behind the door with a big grin.
He did not announce his name or academic credentials, but he assured us like a naturopathic doctor or medicine man that his ware is good for almost every illness including high blood pressure, menstrual disorder, acne, age spot on old person’s face, and even it cures hardened cracks on the heel.
He seemed to have a little worry over his somewhat plump and fatty body that might be construed by the tourists as an overweight and unhealthy person.
And he promptly assured the audience that he was recently being OK’d by the famous Samsung Hospital in Seoul for cholesterol test. (I wondered why he had the trouble to go all the way to Seoul to take a simple cholesterol test and I found an answer: he was smart enough to know that his audience are mostly South Koreans who know that only rich and powerful man can afford to go to see a doctor at the Samsung Hospital and he wants to tell them he is a rich and powerful man even though he’s been selling his wares in a cowtown.)
There followed a salvo of friendly fire by our guide Gilbert for the sale of mysterious honey…he assured the tourists that a lot of people were eager to buy the panacea because there is always shortage of honey supply culled from the high and snow-covered Rocky Mountains.
And voila, his power of persuasion worked in full swing and people swarmed over the counter with a wad of hundred dollar bills.
As the end of the tour neared, I was informed by my fellow travelers that he was approached by one of the missionary group who attempted to lure him from his agnostic point of view on the creation theory to a Bible-based theory of Noah’s deluge.
And Gilbert mentioned about the grace of God more frequently through his microphone and quoted again and again about the intelligent designer.
He did not seem to bother much about other tourists who might be a Buddhist, Confucian or atheist…he seemed to be bent on selling his merchandise of ideology like an itinerant preacher to everyone on the tour bus.
The moot point here is whether he was talking about the same prevailing theory of intelligent design as GW Bush mentioned in his bully pulpit sometimes ago or he has simply been overwhelmed daily as a tour guide by the magnitude of the nature that he just believes what he sees is god’s creation. (In the Korean Christianity, it is almost impossible to see Korean Christians making an intellectual approach to religious study. They rather are satisfied with what their clergy doles out the orthodox creation theory in Genesis than challenging the Darwin’s theory of evolution.)
As we all know, the situation is different in the United States…Americans are far more religious than Canadians, Europeans and Asians; the vast majority, as our tour guide Gilbert, believe in a personal God who is actively involved with the world He created. (Ironically, Americans had the highest rates of homicide, abortion, abortion, STD (sexually transmitted disease) infection, and teen pregnancy among the first world nations.)
In one recent survey, only 44 percent of Americans agreed with the Darwin’s theory of evolution that complex living things (including humans) evolved from simpler organisms by means of random mutations and natural selection over millions of years.
The theory of “Intelligent Design”, advanced by some biblical creationists and propped up recently by GW Bush, disputes the idea of Darwin’s theory, claiming that life is so intricate that only a powerful guiding force, or intelligent designer, could have created it.
President Bush have urged, instead of direct endorsement of the Intelligent Design”, to give it the equal treatment parallel with evolution theory at the public school.
But, critics say that Bush’s urge for “both sides should be taught” at the school is most troubling aspect of his remarks…arguing that it sounds like you are being fair, but creationism is a sectarian religious viewpoint, and intelligent design is also a sectarian view point, a religious dogma thinly disguised and neatly repackaged in an effort to return creationism into the public school science class.
Namely, intelligent design is a mutant form of creationism that attempts to mimic biological research.
Some criticized Bush demonstrated a disturbing degree of scientific illiteracy, which may also explain his ideologically driven positions in other areas of scientific policy including stem cell research.
Other scientists say that creationism, intelligent design, and other claims of supernatural intervention in the origin of life or of aspects are not science because they are not testable by the methods of science, and proponents of intelligent design try to sidestep standard scientific practices of submitting papers to peer-reviewed journals.
Instead they publish in mass-market books or inject their ideas directly into the biological classroom of the public school.
Unlike our tour guide Gilbert, the proponents of the intelligent design do not designate or identify the designer…in this perspective, Gilbert appeared to be more assertive and persuasive in spreading his ideology of “divine-hands-designed-earth” and he made his point by asking all tourists to join him at the top of the ice field for impromptu choir.
And we all sang “Amazing Grace” and various hymns surrounded by a curious group of other tourists (mostly Europeans).
Then finally I found the last fly in the ointment…I noticed, among the choir group, a Korean bimbo wearing a leather jacket that displays eminently the logo of “FCUK”, who joined the tour before returning to her homeland after four months of studying instead of learning English.
During the tour wherever we reached the accommodation to rest and sleep, the flat-faced bimbo pestered Gilbert to find whereabouts of local bar or bistro where she can have a beer and dance the night.
Would she care to know who penned the Amazing Grace?
Or any other members of missionary, pastors, Gilbert, or other Korean participants of impromptu choir at the ice field?
I bet my precious derriere that none of them knew the origin of hymn and cared even they knew…For the sake of enlightening our intelligent (?) tour guide Gilbert, here is the story about the well-known and much-loved gospel song “Amazing Grace”
The song was penned by John Newton on the deck of the slave-ship in the Atlantic Ocean during the last century of slave trades between Africa and the New World, America.
He was the captain of the slave-ship that encountered one day the rough sea during voyage to the New World with a cargo of African slaves, thousands of men, women, and children shackled and chained beneath the deck of the ship.
While he was comfortably cocooned in his captain’s berth, fearing his death (it would be a silly question you ask if he cares for safety of his human cargo), he was seeking the grace of God, the same grace our Gilbert seeks, and he wrote the lyrics, prayed, and went back to sleep
And later he became an ordained minister of the England Church.
There is a war on science…Charles Darwin wrote in 1871 just before his second book, The Descent of Man, that addressed a question left unanswered in his first book,
On The Origin of Species: “I shall soon be regarded as the most despicable of men.”
And Intelligent Design is not the first attack on his theory and it won’t be the last.Creationism will do what it does best: It will evolve ironically, as it did since the John Scope’s “monkey trial” and it will haunts, disturbs, harasses, and distresses us in the biological class at the public school.