We must consider both the ultimate end and all clear sensory evidence, to which we refer our opinions; for otherwise everything will be full of uncertainty and confusion.
If you fight against all your sensations, you will have no standard to which to refer, and thus no means of judging even those sensations which you claim are false.
– Epicurus’ Principal Doctrines 22-23
Although the Pastafarian faith is a parody religion, and many even in the atheist community find it (and other parody religions) to be stupid and a complete waste of time, there have been recent attempts to articulate the philosophical problem behind its conception.
The cult of the Flying Spaghetti Monster has its origins in activism by secularists and naturalists against the teaching of creationism in schools. According to this article:
In January 2005, Bobby Henderson, then a 24-year-old Oregon State University physics graduate, sent an open letter regarding the Flying Spaghetti Monster to the Kansas State Board of Education. The letter was sent prior to the Kansas evolution hearings as an argument against the teaching of intelligent design in biology classes. Henderson, describing himself as a “concerned citizen” representing more than ten million others, argued that intelligent design and his belief “the universe was created by a Flying Spaghetti Monster” were equally valid. In his letter, he noted:
I think we can all look forward to the time when these three theories are given equal time in our science classrooms across the country, and eventually the world; one third time for Intelligent Design, one third time for Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, and one third time for logical conjecture based on overwhelming observable evidence.—Bobby Henderson
I will not go into the particular controversy that gave birth to the Pastafarian cult, as I am much more concerned here with the serious epistemological problem of reasoning without evidence, and the widespread belief that that’s a good way to reason (or to believe, or to think). The basic Pastafarian argument states that if evidence and science do not matter, then anything is valid, any view is equally valid; or vice-versa, that if all views are equally valid, then science and evidence do not matter.
In other words, the politically correct view of this or that religion as valid in spite of contradicting numerous proven, observable, measurable facts about the nature of things, is in error and leads to error. Nature does not operate as culture does. We can believe in the Ascension of Jesus or the Assumption of Mary doctrines, but gravity will still pull us. These are self-evident, observable truths.
I cited Principal Doctrines 22-23 at the beginning of this article to accentuate how the problems being addressed today by Pastafarians have been confronted before, in fact 23 centuries ago, by the first Epicurean philosophers. They also enjoyed parody and even called the Canon (the foundational book written by Epicurus) “the book that fell from heaven”, as a way of making fun of revealed religions.
According to PD 23-24, if we do not heed our senses and our natural faculties, and judge things according to the evidence presented before the tribunal of our senses, there will be “uncertainty and confusion” because we will have no criteria by which to determine the truth. Ultimately, when things are proven to be true or false, it’s thanks to the standard established by nature and by our natural faculties, which are able to apprehend and report the nature of things directly and without bias. Hence, we Epicureans call them the Canon (that is, the ruler or the “measuring stick” for reality). This presupposes that there is a solid reality out there that is observable, and the fact that we all coincide that there are things out there that we can touch, see, and refer to, points to that fact. This is known as realism.
These considerations should be taught in elementary school to children the moment that education begins. It’s quite unfortunate that such basic notions are not ingrained in the mind and in the culture of Westerners in the 21st Century. This speaks volumes about the severe need for philosophical hygiene, and in fact the Sarvodaya blog recently posted an argument in defense of teaching philosophy to children. Perhaps the energy channeled into parody religions should be re-focused, as there needs to be a broader movement around this.
Pastafari may be a parody religion, but it also represents a light and humorous approach to a very real and ancient philosophical problem.
The following Pastafarian meme derives inspiration from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song