WILL THE BATTLE over evolution ever end? After 150 years, it doesn't look likely. Darwinians constantly find new applications for evolutionary thinking; opponents dismiss each as flawed until its explanatory power becomes indisputable, then fall back to the next line of defense (currently the idea that molecular systems within each cell are too complex to have evolved "by chance").
The problem's not one of evidence but of worldview. "Pros" see no point in looking for a supernatural maker of life; "antis" can't imagine the universe without one. How do you resolve that kind of conflict? This coming Monday at 6:30 p.m., for just five bucks, you can hear one man's answer to that question by visiting room 3212 of Seattle Central Community College at 1701 Broadway on Capitol Hill: God didn't create life on Earth; extraterrestrials did.
On Dec. 13, 1973, one such entity contacted an ex-bum, pop singer, and Formula 1 journalist named Claude Vorilhon to inform him that he owed his existence not to a passing liaison of his mother's but to her impregnation by aliens. He had been created, like Buddha, Jesus, and Mohammed before him, to carry a message to his fellow creatures.
When Seattle gets the message on Monday, it won't come directly from Vorilhon, or Ra묠as he is known today. Instead we will hear it from the vice president of the United States Ra묩an Movement, Felix Clairvoyant of San Francisco. Currently employed at a South San Francisco biotech company, molecular biologist Clairvoyant (he swears it is his baptismal name) is a Ra묩an "guide," authorized to spread the movement's word, not to mention conduct "sensual meditation" seminars for those interested in getting beyond words to behavior.
If you've heard of Ra묩anism at all, it's probably in connection with biochemist Brigitte Boisellier's proclamation that she and some like-minded friends plan to clone human beings, whatever public opinion (and the law) have to say on the matter. (Since we're all clones, in a manner of speaking—deliberate creations of an alien science—Ra묩ans don't see why everybody's making such a fuss about it.)
But cloning isn't central to the movement's mission. In the first of several books, Vorilhon/Ra묠explains that he was instructed to create a kind of embassy on Earth, a "safe house" for his extraterrestrial tutors, whence they can reach out to unenlightened forces that currently dominate humankind: churches, governments, and the like.
Doing that will entail a great deal of time, work, and sacrifice; all the more reason to have a good time doing it. There is no God, so there are no rules. Sex is no longer the prerequisite for procreation, but we're still equipped for it, so why not make the best of a good thing? Ra묠smiles on sex, in pretty much any numerical or gender configuration, just as he approves of sensuous experience of any kind. Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry: Be Happy" pretty much sums up the Ra묩an code, with Jim Dixon's mantra "Nice things are nicer than nasty things" as a corollary.
The Ra묩ans, at the moment, are a tiny sliver of a sect, but their potential for growth is immense. For the scientifically minded, they offer science, for the spiritually minded, spirituality; for those who feel need of a "higher power," they offer a higher power neither supernatural nor censorious, harmonious (up to a generous point) with any pre- existing attachments to religious leaders of the past.
Does it matter that the whole attractive business is founded on accepting as truth the proclamations of a raving loony? Not at all. We frequently forget that however powerfully they dominate our lives, ideas at bottom are the outcome of experience, not the other way around. And ideas that don't offer some sort of experiential feedback don't last. Darwinians aren't necessarily atheists, but those who are get along without God more easily because the central idea of evolution is an incredibly powerful support for minds in search of meaning.
But if you're not a working scientist, Darwinism lacks one essential of a satisfying belief system: a way to act on your convictions. In a way, anti-Darwinism is just such an activity: a way of bearing witness to a notion of transcendence. But that stance, too, may lack zest for people who don't get off on argument.
In a way, Darwinians and anti- Darwinians form a closed system, a pair of matter and anti-matter galaxies doomed to orbit each other endlessly, with no resolution short of mutual annihilation. It doesn't matter which one's "right" if neither one comforts you or scratches your intellectual itch. Call it religion or new-age nonsense, Ra묩anism offers an interesting new approach to one of the central challenges of civilized existence: how to live up to your principles and still have a great time.
For more about Ra묠and Ra묩anism, see the linked article in Seattle Weekly's sister publication The Village Voice at http://www.villagevoice.com/issues/0135/segall1.php or the organization's own website, http://www.rael.org