Austrian driver allowed ‘pastafarian’ headgear photo: intelligent design

An Austrian atheist has won the right to be shown on his driving-licence photo wearing a pasta strainer as “religious headgear”.

Niko Alm first applied for the licence three years ago after reading that headgear was allowed in official pictures only for confessional reasons.

Mr Alm said the sieve was a requirement of his religion, pastafarianism.

Later a police spokesman explained that the licence was issued because Mr Alm’s face was fully visible in the photo.

“The photo was not approved on religious grounds. The only criterion for photos in driving licence applications is that the whole face must be visible,” said Manfred Reinthaler, a police spokesman in Vienna.

He was speaking on Wednesday, after Austrian media had first reported Mr Alm’s reason for wearing the pasta strainer.

After receiving his application the Austrian authorities had required him to obtain a doctor’s certificate that he was “psychologically fit” to drive.

According to Mr Reinthaler, “the licence has been ready since October 2009 – it was not collected, that’s all there is to it”.

The idea came into Mr Alm’s noodle three years ago as a way of making a serious, if ironic, point.

A self-confessed atheist, Mr Alm says he belongs to the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster, a light-hearted, US-based faith whose members call themselves pastafarians.

The group’s website states that “the only dogma allowed in the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster is the rejection of dogma”.

In response to pressure for American schools to teach the theory known as intelligent design, which some Christians favour as an alternative to natural selection, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster wrote to the Kansas School Board asking for the pastafarian version of intelligent design to be taught to schoolchildren.

Straining credulity

In the same spirit, Mr Alm’s pastafarian-style application for a driving licence was a response to the Austrian recognition of confessional headgear in official photographs.

The licence took three years to come through and, according to Mr Alm, he was asked to submit to a medical interview to check on his mental fitness to drive but – straining credulity – his efforts have finally paid off.

It is the police who issue driving licences in Austria, and they have duly issued a laminated card showing Mr Alm in his unorthodox item of religious headgear.

When asked for his reaction to Mr Reinthaler’s comments, Mr Alm told the broadcaster ORF: “I didn’t know I was guilty of not collecting it. That doesn’t alter the fact that it still took nearly a year [to be issued]”.

The next step, Mr Alm told the Austrian news agency APA, is to apply to the Austrian authorities for pastafarianism to become an officially recognised faith.


School defends intelligent design

A school board being sued in a US court for questioning the theory of evolution has begun presenting its case.

Pennsylvania’s Dover Area school board requires science teachers to say that evolution is unproven, and to raise “intelligent design” as an alternative.

A biology professor and leading advocate of intelligent design told the court that evolution alone could not explain complex biological processes.

Michael Behe said he believed God was behind them.

Some parents are suing the school board, saying that intelligent design is a religious belief and should not be taught, because it violates the United States constitutional separation of church and state.

Darwin’s ‘gaps’

The Dover school board instructs its teachers to read a statement to 14-to-15-year-old students before classes on evolution, saying that Charles Darwin’s theory is “not a fact”, and that there are “gaps in the theory”.

Students are then referred to an intelligent design textbook for more information.

Intelligent design is being promoted in schools across more than 20 states in the US.

It holds that the development of life cannot be explained solely by evolution, and that the guiding hand of an intelligent force must have been at work.

Although it does not name God specifically, the theory has been adopted by some Christian groups, who promote it ahead of creationism, the literal interpretation of the biblical book of Genesis.

‘Not a theory’

Prof Behe was the first witness called by the school board, after the dissenting parents presented their case.

He said evolution should still be taught, as “any well-educated student should understand it”, but said it could not fully explain the biological complexities of life.

He said intelligent design questions whether life at the molecular level could have evolved through natural selection.

“That’s the most poorly supported aspect of Darwin’s theory,” he told the federal court.

Prof Behe’s stance is rejected by the faculty at the university where he works, and the scientific mainstream.

The head of the American Association for the Advancement of Science says that intelligent design “is not even a theory”.

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