The Accidental Monkey

"It was supported by unassailable arguments that did not persuade."—Louis de Rouvroy, duc de Saint-Simon
The fundamentalists are right to oppose the Theory of Evolution, but for the wrong reason.
 

There is no contradiction between Darwin and creationism.  The Catholic Church accepted him a century ago—seven days, seven eons, big deal (no more Galileos for them!), and the Big Bang makes a majestic Fiat.  The Tree of Life tells the story that way (a tedious experience), and it’s what most interviewees in the street more or less believe.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes is a good pop-culch movie.  The prison sequences drag a bit, and it’s a little too much like watching a cartoon, but dramatically it held me. And its emotional strength derives from a sense of our identity with the apes, and with all animals.

But no.  While we can't ignore the fossil record, it won't afford such glib conclusions as Darwin wants to sell.  The Theory isn’t really a theory, in the proper sense of the word, because scientific method requires that a theory be testable.  Nothing in Darwin is testable.


“Science,” said Paul Valéry, “means simply the aggregate of all the recipes that are always successful.  The rest is literature.”

Fundamentalists reject the Theory because they think the world was created 6000 years ago like it says in the bible.  I reject it because it’s not science.

What it is is the medieval Great Chain of Being—rising from minerals to fish to animals to men to angels to God—stood on its side and extended in time.  The "missing link" should be found any day now—a day that ever approaches but never arrives.  It is an article of faith in this religion that the missing link will, perhaps in tomorrow's news, arise like a redeemer, for we yearn for continuity with something, even if it's monkeys.

Am I from Mars?  Well, maybe.

But I’m glad to note that there are others like me.  Stanley Kubrick satirized the Theory in 2001.  In a gesture of victory an ape throws his bone-club, the first tool, into the air and, leaping the longest gap ever in a piece of editing, it becomes a space module.  No explanation needed—our myth, and therefore invisible.  But if being the fittest were just a matter of incremental brain circuitry the computer HAL (read IBM) would win.  (See also Some Thoughts on Stanley Kubrick.)

The theory is a tranquilizer to enable us to handle the astounding fact of our existence.


So who are we?  What are we?  There are two possibilities. 

Either we are creatures of a deity we disappointed, sinners in the hands of an angry God, as Jonathan Edwards put it—this is David Lynch’s view on the thing (see Greece versus the Puritans); or we entered this labyrinth on our own bat, with no guarantee of the value of anything in it, including ourselves.

Two possibilities?  They’re endless.  We’re in a state of play with our existence.  Like Caesar the chimp, we don’t know who we are.


And that’s the scientific answer—and one reason Caesar is the most human person in the film.  The others assume they know who they are.

Certainly he’s smarter than my own characters.

So rather than do a dance I’ll give you a poem:

The accidental monkey
‘S a metaphysics junkie
With bothersome abysses on his mind;

Preoccupied with dying,
Interminably trying
To turn around and glimpse his own behind.

His finger in his yin-yang
He contemplates the Big Bang,
The earliest ancestor he can find,

Unless it’s all that room
The Bang had to go boom—
Or does it create space as it unwinds,

A spreading dance of gravity
In a potential cavity
Like that in which his finger is entwined?

A cosmos so anonymous,
How can it but be ominous
That such vast masonry was left unsigned?

Reality extrudes him.
Its structure still eludes him,
His probing finger warmer but confined.

Enigma born of distances
And exquisite resistances—
Too seamless not to seem that way designed.

Theisms, whether mono
Or other sorts of guano,
Have left his spirit largely unaligned.

Perusing Darwin’s Theory
He feels a little leery
Of sepia-toned free-market states of mind.

Amino acid soup-erman
Whose wake-up call so overran
’S the one myth all the apes have not maligned;

But too unscientific
To offer much specific,
As willing as he is to be resigned.

The spiral strands of rubble
He surveys through the Hubble
May possibly bear others of his kind.

Would that be any better,
To get an email letter
From some strange breed of orphans just as blind?

Abject on a conveyor,
Hunched over as for prayer
He’s hummed through life bowed down by double bind.

The horizontal motion
Admits no meta-notion,
His view cut off both forward and behind.

A bas with this banality!
He opts for verticality—
His heart leaps up and stands in him star-high!

A fallen god no longer,
Already he feels stronger,
Astral banana peeling off the rind!

Abyss-wise up is down though
And starry heaven’s clown so
Has raised his head it’s lodged in his behind.

Divine but rather stupid,
Of Morpheus and Cupid,
And to this grosser matter self-consigned,

The accidental monkey
At least is his own flunky,
And buoyed by this he hop-turns to the grind.



Also by Robert MacLean, the "Toby" books,
Will You Please Fuck Off? at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon ES and Smashwords;
Foreign Matter at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon ES and Smashwords; 
Total Moisture at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon ITAmazon ES and Smashwords; 
and these, too,
Mortal Coil: A Comedy of Corpses at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DE, Amazon IT and Amazon ES;
The President's Palm Reader: A Washington Comedy at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon IT and Amazon ES; and
Greek Island Murder at Amazon USAmazon UKAmazon FRAmazon DEAmazon IT and Amazon ES.

7 comments:

  1. I like what you say. Love the lyric by the way. Some good points there and I agree. Here's my take on the whole thing and following that a poem for you! http://richardwiseman.blogspot.com/2011/08/its-not-how-universe-came-about-but-why.html

    PROMETHEUS AT TESCO

    Cursed cursed creator!
    Why did you let me live?
    In every cortex stitched,
    Mockery and woe.

    What hand, what fire,
    Framed this awful unsymmetric shape,
    Half animal half angel,
    Split and twinned with misery.

    A shape a shadow and a form,
    Changed and yet unchanging,
    Teeming shops in scores,
    Identity a number pinned to you.

    You tread not ice caps,
    Majestically undreaded,
    Your impotent anger and hunger,
    A mouse in the modern machine.

    Soul sold to packet designs,
    Wrapped in designer wretchedness,
    Your high held brow,
    Stalking the meat counters.

    Shelley's monster had his Gothic dread,
    The tiger his lauded forging,
    You are twenty first century man,
    There you stand,
    half animal half angel,
    Credit card in hand.

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  2. You couldn't be more wrong. Evolution isn't a mere hypothesis, nor even a theory (a hypothesis is a proposed explanation with no evidence to support it; a theory is a proposed explanation supported by a significant amount of evidence and a lack of contradictory evidence). Evolution has such a huge wealth of evidence in support (and none against) that it has long ago graduated in status to that of a scientific principle (as in the Principle of Evolution). It fits perfectly into what we observe not only in the fossil record, but in ontology (embryonic developmental biology), genetics, and biochemistry. The factual existence of evolution is indisputable to anyone with the scientific education to undertstand that evidence; what remains debateable is the various mechanisms by which evolution proceeds. It's far more complicated that Darwin imagined. So while Darwin didn't get the mechanisms entirely correct, he did get the basic idea correct. Contrary to your assertion, evolution in fact is tested and observed every day, in experiments with short-lifecycle life forms like microbes, fruit flies, some plants, and so on. We have observed such species evolve before our very eyes, both from natural mutation and from artificially induced mutations.

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  3. Robert, neurons are like the eyes, it took so long, such an evolution to perfect them, it would be regrettable to damage such refined technology with such queer and questionable theories, be careful ...

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  4. I just don't buy it, Klod. Assumptions SHOULD be damaged. As for the eye, that's a prime argument against; there hasn't been time.

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  5. It has been proved by experiment that evolution is also susceptible to go "backwards", like cave inhabitants losing sight ability, for example, after some cataclysm... DNA is constantly evolving when confronted to new contexts... If that is not evolution I'm going to make myself a monk...

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  6. The eye has got plenty of time to evoluate, I don't understand that kind of argument and don't understand you can't understand such evidence.

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  7. Some of these passions are so badly misdirected that one has to wonder why they persist as they do.

    First, the author badly misunderstands the empirical science of evolution. Long ago, its theoretical elements were validated with now countless independent studies. What remains theoretically interesting is far below this level of generality. I support the role of non-scientists commenting on the meaning and use of scientific findings; however, it is incumbent upon anyone who comments to understand what they are commenting upon. Such is not the case here.

    Are the empirical science findings that fall under the rubric of 'evolution' necessarily in conflict with particular belief systems? The only logical answer is that it depends on the proposition of the belief system.

    Religions are examples of belief systems but there are many other belief systems. Freudian psychoanalytic is an example of a belief system that was once thought to be an empirical science. By definition, belief systems exist as articles of faith that hold themselves beyond the reach (i.e., are not subjected to) empirical support or disconfirmation.

    A belief system that holds the age of the planet Earth to be 6,000 years is in direct conflict with the facts, even without introducing evolution. A belief system that holds humankind to the product of a special creative force is not in conflict with contemporary science.

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