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Postmodern Village
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Foundling Theories Fund Recipient Report: Evolution
by P.B. Wombat

For such a devious theory, it was seductively straightforward: that the diversity of species could be explained by the slow drift of natural differences over time, and that this, combined with predatory activity and availability of foodstuffs, would lead to pigeons, goats, rabbits, and, eventually, to us. In its separation of divine intervention from the development of humankind–clearly the universe’s most blessed species–Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution epitomized all that Rationalist, Atheistic Modernism stood for. It was the non plus ultra of the reality-based paradigm, brashly seeking “answers” and even “truth” from the fallen and debased mash of sin and confusion that it so lovingly called “nature.”

Darwin’s theory dragged itself out of the muck in 1959 from the scurrilous delusions of the churchman-turned-seaman recalling his 1831-36 ride around the world on the HMS Beagle (Burrow 25). At the height of the mass hallucination that was this voyage, as far from God’s green earth, England, as Darwin was to go, in the remote, heathen, godforsaken Galapagos Islands, Darwin was inspired to see the divergence of finches island-to-island as, not the clearly miraculous thing it is, but a “natural” occurrence, what came to be known as the “island-effect” (65).

But Darwin’s depravity did not end after the trip was over. He spent the next twenty years “refining” his theory by inflicting untold unnatural experiments on unsuspecting pigeons (Darwin 81). Such “selective breeding,” the precursor to modern-day stem-cell research, can be seen now, in a post-Postmodern, faith-based age, for what it really was: pure and unadulterated witchcraft, a purposeful abomination of The Lord’s clearly intended plan.

The theory took hold, though, despite the best efforts of the church and right-thinking people everywhere, and by 1928, emboldened by the Scopes trial, evolutionists went on to apply their notions to nearly everything, from the origin of species to the creation of The World, thus trudging farther and farther onto sacred ground. They were working on tinkering with the finer points of their scheme to write God out of science when the Cold, Hard Truth broke in and crashed their satanic party. It came in the form of the Republican Revolution of 1994, ushering in the New First Wave of Pre-Millennialist, faith-based government and beginning to set to rights the arrogance and oppression of the Rationalist (now Secular Humanist) program. In its latest incarnation, the first rumblings of The Second Coming have succeeded in challenging the indoctrination of evolutionary theory in schools from Pennsylvania to Texas–the latter being the new model for a faith-based future in this, God’s Promised Land.

The great danger in evolution, in the end, was its near universal applicability. But just that flexibility makes evolution useful in understanding, especially Modernist, literary works. We see such evolutionary tendencies, for instance, in the work of James Joyce, both across his oeuvre and within given pieces. Take the following passage from A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man:

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo. . . .

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold Lemon platt. (7)

Simplistic and confused, this passage can be said to be primitive, in a word, unevolved. As a presentation of character, Stephen Dedalus has a long way to go before he is fully adapted to his environment. His fitness, at this point, is in question–and therefore so is his survival. Later, we get this:

Mulier cantat

The soft beauty of the Latin word touched with an enchanting touch the dark of the evening, with a touch fainter and more persuading than the touch of the music or of a woman’s hand. The strife of their minds was quelled. The figure of woman as she appears in the liturgy of the church passed silently through the darkness: a whiterobed figure, small and slender as a boy and with a falling girdle. Her voice, frail and high as a boy’s, was heard intoning from a distant choir the first words of a woman which pierce the gloom and and clamour of the first chanting of the passion:

Et tu cum Jesu Galilaeo eras. (244)

By this point, Stephen Dedalus has not only evolved as a character, he has evolved as a spiritual being, adapted and in tune with the ecclesiastical surroundings, as well as gaining a nascent awareness of gender and the subtle politics of the sexes.

Likewise, older works can be re-imaged using the scouring grit of evolution. In A. Postolic Phervor’s “Darwin’s Winged Chariot” he shows how Andrew Marvell foresaw evolutionary theory through his poetry:

“But world enough and time” sets the stage for the grand illustration of dramatic change throughout the sweep of space and history. Marvell continues with how his “vegetable love should grow / vaster than empires, and more slow.” His time is sidereal time; his notions of how love should be done, if done properly, are on a cosmic scale. Marvell demonstrates an awareness that essentially natural forces are at work, that universal law creates change by its very nature, but that that change is monumentally slow . . . . Indeed, it is only by forcing the matter through human intervention that any but an evolution can take place: “Thus, though we cannot make our sun / Stand still, yet we will make him run.” (345)

Even as modest a work as the chapter from Life on the Mississippi titled “Two Views of the River” by Mark Twain (and reprinted here in the freshman composition text I happen to be using) there is revealed a Modernist movement toward extreme Rationalism and away from a latent (but still decadent) Romanticism:

I stood like one bewitched. I drank it in, in a speechless rapture. The world was new to me and I had never seen anything like this at home. But as I have said, a day came when I began to cease from noting the glories and the charms which the moon and the sun and the twilight wrought upon the river’s face; another came when I ceased altogether to note them. Then, if that sunset scene had been repeated, I should have looked upon it without rapture, and should have commented upon it, inwardly, after this fashion . . . .” (175)

Twain’s movement is especially instructive as it mirrors that of his age. Coming as it does in the years immediately post-Darwin, in 1883, his observations show how not merely a Romanticized notion of the beauty of God’s creation began to fall away, but that even the openly religious language with which one may describe experience became passé: he describes his initial reaction as one of “a speechless rapture.” This moves to being one “without rapture.” He begins “like one bewitched,” acknowledging the frightful deviltry warned against in the Old Testament. But Twain, as so many in that age of Modernism, throws off his enchantment as he throws off his entire belief system; the Supernatural falls as the base, the naturalistic, takes its place. Twain’s brief piece serves somewhat as a warning as well: “All the value any feature of [the river] had for me now was the amount of usefulness it could furnish toward compassing the safe piloting of a steamboat” (176). Take God out of the equation and you remove all the moral right we had to the river; God’s chosen species loses its domain, and man’s place is reduced to merely reacting to the natural world. When man loses “His” place, he loses “his” place as well, floating like a log adrift amid the random laws of profane materialism without a moral compass to guide him to his Final Destination. Without God there is no punishment and no reward, mere passage through the river of life. There is no need to judge the beautiful from the merely useful, the holy from the vile and sin-sodden. I would hazard a bet that Twain lost his patriotism then as well.

Indeed, I feel a bit like a medical researcher studying smallpox: we feel we need it to further our knowledge, but wouldn’t it be much safer for the good people of America if we decided to simply let the last strain die? Just as there are Islamic terrorists whose dearest wish would be to weaponize smallpox to further the ends of evil and destroy this Shining City on the Hill, there are still Secular-Humanist Atheists who would love to again promulgate evolution and infect the purity of mind of innocent Christian babies everywhere. Granted, the danger has been greatly reduced by the mobilization of Pat Robertson’s 700 Club Army which, through their vigilant defense of the faith through offensive attack, has managed to harass the ringleader of contemporary evolution, Stephen Jay Gould, right into his well-deserved grave (which is no-doubt burning with hellfire even as I write). But while the al-Qaeda of evolution is in retreat, it is not yet defeated. Perhaps by controlling access to dangerous ideas like these through the Foundling Theories Fund, we may be able to harness their power in understanding Rationalist and Modernist texts so that the passing dark age in the history of homo religio may never be repeated.

Works Cited

Burrow, J.W. Editor’s Introduction. Darwin 11-48.

Darwin, Charles. The Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or The Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. 1859. New York: Penguin, 1985.

Joyce, James. A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man. 1916. New York: Penguin, 1976.

Phervor, A. Postolic. “Darwin’s Winged Chariot.” Possum and Cant 45 (2004): 340-65.

Twain, Mark. “Two Views of the River.” The Riverside Reader 8th ed. Ed. Joseph Trimmer and Maxine Hairston. Boston: Houghton, 2005. 174-6.