We Stupid Apes

Entry by: Sirona

23rd August 2016
‘We. Stupid. Apes,’ he grunted, furrowing his forehead to create Neanderthal brows and puffing out his lips to maximise his resemblance to a chimpanzee.
‘A good point, well made, my friend,’ I responded, leaning back in my chair to regard his mummery as I took a sip of the wine in my glass. ‘Your eloquence remains the stuff of legend but, could I call upon you, perhaps, to expand upon your theory for those of us not quite able to make the same dizzying leaps of logic?’
My wit had pierced his playacting, and he let out the air that had filled his cheeks without further ado.
‘Have you read the latest work by Mr Charles Darwin?’ he enquired.
‘On the Origin of Species? I have indeed, a most controversial volume.’
‘And, what?’
‘And where do you stand on the issues raised? Do you believe that we are, as Mr Darwin claims, simply the descendants of apes?’
‘I don’t think there is anything simple about the process, my friend.’ I said, sitting forward again to carefully replace my glass and watch his expression.
I was not ready, yet, to show my hand as to my feelings regarding Mr Darwin’s remarkable theory. The relationship that I was building with the man opposite me was too vital to my future; this issue too divisive. If I were to show my hand one way or the other, and find that my friend held the opposite view, that alone would be catastrophe to all my plans with regard to marriage, and his dear, sweet, sister.
‘You don’t?’ he asked.
‘I don’t. My understanding of Mr Darwin’s central idea is that this evolution is, if anything, more complicated than its counter. How could one calculate the mathematical likelihood of any kind of change when so many different considerations must be taken into account. So much simpler, surely, to say that the Lord decided things should be thus, and so they were?’
‘You would argue that belief in creation; that all that happens does so as a result of divine will is…simpler than Mr Darwin’s suggestion?’ asked my friend, slumping backwards into his own seat as though I had driven the breath from his lungs.
‘I would.’
‘You would argue that God, the omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent being is a simpler concept than an idea posited by an English Naturalist?’
It was my turn to slump into my chair, jaw slack as I worked my way back through the conversation to see where I had gone so terribly wrong.
‘Well, no,’ I allowed. ‘But,’ I went on as a germ of an idea warmed in my mind; I did not censor it, but rather allowed myself free reign to speak, ‘if we are to compare the entire belief system, then surely we must examine Mr Darwin’s theories in the context of the Scientific Method which is also a complex series of beliefs and assertions.’
I was so certain that I had scored a point against my friend that I jabbed a finger towards him, nodded sagely and emptied my glass in a single draft.
He did likewise, refilling our glasses once he was done with the generosity that his families superior wealth allowed him.
‘We have drifted, rather, from my original question,’ he said, which was a tacit admission of my victory, I felt. I toasted myself.
‘We have,’ I agreed. ‘Where do I stand on the issues raised?’
I crossed my legs, placed my glass on the table and allowed my fingers to stroke at my beard. A gesture that I believed from long study in the mirror, gave me the look of an intellectual. ‘I was rather interested to hear the response of the liberal Anglicans, have you…’ I waggled my head, enquiringly.
‘I have not,’ he allowed, and it was all I could do to suppress a smile. I had already bested him once, and now showed myself more widely read on the issue. He was sure to comment to his sister on my education, perhaps they would even discuss my merits over dinner; Perhaps she would accept my calling card when next I left it.
‘Ah, well. They are somewhat more accepting of the scientific evidence than the Bishopric, they have suggested that perhaps, what Mr Darwin has discovered is actually the Lord’s own design.’
‘The Lord’s-’ my companion cut off, his cheeks flushing puce with a reaction that could only be quenched by the swift emptying of his glass. I followed suit. ‘The Lord’s design?’ he blustered.
‘Indeed.’ I murmured. I debated a number of follow ups but felt any might show my hand.
‘Stuff and nonsense!’
I reached for the bottle, pouring us both a fresh glass to lubricate the discussion.
‘Why so?’ I asked.
‘Well, my father would say that the mere notion that a human could understand any element of God’s design is heresy!’ he said, and I nodded, tapering my fingers to support my chin. This was useful information; the father, then, was a man of strong faith.
‘And you?’ I prompted.
‘I believe that the Scientific Method illuminates the world in a quite different way.’
I cleared my throat, leaned forward to nudge his glass towards him and then sat back, considering. I had known this conversation would be a difficult one to navigate but it had just become even more so; not only must I conclude it without offending my friend, whose support I desperately needed to secure an introduction to his sister, but I must do it without alienating their father, the man who could end my courtship with a single word.
‘You cannot reconcile science and religious belief?’ I asked.
My friend blinked his eyes rapidly, as though my question had been one that had never occurred to him before.
‘I say, old fellow. I think you have just found the crux of the whole thing!’ He emptied his glass again, gulping down the scarlet liquid. As he smacked his lips, he regarded me like a stunned grouse. ‘I must swear you to secrecy as to what I have just revealed of myself. If my father were to discover that I hold such beliefs…’
‘Lack of belief, surely,’ I countered, with a small smile.
‘Shhh!’ he hissed, glancing around him with a sudden self-consciousness. ‘I would be instantly disinherited. Instantly!’
‘Really?’ I enquired, reaching to take the glass myself. ‘Well, my friend, if you would do me one small favour I can assure you that I will say nothing more about it.’
‘Oh. Really? What?’ he slurred.
‘Will you introduce me to your sister?’
He pulled back, surprised, ‘Really? You have an eye for Lizbet, do you?’
‘I do,’ I confessed.
‘I will,’ he promised.
Thus it was that a discussion of Mr Darwin’s theory of evolution brought me to my present, elevated position. It was merely a matter of romancing the lovely Lizbet, gaining the respect of her father and then mentioning my concerns about her brothers’ atheism. Now he is disinherited, and I am Master of all I survey.
Survival of the fittest, indeed.
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