The Descent of Man 

In The Descent of Man a 40-year-old teacher, Maloney, speaks to his high school science class about the school board’s decree that Creationism or intelligent design be added to the curriculum.  He defines Creationism as the theory that a Supreme Being created the universe, an idea with which he assumes they are familiar.  He says that they are less familiar with the principles of science.  He tells them his wife has left him for a “newer and more powerful model,” and, since he has no self-respect whatever, he is going to share what he knows about that grotesque stew of superstition, ignorance and fairy tales called Creationism because he will get fired if he doesn’t.  He explains the scientific method of observation, hypothesis, and theory that seems to explain phenomena until contradictory evidence is discovered and a new hypothesis is suggested and tested.  His example is his observation that people who step in front of charging rhinos tend to get their epiglottis ripped out.  When this hypothesis seems to be confirmed, he says he feels justified in stating The Charging Rhinoceros/Epiglottis theory.  If this theory is contradicted then a new theory is needed.  Religion, on the contrary, tells people what to believe so they don’t have to think.  He tells his students that his ex-wife, Felicity, thinks he wants to get fired and is acting like a child.  But he thinks religion is a desperate retreat into the fantasy world of childhood, while science is a rational way of investigating a universe that is indifferent to our wishes.  He explains that the theory of evolution relies on tiny genetic variations persisting over nearly unimaginable epochs of time.  He says that those who reject evolution believe in the economic survival of the fittest, the so-called Protestant ethic.  He confesses that he has been hearing voices telling him that reason itself is as pathetic, arrogant, and futile as blind faith.  He asks the class if they want to believe in a God “who’s responsible for centuries and centuries and centuries of unspeakable carnage, the relentless slaughter of the innocent, of hunger, grief, unspeakable physical and emotional suffering, severed limbs, eyes gouged out, dead children, grieving mothers, devouring, devouring, devouring . . . . a homicidal maniac.”  He says it is easier to believe in random selection, in an impersonal and meaningless process.  But, since he is required to tell them the story of the world according to the disciples of this homicidal maniac, he will begin at the beginning.  “And the earth was without form and void.  Just like us.”  The lights fade and go out.

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