Hereafter and Now

Thinking of my last blog and its serpentine subject, I wonder whether the eel evolved from the same source as a snake or from a different fishy ancestor or from a reptilian, losing its legs as it found slithering quite acceptable, like those children who bump along on their rumps rather than crawling, until one day they stand up as homo erectus. Who knows? Probably Darwin did. Charles D. was a remarkable man and a national treasure to the British. He was one of those enlightened individuals who seemed to have been blessed with an original and deeply penetrative mind and applied it, like a blow torch, to the cobwebby dry leaves of the religious cant that held sway in his day – and still does in parts of the United States.

I noted with the stomach twisting resignation of de ja’vu that a new film about his life has not found an American distributor as yet, because the religious Right regard him as a humanist pervert, blaspheming against the history of Man as recorded in the Bible. More or less at the same time as reading about the film’s lack of support, I discovered that there was an intriguing new book out by David Eagleman called Sum: Forty Tales of the Afterlives. It proves to be very funny, a mix of philosophical musing, surrealist burlesque and genuine challenge to all who have their own beliefs regarding what happens to us after we are gone. The story I read last night had a plot which suggested in its final sentence that we could be on a path of downward evolution, bound to be something less than human the next time round and that we began this spiral journey as highly intelligent aliens.

He’s an American nuclear physicist or somesuch scientist and the book has been published over there but has yet to fall on the desk of the fundamentalist belief-police who, apparently, cannot accept Darwin’s premise that we might have ape genes in our stock. But they are slow readers, Neanderthals all, and still live in the fantasy world of the caves of the Garden of Eden, resisting the eel’s exhortation to them to try a bite from the tree of knowledge.

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