Such expressions as that famous one of Linnæus, and which we often meet with in a more or less concealed form, that the characters do not make the genus, but that the genus gives the characters, seem to imply that something more is included in our classification, than mere resemblance. I believe that something more is included; and that propinquity of descent,—the only known cause of the similarity of organic beings,—is the bond, hidden as it is by various degrees of modification, which is partially revealed to us by our classifications (Darwin, 1859, p. 413f).

Friday, 23 January 2009

An Interview with Mr. Darwin

On Friday afternoon Dave and Malte step into the Hoop and Toy for their regular ‘end-of-the-week’ pint (or three).

At the bar they are approached by a dark and mysterious man with a cockney accent and an unlit cigarette hanging precariously from his lips. “’Ere, interest’d in a time machine?” David chokes on his beer. “‘Ow much den?” (David is also a cockney, so it’s going to be a bit complicated). Anyway, they buy it for a fiver (5 British Pounds Sterling).

It takes six pints and a Japanese translator (an unwitting tourist) to work out how the thing turns on. Within two hours and a spectacular light display, too complex to describe here, Malte and Dave make it to 19th century England. Due to the Earth’s orbit, and other dreary time-space continuum explanations privy only to Doctor Who fans, they end up in the village of Downe in Kent, 1862.

“Sh*t, where are we?”
“Dunno. Fancy a pint?”

After several hours in the
George and Dragon Inn – David and Malte discover that they are only 20 minutes away by horse-and-cart from Down House, home of Charles Darwin.

“Hang on. What if we interviewed Chuck for our blog, eh?” The pints were taking their toll.
“That’ll show them who's wrong!”

An Interview with Mr. Darwin

[Loud banging on door - followed by intermittent singing and shushing. A distinguished, but slight nervous looking, gentleman opens the door a crack. A brass chain can be seen securing it to the rest of Down House]
    “I do not wish to purchase excessive merriment from two louts! Please be off with you!
    “Hey, Chuck … sorry Mr. Darwin. We are schistema … cystmena … nat … naturists …?”
    “I am ill. Please go away!”
    “… Naturalists!”
    “I am very sick. Please let leave me in peace!”
    “… from the futu… er … Australia …”
    “I’m not talking to you. I am too ill. Please remove your foot from my door!”
    “Look, in the future people are all fighting over your ideas and your work. Evolution has become an explanation for almost everything and you seem to be considered the originator of all modern ideas in biological classification, as well as, plant and animal geography!”
[Darwin paused for a moment and seemed to relax].
    “But why? Ideas are developed through time. Evolution is an idea to which I had been introduced. Most of it made no sense. Some of it was simply nonsensical. I make no excuse for my ideas, but surely a good rational explanation makes for a better understanding of the processes at work?”
    “… er… What?”
    “Where do you think I got my ideas from? I didn’t just invent them there and then! They evolved from other ideas.”
[Dave and Malte think this is a pun and giggle]
    But people in the future think 1859 and your Origin was a turning point for biology!”
    “Please make no such assumption! I, Monsieur Lamarck and probably others, have provided ways with which to explain the biological world. It is not the answer but simply an explanation that I am convinced is good and rational …”
    “But ..”
    “I am ill. Goodbye to you sir!”
[David and Malte look at each other].
    “He called me sir!”
    “Want to interview Agassiz?”

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