Evolution, religion and house gnats

The Dallas Theater Center has brought Inherit the Wind back to a local stage. Once again, we can live the infamous Scopes trial about science versus faith in the classroom.
But — how far have we come in more than nine decades? Texas continues to argue about public school textbooks: how to teach ninth-graders the coming-into-being of birds, animals and especially humans. This day and age isn’t all that modern when deciding how to pass on information about such vital matters.
Do you believe the Biblical creation story? Or do you believe Darwin’s theory of evolution? Can both really be taught in the same classroom at the same time? Are young minds able to handle this controversy, reasoning clearly enough to formulate their own conclusions — especially when some parents want their children to reach one conclusion while some prefer the other?
I’m thinking back now to my first day in college and my very first class: introductory zoology, which involved dissecting a frog. But before that came a disclaimer from our instructor, a graduate student teaching assistant, which I’ll paraphrase here: “I’m a scientist,” he said. “And I’m a Catholic. I believe in God and the Bible, but I also believe in science and evolution. This is how I make both work for me …”
Then followed the part I’ve never forgotten that I can recall virtually word for word after more than 60 years: “I believe that God created Adam and Eve, and put them into the Garden of Eden, just like the Bible says. But then along came Sin. So God made them leave that beautiful place, but not in the form they were in then. Instead, He took them down by the water that He’d already created, reduced them to amoebas, dropped them in and said ‘Now, work your way back!’ And that’s how we have evolved…”
What a wonderful, simple (OK — simplistic) answer to the whole question! I remember Ed Zadorozny’s words better than I remember the innards of the poor frog I cut up that day.
Recently, I suffered a Passover return of sorts: A plague of flying insects invaded my home. Thirty-three years in the same house, with never anything like this before! By day, they flew straight for the windows; at night, when everything else was dark, they flew to the TV screen. So I flew to Home Depot’s garden department for information.
“They’re not houseflies,” I told the expert. “They’re gnats,” he said. “Flies are attracted by odors. Gnats like light. And they’re attracted by house plants.” But I’ve never had any of those, because I have a truly black thumb and can’t grow anything. I once killed a small cactus garden just by breathing on it! The only outdoor work I’ve ever succeeded at is weeding! So why did they choose me?
The infestation lasted about 36 hours, making me wonder how long the Egyptians had to suffer from their bugs. A swatter was totally ineffective against them, so I had to resort to a spray that kills flying insects — something I find environmentally unsound in principle and truly offensive in the odor department. And afterward came another unappealing task: gathering up and disposing of the little black bodies littering every windowsill.
I would like to be in on those textbook debates. Did God create such annoying creatures? If so, for what purpose? Or did they just evolve from amoebas, developing wings and flying out of the water, but moving no further along on God’s — or Darwin’s — evolutionary scale?
Next Pesach, when I dip wine from my Seder cup as the plagues are read, I’ll recall this assault. But today, I’m remembering Ed Zadorozny, and wondering, Where are you now, with your elementary wisdom, when our sophisticated educators really need you? And this-coming weekend, I’ll be seeing, again that old (1955) play about an even older (1925) event, the Monkey Trial.
Maybe you’ll join me?

Leave a Reply