They sat facing each other. Although there were other people there,
seated along both sides of the long table, it was only the figures at
the ends whose words were heard.
"So, Darwin," Owen said in his clear voice, "you assert that the earth
is ancient, and that kinds are mutable."
"It is an inevitable consequence of my theory." Rumbled the deep
"This theory which you have not yet formulated?"
"I am...gathering ...the evidence which will support it. You will have it
in due course."
"And yet you dismiss the evidence we have, and which shows that kinds
"There is an ...alternative interpretation."
"And you dismiss the evidence of the rocks of the Great Flood."
"I...we....interpret it differently."
He glowered at Owen, his eyes hard.
"In the meantime" Owen continued, "we shall continue to plan our great
"It will be outdated before it is finished."
"Science is not a matter of fashion, Darwin."
"Nevertheless, science will show that you are wrong."
"Science shows that I am correct."
Their glares interlocked across the length of the committee room.
They were at the heart of that bastion of science, the Royal Society.
Here decisions would be made which would influence the mind of the
leaders of the nation, the leaders of the world in that time when the
British Empire was at its height. Who controlled this committee
controlled science. And the committee was bitterly divided.
Let us pull our gaze back from this room, back through the high
windows, back across the green lawns, back, back to encompass that
great city, at the heart of a great empire. See the docks, the great
ships trading goods from every corner of the globe, plying the trade
routes to the Americas to Africa, to India, and further East to China
and beyond. Follow one of those routes across the wide oceans, to
distant islands, and there is a ship, laden with a cargo of spices,
returning from a trip to the distant island of the Indonesian
archipelago. But that is not why it is important, though it's hold
contains the foundations of a great fortune.
There is another cargo, a passenger, a young man. His body wracked
with the foul diseases of the tropics disease, but his eyes burning
with the intensity of messianic fervour as he sat in his tiny cabin, a
box for a desk, writing in cheap notebook. A dangerous young man. A
young man with an idea., an idea conceived in the impressionable mind
of a child transfixed by the words of a madman, nurtured in the dark
heat of tropical fever, an idea which would change the world forever.
Back in London, back in the dark room in which he now lived, Darwin
brooded. He was alone now, his cronies returned to the families
innocent of the debaucheries in which they had indulged.
He was losing the battle. Owen was in the ascendant, his plans coming
to fruition. The great new museum, a cathedral to the fixity of kinds,
a monument to creation was under construction. He had sown seeds in
the minds of the young an impressionable, seduced them with the idea
of an ever-changing creation, of an ancient earth in which the strong
morality, the eternal principles of the Christian Church held no sway.
The young can be held in thrall with sensuous delights, with the
feeding of carnal appetites which can never be satiated. Older minds
can be blackmailed, bought. The weak can be browbeaten and ignored.
But Owen, his vision clear, his mind untrammelled by the corruption of
Darwin's anti-Christian whispers, his integrity beyond the reach of
any temptation Darwin could put in his path, was winning.
Behind the polite veneer of the meetings of the Royal Society a bitter
enmity raged. Seeds were planted, whispers that Owen had appropriated
the ideas of other men circulated, hints of shallow scholarship and
incompetence murmured into the ears of those in positions of power and
influence, but all in vain. The great cathedral to creation was being
built, and Darwin was out of ideas.
"I need something which will sway the hearts as well as the minds of
men" he told those in his closest circle, the heart of the great
conspiracy. "we need a great lie, a magnificent fable."
But nothing came. Darwin, his mind weakened by his lifestyle,
struggled with vague, half-formulated, ill-conceived ideas. He wrote
copiously, filling volumes with his scribblings, but when he re-read
them they were revealed as shallow, empty and vacuous.
The invitation came. Owen was triumphant. The new museum, the greatest
in the world was ready, it's stores and cabinets filled with the
fruits of the centuries, of the Empire, of the world itself. Smith's
forgeries, his fabricated strata, were forgotten, lost in a dusty back
room in the small, dingy building which housed the Geological Society,
a guilty secret known only to a few.
Darwin accepted, and as he did so, believed that it was all over.
There was nowhere else to go, the great conspiracy had died out . It
was the end.
A great crowd of dignitaries was assembled to witness the arrival of
the Queen and Prince Albert. Darwin, his position of influence now so
low that he was pushed to the back of that gathering stood sullenly,
his mind filled with hatred of Owen, contemplating some act of
violence which would rid him of this intolerable feeling of
A hand tugged at his sleeve.
"What do we do now, Sedgwick?" he asked the man standing beside him
"how can we recover from this."
Sedgwick stood beside him, gloomy, dejected.
"What is it?" he turned to find out who dared to accost him in this
manner. It was a tall, thin, man, youthful but his face etched with
the lines of suffering.
"Mr Darwin" he repeated "I'm so honoured to meet you again."
Darwin glowered at him..
"I attended one of your talks some years ago. Wallace. My name is
"You inspired my, Mr Darwin. You inspired me. I have spent many years
in dreadful places, following the course of your inspiration. I
returned to England after a long voyage, arriving only yesterday, and
made it my business to seek you out."
"I have drafted an idea. It concerns the mutability of living
organisms. I have it here, with me. It would be a great honour for me
if you would read my notes and comment on what I have conceived."
"Why should I concern myself with your ideas?"
"Show me" he said, and took the notebook from the proffered hand which
Darwin was ignoring. He skimmed over a few pages.
"May I borrow this?" he asked "I would like to read this at leisure so
that I can give your work the consideration it demands."
"It is my only copy"
"I promise to be careful. Call at my house, say a fortnight from now,
and I will discuss this with you."
"Will you not read it, Mr Darwin?"
"I'll let Sedgewick read it first. If he thinks that there is anything
of value there, I may find the time to consider it."
"Good day. Mr...?"
"Good day, Mr Wallace."
The young man retreated, dejected, rejected.
"Throw that away" Darwin growled. "it will only be some silly cant."
"I'll have a look," Sedgwick answered. "who knows? There may be
something of value here."
"Nonsense." Darwin spat out the words.
"Goodbye, Sedgwick. I'm going to my club. There are some bottles of
brandy - French brandy - which demand my attention."
It was two days later.
Sedgewick entered cautiously. The candles had burned down.
"Darwin?" he called into pitch darkness.
The only response was a growl. He stepped cautiously forwards, found
the edge of the table in front of him. Fumbling along the surface he
found a candlestick, found the candles in the sockets. A match flared,
bringing a patch of light to one end of the room. It caught on the
wick of the candle, steadied. As his eyes grew accustomed to the dim
light, he made out the shape of the man slumped over at the far end of
"Darwin?" he spoke again.
The head rose from the table, and in the candle light in his gleamed
"What are you doing here, Sedgwick?" He spoke in a quiet voice. The
shadows danced as Sedgwick approached, and for a moment he had the
impression of a great dark cloak flowing from Darwin's shoulders.
"Why have you come here?" The hair, in wild disarray, st a shadow on
the far wall. It looked like horns.
"Wallace." Sedgwick said. "his idea."
"That silly fool?" Darwin muttered. "what are his ideas worth?"
"They are our salvation."
"It's too late for salvation." Darwin's voice echoed from the high
"No, " Sedgwick continued. "his idea can save us."
"It makes sense. It is convincing. It will convince those who are
still undecided, and may even sway those in Owen's camp. It can save
"He proposes a way in which kinds may be transformed into new species.
A way in which the fixity of kinds may be rejected by science. He even
"How has he manufactured this evidence?"
"That's the beauty. He hasn't. He looks at the breeding of
domesticated animals - dogs and pigeons - and claims that kinds may be
transformed without the intervention of intelligent agency into other
Darwin stared at Sedgwick.
"He is serious?"
"Yes. Our work has borne fruit! He believes it to be true!"
Darwin laughed. He paused, then laughed again, his voice ringing
around the dark room, laughed with huge, savage amusement, laughed
until he gasped for breath.
"Put my name on it. Publish it. We can find someone who will if they
are paid enough money."
"What shall we call this great work?"
"How about 'The Origin of the Specious?'? It's a pretty specious idea,
Darwin laughed again.
"No. Call it 'The Origin of the Species'. That has a good ring to it."
"What about Wallace? What if he talks?"
"We can fob him off. I'll change a few words here and there, claim
that his ideas mirrored my own, and offer him joint publication in
some place nobody will ever read it. The book will have my name. Who
knows? He may even be flattered!!"
> The head rose from the table, and in the candle light in his gleamed
> "What are you doing here, Sedgwick?" He spoke in a quiet voice. The
> shadows danced as Sedgwick approached, and for a moment he had the
> impression of a great dark cloak flowing from Darwin's shoulders.
> "Why have you come here?" The hair, in wild disarray, set a shadow on
> the far wall. It looked like horns.
is especially wonderful. I bow to you, sir. And I speak as one with not a
little experience in these matters.
This gets better each time. Any thought of collecting these on some
web page/site? I keep thinking a T-Shirt with Evil Darwin on it is in
order. What would Darwin look like with a gotee?
\ \ \ \ \ \ ASCII artist
:F_P:-O- -O- -O- -O- -O- -O- -O-
\ \ \ \ \ \ \ \ \
We could sell them from the imaginary opisthokont.org website. :-)
Fungimal Pride and Evil Darwin, yeah, baby! :-)
If somebody with artistic talent wants to make drawings for t-shits, I
can look into setting up a cafe press store. :-)
There is another cargo, a passenger, a young man. His body wracked
with the foul diseases of the tropics *disease*, but his eyes ...
The head rose from the table, and *in* the candle light in his [eyes?]
Keep up the good work! It's great fun!
In the name of the bee
And of the butterfly
And of the breeze, amen
- Emily Dickinson -
Do you think everyone should have a blog?
Here is the counter-evidence: <http://dododreams.blogspot.com/>