Dog Days

Timing was everything.  Look normal.  Don’t draw suspicion.  Still, he couldn’t focus on anything…

I no longer remember what the prompts were for this piece. I believe one was “The lizard crawled through the window,” another was “internationally recognized warning sign,” and finally, I believe the last prompt was “doodling in the margins of big yellow pads of paper.”

Sid sat transfixed by the digital clock on the dashboard of his ’87 Olds, the dark gray vinyl cracked and chipped beneath the hot Texas sun.  It was 5:30 and he wasn’t going anywhere anytime soon.  His blue Cutlass, wedged tightly between a Greyhound bus in front and a tanker truck behind, hadn’t moved ten feet in as many minutes.  Trapped high above the city streets on the Pierce Elevated in the heart of downtown Houston, if Houston had a heart, he thought. His week had been hell and this day even more so.  On the surface, this day was no different than so many others spent in this endless line of rubber, steel and glass, snaking back through the sweltering heat of summer, but that wasn’t the whole of it.  Today was the day for which he’d waited and prepared for years, really for all his life.

He looked at himself in the rear view mirror, sweat dripping from his balding head and bearded chin.  “Damn this Texas heat!  Damn this traffic!” he said to his image, but he knew it wasn’t the heat, even though the AC hadn’t worked in this piece of crap for over a year now.  No, it wasn’t the heat.  He’d waited all week for this day, excited and afraid, ever since he’d gotten the email late last Saturday.  There in the midst of innocuous prose were the words he’d hoped for and dreaded for so long, “The lizard crawled through the window.”  The time had come.  Now, hating every minute of delay, each hour an eternity, he crawled towards his destiny.  This past week at the firm was spent doodling in the margins of big yellow pads of paper as paunchy old wind bags rambled on about projected losses and declining markets.  Timing was everything.  Look normal.  Don’t draw suspicion.  Still, he couldn’t focus on anything but today.  All week long it was all he could think about.  Could he do it?  Should he do it?  He was nearly paralyzed, caught between faith and reasoning.  The whole city was caught in an urban paralysis, frozen in its tracks, unable to untangle from the knot of congestion and commerce.  With all the warnings and all the news flashes, here it sat, frozen in place with nowhere to run even if it did know what lay ahead.

Somewhere ahead, unseen to Sid, wreckers towed away the last of the arterial blockage and the traffic began to nudge along, picking up speed bit by bit.  Finally he reached his exit and trundled down the ramp to the city streets below, stopping in front of a dilapidated warehouse with a barely readable, century-old sign, on its side announcing some defunct company, and hawking a product long ago forgotten.  The metal door screeched open, resisting him as though in some feeble attempt to stop the inevitable, a last and pitiful defense.  With an almost casual glance up and down the street, he returned to the car and eased it into the cavernous hole, stopping just inside the door to pull it shut behind him, and locking it, now his defense against prying eyes.

From the trunk he pulled out a large toolbox and a crowbar.  Strewn about on the floor in haphazard fashion were several large wooden crates marked “Machinery” and “Machine Parts”.  All bore the address, Smith and Jones AG Equipment Company, Inc. and were marked, “Made in India,” or “Made in Germany,” or “Made in Belgium.”  Sid attacked the boxes feverishly, prying the packing crates apart and laying the contents neatly on the floor.  Every now and then he would move a part from one spot to another and replace it with some other piece freshly emerged from the packing material.  Soon it was all unpacked and he stopped to survey the “ingredients.”  Wiping his brow, he opened the toolbox and set about assembling all of this into one large, complex apparatus.  Done, he grabbed up a broom and began to quickly sweep the packing material to the back of the room, where several heavy sheets of rusting iron leaned against the wall.  Strewing the Styrofoam in front of them, he pried them away from the wall with a long bar from another pile of rusting metal scraps.  They crashed with little noise, leaving the wall behind exposed.  There the wall had fresh plaster applied and he tackled this with renewed fervor.  Soon he had an opening a man could move through at a stoop.  Grabbing a flashlight from the toolbox, he ducked into the low opening into the space beyond.  It was barely a room, more like the bottom of a ventilation shaft.  But there was room enough.  In the corner, sat a black metal case, internationally recognized warning signs plastered on all sides.  Sid lifted it with a grunt.  Tired from the previous hour’s work, the thing weighed more than he’d expected.  Gripping it with both hands, he shuffled back to the opening and heaved it through, following immediately behind.

Back at the apparatus, he carefully opened the box.  Abandoning all caution, he lifted the dull metallic rods from the case, one by one, and inserted them into his machine.  What did it matter to him?  It would all be over soon.  With the last rod in place, he closed the machine cover.  From a velvet wrap, he removed a small palm-sized box, a thin wire trailing from one end.  Connecting the wire to the apparatus, he unwound it several paces back.

“This will do,” he thought.  He lay the box on the floor and returned to the car.  From the back seat he lifted a small, well-used prayer rug.  Slipping his shoes off, Sid returned to the box and unfurled the rug, laying it gently on the floor.  After a moment’s reflection, he determined which way he should face, then knelt down, bending low upon the carpet, his head pressed against the course fibers.

His finger found the button.

“In the name of Allah, the Compassionate, the Merciful.”

He pressed and knew no more, his soul swept away in the nuclear blast to meet whatever destiny awaited the faithful dead.

Leveling the Ground: Creationism vs Evolution

It requires less faith to believe in creation by design than by chance.

I wrote this paper for an advanced writing class I took at Sam Houston State University with Dr. Siebert back in the summer of 1992. 

Evolution.  Even after a nearly two hundred year history, this idea is shrouded in controversy.  What is evolution?   It is a widely accepted theory, not only among those of a scientific bent, but even among laymen.  In a nutshell, the theory states that life as we know it today did not simply spring up from nothingness full-grown, but slowly changed, over eons of time, from the simplest organisms, through many and numberless alterations, into more and more complex organisms.  Until, now, after billions of years of evolutionary history, we have humans and dogs, elephants and porcupines.

There are two observable phenomena that serve as the basis of evolutionary theory.  The first is known as the fossil record, the untold story left behind in rock by ancient creatures, long dead.  Untold, because there were no means available to these simple creatures to relay their tale to us, except to die, trapped in amber or volcanic ash, their bodies left to slowly turn to stone, awaiting excavation and discovery.  Among the fossil record are some very impressive finds, such as the skeletal remains of fantastic creatures, like dinosaurs and saber-toothed tigers, as well as the remains of man and man-like creatures.

The second basis of evolution is the observation of that incredible mechanism among animals, labelled the adaptation of species.  This is the amazing ability of animals of the same kind to change in order to better fit their environment and to improve their chances of survival in a hostile world.  The butterflies in England which changed their coloration from light to dark, enabling them to better blend with the soot blackened trees, are an example of this.  Evolution is the theory put forward to explain these phenomena.

Evolution depends heavily on two elements: the chief of the two is chance and it determines the second, which is time.  Chance is a very important issue, so we’ll begin with it.  Let’s start at the very beginning.  Scientists tell us of the primordial soup, a chemical potluck washing over the earth some tens of billions of years ago.  A chance lightening strike provided the energy to combine some of these chemicals into amino acids.  This has been shown to be possible in laboratory experiments.  Amino acids are considered the building blocks of life.  Every organism has them.  They are not alive, simply the stuff of which life consists.  The amino acids in the lab were simply that, amino acids, not living organisms.  They lacked some of the crucial structures found in every living thing: DNA and RNA.  If amino acids are the building blocks, DNA and RNA are the builders and the architects.  We know very little about DNA and RNA, but we do know that they are immensely complex and without them life cannot exist.

We are told that these amino acids did combine into a living organisms; after billions upon billions of chance strokes of lightning, and billions upon billions of chance combining, some group of amino acids succeeded in producing the necessary elements for biological survival.  Then began the long evolutionary process of trial and error: these extremely simple single celled organisms, through millions of hit and miss changes, some succeeding, many more failing, evolved into more advanced and complex organisms.  It would be stretching credulity if this process were to result in one complex organism, like a snail, for example, or even a worm, let alone the vast myriad of living plants and animals that exist in the world today.

The other element of evolution is that of time.  Evolution requires enormous amounts of time.  Hand in hand with historical geologist, evolutionists have increased their estimates of the earth’s age, first by millions of years, now by billions.  But even this is not enough time to account for the progress allotted to these chance happenings.  To understand the problem that chance brings to this issue of time, let’s look at it from the view of mathematical probability.  Mathematics has often been referred to as a pure science, mathematical truth being beyond bias.  One branch of mathematics concerns itself with the study of probability.  If you were to sit down and put a pencil to it, even given the best odds, the probability, or chance, of evolution happening, in any length of time is astronomical.  Some would say improbable; the word “impossible” is more like it.  It is like shredding the New York City phone book in a mulching machine, then tossing the debris into the air, and having it land intact.

Many of the weaknesses in this theory are disguised behind the subtle language used by evolutionists. For example, the word “evolved” does not suggest the radical and fundamental changes that must take place in order for one organism to become another, dissimilar organism.  The change required is not subtle, not even if it were spread out over eons of time.  It is not so much like changing the color of your hair, as it is akin to growing another head.  Nor does it suggest the absolutely incredible complexity of every living creature, no matter how “simple”.  There are enumerable functions, such as respiration, reproduction, circulation, digestion, carried out by highly specialized organs, each suited to its task and different from every other, each an amazing achievement.  But together?  In one animal?  Incredible!

It is easy to see why evolution has many detractors, both among the brotherhood of science, and among the common man.  One must ask, is evolution the only theory that can explain the presence of these phenomena?  The answer is no; there is another way of thinking.  Many scientists disagree fundamentally with the tenants of evolution, and have searched for other explanations.   The theory most often pitted against evolution is that of creation by divine fiat.  That is, “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”  This is known as creationism.

In its extreme form, creationism leaves no room for compromise.  Its stance is that evolution is an unpalatable blasphemy, which seeks to deny the veracity of the holy scriptures.  But there is a compromise offered by some.  It is as follows: God is the creator, and evolution his modus operandi, his method of operation.  Impossible?  No, the purist would have to admit, God can do just about anything he wants to, but the holes in the theory of evolution still exist, and blaming God for them, fills not a one.  But many do hold to this middle ground, and feel very comfortable in doing so.  It may not answer all the questions asked by a purist, but it provides a position that draws from the best of both worlds: doing away with the unbelievable element of chance, and offering an explanation for the physical evidence offered up by evolutionists.

There is even some biblical basis for this way of thinking.  If one were to look at the order of creation as given in the book of Genesis, the first book of the Bible, it would be found to correlate with the various stages enumerated by evolutionists.  First, life in the sea, then plant life.  Next comes fowl, and creeping things, and finally, come the beasts, and among them, man.  The purist could only find fault with the amount of time attributed by evolutionists.  But with God in the picture, as has already been noted, you’ve eliminated the element of chance, and therefore, you don’t need the huge chunks of time which chance requires.

Evolutionists would find this talk of God outrageous, it being an issue of faith and religion, they would say, not science.  But it requires less faith to believe in creation by design than by chance, to see order and purpose in the universe, rather than chaos and happenstance.  When you observe the wonders of nature, be it the most magnificent, or the most minuscule, it takes very little belief to see that it was not chance, nor natural selection that caused it to be, but design and therefore, a designer.  Taking into account the difficulties inherent in a chance driven evolution, it  is easy to see that more faith is required of the evolutionist.  Their theory is not, after all, a matter of science, but a matter of faith.

So the battle rages on with each side holding to their own beliefs.  It is not something that can be decided by science, for this is a battle of the mind and heart, waged between a man and his own conscience, a woman and her own intellect.  There, inside, beyond the reach of others, every man and woman must make up their own mind; they alone can decide what they will accept as truth, and what as false.  I hope you choose wisely.