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Evolution - is it all wet?

july 24, 2000. Big Science just mapped the Human Genome. Next, they subdivide it and start selling it to you. Hitch up the horses, boys! It's the Oklahoma Gland Rush!

Big Science takes Big Money, but you can do interesting experiments using simple scientific tools like ethyl alcohol, bar napkins and crisp twenties. Let's do one on evolution.

Take a bar napkin. Draw a box on it. Now think outside that box. If you were evolution, what would you do? That's right. Have a drink. Now look at that drink. You think you're drinking bourbon, but to the cross-trained eye of a Scientist, that drink is almost all water. And so are you. You are 98 percent water. The other 2 percent is made up of trace elements, bohemian tendencies and unworthy motives.

Life on Earth began off the coast of North Dakota 15 or 27 billion years ago. All living things are 98 percent sea water and a little sludge. How did water think up the idea of being you and bourbon? The answer is evolution.

Can water think? Think about that. Don't use your box. You're 98 percent water and you're thinking about water thinking. You are Thinking Water. And that's not the booze talking. Isn't Science fun? Have another drink.

We think water thinks because of Darwin's Theory of Natural Elections. Charles Darwin was the son of a Presbyterian minister and an orangutan. He was a typical Englishman. As a boy he climbed trees. His father wanted him to go into the Church, but Darwin thought it was too dark and smelly. He joined the Industrial Evolution instead.

He dreamed of finding a way to fry water. Darwin thought if he could fry water, people wouldn't have to boil it and there would be more steam left over for steam engines and the Industrial Evolution could go faster. He said if people ate fried water, they wouldn't need food anymore. Charles Darwin was out of his mind.

Darwin experimented for years, ruining hundreds of pans. One night he fell asleep after eating some calamari. A Giant Squid appeared to him in a dream and fed him the formula for fried water, page by page. It was delicious!

Charles Darwin had a photographic memory at a time when you had to stand still to have your picture taken. After he woke up, he copied the formula and invited his friends for dinner. But it turned out to be a big practical joke on the Squid's part and Darwin was very embarrassed. He sold his pans and sailed to the Pollywogalapagos Islands.

One day he put a seashell to his ear and didn't hear the ocean. He thought he'd gone deaf. Then he looked inside the seashell and found a pad with the Theory of Natural Elections on it and a note from the Giant Squid that said, "Sorry about the practical joke. Try this one."

Charles Darwin was crazy but he wasn't stupid. He threw away the seashell and made up his own Theory of Natural Elections. This is the Theory of Darwinian Evolution. It explains how a man who couldn't even fry water evolved into the most important scientific figure of the nineteenth century.

When he returned to England, Darwin rented a gorilla suit and began giving lectures on his Theory. Huge crowds came to hear him speak and feed him peanuts. In 1859 Darwin published his Theory in a book he called Beyond Fried Water, My Struggle For Truth. It sold seventeen copies. For the second edition Darwin changed the title to 1001 Ways To Market Your Business In The Telegraph Economy. It became a best seller and Charles Darwin evolved into a household verb.

But not without opposition. The Archbishop of Canterbury was a religious funny mentalist who opposed the Theory of Natural Elections because it wasn't in the Bible and neither was Charles Darwin or the Giant Squid. He said people could return Darwin's book for credit or they could go to hell. Darwin challenged the Archbishop to a debate. Science versus Religion, stiff upper lip, jolly good, that sort of thing. But from force of habit the Archbishop, as the injured party, chose pistols at dawn, twenty paces.

The Archbishop shot first, but he was downwind and Darwin's gorilla suit spooked him. His bullet went wide. Darwin felt honor was satisfied, so he fired a warning shot into the Archbishop's chest, killing him instantly. This proved the Theory of Natural Elections and automatically made Charles Darwin the next Archbishop of Canterbury.

In order to avoid a clerical error, the Bishop's Club invoked the Cold Boy Network and Queen Victoria granted Darwin a cask of bar napkins and imprisoned him in an ivory tower. Darwin spent the rest of his life in seclusion, attempting to fry water and living on calamari. He died in 1882 from indigestion and bad dreams.

It was Darwin's brother Fred inside the gorilla suit after 1864. Fred's son Frank took over in 1895 and successfully toured the music halls for years until the gorilla suit was called up for service in the First World War and melted down for cannon fodder. Unfortunately, Frank Darwin was still in it. Natural Elections again.

That looks like Last Call for evolution. Drink up everybody, and don't forget to take some bar napkins for your experiments!

Robert Hurley