Sunday, January 31, 2010

Story-Time: Francis Collins and the Alien

One day an alien ship came to Earth. The leader of the alien ship had some important business to discuss with Earth's scientists. Avoiding detecting by Earth's puny instruments, the craft landed in a field outside Washington D.C. It headed straight to the office of Francis Collins, head of the National Institutes of Health. "What can I do for you?" Dr. Collins said, shaking its proferred tentacle.

"I have important business to discuss with you," it said. "You did not evolve. We created you. You, and every other organism on Earth. In your present forms, a little more than six thousand of your years ago."

"Well," Dr. Collins began, trying to be as accomodationist as possible with Earth's first alien visitor, "I'm sure your faith has certain traditions, as does mine, but interpreting them literally can get you into trouble. Life on Earth arose through descent with modification. We call it natural selection."

"I understand your misgivings. Your conclusion is one which I think any intelligent species would have reached under the same conclusion." the alien concedes altogether reasonably (which puzzles Dr. Collins). "I do apologize."

Dr. Collins said directly, "I'm sure I appreciate your magnanimity but I must say that you've offered me no evidence."

"Also reasonable," the alien says, turning its compound eyes to the briefcase it had brought. "Allow me to provide evidence for you to evaluate. First, the alien produced a flash drive (they used PCs too fortunately) with a Powerpoint presentation. The aliens had a database with every genome of every organism on Earth, or so their leader claimed; all the ones that Collins checked matched what human scientists had derived. Then the alien went through the science of making organisms appear to have been produced by common descent over billions of years (they even made it match up with continental drift and asteroid impacts; they were damn good). Finally it showed Collins the devices for planting fossils and footprints and even a ray-gun that altered the rate of decay of carbon nuclei, to make things look much older than they actually were. The alien had even brought one. Tested on the goldfish that Collins had in his office, it made the poor swimming creatures appear to be 62 million years old. The closing pictures of the presentation were ground plans of the first Mesopotamian cities that had been built for the newly created sentient species, maps of all the old alien bases and landing sites, and finally a picture of one of the aliens shaking hands with a proudly-smiling bearded Middle-Eastern looking human who was brewing beer. "We put that one in just to shut up Sam Harris," the alien admitted.

"You don't by chance have a special waterfall-freezing ray, do you?" Collins asked.

"No, why?" the alien said.

"Just wondering." Collins felt his vertiginous awe at this paradigm shift gradually twisting into anger. "Why would you do this to us? Why would you set everything up so as to deliberately deceive us about our origins?" he demanded of the alien. It flashed orange in fear and withdrew its eyestalks, then responded, "Well, it was kind of an experiment. And we were the only aliens in the galaxy and we wanted company. And we didn't want you to develop a complex about being artifically created so we made it look like you had this grand origin, slowly rising out of the slime and all. And you've done great! Sorry, we should've told you before."

"You should have tried the Ostrogoths instead of now," Collins murmured disdainfully. "At least they wouldn't have had the basis to find the whole affair so distasteful. And now I have to tell everybody."

The NIH called a press conference to announce the greatest find in the history of science, one that would overturn Darwin. At the conference they had to keep the creationists and evolutionists separated; the creationists had a whole two rows of all the people from around the world who were willing to show up on camera, not counting the entire Oklahoma legislature, who were hissing and making cross signs at Abbie Smith. On the red carpet outside, Harun Yahya gave a statement that Islam was the only true faith and that infidels had no values and should burn. He was followed by Kent Hovind who said that Christianity was the only salvation and that all other religions were Satanic imitations with immoral followers; then he went inside to sit down next to Harun Yahya to discuss co-distribution deals for their books. Ken Ham was thrown out before the announcement even started for calling Ken Miller an Uncle Tom. Chris Mooney and Sheril Kirshenbaum tried to sit between the two groups in the middle of the aisle but Jerry Coyne tossed them out when no one was looking. Then the appointed hour arrived and Collins strode out onto the stage alongside the alien. The audience gasped. The creationists could be heard yelling variously "It's the Lord! It's the devil! It's Xenu! This means we can kill whoever we don't like with impunity!"

"Ladies and gentlemen," Collins began nervously. "Life on Earth was, ah, created, just over six thousand years ago in its present form-"

"I knew it!" Kirk Cameron shouted, leaping to his feet.

Collins shushed him and continued, "-created by these color-changing, compound-eye-stalk-having, tentacle-waving, and uh -" he looked at his notes, grimacing, "and reproducing-by-laying-eggs-in-feces aliens." Everyone in the room looked again at the alien with a new and more disgusted perrspective.

Casey Luskin stood up. "But Darwinism is a lie, carbon-dating doesn't work, there's no evidence -" The alien cut him off. "That's right sir. Evolution did not happen. All your carbon date are belong to us."

"But, but -" Luskin looked confused. There was smoke coming out of his head. Then Harun Yahya leaped onto the stage and desperately searched the alien's body for a protruding fishhook before being removed by security. The alien said to Luskin, "Would you rather be part of an immense and mind-boggling but eminently understandable process that produced all the beauty and power of your world by incremental change over billions of years? Or produced in an instant by an omnipotent, artificial touch that you know better than to question?" Luskin stared up at the thick slime dripping off the pulsing alien's flesh and said "Well, now that I really think about it..."

PZ Myers stood up, thinking that he wouldn't be giving any credence to this alien character if it weren't for the tentacles. "Alright," PZ said to the alien, "at least you're real. If this is true, show us some evidence. We'll believe you if you have good evidence."

"Of course." And the alien went through the same slide show and demonstration again. This time when it got to the Sumerian with the first beer, it looked out into the audience. Harris was stone-faced but Christopher Hitchens applauded loudly. To prove its point, after the presentation the alien had one of its biogenesis machines brought out and created a giraffe. For good measure the alien had also produced a brontosaurus-skeleton. "We never bothered to make a living one," it explained.

There was silence in the auditorium as the implications sank in. "So you see," the alien said, "evolution did not happen. We created you."

"But but but," Ray Comfort stammered, "God created us."

"Is that your word for us?" the alien asked him, then turned to Collins. Collins tried to explain, whispering into the alien's tympanic membrane.

The alien was confused. "So how exactly would you look different if we'd created you instead of this invisible human?" the alien said.

Comfort thought about this and had no answer. "But," he asked, "then where did you come from? Who created you?" In the back, Richard Dawkins's raised hand went down.

"Oh, we've always existed," the alien said. "We're eternal, outside space and time. No one had to create us. And plus, we're the best species because the concept of the best species means that it has to exist. If it didn't exist, it wouldn't be the best. If you don't believe that, you have no basis for morality. No wonder people in America are doing drugs and committing crime!"

Comfort said "But that's no answer! That's just a bunch of word-play and non-sequiturs! You're just trying to stop inquiry!" The auditorium convulsed in laughter. Someone handed Eugenie Scott a check from Kent Hovind with a note to the effect that it's better to teach evolution in schools than this claptrap since there's no evidence of the existence of aliens...

2 comments:

Philippe said...

You definitely have a gift for writing, however I'm afraid the poo jokes might cost you a significant portion of your audience.

Great short story though, I'll see if I can get my wife to read it.

Michael Caton said...

What, 50%? So now I'm down to 5? Hey, I'm just tryina have fun with this thing. I've been censoring myself too much and it hasn't seemed to build me a massive audience.