“Many of the most sacred moments in Biodesign occurred through laughter. Their laughter was of the highest order, showing no sign of being grubby, pornographic, cruel, or mean-spirited. They laughed easily and often, especially at the many intimately embarrassing moments incurred while studying, traveling, and camping together. Their laughter was contagious and healing.
On one of the visits to the pool beneath Yosemite’s Nevada Falls, the guys were the first to jump in. The icy-cold water produced yelps and gasps. One of the guys asked his buddy, “Are you squinching?” Whether they had heard the term or not, all the guys immediately understood and burst into laughter. The girls looked on with puzzled expressions. One of them finally asked, “What is “squinching?” This produced more laughter, and finally, one of the guys said, “You should ask Mr. Young.”
I remembered a conversation with a French teacher-colleague of mine who spent a summer in France. When I asked about the highlight of her trip, she said, “I was standing in the Louvre, admiring Michelangelo’s statue of David, and I suddenly burst into rapturous laughter. It occurred to me that after God created Adam, he said, ‘Oops, I almost forgot! You will need two of these and one of these.’ The people around me must have thought I was a nut.” I shared the story and said she might be right.
The event provided a natural opportunity to describe, but not explain, one of nature’s many bizarre mysteries. Embryonic testicles originate in males in the same area that ovaries originate in females. During gestation, they are programmed to migrate down and out of the lower abdomen. In cases where this does not happen, the organs will not function properly. Apparently, the normal body temperature of 98.6 degrees is too warm. The problem was solved by moving them out of the body, allowing them to cool slightly. They can, however, become overly cold, and when this happens, males “squinch”. The scrotum shrinks and draws the testicles close to, or even up into, the lower abdomen. It was too much information for some of the girls, but most joined the guys in laughter.”
Although the event was uproariously funny, at a deeper level it pointed to the quintessential mystery of how every human being began his/her journey on Earth. Against unfathomable odds of time and space in the universe, each of us began during an extraordinarily mysterious moment when one sperm (out of approximately 300 million) united with one egg (out of about 400) to emerge as a once-in-a universe individual.
Just like the theoretical impossibility of any two snowflakes being alike, no two humans will ever be identical. Even so-called identical twins are not identical because they begin to affect each other’s behavior very early in their respective embryonic development. People who get to know identical twins often regard them as only slightly more alike that sisters or brothers.
“Self-actualization” just might be the spiritual correlation of Archimedes’ principle of buoyancy. If so, when people discover how “fearfully and wonderfully made” they are, they too may be inspired to run down the street yelling “Eureka!” “I have found Me!”
This event would have delighted, but probably not totally surprised naturalist Loren Eiseley who wrote, “If there is magic on this planet, it is contained in water.”
The two quintessential decisions that led to the birth of the Biodesign Class at St. Helena High School were adopting John Muir as our primary mentor and planning a six-day trip to Yosemite N.P. to explore what he was writing about. In preparation for each trip we pondered The Wilderness World Of John Muir (edited by Edwin Teale). In his introduction, Teal noted that although Muir belonged to no organized religion, he was deeply religious and boldly credited God for creating Earth and the universe. Furthermore, he wrote: “He was by turn a scientist, a poet, a mystic, a philosopher, a humorist. Because he saw everything, mountains and streams and landscapes, as evolving, unfinished, in the process of creation, there is a pervading sense of vitality in all he wrote.”
The two operative words were “evolving” and “creation.” Although beautifully written, Teale presented me with the dilemma of how to introduce public high school students to Muir’s philosophy without violating the spirit of the law separating church and state. The emerging class embraced the freedom to discuss all things biological, which included a thoughtful, unbiased, approach to the great evolution debate.
In a wonderfully ironic twist, a partial solution to our dilemma came from ancient China. The Chinese yin-yang philosophy describes how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. Yin-yang philosophy can be applied to the great debate of creationism vs. Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Universe, including all forms of life, is in a constant process of evolving, yet everything that evolves had to be created.
Although most students grasped the yin-yang concept, understandably, many had difficulty visualizing any possible physical—spiritual interaction. Most were not satisfied with the current scientific explanation of evolution being the result of random chance and competition. In a perfectly timed synchronicity, while one class was pondering the Muir—Darwin dichotomy, S.F. Chronicle legendary columnist, Art Hoppe, wrote the following column.
Excerpt: Biodesign Out For A Walk, Chap. 11, Matthew. The Landlord’s Slime.
Scene: The Heavenly Real Estate Office.
The Landlord, humming to himself, is craning forward to hang a mediocre-sized galaxy of a hundred billion suns on the far edge of the cosmos. His business agent, Mr. Gabriel, enters, golden trumpet in hand.
Gabriel: Excuse me, sir. A noisy debate’s broken out on that planet Earth. The tenants are fighting over how the place was made.
Landlord: (frowning) Earth? Let’s see … Is that the one I patched together out of drifting stardust, rainbow wisps, and a few million snatches of birdsong?
Gabriel: No, that was Arcturus 4673-a.
Landlord: Good me! After a couple of zillion, it’s hard to recall exactly how …
What do the tenants say?
Gabriel: Well, the fundamentalists say that you created the whole shebang in six days with sort of a wave of your hand.
Landlord: (nodding) Yes, yes, I could have done it that way.
Gabriel: But the scientists claim that it evolved over 4 billion years.
Landlord: Six days? Four billion years? What’s the difference, Gabriel?
Gabriel: That’s easy for you to say, sir; you’re not in a hurry. But to their finite little minds, it’s an eternity.
Landlord: How do the scientists think life began?
Gabriel: The scientists say it could have started when some free- floating chemicals, perhaps in a tide pool, were zapped by a bolt of lightning.
Landlord: Ah! That sounds like me.
Gabriel: This created microscopic one-celled life-forms, which soon evolved into a thimbleful of green slime. Really, sir, why would you create green slime? It sounds sacrilegious.
Landlord: If it’s my green slime, it’s divine green slime.
Gabriel: Yes, sir. Anyway, you apparently told the green slime to go forth and multiply.
Landlord: “Go forth and multiply, green slime!” I like the ring to that.
Gabriel: Well, it certainly did multiply. According to the scientists, it multiplied into paramecia and sea worms and oysters and fish and great whales.
Landlord: How wonderful!
Gabriel: And at long last, the scientists say, the fish crawled up on the land to become the fowl of the air and the beasts of the field.
Landlord: How dramatic!
Gabriel: Finally the beasts stood erect as hairy, apelike creatures who …
Landlord: (thoughtfully) Perhaps I should have stopped there.
Gabriel: … in the end became man.
Landlord: What a lovely, lovely story, Gabriel. When I think of all the fish of the sea, the beasts of the land, the fowl of the air in all their shapes so singular and strange, in all their myriad colors, dappled and striped and iridescent, swimming and slithering and soaring … All this emerging from a thimbleful of green slime! I … What was that argument about again, Gabriel?
Gabriel: Basically, sir, it’s over whether children in school should be taught to believe in cold, scientific facts or you—ordained miracles.
Landlord: I know that, Gabriel (frowning), but what’s the difference?
Hoppe’s column was a brilliant allegory, which arrived at a perfect time. He not only used satire to illuminate the absurdity of the debate, but his “Landlord” aligned with Muir’s philosophy. I firmly believe that the column should be shared with every high school and university biology student.
60 years ago, I was walking down the hallway of my SFSU college dorm and met a dorm mate. He looked at me and said, “Vanity, vanity, all is vanity sayeth the preacher.” I was a nominal Christian and had no idea of what he meant. 60 years later, I just came across the same quote, laughed uproariously and wrote this piece.
Perhaps Henry Thoreau read King Solomon’s “Ecclesiastes” chaps 2 and 3 and wrote:
“I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.” ― Henry David Thoreau, Walden
In King Solomon’s “Old Testament” book of “Ecclesiastes,” he reflected on how he had spent his life.
However, even though Solomon ends chapter two, chasing the wind, in chapter three he records one of the most famous passages in the Bible. Intriguingly, it is still used at weddings and funerals.
In a wonderful synchronicity, in the early 1960s, folk singer Pete Seeger added a few words to the passage and along with his melody produced, “Turn, Turn, Turn.” At that time Seeger considered himself an atheist, so it is interesting how it occurred that he chose a Bible verse for a song.
Seeger’s voice was probably best suited for campfire sing-alongs, but in another synchronicity the singing group, “The Byrds,” recorded his song. Turn-Turn-Turn is the only popular song, with almost purely Biblical lyrics, to reach the top of the US music charts.
I don’t know if the song affected Seeger’s religious perspective, but he later wrote:
“I feel most spiritual when I’m out in the woods. I feel part of nature or looking up at the stars. I used to say I was an atheist. Now I say, it’s all according to your definition of God. According to my definition of God, I’m not an atheist. Because I think God is everything. Whenever I open my eyes I’m looking at God. Whenever I’m listening to something I’m listening to God.”
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Seeger received many awards for his humanitarian work, especially encouraging people to strive for world peace, celebrate life and sing more.
In an increasingly more secularized and polarized society, all of these are becoming more difficult. When was the last time you sat around a campfire and sang songs like Country Roads, Blowin’ In The Wind, or Turn—Turn—Turn?
“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience.”
Do they agree or disagree? Are they shocked, offended or inspired?
Dr. Albert Schweitzer must have agreed by suggesting that many people are naively unaware of the depth and scope involving human spirituality. World-renown anthropologist Loren Eiseley likened the spiritual path of humans to a journey:
“The journey is immense, difficult, at times impossible, yet that will not deter some of us from attempting it.”
Henry Thoreau described the human experience as, “sauntering towards the Holy Land.”
Whether she knew it or not, all of these factors converged in the mind of a high school senior in the Biodesign Class at St. Helena High School.
Cindy was a large-framed-girl who suffered from debilitating bouts with acute asthma that could be triggered by even moderate physical exercise. Understandably she was not keen on hiking. These facts underscore the courage that she mustered by attempting to hike from Yosemite Valley to the top of Half Dome, in one day, with a full backpack. The hike is 10 miles long with a 5,000 ft. rise and considered challenging for seasoned backpackers.
Her epic journey is detailed in Biodesign Out For A Walk, but it took her 14 hours of exhausting labor to reach the top. Against all rational odds, she refused to be denied.
She later described her ordeal as a transcending experience, however, it failed to move her into an awareness of the God that she felt John Muir described. I was not aware of the fact, but this doubt haunted her for the next 5 months until The Biodesign Class traveled to the Mendocino Coast. Our goals were to explore plant and animal communities as well as the ethos of the area.
A typical day involved exploring various ecosystems and visiting local residents who lived in harmony with Nature. After dinner, the students sat in a circle around a campfire, sang traditional folk songs and shared reflections from their journals. We were more concerned with macro-ecological and experiential perspectives than memorizing minutiae.
On the last evening of Cindy’s trip, she approached me as I was preparing the campfire. In spite of all the wonders she had seen, she was in a melancholic mood and shared her frustration with not being able to connect with her Higher Power. I suggested that spiritual guidance was not in my job description and that she might want to seek advice from a local priest or pastor when we returned home. However, on a whim, I surprised myself by asking her if she had asked “The Great Mystery” if He/She existed. I didn’t think I was violating the law that separates Church and State. Understandably she looked puzzled and left me to my fire preparation.
With about 35 students and chaperones sitting around the fire, I did not realize that Cindy was missing. When all the journal sharings were done and the last song had been sung, students drifted off to their tents or down to the beach.
I was busy securing the “chuck wagon” when Cindy suddenly appeared. She was wearing a huge smile and her melancholic mood had transformed into a radiant aura. She looked like she had a huge secret and blurted out, “I have something to show you!” Then she quickly grabbed my arm and hurried me along a trail into the woods. About 100 feet out she stopped abruptly, giggled and asked, “Are you ready?”
I had no idea of what I was supposed to be ready for, but gamely said, “Go for it.” She handed me her flashlight and instructed me to shine it on her hands. I followed her instructions and in a flash I was like a “deer in the headlights.” My palms got clammy and my knees knocked together uncontrollably. What I was seeing were two very delicate palms, each with a ½ inch bright red spot seemingly tattooed in the middle. They were about as normal as flying pigs and I had no idea of what they were or what to say.
When I finally partially regained my senses, she giggled again and said, “They’re pretty cool, don’t you think?” I tried to respond but my brain could not process what my eyes were seeing and my mouth would not form words. I think I made a senseless guttural sound.
She was obviously enjoying the moment and offered further: “They were hot at first, but they have cooled down now, would you like to touch them?” I was totally befogged, but some primal guidance factor indicated that it would be highly inappropriate for me to touch her palms. The truth is, however, her suggestion was terrifying and I wanted to escape back to camp. There was nothing in my six years of university education (including a Masters degree in teaching biology) that prepared me for this event. I pondered whether the spots were physical, mental or spiritual; real, imaginary or symbolic and got no resolution.
After that, there is a blank space in my memory. I don’t remember going back to camp or crawling into my sleeping bag. I do remember a dream involving a debate between my right and left brain. I was excited about Cindy’s discovery (what ever it was), however, I feared that if news of the event made it back to school administrators or the school board, I would be fired immediately.
Fortunately, the events of the next morning quickly removed any fear that Cindy’s secret would become public knowledge. I got up early and began rousting the breakfast crew. Cindy bounded out of her tent, rushed over to me, boldly displayed her palms and blurted out, “look mom, no spots!” The comic relief was perfect and she followed it with one of the most wonderful hugs I have ever received.
Loren Eiseley spent much of his life exploring and describing the beauty and wonders of Mother Nature. His countless epiphanies enabled him to stay connected with his Higher Power. Perhaps, because of this, he typically avoided reducing his multitude of synchronicities to a three-letter-word. Instead, he preferred the more expansive term, “The Great Mystery.” In fact, the overarching theme in all 11 of his books is Mystery. In spite of man’s greatest achievements, the answers to the big questions of life and the universe remain veiled. Mystery reigns supreme.
I can’t think of anything more wonderfully mysterious (or scary) than a curious girl walking into the Mendocino woods and emerging with two bright red spots on her palms.
A legendary cowboy moseyed up to the edge of Grand Canyon, peered into the one-mile-deep chasm and said:
While basking in the afterglow of the performance, the descriptors soul stirring, magnificent and transformative came to mind. However, they soon yielded to a more quintessential word, perfection. Perfection is not a word that is often used because of our penchant to find flaws in everything we experience. But perfection is what it was. When I consider the thousands of things that could have gone wrong but didn’t, I am convinced that you collectively conjured up a miracle—a miracle! ;o)
And while there may have been a dropped line or two, small blocking missteps, an off note (I didn’t see them) there was some mystical spirit that swept us away to the little village of Anatevka where any blemishes disappeared.
I suspect that the secret of your success may have turned on the word “enthusiasm.” It originates from the Greek language, “spirit-filled.” Combined with the students child-like sense of innocence and compassion, they evinced the overarching qualities of faith, hope and love.
This was not soulless “cookbook acting!” These kids were invested in the story and it was clearly evident by how they interacted with each other and the audience. They looked so healthy and excited to be alive, in the moment.
I taught biology at SHHS for 30 years and in 1979 I had the honor/pleasure of watching Godspell produced by the gifted team of Tom Martin (drama) Marjorie Smith (choreography) and Craig Bond (choral director). Together, they produced a musical the likes of which St. Helena had never seen. My wife and I have attended many of the productions since the Godspell bar was set so high and before Saturday night we wondered if it would ever be equaled. In our opinion, by harmoniously working together, you have added the perfect bookend to that performance. It may have been due to the spiritual theme of both narratives, but each touched audiences at a deeply emotional, perhaps even spiritual level.
We were struck by the simplicity, yet complexity of the set designs and stage logistics. During set changes, you wisely left the curtain open (yet darkened) as if to invite us to watch the magic of creating the scenes that would entrance us. In addition to superb acting and brilliant choreography, the orchestra and lighting were marvelously complementary.
I am sure that if you asked Tevye about the origin of human beings he would say, “The Good book says that women and men are made in the image of God.” I haven’t met Patti, but I suspect that both she and Craig would blush at the thought, however, I’ll bet many of the Fiddler troupe will understand, up-close and-personal, just exactly what that means. They are still young, but when they grow older (and wiser) they may better appreciate the fact that they have been supremely blessed to be guided by geniuses in the dramatic and musical arts. I can imagine that, during the long rehearsal hours, they both pondered Tevye’s words:
What words of wisdom can I give them,
How can I help to ease their way?
During the process, in typical Jewish tradition, they both have given the cast and stage crew spiritual candles to help them find their way. I hope these young adults discover that the best way to return the favor is to light as many candles as they can and become his/her own “Fiddler On The Roof.”
Excerpt: Biodesign Out For A Walk, chap 28, “Amazing Faith.”
“His ship survived the storm, and years later he became a priest. He had not forgotten his brush with death and was inspired to write a prayer of thanksgiving, describing his perilous journey. The prayer was actually a poem, which he used as a basis for a sermon. It is unknown who later added the melody. The song “Amazing Grace” has spread world- wide and is considered to be one of the greatest spiritual songs written.”
If I were still participating in the Biodesign experiment, I would play the attached YouTube video featuring Wintley Phipps in a heartbeat. This was even before I learned that he has performed “Negro spirituals” (his words) for 7 US Presidents, Mother Theresa of Calcutta, and Nelson Mandela.
His stunning performance at Carnegie Hall reminded me of the small member of men, whom I have encountered over the past 50 years, who are truly spirit-filled. Those mentioned in Biodesign Out For A Walk were Sasha the potter (Mendocino) “The Muleskinner” (Grand Canyon) and “Moses” on top of Yosemite’s Half Dome. I sincerely hope Henry Thoreau was mistaken when he wrote, “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation,” but is rare to see people with sparkling eyes and ebullient personalities.
However my attraction to Rev. Phipps goes beyond his eyes. By his very nature, he demonstrates the immensely important biological process known as biodiversity. There are many biological reasons why people of color have thrived in the equatorial belt where light-skinned people have not. Likewise, there are reasons why light-skinned people have adapted to the cooler northern climes. Understanding the reasons for color diversification renders the argument over racial superiority a divisive “fool’s errand.” Discussions like these added scope and richness to the Biodesign Class.
However, what is extraordinarily intriguing is that Rev.Phipps has taken what has been a stumbling block for millions of black people and turned in into a huge asset. He has not only inspired millions of people with his sermons, humor and grace, he has established the US Dream Academy, that is designed to help at-risk students bridge the gap from poverty to productive citizenship.
Another one of his many talents has been to demonstrate the spiritual power of music, especially Gospel songs. There is a huge amount of anecdotal evidence that music helped black people survive the dual hardships of being enslaved and suffering from chronic poverty. Sadly, some of those racial hardships still remain and we desperately need inspired leaders like him to try to achieve Dr. M.L. King’s unfinished dream: “Free at last.”
Rev. Phipp’s poignant rendition of “Amazing Grace,” conjured up wonderful memories of the hymn/folk-song being sung around a Biodesign evening campfire at Russian Gulch State Park in Mendocino, Ca. Someone requested that we sing the song and Dianna (who was snuggled next to me) whispered in my ear, “I hate that song!” I was surprised, but quietly asked her why? She whispered that she was an unbeliever and found the song phony and irritating. Panic induced paralysis! This was uncharted wilderness for me and I was clueless as to what to do or say. However, after a frightening pause, a mysterious, almost “out-of-body-voice” began to explain the aforementioned story. “Furthermore,” “the voice” went on to say, “Although Amazing Grace has had the extraordinary power to inspire millions of believers, there are others who have not been equally impressed. Some sing the song as a folk song with little spiritual significance and some “devout” non-believers regard the song as not credible and a source of vexation and alienation. “
This opened a discussion about the greater mystery as to why some people feel the presence of a “Higher Power” and some do not. We weren’t able to even remotely resolve the dilemma, however discussing it openly seemed to reduce Dianna’s angst. She stealthily slid her arm between my arm and torso, gave my arm a hug and whispered, “I think we should sing it.”
As we sang the song, the whole group seemed to ascend to a higher level of awareness or perhaps heaven descended to form a wonderful mandorla. Tears trickled down the cheeks of believers as well as non-believers and I realized that I would never sing the song again in a more perfect setting.
God bless Wintley Phipps
Zora Hurston (“There Eyes Were Watching God”) is credited with coining the phrase, “You got to go there to know there.” While I have found her axiom to be generally true, it is paradoxically true and untrue regarding Grand Canyon. Although, in order to experience “The Canyon,” one must “go there,” it is humanly impossible to “know there.” It is simply too vast, too deep, too long, too old and too mysterious for the human brain to comprehend. In fact many hikers, who hike to the bottom and back up, emerge blissfully bewildered by their experience.
It is quite likely that the one person who experienced this dilemma the most acutely was John Wesley Powell. Powell belongs to an elite pantheon of explorers who accomplished something that had never been done. Even though he was missing one arm, he successfully led an expedition down a river that was considered unnavigable. Native Americans warned him that he and his crew would be swallowed into the center of the earth. After the three-month odyssey, Powell expressed the futility of trying to capture the spirit of Grand Canyon:
“The wonders of the Grand Canyon cannot be adequately represented in symbols of speech, nor by speech itself. The resources of the graphic art are taxed beyond their powers in attempting to portray its features. Language and illustration combined must fail.”
He arrived at this conclusion after what many seasoned explorers predicted would be a disastrous expedition ending in death and destruction. He and his crew faced odds and challenges that would have made lesser men quail in defeat. The untamed Colorado River meandered 224 miles through a 5000-foot-deep chasm that offered few or no pathways of escape. The combination of roaring water and huge granite boulders produced “standing waves,” some of which approached 35 feet tall. The only way to survive these waves was to tether their specially designed boats and laboriously “rope” them around the potentially lethal obstacles.
They were frequently cold and wet, much of their food had spoiled, there were several near-drownings and they lost one boat. Understandably, Powell’s men were stressed to the breaking point, prompting three of them to agree to abandon the expedition and take their chances of escaping back to civilization.
Powell handled the little mutiny with compassion and dignity. For all he knew they might be right which led to his musing:
“We have an unknown distance yet to run, an unknown river to explore. What falls there are, we know not; what rocks beset the channel, we know not; what walls ride over the river, we know not. Ah, well! we may conjecture many things.”
In profound irony, the next day presented an easily navigable rapid, the last threat to the expedition. The three men were never seen or heard from again.
On a much smaller scale, I identified with the stress that Powell experienced. The Biodesign Class intentionally took high school students in into the uncharted educational wilderness and challenged them to explore their God-given-gifts of soul and spirit. Their discoveries ranged from miraculous, magnificent, even sublime, to stressful, painful and terrifying enough to cause about 3% of them to flee in fear.
It was not my intention to enter the current political quagmire by sharing the disturbingly frank video narrated by Talif Starks. He piqued my interest by suggesting that a major contributing factor exacerbating racism is our collective failure to understand the importance of biodiversity. My interest is biological and not political and deals with the fact that without biological diversity, life on Earth would have ceased or remained at the cellular level. Ergo: Humans could not have evolved without this natural phenomenon.
Excerpt: Biodesign Out For A Walk. Chap. 21, “The Land of Pygmies and Giants”:
In the late 1960s, the 440-yard relay team that I was coaching qualified for the California state track meet. We traveled to Los Angeles for the competition and qualified for the semifinal race. Twelve teams entered, we finished eleventh, with one team being disqualified. We had the dubious honor of being the fastest “all-white” team in the state. Our guys were not bitter or envious, but proud of what they had accomplished. They even joked about being “smoked,” and regarded their competitors with great respect. They felt that black sprinters were in a different league than white athletes. This would later be supported by the fact that the last white sprinter to represent the United States Olympic Track Team was 50 years ago, which is when black athletes were first recruited to compete at the college level. Since then, over 90 percent of the Olympic medals in track and field events have been won by black athletes, even though they represent only 13 percent of the United States population.
Based on my biological work, this all seemed quite logical; however, it was neither logical nor tolerable for others. Whenever stories and examples like this were used, I received grief from colleagues, administrators, even family and friends, who thought that I was a racist, bigot, or an insensitive, white, male chauvinist. This was disturbing and confusing, and so I began to explore the origin of the conflicting viewpoints. Whenever I chanted my mantra, “there’s no such thing as biological equality,” I could expect to get flack from one of three sources.
The first group was defending the honor of two American political giants, and it involved five simple words. Thomas Jefferson used them in the Declaration of Independence, and Abraham Lincoln used them is his Gettysburg Address:
“All Men Are Created Equal.”
If Uncle Thomas and Honest Abe said this, it must be so. So where does a lowly biology teacher get off by saying something different? I tried to explain that these men were speaking in a political context, which I vigorously supported; however, the biological model was quite the opposite.
The next group was the secular progressives who stated that it was intellectually corrupt to suggest that gender, race, and ethnicity were not entirely equal. This was neither new nor surprising. In the ’60s, “progressive” kindergarten teachers were determined to rid society of male-imposed stereotypes. It was the “unisex” age, and little boys were required to play with dolls, and little girls were required to play with trucks. When many of these (mostly female) teachers had little boys of their own, they laughed at their own folly. Evidently, little boys came prewired to play with trucks and little girls with dolls.
Today, “progressives” will watch National Basketball Association basketball teams which, in many cases, are 90 percent black, and tell you in forceful terms that blacks do not have special talents. What is biologically disturbing about this is that black athletes cannot celebrate their gifted talent lest they be labeled as racist. When one of professional basketball’s greatest white players said, “White men can’t jump,” he was branded as a racist, but not by basketball players. His black teammates laughed.
In 1976, naturalist T. H. Watkins published, John Muir’s America. He must have felt that he knew Muir’s soul so well that he composed three imaginary conversations with the venerable old mountain man. The first dialogue began on the veranda of Muir’s home in Martinez, Ca. The two men discussed many ecological topics as they wandered up to Muir’s “scribble den.” After discussing some of his inventions, Muir rocked back in his chair and closed his eyes until Watkins innocently wandered into the controversial role that Thomas Huxley played in popularizing Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
“The old man exploded out of his silence, thrusted forward in his chair and slapped the flat of his palm on the desk top.”
‘Huxley—that bloodless coof! That fool! He and his kind took the work of Darwin and twisted it to fit their vision of the world. And damme, what a cold and heartless world they would have had it be. They called it survival of the fittest, but no matter what they might have called it, was a damnable theory, a dark and chilly reasoning that chance and competition accounted for all things. Oh it was a useful theory—that I canna deny. It justified all manner of cruelty just as my father’s piety excused all manner of cruelty to his children. Should a man be inspired to destroy his best friend in the marketplace, why, he could shrug it off as the natural consequence of living in the great soulless machine of the cosmos. But it was a damnable theory because it ignored the one real truth of the world, the truth that lives in every rock, flower, leaf, tree and animal—including man: it was all created by a loving God, and His love covers all the earth as the sky covers it, and fills it in every pore.’
Forty years later, Watkins’ words have become a fulfilled prophecy. On July 1, 2015, an undocumented immigrant discharged an illegally obtained handgun that resulted in the death of a young woman who was out for a walk in San Francisco. The trial was recently concluded with the jury rendering a verdict of not guilty.
Contrary to all the blather from media pundits, politicians and lawyers, the jury’s acquittal of the alleged criminal had less to do with ethnicity, immigration status or birth-origin, and more to do with socio-cultural, regressive de-evolution in an increasingly soulless society.
The positive proof of this emerged from the fact that in spite of the perpetrator admitting (KGO TV interview) that he pulled the trigger of the lethal weapon, the jury agreed with a scenario that the defense team presented as they “twisted it to fit their vision of the world.”
Tragically, events like these are going to become more common. In the name of “political correctness,” our public el-hi schools, colleges and universities are systematically sanitizing curricula, removing all references to spirituality. This will doubtlessly produce generations of morally bankrupt adults who are proponents of the Godless religion known as “situational ethics.”
Some of the fruits from this evil tree were recently borne for all to see in the San Francisco courthouse.
Of all the countless millions of words generated by this tragedy, two lines stand out. The day after the verdict was announced, the headline of a SF Chronicle editorial:
“Justice was not served.”
And one of the jurors anonymously commented; “I need to spend some time collecting my thoughts.”
Indeed, don’t we all?
In his classic book, Religions, Values and Peak Experiences, psychologist Abraham Maslow expressed concern for an increasingly spiritless US society. He suggested that the subject of “human spirituality” could be added to a suitably enlarged biology curriculum without breaching the wall that separates Church and State.