(aka Bike, est. 2007)
Copyright© 2017 Angharad
This is a work of fiction any mention of real people, places or institutions is purely coincidental and does not imply that they are as suggested in the story.
It was with an air of uncertainty that I entered the hallowed halls of learning. Last night my reading of Darwin’s biography showed that he spent more time shooting birds or collecting insects than studying and he eventually came good but then he was of independent means, I doubt that was something which would apply to many of our students. At least the departments of Oxbridge are no longer run by ordained priest professors, not that I went there or ever wished to. We’ve had several prime ministers who were Oxbridge graduates and they seem to have been just as stupid as those who studied elsewhere.
Some of the people who gave Darwin such grief after his publishing of, On the Origin of Species were several of his previous professors at Cambridge who were serious god-botherers, such as Richard Owen who set up the Natural History Museum in South Kensington, who refused to accept Darwin’s theory because he believed the bible was the unmitigated word of god and thus unquestionable.
I suppose we know so much better today about the bible and evolution by natural selection and today, those who choose to believe tend to accept both, though they know the bible is the work of many hands and written well after Jesus’ supposed death by people who weren’t witnesses to any of what they describe, which shows all sorts of contradictions or omissions from the different gospels. So most Christians accept that the bible is frequently allegorical and that science, especially genetics, shows that evolution is fact; only a relatively small number refute it on religious grounds which demonstrates their inability to use critical thinking if not pure denial of facts in preference of mythological stories. When I meet one, I’m never sure whether I want to laugh or cry at their delusions.
I found out at the lecture I did for Dr Simpkins, who owes me one big time, that Jehovah’s Witnesses don’t accept evolution. The young woman involved put up her hand after I asked if anyone had any questions—I’d just run through the process of natural selection and thrown in some anecdotes about Darwin having just read three books on him. She announced that it was all nonsense because god had created everything perfectly so things didn’t need to mutate and that the millions of years I referred to didn’t exist either, the earth was only four thousand years old and so on.
It’s a while since I’ve been challenged by someone who believed without evidence something which had evidence. The class went very quiet for a moment before arguments flew back and fore. It seemed she had a friend who got even rattier than she did when students began telling them they were mistaken and to get real.
I allowed it to go on for several minutes because I really couldn’t believe it had happened and as one of the other students shouted at her, “If you don’t believe in genetics and evolution wtf are you doing a biology degree for?” a question which crossed my mind, I tried to make out her answer but it was drowned out in the ensuing din.
When I could hear what she was saying, it was rehearsed cant not genuine argument, dogma not reason. They’re all brainwashed early on in their entry to their sect. I just felt sorry for her as science was always likely to cause her strife with her beliefs and I felt sure that if she pursued her course she would end up questioning her beliefs more than the science but that was her problem, mine was wrapping up this lecture and getting back to my office for a badly needed cuppa.
As I finished one of the technicians came up to me and asked if that was for real—the argument about evolution. I stated that I thought it was. They admitted they couldn’t believe what they had just witnessed. I shrugged and hightailed back to my office and sanctuary.
I was mistaken. Diane came in with the much needed drink and a piece of paper detailing the call she’d just taken. The girl’s mother had just phoned complaining that I had allowed her daughter to be bullied by the rest of the class over her refusal to believe one man’s theory over god’s work. She demanded that I apologise to her daughter and refund her fees because I was only teaching half the course if I left out the divine creation. Her daughter was very upset and she was very angry.
Diane had pulled the girl’s file so I had a name and address. Diane also informed me that she looked forward to typing the letter to see how I dealt with it because she wouldn’t like it. I called Tom and he suggested we discuss it over dinner, he’d collect me at twelve. No wonder Simpkins went sick if she knew this girl was in her class.
I asked Diane for another cuppa and with a chocolate hobnob in one hand and my fountain pen in the other, I drafted a letter quite quickly. I checked the university handbook and discovered that refunds after a term has started are not offered, especially for one that was over a month started and besides the fees are paid annually not by term and she had had loads of time to discover the course wasn’t for her and she could have switched courses to one with which she wasn’t in conflict.
By the time Tom arrived, I’d drafted the letter, all two pages of it quoting chapter and verse from the student handbook and stating our position and telling her she’d left it too late to object, especially on grounds which she knew would be contentious.
I admit I have had objectors to evolution on the course before but it’s been a while and I also know I’ve had loads of people who have faiths, including girls wearing hajibs or is it niqabs? Who completed the course, got their degrees and made no effort to say if their religion contradicted what I or my staff were teaching them. In the series Richard Dawkins did he spoke with Dr Rowan Williams who was then Archbishop of Canterbury who accepted evolution but fudged it a bit by suggesting it was how his god worked.
Lunch with Tom was okay, it’s a while since I had my tuna jacket potato and salad. He read my letter and told me I was more gentle than he’d have been, he’d have pointed out the girl’s delusions to her before suggesting she go away and consider if the course was really for her. I pointed out that I had done just that in the letter. He told me to expect criticism from the family and other members of the sect via letters in the press and so on.
I told him that didn’t worry me and he pointed out that the letters they’ll write won’t be about the incident but how we’ve hounded her out of the university because of her religion.
“But that would be deception,” I protested.
“Aye but tae them, a’ is fair in love an’ war an’ religion.”
“I’ll sue for defamation.”
“Aye weel guid luck,” was his reply.
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