Blinded By Science
Cash-strapped, I’ve been thinking of ways to make extra money. Well, I have a Master’s degree. Maybe I can teach? Sure! But not screenwriting, playwriting or creative writing to university students (the things I’m actually qualified to teach). Those jobs are being reduced, retracted then burdened on those with tenure. How about the one thing Americans are lousy at teaching? Do I mean SCIENCE??? YES!
So thanks to the wackified Craig’s List, FalloutGirl is sitting across from the “science department” of a respectable, non-profit afterschool program that serves Los Angeles grade schools. I’m trying to convince them that writing a screenplay about Charles Darwin qualifies me to teach kids about chromosomes. They’re sort of buying it, but they need more. So I tell them about my extensive “scientific research”. “I went to Darwin’s house. That’s in England.” Okay, duh. “And I’ve stayed at Jane Goodall’s house in Tanzania. Slept in her bed, actually… (this detail impresses many, begging lots of questions, but definitely not to these educators). Then a challenging look crosses their face.
They say, “Here’s a question for you. Explain evolution to us like we’re kindergartners.”
Holy sh*t, this is like some wacky actor’s nightmare. My big soliloquy and I haven’t memorized it. F*ck, f*ck, f*ck, I didn’t say that out loud, did I? I take a deep breath, try to hide my panic (not working). They say, “take a moment”. But I know that the longer I think about it, the longer I’ll flip out and maybe not even be able to do it. So I think about where to start. Once I start, I’ll just keep going, I tell myself. Excitedly I say out loud, “Evolution started in the ocean!”
They look at me, not like fresh-faced babes, but like a puzzled jury, pondering my guilt or innocence.
So I continued, “A very, very long time ago, the earth was covered in water. Just oceans, no land. And tiny, very tiny, bacteria swam around in the water. There was so much room, they began to grow. Then single-celled organisms began to grow into multi-celled organisms and they got bigger and bigger. Then some land appeared and they wanted to explore it. But they couldn’t climb up on the rocks with just fins. Eventually some of their fins turned into legs…” Well – you know what happened from there. I was able to do it sort of, though not sure how scientifically accurate I was. I tried to tell a story.
I guess that’s what everyone’s tried to do over millennia. And why things have gotten so out of control. Because as fascinating as the truth about evolution is, it can’t beat a naked guy and girl in a beautiful garden being tempted by snakes to break the rules. Oh the drama! Will Eve rebel against her controlling father and eat that damn yummy succulent fruit from the tree of knowledge? OF COURSE! But her father forbade her! Will her punishment be a curse to her sex to bare children in pain for eternity? YES, because women are evil! Trust me, Genesis is much more interesting than the story I told.
The writer in me, the creative storyteller, longed to borrow from this and the many other creation myths I’ve read. I wanted to ENTERTAIN these imaginary 5-year-olds. But myth wasn’t what I was armed with. I was there to blind them with science. In film school, they tell you that – as the writer – you own nothing to history or the truth. Your job is to make those people who spent $14.50 on their movie ticket feel like they got what they paid for. Lying is okay. But not to kindergarteners when it comes to evolution.
I just realized I’m not qualified for this job. Go recession! Next up, the structure of DNA. Can you say deoxyribonucleic acid? De-ox-y…
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