whos coming to dinner
Charles Darwin: (1809-1882) evolutionist. Famous for theory of evolution. Published Origin of Species. Previously studied for the clergy.
Gregor Mendel: (1822-1884) priest and scientist. “Father of genetics” famous for work with pea plants, discovery of alleles and heredity
Godfrey Hardy: (1877-1947) mathematician. Famous for independent discovery of Hardy-Weinberg principle, a basic principle of population genetics, in 1908. Identifies himself as an atheist.
Wilhelm Weinberg: (1862-1937) physician. Famous for independent discovery of Hardy-Weinberg principle, a basic principle of population genetics, in 1908.
Carolus Linnaeus: (1707-1778) botanist, physician and zoologist. Famous for nomenclature, "father of modern taxonomy."
Charles Lyell: (1797-1875) geologist. Published Principles of Geology about uniformitarianism that the earth was shaped entirely by slow- moving forces acting over a very long period of time.
Stephen Jay Gould: (1941- 2002) paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. Famous for contributions to evodevo with theory on punctuated equilibrium.
Alan Turing: (1912-1954) mathematician. Famous for breaking the German Enigma code, Turing machines, Computability of Numbers, and his work on the first computer. Identifies himself as “an ordinary English homosexual mathematician.”
Kenn Cook: (1969) father, Air Force Pilot
Lindy Cook: (1969) mother, stay at home mother
Kenzie Tiffany: (1994) college student
Nick Tiffany: (1996) high school student
Shelby Tiffany: (1997) high school student
(The COOK Family dinner table. Soup has been served. At one end of the table, LYELL and GOULD begin to argue)
LYELL: So, Mr. Gould, have you been able to find any support for your new theory?
GOULD: Oh, yes. Punctuated equilibrium has much more support than gradualism in the fossil record.
GOULD: Certainly. We have found several specimens at a certain stage, and several at another, instead of each one slightly different from the other, as gradualism would suggest.
LYELL: That is strange. Are you positive it is not limited finds that cause this?
GOULD: Well, of course our sources are limited, but we really do seem to be missing the intermediates, so it would seem that they changed rather quickly, and then stopped and balance out before the next great stage.
LYELL: They said the same about the changes of the Earth, but now it seems clear that our geology did not come from a few disasters with calms in between. It is a continuous process. And evolution of the planet is closely related to the evolution of species, is it not?
GOULD: I do not doubt at all that it is. I am simply saying that the fossil record as it stands supports punctuated equilibrium more.
LYELL: Do you have any support other than the fossils?
GOULD: Why yes. A changing environment drives evolution. If the environment changes, it will kill the individuals with unfavorable traits to survive in it. That is nothing new; it’s here Mr. Darwin’s theory. You are aware of it. Well, the environment does not change gradually, and therefore, I believe, animals don’t change gradually.
LYELL: But it is clear- (he is interrupted)
MENDEL: I am so sorry to break up this wonderful discussion, I really was listening intently out of interest in it, but the vinegar seems to have gone around to your side of the table, and I cannot quite reach it. Would you be so kind and hand it to me?
(The conversation soon turns to MENDEL)
MENDEL: Ah, everything is changing in this world. I am becoming so lost, so quickly.
KENN: Not everything is changing. Your discoveries on genetics are still valid.
MENDEL: At least that.
KENN: Even Mr. Linnaeus’s taxonomy is around, and that was a century before you. And the math does not change either. Politics seems to change, but it’s the same problems with different names.
LINNAEUS: Did I hear my name?
MENDEL: Yes, you probably did. We were talking about the things that change and the things that last in this world. Your taxonomy is the basis for all the taxonomy around now.
LINNAEUS: Not quite. They’ve changed it some.
MENDEL: How did they change it?
KENN: I thought they only expanded it.
LINNAEUS: They did that, but they changed the ways you judge related animals. They’re all high tech with the DNA stuff. It does not make too much sense. An animal is what you see, why should you classify by other things.
MENDEL: Well, it explains many things better than ordinary traits. My peas take on a completely new level when you take DNA into account.
DARWIN: And DNA provides a method for traits to be passed on, as well as to be changed by mutations. My theory of evolution needs it.
LINNAEUS: Do you want to hear about something drastic that they did because of DNA?
MENDEL: What did they do?
DARWIN: Did they convict someone of murder?
LINNAEUS: That too, but something else. They kicked the skunk out of its family.
NICK: I would too. I don’t want something that smells bad in my family.
LINNAEUS: It wasn’t because of its smell. They said its DNA was too different from the weasels, so the skunk is not in mustelidae with the weasels anymore, but in mephitidae.
DARWIN: there are many things that look alike but come from different places.
GOULD: It’s like the bats and the birds. They are not related, but used to be grouped together because they fly. What matters more is where they came from. We can see that in the fossils all the time.
DARWIN: Oh yes. It’s like those sloths I found in the jungle.
GOULD: Exactly what I mean. They are closer to modern day sloths even though they lived on the ground and were much larger than something like a koala, which lives in a tree.
LINNAEUS: Well, I suppose you’ll soon start telling me that I should dip this fried cheese into sour cream, because it came from the same milk, instead of eating it with potatoes and carrots like a man ought to do.
LINDY: Actually, you do put tartar sauce on your cheese as well as eating it with potatoes. It’s not sour cream, though sometimes we eat it with that, too.
LINNAEUS: Well, this is an educational dinner. First soup with vinegar now fried cheese with tartar sauce. What next? Pancakes with jam?
LINDY: Actually, yes. Thin, pancakes rolled up with jam in the middle and whipped cream on top. Who wants to try them? Or would you prefer strawberry meringue?
(LINDY leaves to get the dessert from the kitchen. KENZIE follows her.)
(Dessert has been served. While munching away on things bound to increase everyone’s risk of a heart attack, the topic of science comes up yet again.)
KENZIE: I read that you found the principle for population genetics separately. How did that happen?
HARDY: It just did. It’s really quite common that people do it. Just talk to Mr. Darwin over there. Or Mr. Mendel.
WEINBERG: Oh, come on. Even if it is common, it is still amazing that we did come up with the same principal, the same year, while working independently. By the way, how did you come to be introduced to the problem?
HARDY: That is a story in itself. To make it short, Mr. Punnett told me of the problems determining proportions of alleles in genetics, and I saw it as a challenge. I was working on other mathematical theorems at the time, but I was really intrigued by this one.
WEINBERG: Did its simplicity get to you in the end?
HARDY: Well, I must say, it is extremely beautiful that one equation is simply the square of the other.
WEINBERG: I was so shocked by it that I redid my calculations multiple times.
HARDY: I suppose in your field a simple answer is often considered wrong.
KENZIE: hey, there’s even a saying about that. My dad had it in his e-mail signature for a while. I think it goes: “For every problem there is one solution which is simple, neat and wrong.”
WEINBERG: That’s a great saying, but our theorem is not wrong.
HARDY: There are many that would argue against that.
WEINBERG: How so?
HARDY: They say that our non-evolving system does not exist.
WEINBERG: Well, it does not; it is a model. But the equation in itself works.
KENZIE: Has there ever been a population that fit your system?
WEINBERG: Not as far as I am aware. It is a set of conditions to rule out evolution.
HARDY: There might be a population that does not evolve.
WEINBERG: Well, perhaps in some ideal world.
HARDY: In an ideal world, evolution might toward a goal, instead of only responding to current situations.
WEINBERG: No, evolution does not see where it goes. But God might have some secret world hidden away where His creatures are perfect and do not need to evolve.
HARDY: I have two things against that statement. First off, I happen to no believe in a God, as you well know and irritate me about every chance you get, and second, the God that created such beings would have to be quite unintelligent, because he supposedly created man in his image, and man is not perfect. Therefore, these beings would be better adapted to existence than God himself.
WEINBERG: That statement is heresy. If we did not share a common theorem, I would leave this instant. However, since I care about your soul, I must try to help you understand that there is a God,
HARDY: Please spare me your theology. Mr. Darwin and Mr. Mendel have already used up all my patience on the subject.
WEINBERG: You are such an obstinate!
NICK: (to BARBORA) They’re going to fight! Oh, yes!
BARBORA: (to NICK) Who do you think is going to win?
HARDY: At least I do not care for invisible men in the sky who will damn you to hell for all eternity because they “love” you.
WEINBERG: At least I-
KENN: Gentlemen, please, do not fight!
(Suddenly, there is a knock on the door. HARDY stands up to see who it is, along with KENN. LINDY stands to the side. The door is opened and ALAN TURING enters.)
TURING: I am so sorry to interrupt your dinner. I heard that my friend, Mr. Hardy, was here, and I wished to speak to him about a theorem I have been working on for some time.
KENN: Oh, it is all right. Come on in! We are just eating dinner. Feel free to join us, but I am afraid we have no more chairs.
TURING: That is all right. If you have a stool or anything, I’ll be perfectly fine.
(LINDY finds a stool, and offers TURING the chair, seeing, as he is the guest. He sits by HARDY and WEINBERG)
TURING: (upon seeing the angry glance between HARDY AND WEINBERG) Did I interrupt a conversation here?
LINDY: Thankfully. They were getting into religion so heatedly that my sisters were betting on who would win.
TURING: I never cared much for religion myself. Well, a little when I was younger, but pure, scientific work made more sense to me. I don’t think Mrs. Marcum appreciated it too much, but she never said anything.
HARDY: (flashes a triumphant look at WEINBERG.)
(LINDY comes by to make sure everyone has eaten enough)
LINDY: Is anyone still hungry?
TURING: No, ma’am.
LINDY: Are you sure? Well, I wouldn’t want you to leave here with an empty stomach. (She pauses) I also wanted to ask you about your work.
TURING: Feel free to ask. Thankfully, it’s not government secret anymore. That was so frustrating.
LINDY: Oh, I’m sure. Anyway, I was wondering how you got the idea for your first paper, On Computable Numbers.
TURING: I was thinking about the problem while taking a bike trip. It actually came to me when I was taking a break at lunch, not doing anything except thinking about it.
LINDY: I’ve been trying to teach my daughter some mathematics, but she is always too busy. She’s read much about your work though.
TURING: I’m guessing it’s the older one, right?
LINDY: Yes. Though she’s taken a disgusting liking to sciences and humanities instead of sticking to pure mathematics.
TURING: I do not see the problem with that. I myself studied chemistry and biology. But I’m sorry, ma’am, I must be going. It is Christopher’s birthday tomorrow, and his mother and I always visit his grave and the church by his old home bright and early in the morning. Thank you for the wonderful dinner.
LINDY: No, thank you for coming by.
(TURING leaves. Soon the entire party breaks up, leaving only dishes after thirteen people.)