-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Return to article page

To print: Select File and then Print from your browser's menu.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
This story was printed from FindArticles.com, located at http://www.findarticles.com.
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Natural History
April, 2000

The First Day of the Rest of Our Life.(the arrival of the new millenium)
Author/s: Stephen Jay Gould

Or, What I Did on January 1, 2000

The comparison of the human body with the universe--the microcosm with the macrocosm--has provided a standard device for explicating both the factuality and the meaning of nature throughout most of Western history. When Leonardo da Vinci, for example, likened our bodily heat, breath, blood, and bones to the lavas of volcanic eruptions, the effusions of interior air during earthquakes, the emergence of streams from underground springs, and the rocks that build the Earth's framework--and then interpreted both sequences as particular expressions of the four Greek elements of fire, air, water, and earth--he did not view his argument as an excursion into poetry or metaphorical suggestion but as his best understanding of nature's actual construction.

We now take a more cynical, or at least a more bemused, view of such analogistic reveries, for we recognize that the cosmos, in all its grandness, does not exist for us or as a mirror of our centrality in the scheme of universal things. We would now freely admit that most attempts to understand such geological or astronomical scales of size and time in terms of comfortable regularities noted in our short life spans or puny dimensions can only represent, in the most flattering interpretation, an honorable "best try" within our own mental and perceptual limits or, at worst, yet another manifestation of the ancient sin of pride.

As a striking example, however unrecognized by most people who could scarcely avoid both walking the walk and talking the talk, the recent fuss over our millennial transition cannot be entirely ascribed to modern commercial hype, because the taproot of concern draws upon one of the oldest surviving arguments about deep and meaningful coincidence between the human microcosm and the surrounding macrocosm of universal time and space--in this case, an explicit comparison of human secular calendars to the full sweep of the creation and subsequent history of Earth and life.

By this reckoning, January 1, 2000, should have marked the termination of the old order and the inception of something new and at least potentially glorious. This momentous turning of calendrical dials should therefore have inspired our attention for reasons almost immeasurably deeper than the simple visual attraction of changing all four markers from 1999 to 2000--the "odometer rationale," if you will. (Of course, the vast majority of people in our secular and technological age have forgotten this old, and factually discarded, Christian argument for the significance of millennial turnings. But vestiges of these historical claims still affect both our calendars and our discourse. Moreover, and with potentially tragic results, these vestiges persist as literal portents for a few "true believers" leading in the most extreme case to the suicide of thirty-nine members of the Heaven's Gate cult in 1997.)

The traditional linkage of human calendrical microcosms to universal historical macrocosms followed an argument in five stages:

1. The original millennium, as expressed in the famous biblical prophecy of Revelation, chapter 20, referred to a future 1,000-year period of bliss following the return of Jesus and the binding of Satan, not to a secular passage of 1,000 years in recorded human history. How, then, did the primary meaning of "millennium" change from the duration of a future epoch to the ticking of current calendars?

2. The earliest Christians expected an imminent inception of the millennium, as Jesus had apparently stated in foreseeing his quick return after bodily death: "Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom" (Matt. 16:28). The failure of this expectation unleashed an extended discussion among early Christians on the meaning of the millennium and the true timing of the Second Coming of Christ.

3. Opinions varied widely, but the most popular claim rested upon several biblical passages suggesting an equation of God's days with a thousand human years, as in the admonition of 2 Peter 3:8, "But, beloved, be not ignorant of this one thing, that one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day."

4. The link between human calendars and the inception of the true millennium then rested upon an analogistic argument that we, by modern standards, would tend to regard as fuzzy, indefinite, and metaphorical but that seemed quite satisfactory to many of our forebears (who used their equally powerful brains in different conceptual contexts): If God created the Earth in six days and rested on a seventh, and if each of God's days equals 1,000 human years, then Earth's full history must mirror God's complete span of creation by enduring for 6,000 years, while God's seventh day of rest must correspond to the forthcoming, blissful millennium of 1,000 additional years. If, therefore, we can count Earth's history in millennia (periods of 1,000 years representing God's days), we will know, with precision, the end of the current order and the time of inception for the true millennium, for this transition will occur exactly 6,000 years after Earth's beginning.

5. This argument inspired a burst of scholarship (culminating in the seventeenth century) that tried to use the Bible and other ancient records to construct a true chronology for universal history. In the most popular scheme, Christ's birth follows Earth's creation by exactly 4,000 years, and the current order may therefore persist for an additional 2,000 years. Finally, if the birth of Jesus occurred at the B.C.--A.D. transition of our calendar, then the end of this secular millennium should terminate our current order and initiate the blessed millennium (in its original meaning) of Christ's Second Coming. Clearly, then, we should care about microcosmal human calendars because they mark the epochs of macrocosmal universal history and prepare us for the fearful apocalypse followed by a better world to come.

I have presented this influential argument of Christian history as a prologue to the following segue inserted to remind readers about the most boring of all topics for essayists, as we all remember so well from our primary-school years: the inevitable "what I did on my ..." that was assigned upon every return to school after an extended absence (with "summer vacation" and "Christmas break" as the most common particulars). I shall now dare to regale you with an essay in precisely this dreaded form: "What I Did on the Millennial Day of January 1, 2000." I can only hope and pray that my prologue, combined with a forthcoming explication, may build an apparatus for overcoming the inherent limitations of this general topic.

The purely factual resolution requires but a sentence: I sang in a performance of Joseph Haydn's great oratorio The Creation, presented by the Boston Cecilia at Jordan Hall on New Year's Day. For my larger aim of transcending boredom from the most unpromising of all general topics, let me try to explain (an effort, alas, that will take a bit more space than the factual assertion stated just above) why the conjunction of this particular piece with the millennial day strikes me as so optimally appropriate in a general and symbolic sense; why the privilege of participation meant so much to me personally (an otherwise private matter, but vouchsafed to essayists ever since Montaigne defined this genre more than four centuries ago as personal commentary upon generalities); and why a topic so off the left-field wall (to combine two common metaphors for the bizarre)--namely, a musical composition on a text drawn from the same creation narrative, Genesis 1, now urged by our antiscientific opponents as an alternative to the teaching of evolution in America's public schools--might find a truly fitting place in a magazine devoted to natural history.

Now, if I may try your patience for just one more round of annoyingly necessary (and prefatory) footnotes, let me dismiss three little niggling issues about dates before we come to Haydn's magisterial creation of light in C major:

1. With apologies for shining the factual torch of modern science on the best-laid intellectual schemes of ancestral mice and men, Earth is really about 4.7 billion years old, and life's known fossil record extends back about 3.6 billion years, so days and millennia scarcely qualify as terms for a serious discussion of factual matters related to life's origin and history.

2. Even within the system that exalted millennial transitions as God's days and the end of the sixth transition as the termination of our current universe, the year 2000 really doesn't qualify for much consideration. You see, poor Dionysius Exiguus (Dennis the Short), the sixth-century monk who devised the B.C.--A.D. calendrical system, made a little error in setting Christ's birth. We have no direct testimony about the historical Jesus, and no eyewitness account can set his time of birth. But we do know that Herod died in 4 B.C. (kings tended to leave better written evidence of their lives than poor kids born in stables). Now, if Herod and Jesus overlapped--and some of the most rousing biblical stories (the Slaughter of the Innocents; the return of the Magi to their own country, rather than their making a detour to Jerusalem and presenting their promised report to Herod) must be discounted if they did not--then Jesus, despite the oxymoronic nature of the claim, must have been born in 4 B.C. or earlier. Thus, by the millennial chronology, the current order should actually have ended a few years ago--and it didn't.

3. Even if we had never heard about this inconvenient issue of Jesus' birth or just wish to maintain a polite fiction about his appearance right at the B.C.--A.D. junction, we have still erred in concentrating our millennial fears on the 1999-2000 transition. Again, we must recognize Dionysius Exiguus as the culprit, although we cannot cast much blame this time. No zero existed in Western mathematics when Dionysius performed his calendrical duties, so he began A.D. time on January 1 of the year one--and our calendar never experienced a year zero. Now, if you believe that the blessed millennium of Jesus' Second Coming will begin exactly 2,000 years after the inception of A.D. time, then you still have another year to wait, for the completion of 2,000 years since Jesus' birth occurs at the 2000-2001 transition, not on the fearful day that has recently passed.

As most folks know by now, this same issue underlies the great, unresolvable, and basically silly debate about whether the new millennium starts at the beginning of 2000 or of 2001. I won't rehearse this particularly well beaten and very dead horse, although you may all consult my now remaindered book Questioning the Millennium if the subject still holds any interest for you. I will only observe, and then promise never to raise the subject again, that this debate expresses nothing new but has erupted at the end of every century (admittedly with greater intensity this time because our turning encompassed a millennium as well and also happened to unfold in an age of media overkill about everything). I merely append a figure (see below) of a French pamphlet published in 1699 and entitled "Dissertation on the Beginning of the Next Century and the Solution to the Problem, To know which one of the two years 1700 or 1701 is the first of the Century." As our Gallic cousins like to say, "Plus ;a change, plus c'est la meme chose" ("The more things change, the more they stay the same").

Haydn's text faithfully follows the six-day sequence of creation in Genesis 1--the basis (by the traditional argument outlined above) for regarding the day of our singing as the end of history and the inception of a new order. (Haydn wrote The Creation in German but based it on a translated English text, taken mostly from Genesis and from some paraphrases of Milton's Paradise Lost. Haydn published the text in both English and German, apparently intending his piece for performance in either language.)

One can easily formulate the obvious and legitimate rationales: "Such great music, but ..." and "You can't blame Haydn in 1798 for not anticipating what Darwin would publish in 1859." But shouldn't a paleontologist and evolutionary biologist, sitting onstage in the chorus, become at least a bit uncomfortable when the angel Raphael, recounting the origin of land animals on the sixth day, explicitly proclaims their sudden creation "in perfect forms, and fully grown"?

I don't deny that participation in some great music can raise difficult issues and cause considerable emotional distress, particularly the strongly anti-Semitic choral passages (representing the Jewish crowd taunting Jesus or demanding his death) in J. S. Bach's sublime St. Matthew and St. John Passions, perhaps the greatest choral works ever written (the power and quality of the music only enhances the discomfort). I find the "blood guilt" passage from the St. Matthew Passion especially disturbing because I know that these very words served for centuries as a primary argument--often with explicitly deadly consequences for my people--for labeling Jews as the killers of Christ. For my own, personal resolution, I decided long ago that whenever we sang this work, I would at least mention, during our first rehearsal, the historical context of this text, based on the statement of the Jewish crowd after Pilate finds no guilt in Jesus and literally washes his hands of the affair: "Sein Blut komme uber uns und unsere Kinder" ("Let his blood then be upon us and upon our children").

I do, by the way, accept the different historical context of Bach's time. I feel no enmity toward this great man, who may never have known a Jew and who probably never considered the issue as he simply set the literal text of Matthew. Nor would I ever consider changing the text for any modern performance, lest an understandable deed for a particular purpose establish a precedent and open a floodgate for wholesale revision of any great work to suit the whims of fashion. But I do think that the issue should never be avoided and should always be explicitly discussed in preconcert lectures or program notes.

But I feel not the slightest tinge of discomfort--and, quite to the contrary, experience nothing but joy--in singing the text of Haydn's Creation. In explaining these different reactions, I must begin by saying that I don't use factual accuracy as a major criterion for judging a musical libretto any more than I would look for aesthetic beauty (according to my personal sensibilities) or moral rectitude in assessing the validity of a scientific conclusion. (Much of nature's factuality strikes us as both messy and unpleasant but no less fascinating thereby.) I recoil from the anti-Semitic Passion texts because they express the worst aspects of our common nature and because these words have wreaked actual death and havoc. Similarly, I embrace Haydn's Creation text for its moral and aesthetic qualities, while regarding its factual inaccuracies as quite irrelevant and beside the point.

After all, we read the Bible as a source of moral debate and instruction, not as a treatise in natural history. Moreover, even if Haydn had decided to express the science of his day, he would not have written a libretto about evolution. As for creation in six days, Haydn, as a devout Catholic, surely never conceived the text as a set of statements about twenty-four-hour periods, for no literalist tradition existed within the doctrines of his church, and such interpretations had never gained currency after Saint Augustine's denials more than a thousand years earlier. (Our currently active scourge of fundamentalism, or biblical literalism, arose later and from different traditions.) The basic analogy of God's days to human millennia, while still ungenerous by the standards of geological time, surely illustrates a Catholic consensus for reading "days" of creation as sequential intervals, not as equal and predetermined tickings of God's stopwatch.

All cultures generate creation myths, and such stories enter the drama of human life in a role far different from the part we assign to the fascination and utility of factual discoveries made by science. With this perspective, I can summarize my case for Haydn's text in a paragraph: The Book of Genesis presents two strikingly different creation myths, told in chapters 1 and 2. I find two aspects of the second myth morally troubling, whereas (with one exception) I rejoice in the meanings and implications of the first story. Interestingly, Haydn's text uses only the first story and explicitly deletes the one theme (human hegemony over the rest of God's creation) that disturbs me (and has troubled so much of human history). I do not think that these textual decisions were accidental, and I therefore regard Haydn's Creation as an affirmation of all the themes that a wise and maximally useful creation myth should stress--joy, generosity, and optimism--while not forgetting the dark side and our resulting capacity to make a horrid mess out of such promise.

The second creation myth of Genesis 2--the text that Haydn did not set--emphasizes two themes that I find less than inspiring: God's demand (by fiat and not by explanation) that we must not seek certain kinds of knowledge, and an anatomical rationale for the subjugation of women. We tend to forget the profound differences between the two stories of Genesis, and we usually amalgamate parts of this second tale with our primary memory of the first story. In Genesis 2, God creates Adam first and then constructs the Garden of Eden. To assuage Adam's loneliness, he then creates the animals and permits Adam to assign their names. But Adam is still lonely, so God creates Eve from his rib. (Genesis 1, Haydn's text, says nothing about forbidden fruits and describes a simultaneous creation of man and woman: "So God created man in his own image ... male and female created he them.")

The theme of forbidden access to knowledge occurs only in Genesis 2: "And the Lord God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat: But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die" (Gen. 2:16-17). (I recognize, of course, that some exegetes favor a benign meaning for these passages by reading them as statements about the need for moral restraint upon our darker capacities. But most people, throughout Western history, have regarded these words as a divine order that we not question certain forms of authority or seek certain forms of knowledge--injunctions that cannot be congenial to any scientist.)

Similarly, no statement in Genesis 1 speaks about inequality between the sexes, but Adam uses Eve's status as both subsequent and partial to hint at such a claim in Genesis 2: "And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man" (Gen. 2:23).

Haydn's text divides the creation myth of Genesis 1 into three sensible and dramatic units. We usually view the six-day sequence as a story of successive additions, but I think that such a reading seriously mistakes the form of this particular tale. Creation myths, based on limits to both our mental powers and the structural possibilities of material objects, can "go" in only a few basic ways, and Genesis 1 invokes the primary theme of successive differentiation from initial chaos, not sequential addition. The universe begins in undefined confusion ("without form and void"). God then constructs a series of separations and consolidations to mark the first four days. On Day 1, he divides light from darkness. Haydn's amazing overture violates many contemporaneous musical traditions of tonality and structure to depict this initial chaos. The composer then, at the end of the first chorus, describes the creation of light with a device both amazingly simple and (to this day) startlingly evocative: a series of crashing chords in bright and utterly unsophisticated C major. (A virtual cliche among statements in the history of classical music designates this passage--but so truly--as the most stunningly effective set of C-major chords ever written.)

On Day 2, God divides the Earth from the heavens; on Day 3, Earth's water from Earth's land (also allowing the land to bring forth plants). On Day 4, he returns to the heavens to concentrate the diffuse light into two great sources, the Sun and the Moon ("he made the stars also," as an afterthought). Soloists describe the work of each day, and each sequence then finishes with a wonderful chorus. Part 1 therefore ends with Haydn's most famous text and tune, "The heavens are telling the glory of God"--the heavens, that is, because no animals have yet been formed!

Part 2 describes the work of Days 5 and 6, the creation of animals: creatures of the water and air on Day 5 and of the Earth, including humans, on Day 6. Soloists and chorus alternate as in Part 1. Haydn's music exudes beauty, power, and exultation, but he also describes whimsical, earthy, and ordinary events--a combination that captures the essence of the humanistic (or should I say naturalistic) spirit by acknowledging that glory and fascination lie as much in the little foibles as in the grand overarchings. Haydn shows this bumptious and quotidian side of totality in describing the creation of animals. First, the soprano soloist, in a charming and idyllic aria, describes the birds--the noble eagle, the merry lark, the cooing dove, and the nightingale, who has not yet learned (but, alas, soon will) to sing an unhappy note: "No grief affected yet her breast, nor to a mournful tale were tuned her soft, enchanting lays." The bass soloist, alternating between the bucolic and the simply funny, then describes the tawny lion, the flexible tiger, the nimble stag, and finally, "in long dimension creeps, with sinuous trace, the worm" (usually ending, if the bass soloist can, and ours could, on a low D--actually set an octave higher by Haydn but taken down by soloists as a traditional bass license corresponding to those annoying high Cs that tenors forever interpolate).

The shorter Part 3 then uses Milton's style (if not exactly his words) for two long and rapturous duets between Adam and Eve, interlaced with choral praises and culminating in a paean of thanks and a final musical device that always thrills me as a singer (and, I hope, pleases the audience as well).

The final expostulation of joy for the glorious diversity of the Earth and its life--"praise the Lord, utter thanks, Amen"--runs twice, first as an alternation of passages for a quartet of soloists and the full chorus, and then, even louder, for the full chorus alone. This acceleration or promotion--more an emotional device than a compositional beauty per se, but mastery of such devices also marks a composer's skill--always leaves me feeling that we should mount even higher, thus allowing the performance to reverberate beyond its formal ending (which can only be deemed quite grand enough already!).

Haydn's text represents a great document of optimism and humanism, as much for its omissions as for its inclusions. Interestingly, although nearly the entire text of Genesis 1 enters the narrative, one long passage has been conspicuously (and, I assume, consciously) omitted--the set of "objectionable" (to me, at least) statements about divinely ordained human domination over nature: "And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creepeth upon the earth.... And God blessed them, and God said unto them, Be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it" (Gen. 1:26, 28).

Instead, following the creation of land animals, Haydn's text, in a non biblical interpolation, suggests an entirely different reason for the creation of men and women. In Genesis 1, God fashions us to have dominion over everything else. But in Haydn's text, the world needs us simply because God's noble efforts remain unfulfilled if the great work must end with the tawny lion and the sinuous worm. In nearly six full days of hard labor, God has stuffed the Earth with a glorious series of diverse and wonderful objects. But he then realizes that one omission precludes the fulfillment of his greatest architectural task (far exceeding the accomplishments of Fasolt and Fafner in building Valhalla). Not a single item in his creation has enough mental power to appreciate the beauty and glory of these optimal surroundings. God just has to make men and women so that some creature can know and praise the grandeur of existence. And so, the angel Raphael, having just hit his low D to celebrate the sinuous worm, exclaims: "But all the work was not complete; there wanted yet that wondrous being; that, grateful, could God's power admire, with heart and voice his goodness praise."

I don't want to make either this recitation or Haydn's text sound too saccharine or devoid of complexity. The humanistic tradition does not deny the dark side but rather chooses to use these themes as warnings for potential correction rather than as statements about innate depravity. Thus, Haydn does not entirely neglect the common biblical subject (so prominent in Genesis 2) of the dangers inherent in knowing too much. But he certainly reduces the point to a bare reminder. Just before the final chorus, the tenor soloist sings a quick passage in the least impassioned narrational style of "dry recitative" (with only keyboard and continuo as accompaniment): "O happy pair and happy still might be if not misled by false conceit, ye strive at more than is granted and desire to know more than you should know." Modern listeners might also be discomfited by Eve's promises of obedience to Adam in their second duet (from Milton, not from Genesis 1), even though her inspiration follows Adam's promise to "pour new delights" and "show wonders everywhere" with every step they take together upon this newly created world. We can't, after all, impose the sensibilities of 2000 upon 1798. And who would want to defend 2000 before any truly just court of universal righteousness?

But while we identify Haydn's text as a creation myth in the most expansive and optimistic spirit of love and wonder for all works of Earth and life, we must also confront a historical puzzle. Haydn began his work in 1796, and the first public performance took place in 1799 (with Haydn conducting and none other than Antonio Salieri, the much and unfairly maligned villain of Amadeus, at the fortepiano). Such an expansively optimistic text seems entirely out of keeping with the conservative gloom that spread throughout Europe after the excesses of the French Revolution, culminating in the guillotining of the guillotiner Robespierre in 1794. Moreover, the spread of the Romantic movement in music and art, for all its virtues, scarcely sanctioned such old-fashioned joy in the objective material world.

The apparent solution to this problem includes an interesting twist. Haydn wrote The Creation as a result of inspiration received during trips to London, particularly in 1791, when he heard (and felt overwhelmed by) the power of Handel's oratorios. This source has always been recognized, and the pleasure of singing The Creation lies at least partly in the wonderful Handelian anachronism included amidst the lush Classical and near-Romantic orchestration. But Handel's posthumous influence may have run far deeper. The source of Haydn's text has always presented a mystery. Who wrote it, and how did Haydn obtain the goods and the rights? (We know that Haydn's friend Baron Gottfried van Swieten translated the text into German from an English original, but whence the original?) The latest scholarship indicates that the text may have been originally written for Handel more than forty years earlier (Handel died in 1759) but never set by the greatest master of the oratorio and therefore still available for Haydn two generations later.

Such an earlier source would solve all problems of content, for if Haydn's libretto really dates from the 1740s or 1750s, then all incongruities disappear. The text becomes a document composed during the heart of the Enlightenment, an intellectual and artistic movement that embodied all the optimism of the age, all the pleasure in nature's beauty, all the faith that a combination of human reason and moral potential might ensure both goodness and justice. The text of The Creation reflects this hopeful world, when Linnaeus worked in Uppsala, classifying all plants and animals for the glory of God and the knowledge of men, while Ben Franklin promoted the virtues of fire departments, public libraries, and universities in Philadelphia. The Enlightenment may have veered toward naivete in its optimism about human and worldly possibilities, but the goals still seem attainable, and we will never get there if we lose the hope and spirit. Ya gotta believe.

The difficulty of this task (so well epitomized, in some great words of another famous Enlightenment thinker, as the realization, for all people, of our inalienable rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness") requires that all facets of human achievement be mobilized in the great work. We will surely need the benefits of science, if only to feed and keep healthy all the people that science has permitted us to rear to adulthood. We will also need, and with equal force, the moral guidance and ennobling capacities of religion, the humanities, and the arts, for otherwise the dark side of our personalities will win, and humanity may perish in war and recrimination on a blighted planet.

Art and science provide different and legitimate takes on the same set of saving subjects, and we need both approaches. Thus, as a scientist who has devoted an entire career to the study of evolution (but who also fancies himself a serious and competent avocational choral singer and not just an occasional duffer at a Saturday-night piano bar), I see no contradiction, but only harmony, in integrating the final line from a great work of science (a statement that Darwin chose to make in personal terms of poetic awe) with Haydn's inspirational choral work based on an Enlightenment version of a creation myth that seems to employ (in its different way) the same subject of Darwin's scientific studies. The factual truth of evolution cannot conflict with the search for meaning embodied in a good creation myth. "There is grandeur in this view of life," Darwin wrote. And as Haydn said, "The heavens are telling the glory of God."

The task before us remains so daunting that we need to find tools even beyond the integration of science, morality, and the other separate patches that construct what I like to designate as the coat of many colors called wisdom. We also need symbols to intensify and epitomize this grand effort that must ultimately lead us all to hang together or to hang separately (a great pun by the Enlightened Mr. Franklin). Given my propensities and proclivities, I do not know how, in this symbolic sense, I could have spent the inception of the millennium in a more meaningful way. And so, Mrs. Ponti, my truly beloved fifth-grade teacher, I dedicate this version of "what I did on my ..." to your memory and to the inspiration that you so freely provided with your dedication and skill.

I consecrated the day that symbolized the end of history to the opposite service of praising its optimistic beginnings, by joining a group of colleagues who had worked long and hard to prepare a performance of the greatest musical work ever written about the joyful and glorious inception of an order that can end (on our time scale) only if we fail to unite the spirits of Darwin and Haydn, thereby potentiating all the saving graces of our nature. We express this union in many ways. The closing words of Genesis 1 do not represent my personal choice, but who can doubt the nobility of the sentiments, and what person of goodwill can fail to be horrified by the prospect (and therefore be inspired to devote some personal effort toward prevention) that one species might eviscerate something so wonderful that we did not create and that was not fashioned for us? "And God saw every thing that he had made, and, behold, it was very good."

Stephen Jay Gould teaches biology, geology, and the history of science at Harvard University. He is also Frederick P. Rose Honorary Curator in Invertebrates at the American Museum of Natural History.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
COPYRIGHT 2000 American Museum of Natural History
in association with The Gale Group and LookSmart. COPYRIGHT 2000 Gale Group
-------------------------------------------------------------------------------