Oyez Oyez…Last call for the Jury in the Trial of Involution. Closing Arguments: 1 Prosecution

The closing arguments in the trial of Involution. Jury called.

Court in Session
Court in Session

All Rise

Counsel for the Prosecution.

Ladies and Gentlemen of the Jury. You have enjoyed a prolonged recess since the last witness in which to read the book on trial. Before I urge your verdict I must remind you that readers have varied reactions to books. You are not required to assess whether it is a good or bad book but whether it merited forty five years of dominating the author and whether anyone else should give it comparative importance. It is a singular work, unable to be evaluated against others. In that sense you are called upon to judge its adventurous masquerade and its claim to authenticity. Just because it looks like a book, and quacks like a book, is it, in fact, a book? Is it fiction or non fiction? Poetry or science? One book or two? Science or art?

Where would a librarian shelve it? Under Philosophy? Literature? History? New Age? Evolution? While she is making up her mind I suggest we persuade the author to cover (with nice brown velvet) the remaining copies of the doorstop Magnum opus as literally that. Doorstops. In two hundred years they will provide archaeologists with speculation. They were to ward off the evil eye? Contain the secret doctrine of the Gods? Clean boots? Enough; you get my drift…

With all that in mind  it is now my painful duty to persuade you to find it guilty of the charges against it. To refresh you may revisit the sessions from the beginning

The Jury by John Morgan.jpg
The Jury by John Morgan” by painted by John Morgan, uploaded to Wikipedia (en) by SwampyankThe Jury by John Morgan.jpg in Wikipedia (English). Licensed under Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons.

Apart from brief reminders of the evidence against it, and the authority of the witnesses whose testimony you have heard, my appeal to you is the appeal of reason, against the sentiment you are likely to hear from my learned friend.

If you recall, the book itself relies upon one spokesman Reason, pitted against the whispering claims of Soul. Let’s just examine what that means, and why I appeal to you to let Reason guide your deliberations.

Look at the world we live in! The irrational, so called extremes of religious fanaticism are taking us to the brink of destruction. I am not suggesting this book contributes directly to that irrationality; what I am suggesting is the seeds of danger that any reliance on sentiment carries with it.

This work is an appeal to permit, no, to give prominence to the universal longing for love, and in doing so it relegates the slow and substantial achievements of reason by supplanting them with a suggestion that they THEMSELVES were guided by the irrational: the dreams, the incoherence of inspiration by genius; genius in love with ideas, or contemplation. As though the methodical painstaking history of science can be dissolved simply in the fizzy water of a new hypothesis!

While I do not deny the role of inspiration in forging great leaps of understanding what has to be achieved—and this is THE ESSENTIAL POINT—is the anchoring of inspiration to a language understood by the mass of mankind. It is the interpretation of inspiration that is the measure of its value. Dreams are personal; expressing them forces the examination of their wider relevance.

Has this book succeeded in that?

It has signally failed to do so. You have heard Professor Hardy claim it is ‘unscientific’ and essentially ‘baloney’ ( his word), you have heard Professor Anon claim it ‘slips away from being grasped’. Even the sympathetic priest the Rev TG admitted it was turning ‘everything on its head’ ( Darwin upside down.) These men are the gatekeepers in the world of rational discourse. I urge you to give heed to their views.

I would go further and invite a wider consideration. Have any of you, before this Trial encountered this Book? Heard about it? Read a review? If not, why is that? You would think the media might have run with ‘Old Woman has Big Idea’. Why didn’t they? Okay the author may not look like Madonna or have Random House behind her but you would have expected some excitement, given what she proposes?

Is it because the opinion of the world of potential readers have better things to do than struggle with something calling itself ‘symphonic prose’ to put forward an alternative THEORY OF EVERYTHING written by a NOBODY? If it was half as important to the market of ideas as it has been to the diligent author, we should have heard of it.

However sympathetic you may feel about the struggles of the Author, dominated by a deluded sense of mission I ask you to set that aside in evaluating the merits of a book seeking not merely paper to print it, trees to die in its cause, but vying for attention.

There are rational, logical, graspable books written by rational men, and yes, some of them echo elements contained within this work. If you want poetry read Dante or Milton, if you want science read Dawkins, if you want speculation read Ervin Laszlo. So let us remove this book of confusing baloney from the shelves and let those rational alternatives be more easily found. Do not mistake the few scintillating reviews by ordinary readers, thirsty for a belief in the irrational, or longing to perceive that Western Science has betrayed its promises, deflect the argument.

One of those said ‘It just feels right…’ Well, I am sure that the man who took a hammer to his mother-in-law would say exactly the same. In fact it probably felt the only thing to do at the time.

This is a test case about a market flooded with books. What we are here addressing is whether the time has come to evaluate books claiming importance that threaten the solid achievements of academic prowess, with suggestions of dubious merit, a pot-pourri, an aromatherapy, as valueless as fantasy. If you want fantasy read Harry Potter or Terry Pratchett. They do not call themselves science and are much more diverting.

It is easy at a time of crisis to suggest almost any hair-brained alternative and get away with it!

I am asking you to throw out the solid anchor of Reason and find this work guilty of all charges against it, a deluded and scientifically unproven hypothesis about the encoding of memory; inappropriate language; ill judged timing, and certainly the last, an inhumane indifference to the consequences to the author of single-handedly taking on the wall of scientific opposition and total indifference.

Her arguments may look ingenious, her scientific facts seemingly persuasive, but nobody can say anything about her qualifications for such facts or arguments. That is why we have institutions to impart rigour and peer reviews to examine that rigour. This author has not been refined in such fires of analysis. Even she is not sure, or she would not be here!

Exonerate her and you will condemn others with delusions of importance to lives spent in fruitless pursuit.

Any other verdict would simply encourage the benighted author to continue, and give encouragement to others to do likewise. You heard the author appearing as a hostile witness in this case. Why was that? Because she was as anxious as I am in seeing the book set aside and being relieved of its burden of obligation.

I urge you all to be prepared to be unpopular and find the book guilty. Such a verdict would be an act of courage. Thank you.

Jury box cropped.jpg
Jury box cropped” by Ken Lund from Reno, NV, USA – Cropped from the original, Pershing County Courthouse Jury Box. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

.Judge. We will take a short adjournment before the Defense Counsel’s closing speech. Please return at the same time tomorrow.

All Rise

Court in Session
Court in Session

* the distinguished medallist for her contribution to American Letters ( 2006)

Case for the Prosecution- First Charge

Trial of Involution-An Odyssey
(Continues from previous hearing)

Judge Taylor Coleridge Wikimedia Commons
Judge Taylor Coleridge Wikimedia Commons

All rise….

Judge (to Jurors)
To make your deliberations easier we will take the Charges one at a time. The prosecution will present its evidence and witnesses, and the Defence will be given the opportunity for cross examination. After each Charge has been dealt with you will be given time for deliberation. We hope that you (the public Jurors) will make notes on questions and inconsistencies. The verdict on all charges will be the last duty asked of you, and terminate this trial. I would remind you it s the responsibility of the prosecution to make its case. The innocence of Odyssey is presumed until proved otherwise. The Prosecution will now present evidence for the first Charge/

(To refresh your memories Odyssey is held to ‘have persuaded the Author to write a deluded hypothesis in order to humiliate her, knowing she would bear the responsibility of Odyssey’s heedless suggestions.’)

PROS Thank you m’lud. Since the charge relates to the intrinsic value of the Odyssey we will commence by examining its skeletal origins as The Theory of Involution originally written in 1970 because this proposed much of the essential thesis from a scientific standpoint. Its merits in its current form as Odyssey will be examined separately.

I call the first witness. Professor Sir Alister Hardy.

Professor Hardy You were Professor of Zoology at Oxford for many years. You had the opportunity to see this work at an early stage in its, shall we say, evolution in 1970? How did the Author contact you?

Prof H. We met a conference on Nature Man and God. I met the author briefly and on hearing about her manuscript offered to evaluate it.

PROS Very generous of you. Since the Author was entirely unknown, I am surprised you had the time.

Prof H. Well, I was by then semi -retired.

PROS And what were your conclusions?

Prof H Frankly it was, how can I put this politely? Baloney from start to finish.

PROS It had no value whatever?

Prof H. Well I remember she put forward an interesting hypothesis about incremental interiorisation- dreadful word- she suggested that evolution had been due to the laying down of memory, which accounted for the seeming progress of evolution, and its convergence to Man. It was dangerously suggestive of Lamarkian process but others had said similar things so that alone did not rule it out.

PROS Please clarify the perils of Lamarkianism for the Court.

Prof. H. In its simplest form Lamarkian inheritance suggests that an organism’s experience can be conveyed to its offspring. Soviet Russia implemented this belief in their catastrophic apportioning of roles permitted different sections of the population, steel workers would improve in strength, farmers in stamina etc. We know of no way in which that improvement happens organically. What Involution was proposing was exactly that, the changing of the genetic blueprint, so as to afford advantage entirely due to the life experience of the parent. It is gibberish.

PROS And dangerous, you said, why dangerous?

Prof H. Dangerous to the Author. It would never be taken seriously, certainly not then anyway.

PROS Yet you admitted it was ‘interesting’: What was wrong with the scientific A Theory of Involution’ paper outlining it?

Prof H. It purported to be a scientific study. But there was no proof and could be no proof. So it was not scientific. I am a scientist. I look for evidence.

PROS How did you convey this to the Author? Presumably it checked any intentions she had to publish?

Prof H I told her to go away and undertake research that would either substantiate her hypothesis or refute it. She was very young, there was plenty of time ahead of her.

PROS Was it her youth that influenced your opinion? Or the valuelessness of the work?

Prof H. A little of both. You cannot go about with wild suppositions, unless you can support them with evidence, especially not so young. It is simply not done, or wise.

PROS Had she been an older and experienced researcher, rather than a 29 year old inexperienced layman, you would have looked more kindly on the Theory of Involution?

Prof. H. I might have taken it more seriously had it come from a colleague, whose erudition I respected, but I doubt even then I would have entertained the hypothesis without compelling evidence.

PROS To clarify Professor. How material was this hypothesis of incremental memory surviving individual death to the paper as a whole? If that was eliminated what remained?

Prof H. Virtually nothing. It was the spine of the work. Not only did she claim it accounted for the acceleration of evolution and its convergence to Man, but her belief was that science was simply the recovery of this encoded memory! Ludicrous!

PROS. I do see it would undermine science , or hole it below the waterline. It would rather suggest that science was being puppeteered by something ‘beyond’ .Is that why you referred to it as dangerous?

Prof H. No. Science is well able to defend itself from such absurdity.

PROS. Finally, Professor for the clarity of the Court. The work had no merit whatever, beyond an interesting, wild and unproven hypothesis?

Prof. H. That is indeed my opinion.

PROS No further questions.

Prof Hardy. Court Artist
Prof Hardy. Court Artist

Barrister for the Defense.

Professor Hardy I have the opinion letter you wrote to the Author. It runs to three pages of close script. For a busy man engaged, even part time, in his own work, would that be the usual reaction to something of no value whatever?

Prof H. Well I like to be thorough. I had given the work close attention.

DEF Let me quote a few phrases: ‘It may be a work of genius as many people consider de Chardin’s Phenomenon of Man, or the ‘book of the century’. I do not share that view. I consider de Chardin a great saint…his book is in no way a scientific book. I feel the same about yours. Not exactly valueless if compared to de Chardin is it Professor?

To continue ‘I dislike your statement that evolution proceeds through the oscillation between fission and fusion. Dislike as a scientist? Does not all cellular interaction include both fission and fusion? ‘

I find your remarks far too glib and quite unacceptable… What might be good Journalism in a Sunday paper is quite out of place…I strongly object to ‘random mutation snaking through the watchful eye of natural selection’. This is biological jibberish…I cannot like your arguments about consciousness and I particularly dislike your diagrammatic representation of it…’Again ‘dislike’ without saying why. ‘I must say this is not at all ‘my cup of tea’
You ended by saying ‘You ask my advice about publication. I am bound to say “Don’t. I would advise you to wait at least ten years and master some more biology before you attempt to go into print…you may yet produce something worthwhile…..”

That is a small sample of three pages.I cannot conceive of a greater diatribe designed to annihilate a young author. It is not what I, or I imagine others, expect of the lucid, detached views of a scientist. Something got your goat, for an Oxford man to use such intemperate language!
Turning to another, and possibly related matter Professor.

You had already published a book called The Living Stream, and another called The Divine Flame in which you postulated something akin to a ‘group mind’ in a species, ‘a psychic blueprint between the members of a species’. Could you prove the existence of a group mind Professor?

Prof H. Well it was one among a number of aspects I supposed could explain certain things. I laid no great weight upon it.

DEF You mistake my reasons for highlighting it. You were prepared to entertain the existence of some form of communication you could not prove, and for which you had no evidence. How does that differ from the Theory of Involution, proposing much the same?

Prof H. I had years of deep contemplation from which such conjectures arose. I recognised that science did not yet have all the answers, least of all to the religious or spiritual.

DEF In much the same way as The Theory of Involution did. You also had just (in 1969) created an Institute for the Study of Religious Experience’ had you not? Is religious experience provable Professor?

Prof H. One alone is not, a great many looked at may be. That was my intention, to collect and examine the many instances, a scientific approach, if I may say so.

DEF So as a scientist, you were taking quite a risk embarking on a sphere of interest outside the usual realms of science?

Prof H. Yes, Put like that I was, which is why I waited until my retirement to fully engage with it.

DEF Ah I see, The ‘get tenure before you talk of consciousness’. That is well known in the United States. In 1979 you went on to publish a further book, The Spiritual Nature of Man in which I quote there is ‘No dualistic split between soul and body, between matter and mind, between life and non-life…all phenomena are natural…our newer style of evolution is Lamarkian’ This comes very close to The Theory of Involution does it not, which proposes that the progressive interiorisation creates a field of consciousness in which both mind and matter communicate and survive throughout the biosphere?

I put it to you Professor that the ten years you suggested the Author should wait before seeking to go to print, was the ten years you required to publish your own account of much the same thing? It was also a very great advantage to you that your work was awarded the Templeton Prize, a million dollars was not to be risked by encouraging an unknown young author, in a position to publish first.

Prof H I could not know I would be awarded the prize. That was years later. You are not suggesting….?

DEF What I am speculating upon, (since speculation is apparently allowed with sufficient evidence Professor), is that you had just embarked upon a new field, almost entirely your own- you are called God’s Biologist are you not?- and needed that newly created collection (by others) to provide the evidence for a thesis which The Theory of Involution had already usurped. You were outraged that a unknown young woman had made the imaginative leap you imagined was yours, and yours alone. Unlike Darwin, faced with Wallace doing much same for his Origin of Species, you were not gracious. Your letter to the Author, and indeed your testimony before this court, was mean spirited, and determined to discourage any further publication of a work before you had collared the glory…

Prof H Outrageous suggestion. I protest most emphatically…

DEF No further questions.

All rise.

Court in Session
Court in Session