Lem Hooper on Evolution
by Ellis Parker Butler
On his way home from court yesterday Justice of the Peace Lem Hooper stopped in at the Riverbank Hotel for three of his favorite cigars, and Joe Higgins, of the noisy group in front of the cigar case, immediately button-holed him.
"Just in time to settle this for us, Judge!" Joe cried. "How about it? Has the Kentucky Legislature a right to prohibit men from being descended from monkeys?"
"Only Kentuckians, Joe; only Kentuckians!" Judge Hooper said. "As long as you remain a citizen of Iowa, Joe, you're safe. The jurisdiction of the Kentucky Legislature don't extend beyond the boundaries of Kentucky, Joe. Don't you worry. Why, even if that bill is passed, Joe, any Kentuckian that wants to be evoluted instead of created need only swim across the Ohio River into Indiana, Illinois, or Ohio, or step across the border into Tennessee, and it will be perfectly legal for him to have a prehensile tail emblazoned on his coat of arms if he wants to.
"I don't see that it's much to worry about, anyway, Joe. About all the damage will be a new map of the United States one of these days, all colored up with splotches of pink and blue, with the blue splotches marked 'Area Inhabited by Descendants of Pithecanthropus Erectus' and with the pink splotches marked 'Area Inhabited by Kentuckians and Other Descendants of Adam by Order of the Kentucky State Legislature.' And maybe a few gray blotches here and there, Joe, marked 'Area Inhabited by Citizens Whose Ancestry Remains Undecided Until Next Meeting of State Legislatures.'
"There's just one thing certain in this queer world, Joe. Whenever a Legislature, or a Congress, or a Diet, or a Consistory, or a Government Office opens its lip and utters a yawp intended to settle any question that is within the province of Science it invariably decides wrong, makes a fool of itself and sets up a record at which people are sooner or later going to guffaw. That has been the fact from the day of Galileo right down to 1922. Science pulls herself up the hill by the posts fool lawmakers have planted to keep her down. When the State Legislature of Kentucky passes a law prohibiting the teaching of evolution in schools supported by State funds she turns a few thousand brains that never cared much one way or the other into redhot friends of evolution and the others say, 'Oh, well! you know what Legislatures are, anyway!"
"But I don't see the sense of it," said Joe Higgins. "What made Kentucky, of all States, get such a crush on Adam?"
"Well, right there you crowd me off into the realm of pure speculation, Joe," Judge Hooper said. "Of course, there was William Jennings Bryan; he stumped the State for Adam and Eve and had a big influence. I don't know why he was so eager; maybe it was revenge -- back in the free-silver days he tried to make monkeys of the Democratic voters and could not quite do it; maybe he's trying to get even by blaming it all on Adam and Eve. But, between you and me, Joe, I think the revival of interest in Adam and Eve is due more to the horse and the mint julep.
"I don't say Prohibition has struck Kentucky any harder than it has struck the rest of the country, Joe, but it has struck some of the fine old Kentuckians mighty hard. There was a day when Colonel Henry, sitting in a cane chair with a frosty julep on his knee, watching a likely colt do a test mile, was one of America's finest. A colt, sah, with a pedigree! A julep, sah, such as Hebe would have been proud to serve! A gentleman, sah, with a genealogy running away back! And then what, Joe? Prohibition! Prohibition and evolution, both of 'em slam-banging into Kentucky! Prohibition grabbing a man's liquor and Evolution saying the horse -- the Kentucky thoroughbred, sah! -- was no more than an evoluted offspring of a sort of hairless runt of the Lower Eocene Period, a thing called the Eohippus, as big as a fox, maybe! The Eohippus, sah, with four and a half toes on each fore foot and three toes on each hind foot! And they say that is the great-great-grandfather of the Kentucky horse! By the eternal, sah, if that's what Evolution says about the horse we'll have the law on it!
"And a fine, chivalrous, horse-loving attitude to take, too, Joe! Akin to that of the Indian brave who wanted his faithful dog buried with him. Kentucky wants no Eohippus, developing from a lizard and progressing into a horse. No, sir! A flash of glory and Adam and the horse, noble and complete! That's the stuff. None of this evolution business. "And there's a lot to be said for Adam, too, Joe, by a man who has had his mint julep forbidden by law. There's not much appeal in the idea of the Pithecanthropus Erectus of 530,000 years ago, obeying the stern and immutable laws of nature until he becomes the Homo Heidelbergensis of 250,000 years ago, or in the Homo Heidelbergensis obeying the stern and immutable laws until he becomes the Neanderthal Man of 50,000 years ago, and so on down. There's too much stern and immutable law there, Joe, for a man in these prohibition days. Adam is better. Adam was a comfortable sort of fellow. There was just one thing prohibited in his day and he did not let any stern and immutable law bother him much. He set a good example -- he got his share while there were still some left on the tree, law or no law. He is an ancestor worth having -- in a land where the mint julep material is getting quite considerable scarce. Adam was the sort of ancestor a man can understand."
"But, Judge," said Joe Higgins, "you're joking. You don't really mean that Kentucky is prohibiting evolution because Adam was a good sport, do you?"
"Well, no!" said Judge Hooper. "Perhaps not! Not entirely, Joe. We've got to remember that the Kentuckian is a mighty chivalrous gentleman. I dare say, Joe, that while he was listening to William Jennings Bryan orate about Adam he gave a couple of thoughts to Eve, too. Somehow, even to me, Joe, Eve does seem a little more chummy than her evolutionist rival, Mrs. Pithecanthropus Erectus. She does so!"