Universal Oddities

September 12, 2002

Genetic Frenzy

Returning to the library in order to drop off a book on caterpillars, I happened across a scientist friend of mine reading the latest copy of Fashion Man magazine. After a jolly good handshake, I inquired upon his current situation.

Scientist: I’ve got a grant to conduct research.

Jacques: Oh. What research?

Scientist: I’m examining mouse semen and studying its implications. My paper is to be entitled The Implications of Mouse Semen.

Jacques: Really?

Scientist: Yes.

Jacques: Interesting.

Scientist: Yes.

Jacques: I’m wondering, what do you do with all of that mouse semen?

Scientist: I’m analyzing the genetic makeup of mouse semen.

Jacques: Are you trying to construct the perfect mouse?

Scientist: No.

Jacques: Then what are you doing harvesting mouse semen? And how? Are puppets involved?

Scientist: I’m isolating their DNA. I’ve realized that not enough time has been devoted solely to the examination of mouse semen. This is the general foundation of my argument.

Jacques: That’s not an argument.

Scientist: It’s an observation.

Jacques: Why are you isolating mouse semen?

Scientist: It allows us to analyze certain behavioral traits.

Jacques: Do you supply the mouse with liquor?

Scientist: It varies from mouse to mouse.

Jacques: Is this something like an alien probe? Does the mouse wake up with a massive hangover? Or, rather, does the mouse realize what you’ve done the next day and try to tell all of his friends, but none of them believe him because he’s drunk, and his story’s a bit hard to swallow, and he’s a mouse?

Scientist: We have no interest in the mouse’s subsequent social interactions. If the mouse chooses to lie or brag, that’s up to the mouse. The analysis of mouse semen is, of course, simply a prelude to experimentation on chimps.

Jacques: What do chimps have to do with this?

Scientist: We share 98% of our DNA with chimps.

Jacques: Through blood transfusions?

Scientist: No, just genetically. It’s the closest thing we have to analyzing humans.

Jacques: So if I chopped of my arm, I’d be a chimp?

Scientist: No, look, you’d still have 100% human DNA. But the astonishing 98% similarity allows us to study humanity through chimps by the fact that our DNA so closely resembles that of a chimp.

Jacques: Yes, but it’s that 2% that keeps most of us from hurling our own poop. Also, it keeps us from being experimented on by scientists. Most of us at least. I suppose a very hairy, stupid human could always end up in a laboratory by mistake or something.

Scientist: Yet that 98% similarity could help us to answer so many questions about ourselves and the nature of humanity.

Jacques: I don’t know. 2% is a fairly significant amount. If you told me you were ordering a pizza topped with 98% mushrooms and 2% poop, I’d be a bit hesitant to try it. Then again, the odds of my getting a slice with mushroom on it rather than poop just might be worth the risk.

Scientist: That sounds like something a chimp might do. I’ve seen them in experiments just like that one.

Jacques: Yes, but that’s precisely what defines the status of our collective humanity: the fact that we would hesitated to consider our actions before doing something so objectively stupid, whereas a chimp would simply proceed to act without regard for consequence. Also, there’s the fact that I would probably spend the remainder of my life wondering whether or not I’d chosen the slice with poop on it and just not noticed.

Scientist: Sometimes they mix the toppings, you know.

Jacques: Yes, but you can always tell them to separate the toppings on the individual slices so it wouldn’t contaminate the rest of the pizza.

Scientist: You could also tell them not to put poop on it at all.

Jacques: Yes. But then, you see, only mankind possesses the capacity to insist there be no poop on the pizza to begin with. We possess the ability to rationalize the idiocy of our situation. So we could insist there be no poop on the pizza at all. But then, I suppose, since the people making the pizza are only human, they’d probably end up putting the poop on it anyway.

I wished my friend luck in his research, urging him to isolate the gene that would entice people to place poop on pizzas so that the upcoming generation might be programmed against such indiscretions.




Copyright © 2000-2002 Jacques. All rights reserved.