Monday, August 12, 2013

Gregor Mendel was a German scientist who, using ordinary pea plants, proved the remarkable power of DNA. Charles Darwin was an English naturalist who proposed that genetic variations and natural selection were the very foundations of evolution.

Imagine what would have happened if these two men had met! Let's let our imaginations run wild as we picture the pair sharing frothy cappuccinos at a Parisian cafe on a sunny afternoon in 1872.

MENDEL: Well, Charles, it has happened. We have stolen the very lightning from the Gods! I discovered how dominant traits are passed down from one generation to the next, and you showed how that gene transmission can change the whole face of a species. Together, who knows where these monumental discoveries will lead us!

DARWIN: Gregor, you are right. The secrets of the universe have been revealed and now mankind's dominion over creation approaches the infinite. While remaining wary of the consequences should mankind try to supplant nature, what triumph do you most yearn for most?

MENDEL: Ah, I don't want to sound like a dreamer, but I do have one fond wish. If we truly have mastered the minutiae of existence and can pull the tangled strings of life like some sidewalk puppeteer, I believe our path is clear.

DARWIN: (LAUGHS) Yes, my esteemed colleague, I feel similarly. Tell me what you propose.

MENDEL: I would like a fluffy little dog I can fit in my handbag.

DARWIN: (NODS) Yes, that would be a milestone that would cement the reputation of even the greenest geneticist. But do you believe a trophy of this magnitude is even imaginable?

MENDEL: Perhaps not. But we are on the right path! I shouldn't say this, because my research is not yet complete, but six weeks ago I crossed a healthy poodle with an allergic poodle in the hopes of creating -- no, I dare not tempt the fates!

DARWIN: But I have guessed: will your new creation be called a PooPooPaChoo?

MENDEL: If it's fluffy and it sneezes, I will totally shit my pants.

DARWIN: Well, dear friend, that would truly be an accomplishment.

The bill comes, and DARWIN pulls out his wallet. As he opens it, something very fluffy and small leaps out. MENDEL can't believe his eyes as he enumerates four tiny legs, a head and a tail. Can this snow-white scrap of nothing actually be related to the lumbering beasts that live to kill rabbits and other vermin? The bit of fluff with teddy bear ears and big blue eyes scurries across the table. It nibbles at a croissant crumb and then, sated, curls up on a Splenda packet like it's an oversized pillow.

MENDEL: OHMIGOD! OHMIGOD, Charles, you have done it! It's breathtaking! It's spectacular! I would cut my heart out of my chest with an oyster fork to see it in tiny shoes. Why ever didn't you tell me?

DARWIN: (HEAVING A BORED SIGH) What? Oh, you mean little Chutney? Why, I've had her since she was small.

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