Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Devil Monkeys

Don Quixote in the 16th century had some christian ideas about the creation of the world and the evolution of species, as recorded by Miguel de Cervantes, from the original by Cide Hamete Benegeli, as translated by Edith Grossman (pp 626-7, Harper Collins 2003)

The critical paragraph, in full:
"You do not understand me, Sancho: I mean only that he must have made some agreement with the devil to grant this talent to the monkey so that Master Pedro could earn his living, and when he is rich the devil will take his soul, which is precisely what the universal enemy wishes. And what makes me believe this is seeing that the monkey replies only to past or present things, which is as far as the devil's knowledge can go; future things cannot be known except through conjecture, and only occasionally, for knowing all times and moments is reserved to God alone, and for Him there is no past or future: everything is present. And this being true, as it is, it is clear that this monkey speaks in the style of the devil, and I am amazed that he has not been denounced to the Holy Office, and examined, and forced to tell by whose power he divines, for it is also clear that this monkey is not an astrologer, and neither he nor his master casts, or knows how to cast, the astrological charts used so widely now in Spain that there's not a fishwife, page, or old cobbler who does not presume to cast a chart as if it were the knave in a pack of cards lying on the floor, corrupting the marvelous truths of science with their lies and ignorance. I know of a lady who asked one of them if a small lapdog she had would become pregnant and give birth, and how many pups she would have and what color they would be. To which our noble astrologer responded that the dog would become pregnant and give birth to three pups, one green, one red, and one spotted, provided that the dog was mounted between eleven and twelve in the morning, or at night, and that it took place on a Monday or a Saturday; and what happened was that two days later the little dog died of indigestion, and the noble prognosticator was credited in the town with being a very accurate caster of charts, a reputation that all or most astrologers have." (Emphasis added.)
What this means is that everything is and always was and always will be, unchanging. We may perceive change, but in reality there is no such thing. The world may appear to change and species to evolve, but in fact it doesn't happen. Every species that is, also was, and will also be, here in the present. Clearly this Don Quixote fellow has a well-developed sense of the universe. Except for that Devil Monkey part, there he seems a little batty.


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