A man and a woman enter a restaurant separately. The man arrives first, acquires a table for two, and adjusts the green tie he mindfully selected for the occasion. The woman arrives next, wearing a flattering blouse and pencil skirt, then scans the room until her eyes alight upon the green tie. Making the connection, her gaze darts up to meet the man’s warm smile. She smiles in turn, approaches with a slight wave and “hello,” and is startled when he stands to hold out her chair.
“Oh,” says the woman. “Thank you.”
“Not at all,” says the man. After she is settled he sits, too, and a pause falls uncertainly between them.
“This is my first time on a blind date,” says the woman. “I never thought I would be on one of these. I don’t quite know how to proceed.”
“Well,” says the man. “It’s my first time, too, so God willing, maybe we can muddle through this together.”
The woman smiles at the man, though there are already creases at the corners of her eyes from his offhand insertion of a particular phrase. She picks up the menu and scans the selection.
“It all looks so tasty,” she says. “Have you been here before?”
“I have,” he says. “I recommend the roast chicken.”
The woman frowns, squinting at the item. “Is that… chicken with banana?”
“It’s quite nice,” says the man. “The banana adds a delicate sweetness to the dish.”
The woman scans the rest of the menu items, but her thoughts draw her each time back to the chicken dish. She studies the man across the table from her—his clean-cut face, the immaculate line of his suit, the pristineness of his plain brown hair. She hesitates, biting her lip, then feigns interest in the bottom of the menu, the top fold of the stiff, leather-backed paper covering her mouth as she speaks.
“It’s really quite amazing, isn’t it, how much effort went into making the banana a fruit we can use so easily, and in so many ways—large and plentiful, seedless and flavourful. Don’t you think?”
“Absolutely,” says the man without looking up. “God provides for us in the most extraordinary ways.”
The woman pauses, then sets down her menu, watching the man intently. The man, feeling her gaze upon him, looks up, smiles at the intensity of her gaze, and sets down his menu in turn.
“You’re Christian, aren’t you?” says the woman. Immediately after, she waves her hands before her. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to just come out and say it, but—” she lowers her hands, folding them in her lap and leaning forward. “You are, aren’t you?”
“No need to apologize,” says the man. “Yes, I’m Christian, and I’m not ashamed to say as much. And you…aren’t, are you?”
“Oh,” says the man.
“Yes,” says the woman. “But more than that, with what you said about the bananas—”
“You’re a Creationist, aren’t you?”
“Well,” says the man. He dips his head left and right.
“Or a believer in intelligent design, or non-evolution, or whatever else it’s sometimes called, yes?”
“Yes,” says the man. “I am. And you… do believe in evolution, then?”
“Yes, very much so.”
“’Oh,’ indeed.” The woman casts restlessly about her—at the cutlery, the water glasses, the other tables with patrons quietly and contentedly conversing over their meals. “Well, this is interesting.”
“Well, I just…” She leans forward, hands poised together on the edge of the table, and says in a whisper: “I’m not so sure this is such a good idea.”
“Because we disagree on religion?” The man smiles and shakes his head. “Maybe, maybe not. Do you think it’s, what is it called—a ‘deal-breaker’?”
“Well, no, not really. Not unless we make it, that is.” The man steeples his hands before him and rests his chin on the apex of both index fingers. “There’s even a bit in Corinthians about marrying people who don’t share the faith: For the unbelieving husband has been sanctified through his wife, and the unbelieving wife has been sanctified through her believing husband.“
“That’s a little out of context, though, isn’t it?” says the woman. “That passage is for people who’ve already been married when one partner turns to Christianity. And Paul explicitly says that this is his advice, not God’s, so how can you take it over the numerous passages in the Old Testament, and even elsewhere in Corinthians, that condemn interfaith partnerships?”
“For what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness?” says the man. “Yes, I suppose it is there, too—but those were different times, when Christianity was in the minority and a vital part of the religion’s survival relied upon like marrying like. I must say, too, that I’m quite surprised you recognized the verse. Were you raised Christian, by any chance?”
“No, not at all,” says the woman. “But like you say, Christianity isn’t in the minority anymore, so it tends to be so pervasive that even someone without faith can’t often help but read the Bible, to try to figure out what makes the God-myth so pervasive in our culture.”
The man smiles. “And what did you discover?”
The woman hesitates. “I’m not sure this is a productive line of discussion. Weren’t we simply trying to decide if this… encounter is worth pursuing at all?”
Just as the man starts to reply, the waiter arrives, freshening their water glasses and asking if he can get them started with drinks. The man and the woman exchange looks.
“We’re here, aren’t we?” says the man. “And clearly we can be civil people together—at least, we have been this far. So what’s the harm in having a little dinner together? Maybe we’re compatible, maybe we’re not. At the very least, we could probably have a rather interesting conversation about it, don’t you think?”
The woman looks to the waiter, then to the man, and finally to her menu again. “All right,” she says. “I’ll have the house white.”
The waiter takes the wine list from her and looks in askance at the man. The man shakes his head. “Just coffee for me,” he says. “Black, please, with a little cream on the side.”
“Not a big wine drinker?” says the woman.
“Not when I’m driving, no,” says the man with a wink. “You thought I’d be perfectly abstinent, didn’t you?”
“I think maybe there are a lot of misconceptions we might have about one another on the basis of our beliefs.”
“That’s quite possible.” The woman relaxes, considering her own assumptions and mustering another smile. “It’s just, well, religious fervour drives so much of contemporary political debate; I know that, historically, there were some junctures when religious and political beliefs weren’t bound so deeply together, but now…” She shakes her head. “I mean, the sheer number of social issues we likely disagree on—abortion, gay marriage, women’s rights, environmental stewardship—when I think about all of those I can’t even begin to see where we might find common ground.”
The man waves his hands between them. “Let’s leave politics out of it tonight, then—and who knows? I might surprise you on our second date. Being a Creationist doesn’t automatically make me without compassion, does it?”
“Well, no…” The woman worries her upper lip. “But—how do I put this lightly?”
“Don’t,” says the man. “Let’s be honest and forthright instead. I can take it. Trust me, I’ve probably heard it all before.”
The woman gives him a look that suggests she doesn’t believe he’s truly ‘heard it all before,’ but there is a quirk to her smile that suggests a fondness might nonetheless be growing for his manner of inclusive address.
“Well, all right, then,” says the woman. “My worry is this: if you can accept the belief that everything on this planet was put here in its present form; indeed, if you believe the Earth itself is only 10,000 years old—despite all evidence to the contrary, and despite all the advances science has made in just the last two hundred years—you must be acting on a kind of blind faith that would necessarily impact how your opinions are formed, and on the basis of what sources of information, in the rest of your life as well. And that’s what troubles me: your potential lack of an external metric by which your opinions can be tested over time.”
“Interesting,” says the man. “But I do have that external metric of which you speak. I have the Bible—which, though you may disagree, is so far as I’m concerned more than proven out by scientific advancement. Not just in what we don’t know and can’t explain without God, but also in how unreliable and inconsistent our attempts to explain the intricate and complex workings of the universe always are.”
“That’s probably true—the part, that is, about how science proves the Bible true only so far as you’re concerned. But you see, this is an argument from ignorance: what you don’t know about science says nothing about what there is to know about science. So only—and forgive me if I’m being harsh here; I’m a scientist, so this point always does cut a little close to home—only if you don’t know enough about science, both in theory and in practice, can you ever say that science supports Biblical Creationism.”
“Oh, but I do know about science,” says the man. “It’s very dear to me, too. I’m a scientist myself, you see.”
The woman stares. The waiter arrives with their drinks and asks for their orders. The man waits for the woman to begin, but the woman shakes her head and says, “No, you go first.” The man does—ordering with confidence and handing off his menu with a smile. The woman clumsily orders her meal next—roast chicken with banana stuffing—and after the waiter leaves with both menus in hand the woman studies the tablecloth.
“Does that surprise you?”
“Yes, actually, it does,” says the woman. “It really, truly does. I understand that many intelligent people are able to rationalize to themselves their own religious beliefs, but a Young Earth Creationist who’s also an active scientist is… it’s just…” She shakes her head. “It’s simply backwards. It requires such a steadfast refusal of the facts as to bear absolutely no resemblance to the rigours imposed by the scientific method. I mean, what research do you even do? What research can you do?”
“Well, no research, per se, myself. Not anymore, at least. Right now I’m a high school biology teacher. But I do have friends who—”
“Wait a moment, you teach? Children?”
“Young adults, yes. I teach grades ten through twelve at—”
The woman worries her upper lip and takes a deep breath. “What do you teach them? You’re not at a public school, are you?”
“No, Catholic. And I teach them to think critically, to ask questions.”
“About what? Evolution? The age of the Earth?”
“Certainly.” The man pauses and inclines his head. “You don’t think either above interrogation, do you?”
“Of course not. Scientific theories must explain all existent facts, though—and to date, that’s precisely what the theories of evolution and deep geological time do. So… I’m almost afraid to ask—what facts do you think are not explained by the 4.54 billion years pinned down as the age of the Earth by geologists, archaeologists, and physicists?”
The man parts his lips to answer; the woman hastily cuts in.
“—besides the Bible, of course.”
The man smiles and shakes his head. “I was not going to presume you’d think the Bible a good counterpoint. Not yet, at least.”
The woman feels a warmth rise in her chest, and a matching dryness in her mouth, at the off-hand confidence of those last four words. She holds the wine glass to her lips—taking only a small sip, but allowing the glass to linger long enough to calm herself. She tries to convey continued attention with her eyes, but adds a grudging nod when the man seems to be waiting for more.
“It’s simple, really,” he says. “It’s all about the assumptions we make when dating.”
The woman’s eyebrows notch higher. The man laughs, and takes a moment to add cream to his coffee. “Yes, just like now.”
“Oh, no, that’s not what I—” The woman shakes her head. “No, never mind: go on.”
“You’re familiar, I take it, with radiometric dating? Carbon, uranium, potassium, and so on?”
“Yes, of course.”
“Wonderful. Okay. So—” The man leans forward, resting his elbows on the tablecloth. “All forms of radiometric dating try to measure radioactive decay over time. Meaning what, exactly? Meaning that scientists look at the rate at which one isotope decays into another for certain naturally-formed elements, then measure how much of a given isotope is present in their rock samples, and finally calculate backwards to determine when, at the current rate of change, the original isotopes would have been in natural balance for that element in the modern world. You agree so far, yes?”
The woman chews her lips and exhales deeply. “I think I see where you’re going with this, and—”
“Okay, great. So I’ll finish quickly.” He pans his hands before him. “All of this depends on two serious assumptions: One, that the rate of change for isotope decay is the same today as it was at the formation of the Earth; and two, that the natural balance for isotopes in a given element back then is the same as it is today. In the absence of definitive evidence that elemental isotopes decayed at the same rate then that they do now, or that the elements originally had the same balance of isotopes we see when creating those same elements in the lab today, you have to have faith—great faith!—to trust at all in radiometric dating. Are you okay? Do you have a headache?”
The woman drops her hands from her temples, which she had been rubbing throughout the man’s explanation.
“No,” she says. “No headache, per se.”
The man smiles. “You disagree. Okay, show me where I’m wrong. Where’s the evidence needed to support the use of a static rate of change?”
Before the woman can speak the waiter intervenes, flashing an apologetic grin as he sets their meals down between them. “Oh,” says the woman. “Well this looks wonderful.”
“I said it would, didn’t I?” The man looks eminently contented and answers for the both of them when the waiter asks if there is anything else they need.
The woman lingers on her first bite, takes another sip of wine, then sets her fork and knife to one side of the plate while the man digs in.
“So let me get this straight. You identify as a scientist—not an active one, though: a high school biology teacher—and you disagree with the theory of an ancient earth because the underlying evidence is based on rates of change for radioactive decay in the current era. You claim that the rates of change are not necessarily constant—on what basis? What evidence do you have that the rate of change for a given element itself changes over time?”
“What evidence do you have that it doesn’t?”
The woman stares. “Inorganic and nuclear chemistry, for one—the disciplines are entirely situated around elemental modelling that can either be confirmed or refuted through experimentation.”
“Experimentation in the contemporary age,” says the man, raising his fork high. “That’s the point: each age of creation need not share the same chemical properties. We know men lived for hundreds of years a long time ago, and God Himself made more prominent appearances in the world then—so why should we assume the natural laws of His world at that point are the same as they are now?”
The woman’s expression darkens. “If you’re going to bring the Bible in as scientific evidence—”
The man waves his hands. “Getting ahead of myself—sorry.”
“I feel like I should be taking notes,” says the woman, her hands returning to her temples. “There is so much wrong with what you’re saying, I worry I’ll forget all the things that need responding to.”
“Well, try me on one, then—your best, if you can.”
“I’ll give two, because your argument is roaming around scientific practice, philosophy, Christian apologetics—a lot, in other words.
“The first is an explanation of how what you’ve presented is not scientific. When I identified these descriptions of the world you seemed to understand the use of the word ‘theory’ in its proper scientific context—”
“Well, of course.”
She notches a brow. “Not as obvious as you seem to think. Especially since you go on to reverse engineer the process. Whereas science looks at a body of facts, proposes a hypothesis to explain those facts, and ends up with a working theory if that hypothesis is repeatedly confirmed, you start with a different kind of theory—a colloquial one; a hunch that comes from your belief in the Bible—and then, when you see a lack of facts to support your position, propose nothing that widens the fact base, but rather seek to dismiss the facts entirely. How on earth do you think this a constructive way to do science?”
The man laughs. “Well, a good shaking up is what any paradigm needs, isn’t it?”
“Every paradigm but yours, of course,” says the woman. “And that’s what’s so disingenuous. That’s what makes what you think you do the opposite of science. There is no road to complete falsifiability on your path, and your claims never seem to yield real-world outcomes; they’re all after-the-fact interpretations with one propagandist end above all others. No vaccines, no technological breakthroughs—just Jesus.”
He studies the woman a long while before leaning forward, his forearms braced on the table. “Are you suggesting radiometric dating cures cancer?”
“No, but the development of these methods continues to confirm certain elemental modelling that allows inorganic chemistry and nuclear physics to do their work, with definite medical benefits therein. If elemental modelling didn’t work the way science predicts, we’d need to change our conception of chemistry entirely, and we certainly could not rely on it as we do now: to reliably treat other human beings.”
“You really think scientists would be so honest?”
“You don’t?” The woman frowns. “You know, you use that word, ‘scientist,’ to describe yourself, but I don’t get the sense you understand how the community works.”
“Oh, I understand,” says the man. “I understand all too well. I tried to get articles published, but the journal editors simply could not tolerate views that might shatter their deepest held beliefs.”
“I’m sorry–I’m so sorry, but that’s rubbish. The whole history of science has been about upheaval. And the system, far from discouraging it, thrives on it: how else do you think people become notable in the community? By publishing good, sound research that breaks new ground—either by building on a pre-existing concept or demonstrably, methodically trashing an old one. No offense, but I bet dollars to doughnuts that your work simply failed the peer-review test.”
“Mainstream scientists are willing to break some new ground, perhaps—but not all. Anything that doesn’t go along with their evolutionist agenda—”
The woman laughs so loud that other diners turn to look—their own, appreciative smiles the kind given upon sight of a couple clearly enjoying itself. The man, however, is not nearly so amused.
“I’m sorry,” the woman says, trying to disperse the negativity in her laughter with a placating gesture. “It’s just—I understand; I do. You have an agenda. You would rather pin all your hopes on nature being immeasurable and inconsistent than open yourself to the possibility that the Bible you believe in might be wrong. And that makes you think that all who work to understand the natural world have an agenda, too. But that’s simply not true. The great majority of us are quite comfortable going where the facts lead. And if the facts lead to something incomprehensible by our old systems of knowing—great! That’s where the fun begins. But you—”
“Tell me again, please: Do you believe in God?”
The woman pauses, then covers her mouth again with her wine glass.
“No,” she says, and sets the glass down again. “Like I said, I’m atheist.”
“On what basis?”
“A review of the facts, which I find lack any compelling evidence for the existence of a god.”
“The Bible doesn’t count as compelling evidence?”
“No, the Bible is a flawed document filled with inaccuracies and contradictions, written and rewritten by multiple authors–many utterly unknown–driven by the political interests of different ages, and lifting heavily off polytheism and precursor Babylonian mythologies.”
“So you think, at least.”
“So archaeology tells me.”
“So you’ve got two data sets, and you use one to disprove the others.”
“Yes.” The woman pauses. “And you’re going to tell me you’re just doing the same. But it’s not the same: you claim to be a scientist, but where science does not agree with the Bible, it’s the latter you uphold first.”
“Like I said; I think science does uphold my beliefs–when practised properly. Radiometric dating is anything but properly administered science.”
“Are you serious?” The woman catches herself vigorously shaking her head and takes another deep breath. “You just said your only argument against radiometric dating is that different ‘ages of creation’ might have had different rates of radioactive decay. Now how do you propose to make that claim testable?”
“Well, for one, we can look at all places where radiometric data gets it wrong–snails dated to 300 million years old, gold found in coal seams–”
“Hold on. We’re in a public place with limited internet access. I could spend the rest of our time just looking up and disproving any anecdote you might come up with. Luckily, I know the two you’ve mentioned off the top of my head: Molluscs build their shells expressly out of sediment, so an ancient date on a snail shell is to be expected; and human beings have been mining coal for a very long time, so of course we should expect to find our presence in such veins. Moreover, if you’re going to bring up coal, you’ll have to explain how the coal got there in the first place in a mere 10,000 years, when we know coal is a fossil fuel. Immense pressure needs to be applied to ancient organic matter for it to even exist.”
“But that’s simple,” says the man. “God put it there.”
The woman sighs. “I had a feeling you’d say that. I hoped you wouldn’t, but you did. Look, this isn’t science; you’re using faith as a blanket explanation to get around proper research, without any just cause for why your god would do such a thing. To trick us? And anyway, that wasn’t my point; my point is that throwing around anecdote doesn’t answer the question I asked: what test could you run to demonstrate that radioactive decay rates have changed so dramatically over time? What mathematical modelling do you have as the basis for your claim?”
“There you have me at a disadvantage,” says the man. “I don’t believe any test can be done on a former age; that’s why I feel science should stick to making determinations in the modern era, where I happily concede its power to come up with a great many incredible discoveries, God willing.”
“Wait, but the Bible’s somehow trustworthy even though it was written in the past? Listen, if you really thought the only evidence that mattered was the evidence we could make conclusive determinations about today, you wouldn’t be taking the word of texts written so poorly and inconsistently in the Bronze and Iron Ages of human civilization.”
“That’s different, though–”
“Of course it is.”
“No, really–what happens around the beginning of the common era would definitely have decay rates comparable to what we see today.”
“Definitely, eh? I thought you just said we can’t make any determinations about the past.”
The man bites his lip, taking a long sip of coffee. The woman can tell he is starting to get frustrated.
“All I’m saying,” he says, his words slow and laboured. “Is that while the Bible definitely suggests enough direct intervention was happening to question whether what we consider natural laws were functioning the same way, the real periods of intense radioactive decay rates were well before the Flood.”
“Right, the world-wide Flood that conveniently failed to wipe out dozens of civilizations advanced enough to keep records all through that period.”
The woman quirks a smile, daring rejoinder, but the man falls silent, then shakes his head and sighs. The waiter pauses by the table and inquires about dessert. The man looks about ready to continue shaking his head when the woman speaks up:
“The most ridiculous, gussied up ice cream dish you’ve got.”
The man notches an eyebrow.
“What? Conversation’s getting a bit heated. Best thing for it.”
The man pauses, then nods to the waiter. “Could I please have a slice of apple pie–with vanilla ice cream, if you have it?”
The waiter haggles him into an apple raspberry tart with French vanilla on the side and departs.
“I just don’t understand why you so adamantly believe that your god would go to such trouble to make a young earth seem old. Radioactive decay rates would have to be through the roof in the pre-Flood era to make the calculations fit–and then your god would have to go out of his way to protect every living creature on the planet from that kind of radioactivity.”
“It wouldn’t be out of His way, though,” says the man. “He is God, after all; what we consider a leap in complexity is nothing for Him to manage.”
“But to what end? If this god knew its created species would survive long enough to find serious and manifold inconsistencies between the mixed bag of unreliable narratives he purportedly inspired, and the natural world, which has demonstrated an immense amount of consistency as we’ve applied scientific method to it throughout the last few centuries, what do you propose this god’s game plan is? To test the ability of humans to cleave to their faith against all evidence to the contrary?”
“So what if it is?”
The woman hesitates at the man’s increasingly testy tone, which even the arrival of their desserts does not seem to temper.
“Then you’re no scientist,” she says at last. “And the sooner you stop pretending you are and stop teaching students the wrong way to go about verifying or refuting scientific claims, the sooner you’ll be doing less damage to yourself or others.”
The man snorts. “Damage! What damage am I doing to myself?”
“This brings me to the other counter I promised I’d raise,” says the woman, pausing just long enough to lick whipped cream from her spoon and devour a candied cherry. “The internal inconsistency I suspect you hold in your refutation of both the theories of deep time and evolution.”
“I’ve said very little about evolution tonight; how could you–”
“You’ve said enough.” The woman thins her lips, attempting a calmer expression as she goes on. “If I were to ask you about DNA evidence for evolution, would I be wrong in assuming that you’d have a lot to say about mutations? That despite being a biology teacher, you’d insist mutations only destroy genetic information instead of creating it?”
“I don’t know what being a biology teacher has to do about it; the amount of information packed into DNA is immense–anyone with half a brain must see that the number of random mutations spanning the whole of the genome in any given creation event faces an extremely low probability of not yielding at least one mutation that could destroy the organism as a whole. The irreducible complexity of human biology cannot be spared from such deleterious interactions without the grace of God.”
The woman’s long dessert spoon clinks inside the sundae glass. “Good grief, I feel like I’d need a whole other meal just to unpack everything that’s wrong about your incredulity around biological probabilities and likeliest genetic outcomes. But since we’re just about finished the final course, let me try to stay on target. You do acknowledge, yes, that mutations happen? Sometimes extremely grotesque ones? Congenital defects that substantially curtail the quality and length of human life?”
“And what’s your explanation for them, Biblically speaking?”
“Oh, so now you want the Bible brought in?”
“Mmhm.” The woman smiles around a considerable bite of chocolate ice cream bedecked in fudge. The man frowns and clasps his hands before him.
“Well, put simply, ever since the fall of man from paradise it makes sense that we’d find an escalating rate of mutation in human beings. These were never supposed to be the bodies we inhabited, after all–this world is a fallen world in serious need of redemption so that we can return to the beings we were always meant to be–figures at obedient, joyous play in Paradise until the end of time.”
He looks uncertainly at the woman, who is smiling without cease.
“Your point?” he adds after a spell.
The woman shrugs, dropping her spoon into the tall glass and indicating to the waiter, who nods vaguely back at her while darting from table to table.
“You really don’t see it? The cognitive dissonance between these two views? You look at biological evidence, see complexity and indicators of mutation everywhere, and instead of having your Creationist views on human biology shaken, say, ‘Well, obviously, the perfection of human design by an intelligent designer would have been mitigated by mankind’s fall from grace. Obviously with every generation that passes, our human bodies are going to degenerate further and further from the sturdy, centuries-old vessels we occupied in and around the time of Eden.”
The woman pauses to drain the last of her wine before the waiter arrives, at which she asks him–gently, quietly–for separate bills before the man can speak up. He looks hurt by this arrangement.
“At least let me–”
“No, no, that’s quite all right,” says the woman. “No insult meant by it; I just feel more comfortable this way. Anyway, where was I–oh, yes:
“But when it comes to deep time you still have your Creationist beliefs coming first over scientific findings, which puts you in the position of having to argue for the reverse: not that this fallen world is rapidly deteriorating, but that rates of radiometric decay have in fact dropped by many orders of magnitude in just the last few thousand years, in order to reach the current, consistent standard we get when we do radiometric dating. So which is it? Or is the natural world somehow stabilizing itself even as human biology continues to destabilize itself just because God wills it that way? And even though that means one of these two realms, which we can see and test in the here and now, does not at all match with the narrative of descent from perfection described in Genesis?”
The bills arrive. The man looks at his with great displeasure and sets a card upon it.
“Like your worldview is any better. At least mine offers hope.”
“Offers it? Sure.” The woman digs out cash to pay her share. “Science only does that incidentally–through a wealth of technological advancements and improved medical procedures that substantially aid humankind in this lifetime. And, also incidentally, science doesn’t require that you think yourself an inherently horrible person just by existing in the first place.”
“I suppose a second date’s out of the question, then,” says the man.
The woman looks visibly surprised. “You’d still want to see me a second time, despite how plainly I do not respect the views you hold or the work you do with them–work among exceptionally impressionable youth, no less?”
“Well…” says the man. “It troubles me to see a woman so intelligent and yet so ignorant at the same time.”
The woman laughs. “I bet it does. All right, tell you what; let’s set another date for a time when there is new, concrete evidence on the table. A date when we can both truly be scientists about all this.”
“Why, after death, of course. Or just beyond the Apocalypse.”
“Well, I would, of course, but…” The man manages only the thinnest of smiles. “I fear if either of those days come, they’ll find you on the wrong side of the gate.”
“Ah yes, that.” The woman stands and inclines her head toward the man. “Such a pity that, if my view about the nature of existence proves the more accurate, there’ll be no opportunity for you to shout out from non-existence, ‘You–Were–Right!‘”
“Isn’t it, though?” The man’s teeth gleam a pristine white as they shake hands before turning to leave.
While waiting in the subway not far from the restaurant, the woman wonders again and again how much more she might have said–and how much more she should have said. How much she fears this man’s students are missing out due to his backwards, embittered approach to science, which she is now convinced he freely disseminates during class–until, with the tight passage of a car before her, she faintly tastes the sweetness of the banana from her meal, shakes her head, and permits herself to laugh.
What else can she now do? As the woman boards the subway car and starts her long journey home, she comes to the realization that she would have needed something like billions of years to make her points properly understood by this man. And yet, in the cramped confines of a first date between near-perfect strangers, only thousands had ever been on offer.
Still, how very long ‘thousands of years’ can sometimes feel. As the subway car bursts from its tunnel into a wide open view of the city, the woman thinks one last time of the pristinely dressed man who held out a chair for her in his vivid green tie and later recommended the roast chicken. How’s that, she smiles wanly to herself, for fluctuating rates of change?