THE REAL MC COY
We were driving back to Encarnacion from Asuncion when the bus broke down. There are few paved roads in Paraguay, but we happened to be stopped on one at a pretty-nice-for-these-parts restaurant when the driver informed us that a coolant hose had sprung a leak and we would have to wait for another bus to make the three-hour journey to pick us up. We would arrive home six hours late. It had already been a long day with the temperature hovering around 100 degrees, and even now past midnight the night was correspondingly warm and muggy.
This happened in Yaguaron, a town the local Guarani Indigenous people believe is the Garden of Eden, the home of the original man and woman. As I dozed on a torturously uncomfortable bench, trying to ignore the giant trucks roaring by only a few yards away, I strained to imagine this as the first Paradise. It was impossible to imagine Adam and Eve running around naked here. In fact, I found it hard to imagine life existed here before air-conditioning.
But then I remembered when I was in Peru, we visited an island in Lake Titicaca, a giant body of clear, freezing water that stretches from Peru to Bolivia. The indigenous people who live in the middle of it on the island of Taquile believe that their little island was the home to original man and woman, who sprang from behind two hills on the island, one called Mama hill and the other, Papa hill. Since the lake is at 12,000 feet and the hill rises another 1,000 I was gasping when I reached the top. I couldn’t see any signs of Adam and Eve, but since the setting sun was beaming directly into my eyes, and I was still mostly concerned about catching my breath, they might have been darting about, or hiding behind goats.
But why venture so far for our origins? Closer to home, near Independence, Missouri, seventy miles north of Kansas City to be exact, is a site the Mormons believe to be the Garden of Eden. Like Paraguay, Northern Missouri is soybean country, and it strains credulity to think that our first earthly paradise lost is now Roundup Ready. Here, in Jackson County, Missouri, proto-uber father Adam called all his sons together and gave them his blessing just before he died at the age of 930. All this was revealed to Mormon founder and Prophet Joseph Smith, who saw the scene in his mind’s eye before the arrival of the fast food restaurants and motels which now celebrate what the Mormons celebrate as the birthplace of mankind.
Maybe somebody could organize a colloquium so the Guarani and Quechua speaking indigenous peoples of Paraguay and Peru, as well as Mormons of America could argue why their claim to the birthplace of all mankind should be honored and the others discounted. It seems only logical that there can be only one Garden of Eden, right?
We treat matters of religious belief as harmless individual preferences, the equivalent of preferring one brand of cola to another, but not a week goes by when I don’t read in the newspapers about someone dying from religion, usually a child in an exorcism gone wrong, or a sick person who won’t take the medicine that has been scientifically proven to be helpful because he already asked Santo Expedito for help, and to try to hedge his bet would be an insult to the patron saint of urgent causes. Religion can be deadly, no doubt about it.
Turns out that molecular biologists are now able to synthesize cloned life forms from their DNA. You can send someone an email with the DNA code as an attachment, and using those instructions, create a clone at a distant location. And this is just the first step in what promises to be a real eye opener for anyone who cares about the difference between science and “Creation Science.” What took natural selection a billion years of hit or miss can now be done precisely and to order in a few days.
So a Mars Rover could scoop up some dried Martian algae, analyze its genetic spectrum and then beam that information back to earth in less than five minutes. That same piece of algae could be recreated here on earth.
I hope I’m alive when this sort of thing comes to pass. The Bible tells us that Adam lived to be 930, but if we can get cracking with stem cells and start replacing worn out body parts, who knows how long a non-smoking bicyclist and swimmer like me could last?