God’s Grant Proposal

From: flowingbeardguy@yahoo.com

To: info@nsf.gov

Date: Aug. 8, 315,000 B.C.E., 1:13 P.M.

Subject: Grant Proposal

Dear National Science Foundation,

My name is God the Almighty, creator of Heaven and Earth and founder of Species Development Solutions L.L.C. I’m writing to request a one-time grant of fifty thousand dollars to aid in the creation of a new bipedal, mostly hairless, fairly bad-smelling mammal. Capable of both linguistic communication and salsa dancing, this life-form will represent a bold departure from the trilobites, raptors, and weird dragonflies with two-foot wingspans that have populated the globe in past millennia.

What will set this new organism apart? For starters, it will be physically deficient in virtually every way. Too slow to outrun most predators and too weak to defeat the rest, it will also lack the bodily insulation that keeps other large animals from freezing to death. Additionally, just as it’s about to fall asleep, it will sometimes realize that it has an itch, but when it scratches the itch another itch will inevitably take its place somewhere else, and so on until the organism wonders if it should have just ignored the first itch.

You may be wondering how this new creature could be expected to survive at all. Good question. As a counterbalance to the myriad corporeal shortcomings this species will have, I plan to use your grant money to develop a sophisticated computational head organ called a “brain.” But not just any brain! It won’t be your average, walnut-sized, regulate-breathing-and-pooping-and-that’s-it deal. No, this brain will allow the mammals to make traps, weapons, clothing, shelters—whatever will keep them alive long enough to reproduce before succumbing to one of the 32,048,395,981,422 things that I’ve designed to kill them. (My favorite is diphtheria!)

But these mammals won’t spend all their time trying to have as much sex as possible before dying—just most of it. In their spare moments, their brains will allow them to perform a brand new cognitive function that I call “thinking about stuff,” which, in rare cases, will lead to the dazzling breakthrough of “coming up with stuff.” Haiku poetry, quantum physics, electric toothbrushes, Abstract Expressionism, lava lamps—the sky’s the limit! These new animals might even build a few churches and worship me, because, between us, the crocodile has been a pretty big letdown in that department.

Of course, no project is without risk. While the brain will afford these new organisms the sublime pleasures of, say, reading “Gravity’s Rainbow” and lying about having understood “Gravity’s Rainbow,” there are many potential pitfalls. Anxiety, depression, and insecurity could overwhelm the brain at any moment. Picture this: two of these mammals encounter each other in the woods. One introduces itself, only to have the other gently remind it that they’ve already met before. Now, a normal organism would not let this faux pas ruin its week. No salamander would gaze at its reflection later that night and say, “How could I forget Jennifer’s name? She probably hates me, and rightfully so, because I am worthless.”

Well, this new animal is not normal. And self-loathing is minor compared with what could happen to them. The fact is that, if I don’t design these mammals perfectly, they may well bring about their own extinction. Seriously—once they figure out the concept of “wheel,” it won’t be long before they’re burning fossil fuels and splitting the atom. This is why I’m asking for fifty thousand dollars. Anything less would force me to cut vital corners in my work, leading to a brain that has the knowledge to develop awesome technologies but not the wisdom to do so responsibly.

From: info@nsf.gov

To: flowingbeardguy@yahoo.com

Date: Aug. 10, 315,000 B.C.E., 2:20 P.M.

Subject: Re: Grant Proposal

Thank you for your proposal, Mr. Almighty. We’re prepared to offer four thousand dollars.

From: flowingbeardguy@yahoo.com

To: info@nsf.gov

Date: Aug. 10, 315,000 B.C.E., 2:23 P.M.

Subject: Re: Grant Proposal


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