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2006-01-17 00:00

  "I see that."

  "Hegel's 'reason' is thus dynamic logic. Since reality is characterized by opposites, a description of reality must therefore also be full of opposites. Here is another example for you: the Danish nuclear physicist Niels Bohr is said to have told a story about Newton's having a horseshoe over his front door."

  "That's for luck."

  "But it is only a superstition, and Newton was anything but superstitious. When someone asked him if he really believed in that kind of thing, he said, 'No, I don't, but I'm told it works anyway.' "


  "But his answer was quite dialectical, a contradiction in terms, almost. Niels Bohr, who, like our own Norwegian poet Vinje, was known for his ambivalence, once said: There are two kinds of truths. There are the superficial truths, the opposite of which are obviously wrong. But there are also the profound truths, whose op-posites are equally right."

  "What kind of truths can they be?"

  "If I say life is short, for example . . ."

  "I would agree."

  "But on another occasion I could throw open my arms and say life is long."

  "You're right. That's also true, in a sense."

  "Finally I'll give you an example of how a dialectic tension can result in a spontaneous act which leads to a sudden change."

  "Yes, do."

  "Imagine a young girl who always answers her mother with Yes, Mom …… Okay, Mom …… As you wish, Mom …… At once, Mom."

  "Gives me the shudders!"

  "Finally the girl's mother gets absolutely maddened by her daughter's overobedience, and shouts: Stop being such a goody-goody! And the girl answers: Okay, Mom."

  "I would have slapped her."

  "Perhaps. But what would you have done if the girl had answered instead: But I wonf to be a goody-goody?"

  "That would have been an odd answer. Maybe I would have slapped her anyway."

  "In other words, the situation was deadlocked. The dialectic tension had come to a point where something had to happen."

  "Like a slap in the face?"

  "A final aspect of Hegel's philosophy needs to be mentioned here."

  "I'm listening."

  "Do you remember how we said that the Romantics were individualists?"

  "The path of mystery leads inwards ……"

  "This individualism also met its negation, or opposite, in Hegel's philosophy. Hegel emphasized what he called the 'objective' powers. Among such powers, Hegel emphasized the importance of the family, civil society, and the state. You might say that Hegel was somewhat skeptical of the individual. He believed that the individual was an organic part of the community. Reason, or 'world spirit/ came to light first and foremost in the interplay of people."

  "Explain that more clearly, please!"

  "Reason manifests itself above all in language. And a language is something we are born into. The Norwegian language manages quite well without Mr. Hansen, but Mr. Hansen cannot manage without Norwegian. It is thus not the individual who forms the language, it is the language which forms the individual."

  "I guess youcould say so."

  "In the same way that a baby is born into a language, it is also born into its historical background. And nobody has a 'free' relationship to that kind of background. He who does not find his place within the state is therefore an unhistorical person. This idea, you may recall, was also central for the great Athenian philosophers. Just as the state is unthinkable without citizens, citizens are unthinkable without the state."


  "According to Hegel, the state is 'more' than the individual citizen. It is moreover more than the sum of its citizens. So Hegel says one cannot 'resign from society.' Anyone who simply shrugs their shoulders at the society they live in and wants to 'find their soul/ will therefore be ridiculed."

  "I don't know whether I wholly agree, but okay."

  "According to Hegel, it is not the individual that finds itself, it is the world spirit."

  "The world spirit finds itself?"

  "Hegel said that the world spirit returns to itself in three stages. By that he means that it becomes conscious of itself in three stages."

  "Which are?"

  "The world spirit first becomes conscious of itself in the individual. Hegel calls this subjective spirit. It reaches a higher consciousness in the family, civil society, and the state. Hegel calls this objective spirit because it appears in interaction between people. But there is a third stage ……"

  "And that is …… ?"

  "The world spirit reaches the highest form of self-realization in absolute spirit. And this absolute spirit is art, religion, and philosophy. And of these, philosophy is the highest form of knowledge because in philosophy, the world spirit reflects on its own impact on history. So the world spirit first meets itself in philosophy. You could say, perhaps, that philosophy is the mirror of the world spirit."

  "This is so mysterious that I need to have time to think it over. But I liked the last bit you said."

  "What, that philosophy is the mirror of the world spirit?"

  "Yes, that was beautiful. Do you think it has anything to do with the brass mirror?"

  "Since you ask, yes."

  "What do you mean?"

  "I assume the brass mirror has some special significance since it is constantly cropping up."

  "You must have an idea what that significance is?"

  "I haven't. I merely said that it wouldn't keep coming up unless it had a special significance for Hilde and her father. What that significance is only Hilde knows."

  "Was that romantic irony?"

  "A hopeless question, Sophie."


  "Because it's not us working with these things. We are only hapless victims of that irony. If an overgrown child draws something on a piece of paper, you can't ask the paper what the drawing is supposed to represent."

  "You give me the shudders."


  …Europe is on the road to bankruptcy…

  Hilde looked at her watch. It was already past four o'clock. She laid the ring binder on her desk and ran downstairs to the kitchen. She had to get down to the boathouse before her mother got tired of waiting for her. She glanced at the brass mirror as she passed.

  She quickly put the kettle on for tea and fixed some sandwiches.

  She had made up her mind to play a few tricks on her father. Hilde was beginning to feel more and more allied with Sophie and Alberto. Her plan would start when he got to Copenhagen.

  She went down to the boathouse with a large tray.

  "Here's our brunch," she said.

  Her mother was holding a block wrapped in sandpaper. She pushed a stray lock of hair back from her forehead. There was sand in her hair too.

  "Let's drop dinner, then."

  They sat down outside on the dock and began to eat.

  "When's Dad arriving?" asked Hilde after a while.

  "On Saturday. I thought you knew that."

  "But what time? Didn't you say he was changing planes in Copenhagen?"

  "That's right.

  Her mother took a bite of her sandwich.

  "He gets to Copenhagen at about five. The plane to Kristiansand leaves at a quarter to eight. He'll probably land at Kjevik at half-past nine."

  "So he has a few hours at Kastrup ……"

  "Yes, why?"

  "Nothing. I was just wondering."

  When Hilde thought auitable interval had elapsed, she said casually, "Have you heard from Anne and Ole lately?"

  "They call from time to time. They are coming home on vacation sometime in July."

  "Not before?"

  "No, I don't think so."

  "So they'll be in Copenhagen this week…… ?"

  "Why all these questions, Hilde?"

  "No reason. Just small talk."

  "You mentioned Copenhagen twice."

  "I did?"

  "We talked about Dad touching down in ……"

  "That's probably why I thought of Anne and Ole."

  As soon as they finished eating, Hilde collected the mugs and plates on the tray.

  "I have to get on with my reading, Mom."

  "I guess you must."

  Was there a touch of reproach in her voice? They had talked about fixing up the boat together before Dad came home.

  "Dad almost made me promise to finish the book before he got home."

  "It's a little crazy. When he's away, he doesn't have to order us around back home."

  "If you only knew how much he orders people around," said Hilde enigmatically, "and you can't imagine how much he enjoys it."

  She returned to her room and went on reading.

  Suddenly Sophie heard a knock on the door. Alberto looked at her severely.

  "We don't wish to be disturbed."

  The knocking became louder.

  "I am going to tell you about a Danish philosopher who was infuriated by Hegel's philosophy," said Alberto.

  The knocking on the door grew so violent that the whole door shook.

  "It's the major, of course, sending some phantasm to see whether we swallow the bait," said Alberto. "It costs him no effort at all."

  "But if we don't open the door and see who it is, it won't cost him any effort to tear the whole place down either."

  "You might have a point there. We'd better open the door then."

  They went to the door. Since the knocking had been so forceful, Sophie expected to see a very large person. But standing on the front step was a little girl with long fair hair, wearing a blue dress. She had a small bottle in each hand. One bottle was red, the other blue.

  "Hi," said Sophie. "Who are you?"

  "My name is Alice," said the girl, curtseying shyly.

  "I thought so," said Alberto, nodding. "It's Alice in Wonderland."

  "How did she find her way to us?"

  Alice explained: "Wonderland is a completely borderless country. That means that Wonderland is everywhere——rather like the UN. It should be an honorary member of the UN. We should have representatives on all committees, because the UN also arose out of people's wonder."

  "Hm …… that major!" muttered Alberto.

  "And what brings you here?" asked Sophie.

  "I am to give Sophie these little philosophy bottles."

  She handed the bottles to Sophie. There was red liquid in one and blue in the other. The label on the red bottle read DRINK ME, and on the blue one the label read DRINK ME too.

  The next second a white rabbit came hurrying past the cabin. It walked upright on two legs and was dressed in a waistcoat and jacket. Just in front of the cabin it took a pocket watch out of its waistcoat pocket and said:

  "Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late!"

  Then it ran on. Alice began to run after it. Just before she ran into the woods, she curtsied and said, "Now it's starting again."

  "Say hello to Dinah and the Queen," Sophie called after her.

  Alberto and Sophie remained standing on the front step, examining the bottles.

  "DRINK ME and DRINK ME too," read Sophie. "I don't know if I dare. They might be poisonous."

  Alberto merely shrugged his shoulders.

  "They come from the major, and everything that comes from the major is purely in the mind. So it's only pretend-juice."

  Sophie took the cap off the red bottle and put it cautiously to her lips. The juice had a strangely sweet taste, but that wasn't all. As she drank, something started to happen to her surroundings.

  It felt as if the lake and the woods and the cabin all merged into one. Soon it seemed that everything she saw was one person, and that person was Sophie herself. She glanced up at Alberto, but he too seemed to be part of Sophie's soul.

  "Curiouser and curiouser," she said. "Everything looks like it did before, but now it's all one thing. I feel as ifeverything is one thought."

  Alberto nodded——but it seemed to Sophie that it was she nodding to herself.

  "It is Pantheism or Idealism," he said. "It is the Romantics' world spirit. They experienced everything as one big 'ego.' It is also Hegel——who was critical of the individual, and who saw everything as the expression of the one and only world reason."

  "Should I drink from the other bottle too?"

  "It says so on the label."

  Sophie took the cap off the blue bottle and took a large gulp. This juice tasted fresher and sharper than the other. Again everything around her changed suddenly.

  Instantly the effects of the red bottle disappeared and everything slid back to its normal place. Alberto was Alberto, the trees were back in the woods and the water looked like a lake again.

  But it only lasted for a second, because things went on sliding away from each other. The woods were no longer woods and every little tree now seemed like a world in itself. The tiniest twig was like a fairy-tale world about which a thousand stories could be told.

  The little lake suddenly became a boundless ocean—— not in depth or breadth, but in its glittering detail and the intricate patterns of its waves. Sophie felt she might spend a lifetime staring at this water and to her dying day it would still remain an unfathomable mystery.

  She looked up at the crown of a tree. Three little sparrows were engrossed in a curious game. Was it hide-and-seek? Sophie had known in a way that there were birds in this tree, even after she had drunk from the red bottle, but she had not really seen them properly. The red juice had erased all contrasts and all individual differences.

  Sophie jumped down from the large flat stone step they were standing on and bent over to look at the grass. There she discovered another new world——like a deep-sea diver opening his eyes under water for the first time. In amongst the twigs and straws of grass, the moss was teeming with tiny details. Sophie watched a spider make its way over the moss, surefooted and purposeful, a red plant louse running up and down a blade of grass, and a whole army of ants laboring in a united effort in the grass. But each tiny ant moved its legs in its own particular manner.

  The most curious of all was the sight that met her eyes when she stood up again and looked at Alberto, still standing on the front step of the cabin. In Alberto she now saw a wondrous person——he was like a being from another planet, or an enchanted figure out of a fairy tale. At the same time she experienced herself in a completely new way as a unique individual. She was more than just a human being, a fifteen-year-old girl. She was Sophie Amundsen, and only she was that.

  "What do you see?" asked Alberto.

  "I see that you're a strange bird."

  "You think so?"

  "I don't think I'll ever get to understand what it's like being another person. No two people in the whole world are alike."

  "And the woods?"

  "They don't seem the same any more. They're like a whole universe of wondrous tales."

  "It is as I suspected. The blue bottle is individualism. It is, for example, S0ren Kierkegaard's reaction to the idealism of the Romantics. But it also encompasses another Dane who lived at the same time as Kierkegaard, the famous fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen. He had the same sharp eye for nature's incredible richness of detail. A philosopher who saw the same thing more than a century earlier was the German Leibniz. He reacted against the idealistic philosophy of Spinoza just as Kierkegaard reacted against Hegel."

  "I hear you, but you sound so funny that I feel like laughing."

  "That's understandable, just take another sip from the red bottle. Come on, let's sit here on the step. We'll talk a bit about Kierkegaard before we stop for today."

  Sophie sat on the step beside Alberto. She drank a little from the red bottle and things began to merge together again. They actually merged rather too much; once more she got the feeling that no differences mattered at all. But she only had to touch the blue bottle to her lips again, and th world about her looked more or less as it did when Alice arrived with the two bottles.

  "But which is true?" she now asked. "Is it the red or the blue bottle that gives the true picture?"

  "Both the red and the blue, Sophie. We cannot say the Romantics were wrong in holding that there is only one reality. But maybe they were a little bit narrow in their outlook."

  "What about the blue bottle?"

  "I think Kierkegaard must have taken a few hefty swigs from that one. He certainly had a sharp eye for the significance of the individual. We are more than 'children of our time.' And moreover, every single one of us is a unique individual who only lives once."

  "And Hegel had not made much of that?"

  "No, he was more interested in the broad scope of history. This was just what made Kierkegaard so indignant. He thought that both the idealism of the Romantics and Hegel's 'historicism' had obscured the individual's responsibility for his own life. Therefore to Kierkegaard, Hegel and the Romantics were tarred with the same brush."

  "I can see why he was so mad."

  "S0ren Kierkegaard was born in 1813 and was subjected to a very severe upbringing by his father. His religious melancholia was a legacy from this father."

  "That sounds ominous."

  "It was because of this melancholia that he felt obliged to break off his engagement, something the Copenhagen bourgeoisie did not look kindly on. So from early on he became an outcast and an object of scorn. However, he gradually learned to give as good as he got, and he became increasingly what Ibsen later on described as 'an enemy of the people.' "

  "All because of a broken engagement?"

  "No, not only because of that. Toward the end of his life, especially, he became aggressively critical of society. 'The whole of Europe is on the road to bankruptcy,' he said. He believed he was living in an age utterly devoid of passion and commitment. He was particularly incensed by the vapidness of the established Danish Lutheran Church. He was merciless in his criticism of what you might call 'Sunday Christianity.' "

  "Nowadays we talk of 'confirmation Christianity.' Most kids only get confirmed because of all the presents they get."

  "Yes, you've got the point. To Kierkegaard, Christianity was both so overwhelming and so irrational that it had to be an either/or. It was not good being 'rather' or 'to some extent' religious. Because either Jesus rose on Easter Day——or he did not. And if he really did rise from the dead, if he really died for our sake——then this is so overwhelming that it must permeate our entire life."

  "Yes, I think I understand."

  "But Kierkegaard saw how both the church and people in general had a noncommittal approach to religious questions. To Kierkegaard, religion and knowledge were like fire and water. It was not enough to believe that Christianity is 'true.' Having a Christian faith meant following a Christian way of life."

  "What did that have to do with Hegel?"

  "You're right. Maybe we started at the wrong end."

  "So I suggest you go into reverse and start again."

  "Kierkegaard began his study of theology when he was seventeen, but he became increasingly absorbed in philosophical questions. When he was twenty-seven he took his master's degree with the dissertation 'On the Concept of Irony.' In this work he did battle with Romantic irony and the Romantics' uncommitted play with illusion. He posited 'Socratic irony' in contrast. Even though Socrates had made use of irony to great effect, it had the purpose of eliciting the fundamental truths about life. Unlike the Romantics, Socrates was what Kierkegaard called an 'existential' thinker. That is to say, a thinker who draws his entire existence into his philosophical reflection."


  "After breaking off his engagement in 1841, Kierkegaard went to Berlin where he attended Schelling's lectures."

  "Did he meet Hegel?"

  "No, Hegel had died ten years earlier, but his ideas were predominant in Berlin and in many parts of Europe. His 'system' was being used as a kind of all-purpose explanation for every type of question. Kierkegaard idicated that the sort of 'objective truths' that Hegelianism was concerned with were totally irrelevant to the personal life of the individual."

  "What kind of truths are relevant, then?"

  "According to Kierkegaard, rather than searching for the Truth with a capital T, it is more important to find the kind of truths that are meaningful to the individual's life. It is important to find 'the truth for me.' He thus sets the individual, or each and every man, up against the 'system.' Kierkegaard thought Hegel had forgotten that he was a man. This is what he wrote about the Hegelian professor: "While the ponderous Sir Professor explains the entire mystery of life, he has in distraction forgotten his own name; that he is a man, neither more nor less, not a fantastic three-eighths of a paragraph."

  "And what, according to Kierkegaard, is a man?"

  "It's not possible to say in general terms. A broad description of human nature or human beings was totally without interest to Kierkegaard. The only important thing was each man's 'own existence.' And you don't experience your own existence behind a desk. It's only when we act——and especially when we make significant choices——that we relate to our own existence. There is a story about Buddha that illustrates what Kierkegaard meant."

  "About Buddha?"

  "Yes, since Buddha's philosophy also took man's existence as its starting point. There was once a monk who asked Buddha if he could give clearer answers to fundamental questions on what the world is and what a man is. Buddha answered by likening the monk to a man who gets pierced by a poisoned arrow. The wounded man would have no theoretical interest in what the arrow was made of, what kind of poison it was dipped in, or which direction it came from."

  "He would most likely want somebody to pull it out and treat the wound."

  "Yes, he would. That would be existentially important to him. Both Buddha and Kierkegaard had a strong sense of only existing for a brief moment. And as I said, then you don't sit down behind a desk and philosophize about the nature of the world spirit."

  "No, of course not."

  "Kierkegaard also said that truth is 'subjective.' By this he did not mean that it doesn't matter what we think or believe. He meant that the really important truths are personal. Only these truths are 'true for me.' "

  "Could you give an example of a subjective truth?"

  "An important question is, for example, whether Christianity is true. This is not a question one can relate to theoretically or academically. For a person who 'under-stands himself in life,' it is a question of life and death. It is not something you sit and discuss for discussion's sake. It is something to be approached with the greatest passion and sincerity."


  "If you fall into the water, you have no theoretical interest in whether or not you will drown. It is neither 'interesting' nor 'uninteresting' whether there are alligators in the water. It is a question of life or death."

  "I get it, thank you very much."

  "So we must therefore distinguish between the philosophical question of whether God exists and the individual's relationship to the same question, a situation in which each and every man is utterly alone. Fundamental questions such as these can only be approached through faith. Things we can know through reason, or knowledge, are according to Kierkegaard totally unimportant."

  "I think you'd better explain that."

  "Eight plus four is twelve. We can be absolutely certain of this. That's an example of the sort of 'reasoned truth' that every philosopher since Descartes had talked about. But do we include it in our daily prayers? Is it something we will lie pondering over when we are dying? Not at all. Truths like those can be both 'objective' and 'general,' but they are nevertheless totally immaterial to each man's existence."

  "What about faith?"

  "You can never know whether a person forgives you when you wrong them. Therefore it is existentially important to you. It is a question you are intensely concerned with. Neither can you know whether a peron loves you. It's something you just have to believe or hope. But these things are more important to you than the fact that the sum of the angles in a triangle is 180 degrees. You don't think about the law of cause and effect or about modes of perception when you are in the middle of your first kiss."

  "You'd be very odd if you did."

  "Faith is the most important factor in religious questions. Kierkegaard wrote: 'If I am capable of grasping God objectively, I do not believe, but precisely because I cannot do this I must believe. If I wish to preserve myself in faith I must constantly be intent upon holding fast the objective uncertainty, so as to remain out upon the deep, over seventy thousand fathoms of water, still preserving my faith.' "

  "That's heavy stuff."

  "Many had previously tried to prove the existence of God——or at any rate to bring him within the bounds of rationality. But if you content yourself with some such proof or logical argument, you suffer a loss of faith, and with it, a loss of religious passion. Because what matters is not whether Christianity is true, but whether it is true for you. The same thought was expressed in the Middle Ages in the maxim: credo quid absurdum."

  "You don't say."

  "It means I believe because it is irrational. If Christianity had appealed to our reason, and not to other sides of us, it would not be a question of faith."

  "No, I understand that now."

  "So we have looked at what Kierkegaard meant by 'existential,' what he meant by 'subjective truth,' and what his concept of 'faith' was. These three concepts were formulated as a criticism of philosophical tradition in general, and of Hegel in particular. But they also embodied a trenchant 'social criticism.' The individual in modern urban society had become 'the public,' he said, and the predominant characteristic of the crowd, or the masses, was all their noncommittal 'talk.' Today we would probably use the word 'conformity'; that is when everybody 'thinks' and 'believes in' the same things without having any deeper feeling about it."

  "I wonder what Kierkegaard would have said to Joanna's parents."

  "He was not always kind in his judgments. He had a sharp pen and a bitter sense of irony. For example, he could say things like 'the crowd is the untruth,' or 'the truth is always in the minority/ and that most people had a superficial approach to life."

  "It's one thing to collect Barbie dolls. But it's worse to be one."

  "That brings us to Kierkegaard's theory of what he called the three stages on life's way."

  "Pardon me?"

  "Kierkegaard believed that there were three different forms of life. He himself used the term stages. He calls them the aesthetic stage, the ethical stage, and the religious stage. He used the term 'stage' to emphasize that one can live at one of the two lower stages and then suddenly leap to a higher stage. Many people live at the same stage all their life."

  "I bet there's an explanation on the way. I'm anxious to know which stage I'm at."

  "He who lives at the aesthetic stage lives for the moment and grasps every opportunity of enjoyment. Good is whatever is beautiful, satisfying, or pleasant. This person lives wholly in the world of the senses, and is a slave to his own desires and moods. Everything that is boring is bad."

  "Yes thanks, I think I know that attitude."

  "The typical Romantic is thus also the typical aesthete, since there is more to it than pure sensory enjoyment. A person who has a reflective approach to reality——or for that matter to his art or the philosophy he or she is engaged in——is living at the aesthetic stage. It is even possible to have an aesthetic, or 'reflective,' attitude to sorrow and suffering. In which case vanity has taken over. Ibsen's Peer Gynt is the portrait of a typical aesthete."

  "I think I see what you mean."

  "Do you know anyone like that?"

  "Not completely. But I think maybe it sounds a little like the major."

  "Maybe so, maybe so, Sophie …… Although that was another example of his rather sickly Romantic irony. You should wash your mouth out."


  "All rght, it wasn't your fault."

  "Keep going, then."

  "A person who lives at the aesthetic stage can easily experience angst, or a sense of dread, and a feeling of emptiness. If this happens, there is also hope. According to Kierkegaard, angst is almost positive. It is an expression of the fact that the individual is in an 'existential situation,' and can now elect to make the great leap to a higher stage. But it either happens or it doesn't. It doesn't help to be on the verge of making the leap if you don't do it completely. It is a matter of 'either/or.' But nobody can do it for you. It is your own choice."

  "It's a little like deciding to quit drinking or doing drugs."

  "Yes, it could be like that. Kierkegaard's description of this 'category of decision' can be somewhat reminiscent of Socrates' view that all true insight comes from within. The choice that leads a person to leap from an aesthetic approach to an ethical or religious approach must come from within. Ibsen depicts this in Peer Gynt. Another masterly description of how existential choice springs from inner need and despair can be found in Dosfoevsfcy's great novel Crime and Punishment."

  "The best you can do is choose a different form of life."

  "And so perhaps you will begin to live at the ethical stage. This is characterized by seriousness and consistency of moral choices. This approach is not unlike Kant's ethics of duty. You try to live by the law of morals. Kierkegaard, like Kant, drew attention first and foremost to human temperament. The important thing is not what you may think is precisely right or wrong. What matters is that you choose to have an opinion at all on what is right or wrong. The aesthete's only concern is whether something is fun or boring."

  "Isn't there a risk of becoming too serious, living like that?"

  "Decidedly! Kierkegaard never claimed that the ethical stage was satisfactory. Even a dutiful person will eventually get tired of always being dedicated and meticulous. Lots of people experience that sort of fatigue reaction late in life. Some relapse into the reflective life of their aesthetic stage.

  "But others make a new leap to the religious stage. They take the 'jump into the abyss' of Faith's 'seventy thousand fathoms.' They choose faith in preference to aesthetic pleasure and reason's call of duty. And although it can be 'terrible to jump into the open arms of the living God,' as Kierkegaard put it, it is the only path to redemption."

  "Christianity, you mean."

  "Yes, because to Kierkegaard, the religious stage was Christianity. But he also became significant to non-Christian thinkers. Existentialism, inspired by the Danish philosopher, flourished widely in the twentieth century."

  Sophie glanced at her watch.

  "It's nearly seven. I have to run. Mom will be frantic."

  She waved to the philosopher and ran down to the boat.


  … a spectre is haunting Europe…

  Hilde got off her bed and went to the window facing the bay. When she had started to read this Saturday, it was still Sophie's fifteenth birthday. The day before had been Hilde's own birthday.

  If her father had imagined that she would get as far as Sophie's birthday yesterday, he had certainly not been realistic. She had done nothing but read all day long. But he was right that there would only be one more birthday greeting. It was when Alberto and Sophie had sung Happy Birthday to her. Very embarrassing, Hilde thought.

  And now Sophie had invited people to a philosophical garden party on the very day her father was due back from Lebanon. Hilde was convinced something would happen that day which neither she nor her father were quite sure of.

  But one thing was certain: before her father got home to Bjerkely he would get a scare. That was the least she could do for Sophie and Alberto, especially after they had appealed for help ……

  Her mother was still down in the boathouse. Hilde ran downstairs to the telephone. She found Anne and Ole's number in Copenhagen and called them.

  "Anne Kvamsdal."

  "Hi, this is Hilde."

  "Oh, how are you? How are things in Lillesand?"

  "Fie, with vacation and everything. And Dad gets back from Lebanon in a week."

  "Won't that be great, Hilde!"

  "Yes, I'm looking forward to it. That's actually why I'm calling……"

  "It is?"

  "I think he's landing at Kastrup around 5 p.m. on Saturday the 23rd. Will you be in Copenhagen then?"

  "I think so."

  "I was wondering if you could do something for me."

  "Why, of course."

  "It's kind of a special favor. I'm not even sure if it's possible."

  "Now you're making me curious ……"

  Hilde began to describe her plan. She told Anne about the ring binder, about Sophie and Alberto and all the rest. She had to backtrack several times because either she or Anne were laughing too hard. But when Hilde hung up, her plan was in operation.

  She would now have to begin some preparations of her own. But there was still plenty of time.

  Hilde spent the remainder of the afternoon and the evening with her mother. They ended up driving to Kris-tiansand and going to the movies. They felt they had some catching up to do since they had not done anything special the day before. As they drove past the exit to Kjevik airport, a few more pieces of the big jigsaw puzzle Hilde was constructing fell into place.

  It was late before she went to bed that night, but she took the ring binder and read on.

  When Sophie slipped out of the den through the hedge it was almost eight o'clock. Her mother was weeding the flowerbeds by the front door when Sophie appeared.

  "Where did you spring from?"

  "I came through the hedge."

  "Through the hedge?"

  "Didn't you know there was a path on the other side?"

  "But where have you been, Sophie? This is the second time you've just disappeared without leaving any message."

  "I'm sorry, Mom. It was such a lovely day, I went for a long walk."

  Her mother rose from the pile of weeds and gave her a severe look.

  "You haven't been with that philosopher again?"

  "As a matter of fact, I have. I told you he likes going for long walks."

  "But he is coming to the garden party, isn't he?"

  "Oh yes, he's looking forward to it."

  "Me too. I'm counting the days."

  Was there a touch of sharpness in her voice? To be on the safe side, Sophie said:

  "I'm glad I invited Joanna's parents too. Otherwise it might be a bit embarrassing."

  "I don't know …… but whatever happens, I am going to have a talk with this Alberto as one adult to another."

  "You can borrow my room if you like. I'm sure you'll like him."

  "And another thing. There's a letter for you."

  "There is?"

  "It's stamped UN Battalion."

  "It must be from Alberto's brother."

  "It's got to stop, Sophie!"

  Sophie's brain worked overtime. But in a flash she hit on a plausible answer It was as though she was getting inspiration from some guiding spirit.

  "I told Alberto I collect rare postmarks. And brothers also have their uses."

  Her mother seemed to be reassured.

  "Dinner's in the fridge," she said in a slightly more amicable tone.

  "Where's the letter?"

  "On top of the fridge."

  Sophie rushed inside. The envelope was stamped June 15, 1990. She opened it and took out a little note:

  What matters our creative endless toil, When at a snatch, oblivion ends the coil?

  Indeed, Sophie had no answer to that question. Before she ate, she put the note in the closet together with all the other stuff she had collected in the past weeks. She would learn soon enough why the question had been asked.

  The following morning Joanna came by. After a game of badminton, they got down to planning the philosophical garden party. They needed to have some surprises on hand in case the party flopped at any point.

  When Sophie's mother got home from work they were still talking about it. Her mother kept saying: "Don't worry about what it costs." And she was not being sarcastic!

  Perhaps she was thinking that a "philosophical garden party" was just what was needed to bring Sophie down to earth again after her many weeks of intensive philosophical studies.

  Before the evening was over they had agreed on everything, from paper lanterns to a philosophical quiz with a prize. The prize should preferably be a book abut philosophy for young people. If there was such a thing! Sophie was not at all sure.

  Two days before Midsummer Eve, on Thursday, June 21, Alberto called Sophie again.


  "And Alberto."

  "Oh, hi! How are you?"

  "Very well indeed, thank you. I think I have found an excellent way out."

  "Way out of what?"

  "You know what. A way out of the mental captivity we have lived in for much too long."

  "Oh, that."

  "But I cannot say a word about the plan before it is set in motion."

  "Won't it be too late then? I need to know what I am involved in."

  "Now you're being na'i've. All our conversations are being overheard. The most sensible thing would be to say nothing."

  "It's as bad as that, huh?"

  "Naturally, my child. The most important things must happen when we are not talking."


  "We are living our lives in a fictional reality behind the words in a long story. Each single letter is being written on an old portable typewriter by the major. Nothing that is in print can therefore escape his attention."

  "No, I realize that. But how are we going to hide from him?"



  "There's something going on between the lines as well. That's just where I'm trying to be tricky, with every crafty ruse I know."

  "I get it."

  "But we must make the most of the time both today and tomorrow. On Saturday the balloon goes up. Can you come over right now?"

  "I'm on my way."

  Sophie fed the birds and the fish and found a large lettuce leaf for Govinda. She opened a can of cat food for Sher-ekan and put it out in a bowl on the step as she left.

  Then she slipped through the hedge and out to the path on the far side. A little way further on she suddenly caught sight of a spacious desk standing in the midst of the heather. An elderly man was sitting at it, apparently adding up figures. Sophie went over to him and asked his name.

  "Ebenezer Scrooge," he said, poring over his ledgers again.

  "My name is Sophie. You are a businessman, I presume?"

  He nodded. "And immensely rich. Not a penny must go to waste. That's why I have to concentrate on my accounts."

  "Why bother?"

  Sophie waved and walked on. But she had not gone many yards before she noticed a little girl sitting quite alone under one of the tall trees. She was dressed in rags, and looked pale and ill. As Sophie walked by, she thrust her hand into a little bag and pulled out a box of matches.

  "Will you buy some matches?" she asked, holding them out to Sophie. Sophie felt in her pockets to see if she had any money with her. Yes——she found a crown.

  "How much are they?"

  "One crown."

  Sophie gave the girl the coin and stood there, with the box of matches in her hand.

  "You are the first person to buy anything from me for over a hundred years. Sometimes I starve to death, and other times the frost does away with me."

  Sophie thought it was perhaps not surprising if the sale of matches was not especially brisk here in the woods. But then she came to think of the businessman she had just passed. There was no reason for the little match girl to die of starvation when he was so wealthy.

  "Come here," said Sophie.

  She took the girl's hand and walked with her back to the rich man.

  "You must see to it that this girl gets a better life," she said.

  The man glanced up from his paperwork and said: "That kind of thing costs money, and I said not so much as a penny must go to waste."

  "But it's not fair that you're so rich when this girl is so poor," insisted Sophie. "It's unjust!"

  "Bah! Humbug! Justice only exists between equals."

  "What do you mean by that?"

  "I had to work my way up, and it has paid off. Progress, they call it."

  "If you don't help me, I'll die," said the poor girl.

  The businessman looked up again from his ledgers. Then he threw his quill pen onto the table impatiently.

  "You don't figure in my accounts! So——be off with you——to the poorhouse!"

  "If you don't help me, I'll set fire to the woods," the girl persisted.

  That brought the man to his feet, but the girl had already struck one of her matches. She held it to a tuft of dry grass which flared up instantly. The man threw up his arms. "God help me!" he shouted. "The red cock has crowed!"

  The girl looked up at him with a playful smile.

  "You didn't know I was a communist, did you?"

  The next minute, the girl, the businessman, and the desk had disappeared. Sophie was once again standing alone while the flames consumed the dry grass ever more hungrily. It took her a while to put out the fire by stamping on it.

  Thank goodness! Sophie glanced down at the blackened grass. She was holding a box of matches in her hand.

  She couldn't have started the fire herself, could she?

  When she met Alberto outside the cabin she told him what had happened.

  "Scrooge was the miserly capitalist in A Christmas Carol, by Charles Dickens. You probably remember the little match girl from the tale by Hans Christian Andersen."

  "I didn't expect to meet them here in the woods."

  "Why not? These are no ordinary woods, and now we are going to talk about Karl Marx. It is most appropriate that you have witnessed an example of the tremendous class struggles of the mid-nineteenth century. But let's go inside. We are a little more protected from the major's interference there."

  Once again they sat at the little table by the window facing the lake. Sophie could still feel all over her body how she had experienced the little lake after having drunk from the blue bottle.

  Today, both bottles were standing on the mantelpiece. There was a miniature model of a Greek temple on the table.

  "What's that?" asked Sophie.

  "All in good time, my dear."

  Alberto began to talk: "When Kierkegaard went to Berlin in 1841, he might have sat next to Karl Marx at Schel-ling's lectures. Kierkegaard had written a master of arts thesis on Socrates. About the same time, Marx had written a doctoral thesis on Democritus and Epicurus——in other words, on the materialism of antiquity. Thus they had both staked out the course of their own philosophies."

  "Because Kierkegaard became an  existentialist and Marx became a materialist?"

  "Marx became what is known as a historical materialist. But we'll come back to that."

  "Go on."

  "Each in his own way, both Kierkegaard and Marx took Hegel's philosophy as their point of departure. Both were influenced by Hegel's mode of thought, but both rejected his 'world spirit,' or his idealism."

  "It was probably too high-flown for them."

  "Definitely. In general, we usually say that the era of the great philosophical systems ended with Hegel. After him, philosophy took a new direction. Instead of great speculative systems, we had what we call an existential philosophy or a philosophy of action. This was what Marx meant when he observed that until now, 'philosophers have only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.' These words mark a significant turning point in the history of philosophy."

  "After meeting Scrooge and the little match girl, I have no problem understanding what Marx meant."

  "Marx's thinking had a practical——or political——objective. He was not only a philosopher; he was a historian, a sociologist, and an economist."

  "And he was a forerunner in all these areas?"

  "Certainly no other philosopher had greater significance for practical politics. On the other hand, we must be wary of identifying everything that calls itself Marxism with Marx's own thinking. It is said of Marx that he only became a Marxist in the mid-1840s, but even after that he could at times feel it necessary to assert that he was not a Marxist."

  "Was Jesus a Christian?"

  "That, too, of course, is debatable."

  "Carry on."

  "Right from the start, his friend and colleague Friedrich Engels contributed to what was subsequently known as Marxism. In our own century, Lenin, Stalin, Mao and many others also made their contribution to Marxism, or Marxism-Leninism."

  "I suggest we try to stick to Marx himself. You said he was a historical materialist?"

  "He was not a philosophical materialist like the atomists of antiquity nor did he advocate the mechanical materialism of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. But he thought that, to a great extent,t was the material factors in society which determined the way we think. Material factors of that nature have certainly been decisive for historical development."

  "That was quite different from Hegel's world spirit."

  "Hegel had pointed out that historical development is driven by the tension between opposites——which is then resolved by a sudden change. Marx developed this idea further. But according to Marx, Hegel was standing on his head."

  "Not all the time, I hope."

  "Hegel called the force that drives history forward world spirit or world reason. This, Marx claimed, is upside down. He wished to show that material changes are the ones that affect history. 'Spiritual relations' do not create material change, it is the other way about. Material change creates new spiritual relations. Marx particularly emphasized that it was the economic forces in society that created change and thus drove history forward."

  "Do you have an example?"

  "Antiquity's philosophy and science were purely theoretical in purpose. Nobody was particularly interested in putting new discoveries into practice."

  "They weren't?"

  "That was because of the way the economic life of the community was organized. Production was mainly based on slave labor, so the citizens had no need to increase production with practical innovations. This is an example of how material relations help to affect philosophical reflection in society."

  "Yes, I see."

  "Marx called these material, economic, and social relations the basis of society. The way a society thinks, what kind of political institutions there are, which laws it has and, not least, what there is of religion, morals, art, philosophy, and science, Marx called society's superstructure."

  "Basis and superstructure, right."

  "And now you will perhaps be good enough to pass me the Greek temple."

  Sophie did so.

  "This is a model of the Parthenon temple on the Acropolis. You have also seen it in real life."

  "On the video, you mean."

  "You can see that the construction has a very elegant and elaborate roof. Probably the roof with its front gable is what strikes one first. This is what we call the superstructure."

  "But the roof cannot float in thin air."

  "It is supported by the columns."

  "The building has very powerful foundations——its bases——supporting the entire construction. In the same way, Marx believed that material relations support, so to speak, everything in the way of thoughts and ideas in society. Society's superstructure is in fact a reflection of the bases of that society."

  "Are you saying that Plato's theory of ideas is a reflection of vase production and wine growing?"

  "No, it's not that simple, as Marx expressly points out. It is the interactive effect of society's basis on its superstructure. If Marx had rejected this interaction, he would have been a mechanical materialist. But because Marx realized that there was an interactive or dialectic relation between bases and superstructure, we say that he is a dialectical materialist. By the way, you may care to note that Plato was neither a potter nor a wine grower."

  "All right. Do you have any more to say about the temple?"

  "Yes, a little. Could you describe the bases of the temple?"

  "The columns are standing on a base that consists of three levels——or steps."

  "In the same manner we will identify three levels in the bases of society. The most basic level is what we may call society's conditions of production. In other words, the natural conditions or resources that are available to society. These are the foundation of any society, and this foundation clearly determines the type of production in the society, and by the same token, the nature of that society and its culture in general."

  "You can't have a herring trade in the Sahara, or grow dates in northern Norway."

  "You've got it. And the way people think in a nomadic culture is very different from the way they think in a fishing village in northern Norway The next level is the society's means of production. By this Marx meant the various kinds of equipment, tools, and machinery, as well s the raw materials to be found there."

  "In the old days people rowed out to the fishing grounds. Nowadays they use huge trawlers to catch the fish."

  "Yes, and here you are talking about the next level in the base of society, namely, those who own the means of production. The division of labor, or the distribution of work and ownership, was what Marx called society's 'production relations.' "

  "I see."

  "So far we can conclude that it is the mode of production in a society which determines which political and ideological conditions are to be found there. It is not by chance that today we think somewhat differently——and have a somewhat different moral codex——from the old feudal society."

  "So Marx didn't believe in a natural right that was eternally valid."

  "No, the question of what was morally right, according to Marx, is a product of the base of society. For example, it is not accidental that in the old peasant society, parents would decide whom their children married. It was a question of who was to inherit the farm. In a modern city, social relations are different. Nowadays you can meet your future spouse at a party or a disco, and if you are sufficiently in love, you'll find somewhere to live."

  "I could never have put up with my parents deciding who I was to marry."

  "No, that's because you are a child of your time. Marx emphasized moreover that it is mainly society's ruling class that sets the norms for what is right or wrong. Because 'the history of all hitherto existing societies is the history of class struggles.' In other words, history is principally a matter of who is to own the means of production."

  "Don't people's thoughts and ideas help to change history?"

  "Yes and no. Marx understood that conditions in society's superstructure could have an interactive effect on the base of society, but he denied that society's superstructure had any independent history of its own. What has driven historical development from the slave society of antiquity to the industrial society of today has primarily been determined by changes in the base of society."

  "So you said."

  "Marx believed that in all phases of history there has been a conflict between two dominant classes of society. In antiquity's slave society, the conflict was between free citizen and slave. In the feudal society of the Middle Ages, it was between feudal lord and serf; later on, between aristocrat and citizen. But in Marx's own time, in what he called a bourgeois or capitalist society, the conflict was first and foremost between the capitalists and the workers, or the proletariat. So the conflict stood between those who own the means of production and those who do not. And since the 'upper classes' do not voluntarily relinquish their power, change can only come about through revolution."

  "What about a communist society?"

  "Marx was especially interested in the transition from a capitalist to a communist society. He also carried out a detailed analysis of the capitalist mode of production. But before we look at that, we must say something about Marx's view of man's labor."

  "Go ahead."

  "Before he became a communist, the young Marx was preoccupied with what happens to man when he works. This was something Hegel had also analyzed. Hegel believed there was an interactive, or dialectic, relationship between man and nature. When man alters nature, he himself is altered. Or, to put it slightly differently, when man works, he interacts with nature and transforms it. But in the process nature also interacts with man and transforms his consciousness."

  "Tell me what you do and I'll tell you who you are."

  "That, briefly, was Marx's point. How we work affects our consciousness, but our consciousness also affects the way we work. You could say it is an interactive relationship between hand and consciousness. Thus the way you think is closely connected to the job you do."

  "So it must be depressing to be unemployed."

  "Yes. A person who is unemployed is, in a sense, empty. Hegel was aware of this early on. To both Hegel and Marx, work was a positive thing, andwas closely connected with the essence of mankind."

  "So it must also be positive to a worker?"

  "Yes, originally. But this is precisely where Marx aimed his criticism of the capitalist method of production."

  "What was that?"

  "Under the capitalist system, the worker labors for someone else. His labor is thus something external to him——or something that does not belong to him. The worker becomes alien to his work——but at the same time also alien to himself. He loses touch with his own reality. Marx says, with a Hegelian expression, that the worker becomes alienated."

  "I have an aunt who has worked in a factory, packaging candy for over twenty years, so I can easily understand what you mean. She says she hates going to work, every single morning."

  "But if she hates her work, Sophie, she must hate herself, in a sense."

  "She hates candy, that's for sure."

  "In a capitalist society, labor is organized in such a way that the worker in fact slaves for another social class. Thus the worker transfers his own labor——and with it, the whole of his life——to the bourgeoisie."

  "Is it really that bad?"

  "We're talking about Marx, and we must therefore take our point of departure in the social conditions during the middle of the last century. So the answer must be a resounding yes. The worker could have a 12-hour working day in a freezing cold production hall. The pay was often so poor that children and expectant mothers also had to work. This led to unspeakable social conditions. In many places, part of the wages was paid out in the form of cheap liquor, and women were obliged to supplement their earnings by prostitution. Their customers were the respected citizenry of the town. In short, in the precise situation that should have been the honorable hallmark of mankind, namely work, the worker was turned into a beast of burden."

  "That infuriates me!"

  "It infuriated Marx too. And while it was happening, the children of the bourgeoisie played the violin in warm, spacious living rooms after a refreshing bath. Or they sat at the piano while waiting for their four-course dinner. The violin and the piano could have served just as well as a diversion after a long horseback ride."

  "Ugh! How unjust!"

  "Marx would have agreed. Together with Engels, he published a Communist Manifesto in 1848. The first sentence in this manifesto says: A spectre is haunting Europe——the spectre of Communism."

  "That sounds frightening."

  "It frightened the bourgeoisie too. Because now the proletariat was beginning to revolt. Would you like to hear how the Manifesto ends?"

  "Yes, please."

  "The Communists disdain to conceal their views and aims. They openly declare that their ends can be attained only by the forcible overthrow of all existing social conditions. Let the ruling classes tremble at a Communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!"

  "If conditions were as bad as you say, I think I would have signed that Manifesto. But conditions are surely a lot different today?"

  "In Norway they are, but they aren't everywhere. Many people still live under inhuman conditions while they continue to produce commodities that make capitalists richer and richer. Marx called this exploitation."

  "Could you explain that word, please?"

  "If a worker produces a commodity, this commodity has a certain exchange-value."


  "If you now deduct the workers' wages and the other production costs from the exchange-value, there will always be a certain sum left over. This sum was what Marx called profit. In other words, the capitalist pockets a value that was actually created by the worker. That is what is meant by exploitation."

  "I see."

  "So now the capitalist invests some of his profit in new capital——for instance, in modernizing the production plant in the hope of producing his commodity even more cheaply, and thereby increasing his profit in the future."

  "That sounds logical."

  "Yes, it can seem logical. But both in this and in other areas, in the long term it will not go theway the capitalist has imagined."

  "How do you mean?"

  "Marx believed there were a number of inherent contradictions in the capitalist method of production. Capitalism is an economic system which is self-destructive because it lacks rational control."

  "That's good, isn't it, for the oppressed?"

  "Yes; it is inherent in the capitalist system that it is marching toward its own destruction. In that sense, capitalism is 'progressive' because it is a stage on the way to communism."

  "Can you give an example of capitalism being self-destructive?"

  "We said that the capitalist had a good surplus of money, and he uses part of this surplus to modernize the factory. But he also spends money on violin lessons. Moreover, his wife has become accustomed to a luxurious way of life."

  "No doubt."

  "He buys new machinery and so no longer needs so many employees. He does this to increase his competitive power."

  "I get it."

  "But he is not the only one thinking in this way, which means that production as a whole is continually being made more effective. Factories become bigger and bigger, and are gradually concentrated in fewer and fewer hands. What happens then, Sophie?"

  "Er. . ."

  "Fewer and fewer workers are required, which means there are more and more unemployed. There are therefore increasing social problems, and crises such as these are a signal that capitalism is marching toward its own destruction. But capitalism has a number of other self-destructive elements. Whenever profit has to be tied up in the means of production without leaving a big enough surplus to keep production going at competitive prices . . ."


  ", . . what does the capitalist do then? Can you tell me?"

  "No, I'm afraid I can't."

  "Imagine if you were a factory owner. You cannot make ends meet. You cannot buy the raw materials you need to keep producing. You are facing bankruptcy. So now my question is, what can you do to economize?"

  "Maybe I could cut down on wages?"

  "Smart! Yes, that really is the smartest thing you could do. But if all capitalists were as smart as you——and they are——the workers would be so poor that they couldn't afford to buy goods any more. We would say that purchasing power is falling. And now we really are in a vicious circle. The knell has sounded for capitalist private property, Marx would say. We are rapidly approaching a revolutionary situation."

  "Yes, I see."

  "To make a long story short, in the end the proletariat rises and takes over the means of production."

  "And then what?"

  "For a period, we get a new 'class society' in which the proletarians suppress the bourgeoisie by force. Marx called this the dictatorship of the proletariat. But after a transition period, the dictatorship of the proletariat is replaced by a 'classless society,' in which the means of production are owned 'by all'——that is, by the people themselves. In this kind of society, the policy is 'from each according to his abilities, to each according to his needs.' Moreover, labor now belongs to the workers themselves and capitalism's alienation ceases."

  "It all sounds wonderful, but what actually happened? Was there a revolution?"

  "Yes and no. Today, economists can establish that Marx was mistaken on a number of vital issues, not least his analysis of the crises of capitalism. And he paid insufficient attention to the plundering of the natural environment——the serious consequences of which we are experiencing today. Nevertheless . . ."


  "Marxism led to great upheavals. There is no doubt that socialism has largely succeeded in combating an inhumane society. In Europe, at any rate, we live in a society with more justice——and more solidarity——than Marx did. This is not least due to Marx himself and the entire socialist movement."

  "What happened?"

  "After Marx, the socialist movement split into two main streams, Social Democracy and Leninism. Social Democracy, which has stood for a gradual and peaceful path in the direction of socialism, was Western Europe's way. We might call this the slow revolution. Leninism, which retained Marx's beief that revolution was the only way to combat the old class society, had great influence in Eastern Europe, Asia, and Africa. Each in their own way, both movements have fought against hardship and oppression."

  "But didn't it create a new form of oppression? For example in Russia and Eastern Europe?"

  "No doubt of that, and here again we see that everything man touches becomes a mixture of good and evil. On the other hand, it would be unreasonable to blame Marx for the negative factors in the so-called socialist countries fifty or a hundred years after his death. But maybe he had given too little thought to the people who would be the administrators of communist society. There will probably never be a 'promised land.' Mankind will always create new problems to fight about."

  "I'm sure it will."

  "And there we bring down the curtain on Marx, Sophie."

  "Hey, wait a minute! Didn't you say something about justice only existing among equals?"

  "No, it was Scrooge who said that."

  "How do you know what he said?"

  "Oh well——you and I have the same author. In actual fact we are more closely linked to each other than we would appear to the casual observer."

  "Your wretched irony again!"

  "Double, Sophie, that was double irony."

  "But back to justice. You said that Marx thought capitalism was an unjust form of society. How would you define a just society?"

  "A moral philosopher called John Rawls attempted to say something about it with the following example: Imagine you were a member of a distinguished council whose task it was to make all the laws for a future society."

  "I wouldn't mind at all being on that council."

  "They are obliged to consider absolutely every detail, because as soon as they reach an agreement——and everybody has signed the laws——they will all drop dead."

  "Oh . . ."

  "But they will immediately come to life again in the society they have legislated for. The point is that they have no idea which position they will have in society."

  "Ah, I see."

  "That society would be a just society. It would have arisen among equals."

  "Men and women!"

  "That goes without saying. None of them knew whether they would wake up as men or women. Since the odds are fifty-fifty, society would be just as attractive for women as for men."

  "It sounds promising."

  "So tell me, was the Europe of Karl Marx a society like that?"

  "Absolutely not!"

  "But do you by any chance know of such a society today?"

  "Hm …… that's a good question." "Think about it. But for now there will be no more about Marx." "Excuse me?" "Next chapter!"


  …a ship sailing through life with a cargo of genes…

  Hilde was awakened on Sunday morning by a loud bump. It was the ring binder falling on the floor. She had been lying in bed reading about Sophie and Alber-to's conversation on Marx and had fallen asleep. The reading lamp by the bed had been on all night.

  The green glowing digits on her desk alarm clock showed 8:59.

  She had been dreaming about huge factories and polluted cities; a little girl sitting at a street corner selling matches——well-dressed people in long coats passing by without as much as a glance.

  When Hilde sat up in bed she remembered the legislators who were to wake up in a society they themselves had created. Hilde was glad she had woken up in Bjer-kely, at any rate.

  Would she have dared to wake up in Norway without knowing whereabouts in Norway she would wake up?

  But it was not only a question of where she would wake up. Could she not just as easily have woken up in a different age? In the Middle Ages, for instance——or in the Stone Age ten or twenty thousand years ago? Hilde tried to imagine herself sitting at the entrance to a cave, scraping an animal hide, perhaps.

  What could it have been like to be a fifteen-year-old girl before there was anything called a culture? How would she have thought? Could she have had thoughts at all?

  Hilde pulled on a sweater, heaved the ring binder onto the bed and settled down to read the next chapter.

  Alberto had just said "Next chapter!" when somebody knocked on the door of the major's cabi.

  "We don't have any choice, do we?" said Sophie.

  "No, I suppose we don't," said Alberto.

  On the step outside stood a very old man with long white hair and a beard. He held a staff in one hand, and in the other a board on which was painted a picture of a boat The boat was crowded with all kinds of animals. "And who is this elderly gentleman?" asked Alberto.

  "My name is Noah."

  "I guessed as much."

  "Your oldest ancestor, my son. But it is probably no longer fashionable to recognize one's ancestors."

  "What is that in your hand?" asked Sophie.

  "This is a picture of all the animals that were saved from the Flood. Here, my daughter, it is for you."

  Sophie took the large board.

  "Well, I'd better go home and tend the grapevines," the old man said, and giving a little jump, he clicked his heels together in the air and skipped merrily away into the woods in the manner peculiar to very old men now and then.

  Sophie and Alberto went inside and sat down again. Sophie began to look at the picture, but before she had a chance to study it, Alberto took it from her with an authoritative grasp.

  "We'll concentrate on the broad outlines first."

  "Okay, okay."

  "I forgot to mention that Marx lived the last 34 years of his life in London. He moved there in 1849 and died in 1883. All that time Charles Darwin was living just outside London. He died in 1882 and was buried with great pomp and ceremony in Westminster Abbey as one of England's distinguished sons. So Marx and Darwin's paths crossed, but not only in time and space. Marx wanted to dedicate the English edition of his greatest work, Capital, to Darwin, but Darwin declined the honor. When Marx died the year after Darwin, his friend Friedrich En-gels said: As Darwin discovered the theory of organic evolution, so Marx discovered the theory of mankind's historical evolution."

  "I see."

  "Another great thinker who was to link his work to Darwin was the psychologist Sigmund Freud. He also lived his last years in London. Freud said that both Darwin's theory of evolution and his own psychoanalysis had resulted in an affront to mankind's naive egoism."

  "That was a lot of names at one time. Are we talking about Marx, Darwin, or Freud?"

  "In a broader sense we can talk about a naturalistic current from the middle of the nineteenth century until quite far into our own. By 'naturalistic' we mean a sense of reality that accepts no other reality than nature and the sensory world. A naturalist therefore also considers mankind to be part of nature. A naturalistic scientist will exclusively rely on natural phenomena——not on either rationalistic suppositions or any form of divine revelation."

  "And that applies to Marx, Darwin, and Freud?"

  "Absolutely. The key words from the middle of the last century were nature, environment, history, evolution, and growth. Marx had pointed out that human ideologies were a product of the basis of society. Darwin showed that mankind was the result of a slow biological evolution, and Freud's studies of the unconscious revealed that people's actions were often the result of 'animal' urges or instincts."

  "I think I understand more or less what you mean by naturalistic, but isn't it best we talk about one person at a time?"

  "We'll talk about Darwin, Sophie. You may recall that the pre-Socratics looked for natural explanations of the processes of nature. In the same way that they had to distance themselves from ancient mythological explanations, Darwin had to distance himself from the church's view of the creation of man and beast."

  "But was he a real philosopher?"

  "Darwin was a biologist and a natural scientist. But he was also the scientist of recent times who has most openly challenged the Biblical view of man's place in Creation."

  "So you'll have to say something about Darwin's theory of evolution."

  "Let's begin with Darwin the man. He was born in the little town of Shrewsbury in 1809. His father, Dr. Robert Darwin, was a renowned local physician, and very strict about his son's upbringing. When Charles was a pupil at the local grammar school, his headmster described him as a boy who was always flying around, fooling about with stuff and nonsense, and never doing a stroke of anything that was the slightest bit useful. By 'useful,' the headmaster meant cramming Greek and Latin verbs. By 'flying around,' he was referring among other things to the fact that Charles clambered around collecting beetles of all kinds."

  "I'll bet he came to regret those words."

  "When he subsequently studied theology, Charles was far more interested in bird-watching and collecting insects, so he did not get very good grades in theology. But while he was still at college, he gained himself a reputation as a natural scientist, not least due to his interest in geology, which was perhaps the most expansive science of the day. As soon as he had graduated in theology at Cam-bridge in April 1831, he went to North Wales to study rock formations and to search for fossils. In August of the same year, when he was barely twenty-two years old, he received a letter which was to determine the course of his whole life . . ."

  "What was the letter about?"

  "It was from his friend and teacher, John Steven Hens-low. He wrote: 'I have been requested to …… recommend a naturalist to go as companion to Captain Fitzroy, who has been commissioned by the government to survey the southern coasts of South America. I have stated that I consider you to be the best qualified person I know of who is likely to undertake such a situation. As far as the financial side of it is concerned, I have no notion. The voyage is to last two years …… ' "

  "How can you remember all that by heart?"

  "A bagatelle, Sophie."

  "And what did he answer?"

  "He wished ardently to grasp the chance, but in those days young men did nothing without their parents' consent. After much persuasion, his father finally agreed—— and it was he who financed his son's voyage. As far as the 'financial side' went, it was conspicuous by its absence."


  "The ship was the naval vessel HMS Beagle. It sailed from Plymouth on December 27, 1831, bound for South America, and it did not return until October of 1836. The two years became five and the voyage to South America turned into a voyage round the world. And now we come to one of the most important voyages of discovery in recent times."

  "They sailed all the way round the world?"

  "Yes, quite literally. From South America they sailed on across the Pacific to New Zealand, Australia, and South Africa. Then they sailed back to South America before setting sail for England. Darwin wrote that the voyage on board the Beagle was without doubt the most significant event in his life."

  "It couldn't have been easy to be a naturalist at sea."

  "For the first years, the Beagle sailed up and down the coast of South America. This gave Darwin plenty of opportunity to familiarize himself with the continent, also inland. The expedition's many forays into the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific west of South America were of decisive significance as well. He was able to collect and send to England vast amounts of material. However, he kept his reflections on nature and the evolution of life to himself. When he returned home at the age of twenty-seven, he found himself renowned as a scientist. At that point he had an inwardly clear picture of what was to become his theory of evolution. But he did not publish his main work until many years after his return, for Darwin was a cautious man——as is fitting for a scientist."

  "What was his main work?"

  "Well, there were several, actually. But the book-which gave rise to the most heated debate in England was The Origin of Species, published in 1859. Its full title was On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life. The long title is actually a complete resume of Darwin's theory."

  "He certainly packed a lot into one title."

  "But let's take it piece by piece. In The Origin of Species, Darwin advanced two theories or main theses: first, he proposed that all existing vegetable and animal forms were descended from earler, more primitive forms by way of a biological evolution. Secondly, that evolution was the result of natural selection."

  "The survival of the fittest, right?"

  "That's right, but let us first concentrate on the idea of evolution. This, in itself, was not all that original. The idea of biological evolution began to be widely accepted in some circles as early as 1800. The leading spokesman for this idea was the French zoologist Lamarck. Even before him, Darwin's own grandfather, Erasmus Darwin, had suggested that plants and animals had evolved from some few primitive species. But none of them had come up with an acceptable explanation as to how this evolution happened. They were therefore not considered by churchmen to be any great threat."

  "But Darwin was?"

  "Yes, indeed, and not without reason. Both in ecclesiastic and scientific circles, the Biblical doctrine of the immutability of all vegetable and animal species was strictly adhered to. Each and every form of animal life had been created separately once and for all. This Christian view was moreover in harmony with the teachings of Plato and Aristotle."

  "How so?"

  "Plato's theory of ideas presupposed that all animal species were immutable because they were made after patterns of eternal ideas or forms. The immutability of animal species was also one of the cornerstones of Aristotle's philosophy. But in Darwin's time there were a number of observations and finds which were putting traditional beliefs to the test."

  "What kind of observations and finds were they?"

  "Well, to begin with an increasing number of fossils were being dug out. There were also finds of large fossil bones from extinct animals. Darwin himself was puzzled to find traces of sea creatures far inland. In South America he made similar discoveries high up in the mountains of the Andes. What is a sea creature doing in the Andes, Sophie? Can you tell me that?"


  "Some believed that they had just been thrown away there by humans or animals. Others believed that God had created these fossils and traces of sea creatures to lead the ungodly astray."

  "But what did scientists believe?"

  "Most geologists swore to a 'catastrophe theory/ according to which the earth had been subjected to gigantic floods, earthquakes, and other catastrophes that had destroyed all life. We read of one of these in the Bible——the Flood and Noah's Ark. After each catastrophe, God renewed life on earth by creating new——and more perfect—— plants and animals."

  "So the fossils were imprints of earlier life forms that had been wiped out after these gigantic catastrophes?"

  "Precisely. For example, it was thought that fossils were imprints of animals that had failed to get into the Ark. But when Darwin set sail on the Beagle, he had with him the first volume of the English biologist Sir Charles Lyell's Principles of Geology. Lyell held that the present geology of the earth, with its mountains and valleys, was the result of an interminably long and gradual evolution. His point was that even quite small changes could cause huge geological upheavals, considering the aeons of time that have elapsed."

  "What kind of changes was he thinking of?"

  "He was thinking of the same forces that prevail today: wind and weather, melting ice, earthquakes, and elevations of the ground level. You've heard the saying about a drop of water wearing away a stone——not by brute force, but by continuous dripping. Lyell believed that similar tiny and gradual changes over the ages could alter the face of nature completely. However, this theory alone could not explain why Darwin found the remains of sea creatures high up in the Andes. But Darwin always remembered that tiny gradual changes could result in dramatic alterations if they were given sufficient time."

  "I suppose he thought the same explanation could be used for the evolution of animals."

  "Yes, that was his thought. But as I said before, Darwin was a cautious man. He posed questions long before he ventured to answer them. In that sense he used the same method as all true philosophers: it is imporant to ask but there is no haste to provide the answer."

  "Yes, I see."

  "A decisive factor in Lyell's theory was the age of the earth. In Darwin's time, it was widely believed that about 6,000 years had elapsed since God created the earth. That figure had been arrived at by counting the generations since Adam and Eve."

  "How naive!"

  "Well, it's easy to be wise after the event. Darwin figured the age of the earth to be 300 million years. Because one thing, at least, was clear: neither Lyell's theory of gradual geological evolution nor Darwin's own theory of evolution had any validity unless one reckoned with tremendously long periods of time."

  "How old is the earth?"

  "Today we know that the earth is 4.6 billion years old."


  "Up to now, we have looked at one of Darwin's arguments for biological evolution, namely, the stratified deposits of fossils in various layers of rock. Another argument was the geographic distribution of living species. This was where Darwin's scientific voyage could contribute new and extremely comprehensive data. He had seen with his own eyes that the individuals of a single species of animal within the same region could differ from each other in only the minutest detail. He made some very interesting observations on the Galapagos Islands, west of Ecuador, in particular."

  "Tell me about them."

  "The Galapagos Islands are a compact group of volcanic islands. There were therefore no great differences in the plant and animal life there. But Darwin was interested in the tiny differences. On all the islands, he came across giant tortoises that were slightly different from one island to another. Had God really created a separate race of tortoises for each and every island?"

  "It's doubtful."

  "Darwin's observations of bird life on the Galapagos were even more striking. The Galapagos finches were clearly varied from island to island, especially as regards the shape of the beak. Darwin demonstrated that these variations were closely linked to the way the finches found their food on the different islands. The ground finches with steeply profiled beaks lived on pine cone seeds, the little warbler finches lived on insects, and the tree finches lived on termites extracted from bark and branches …… Each and every one of the species had a beak that was perfectly adapted to its own food intake. Could all these finches be descended from one and the same species? And had the finches adapted to their surroundings on the different islands over the ages in such a way that new species of finches evolved?"

  "That was the conclusion he came to, wasn't it?"

  "Yes. Maybe that was where Darwin became a 'Darwinist'——on the Galapagos Islands. He also observed that the fauna there bore a strong resemblance to many of the species he had seen in South America. Had God once and for all really created all these animals slightly different from each other——or had an evolution taken place? Increasingly, he began to doubt that all species were immutable. But he still had no viable explanation as to how such an evolution had occurred. But there was one more factor to indicate that all the animals on earth might be related."

  "And what was that?"

  "The development of the embryo in mammals. If you compare the embryos of dogs, bats, rabbits, and humans at an early stage, they look so alike that it is hard to tell the difference. You cannot distinguish a human embryo from a rabbit embryo until a very late stage. Shouldn't this indicate that we are distant relatives?"

  "But he had still no explanation of how evolution happened?"

  "He pondered constantly on [yell's theory of the minute changes that could have great effect over a long period of time. But he could find no explanation that would apply as a general principle. He was familiar with the theory of the French zoologist Lamarck, who had shown that the different species had developed the characteristics they needed. Giraffes, for example, had developed long necks because for generations they had reached up for leaves in the trees. Lamarck believed that the characteristics ach individual acquires through his own efforts are passed on to the next generation. But this theory of the heredity of 'acquired characteristics' was rejected by Darwin because Lamarck had no proof of his bold claims. However, Darwin was beginning to pursue another, much more obvious line of thought. You could almost say that the actual mechanism behind the evolution of species was right in front of his very nose."

  "So what was it?"

  "I would rather you worked the mechanism out for yourself. So I ask: If you had three cows, but only enough fodder to keep two of them alive, what would you do?"

  "I suppose I'd have to slaughter one of them."

  "All right…… which one would you slaughter?"

  "I suppose I'd slaughter the one that gave the least milk."

  "Would you?"

  "Yes, that's logical, isn't it?"

  "That is exactly what mankind had done for thousands of years. But we haven't finished with your two cows yet. Suppose you wanted one of them to calve. Which one would you choose?"

  "The one that was the best milker. Then its calf would probably be a good milker too."

  "You prefer good milkers to bad, then. Now there's one more question. If you were a hunter and you had two gundogs, but had to give up one of them, which one would you keep?"

  "The one that's best at finding the kind of game I shoot, obviously."

  "Quite so, you would favor the better gundog. That's exactly how people have bred domestic animals for more than ten thousand years, Sophie. Hens did not always lay five eggs a week, sheep did not always yield as much wool, and horses were not always as strong and swift as they are now. Breeders have made an artificial selection. The same applies to the vegetable kingdom. You don't plant bad potatoes if there are good seed potatoes available, and you don't waste time cutting wheat that yields no grain. Darwin pointed out that no cows, no stalks of wheat, no dogs, and no finches are completely alike. Nature produces an enormous breadth of variation. Even within the same species, no two individuals are exactly alike. You probably experienced that for yourself when you drank the blue liquid."

  "I'll say."

  "So now Darwin had to ask himself: could a similar mechanism be at work in nature too? Is it possible that nature makes a 'natural selection' as to which individuals are to survive? And could such a selection over a very long period of time create new species of flora and fauna?"

  "I would guess the answer is yes."

  "Darwin could still not quite imagine how such a natural selection could take place. But in October 1838, exactly two years after his return on the Beagle, he chanced to come across a little book by the specialist in population studies, Thomas Malthus. The book was called An Essay on the Principle of Population. Malthus got the idea for this essay from Benjamin Franklin, the American who in-vented the lightning conductor among other things. Franklin had made the point that if there were no limiting factors in nature, one single species of plant or animal would spread over the entire globe. But because there are many species, they keep each other in balance."

  "I can see that."

  "Malthus developed this idea and applied it to the world's population. He believed that mankind's ability to procreate is so great that there are always more children born than can survive. Since the production of food can never keep pace with the increase in population, he believed that huge numbers were destined to succumb in the struggle for existence. Those who survived to grow up—— and perpetuate the race——would therefore be those who came out best in the struggle for survival."

  "That sounds logical."

  "But this was actually the universal mechanism that Darwin had been searching for. Here was the explanation of how evolution happens. It was due to natural selection in the struggle for life, in which those that were best adapted to their surroundings would survive and perpetuate the race. This was the second theory which he proposed in The Origin of Species. He wrote: The elephant is reck-oned the slowest breeder of all known animas,' but if it had six young and survived to a hundred, 'after a period of from 740 to 750 years there would be nearly nineteen million elephants alive, descended from the first pair.' "

  "Not to mention all the thousands of cods' eggs from a single cod."

  "Darwin further proposed that the struggle for survival is frequently hardest among species that resemble each other the most. They have to fight for the same food. There, the slightest advantage——that is to say, the infinitesimal variation——truly comes into its own. The more bitter the struggle for survival, the quicker will be the evolution of new species, so that only the very best adapted will survive and the others will die out."

  "The less food there is and the bigger the brood, the quicker evolution happens?"

  "Yes, but it's not only a question of food. It can be just as vital to avoid being eaten by other animals. For example, it can be a matter of survival to have a protective camouflage, the ability to run swiftly, to recognize hostile animals, or, if the worst comes to the worst, to have a repellent taste. A poison that can kill predators is quite useful too. That's why so many cacti are poisonous, Sophie. Practically nothing else can grow in the desert, so this plant is especially vulnerable to plant-eating animals."

  "Most cacti are prickly as well."

  "The ability to reproduce is also of fundamental importance, obviously. Darwin studied the ingenuity of plant pollination in great detail. Flowers glow in glorious hues and exude delirious scents to attract the insects which are instrumental in pollination. To perpetuate their kind, birds trill their melodious tones. A placid or melancholy bull with no interest in cows will have no interest for genealogy either, since with characteristics like these, its line will die out at once. The bull's sole purpose in life is to grow to sexual maturity and reproduce in order to propagate the race. It is rather like a relay race. Those that for one reason or another are unable to pass on their genes are continually discarded, and in that way the race is continually refined. Resistance to disease is one of the most important characteristics progressively accumulated and preserved in the variants that survive."

  "So everything gets better and better?"

  "The result of this continual selection is that the ones best adapted to a particular environment——or a particular ecological niche——will in the long term perpetuate the race in that environment. But what is an advantage in one environment is not necessarily an advantage in another. For some of the Galapagos finches, the ability to fly was vital. But being good at flying is not so necessary if food is dug from the ground and there are no predators. The reason why so many different animal species have arisen over the ages is precisely because of these many niches in the natural environment."

  "But even so, there is only one human race."

  "That's because man has a unique ability to adapt to different conditions of life. One of the things that amazed Darwin most was the way the Indians in Tierra del Fuego managed to live under such terrible climatic conditions. But that doesn't mean that all human beings are alike. Those who live near the equator have darker skins than people in the more northerly climes because their dark skin protects them from the sun. White people who expose themselves to the sun for long periods are more prone to skin cancer."

  "Is it a similar advantage to have white skin if you live in northern countries?"

  "Yes, otherwise everyone on earth would be dark-skinned. But white skin more easily forms sun vitamins, and that can be vital in areas with very little sun. Nowa-days that is not so important because we can make sure we have enough sun vitamins in our diet. But nothing in nature is random. Everything is due to infinitesimal changes that have taken effect over countless generations."

  "Actually, it's quite fantastic to imagine."

  "It is indeed. So far, then, we can sum up Darwin's theory of evolution in a few sentences."

  "Go ahead!"

  "We can say that he 'raw material' behind the evolution of life on earth was the continual variation of individuals within the same species, plus the large number of progeny, which meant that only a fraction of them survived, the actual 'mechanism,' or driving force, behind evolution was thus the natural selection in the struggle for survival. This selection ensured that the strongest, or the 'fittest,' survived."

  "It seems as logical as a math sum. How was The Origin of Species received?"

  "It was the cause of bitter controversies. The Church protested vehemently and the scientific world was sharply divided. That was not really so surprising. Darwin had, after all, distanced God a good way from the act of creation, although there were admittedly some who claimed it was surely greater to have created something with its own innate evolutionary potential than simply to create a fixed entity."

  Suddenly Sophie jumped up from her chair.

  "Look out there!" she cried.

  She pointed out of the window. Down by the lake a man and a woman were walking hand in hand. They were completely naked.

  "That's Adam and Eve," said Alberto. "They were gradually forced to throw in their lot with Little Red Rid-inghood and Alice in Wonderland. That's why they have turned up here."

  Sophie went to the window to watch them, but they soon disappeared among the trees.

  "Because Darwin believed that mankind was descended from animals?"

  "In 1871 Darwin published The Descent of Man, in which he drew attention to the great similarities between humans and animals, advancing the theory that men and anthropoid apes must at one time have evolved from the same progenitor. By this time the first fossil skulls of an extinct type of man had been found, first in the Rock of Gibraltar and some years later in Neanderthal in Germany. Strangely enough, there were fewer protests in T871 than in 1859, when Darwin published The Origin of Species. But man's descent from animals had been implicit in the first book as well. And as I said, when Darwin died in 1882, he was buried with all the ceremony due to a pioneer of science."

  "So in the end he found honor and dignity?"

  "Eventually, yes. But not before he had been described as the most dangerous man in England."

  "Holy Moses!"

  " 'Let us hope it is not true,' wrote an upper-class lady, 'but if it is, let us hope it will not be generally known.' A distinguished scientist expressed a similar thought: 'An embarrassing discovery, and the less said about it the better.' "

  "That was almost proof that man is related to the ostrich!"

  "Good point. But that's easy enough for us to say now. People were suddenly obliged to revise their whole approach to the Book of Genesis. The young writer John Ruskin put it like this: 'If only the geologists would leave me alone. After each Bible verse I hear the blows of their hammers.' "

  "And the blows of the hammers were his doubts about the word of God?"

  "That was presumably what he meant. Because it was more than the literal interpretation of the story of creation that toppled. The essence of Darwin's theory was the utterly random variations which had finally produced Man. And what was more, Darwin had turned Marv into a product of something as unsentimental as the struggle for existence."

  "Did Darwin have anything to say about how such random variations arose?"

  "You've put your finger on the weakest point in his theory. Darwin had only the vaguest idea of heredity. Something happens in the crossing. A father and mother never get two identical offspring. There is always some slight difference. On the other hand it's difficult to produce anything really new in that way. Moreover, there are plants and animals which reproduce by budding or by simple cell division. On the question of how the variations arise, Darwin's theory has been supplemented by the so-called neo-Darwinism."

  "What's that?"

  "All life and all reproduction is basically a matter of cell division. When a cell divides into two, two identical cells are produced with exactly the same hereditary factors. In cell division, then, we say acell copies itself."


  "But occasionally, infinitesimal errors occur in the process, so that the copied cell is not exactly the same as the mother cell. In modern biological terms, this is a mutation. Mutations are either totally irrelevant, or they can lead to marked changes in the behavior of the individual. They can be directly harmful, and such 'mutants' will be continually discarded from the large broods. Many diseases are in fact due to mutations. But sometimes a mutation can give an individual just that extra positive characteristic needed to hold its own in the struggle for existence."

  "Like a longer neck, for instance?"

  "Lamarck's explanation of why the giraffe has such a long neck was that giraffes have always had to reach upwards. But according to Darwinism, no such inherited characteristic would be passed on. Darwin believed that the giraffe's long neck was the result of a variation. Neo-Darwinism supplemented this by showing a clear cause of just that particular variation."


  "Yes. Absolutely random changes in hereditary factors supplied one of the giraffe's ancestors with a slightly longer neck than average. When there was a limited supply of food, this could be vital enough. The giraffe that could reach up highest in the trees managed best. We can also imagine how some such 'primal giraffes' evolved the ability to dig in the ground for food. Over a very long period of time, an animal species, now long extinct, could have divided itself into two species. We can take some more recent examples of the way natural selection can work."

  "Yes, please."

  "In Britain there is a certain species of butterfly called the peppered moth, which lives on the trunks of silver birches. Back in the eighteenth century, most peppered moths were silvery gray. Can you guess why, Sophie?"

  "So they weren't so easy for hungry birds to spot."

  "But from time to time, due to quite chance mutations, some darker ones were born. How do you think these darker variants fared?"

  "They were easier to see, so they were more easily snapped up by hungry birds."

  "Yes, because in that environment——where the birch trunks were silver——the darker hue was an unfavorable characteristic. So it was always the paler peppered moths that increased in number. But then something happened in that environment. In several places, the silvery trunks became blackened by industrial soot. What do you think happened to the peppered moths then?"

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