Editor’s Note: Modesto Bee community columnist C.V. Allen submitted this column to editors in 2010 and again in 2015; both times, editors declined to publish. Allen, who wrote roughly 140 columns for The Bee, died on Jan. 19 in Modesto.
“Shaggy Dog Story – A long, drawn out anecdote depending for humor on an absurd or anticlimactic punch line.” – American Heritage Dictionary.
Given the re-emergence of the “Intelligent Design” issue on the pages of The Modesto Bee, it might be germane to examine what kind of proof is offered for the existence of Intelligent Design, that theory that the complexity of the universe is evidence of a designing hand. Hence a tale with a purpose, a shaggy chicken story, if you will.
It concerns Reverend Jones, who also raised chickens and was famous for claiming to own “the smartest chicken in the world.” Wherever he went, he would try to convince people of this and when they asked for an explanation he would tell this story:
“It was a cold day and my little Timmy was dressed in his coat and red scarf when he went out to play. He wandered beyond his mother’s eye and near the railroad track where he stumbled and fell, catching his coat on a nail.
“Now Timmy is a wee child and too small to free himself. Around the bend a train was coming fast. A couple of chickens were pecking for food along the track and one saw Timmy was trapped on the tracks and about to be run over. This chicken quickly ran to Timmy and with its beak tore off the red scarf and ran down the track waving it in front of the oncoming train.
“Sure enough, the trainman saw the waving scarf and slowed the train just in time to save Timmy’s life! I was just coming around the barn and saw the whole thing. If that ain’t the smartest chicken in the whole world, I’ll be danged.”
When local citizens first heard this story they expressed great skepticism, but the Reverend would become very agitated and begin to shout about God working through the chicken to save little Timmy and so forth. So after awhile they learned to stifle their laughter, turn away and say nothing.
When people came to visit, the locals would try to hide the good Rev. Jones. But soon the word spread to the nearby large city and the newspaper sent a reporter to investigate the story. He heard the tale, sat silent for a long moment and said, “I don’t believe it.”
“You of little faith,” ranted Reverend Jones, who continued but finally fell silent.
The reporter replied, “I don’t doubt God, I doubt you. There’s no story here.”
He turned to leave, but the Reverend caught his arm. “I have the proof,” he declared.
“Proof?” asked the reporter. “Show me.”
Leading the reporter down a path, he came to a small chicken coop with several chickens, each the same as the next, roosting in a row. After looking closely at all of them, the Reverend pointed to one and said, “There. It’s that one! See, it’s her, there’s proof. Now, do you believe me?”
(I told you it was a shaggy chicken story.)
Now, about Intelligent Design ...
C.V. Allen was a retired doctor in Modesto.