Frank Maguire
Nothing plus nothing means nothing
By Frank Maguire
May 27, 2010

Professor Darwin Tadpole arose to a London overcast, and he prayed it would not rain.

The Professor was taking his great-grandson to a matinee performance of the world's greatest magician, Pandit Haruspex Dinhooi, famed conjurer and transcendentalist.

Professor Tadpole's eight year-old great-grandson Huxley Spencer Tadpole, "Hux," for short, is a precocious young student at a prestigious school — the Tadpole-Gradgrind Academy of Scientistic Rationalism — and Tadpole's pride and joy. "Hux" called his beloved great-grandfather "Great Taddy." It was touching to see them together.

Young "Hux" was amazed at the wondrous things of which Dinhooi was capable. One second a container was empty, and presto-chango then it was full of wonderful flowers. "Hux" strenuously applauded, saying "Did you see that, Great Taddy? He started with nothing and made flowers!" His great-grandfather smiled, knowingly, and patted 'Hux" upon his curly head.

Then, mirabile dictu, the magician put a monkey into a footlocker which was chained shut. Dinhooi waved his magical hands, there was a big bang and much smoke, and when Dinhooi opened the locker, out stepped a beautiful, young woman. "Hux" could not restrain himself, but leapt to his feet with "bravo, bravo!"

On the way to their home in Tavistock Crescent, the professor was confronted by a barrage of ecstatic statements and questions by "Hux."

"Great Taddy, isn't it brilliant? Pandit produced flowers from nothing. Then — I still can't believe it — he changed a monkey into a beautiful young woman." ("Hux" was precocious, after all.)

Professor Tadpole found the opportunity a proper time to guide his grandson in the ways of Scientistic Rationalism. "Dearest 'Hux,' I must advise you that Pandit Haruspex Dinhooi is a conjurer. He performs marvelous tricks of thaumaturgy. Repeat after me, 'Hux,' thaumaturgy."

"," said "Hux," very clearly. "But what does thaumaturgy mean, Great Taddy?"

"It's an early seventeenth-century word that means "the performance of miracles" — that Pandit's magical tricks deceive the senses. Your eye is too slow to see the sleight-of-hand, and your brain, then, believes that what you thought you saw is real. It isn't."

Disappointed, "Hux" said, "You mean, Great Taddy, that Pandit did not make something out of nothing...or change the monkey into a beautiful young lady?"

"That's correct, 'Hux.' It's not rational to believe, in a scientific world, that material things can just appear from nothing."

This gave little "Hux" much to think about. He sat, pensively, until they arrived at Tavistock Crescent.

The Professor said, "'Hux,' you'll have to go into your house by yourself, for I must keep this hackney and get to a lecture I am giving to the Tadpole-Gradgrind. Faculty.

"Can't I go with you?" asked "Hux."

"No, 'Hux,' the topic is very scholarly, and you would not yet understand it."

"What is the topic, Great Taddy?" asked "Hux."

"Well, simply, it is a lecture on how the universe was produced by a big bang — ex nihilo, which is Latin for 'from nothing" — a scientistic refutation of that silly notion called 'intelligent design' believed by superstitiously religious people who imagine that nature did not produce something from nothing, or change monkeys into men."

"Hux" sat, momentarily, with a perplexed look on his face. "I guess you are right, Great Taddy...I would find that very hard to understand."

© Frank Maguire


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Frank Maguire

(Frank Maguire passed away on May 19, 2021. His obituary can be read here.

Frank Maguire was born in Dorchester, MA, 1938, attended schools in Massachusetts, California, and Arizona, where he completed degrees in music and English writing/Journalism. Frank has been married to Helen Isabel Maguire Estevez of Culver City, California, since 1957. They have six children, 14 grandchildren, and 17 great-grandchildren.


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