Chapter 1 of Probability of God in the Planet of Man series
October 28th, 2025
“Is there a God, Eugene?” Dr. Wyatt tested the sound equipment.
“What!?” SQUEEE… “S-S-Sorry.” Eugene’s hand trembled as he adjusted the microphone. He nursed a lock of his rust-red hair. Sequestered in a darkened isolation booth in a psychology lab idled by federal budget slashing, Eugene was apprehensive about the panel seated before him, an odd mix of scientists, psychologists, and educators all attracted to Southwestern Indiana State University to meet him. The shielding of his identity should have calmed him, but only added to his tension. A bead of perspiration formed on his brow and he sniffed his pits in anticipation. There was a small camera and sound crew, but at least no audience.
Wyatt had enticed the panelists to attend with the prospect of the publicity that would be generated by Eugene capturing the public’s imagination once his existence was announced.
Wyatt had intimated that clips of this video would be played and replayed by the media as sensational news when this singular genius was revealed to the world…so by association, the panelists would coattail to greater glory.
Dr. Wyatt scanned the uninvited guest out of the corner of his eye for whom he’d juiced up his question. This male late comer to the scene was more than jolted by it. He visibly convulsed.
Booker. Wyatt studied the man’s face. Religion’s pit bull. Wyatt knew well his reputation. He considered whether he had the courage or the physical strength to eject the crasher. Too late. The video cameras were rolling. Booker took a seat with the panel. Dr. Wyatt turned to the panel and urged the guests on the dais to quiz this so-called genius who’d been promoted to them so pompously as “the greatest mind the world has ever known.”
Eugene curled his lip whenever he heard this. His modesty was ancestral. His kind shunned ostentatious public displays, preferring quiet solitude. He was more apt to be found in deep meditation on such topics as whether any authentic spirituality is possible. At the moment, however, Eugene was aware only of feeling trapped in this claustrophobic enclosure.
His skin felt flushed. An ooze of sweat escaped the conserving oils of his skin. He tried the door.
Locked! He kicked it. That did no good so he braced himself and tried to rock the booth… with little success. He merely succeeded in piquing the panelists’ curiosity with the commotion of his efforts. As much as they wondered who he was, though, he wondered all the more.
Locked inside what Eugene’s hyper-active imagination had transformed into a sarcophagus, his nose detected a musty smell. Yuck. Toadstools. Eugene envisioned his toes taking root at the bottom of this sarcophagus and his body turning to fungus starting with his leg-stems and flowing slowly upward through his trunk. He looked for a way to crack open the great tomb.
Eugene reconsidered then abandoned the idea of tipping the booth over. “Hhhrrr.” He shoved his hands deep in the pockets of his khaki shorts. His fingers sought comfort from the familiar assortment there. Little trinkets and trophies Eugene had found, filched, or otherwise obsessively collected when they caught his attention.
Among the catch of the day: a short pencil, a key ring sans keys, a medallion with the likeness of the fourteenth Dalai Lama, a paper clip, a ball of gummy material of unknown origin, and a cross on a chain his friend Eve had given him. In an instant his clever hands knew what to do. They worked the paper clip into the latch on the door fishing for leverage against the bolt.
“Eugene…” Wyatt wondered if he had his attention.
“Hmmmh?!” His head snapped up searching for Wyatt’s voice. Had he been caught?
“What’s your understanding of the origin of the universe?” Wyatt asked.
Dr. Booker, a celebrity of sorts and a recently appointed advisor to the new cabinet level Department of Faith-based Initiatives, had taken a seat at the center of the semi-circle to face off squarely with the booth. His face reddened slightly as Dr. Wyatt glowered at him. Booker had been following Wyatt since he’d gotten wind about some secretive experimental genetics project. That had earned Wyatt place of honor on the unofficial and, therefore, plausibly deniable, Department’s watch list.
Wyatt’s panel on State U.’s campus caught Booker’s attention. As his research was federally funded, Wyatt couldn’t use his position to speak out against anything religious without violating the reinterpretation of the Establishment Clause—state had to remain separate from church, but church could act with impunity. Religion was protected from government in all venues both within and outside that government. Wyatt’s federally funded research was in essence an aspect of that government. The enforcement of that law, over seen by Faith-Based Initiative volunteers, FBI 2 for short, was zealous. The espoused thrust of the law was to protect all religions, but only Christian volunteers had been deputized at this point—and those were of the extreme fundamentalist persuasion.
Eugene? … the universe…” Wyatt made eye contact with the rest of his panel, but ignored Booker. Better be the gracious host. Wyatt thought. Fighting with Booker could cause a scene that would destroy the panel.
Wyatt was an anomaly. All other biological research had withered on the vine in the chilly climate of the emerging theocracy, as a few remaining pundits of the Left were calling it. Yet here was Wyatt, a self-confessed irreverent clod at this little backwater college whose project had been funded.
“Uh, well, I don’t think the universe had a beginning in the sense of a creation out of nothingness,” Eugene said. “Because of the Law of Conservation of Matter and Energy, you know, can’t get something from nothing?”
Booker bristled, red-faced at the words. “I’ll not sit still and listen to this sacrilege!
“Wyatt, you surely know who I am. And just as I suspected, you’re using this secret meeting to spread your atheist propaganda.”
Wyatt looked over top of his glasses. He’s an advisor to a cabinet member? This was Wyatt’s first brush with an agent of the neo-theo-cons.
Eugene clasped his hands over his mouth and scrunched down aghast to hear Booker’s tirade and that what he’d said was a sacrilege. This didn’t sound like the religion of love Missy, his caretaker, had told him about.
“There most certainly was a beginning to the universe.” Booker turned from scowling at Wyatt, to smiling at the panelists, drawing on some hidden reservoir of charm. “And there is an Almighty Creator who is not limited by what you say and who could and did create the world out of nothing.”
Wyatt fumed. Now the SOB’s on my video. What could he do with Booker? Any engagement would be an acknowledgement of him—exactly what Wyatt wanted to avoid.
And there was an urban legend circulating about a pundit who spoke out and was disappeared.
“Do you know my mission, Wyatt? As a science educator I dispel the notion that there is a conflict between science and religion.” Booker looked to Wyatt with arched eyebrows.
“Don’t you have to deny a bunch of science to make that claim?”
“None that’s true.” Booker laughed. Booker was less sure of himself than Wyatt knew,
than Booker’s quixotic missions censuring anti-religious, and therefore patently Un-American, activities would suggest. He feared his own faith was unworthy—and he tended to punish anyone who reminded him of this.
“I think I know you better as a crusading juggernaut for faith,” Wyatt said coldly. “Aren’t there any aspects of human evolution that you’re uncomfortable with?”
“You mean that freak show of deformed human and ape remains that atheist scientists like to drag out and parade around?”
“So you do deny that science?”
“Yes, I do deny that that is science.” Booker folded his arms.
“No human evolution?”
“No missing link.” Booker smiled as he shook his head.
“I agree with you there. There is no longer a missing link.”
Booker frowned. “Science holds no implication for human origins. Our faith, however, does.”
“I know of one implication that religion holds for evolution. Maybe we can agree that we see the hand of God in that,” Wyatt said poker faced.
Booker jerked his head around. “What’s that?”
”Why God gave us religion.”
“Bring it.” Booker folded his arms.
“Religion is God’s way of showing us that it’s a lot earlier in human evolution than we thought.”
“Make fun of God while you can, Wyatt. Sooner or later, He’ll give you Hell for it.”
Adam Booker’s father had been an Old Testament preacher and a strict disciplinarian. Unwavering belief was obligatory in the parsonage. Booker’s one honest question about Biblical inerrancy had brought down upon him a hellfire and brimstone response. “You’d better get your head right, boy.” Booker’s father told him as he switched his naked butt red.
“Here we are in God’s infinite creation.” Booker made an expansive, open armed gesture. “Cause and effect. Every effect has a cause. What greater effect than this wondrous world? And what cause is great enough to produce it? God and only God.”
“Eugene? An infinite universe?” Wyatt held out a hand toward the booth.
Eugene timidly said, “The universe is not infinite.” Eugene wondered if he’d ever truly experience his own existence. What will be my destiny? Why are we here? I know why I’m here—I’m Dr. Wyatt’s genetic Frankenstein. But why is everyone else here? Why are we spiritual if this is just a secular universe? Can I be more than Dr. Wyatt has made me?
“Well, Eugene, if the universe isn’t infinite in size, then perhaps in time?” Dr. Wyatt asked. “Jump in here, folks. Challenge him.”
“Infinity is only possible as an answer in arithmetic, not as a reality,” Eugene said.
“You’re seeking to limit God, again,” Booker said.
“I meant the panel, Dr. Booker. We’ve heard your views,” Wyatt said.
This may be my only chance to ask someone who would know firsthand, someone who may have spoken to God, Eugene thought. “Dr. Booker, what do you know about God?”
Booker snarled like a rabid dog. “I’ll not lay open God’s existence to question in this godless house!” His scalp was so red it shone through his thinning blonde-red hair. Booker was gripped with a familiar fear. Lord, give me the strength to do your work. There was something down deep that Booker was afraid to explore. It was his unspoken fear that if he looked too close, he would find his faith to be false. His beliefs weren’t shored up by faith, but rather the denial of doubt—instilled in him as fear by his father. And so if disbelief reared its ugly head, Booker, as his father before him, was there to lop it off.
Eugene instinctively turned to run from Booker, but only mashed his face into the door of his booth.
Rapidly warming to the exchange, Booker’s rate of perspiration rivaled Eugene’s. Booker raised his arm and wriggled his fingers toward the blackened glass, “When are we going
to see this Eugene?”
“Please, Dr. Booger.” Wyatt again held up a finger. He imagined the veins in Booker’s neck exploding. Wyatt knew at some level that he didn’t want to squander Eugene’s coming out by trying to skewer Booker, but if he had the chance could he resist?
Booker, grappling with his own heat, grabbed a carafe of ice water and almost drank from it in desperation. Dr. Stevens, sitting to his right, helped him fill a glass. As Booker relaxed, his iVid vibrated. He shielded the screen with his hand. It displayed the single word, “Wrath?” Booker considered keying a response but slipped the phone in his jacket pocket instead.
“It may be safe now to finish your thought, Eugene. You were talking about infinity.” Wyatt faced Booker full on.
Eugene swallowed hard. He wondered if anyone heard it. “It’s a little trickier when it comes to whether existence itself had a beginning. Either there was a beginning with all the difficulties that that entails, not the least of which is a violation of the Conservation of Matter and Energy—can’t get something from nothing—or existence has always been. …And that smacks of infinity, again.”
Boring! Eugene split his attention between the door latch of the booth and Dr. Wyatt.
He pried the lock’s bolt part way out with the paper clip, but when he moved the clip to get a new hold on the bolt, spring tension defeated him and the bolt plunged back again.
“Two alternatives, then, Eugene, neither of which seems plausible?” Wyatt, asked.
“Yes,” Eugene said. “Adapting Shakespeare’s question to my own meaning, ‘To be or not to be…’ restated in the less emotional binary mode as zero or one. One meaning existence, zero meaning none.”
Wyatt, pacing, stopped mid step. “What, Eugene? Make sense of that for us, please.”
The panelists looked at the moderator, then the booth. Everyone was encapsulated in a floating island of white created by the stage lighting and ambient dust in Brownian motion. Outside the surreal light cloud the rest of the room in this idled lab receded in darkness. Only the distant red glow of the exit sign was visible to the panel.
“Two possibilities: being or… not. It goes to the heart of our most ultimate question. I believe our everyday language tricks us into thinking that this is a correct posing of the question. I suggest, rather, that the question is irrelevant.”
“Irrelevant, Eugene?” The moderator asked.
Eugene explained, “Like the question, ‘Which came first, the chicken or the egg?’ It’s held out as an insoluble conundrum. But the chicken and the egg evolved together. So the question is irrelevant. Similarly, irrelevant is the question of nonexistence.”
Hummmhh. Eugene strained. Pushing the pencil from his pocket with the heel of his hand he forced it to wedge between the booth’s door and its jamb. He pushed his face then lips into the crack and sucked in the sweet breath of life. Whhh. That would do for the moment.
Wyatt ignored Eugene’s noises. “So how do you mean the question of nonexistence is
Hackackack. Eugene’s stolen breath of air had raised a cough. “We trick ourselves into thinking that nonexistence is a possibility for the entire universe, in the way that it’s possible for an object to no longer exist. We think when we die we no longer exist, but our matter still exists. Only the arrangement of that matter ended. We just extrapolate that imprecision on the word ‘exist,’
“Existence is the only real possibility for the univerchhh.” Hhrrrhmmm, Hhhhmmm. Eugene failed to clear a throat frog. “I think while nonexistence is a logical possibility, it’s not an actual physical possibility, neither for a speck of matter, nor for all existence as a whole.
“We’ve simply fooled ourselves into thinking there must have been a time before anything existed, a zero state, say. Then that forces us to assume that there must have been a moment of creation.”
“Oh, this is just so much malarkey!” Booker barked out. “I’ve heard about all this I can stand. You’re just trading off the Infinite Creator for a quasi-infinite time duration of the universe.” Smiling, “No one’s going to give up God for that.”
Eugene was warming up to Booker’s challenge literally as well as figuratively. He felt his internal body temperature climbing. Was he sick? He held his hand up to his brow. He could feel the heat of each from the other. His stomach clenched in alarm.
“Dr. Booger, you’re embarrassing yourself,” and me. Would I be better off if I threw him
out? Wyatt wondered, Am I capable of it? What kind of punishment could the Department of Faith-based Initiatives mete out anyway? But Wyatt had heard the rumors—and knew there were dangers.
Wyatt turned back to the booth, “Has the universe been infinite in time, then?”
“These are obviously coached answers,” Booker huffed.
“Infinity and time are ‘idee-shunal’,” angry with himself, Eugene gritted his teeth as his lips flared wide, “‘i-de-a-tional’ constructions like that zero concept I was just talking about. Infinity is actually a red herring. If infinity is the answer, then the scenario is bogus, impossible.” He took a moment. Ahhh. “In short, you know what reality is not.”
“This isn’t science,” Booker said. “Science fiction, maybe. And these speculative ravings aren’t bringing you any closer to understanding the universe. There is a Book that tells of the creation. That’s all I need to know.”
Eugene cringed. He raised up and pressed his face against the smoked glass of the booth straining to see anything—but he could see nothing.
“The more man pushes for answers,” Booker said, “the more confusing and inscrutable those answers become–and the more the miraculous nature of creation will be revealed. You push forward, God pushes back.” Booker beamed as he tilted his head heavenward as if basking in some invisible glow.
Strut your stuff, Booker, Wyatt fumed to himself. He’s too much of a prima donna to be
baiting me, isn’t he? I should resist tainting Eugene’s video, making it about Booker’s faith and my lack thereof.
Eugene’s head felt feverish. I’m so hot. Perspiration was running down his face, burning his eyes, dripping from his nose. He could taste the salt in his sweat. Was his brain the source of all this heat? Got to open this door!
The pencil’s tension on the latch held until Eugene got the bolt fully retracted…and the door unlatched. That was all he wanted. It wasn’t so much the freedom he was after. It was freedom foreclosed that he couldn’t stand. Cooling air rushed in. Ahhh.
Booker spoke up again, “You’re deluding yourselves with this pseudoscience. You’re simply illuminating the works of God.” Booker’s rhetoric softened. His face was no longer stern. “No real understanding into the nature of creation will come from it.” He searched Wyatt with his eyes. Wyatt fidgeted. “Besides, isn’t the current thinking that the universe will expand forever and that matter will be so dispersed that it won’t reform for another Big Bang?” Booker seemed to be earnestly asking. “And that points the way back to one single grand moment of creation—and a Creator. Does it not? Are you two denying that science?”
Wyatt, eyes like saucers, turned back to the camera. Got to break free from Booker’s gambit. “I’m James Wyatt, your host for the discussion you’ve been watching.” Wyatt turned slightly toward the panel, eyes still on the lens of the holographic camera. “Each of you distinguished members on the dais has been invited to take part in Eugene’s introduction to the world. Eugene is a genetically designed and engineered genius. And each of you is renowned in a field that gives you some special insight or expertise into the nature and capabilities of the gifted mind.” Actually, none of you are qualified enough to risk challenging the credentials of the other. But you’re all I could get. Except Booker…barging his way in. Wyatt squeezed his fist tight. Yes, I’ll take his head as a prize if I get the chance.
Dr. Wyatt introduced the panelists to the holographic cameras. He bit his lip when he came to Dr. Booker. Wyatt introduced him with seeming neutrality. I can’t risk asking him to leave. The kind of scene he could create would kill the panel cold right now. I can edit him out of the video if I need to. Right.
Eugene’s my only trump. Isn’t his very existence a victory of science over Booker’s pseudo-intellectualizing? Focus! Wyatt thought, Eugene’s why we’re here.
“I’ve given you an introduction to Eugene,” Wyatt went on, “by way of the discussion you’ve just witnessed. It was neither rehearsed nor discussed in advance.”
Wyatt was something of an egg-shaped man, Eugene had observed, like Tweedle Dum or Tweedle Dee.
The doctor’s self-image was a little worse than the reality of it, though he was well on the way to fulfilling that vision. The crown of this egg shape stuck through a spotty laurel wreath of sorts, a vestigial ring of sandy hair.
“But don’t take my word for Eugene’s prodigious intellect, ask him anything you’d like.” Wyatt swung his hand toward the booth.
Jan Stevens asked, “Eugene, how old are you?”
“I’m.. . eight.”
Heads turned, others gasped.
“Eugene’s your name?” Dr. Booker asked. “Are you somehow connected to a computer or are you in any way an artificial intelligence or artificially alive? An android? Or is cybernetic… cyborg the word I’m looking for?” Booker held back asking the question he was here to answer.
Who was this presumptuous Eugene to dare cast doubt on God’s existence? Booker felt he had to see Eugene before he could properly challenge him on this.
Eugene twitched at Booker’s every word. “Oh no. I’m a fully organic being …just as you are.” Eugene smiled to himself.
“Eugene, this is Jonathan Fisher. We are not now looking at you because…Dr. Wyatt still wants to keep your identity a secret?”
Wyatt took a step toward the panelists, “I’m afraid I’ve given in to a little showmanship here. I wanted to heighten what I think will be your surprise when you actually meet Eugene face to face. But please, quiz Eugene all you like. Test his intelligence.
“As we began the project, we believed that if we could bring together in one mind all the spectacular examples of mental prowess the world has already seen spread randomly among individuals throughout history, that alone would be a singular intelligence. Most of you will remember the young man, a peasant boy, from Renaissance Italy who
could flash-read a page at a glance and perfectly recall any page in any book he’d ever read. And, more recently, another man’s startling ability to recite the value of pi to 22,000 decimal places. Or Newton envisioning calculus to explain gravity. Einstein’s conceptualization of relativity.” Wyatt swirled a gesturing hand just above his head.
“Eugene has been genetically equipped with an intellect that surpasses these. More exciting yet, his rate of learning is still accelerating. So go ahead, challenge him.” Wyatt guarded his lips with his index finger.
“What will happen,” Booker interjected, “when an irresistible force meets an immovable object?” Booker folded his arms and gave a beaming smile to the panelists.
“We’ll find out which of them had been over-estimated.” Eugene said.
The other panelists chuckled. Booker pursed his lips and frowned looking down his nose at the dark glass of Eugene’s booth.
Dr. Stevens, a clinical psychologist spoke next. “Eugene, I see a highly polished Steinway grand in the shadows out here. Do you play piano?”
“A little.” His voice seemed so small.
“Eugene is being his modest self. He’s something of an introvert. This panel format is taxing for him. On his behalf, and I know this is controversial…” Wyatt remember Eugene’s peak musical experience.
“Eugene had mastered a complex piece, Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto Number One.
He played it beautifully. Even I was moved and most people say they’d be surprised if I’m found to have a pulse. Tears were streaming from Eugene’s eyes as he played. I thought he was just so happy to have mastered the piece.”
Wyatt could see it clearly in his mind’s eye. Tears rolling down Eugene’s cheeks. Wyatt watching in awe of Eugene’s masterful performance. Wyatt was unable to hold back his own tear ducts.
Wyatt was at a loss. Eugene seemed to play endlessly. At length Wyatt spoke Eugene’s name several times. He wasn’t getting his attention. Wyatt pulled his glasses off and wiped his own cheeks with the back of his hand.
Finally, Wyatt shouted, “Eugene!” He looked up from the piano. Still the tears flowed. Wyatt struggled at a loss for something to say. “Congratulations.” He extended his hand.
Eugene had no idea what Wyatt wanted. Wyatt took his hand and shook it.” Are you that happy with the piece?”
As Wyatt remembered it, Eugene, unduly reticent even for him, appeared to be struggling to speak. “Something happened. When I played… I was feeling something. I felt something about the concerto. But at the same time, I… I music-ed something about the feeling. This was how I felt the music. A rising spiral of feeling about music and music about feeling.”
They blinked at each other for a minute. At last, Wyatt spoke, “Violin music, the most emotional variety, I guess, can make some people cry and many more say they are moved by it.
“Was it something like that?”
“Yes,” Eugene said, “Like that.”
After a few more moments of blinking at each other, Wyatt said, “Wow.” And nothing further was said between them.
“Bi-directional synesthesia,” Jan Stevens said under her breathe at the end of Wyatt’s remembrance. Jan scanned the faces around her.
“What?” Wyatt asked.
“Music-to-feeling and feeling-to-music synesthesia. You’re familiar music-color synesthesia where the person sees a certain color when they hear music?”
“What’s bi-directional mean?” Wyatt asked.
“That’s noteworthy because most synesthetes definitely are not bi-directional—seeing colors won’t cause them to hear music,” Jan was back to herself. “With Eugene, it is going both ways.”
“Is that a problem?” Wyatt asked.
“Depends on who you ask,” She said. “For many, they’re symptoms, for a few, maybe an enrichment? Those who shed a tear at violin music don’t seek help for it.”
The other panelists had grown restless. Jonathan Fisher, the youngest member of the panel at 29, asked, “I suppose it’s foolish to ask, but it goes without saying… you are a fully human being, a live little boy, aren’t you, Eugene?”
“Not… exactly,” came the reply. The panelists all looked at each other, then at Wyatt.
“Wyatt! What kind of dog and pony show are you running here?” Booker grasped in frustration into empty air.
Wyatt blushing, said flatly, “I think it’s time you all met Eugene.” Wyatt’s jaw tightened. “Eugene, will you join us out here, please?”