A Guilding of Lillis -- scene 1
This screenplay was earlier posted on my now-defunct web site. It is the first of two episodes in a series called Heros for Hire
(with more planned). I decided to post it in pieces here so that it is still available to the many Doc Rampageologist who like to study my early work. By the way, the title isn't spelled wrong; it's a very bad and forced pun. I'm planing to name all the episodes like that.
Heroes for HireOutline
Episode 1 – A Guilding of Lillis
Rolf the elf and Zantar the dwarf (two demihumans with no redeeming characteristics other than their on-screen charisma) manage to survive a number of harrowing escapades that they get into through greed and arrogance. In fact, they not only survive their foolishness, but sometimes prosper in it (giving a very bad object lesson to any young viewers).Setting
A medieval fantasy world with elves, dwarves, goblins, and other creatures.Principle Cast
Zantar: a bearded, box-shaped, belligerent dwarf (about 5' tall) with a serious case of greed.
Rolf: a young-looking, thin, belligerent elf (about 5'6") with a serious case of greed and delusions of grandeur.
Goblins: Fur-covered humanoid creatures with weasel-like faces. They are about Zantar's height but thin. Their only clothing is a belt where they carry a flint knife and sometimes a small pouch. They carry flint-tipped spears.Scene 1
Zantar is walking along a dirt road on a warm summer day. He comes to a three-way crossroads. In the middle of the road sits an elf playing a pipe very badly. Zantar is belligerent, looking for a fight, and Rolf is quite willing to oblige.
ZANTAR: And here I thought I was hearing a cat being tortured to death!
ROLF: (glaring) What would an uncultured and lack witted dwarf know of the aesthetic value of refined elven music?
ZANTAR: (smug) Krikey. I don't know nothing about elven music, Kid, but I've heard cats being tortured before.
Rolf leaps to his feet, drawing his sword.
ROLF: Silence, blackguard! Defend yourself!
Zantar's eyes narrow as he unslings a huge axe from his back. It is obviously a two-handed weapon, even for someone much larger than Zantar, but he holds it one-handed.
ZANTAR: I don't know if it's worth dirtying my blade with the blood of a skinny, sissified little punk like you.
Rolf goes into some fancy footwork and flourishes; he obviously knows how to handle a sword.
ROLF: Hah! My great patience has ended, fool! Prepare to die miscreant! I'll sell your skin to ...
Zantar steps in and swings the axe one handed. His footwork is slow, but he handles that axe like a conductor's baton. Rolf, caught in mid-flurry and mid-insult, yelps in surprise and barely escapes being cut in half.
ROLF: ... I'll gouge out ... Yipe!
Rolf dances back then lunges in for a quick riposte.
ROLF: Scoundrel! Take tha...
But the axe is already swinging back, and the sword flies out of his hand to land under a tree some distance away.
Rolf leaps behind a sapling for protection.
ROLF: Surely you are not such a villain as to cut down an unarmed man!
Apparently Zantar is just such a villain, because he swings again, and the sapling is felled like a stalk of wheat. Rolf dodges past Zantar to get back to his sword.
ROLF: Vermicular devil! I'll ... Yipe!
Zantar almost gets him as he runs past. Zantar is chasing Rolf and beginning to breath heavily.
ZANTAR: Krikey! Stand still you scrawny weasel!
Rolf gets to his sword and grabs it up, spinning and swinging down on Zantar who is chasing close behind him. Zantar swings up and the sword goes flying straight up to stick point first into an overhanging branch. Rolf leaps for the sword, and Zantar's next swing passes just under his feet. Rolf grabs the sword with both hands, and ends up hanging, as the sword refuses to come out. Zantar takes a few swipes at the hanging feet, but Rolf keeps pulling them up to avoid the blade.
ROLF: (between Zantar's swings) Villain! Miscreant! I'll have you know that I am a powerful wizard. Only my great mercy has spared your life up to now! But my patience is wearing thin and ...
Zantar steps closer so that he can swing higher, and Rolf manages to scramble up onto the tree branch
ROLF: ... and if you do not desist in this foolishness at once, I shall be forced to stern measures!
Zantar tries jumping and swinging, but he can't even get close. He and Rolf are both breathing heavily now, but it seems to have little effect on Rolf's power of speech.
ROLF: Hah! Now my patience is ended! Now you shall pay dearly for your impertinence, vile troll!
Zantar seems unimpressed, he is eyeing Rolf much like a cat might eye a bird in a cage.
ROLF: Now I shall cast upon you the most powerful spell in my prestigious repertoire. Yes! Yes! The Spell of a Thousand Days of Pain and Death!
Zantar looks speculatively at the tree trunk, at his axe, then back to the tree trunk. He smiles as he steps toward the tree trunk.
Rolf stands up on the branch and braces himself against the trunk.
ROLF: Now you shall pay for you impertinence! Now you shall know the horror of the vengeance of a great and puissant wizard!
Rolf is shaking some powder out of a pouch.
ROLF: Prepare to suffer, imbecile!
Rolf holds the powder in the palm of his hand, closes his eyes, and (wonder of wonders) actually closes his mouth. A glow appears in the palm of his hand, then the tree shakes as Zantar strikes with his axe. There is a pop, the glow turns to a greasy smoke, and Rolf's face turns blue (really blue) as he starts coughing violently. But even the coughing cannot stop his tongue for long.
ROLF: Rogue! Knave! Reprobate! That powder costs its weight in gold! You owe me two pewter!
Thud! The tree shakes again.
ROLF: (reaching into another pocket) Impudent lowlife! The Death of Thousand Pains or whatever is too good for you. You shall suffer instead the Spell of Boiling Blood!
Thud! Rolf's feet are jarred out from under him and he lands seat-first on the branch. He scrambles back to his feet, pulling out of his pocket a tiny bundle of twigs wrapped by a thread.
ROLF: Know your doom! Your blood shall boil within you and you shall explode in a putrescent mass of flying flesh!
Thud! Rolf leans out to judge the progress of the tree cutting. He seems pleased with what he sees.
ROLF: Hah! Swing away impotent little goblin. Before you have finished your task you shall be grotesquely slain!
Rolf pulls a twig from the bundle, breaks it, and points the ends at Zantar while muttering something.
Thud! Rolf looks a little disturbed by Zantar's lack of reaction, then Zantar suddenly stops in mid swing and puts a hand to his stomach with a quizzical look on his face.
Zantar produces one of the loudest and longest belches in history. He puts his hand to his mouth in startled embarrassment.
ZANTAR: (embarrassed) Krikey. Uh, excuse me.
Zantar gets another quizzical look on his face. Suddenly he lets loose with one of the loudest farts in history. He jumps and spins around as though startled at the explosive sound behind him. He pauses and glares up at Rolf.
ZANTAR: That wasn't funny.
ROLF: Well it wasn't supposed to be funny, ignorant buffoon. It was supposed to kill you.
ZANTAR: A belch-and-fart spell was supposed to kill me?
ROLF: (conversationally) actually, it was a cooking spell. Guaranteed to make pots boil even when they are being watched.
ZANTAR: Say that's a pretty good trick!
Rolf leans against tree and examines his nails.
ROLF: I did appraise you of the fact of my wizardly greatness. Such traits are common among us elves.
ZANTAR: Krikey! You're not an elf, you're just a scrawny human kid.
ROLF: (shocked to the core of his little elven soul) Not an elf? Not an elf?! Open your eyes, sirrah! Observe my apparel: the gentle forest colors...
He turns around for Zantar's inspection.
ROLF: the exquisitely tailored cut...
He flourishes his cloak.
ROLF: The little balls on the toes of my boot.
He holds out a foot and points to the toe.
ROLF: Behold the eldritch beauty of my countenance!
He frames his face with his hands and almost falls from the tree, but manages to catch himself without a break in his lecture.
ROLF: Discern my grand and stately bearing!
He strikes a dramatic pose.
ROLF: How can even such a dense creature as a troglodytic dwarf not be struck with the fact that I am a member of the greatest of all races, the elves?
ZANTAR: Elves aren't great, they're squirrelly. Besides there aren't any elves around here.
ROLF: Elves are not squirrelly! Why does everyone keep saying that! We merely happen to be high-strung as a result of our sensitive natures. Look!
Rolf leaps down from the tree and puts his ear in Zantar's face.
ROLF: See that? Hah!
Zantar peers seriously into Rolf's ear for a moment.
ZANTAR: I've got wax in my ears too, so what?
ROLF: Wax? Wax!? I assure you my hygiene is impeccable. I have no wax in my ears. No, no look at the fine and beautiful shape of my external auditory organs. Are they not the very archetype of elven characteristics?
ZANTAR: Then what's that clumpy brownish stuff in there? It sure looks like wax.
ROLF: (frustrated) Forget the damn wax! Look at the pointy tip lack wit. I clearly have pointy ears! Therefore I am clearly, ipso facto, and proovenus totalus, an elf.
Rolf straightens up, folds his arms, and regards Zantar with a smile of smug victory.
ZANTAR: (doubtful) Well, it's a little pointy I guess...
ROLF: A little pointy!? Are you daft dwarf? These points are like spear tips. So pointy they are practically an aberration even among elven kind!
ZANTAR: (unwilling to be convinced) Maybe you got your ears caught in door when you were a kid...
ROLF: (outraged again) Simpleton! Dunce! Bonehead! I shall prove it to you! Let us go and find a person of refinement and intelligence who shall tell you the obviousness of my great lineage!
ZANTAR: (musing) You mean we'll ask the first person we meet?
ROLF: (straightening his clothes with great dignity) Precisely.
ZANTAR: (slyly) And the loser buys the winner enough drinks to put him under the table?
ROLF: (impatient) Yes, yes, fine. Let's go.
Rolf starts down the path Zantar just came from.
ZANTAR: Where are you going, kid?
ROLF: Why to find a person of refinement and intelligence to settle the matter as we agreed!
ZANTAR: (pointing down another path) I'm going that way.
ROLF: That is quite impractical. I have just come from that direction and have no wish to retrace my steps.
ZANTAR: Well we'll just go far enough to meet someone and then you can turn back.
ROLF: I find your suggestion to be without merit.
ZANTAR: Well, Krikey, I can't go the way you're going, people back there want to kill me.
ROLF: I see. (hesitates) It so happens that I am in a similar situation in regards to direction of travel. I suggest that we compromise and take the third fork.
ZANTAR: Why not? It's not like I have anywhere to go, just somewhere to leave.
ROLF: (from behind as the two start down the third trail) It so happens that I am in a similar situation in regards to direction of travel.
ZOOM BACK from the two till the foreground is dominated by Rolf's sword, which is still sticking point-upward in the tree branch.
question your assumptions -- but not mine
I can't count the number of times I've been invited to question my assumptions by people who showed no interest in questioning their own. The attitude comes up frequently during discussions of origins and will be the starting point for this, my second in a series about evolution (here's the first
). As I said in my first post, I'm agnostic about evolution. I'm not opposed to evolution; I just have never seen a convincing reason to believe it. In this post I'm going to explain why I'm not convinced just from the fact that evolution is the current scientific consensus. Evolution doesn't get special treatment from me in this regard; I'm skeptical about lots of the current scientific consensus.
Here, I'm going to concentrate on the epistemological reasons why one can't just trust what Scientists Say in general (epistemology is the study of knowledge, how it is acquired, and how reliable it is). The larger politico-religio-philosophical reasons why scientists are particularly unreliable on this specific topic and the specific problems with the kinds of evidence you get in discussions of evolution will be left to later posts.
I was one of those kids who went to the library every week to check out books on nuclear physics and other sciences. All of my life, I have loved science --all kinds of science. In my adult years, I have several times become concerned because people whose opinions I respected were so certain of evolution and so dismissive of my own beliefs that I decided to do some research and find out what made them so certain. Most recently, prompted by off-hand comments by Xrlq, Patterico, and various authors at the National Review Corner, I bought The Blind Watchmaker
by Richard Dawkins, which has been presented as the last word in the case for evolution (of course such last words are always temporary).
If there is a convincing argument for evolution that doesn't rely on mechanistic assumptions about the universe, then I've never been able to find it. I won't claim that I've searched diligently, but I have searched, and given the hot nature of the topic, I believe that if there were such an argument that is both accessible to amateurs and readily available, then I would have found it. This leads me to suspect that Xrlq, Patterico, and the authors at the Corner (none of whom are professional biologists) haven't seen a convincing argument either, that they have no better reason to believe in evolution than I do, and that they, like most people in the world, believe it just because Science Says So. In other words, they are relying, not on the evidence of their own senses, but on authority.
So I think it is fair to point out that a lot of people seem to simultaneously embrace this mutually conflicting pair of propositions:
1a. People shouldn't believe something just because some authority says it.
1b. People should believe in evolution because that's what science says.
Of course said people would argue that their authority, science, is more reliable than my authority. They do have a point --if an electrical engineer says, "don't touch that circuit or it will kill you," then I'll take his word for it. I'm not going to insist on carrying out my own empirical experiment-- but how far can that point be stretched?
Electrical engineering has a track record; they have proven that they know what they are talking about by the way they can effect and predict the real world. But we can't conclude from the successes of electrical engineering that evolutionary biologists know what they are talking about. This idea of science as a single monolithic enterprise must be dispensed with. Each branch, each field, each research project has its own characteristics. Lest we forget: both Marxism and Freudianism have been considered sciences by large influential communities with their own journals, conferences, and everything. Homeopathic medicine, phrenology, 9/11 conspiracy theory --they've all purported to use scientific methods, so just because some field claims to be a science, that doesn't mean one should trust it.
In the case of electrical engineering there is a feedback mechanism: if their theories don't adequately predict the real world, then their devices won't work. By contrast, evolutionary theory does not have such a feedback mechanism. They can't run experiments to see if whales really can evolve from land mammals. Yes, they do have predictions and sometimes those predictions are validated, but sometimes those predictions are not validated, and there is no real-world constraint to tell them which failures and success are significant and which are not.
Now, none of this proves that evolutionary biology isn't reliable, it just shows that you can't assume it is reliable just because people call it science. You need other reasons to accept the consensus on evolution.
But what about methodology? Shouldn't we trust science because it uses a reliable methodology? A lot of argument in this area seems to center around falsificationism -- Karl Popper's theory that what distinguishes science from non-science is that science make falsifiable theories (his two primary examples of pseudo-sciences were Marxism and Freudianism). Popper claims that the way science works is that no one ever verifies theories since that is impossible in principle, but that what makes science reliable is that it is willing to make risky predictions and is willing to drop its theories if the predictions fail. There are two primary problems with this account of science: first, that's not actually how science actually works, and second, it wouldn't make science reliable if it did work that way.
Science never gives up a theory just because it has been falsified (In fact, it is not really possible to falsify a theory because you can always come up with a variation that saves the theory), science changes when someone comes up with a theory that scientists like better, and explaining the data better is by no means the only criterion. People like to use the example of the Newtonian revolution to show how scientists accept theories that explain the data better, but this revolution in science was very atypical. More often, as in the case with Copernicus and Einstein, their new theories did not do a better job of predicting than the previous theory had done, their theories were simply more elegant or opened up interesting new research projects.
Also, although many scientists today claim to be falsificationists, they don't act like it. They act like they believe that their theories are true. In debates over the physical sciences, I've always found that falsificationism is a redoubt of last resort --a deep, strongly fortified canyon that people retreat to when heavily pressed on the grounds of their beliefs. But the canyon is dark, cramped, cold, and has no decent plumbing facilities, so as soon as the threat passes, the erstwhile Popperians are back out on the plains, rampaging, pillaging, and calling other people idiots for not accepting their obviously proven theories.
By contrast, in debates over evolution, falsificationism is a forward position. As soon as the scouts catch sight of a potential creationist marauder, they leap to man the Popperian battlements because creationism doesn't fare well in the falsification wars. But the Genesis story shouldn't be evaluated by the falsification criterion because it's not the right kind of thing to evaluate that way. Falsification is for theories. Someone sees some natural event and makes up a theory to explain the event. How do we evaluate the theory and compare it to other theories that also purport to explain the same event? One answer is falsificationism. But the Genesis story is not a theory made up to explain a natural event; it is (or purports to be) eyewitness testimony, and eyewitness testimony is evaluated on entirely different grounds from theories.
Imagine a defense lawyer badgering a witness:
Defense: Mr. Witness, you have heard my theory of how Mrs. Green committed the murder in the kitchen with the butcher knife. My theory has a great deal of explanatory power. It explains Mrs. Green's fingerprints on the butcher knife, it explains why blood was found in the kitchen and it explains why the butcher knife was found in the river. You claim that the murder was committed by Col. Mustard in the drawing room with a sawed-off shotgun. What falsifiable predictions does your theory make?
Witness: Uhh... I saw him do it?
Defense: No,no, that's not a scientific theory. What predictions does your theory make? What observations could be made to falsify it?
Witness: Uhh. It's not a theory. I saw him pull the shotgun out of his tweed jacket and blast the butler right in the face. Ugly mess it was.
Defense: Your honor, I move that the witness's testimony be stricken on the grounds that it is not falsifiable.
This would obviously be silly. Witness testimony is not judged based on its ability to make falsifiable predictions but on the reliability of the witness. Of course witness testimony can be compared with other facts --if the body is found and there is no shotgun blast to the face, then the witness testimony has been discredited. But you don't evaluate the quality of the testimony by how many falsifiable predictions it makes like you do with theories because it is an entirely different kind of evidence. With a theory, you have a made up story and you want to try to find some way to evaluate whether the story is worth listening too. With witness testimony, you have what already purports to be a true, verified story and you instead evaluate it by criteria such as (1) Is the witness honest? (2) Does the witness really know what he witnessed (did he make a mistake, or was he hallucinating, etc.)? (3) Do we understand what the witness is saying? And in the case of documents: (4) Is this document really the testimony it purports to be, or is it a forgery?
Sorry for the regression. I don't really intend to defend creationism in these posts, but since I was talking about falsificationism it seemed relevant to point out a bogus argument used by evolution defenders in that area.
Now suppose that science, or at least evolutionary science, really were a falsificationist enterprise. If true, this still would not give it any special credibility. There is no logical reason to prefer the falsificationist model as a way to achieve empirical knowledge. I won't take the time to argue for that point here, but pretty much everyone who studies these things agrees with me on that. I'm thinking I should post something about empiricism, though, to back that up. Maybe tomorrow.
But if evolutionary sciences were truly falsificationist and if falsificationism actually worked, then there would be no reason to have this discussion. Which reminds me of two more pairs of conflicting propositions that people seem simultaneously to believe:
2a. Science doesn't prove or disprove things, it only has theories that are more or less useful at making predictions.
2b. Science has proven evolution.
3a. Science is an evolutionary process and a lot of what is established science today will be discredited tomorrow.
3b. People are idiots for not believing in today's established science.
You can't have it both ways: either science is a way to arrive at truth, in which case you can claim that evolution is a proven theory and creationist are wrong, or science is a process, a sequence of theories that are considered useful or predictive but not true, in which case you really don't have anything to say to creationists. After all, as a rigorous scientific intellect, you don't believe that the theory is true --you just find it just useful. Why should you care what gets taught in grade school? No one in normal life makes decisions that are impacted by the theory of evolution. You can wait until they get to college and then teach them this improved way to make predictions. You don't even care if they believe that it is "metaphysically true" or not, so long as they use it to make the right predictions.
If everyone who claims to be a falsificationist really were a falsificationist then there would be no debate over evolution. You would tell someone that you don't believe in evolution and they would just shrug and say, "well if you can make better predictions with your theory, I'd like to see it". Ann Coulter could write a book arguing that evolution isn't true and the only reaction from evolutionary scientists and their hangers on would be, "I didn't see any good predictions there." And when I say that I've never seen any convincing evidence of evolution, the only response would be, "Me neither, but it seems to make good predictions." That's not the reaction I usually get.
a question of evidence
I was raised as a young-earth creationist. I held that view through high school and probably into my early college years, but at some point I became persuaded that young-earth creationism is not tenable. I became convinced by scientific evidence in the form of radiological dating that the earth must be older than 6,000 years. The point is that I, like most religious people, can be persuaded to alter my religion-related beliefs by real evidence. My beliefs --even my religious beliefs-- are not set in stone.
In fact, I am just about as impartial as you can get in evaluating the theory of evolution; I have no dog in the fight. On the one hand, I believe in an omnipotent God who is perfectly capable of creating an entire universe in six days for the purpose of planting a single race on one tiny, insignificant planet (after all, "omnipotent" implies that it is no more difficult for God to create the entire universe than to create one atom). On the other hand, I think Darwinian evolution is a very plausible mechanism for the development of life, and I would be happy to interpret the Genesis story as figuratively as necessary (I'm even open to re-evaluating the Canon). In fact, I think the evolutionary story of the development of life is very cool; I would like for it to be true. Given this, if I can't be convinced of the truth of evolution, then I just haven't been given a convincing argument. Obviously, this doesn't imply that there isn't
a convincing argument, just that I haven't heard it.
Since I often talk like a science nerd, it surprises people when they find out that I'm agnostic about evolution (they would be really shocked if they knew all the other established theories that I'm skeptical about). When I say that I just haven't seen any convincing evidence, they always immediately start telling me what they consider evidence, and I have a hard time explaining why I don't find that particular evidence persuasive. The communications difficulty, I'm convinced, comes from the fact that we begin with different premises. If you start with the assumption that the universe had to come about by some natural process, then there is plenty of reason to believe that Darwinian evolution was part of the process. If you don't start with that premise, then there is very little reason to believe so. I'm going to try to write some posts to explain this.
Take religion out of the picture. Suppose an alien showed up on Earth tomorrow and claimed he was a tourist from a far planet. During the course of discussions with him, the alien claims that life on Earth was actually planted and developed by his race. Each kind of animal was individually constructed in a laboratory and transplanted to Earth, but they were designed with genetic variation so that they could adapt --within limits-- to changing conditions. Is there enough evidence to prove that the alien is wrong?
If there is not enough evidence to prove that the alien is wrong, then there is not enough evidence to prove that evolution is true. That is the stance that I start from. If you start from a different stance: that life must have generated spontaneously and mechanically, without design or purpose, then you need a much lower level of proof. I readily agree that from this latter premise, Darwinian evolution is a near certainty. But what can you say to those of us who don't start from such a premise? The premise obviously cannot be proven scientifically; it is a matter of faith alone. So if you can't prove evolution without the introduction of that premise, then evolution is based on faith just as much as Christianity is. I take it that most people who believe in evolution believe that it can be proven without resorting to professions of faith, and that is the proof that I'm looking for.
What prompted this post is a FAQ
on evolution to which I was directed by a commenter
, JohnD. The FAQ, written by Kathleen Hunt, is a response to the claim that there are no transitional sequences in the fossil record. Hunt starts out with a definition of what a transitional sequence is, and then gives many examples of transitional sequences according to her definition. Do all of these transitional sequences prove that the alien is a liar?
No, it doesn't, and I'm going to explain why in a series of posts. I'll also discuss the evidence in The Blind Watchmaker
by Richard Dawkins. My objections are of several different kinds: epistemological (what counts as evidence), forensic (how to evaluate evidence), scientific (what the evidence is), and psychological (who to trust); I will probably write several posts on each, unless I get bored of the topic.
Ya'll can help keep me from getting bored by leaving comments. And if you have a better source of evidence that you think I ought to read, please let me know. Maybe I'll be converted before I finish the series.