The prologue establishes that, in nature, suffering is a fact of life. However, Darwin and Freud were pessimists only when compared with purveyors of earlier forms of optimism such as redemption or the perfectibility of man. The second section recounts Darwin's lifelong interest in the lowly earthworm. Here, as in many passages in the book, Phillips' philosophical yet lyrical style is lightened by his wry humor. In describing how the earth is reborn and reborn again as a result of the passage through the bodies of worms, he says, "Darwin has replaced a creation myth with a secular maintenance myth." Phillips suggests that what fired Darwin's speculative imagination was the paradoxical fact that in the case of the earthworm's work, conservation is in the undermining, and destruction conserves life.