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Saturday, 7 June 2014

Intelligent design

So it turns out that crawling round and round a coffee table on your hands and knees, because it makes the baby giggle, is a bad idea, since three days later a sharp pain in the small of your back will lay you out on the living-room floor, where you will stay for a very long time, because the slightest movement brings searing agony.

But it's not all bad. As you lie there staring up at the stars you get time to ponder. You think "where the hell is my ceiling?"

You think "evolution is as good at bodies as I was at basket-weaving at school." N
o matter how carefully I crafted, fatal flaws would afflict my baskets, rendering them unfit for use or ornament. My mum said they were lovely but she never put any apples in them. 

You see I just went ahead and wove, hoping it would all turn out right. But it never did. Evolution is like that. Some of its creations look like they were planned and designed, and it can even come up with wonderful objects like Chrissie Hynde, who sounds great, looks fantastic and is kind to animals.  

But at heart evolution is a bodger. It makes terrible mistakes, like the appendix, the optic nerve, the duck-billed platypus and Justin Bieber. If evolution hung the wallpaper in your living-room, there would be a patch in the corner where the patterns didn't match. 

So one day evolution got it into its head to make an ape walk upright, using a skeleton built for quadrupeds. And that's why you and I now exist on the edge of pain, awaiting only an incautious sneeze to become glued to the floor. 

While I'm down here, I get to wondering why humans move around so much anyway. I mean a barnacle stays in one place all its life, but seems quite happy. I guess having a penis ten times as long as its body, so it can reach out to equally sedentary females, takes the pressure off. 

If you scaled that up, it would give me sixty feet. But if you imagine I'm pursuing that line of thought in a family-friendly blog, think again pal. 

"Yeah, what is it?" Rachel says, when I call her up from my new home on the living-room floor. "I'm watching Dr Who. The whole of space and time is in danger."

"I won't keep you," I say. "I was just wondering why evolution gave us arms and legs, but not wheels." 

"Were you?" she says. "
Tell me why in less than two seconds."

"Well, cycling is the most efficient form of transport, you keep telling me, and backbones aren't designed for upright postures. So why don't we have little wheels on the ends of our arms and legs?"

"I'll give you the short version," she says. "There is no way to get there by evolution. A wheel would have to rotate freely in relation to the rest of the body. How would you get food and oxygen across the gap? You can design a wheeled system. But you can't evolve one by small steps."

"That makes sense," I say.

"It does," she says. "The fact that there are no wheels in nature is a good argument against intelligent design, if you need one."

"I don't," I tell her. "What I need right now is a way of moving around that doesn't involve walking or crawling."

"Have you tried slithering, oozing or drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweed?" she says.

"I haven't," I say. 

"Start now," she says and hangs up on me.

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