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The Independent Culture
THE WONDERS of nature used to be taken as evidence for the existence of God: mere chance couldn't account for something as complicated as a bird's feather, a spider's web, the life-cycle of a sheep's liver fluke. They had to come about by design, and design implies a designer.

There are several objections to that line of argument: philosophers have criticised the underlying logic (why should there be any relationship between complexity and design?), while Darwinian evolution by natural selection has provided an alternative mechanism for the development of complicated things. Another line of argument is that nature isn't actually that wonderfully designed (the human knee, for instance, is rubbish, as well as generally unsightly).

This is where the giraffe comes in. Giraffes, as demon-strated in Wildlife on One (Sun BBC1), are barely workable contraptions. Because their heads are so far above their bodies, they have to have enormous hearts generating very high pressure to get any blood up to their brains. But gravity means that the pressure gets even higher down below: so, to stop them getting swollen ankles, they have to have phenomenally tight skin on their legs, like built-in support tights.

Another possible consequence of their high blood-pressure is an enormous surge of blood to the brain if they dip their heads (as when they drink). Strong valves in the blood vessels in the neck stop that happening; but the problem here is that when they raise their heads again, they could find their brains starved of blood, and pass out. So every time a giraffe raises its head, its heart must race.

Other problems associated with giraffehood include the risk of doing the splits in wet weather; a chronic lack of sleep, because lying down is such a kerfuffle (they manage on a Thatcherite 20 minutes a day); and the calves have to be enormously tall at birth, in order to reach their mothers' udders. On the plus side, their strong tongues, hairy lips and rubbery innards enable them to swallow acacia thorns whole and pass them out intact at the other end. (Children! Never play with giraffe pooh!)

Looking at a giraffe's face, and especially its eyes, innocent orbs bulging out from underneath dark lashes, it's tempting to see signs of some benevolent spirit at work in nature. But no deity in his right mind would have design something like this - a bag of spare parts on stilts, ready to explode at any moment. The giraffe can only have come about through trial and error.

In Unzipped (Sat C4), Graham Norton camped and smirked his way through a history of football scandals. Among other revelations: George Best drank a lot and had sex with numerous women; Paul Gascoigne drank even more; and Vinnie Jones had a poor disciplinary record. In between, we got a lot of cheap puns about shooting and dribbling. More tackily, Norton accompanied a pair of football groupies to a nightclub, where they hoped to score with Leeds players. On the way, one got a message on her mobile phone: "Next time I shag you I want to see your tits." If there really was a God, surely he wouldn't allow brainless, degrading rubbish like this to exist.

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