Looking absurd bedecked in an vivid orange boiler suit amid a half-autopsied giraffe, Richard Dawkins heralded that because the animal’s laryngeal nerve wandered from its throat area, performed a loop-the-loop in the torso and then returned to sit just inches away from its source it was incontrovertible evidence of Darwinism evolution rather than ‘intelligent design’ advocated by some Christians because it was an ‘imperfection’ that an omnipotent engineer would have erased from the blueprint.
A similar flaw was inherent in this last of this marvellous series of anatomical investigations about Mother Nature’s larger offspring that proved some digital deity wasn’t blessing the show with mystical perspicacity that would otherwise be beyond the imagination of a more secular production – and that flaw was called Richard Dawkins.
Every now and then as the documentary reached a crescendo about the wonders of evolution, Dawkins would suddenly appear like a visitation of the Holy Ghost to ram home the debunking of intelligent design as if unaware that it’s a battle that’s already won, his persistent bleating resembling the aftermath of a pub car park punch-up where the victor starts to walk off but in a flash of fury returns to plant his size-12 Dr Martens into the ribs of his supine adversary. Only people in Crazyville, USA, and the unfortunate few infected by them, have any faith in intelligent design.
In fact, Dawkins and intelligent design are ostensibly locked in a symbiotic relationship with each one existing only to fuel their other’s fervour that they are correct. The consequence is that the conflicting evolution and intelligent design become substitutes for atheism and a belief in God, which become misleading absolutes.
This is because it omits the possibility of a supreme being which follows the credo of non-interference – like Star Trek’s Prime Directive – although why the God portrayed in the Bible as being consumed by tantrums and hubris would wait half-a-billion years, rather than seven days, for a life form intelligent enough to worship and appreciate Him is baffling (although we imagine that the Bible is as credible a character reference for ‘God’ as your ancestor who died battling Saladin in the Crusades would be for you in applying for a job as an IT consultant).
And it’s a shame that Dawkins was such a vexing, menacing presence – best shown when one of the scientists quickly corrected a description of the giraffee’s diaphragm from “designed” to “evolved” as though he felt the atheist’s sulphuric breathe on the back of his neck – as he somewhat overshadowed another brilliant analysis of the mechanics of a true phenomenon of nature.
From the very first show in the series, presenter Mark Evans and the team of anatomists and pathologists have helped the viewer become inured to the sight of a carcass being cut up and disembowelled with an unfussy, perfunctory manner so the sawn-up limbs, the throbbing intestine all become as shocking as looking into a butcher’s shop window, while here the unwieldy hide was dully dragged across the floor like an a kidnapped child in a sack.
But simply explaining how the giraffe has evolved could be learned from books; where this series excels is in the inventiveness of the demonstrations. This was brilliantly illustrated when anatomist Joy Reidenberg inflated the beast’s lungs, which caused them to expand like a bouncy castle surrounded by impatient children, and then collapse like a fragile building in the midst of an earthquake.
Meanwhile, another of the team was sent to NASA to show how the giraffe has overcome the problem of all the blood collecting in its legs by undergoing a G-force experiment that left him on the verge of unconsciousness, and the unique neck was showcased by Mark pulling it into a position to mimic the giraffe drinking at a waterhole before letting go and watching it snap elastically back into position.
However, the neck has more uses than simply reaching the top branches of the acacia tree; footage showed two males using their necks like mediaeval flails to clobber the opponent into submission with their heads in order to claim the best females for mating, which more than anything else provided irrefutable testimony to the veracity of evolution – it all comes down to sex.