Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Cathedral of Nature

We went to London today. We took the boys to the Natural History Museum. Queueing to get in lasted an hour. Then we 'did' the dinosaurs who 'ruled the earth' from about 230 million to 65 million BC. Funny that, as they showed extracts from films like '10,000 (or was it 10 million? )Years BC' and 'The Flintstones' which had humans and dinosaurs on earth at the same time. There was some catastrophe about 65 million years ago and there have been about 100 possible explanations put forward as to what this was, including that they were all taken up by aliens or died of hay-fever when certain plants came along and the climate changed. A good dose of Beconase then could have saved these creatures for posterity. A flood was not one of the catastrophic options listed by the museum.

On the floor which tells you how we have evolved from apes I was delighted to learn that we are nearer gorillas or chimpanzees than to orang-utans or gibbons; it's something to do with the jaw. Baboons are not in the running apparently. Neanderthal man was prominent, if I recall, from about 500,000 BC to within 100,000 then the race who were our direct ancestors came long. Neanderthals and these ancestors co-existed for a time (a few tens of thousands of years). I must admit I thought the story was that Neanderthals were our ancestors; you learn something every day. When you realise that the total skeletal evidence on which these weighty conclusions are based would fit into the back of a not very large white van, one is amazed at the extrapolatory ability of palaeontologists.

But there is lots of less conjectural stuff in the NHM and it makes for an interesting day out. It is reading between the lines, however, which is interesting. They call it the 'cathedral of nature' and walking in, it certainly has that appearance. Moreover, sitting on his chair (cathedra, like ancient bishops) up on the steps as you enter, is His Grace Charles Darwin. His white marble statue was unveiled in February 2009 and the statue of Richard Owen who founded the museum in the 19th C, has been ignominiously shunted into an obscure corner - still to be seen with a polite plaque to his name. But he did not agree with Evolution as Darwin taught it, you see, and so has been demoted by Commissar Dawkins and his Stalinist atheist cronies, along with one or two contemporary men of science who dare to suggest that Evolution may not be the answer to everything. Cathedral it certainly is; even science needs its religious overtones. Dawkins interestingly has brought out a children's book called 'The Magic of Reality'. So having rubbished religion we are now back to magic.

After leaving the NHM, we took the tube to Victoria, walked to Buckingham Palace, saw a miniature version of changing of the guard, walked through a lovely autumnal St James' Park to Parliament Square, saw the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, Whitehall, Downing Street as well guarded as a military establishment, and Trafalgar Square where punters were abseiling down a specially erected white wall. All wonderful, apart from the scaffolding, plastic sheets and building paraphernalia defacing the Queen Victoria Memorial (outside Buck House), Trafalgar Square and Leicester Square. London, like our culture, seems to be undergoing major reconstruction.

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