An inordinate fondness of beetles

J. B. S. Haldane, on the nature of a Creator.


Contrary to Haldane’s vision of a Creator (apocryphal though it likely is), I am not inordinately fond of beetles. Of course, as above, they can be very beautiful, but this frankly enormous taxonomic order of creatures also contains specimens which happily roll giant balls of dung around all day. Admittedly, this serves rather a useful environmental purpose, but who could love a beetle like that?

For me, their most useful purpose has been to rebut Biblical creationism, specifically the Just A Theory (TM) evolution deniers, people I used to engage with on a far too regular basis in the idealistic hope I might help them see the (well-studied by science) light. Creationists, of course, also implicitly deny many other branches of science – astronomy, geology, climatology, pretty much all of physics and chemistry – but for some reason, evolution is a special bugbear.

Just as Noah could not have housed pairs of every beetle species in his Ark (“We’re going to need a bigger boat”), nor do we observe beetle evolution at the lightning rate required to generate 400,000 different species from one beetle “kind” in the 6000-odd years since the Biblical flood. I once calculated that a new beetle species would be emerging once every nine days, a phenomenon I feel confident scientists might have noticed.

So while I have no special place in my heart for the actual bugs known as beetles, I do have an inordinate fondness for their value in scientific debate. So here I am.

(Also, to be completely honest, when I was scouring for a Twitter handle that might match my scientific expertise, I couldn’t find any versions of “Gene Genie” available. I even looked up other song lyrics that contained the word/s “jean/s”, in the hope of alighting on something just as perfect for me. Sadly, I feel Neil Diamond [@ForeverInBlueGenes] lacked something compared to Bowie coolness).