An Inordinate Fondness For Beetles

Asked what could be inferred about the Creator from a study of His works, British scientist and naturalist JBS Haldane replied:

“The Creator, if he existed, had an inordinate fondness for beetles”.

I have just re-read the delightful book Jayne Janetsky gave me in 1999 and learned again:

– Every fifth species of known animal in the world is a beetle;
– Beetles come in the most beautiful array of shapes and sizes and colours.

Absolutely fascinating! And right up my alley!

I show here just three of the 350 000:

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The book has a few more!

Beetles fondness

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In a letter to the August 1992 issue of The Linnean, a friend of Haldane’s named Kenneth Kermack said that both he and his wife Doris remembered Haldane using the phrase ‘an inordinate fondness for beetles.’

‘I have checked my memory with Doris, who also knew Haldane well, and what he actually said was: “God has an inordinate fondness for beetles.’ JBSH himself had an inordinate fondness for the statement: he repeated it frequently. More often than not it had the addition: “God had an inordinate fondness for beetles and stars.” ‘

Haldane was making a theological point: God is most likely to take trouble over reproducing his own image, and his 350,000 attempts at the perfect beetle contrast with his slipshod creation of man. ‘When we meet the Almighty face to face he will resemble a beetle or a star, and not Dr. Carey’ said Haldane. [Carey was Archbishop of Canterbury].’

Rhinoceros beetle
– um, your grace? –
– dung beetles – over 5 000 species – we saw this one in Mfolosi Game Reserve –

. . and a few more:

a tray of beetles
– 350 000 different species! – this cab cause some challenges

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No Respect . .

. . for their own natural history!

Book Borer.jpg

They found it by boring but they wouldn’t have found it boring – we all love reading about ourselves. If they’d navigated to the right page they’d have found their ancestors – or cousins – in here.

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2020: Clearing out old books during the April 2020 lockdown, I found the author’s autobiography. A fascinating man. An English schoolteacher, he took a teaching job in Rondebosch on the spur of the moment and stayed in SA all his life.

Sydney Harold Skaife (‘Stacey’) D.Sc FRSSAf. (12 December 1889 – 6 November 1976) was an eminent South African naturalist. His career and educational publications covered a wide field. He was also a teacher, school inspector, broadcaster, and conservationist. Of his many achievements his greatest was probably his leading role in the creation of the Cape of Good Hope Nature Reserve. He lived for most of his life on his smallholding ‘Tierbos” in Hout Bay. He was a prolific author of scientific and popular books (mainly detective novels written for Huisgenoot under the pseudonym Hendrik Brand). More here and here.

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