I wasn’t sure what to write about today. I’m not out of ideas; it’s just that the kids are at home. Focus is a rare commodity when you’re at the beck and call of a hungry eight-year-old and a bored four-year-old. Then it came to me. Not from the shadowy depths of my imagination. From the internet.
I stumbled across an old YouTube clip. Kirk Cameron from “Growing Pains” sits comfortably next to a natty little chap with the sort of moustache you would expect to find on a dodgy Boy Scout master. Moustache guy brandishes a banana at the camera and utters the immortal line “Behold the atheist’s nightmare”. He then proceeds to lay waste to the very foundations of atheism. With a banana. He rocks.
Don’t worry. I’m not going to talk about God. I’m going to talk about coconuts. Soon. Moustache guy’s name is Ray Comfort. He is not an asset to his cause. For two reasons.
First of all, that’s not how you say “behold”. I have never used the word in anger, but someday I hope to. When I’m ready. There will be fire. My face will be lit by its eerie, flickering light. I will raise my arms. A fanfare would be pushing it, but I hope there will at least be some kettle-drums. My voice will rumble up from the depths of my chest, like James Earl Jones on CNN. I will not, Mr Comfort, hold up a banana and say “behold” like I was showing my wife a funny-shaped carrot. What a waste.
Secondly, the good Mr Comfort has chosen the wrong fruit. He argues that God must exist because the banana is so well designed for human use. It cannot be an accident. It’s filled with sweet, nutritious flesh. It has no seeds. It’s easy to peel. It fits in your hand. It curves towards your mouth (How handy is that!!!). Surely some intelligent agent must be behind the design of the humble banana
Mr Comfort is absolutely correct. The banana was designed by an intelligent agent. Us. Bananas have been domesticated for about eight thousand years, about as long as maize. This is what they used to look like.
The proto-banana is not filled with sweet, nutritious flesh. It has so many seeds it’s almost inedible. It’s not easy to peel. It doesn’t curve towards your mouth or fit in your hand. We didn’t like that. So we fixed it through selective breeding. Does this mean Mr Comfort’s God is dead? Maybe not. Maybe His disciples just battle when it comes to fresh-produce based metaphors. And facial hair grooming choices. This is a coconut.
It’s what Mr Comfort was looking for. Bugger bananas. Let’s say you wash up on a tropical beach after an ocean-crossingly awesome windsurfing accident. You’re going to be a little thirsty. Don’t look around for a stream. The water might make you sick. Find a coconut. It’s filled with coconut water (not milk) that comes with its own handy container. Once you have slaked your thirst, deal with your hunger by eating some of the remarkably healthy flesh. Time to get settled in.
You’re in for some hot work. Make yourself a hat. Luckily, the coconut palm has a ready-made, pre-woven fibre growing around the nuts that’s perfect for the purpose. Ready? Time to organise shelter. Build a framework of long, strong, salt resistant coconut trunks, wall it and roof it with coconut leaves tied on with coconut-fibre rope. Carpet it with coir matting made from coconut husks, and use any you have left to stuff your mattress.
Done? Now make yourself some coconut milk and coconut oil to cook with, harvest some palm hearts to vary to your diet and collect some sap to make palm wine with. All you need now is a set of clothes made out of coconut fibre with coconut-shell buttons (be warned! There will be chafing involved. This stuff ain’t silk.)
Clean yourself up with coconut soap, pack your goods up in a coconut leaf basket, and make your way down the beach to the hotel, where you can call the International Epic Windsurfer Rescue Squad. While you’re busy, you may as well call Mr Comfort and laugh at his banana.
Because here’s the thing. The coconut wasn’t bred to do any of these things. It just does. It’s an accident. A coincidence. You could almost believe that coconuts were designed by some sort of intelligent agent for our convenience. Almost, but not quite. They’re a bugger to open.