Somehow the old Greeks of a couple of thousand years ago have left a great reputation behind them although, us people today, exaggerate when attributing the invention of democracy to the old buggers. Democracy was a piece of cake for them, they had more slaves than there were Greeks. Exactly like that old Boer who watched a bunch of limeys in London doing a shit job on a road, “give me five blacks,” he said, “and I’ll do that bloody job in quarter of the time.”

Just as well old Euclid did a fine job on geometry and Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth within 50 miles correct today so that there is no doubt why we admire those old Greeks. (The modern ones we‘d better not talk about).

But where there is height, there’s depth and one old Greek produced a fine example of total inane reasoning. Xenophanus was his name and he said that if cows had hands to draw pictures they would have drawn god in the likeness of a cow. Apart from the fact that a cow with hands would not have been a cow anymore, his statement shows such an ignorance of animal behaviour that I wonder how his writings have lasted until today while many worthwhile mathematical papers have been lost.

 Thinking about these things was triggered by letters in our local newsrag written by people that believe in a god and atheists with their ideas…  Such an exchange of opinions is of course totally useless because not one statement can be based on irrefutable fact. My mind about this subject was made up before the end of WW2 but my subsequent familiarity with animals, wild or tame, reinforced my convictions. It is true that I do not know much about lions or elephants but I’ve seen my share of sharks and orcas as you can read in my book ‘Sink The Birkenhead’. Admonishing a 3 meter white shark with a piece of lead pipe when you’re 30 meters down is one thing but ’Oh boy!’ when you are busy getting out of the water and you don’t know anymore where that mouthful of bloody teeth is, is another matter that can be condensed into ‘shitscared!’

Farming on a 300 hectare farm has been another one of my activities and made me become familiar with cattle, pigs, goats, chickens, sheep and a lot of wild animals that you can find on such a stretch of land in South Africa. One of the funniest creatures I ever met up with was a tiny mouse not much larger than your thumbnail. Microscopic daggers are its teeth and they’ll find any plastic irrigational pipe you have on the land to puncture a tiny hole of less than a tenth of a millimetre. Then they sit blissfully underneath this miniscule fountain they have made, tiny jaws wide apart and booze if it were a Volnay 1976. In such rapture were these tiny drinkers that often I picked them up between two fingers, they were unaware of all external dangers.

Another clever co-inhabitant on our farm was the dune mole, (Bathyergus suillus) an almost blind chap that lives underground and can become as big as a rabbit. These moles ruined 2 hectares of a vineyard I had planted by eating the roots. But they also know that maize cobs grow six foot up in the air and these blind buggers can engineer a plan to get hold of them. First he bites off the maize plant roots with his inch long teeth before digging a shaft straight down. Then he pulls down the plant stem, bit by bit into the shaft until eventually the cob is half pulled into the ground when our engineer bites it off to go and store it in his cellar. How did he learn to do that smart trick?  I stood in my maize field the whole morning, stockstill, watching this blind engineer’s efforts for more than three hours and then went home to have a snort and think about different ways of making a living.

The stupidest animals I had on that farm were my prize Hereford bulls. The cows were fine, crafty ladies who made beautiful calves without any fuss. But the bulls! one stupid but very expensive sod tried to shag a cow across a barbed wire fence which so damaged his wedding tackle that I had to slaughter him. Angora goats could put up a fine I Q performance also as these beasties can die because of just about anything but I had one that had a go at suicide. He had partially climbed a tree, slipped, got his head caught in fork and hanged himself. Next day I swopped those bloody goats for a ski boat and a 1000liter wine tank with one of my farm neighbours.

So, where are you going with your shark and farm stories, Nick, you may well ask. Well, back to the theology blokes and the atheists who can yap and yap in the newspaper without convincing anyone. Animals don’t appear to waste their time on such empty arguments but they have the same emotions, thoughts and reflexes as us. They have fun most of the time, many of them don’t spend a lot of time to get food and they do what they like doing. They are perfectly rational, otherwise modern sharks would not have been around for the last 140 million years. There’s nothing wrong with their brains, many birds, at the speeds they travel beat us, reaction wise, to a standstill. They also know very well what death is, go try and kill them.

However, as alike non-human animals may be to us, they differ from us in one monumental fashion: They never invented religion.

 There are no shark gods, bird gods or any other animal gods as that idiot Xenophanus suggested. Gods are a purely a human invention and what good that invention has brought to humanity I leave for you to consider.

 


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