JOHN Mackay, a hitherto unknown creationist, has evolved into a bit of a minor celebrity in recent weeks, which may be something of a concern to a man whose adult life has been dedicated to dismissing all things Darwinian.
As international director of the Australia-based Creation Research, he has visited Britain on lecture tours almost every year since 1987, arguing that the world was, as the Bible says, created in six days, and in doing so stirring up, if not widespread apathy, then, at the very least, general indifference.
All that has changed this year. Mackay, whose bandwagon trundles into Scotland next week, has been attracting lots of attention, largely thanks to those who oppose his views, and who keep shouting at us to ignore him. We were, we were.
So to what does Mackay attribute his new found popularity? Over the phone from his UK headquarters, he tells me it's partly those critics, partly the "moral abyss", which has something to do with homosexuality and God creating Adam and Eve, but not Adam and Bruce, and a lot to do with the popularity of the newfangled theory of intelligent design.
Despite this, Mackay is very sniffy about ID. It's creationism by the back-door, he says. Which is what everyone else says as well. What is the point of having an intelligent designer and then not saying it is God? He could be a little green man, or anyone.
So, what does he make of the alternative theory of unintelligent design? "You mean Richard Dawkins and the selfish gene?" he says. Nope. I mean the theory that the world was created by a supreme being, but that the design was pretty poor, and the designer, therefore, a bit thick.
For example, why create the dodo, a giant flightless bird of no purpose, whose extinction has caused no harm to the supposedly fragile eco-system of our planet?
"The dodo was just a giant pigeon," says Mackay. Exactly. What better proof of a daft designer do you need. Normal pigeons are bad enough, rats with wings, why invent a giant one?
There again, perhaps the dodo does demonstrate some creator intelligence. After all he did make it flightless. If he had given them functioning wings we might all be regularly covered in dodo doodoo.
What about stoats and weasels? Why invent two animals which no normal people can tell apart? An intelligent designer would have made it obvious, made one purple, or just written stoat or weasel on their foreheads.
Mackay has an answer for this too. It's our fault, not the creator's. The only reason we get mixed up is because we started naming them. "That just creates confusion," he says, the first piece of creationism I actually agree with.
What about the human appendix? Very useful, apparently. Good for the immune system. True it can be removed without harm, but only because the creator put in a couple of back-up systems.
But this begs two further questions. Why design a top of the range model that is so dim it can't work out which of its own bits are useful, and which aren't?
And if you are going to stick in a load of back-up organs, why only for the frankly rubbishy appendix? Why don't we all have three hearts and at least a couple of livers?
In the end though Mackay's chief argument against unintelligent design is that it is just plain ludicrous. "If you followed that argument to its conclusion you would end up without a designer at all," he says.
I could not have put it better myself.
Chorus of disapproval for a new national anthem
THERE was a rare outbreak of indolence in the Scottish Parliament this week, something for which we should all be truly grateful.
Asked by the SNP's Michael Matheson to lead a national mass debate on the choice of a new national anthem, MSPs on Holyrood's enterprise committee deliberated on the matter and said: No.
No steering group was set up, no consultation paper issued, the public's views are not to be sought, and everything is just to carry on as before. Wonderful.
According to the MSPs, there were many far more important issues to which they could devote their time than picking a tune to be played on the off-chance Scotland wins something major in sports before the next Commonwealth Games, after this year's medals for the swimming team (pictured).
This is a very sensible position. However, it does set a bit of a dangerous precedent, given the nature of much of what our Parliament normally involves itself in.
Less sensible perhaps is the MSPs' view that the choice of any new national anthem should be left to the terraces of our major sporting stadia. Who wants to pick up a medal to a rousing chorus of "Who's the mason in the black?"
To me, the most intriguing suggestion was that the process by which any new tune should emerge should be "organic" - one that surprisingly did not come from the Greens.
If that is the case then there is only one possible choice for Scotland's new national anthem. All together now: "Old MacDonald had a farm, ee-aye-ee-aye-oh."
Scottish spirit of good will is Poles apart from what driver expected
ON A recent trip to the far-ish north of this fair land I was treated to both sides of what it is, I think jokingly, referred to as Highland hospitality.
Arriving for breakfast at my dingy hotel, the grumpy Scottish controller of the tables kept me waiting for ages before showing me to my place.
After that I was showered, not literally, with tea and toast by various helpful, smiling eastern Europeans possessed of much charm but very little English.
So I was not surprised to learn that a bunch of irate bus passengers in Inverness should this week rat on their Polish driver after he apparently got lost on his first solo trip.
According to this unwelcoming mob, the poor Pole had no idea how to get from Aberdeen to Inverness and was forced to consult a map and ask them for directions.
Instead of just helping the lost stranger, who was admittedly paid to know where he was, they phoned up all and sundry to complain.
His employers, Stagecoach, deny that any maps were produced, but concede the driver did seek reassurance from his customers. More fool him.
I think that we should salute the work ethic of a young man who managed to find his way here from Gdansk, even if he could not then quite find his way to Inverness.
And what is wrong with those passengers?
A scheduled trip to Inverness and then a mystery tour thrown in for free. It's not often that you get that kind of deal out of Stagecoach.
Why Sheena no longer has to work from nine till five
SHEENA Easton is probably the most successful singing star Scotland has produced in the modern pop era. I know, I had to read that twice, and I wrote it.
A full quarter of a century after she hit the big time, after starring in a prototype reality show called, funnily enough, The Big Time, she remains one of the highest-paid entertainers in Las Vegas and is said to be worth a whopping 30m.
She is now a US citizen and living the American dream: she is on her fourth husband and complains her bum is too big.
Yet, as she revealed in an interview last week, she had a tough start in the pop world. She started singing professionally in 1976, and says she recorded her first CD in 1978.
This may explain why her career was slow to take off. The first CD players did not reach Britain until 1982, meaning early fans had no way of listening to her music.