Is a conductor akin to a god? Some reflections on intelligent design lead inexorably from the Deity to Herbert von Karajan.

Sitting over the summer break at a little boathouse on Pittwater, I was struck by the amazing beauty of the nature around me. Waves sparkling, a light breeze, birds, fish and a myriad of insects, and in the evenings the most spectacular, free entertainment in the form of a sunset that went on for a full hour of extraordinary gradations. This natural light show was accompanied on the CD player by the tinkling of another small miracle, the mandolin concertos of Vivaldi, all washed down with a crisp Clare Valley Riesling.

In the face of such beauty one is always amazed at how it all came about. A giant swathe of Americans in the deep south will swear on their Bibles that God was both architect and builder, and what’s more brought the whole project in on budget at six days. But have they ever really thought about the logistics of such a contract? The vast job of designing all those fjords and the crinkly bits around countries. And once the planet was in an inhabitable state, starting...