Acceptance of evolution in the world

Acceptance of evolution in the world.

I have just stumbled across the above blog post, which has a graph showing several countries in the world and the ratios of the population that accepts or denies evolution.

The graph mainly lists European countries, though the United States is there, and depressingly low down.

What I would like to see as a comparison is the acceptance in Asian, African and South American countries too. I guess for the moment that information is not available and I also imagine that a fair few of those countries will be extend the bottom of the graph to show lower and lower acceptance of evolution.

What I’d also like to see is how those numbers have changed in the last decade or two. Have the numbers gone more or less in favour of Evolution? I’d also like to see that same comparison in the next few decades to see how the numbers change.




Emergency! This Samosa is Too Christian

Chamuças de Goa. Chamuças (samosas) from Goa.

Image via Wikipedia

I genuinely burst out laughing reading a free paper on the train into work this morning. Muslims in Samalia have apparently decreed Samosas as too Christian and banned them.

Quite how a food can be deemed religious is beyond me, but it seems that’s the case and soSomaliawill now have to do without.

The ludicrousness of a deity loving foodstuff aside, if one was to associate Samosas with any religion its not going to be Christianity. Samosas are a triangular snack of meat or vegetable wrapped in pastry and fried. They are generally very tasty and I have no problem enjoying them. I believe they originate fromIndia, which is not the source of Christianity. If one was to associate them with any religion, my guess would be Hinduism.

However, sinceIndiahosts numerous religions I am not sure it is even credible to associate Samosas with any specific religion at all. Its a cultural snack which has migrated around the world and arguably transcends all cultures and therefore all religions.

Since the story comes from Somalia, its one that is worth looking into a little more because Somalia is currently a lawless hotbed of fighting factions and it would not at all surprise me if there are several ultra extremist organisations there fighting for some sort of control and my guess is that this is a decree by one such organisation in an attempt to flex some muscle and create headlines for itself.

A quick check reveals the following stories on the subject,, and where it seems that pretty much everyone in the world feels the same way about it as I do.

Extremism is Dangerous


This kind of exclusion is divisive and after the laughter has subsided there is a very serious issue to consider. People are likely going to suffer and possibly even be killed over this.

In a country that has many other issues to face, namely the feeding of its people, this grasping for power can have no positive effect at all.

HIV and AIDS are Proof of Evolution

Last month marked the 30th anniversary of the publishing of details of a new disease, one that the world now knows as AIDS.

The history of HIV and AIDS is scarily fascinating. Its spread across the world was rapid and catching it pretty much condemns you to a prolonged death as your body gets weaker and weaker.

I boarded at secondary school in theUKin the early 80’s and I remember some of the news reports about this new disease. One thing that I especially remember is that it seemed to be a disease that targeted homosexuals, at least that’s the impression that the news reports left me with. It was no surprise that I and my fellow school friends considered it just deserts for those who dared to live such a disgusting and unnatural lifestyle. Of course, none of us knew, or had actually met an AIDS suffer, so it was easy to be prejudiced from a distance.

For me, it wouldn’t be long for that to change. My mother worked as an Occupational Therapist at the Hospital inLusaka,Zambiaand would encounter a few AIDS patients during her years there. SO on holidays back toZambia, there were a few people that we would encounter socially who suffered the disease. I remember one lady in particular who was always a pleasure to see as she was always cheerful and bright she was a Zambian and had AIDS, I have no idea how she became infected, but that isn’t the point. She was a wonderful person, as far as I can remember, given I was a young teenager when I knew her, my mother always spoke well of her, even long after we leftZambia. I don’t know when she died, I just know that there came a time when she was no longer a part of our lives.

Enough of That, What About the Evolution?

To most people HIV and AIDS burst on to the scene in the 1980s. The disease was at first unknown and a bit of a mystery and as several cases started to be linked and a pattern emerged, the disease was given a name. At the time it was being identified the disease was mainly inAmericaand some parts ofAfrica, but of course it was already spreading about the world.

This was the time when it became a well known disease because it was very effective at spreading and it seemed to be sticking to certain people types, homosexuals and haemophiliacs appeared to be the most affected groups. This was of course a big clue in identifying how it spreads.

Once you have a major disease like AIDS that spreads through sexual intercourse, you’ve got a disease that is going to be extremely hard to stop.

The story doesn’t start with the 1980s though. Scientists have a record from 1959 of a man who died in the Congoof a mystery disease that, thanks to a kept sample, has now been identified as AIDS (

The Origin

HIV appears to have crossed the species barrier from Chimpanzees to Humans. There are two strains of HIV in humans, HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is also found in Chimpanzees, though they do not suffer in the same way as Humans do, possibly because they have developed a resistance of some description (

HIV-2 came to humans from Monkeys, thought it is also believed that HIV-1 got to Chimpanzees from Monkeys originally (

Exactly how HIV came into humans is not known, eating of bushmeat or getting infected blood into a cut or sore seems to be the most common hypothesis and it certainly seems a plausible explanation of how the infection crossed the species barrier into Humans. As someone who has lived in remote parts of Africa and seen and heard of some of the things that happen, I certainly have no difficulty imagining this scenario occurring, the science of how that allows a virus to cross infect a species is a separate issue.

There is some controversy over the origins of HIV though, with some people linking it to the Polio vaccines of the 1950s. These vaccines (which were oral) where created using Chimpanzee tissue. There are also a few slightly more wacky suggestions too. As far as I can tell, these alternative ideas stem from an idea that it was either some form of human mistake or, more cynically, part of a greater conspiracy. Proof is the missing factor in all these other ideas.

Species Jumping

Regardless of what one chooses to believe about how HIV first appeared in Humans, there is the issue of cross species infection. First there is from Monkeys to Chimpanzees and then there is from Chimpanzees to Humans. Whether it is through ingestion of infected blood, a laboratory mistake or a mad scientist trying to kill the world, the issue that can not be ignored is the relationship between the HIV virus and that found in Monkeys and Chimpanzees. The virus trail leads to that point no matter how you follow it. Somehow HIV, a virus that is staggeringly similar to the SIV virus in our tree swinging cousins, appeared in Humans. The only conclusion one can come to is that SIV is the parent of HIV. HIV appears in Humans as the result of Human tissue or blood coming into contact with the SIV virus from a Monkey or Chimpanzee.

The only way to avoid the conclusions that HIV is the result of a cross species infection is to invoke special creation. Either it spontaneously appeared, or God created it; the former is silly and the latter brings up so many questions about the character of God that it would take a very brave creationist to try it on. Such a person would also have to explain measles, influenza A, Ebola, SARS and dengue; all of which have come to Humans from another species.

There is another challenge to overcome if the following page is correct (; that is the implication that the HIV virus crossed into Humans multiple times.

Evolution of HIV and AIDS

HIV in Humans is not pleasant ( and will likely lead to AIDS (

The HIV virus has changed and mutated over the past 30 years to the point that there are different identifiable strains of the virus, this is how evolution works, separated populations develop their own mutations and characteristics and if they remain isolated long enough, will eventually become separate species. HIV’s mutations and can be tracked to several sub categories of the original (

HIV is a very changeable virus and is very quick to become resistance to the drugs used against it ( This is evolution in action, without it, the virus would be much more stable and therefore easier to treat and kill off.

However, all is not lost, we Humans are fighting back too and there are mutations that are giving resistance to help the fight (


As if all of the above is not enough, we now have FIV (, a Feline equivalent to HIV-1.


HIV / AIDS is nasty, you don’t want it and you don’t want anyone you love to get sick that way either. The wonders of nature do not favour anything, not even us Humans.

Viruses are good at adaptation. HIV / AIDS is an especially good example of a virus that mutates rapidly. Rapidly enough to not only cross the species barrier multiple times and to multiple species, but also to resist our attempts at controlling it by rapidly mutating defences against our attacks.

You can’t look at the way HIV / AIDS has spread and changed and not be impressed by its effectiveness. Effectiveness that demonstrates the science behind evolution. HIV / AIDS was not created and it has not remained constant.

My Part Time Vicar Friend got Married Last Weekend

* warning: this post contains words of a rude and crude nature. It is not something I make a habit of in my normal language and this blog reflects that. However, in the context of this post, the swearing is essential.

 ** note: this is quite a long post and I am not sure what etiquette there is with regards to long blog posts and if they should be split into parts or not. If you have a comment or suggestion to make on that, especially if you think this post would have benefitted from being split, then I’d love to read it.

A good friend of mine is a part time vicar (PTV), he spends the other half of the week doing his day job. We’ve been friends for the past 20 years. We’ve not really seen much of each other in the last 10, partly due to us now being separated by many miles. This happens in long tern friendships, people move away, get married and their life changes. Some friendships disappear due to lack of contact, some manage to survive and some simmer along, never really going away, but also never managing to remain at the same level of quality.

That latter part defines this friendship well. PTV and I had a very strong friendship many years ago, we’ve both shared deep and personal things and talked the world away late into the night during varying stages of brevity.

We’ve both moved away from the town in which we met, both got married and both become parents. Our lives now revolve around very different people and places, but we’ve managed to retain a tender connection and it was a wonderful pleasure to see him get married last weekend and stag night three weeks ago.

PTV is most definitely the one person in my circle who I could tell about my current state of thinking towards Christianity and know for certain that I am still a valued friend and that I am not being judged. Maybe I will tell him soon, I am certainly entertaining the idea of confiding in him before being more open to my wife about it.

PTV’s first marriage ended traumatically and he is very critical of the lack of support his in-laws provided to the marriage. To his mind, the decision to terminate the marriage was made very early and his wife’s family simply took the view that termination was better than salvation. Her family is very wealthy and he stood no chance in a fight and so his only choice to turn belly up and surrender to the inevitable. He is especially bitter about not being given a chance to salvage the marriage; he’s not even sure what went wrong or what he could have done differently to prevent it.

Sadly, I was not around to provide support to PTV during those dark years, but he did have other close friends so he wasn’t totally without support, just without the support he needed most, which I could not have provided either. In hindsight I wish I could have been in touch with him regularly enough to help him, and I know that if he’d turned up on my doorstep I’d have accommodated him without question. However, that’s water long since flowed by and no amount of wishing can change the past, so its pointless trying.

Right now the future looks wonderful for PTV and for that I am immensely happy.

The totally Irreverent Stag do

It had actually been a few years since I’d seen PTV when I attended his stag do. Something that I hope never happens again. It was a good night out, which basically revolved around drinking in several pubs and finishing the evening around a pool table, by which time I was the only sober person in the group.

PTV likes his booze, and hanging out with him that evening reminded me of the days 20 years ago when we’d have parties round my flat on a Saturday, sing popular songs badly, get drunk and generally behave like the immature 20 years olds that we were. Then of course on the Sunday evening the same flat would be tidied up, the guitars would come out and we’d all sing good Christian worship songs and have a bible study, like the mature responsible 20 year Christians that we were.

The stag do started with a quiz, written by PTV, to test the music knowledge of those assembled. Being a stag do, there was a very male centric element to the questions. Sporadic conversation during this opening hour also turned to PTV role in the church and those he answered to, there was some catching up to after all.

PTV was wonderfully unreserved and unashamed in his comments and opinions. He is a no nonsense guy and this is one of the qualities about him which I dearly love. I was very glad to be back in his life again.

I saw some of the 20 year old I knew so well that evening, a 20yo that has managed to be unpolluted by the experiences of the past 20 years. He let slip that there had been more than one bishop that he answers to that he has told to ‘fuck off’. Now I’m not sure if he meant that literally or figuratively, but his use of the phrase and the context leads me to believe that its far more likely to be literal. One should not ignore the influence of alcohol at this point, but PTV is precisely the sort of chap who I believe would and could tell a bishop to fuck off.

There was some other discussion about church policy and the risk of him being defrocked if his language and attitude didn’t change. PTV’s summary of the situation was along the lines of ‘The Church of England is so bloody liberal that whatever you tell them you believe, that’ll say its fine’, and of his job prospects, he shrugged his shoulders and suggested that they’d never try to sack him.

Later on in the evening I raised the Adam and Eve issue (, it wasn’t really the time or the place to have an in depth discussion with him, but he did unreservedly acknowledge that it causes a problem for original sin and subsequent salvation through Jesus. I have no idea if I’ll be able to have a proper grown up type chat with him on the subject, we shall see.

On to the Wedding.

The wedding was Saturday afternoon, it was a busy weekend for us as the family limey are now on the countdown to our big move and change of lifestyle. My in-laws are also moving to the same seaside town, they move next week, so plenty going on in that part of the family too. My brother and his fiancé came to stay with us for the weekend too, they marry early next year, so lots to talk about and arrange their too. So basically, life for my family is vary full these days, which is wonderful.

This meant that only I attended the wedding. There was no chance I was going to miss the wedding, PTV is an important person in my life, even if the main parts were a long time ago, it was very important for me to go, but the whole family could not go due to the amount of stuff going on, so only I went.

The bride looked fabulous, her long white gown and short train looked elegant on her and she radiated beauty from the second I saw her, in fact she probably radiated long before that. I brought to mind that PTV had admitted to getting to know her through a Christian dating website. She had contacted him within a few days of him signing up. I had to smile at that, because, if you’ll forgive the blunt male talk for a second, a woman with a figure and a face like hers is never going to have a problem finding a suitor. Then of course I remember the key word, Christian, ahh the murky waters of Christian mixing of the sexes! A little bit more on that later.

The service was overly Christian, and all the songs I knew well, so sang them as I would normally. The second song was a well known “Be Thou my Vision”, played with a rousing drum rhythm and I sung it with gusto, I was here to celebrate this union and the happiness of PTV, my friend; so I sung it loud and I sung it heartily and I enjoyed it. I hope my neighbours appreciated my enthusiasm.

Both bride and groom lifted a hand skyward during the song and I recalled the events of the stag evening and I smiled as I remembered another muttering of PTV on the evening of the stag do.

PTV had been asked about living together and he’d said that he would have not had a problem with living together prior to the marriage, but that there were members of his congregation who most certainly would have had a problem, so future Mrs PTV would not be moving in until after the honeymoon. I briefly pondered on the most stumbling of issues that comes up when Christians get married and decided that yes, PTV and future Mrs PTV have indeed engaged in PMS. I shall not judge, for I don’t care, and I shall not ask because its not my business.

The Wedding car!

This is really very cool and so I have to mention it.

The two parties in this wedding are each bringing two children into the new family that is being created. This required a genius choice of transport, to get from church to reception place. The children were a major part of the wedding and so the transport had to accommodate. The transport which turned up, which I already knew about as it had been revealed at the stag do; was an A-Team van. A proper GMC van, with burbling big capacity engine and the right colour scheme, blasting out the A-Team theme on repeat. Oh it was wonderful! You could see all the kids, eyes bulging with excitement, and all the fathers wishing they’d had the balls to book the same thing for their wedding, while trying to act unimpressed in front of their wives.

Oh the dancing!

The evening reception was a fun shindig, food was a finger buffet, speeches were intentionally light, just being a toast and a thank you, no amusing anecdotes and no mysteries from the past. Bride and groom each made their thanks and then the best man proposed a toast to the couple. That was it and it was on to the dancing.

Every wedding has one! The lone dancer with seemingly endless energy who will out last everyone on the dance floor and will be carried protesting when the last song ends. He, for its always a he, will get so animated in the heavy beat tracks that one will wonder how his head remains attached to his body. His shirt will be dripping with sweat and when he’s not on the dance floor, he’ll be outside cooling down in the night air. If you’re not a dance floor regular, you’ll know the person in question because as the evening progresses he’ll get more and more hoarse as he shouts out the songs that accompany his gyroscopic gymnastics.

Well, this weekend, it was my turn to be that guy!

It turned out that I really was the only man there without a partner, in fact I think I was the only adult there without a partner. Not that I was looking for them partner related action, in case anyone is wondering. It just meant that getting onto the dance floor meant not having someone to dance with, so caring went out the window and a fun boogie was had.

It turned out that a there were a number of ladies who enjoyed dancing too, though their partners were not so keen. So I spent a lot of time on the dance floor next to half a dozen ladies dancing together but never exchanging any eye contact! As it happens all the ladies concerned (and their partners) are from the bride’s church so were good Christian ladies. Ouch, that reads quite condescending, that’s not how its intended, so pleasure bear with me.

I’ve been to end of year parties with work colleagues of mine and my wife’s and dancing with other people partners (not slow dancing I might add) has never been an issue and nor has being in a group with ladies I don’t know, there is always eye contact and a smile, but never any hint of inappropriateness.

Yet that evening I was frustrated by it. Is it really such a crime to exchange eye contact on the dance floor? I don’t know why it suddenly became.

In the end I spent a good deal of time dancing with a two teenage lads, who were cousins of the bride, and the girlfriend of one of said lads. These were people less than half my age and I had a good deal of fun with them and found out a bit about them. Yet the Christian ladies sharing the dance floor with me couldn’t even look me in the eye.

Thinking back to it, I feel very sad.

Maybe my enthusiastic exertions marked me out as someone to be avoided. That was the wisdom spoken by my brother the next morning at breakfast.

I didn’t even get much chat from the husbands when I helped clear up the hall and pack the chairs away and the end of the evening; so who knows what was going on. Its just weird and sad that I can have more fun at a celebration like that with teenagers I have never met am old enough to have fathered than with people my own age.

Well, this post is way too long already so I’ll just finish with the promise of the intention to keep PTV as a greater part of my life. I will be writing to him soon to post a CD of the 200+ photos I took during the day and maybe to let him know my status of faith currently, I’m still deciding on that last bit.

There is Nothing to Fear in Doubt

Like all Christians, there had been many times when I’d questioned or doubted my faith. In fact most of the churches I’ve been to didn’t consider it a shame to admit to doubt. One church in particular loved to quote “honest doubt leads to true faith”. While I won’t go so far as to say they encouraged doubt, they didn’t say it was a bad thing and those to admitted to having doubts were encouraged to ask the questions because if you don’t ask the question, there is no one who is going to give you an answer.

This attitude of not fearing doubt is still one that I consider worthy and honest.

I remember one group conversation where I expressed the opinion that everyone should question their own beliefs. This was met with unanimous agreement, so I am glad to say that I am not alone in holding that view.

Of course, those who wish to control others will always fear and discourage doubt, especially doubt in those they have a hold over. In those situations, doubt brings about the potential of freedom, freedom from manipulative others. I am very aware and saddened that some churches have (and even still do?) act like that. I have a suspicion that one of the churches my family attended when I was a child had a senior pastor like that. That is not ground I wish to cover though, it was many many years ago and suspicion is not proof and I don’t really have a way of confirming that suspicion. I am judging events of long ago from a cynical adult mind when the memories I am working from are those of a child not even 8, possibly younger. That’s hardly fair.

As an adult, I have not consciously been in the situation, where I have been manipulated so I am thankful of that.

Enough of that, back to the doubt.

Doubt is good, it makes one ask basic questions about their own assumptions. Sometimes it will serve to confirm and sometimes it will serve to correct. The important thing is that stuff is not being taken for granted, it is being questioned and assessed.

Fear of this process is unhealthy. If your belief (no matter what it is) can’t survive the process of honest questioning, then its not a valid belief and you are living a life with little integrity.

Even as a Christian I can honestly say that I would rather have a friend who was an atheist with integrity than one who was a Christian without. You can swap that around now that I’ve left my faith behind, I’d rather have a friend who is a Christian with integrity than an atheist without. It’s the integrity that matters, not the belief.

Someone who fears or runs away from doubt lacks that integrity.

The First Nagging Doubts

Colorado River in the Grand Canyon from Desert...

Image via Wikipedia

The first doubts that led me to really question my acceptance of creationism came with a visit to the Grand Canyon. My wife and I enjoyed a wonderful two week holiday to the Eastern USA before our daughter was born.

We started and ended in Las Vegas, urgh, we didn’t like the place at all; so fake and artificial and materialistic.

From Vegas, we did a big loop that encompassed the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater, London Bridge, Sedona,San Francisco, some geyser or other, some Redwoods, Yosemite andDeath Valley. We loved it, utterly loved it.

I started the holiday as a creationist and ended the holiday seriously wondering if I’d been duped all those years.

I just couldn’t stop the questions.

When it comes to all things science, my attention is easily kept, even if understanding has trouble keeping up. I like to see how things work and like to question why. As a result, I am very much a nature man, this is very likely connected to my upbringing in Zambia, where nature was always all around.

What this would mean is that every time I visited somewhere I’d look for evidence of the past, too see how and why formations would happen and then imagine the process happening in front of me. That’s part of how I appreciate nature.

Up until this point, my favourite place in the world had always been Victoria Falls on the Zambia/Zimbabwe border. I’ve visited it numerous times as a child and an adult. The noise of the water is immense and the power that is visible is jaw dropingly huge. Then I saw the Grand Canyon and I was blown away by the scale and the peace (when you can get away from your fellow tourists). Suddenly my favourite place in the world had a challenger that was a serious contender. I’d seen Niagara Falls a few years previously and that didn’t even come close, so to be so utterly taken with the ruggedness and barrenness of the Grand Canyon was unexpected.

We saw sunset and the following sunrise over the canyon and several hours either side.

Looking out over the canyon I examined the rock structures and the layers. I looked for the erosion marks on isolated outcrops. I kept looking at the features I saw and trying to fit them with my creationist beliefs and struggled. The jagged edges didn’t fit with a catastrophic flood carving it out in a short time. Something gentler was required.

I looked at the mighty Colorado River, which looked like a small stream from the vantage point we were at. I tried to imagine it as a surface river gradually carving its way down through the rock. It seems an incredible feat and would surely take so long that it would be almost impossible to imagine that period of time. If this river has carved such a huge valley, canyon even, how come others rivers haven’t? Why is it so unique? Yet as I continued to look, I could see sections that I could easily imagine where previous paths of the river.

Could it be that my firmly held beliefs could be upset by simple observation and imagination?

Well yes, as it turns out.

During the rest of the holiday I would ponder these unsettling and yet invigorating questions and look at other features in a new light. Like the petrified forests north of San Francisco, Half Dome Rock and the glacier valley in Yosemite, rock features on the drive into and out ofDeath Valley.

So the start of the end of my creationism had begun, it started as a slow process of self realisation helped along by curiosity about nature.

Surprised by My Reaction to Worship Songs

I managed to surprise, even scare, myself this week when my wife played some worship songs at home.

Before I get onto that, first some background and context.

Its been about 5 months since I last went to Church, some of it is because of legitimate reasons like being away, but also, some of it is simply because I don’t want to. There have been times when I have been prepared to go, as in not actively revolting against going, but its not happened. The result of this is that I have not heard a worship song for that entire time. The last time I went to church I was quite happy benignly singing the songs, just not engaging with the content.

Last week my wife quite her job, this was planned as in a couple of months we relocate to a town 100 miles away so keeping her job would have been impossible. This is all part of the bigger picture of the limey family changing its lifestyle and removing the necessity of my wife having to work is part of that.

This past week, I was working at home for a few days and my wife was at home doing some of the chasing that is required to keep our move on track. We’ve not had the two of us at home alone during the working day for a very long time. It was a bit of a novelty to be honest.

About mid-morning I came downstairs to make a coffee to take back to my office, the wife was in the conservatory and as I approached I could hear a well known worship song playing from the iPod dock in the kitchen.

My instant reaction was to think, “urg, turn that awful stuff off”. It come so naturally and so quickly that the only conclusion is that I really don’t like this kind of music anymore. If I’m honest, my reaction was almost anger at having to hear it.

A second later, as I realised my response, I was shocked by what had happened. I am still processing my thoughts and I am still a little unsettled by the event. Though I can’t explain why.

Historically I have always been the kind of person who cares about the lyrics of the songs he buys. I have spent a lot of time in record shops reading the lyrics of songs before making the choice of whether or not to buy a particular album. Just liking the music was not enough, I had to like the lyrics too, or at least not object to them. Part of me is wondering if this is the reason for my response.

Worship songs represent a belief system I no longer accept and so I can’t engage with the intent and therefore its hardly a surprise that no longer wish to hear them. But why so vehemently? Or am I just overreacting to what was really a mild reaction and its only my being taken by surprise that has made to seem such a big deal? Either way, this is a very new feeling for me, its surprising and unsettling, but work through it I must.

Thoughts, opinions, suggestions and insights most gratefully received.