Wednesday, 8 February 2017

Blessed Body

It took me less than two days to read this 269-page book and I can tell you that it is one of the best books I have ever read so far. It is authentic, very captivating, unputdownable and above all shattered a myth that there are no gays in Nigeria! Darling there are too many gays in Nigeria, but please tell no one!

The stories are compelling and the publication of the book could not have come at a better time: barely a month since 49 people and more than 50 others were killed and injured in Pulse Gay Bar in Orlando, Florida.

Sometimes, it is very crucial to sit back and listen to the other side of the debate. This is one skill lawyers know very much about which unfortunately others do not yet understand and appreciate. Voltaire once said: “I do not agree with a word that you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." I couldn't agree more!

As a lawyer, I strongly believe that everybody should have the freedom to be who they are without fear of intimidation. Blacks should be proud to be blacks just as whites should be proud to celebrate their colour. Nigerians should be proud of their country just as Biafrans should not be denied the freedom to self-determination.

In the same vein, just as straight men are free to play rugby and talk about girls, so do gay men should be free to drink exotic cocktails, talk about boys and go to Beyoncé and Kylie concerts. That is the meaning of freedom. You cannot have it both ways. You cannot eat your cake and have it. You cannot go through a passage and block the exit for others. You must keep moving! You cannot have and enjoy your rights and prevent others from enjoying theirs. The Igbos of Eastern Nigeria captured this philosophy in a very pungent manner: let both the eagle and the vulture perch, but if either does not want the other to perch let him proffer an amicable solution. That is elementary logic and that is why I am very proud to write an afterword for this book!

This book is worth buying and reading in order to listen to, understand and appreciate the other side of this debate and argument. Making a judgment over an issue without going through the related debates is not just immature but a sign of uncivilized people and nation and in fact a complete illogicality. A logical mind would always listen and think before coming to a conclusion.

As already pointed out above, the publication of this book and my reading of it could not have come at a better time. I took a delivery of my own copy just hours after finishing Harriet Beecher Stowe's 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'. Both books share the same theme: oppression of a group of people: homosexuals and blacks.

I therefore encourage you to buy and read the book.

Wednesday, 14 April 2010

Up The Line To Death: The War Poets 1914-1918

It is not often that an opportunity is found to reflect on small things of life in the midst of a raging war. This is because of the incompatibility of emotional and physical demands during the war. War is physically demanding and in the process little or no time is given to emotional demands. Just as little or no time is given to emotional demands during the war, so do few ever contemplate at all of translating those emotions into an intellectual work; certainly not in the midst of a raging war. Think of the coalition soldiers engaging in an intellectual work in the midst of the Taliban and Al Qaeda threats in Afghanistan and Iraq. That could be foolhardy because intellectual work demands a high level of concentration and devotion and therefore would demand an extraordinary ability to combine it-especially the art of crafting of a poem-with the intricate demands of the art of warfare. But a group of poets, despite all odds against them, defied all obstacles facing them and crafted poems that have been described as outstanding and among the best in the genre of war poems.

‘Up The Line To Death’ collected and arranged by Brian Gardner is an anthology of these heartrending, beautiful and moving poems. The poets who made it in this anthology includes already known and widely celebrated poets such as W.B. Yeats, Rudyard Kipling, Siegfried Sassoon and e.e. cummings, amongst others. Most of the poems were written in the midst of the First World War which lasted from 1914-1918 and which was orchestrated by the brutal murder of the Archduke Ferdinand of the Austria-Hungarian Empire. Some of the poems were also written not within this period but before the war and others, after the war.

The poems featured in this collection are unique in their messages to their intended readers. For instance in ‘Mesopotamia’, Rudyard Kipling lamented the fact that the young men being sent forth to die for the nation shall not return. They are aware of this fate but then the love of their nation pushes them.

“They shall not return to us, the resolute, the young,
The eager and whole-hearted who we gave:”

The fact that they shall not return never deterred the resolute young men from volunteering to defend their nation. The reason for this is because of their absolute belief in their country and the conviction and belief that it is worth dying for the nation. This is a belief aptly put in one of the poems in the collection titled ‘Happy is England now’ by John Freeman.

“There is not anything more wonderful
Than a great people moving towards the deep
Of an unguessed and unfeared future;”

The same courage was also exhibited by W.B. Yeats in his masterpiece titled ‘An Irish airman foresees his death’

“I know that I shall meet my fate
Somewhere among the clouds above;”

Despite knowing his fate, he still went ahead to join the war and he met his fate somewhere among the clouds.

The collection is very interesting and I encourage you to read them.

Cover Photograph Courtesy Of Methuen Publishing.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Conspiracy 365

Conspiracy novels are very dear to the heart of the children and a great hit with young people. Part of the reason for this development is because of the fact that young people are easily captivated by the concept of suspense and mystery. They want the freedom to explore for themselves the content of an object no matter how mysterious it is; novels inclusive. These two instruments, suspense and mystery were widely employed by Gabrielle Lord in the 'Conspiracy 365'.

The novel is filled with captivating and attention grabbing episodes of suspense and just like most mystery novels, 'Conspiracy 365' has its own wealth of violence, surprises and that feeling and usual motivation and urge to read one more page often associated with mystery and conspiracy novels. In a simple parlance the book is unputdownable and it is indeed.

The plot of the novel revolves round Callum, a lad who was confronted by a stranger who told him to go into hiding. According to the stranger, those who killed his father would definitely come after him due to what he called Ormond Singularity. Cal was not convinced and concluded that it might be another ranting from a lunatic. That night he was nearly killed and this eye-opening event led him to a wild goose hunt to decipher the clues his father left behind before he died. As usual with mystery novels we were left with many questions including deciphering the meaning of Ormond Singularity. The identity of those after Cal's life and if Cal could actually get things figured out before his family and friends get hurt.

The novel is a sequel meaning that there will be twelve books over the course of the year each covering one month in the life of Callum as he attempts to solve the mystery of the Ormond Singularity. January and February in the series saw the whole event unfolding and Callum being an object of police hunting for a crime he never committed. By February, he was still not anywhere near solving the mystery of the Ormond Singularity. Would Winter Frey be of any help? You guess is as good as mine until we read March!

A nice sequel indeed but I am particularly miffed that the plot of the novel is almost predictable but then what it lost there, it gained in its ability to keep readers in suspense before getting to that expected conclusion.  Nevertheless, I am predominantly impressed with the ability of the writer to weave almost lively relationship around Callum and his friends especially Boges as well as his relationship with his mother and sister. He showed an absolute love for them and the desire to sacrifice even his own life for them.

This is a good book and a nice attempt on children thriller by Gabrielle Lord, one of Australia's bestselling crime writers for adults and I highly recommend it to young people! 

Cover Photograph Courtesy of Hodder Children's Books.

Saturday, 20 February 2010

The Power And The Glory: Inside The Dark Heart Of John Paul 11’s Vatican

She may not have an extraordinary sounding name but her name no matter how it sounds made a history and set in motion series of events that opened a can of worms that revealed the darkest side of the Roman Catholic Church and which ultimately changed the public perception of the Church. By the time the dust generated by her revelations settled, the Roman Catholic Church especially that of the United States of America had lost millions of dollars in law suit which resulted in the closure of many dioceses, schools, churches, hospitals and similar institutions to raise settlement money. It never stopped there. Many hundreds of priests, nuns and religious were also sent to jail as a result of the scandal.

It was the greatest scandal ever to have confronted the Roman Catholic Church since it was founded over 2000 years ago allegedly by our Lord Jesus Christ. The scandal left the Roman Catholic Church reeling with a very battered image and in a very depressive mood. The scandal never stopped there and actually refused to stop; like a raging wildfire it travelled wide to the four corners of the earth from America to Europe to Australia to Asia and to Africa exposing shameful conducts of priests, nuns and religious and amazing huge lawsuits in its tail. It was a horrendous revelation that shocked not only the Roman Catholic community but non-Roman Catholics and even non-Christians as well. People simply could not understand that priest, nuns and religious entrusted with the care of the faithful especially the children could turn back and became predators and sexually molesting and abusing them.

However her story brought a sudden awareness of what young people as well as unmarried and married faithful goes through in the hands of priests, nuns and religious who are supposed to be their moral guardians. The story began in 1984 when a Los Angeles lawyer brought the first ever clergy malpractice lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Church on behalf of Rita Milla.

Rita Milla was only sixteen and wanted to be a nun. In preparation for her vocation, she had to prepare herself properly in accordance with the catholic faith. While confessing to a priest named Father Santiago Tamayo, the priest reached through the flimsy screen within the confessional and began to caress her breasts. Over the next two years he systematically set about seducing Rita even to the extent of telling her that ‘God wants you to do all you can to keep his priests is your duty’, and Rita naively believed and kept having regular sex with Father Santiago. Father Santiago later persuaded her to makes other priests in the Parish of St. Philomena in Los Angeles happy too, and she ended up making seven more priests happy. None of the priests took any precaution and Rita became pregnant in 1980 at the age of 19.

When the news of her pregnancy reached Father Santiago, he contacted other priests and they quickly raised 450 dollars to send her to the Philippines to have the child. All this time the parents of Rita were unaware of what was happening. In fact she lied to them that she was going to the Philippines to study, however when she developed complications during the childbirth, her parents found out and brought her to the States where the Clergy Malpractice Lawsuit was filed after series of efforts to persuade the Archdiocese of Los Angeles to take care of her failed.

Faced with the law suit and the possibility of scandal the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, instead of bringing the seven priests out to face the law and bear the consequences of their actions ordered them to go abroad until further notice. It would be until 1991 before the role of the archdiocese in the cover up was made public by the guilt-stricken and remorseful Father Santiago Tamayo. Letters he made available confirmed that the archdiocese in a well orchestrated plan to cover up the scandal was regularly sending money not even to Rita and her new baby Jacqueline, but to the seven priests hiding in the Philippines. The Los Angeles Archdiocese actually urged Tamayo to stay in the Philippines after Jacqueline's birth and mailed cheques to him there. In three letters dating from June 1984 to August 1988 the archdiocese advised Tamayo not to reveal the source of the payments ‘unless requested under oath’ noting that he was ‘liable for personal suits arising out of your past actions’.

In August 2003 Rita’s baby, then 20 years, finally learnt that his father is Father Valentine Tugade, one of the seven priests who had sex with her mother. The initial cover up of the case was orchestrated by the then Cardinal Archbishop of Los Angeles, Cardinal Timothy Manning and when he was succeeded by Roger Mahoney, the cover up and payments to the fugitive priests continued.

These cover ups and secrecy syndrome within the Roman Catholic Church especially at the highest level, the Vatican and more especially during the reign of Pope John Paul 11 is the main gist of this book ‘The Power and The Glory-Inside The Dark Heart Of John Paul 11’s Vatican’ by David Yallop. Yallop is a seasoned controversial writer. His ‘In God’s Name’ which was published before this, explored the allegation that contrary to widely held belief that Albino Luciani, the Pope John Paul 1 died peacefully in his sleep, he was actually murdered to cover up the scandal involving the Vatican Bank, some Italian banks and Mafiosos that use the Vatican bank to launder money to South America. According to Yallop, Pope John Paul 11 was aware of this and was even aware that the morning before his death, Pope John Paul 1 was about to announce series of plans to reform the scandalous Vatican Bank including the removal of the corrupt Bishop Paul Casmir Marcinkus as the head of the bank.

Pope John Paul 11, according to Yallop instead of going ahead with the plans retained the corrupt Bishop Marcinkus and actually promoted him to the rank of an archbishop thereby allowing the money laundering, organised crime and the embezzlement to continue. One of the reasons why Pope John Paul 11 refused to remove Marcinkus, according to Yallop in the book published in 2007, was the affiliation they had which could be very valuable to him in sending money to his homeland of Poland to aid the Solidarity, a trade union that has been in logger heads with the communist government of Poland. In fact through this arrangement Archbishop Marcinkus whose father was of Lithuanian origin was able to transfer huge amounts of money to the Solidarity in Poland as well using same opportunity to engage in other numerous illicit activities.

For instance, in 1973 Marcinkus was questioned in his Vatican office by the American Federal Prosecutor William Aronwald and Bill Lynch then head of the Organized Crime and Racketeering Section of the United States Department of Justice, about his involvement in the delivery of 14.5 million US$ worth of counterfeit bonds to the Vatican in July 1971, part of a total request of 950 million US$ worth stated in a letter on Vatican notepaper. His name and the official letter surfaced during the investigation of an international gang which included Vincent Rizzo, who eventually served twelve years in prison. Marcinkus said he considered the charges against him serious but not based on enough fact that he would violate the Vatican Bank's confidentiality to defend himself. Back in the States it was agreed on the highest levels that the case against Marcinkus could not be pursued any further.

In July 1982, he was implicated in a financial scandal involving the collapse of the Banco Ambrosiano. Marcinkus had been a director of Ambrosiano Overseas, based in Nassau, Bahamas, and had been involved with Ambrosiano's chairman and financier Roberto Calvi, for years. He was also involved with Michele Sindona, who had links with the Mafia. Calvi was later found hanging under London's Blackfriars Bridge in June 1982. In addition, a journalist Mino Pecorelli, who had been investigating Marcinkus, the Vatican Bank and its link to organized crime was found dead in 1979. Marcinkus later stepped aside as head of the Vatican Bank soon after and the Vatican eventually paid £145 million in a settlement with creditors, with Marcinkus observing in 1986 that ‘You can't run the Church on Hail Marys’.

This ugly development from an institution that is supposed to be above Caesar’s wife in virtue was a push factor for David Yallop in writing this book. Yallop levelled series of serious allegations against the late Pope John Paul 11 including the allegation of an accomplice in the cover up of the church sex scandal as well as the allegation that he never actually played a formidable role as widely believed in dismantling communism and the Soviet Union. He was of the view that Pope John Paul 11 was actually in sympathy with the Russian communism, hated with passion the Marxist movement and liberation theology in South America and was deeply nauseated by the American capitalism. As a result of his hatred for liberation theology he refused to see the murder of Archbishop Oscar Romero as martyrdom, claimed Yallop.

David Yallop accused Pope John Paul 11 of being a show biz pope who derives pleasure from gallivanting from one part of the world to another despite the huge expenses on the host countries, the Vatican and the Roman Catholic Church as a whole. He was very critical of the expenses involved in what he called ‘unnecessary’ trips.

“The financial cost is more difficult to evaluate. During November 1980 the Pope paid a five-day visit to the then West Germany; the cost to the West German taxpayers was officially put at $10 million. In 1982 the Pope made a six-day visit to the United Kingdom; the cost was officially put at £6 million. In 1987 the Pope made a ten-day visit to USA estimated at $26 million. The Vatican paid for the first-class air fares for the twelve members of the papal party, while American taxpayers and American Catholics paid the remainder. Long after the trip, many dioceses were struggling with huge unpaid bills. The cost of other overseas trips has also been officially estimated at $2 million per day. Taking these figures as an average, the cost of the Pope’s overseas trips since October 1978, a cost that was never paid by the Vatican, was in excess of $1.1 billion”, claimed Yallop.

He noted that the Pope felt more at home with the rich than the poor and with then military juntas of Chile, Philippines and Argentina than with democratically elected leaders and does not care what happens to the poor even as he refused to speak out in Mexico and other south American countries of evils being perpetrated against the indigenes and the poor in order not to offend the host governments. For instance in September 1990, the Pope flew to the Ivory Coast and in act that is very scandalous consecrated the Basilica of Our Lady of Peace in the capital city of Yamoussoukro.

“No expense had been spared in this impoverished African country. At 525 feet it is the world’s tallest church. The cost of the building was between $150 million and $180 million. The pope described the building as a ‘visible sign’ of God’s presence on earth”, noted Yallop who was obviously irked that the pope never bothered to ask for the source of the money and if the basilica is what the Ivoirians needed at that point in time.

The about 700-page book is therefore more of refutations of allegations of good deeds ascribed to the late pope in the face of overwhelming evidence clearing suggesting otherwise according to Yallop. Yallop never hide his objections to most of ideologies being peddled by the Roman Catholic Church including its institutionalised homophobia despite the glaring fact that elevation in the Vatican is partly ascribed to homosexual relationship between the younger priests and older bishops. He questioned the exclusion of women from the priesthood and while noting that the Catholic Church always point to the fact that there was no female apostle also pointed out that there was no gentile there either. He queried in black and white the rationale behind the dispensation of the traditional five year period between the death of candidate and the commencement of his beatification process given to Pope John Paul 11 and described the whole drama as making mockery of the Roman Catholic Theology of sainthood.

He repeatedly asked what the Roman Catholic Church under Pope John Paul 11 was trying to achieve by making his papacy one of the most secretive in history to the extent that the fact that he suffers from Parkinson disease was also kept a secret by all concerned including the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls, a member of the secretive Opus Dei, an organisation that was controversially granted a personal prelature by Pope John Paul 11 and whose founder’s-Jose Maria Eschriva -canonisation process was unprecedentedly fast tracked.

The present Pope Benedict XVI was also not spared. Alleging that he was once a conscript of the Hitler Youth Movement, he alleged that Benedict brought his Nazi mentality with him to the priesthood and to the Vatican and was responsible for numerous witch hunting and reign of terror and intimidation in the Vatican. This reign of intimidation, he noted was responsible for silencing of notable critiques of the Roman Catholic Church including the celebrated theologian Hans Kung who never for once accepted the dogma of the infallibility of the pope.

Picture Courtesy Of Carroll and Graf Publishers.

Sunday, 10 January 2010

One World

This is one of the finest anthologies of short stories I have ever read. In fact am not a very good reader of short stories and writings; I used to think it is a lazy form of writing meant for mediocre writers and people who have got no good things to do with their spare time. Besides, because I have a major background in Mass Communications and minor in Print Journalism, I find it very difficult to read short stories and writings. As a Print Journalist you are wired to read and write as long as from here to Mount Kilimanjaro.

However, I am completely very wrong in my assessment of the short story genre of literature because with the ‘One World’, it is an entirely different experience altogether. I was completely proved wrong beyond whatever! Every single story featured in the anthology is quite mesmerising, interesting and reflects in detail the rich cultural backgrounds and experiences of the writers. It is a cornucopia of knowledge and an amalgamation of diverse interesting experiences and a melting point of cultural understanding and appreciation.

As a Nigerian, I am in fact fascinated by the fact that Nigerian writers like Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Molara Woods, Jude Dibia and Ovo Adagha dominated the anthology with interesting and true-to-life stories that reflects everyday life Of Nigerians in Nigeria and Diaspora. That however made meaningless of the title of the anthology. Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in her unique style explored the struggle of a young Nigerian who was trying to shed her African roots and culture in the United States while Molara Woods delved into the ups and downs of being a partner of an activist in Nigeria during the military era. The contributions of other writers are better read than reviewed. The dominance of Nigerians in the book could not have come at a better time than this when Nigeria is being labelled a terrorist country due to an ugly incident that occurred in Michigan, United States December last. The book is therefore a testimony to the fact that something good can still come out of Nigeria despite all odds and a consolation to millions of Nigerians that despite the ugly incident, they are still a force to be reckoned with in other fields especially in the literary field.

It is fascinating too that the royalties from the book which is an anthology of 23 short stories from 23 different authors who came from 14 different countries in five continents would go to the healthcare charity, Médecins Sans Frontières. This is very interesting bearing in mind what the charity stands for. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) is an independent international medical humanitarian organisation that delivers emergency aid in more than 60 countries to people affected by armed conflict, epidemics, natural or man-made disasters or exclusion from healthcare.

The anthology is therefore a welcomed development and very good cum successful attempt to contribute to humanitarian work as well as bringing together different voices from different parts of the world for the purpose of entertaining with their various interesting short stories which cuts a across their various cultural experiences and milieu. The stories are simply fascinating and told in clarity and intensity of human experience. The book published by the New Internationalist features the work of such interesting writers like Elaine Chiew, Molara Wood, Martin A Ramos, Henrietta Rose-Innes, Lauri Kubuitsile, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Shabnam Nadiya, Ravi Mangla, Chika Unigwe, Dipita Kwa, Vanessa Gebbie, Sequoia Nagamatsu, Jude Dibia, Konstantinos Tzikas, Petina Gappah, Ken N Kamoche, Lucinda Nelson Dhavan, Adetokunbo Gbenga Abiola, Skye Brannon, Wadzanai Mhute, Ivan Gabriel Reborek, Ovo Adagha and Jhumpa Lahiri.

Cover Photo Courtesy Of New Internationalist.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Collected Poems

I just finished a collection of poems by Chinua Achebe. Yes you heard me right, a collection of poems by Chinua Achebe. The collection called the Collected Poems by Chinua Achebe is quite interesting because not many people know Achebe as a poet. In fact, to those who are conversant with his work what readily comes to the mind is Achebe the novelist and ‘Things Fall Apart’ the novel that made him popular today is what they usually associate him with.

But the good news is that Achebe is also a poet and not just a poet but a well established poet. In his trade mark use of simple words and sentences to convey his messages, Achebe once again proved that reading poems doesn’t need to be a nightmare. One of the reasons why students and even graduates and others find it difficult to read and appreciate poems is because of the style of language used in writing some of these poems. Most poems we are accustomed to reading especially while in the schools are often written in modus loquendi that makes it pretty difficult to understand the essence of the poem; by the time you grab what the poet is saying in one line, you have forgotten what you have just read some few seconds ago. That is a great obstacle facing the reading and appreciating of poems and that seems to support the widely and wrongly held view that poems must be in ‘thou’ and thouest’ language to be called a poem. That is not true because Achebe in the ‘Collected Poems’ shattered that myth by condescending to the level of common people and used their language to write in such a manner that the common man is now afforded the rare privilege of reading and appreciating poems once more.

The ‘Collected Poems’ which are actually drawn from his three previously published books of poems included seven poems that have never been published before. The poems are so mundane and yet touch at the spiritual g-spot. The simplicity of the poems are awesome and the language is frankly tailored to the understanding of the layman. However, to the non-native Igbo language speakers, some of the language of the poems like in most of Achebe’s novels could be problematic when it comes to understanding the vernacular words and terms used in them; however with just little effort and less cranking of the brain one could easily understand them because they are self-explanatory.

In a poem like ‘A Wake For Okigbo’ Achebe did a pure transliteration of an Igbo funeral song into the English language even though he maintained the Igbo language refrain. The result of the effort was awesome with every aspect of the poem evoking the feeling of sadness and mysteriousness common with death. Anybody familiar with the Igbo culture and people of the South East of Nigeria would obviously see the close similarity between the poem and the traditional Igbo funeral songs and dirges.

There is no doubt that Achebe is a unique writer, an extraordinary storyteller and an awesome poet. The ‘Collected Poems’ bears witness to his grandiosity, eloquence and mastery of the language of the literature. He has a knack of using everyday feelings to evoke a feeling of sympathy. In the ‘Collected Poems’ he once again achieved that using the poems like ‘1966’, ‘The First Shot’, ‘A Mother In A Refugee Camp’, ‘Air Raid’, ‘Biafra, 1969’, ‘After War’ and ‘Remembrance Day’. These set of poems are remarkable in the sense that they are all war poems written to commemorate the Nigerian/Biafran Civil War. Achebe being an Igbo was naturally on the Biafran side during the war.

‘Collected Poems’ should be a must read for all lovers of poems. Achebe has a unique taste and style of writing and he proved it here. The ‘Collected Poems’ are a lifetime of poetic engagement and meddling with politics, war and love as well as Igbo language, culture and wisdom.
I strongly recommend the book to all lovers of poems and novices in the field and of course those who want to try their hand in the art of poetry writing.

Cover Photograph Courtesy Of Carcanet press.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

The Greatest Show On Earth

As youngsters we were taught that God made the world in just six days and rested on the seventh. Due to our childhood innocence and ignorance and adult fear of offending God, we never doubted it, after all our parents and pastors taught us that theological questions are meant to be accepted by faith and not by reason. Where reason stops, you are expected to apply faith. But as we continue to grow, our inquisitive mind began to wonder and meditate more deeply on the aptness of this assertion from the holy books especially Pentateuch books of the bible and Koran and even our traditional cum cultural beliefs.

However due to numerous opportunities opened up by wider access to numerous writings from various creationist and evolutionist writers, freedom of speech and access to information, our quest continued to grow unceasingly since what we were taught began not to make sense no more to us. We began to wonder aloud how God made the world in just six days considering the enormity of life on the surface of the earth, beneath the oceans, ionosphere and in fact everywhere including the other solar systems.

The good news is that we are not alone in this type of dilemma. Same question also bothered the father of evolution Charles Darwin and it was basically to answer it that he took the bold step of publishing his ‘On The Origin Of Species’, in 1859 which provoked a public outcry and condemnation upon publication. Darwin was very much aware of the consequences of the path he was toeing but due to his firm belief that humans developed over millions of years from less advanced forms of life with God having no part in it, he took the bull by the horn to write and publish the controversial book just to assert his belief, no matter who Ox is gored.

Exactly 200 years after the publication of the masterpiece, the storm it generated is yet to calm down. It still raises questions here and there and yonder. This is despite the fact that the hypothesis of evolution has come to be finally accepted as a scientific fact by all reputable scientists and even learned theologians. The main opposition to this hypothesis comes from the creationists. They strongly believe that God made the world in six days and are using all the resources they have including money, education and persuasion to convince us. This is not true according to the evolutionists and they have staunchly refused to succumb to the argument. They on their own part are using all available evidences including scholarly writings bamboozle us daily that the bible may have actually got it wrong when it claimed that God made the world in just six days and that even if there is any iota of truth in that assertion it should not be understood literally because it was never what the bible intended to say; evolution must have played a very crucial and formidable role too.

The evidence the creationists are using to buttress their point is the bible while the evolutionists on the contrary are using concrete evidences to support their assertion that evolution and not God is the reason why we and other living things are here today. This is exactly the argument Professor Richard Dawkins is making in this his newest book, “The Greatest Show On Earth”, published and released just couple of months ago. He thought that 2009, the bicentennial of Darwin's birth and 150th anniversary of his ‘On the Origin of Species’, is the perfect time for such a work. Like a detective who arrived at the scene of a crime after it has been committed, Professor Dawkins who is an emeritus Simonyi Professor of Public Understanding of Science at the Oxford University, relied on reconstructions using ‘time clocks’ of the tree rings, radioactive dating that calibrate a timescale for evolution, the fossil record, the traces of our earlier ancestors, confirmation from molecular biology and genetics to prove his point.

The book is actually a missing link between his two former books ‘The Selfish Gene’ and ‘The Extended Phenotype’ where he argued extensively in favour of evolution without bothering to use evidences to support those arguments. These missing evidences constitute the bulk content of ‘The Greatest Show On Earth’. Dawkins courted a lot of controversies as result of publication of this book. Just like every effort was made to silence Charles Darwin by the 1800 puritanical Britain, a lot of forces were also at it again to silence Dawkins especially the creationists.

In the 470-page hardcover edition, Dawkins strongly asserted that the earth and all its content are quite enormous, monumental and intricately designed to have come into existence by a pronouncement of a being. Just like other evolutionists, Dawkins found it difficult to swallow the assertion that God made man out of clay. He rather asserted that contrary to that, man evolved through the process of evolution to the present form aided by both natural or artificial selection. Natural selection is the process by which heritable traits that makes it more likely for an organism to survive and successfully reproduce become more common in a population over successive generations while artificial selection or selective breeding describes intentional breeding for certain traits or combination of traits.

The term artificial selection was utilized by Charles Darwin in contrast to natural selection, in which the differential reproduction of organisms with certain traits is attributed to improved survival or reproductive ability. As opposed to artificial selection, in which humans favour specific traits, in natural selection the environment acts as a sieve through which only certain variations can pass. Both are key mechanisms of evolution.

Professor Dawkins is strongly of the view that what we see today around us including green grasses and various animals with their peculiar modus vivendi are not as a result of a work of a remote being but due to intelligent design orchestrated through the process of evolution. By this he meant that the present state of living things are actually as a result of deliberate or environmental need to evolve and adapt with the needs of time and environment. As result of this he postulated that some animals of the same species found in different parts of the world have a slightly different or even a completely different features to enable them adapt to the environment where they found themselves. This he attributed to the process of evolution and never a work of any intelligent unseen being or designer.

His assertions may not make sense to the common man who is deeply rooted in his religious faith but Dawkins is strongly of the view that his own version of how the world and its content came into being through the process of evolution, do not only concur with the postulations of Charles Darwin but is in fact the whole truth of what happened.

“Evolution is a fact. Beyond reasonable doubt, beyond serious doubt, beyond sane, informed, intelligent doubt, beyond doubt evolution is a fact”, he asserted.

Picture Courtesy Of Bantam Press.