From Ape to Modern Human is not a Linear Line of Evolution

Human evolution is not over, yet it’s impossible to predict how we’re going to turn out. When we look back at history at how we may have got to our current state, there are still lots of parts of the story which we are discovering and trying to understand.

An extensive article in the Guardian looks at how evolution has lead to the modern human. Some main points of interest are:

  • humans closest living relative is the chimpanzee
  • chimpanzees and humans share 98% of their DNA
  • the split between chimpanzee and humans occurred about 4-8 million years ago
  • the hypothetical common ancestor between chimpanzees and humans would have had a mixture of chimp-like traits, human-like traits and primitive traits that both species eventually left behind. So we don’t know if the common ancestor walked on all fours, or been more upright.
  • a big fossil find was “Lucy”, a 3.18m-year-old skeleton, who was excavated in 1974. Lucy is important because she has a unique blend of primitive features – a chimpanzee-sized brain, a powerful jaw and long, dangling arms – and human ones with her legs, knee and pelvis similar to our own anatomy. So it looks like she could walk and run.
  • the earliest evidence of Homo sapiens (us!) comes from fossils dated about 300,000 years ago which were excavated from a cave in Morocco. One of the scientists working on the dig said, “The face of the specimen we found is the face of someone you could meet on the tube in London.”

Studying evolution naturally brings us to Charles Darwin. He was an English naturalist who studied variation in plants and animals during a five-year voyage around the world in the 19th century. You can spot him in the animation The Pirates! when Pirate Captain stumbles upon the unhappy with love scientist Charles Darwin, who then persuades the Captain that the crew’s prized ‘parrot’, Polly, could be bring them lots of money.  In real life Charles Darwin explained his ideas on evolution in a book called, ‘On the Origin of Species’, published in 1859. His ideas were very controversial because they can be seen as conflicting with religious views about the creation of the world and the creatures in it. The basic idea behind the theory of evolution is that all the different species have evolved from simple life forms. A film from 2009 called Creation gives you a clever way to learn about Charles Darwin whilst relaxing with a film!




An Egyptian-American journalist called Mona Eltahawy recently talked about her experience of sexual assault during Hajj in 2013. Since then #MosqueMeToo has started to grow. Muslim men and women from all round the world have been using the hashtag and in less than 24 hours it was tweeted 2,000 times.

Each year about 2 million Muslims undertake Hajj which is one of the five pillars of Islam. Going on this special pilgrimage should not involve being inappropriately touched or having someone rub against you in the crowd, things which have been reported using the #MosqueMeToo on Twitter. Some women have said they were fearful of publicising the harassment and sexual assaults incase it fuelled more Islamophobia.

Reading the BBC article you’ll stumble across key GCSE words such as:

Knowing that Hajj is a pilgrimage and one of the Five Pillars is not enough for the GCSE. You’ll need to know what the different parts of the Hajj are and why pilgrims participate in them. This isn’t a waste of time because by learning about Hajj you’ll understand some key stories of Islam about Ibrahim and discover Muslim beliefs about faith and forgiveness. These short videos from the BBC are a quick way to get that information. Type Hajj into this wordpress’ SEARCH engine and you’ll find previous links for Hajj too.

Umrah is the lesser pilgrimage made by Muslims to Mecca, which may be performed at any time of the year, and isn’t one of the five pillars so you don’t have to do it in your lifetime. In May 2017 football player Paul Pogba went on Umrah to say his thanks for Manchester United’s Europa League win.

Tawaf (Arabic: طواف) is one of the principal actions of the pilgrimage and refers to walking in circles around the Kaaba in an anti-clockwise motion. Seven complete circuits, with each one starting and ending at the Hajar al-Aswad (Black Stone), constitute one Tawaf. It is an act of devotion intended to bring the pilgrim closer to God spiritually. It is the only principal action of Hajj and Umrah which is not associated directly with acts of worship performed by the Prophet Ibrahim.


The Hijab is one type of headscarf which Muslim women might wear to maintain a modest look so that their hair and body is not on show in public. Some people believe that what a woman wears can affect whether she is harassed in public. In Iran where women have to wear the hijab by law, a popular slogan on the walls of public buildings is “Hijab is not a limitation, it is your protection.”



VW Criticised for Experiments on Monkeys

Reports in the NY Times state that in May 2015 research by the New Mexico-based Lovelace Respiratory Research Institute (LRRI), involved locking 10 Java monkeys in small airtight chambers for four hours at a time. The animals were left to watch cartoons as they breathed in diesel fumes from a VW Beetle. The ultimate aim of the tests was to prove that the pollutant load of nitrogen oxide car emissions from diesel motors had measurably decreased, thanks to modern cleaning technology.

Meanwhile in a second round of tests, the animals were forced to breathe in the fumes of a Ford F-250 used for the purposes of comparison, because the car was an older model with apparently less sophisticated filter technology.

According to some reports in the Süddeutsche Zeitung and the broadcaster NDR, the monkeys were subsequently anaesthetised and intubated, so their blood could be examined for inflammatory markers. Their lungs were then washed out and their bronchial tubes examined.

The German news media also reported that the experiments were carried out on 25 young and healthy human beings. According to the Stuttgarter Zeitung, the experiments were carried out at an institute of the University Clinic Aachen and involved the group having to breath in varying different concentrations of nitric oxide after which they were physically examined for any side-effects.

Trainee Farmer accused of being a Murderer

It must be quite intimidating being called a murderer and rapist when you are going about your job, learning the skills necessary for your chosen career. Trainee farmer Alison Waugh explains that farmers are feeling all this violent pressure, “Which is quite ironic from people that want peace for animals, but then they tell you, ‘I hope you and your family go die in a hole for what you do.”

This animosity to farmers is a growing trend of vegan activists who are calling farmers who have raised animals for generations murderers for killing animals, or rapists for taking their milk. The National Pig Association claims its members “cannot sleep at night” because Save Movement members have allegedly turned up at farms and slaughterhouses at night.


The Vegan Society describes veganism as “the fastest-growing lifestyle movement,” with demand for vegan and vegetarian food increasing ten-fold last year. Research by Ipsos Mori in 2016 suggested at least 542,000 people – or 1.05% of the 15-and-over population in England, Scotland and Wales – were following a vegan diet. There is also a big rise in teenage vegans.

There is some debate though on whether veganism is as environmentally friendly as you’d think.

Baby Isaiah Haastrup Update

A high court judge has ruled that life-support treatment can be stopped for a brain damaged 11 month old boy who we’ve heard about previously on this blog.

In his ruling, Mr Justice MacDonald said: “Examining Isaiah’s best interests from a broad perspective I am satisfied that it is not in his best interests for life-sustaining medical treatment to be continued. That, with profound sadness, is my judgment.”

A spokeswoman for the King’s College Hospital NHS Foundation trust said the case had been an “extremely difficult time for Isaiah’s parents and all those involved in his care”.

She added: “The court’s decision to transfer Isaiah to palliative care is in his best interests and based on overwhelming expert evidence. Our priority now is to provide Isaiah with the medical care he needs, working closely with and supporting his parents.”

God should decide

This is a really sad news story about a little boy whose life hangs in the balance. Doctors have told a high court judge that they think it’s in the child’s best interest to end life support treatment whereas Isaiah’s parents want treatment to continue.

Isaiah Haastrup court case

This is a debate we see in the news time and time again, and it links to our learning about Religion and Life – who decides when life should end?



The New-Look Britain in Photographs

I like any opportunity to learn more and gain better knowledge about the world. But sometimes you’re just too tired to read an article or book, to watch a documentary, film or TV programme. That’s why photographs with their visual beauty and short written explanations are a quick way to pick up some knowledge. Often at the Southbank Centre in London you can catch a free photography exhibition or likewise for a fee you can catch a more thorough exhibition such as that at the Hayward Gallery later this month. Some of Andreas Gursky’s photographs that you’ll see at the Hayward Gallery are shown below:



Not only can you enjoy the art but you will consider political, social, economic and environmental issues. Simon Roberts, a landscape photographer and official general election artist, has a wonderful series of photographs which show you what he calls a ‘new-look’ Britain. You can learn about local celebrations and festivals which you’d probably never know about unless you lived in that town or village, as well as how Britain’s landscape is often shown in a particular light which only tells part of the story.

We English

And if the social, political, economic and environmental ideas don’t spring forth then at least you can learn how to take a better photograph!