I was having a beer with a acquaintance the other night. He runs a tool shop. After a few comments about this and that, he said,
‘So Phil, what’s happening in Africa? Is it getting any better, or is it all just natural selection?’
How do you answer a question like that? What does it even mean? Does five years in Afghanistan make me an expert on Africa? Is it because they both begin with the same two letters? Because they are both regions of the world in crisis? (Although Afghanistan is not a region, and not all of Africa is in crisis…)
I tried to marshall a response. My friend continued, ‘I know you’re probably the wrong person to ask about natural selection.’
Eh? Why? Because I am a person of faith? Does that make me a believer in fiat creationism? How does that particular pre-scientific faith concept fit with modern day African security, epidemilogy and development politics? If I’m a person of faith, does that mean I can’t think?
I finally worked out what to say, and murmured, ‘Ahhh. Errmmm’. This probably was the best thing to say, in the circumstances.