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The Serpent's Promise: The Bible Retold as…

The Serpent's Promise: The Bible Retold as Science

by Steve Jones

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Started off fascinating about viewing history through y mutations. Either I gradually lost interest or understanding as the book progressed. I loved the idea of the ark as a piece of land that drifted across the oceans, complete with its cargo of animals and people. But I failed to grasp why y-Adam is so important other than as a statistical point, since he is not a single ancestor, only one among many - just the bloke who managed to pass his y-gene down. Some diagrams might have helped. ( )
  kk1 | Jun 14, 2018 |
This read has me wondering at what stage the book was subtitled. I am going to take a wild stab in the dark and guess that it was subtitled after it was written, because if Steve Jones set out to write 'The Bible Retold As Science', he pretty much failed. As a subtitle, this is brilliant marketing. I picked up the book because of that, expecting something completely different. I think the problem is with the phrase 'retold as', which suggests that something of the original structure of the Bible is going to be to the fore in this book. Instead, we get only a few biblical references thrown in at regular intervals.

Just a few choice tidbits:

Human females, unlike most of their primate relatives, do not tell the truth about when they are fertile. Female chimpanzees flaunt swollen backsides and genitals for the several days in each cycle when an egg is ready to be fertilised... Women, unlike chimpanzees, advertise their potential for copulation at all times, fertile or otherwise. Perhaps a false statement of fecundity means that a male will choose to stick with a particular mate in order to keep others at bay, rather than tomake a switch to a third party while his partner is unable to conceive.' -page 151-152

(Because women have evolved to be liars, and if not 'liars', at least the ameliorated version: 'coy'.)
See: How we teach our kids that women are liars, from Role Reboot.

'A rigorous study of eleven lap-dancers' - page 153

(Because a study with a sample size of eleven is rigorous, now. If Jones is being ironic here it's not clear enough. This study needs more rigorous dismissal. See: http://partialobjects.com/2011/03/men-can-tell-when-a-lap-dancer-is-ovulating-no...)

'George Bernard Shaw was once propositioned by the actress Ellen Terry, who suggested that they should have an affair; their child, she argued, would have her beauty and his brains. Ah, said Shaw, but what if it has my beauty and your brains? As he had noticed, fornication is a two-edged sword.' - p158

(A-ha-haaa. What wit. Because female beauty and female brains are mutually exclusive. It's SCIENCE, people.)

See: http://www.kellyhills.com/blog/the-problem-with-highlighting-beauty-along-with-b... for a rundown on just one example of the ways in which this particular sexism is perpetuated daily. We hardly need it perpetuated here in a 'science book'.

On the topic of immunity and gut flora: 'Middle-class British children from small families without a cat or dog, with homes in cities rather than in the mire of the country, and those who stay with their mothers rather than going to nursery, are safer from parasites and infection than are others and they too suffer more from such failures of the immune system'.

Because mothers (not fathers) do the nurturing work by looking after young children. Or perhaps the study didn't include any stay-at-home fathers. Who knows, because there are no references anyway.

On the topic of no references, sentences such as, 'Indeed, those who take [vitamins] are at a higher risk than average of premature death' cry out for reference, let alone a qualifier of 'correlation does not equal causation' (also lacking). On the topic of obesity: 'Everywhere, women are larger than men.' Um, no. You can't just leave it at that. Women are not 'larger than men'. If Jones means that women 'carry more adipose tissue than men', then this needs backing up, especially since women are told consistently that we are too fat, even though we need adipose tissue in order to ovulate (a fact acknowledged by Jones himself in his criticism of a fruitarian diet). Jones isn't correct no matter how the statement is interpreted. Here are some Australian statistics: 'In 2011-12, more men were overweight or obese than women (69.7% compared with 55.7%). That's from the Australian Bureau of Statistics. (http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/33C64022ABB5ECD5CA257B8200179437?...).

In the same chapter, Jones offers up 'pasta' as an example of Italian fare. 'Many immigrants to the United States have lost their native language or faith but continue to prefer the food of their great-grandparents, from pasta to schnitzel'. I know nothing about schnitzel, but as for pasta, this was a food eaten by Italian immigrants who were too poor to afford anything else in America. It became such an important part of the immigrant Italian diet that it was transported to Italy, and now most people consider it Italian. Once again, this book is lacking in fact-checking.

All in all, this book does not have a satisfying scientific feel. This is an old man rambling. Jones occasionally has something interesting to say, and is very interesting in interview, particularly when talking about snails, but I would encourage anyone to read this particular book with critical faculties cranked up to full. ( )
  LynleyS | Feb 8, 2014 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 038567063X, Hardcover)

A unique contribution to the God/religion debate: a scientific take on the Bible that doesn't take sides.
     Many of the subjects studied by physicists or by biologists are found in the texts of the world's religions: the origins of the universe, of life and of mankind; fate, sex, age and death; and the prospects of eternal life or of fiery doom. The Bible is a handbook for understanding Nature and, in its own way, it succeeds. As a factual account, of course, it is out of date, but many of its statements can be rephrased in modern terms. Distinguished geneticist Steve Jones has done that: written a rivetingly accessible work on recent advances in our understanding of ourselves, using the Bible as a framework. His narrative is structured around the Good Book's grand themes, from Genesis to Revelations, and weaves a series of unexpected facts into a coherent whole.
     The struggle of rationalism with its opposite has, after decades of torpor, returned to centre stage. Polemics against and in favour of religion and atheism fill the shelves. Instead of adding to that pile, Steve Jones stands back and take a fresh look at that issue in a volume that is not an attack or a defence but which explores scriptural motifs--Creation, the Garden of Eden, original sin, the Exodus, virgin birth, the Resurrection, and the Last Judgment--using the methods and results of the latest scientific research. It is a remarkably quick jump, shows Professor Jones, from Adam to astrophysics.
    Although some of the questions raised are beyond the capabilities of science, at least a scientist can ask them in a new way. Steve Jones shows there is a better route to understanding the universe than through doctrine.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:17:03 -0400)

Revisits Bible stories as seen through the lens of modern science, attempting to determine if humans are really descended from Adam and Eve and if Noah's great flood was actually a representation of the end of the Ice Age.

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