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The Dissent Of Man

Exploring the influence of Darwin on everyone: atheists, Christians, biologists and entrepreneurs by JF Derry

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  • http://unbound.co.uk/books/the-dissent-of-man

The Synopsis

The science-religion debate has become increasingly polarised. Scientists like Richard Dawkins attack religion, claiming all faith is irrational because it fails the test of scientific method. Religious apologists insist that science’s inflexible reliance on logic fails to explain the complexity of the natural world. Neither extreme is particularly useful.

Much of the disagreement has focussed on the idea of evolution as presented in the The Origin of Species, which contradicted the literal interpretation of the Biblical creation. But Darwinism has also been stretched far beyond its original scope. It is used to explain the beginnings of life itself, implicated in war crimes, and held up as an answer or a scapegoat in countless situations. It's now an important part of how we understand ourselves, our history and our culture.

This project is an attempt to explore the huge range of interpretations of Darwinism. To do this I've interviewed over fifty commentators: conservationists and creationists, bishops and biochemists, palaeoceanographers and Intelligent Design theorists, theistic evolutionists and a Bahá’í lecturer, sex researchers, mathematicians, ophthalmologists, linguists, evangelical Christians, philosophers, physicians and the Astronomer Royal. As a starting point, I asked each one the same question: ‘what does Darwin mean to you as an individual, and as part of humanity?’

With your help, I want to organise this material into a gradient, a sort of 'Distance from Darwin' chart. Much of what I’ve discovered is surprising and exciting - preconceptions are challenged, antagonists are revealed to be uncomfortable bedfellows, and the extremists aren't necessarily who you might think they are.

I want to celebrate Darwin's influence in a book that provides a practical account of his work while demonstrating how far his ideas have been transformed by others. Most importantly,I want readers to join in by submitting their own thoughts and reflections for inclusion in the final book.

Contributors

Richard Dawkins, Noam Chomsky, Oliver Sacks, James Watson, Ian Stewart, Edward Wilson, Martin Rees, Simon Conway Morris, David King, Aubrey Manning, Michael Behe, George Schaller, Brian Charlesworth, Bjørn Lomborg, Daniel Dennett, William Dembski, Stephen Wolfram, Rupert Sheldrake, Michael Ruse, Susan Blackmore, Lewis Wolpert, Steven Pinker, Richard Holloway, Richard Lewontin, Randal Keynes, John Polkinghorne, Tim Smit, Matt Ridley, Archimedes Plutonium, Richard Gregory, Ken Ham, Adrian Hawkes, and many more.

The Excerpt

Darwin divided us. You barely have to mention his name in polite society and upstanding members of it are soon not standing up at all, but scrabbling around in the dirt fetching cheap shots at one another. The object of our dissension, this thing that drives us apart and can have us “behaving like animals”, goes to the very heart of humanity, and is ironically the one thing we have most in common, the one thing that sets us apart from other life: our intellect.

Read more...

The Author

Hi, I’m JF Derry, born and raised in London, then Lincolnshire, studied in North Wales then York, and have worked mainly in British and African universities, but also in Spain, Brussels, Mongolia and Australia. I’ve written for newspapers, governments, music labels and publishers, but as you can expect, most of my writing has appeared in academic journals.

Quite a lot of it has been about Charles Darwin and evolution, like my last book which was called Darwin in Scotland, but I’ve also had my fiction at book festivals, and I’ve even had some poetry published (although I may never again reach those precocious heights when I was only five, and an anthology included my poem 'The Snowman', in which 'the children use a piece of hose 'cos they got no carrot for his nose').

I now live in Edinburgh, with my partner and our two daughters, write a blog which Stephen Fry once called 'excellent', which is nice, and ... oh yes ... I once collected lion semen (intentionally), but you’ll have to ask me about that another time.


Q&A

Rebecca Reynolds

Hi-I thought this was really interesting and look forward to reading it when it's published.

I was a little bit disappointed that only one woman was included in the interviewee list here though. Are there more in the book?

Best wishes

Rebecca Reynolds

JF Derry
JF Derry replies:

Hi Rebecca,

well spotted and a vitally important question, thank you. I also noticed an imbalance early on when collecting my interviews.

The good news is that there is more than one women in the book: Susan Blackmore, Eliane Lacroix-Hopson, Emma Darwin, Janet Browne, Helena Cronin, Ruth Padel, Barbara Grant, Marian Stamp Dawkins, Meave and Louise Leakey, Lynn Margulis, Elizabeth Vrba, A.S. Byatt, Sarah Darwin, Jean Houston, Margaret Helder, Barbara Creed, Rebecca Stott, Fiona Stafford, Ellen Johnson, Delia Owens, Leena Eilittä, Barbara Noske, Nancy Pearcey, Deborah Kelemen, and Jane Goodall.

Now, admittedly, this is my initial "ideal" list, and I have responses from most, but not all. Since that list was made, although women in all walks of life, including science, still face terrible misogyny, the last few years have also seen promotion of women scientists and hat has made my job a bit easier. There are about another twenty names to add to this list.

The bad news is that there will remain an unavoidable male bias, simply because of the historical domination of the subject area by men. However, I will try to be selective and skilful in honestly presenting all responses, and hopefully this will do something to rectify the unfair situation.

I hope this goes some way towards answering your concerns.

Best wishes,

Julian.

The Rewards

All supporters get their name printed in every edition of the book. All levels include immediate access to the author's shed.

£10
Digital

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge £10 70 pledges
£20
Hardback

1st edition hardback

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge £20 130 pledges
£35
Signed

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback (including free UK delivery)

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge £35 47 pledges
£75
Print

Print of the Huxley-Wilberforce drawing used in video, and print of Darwin sketch used on endplates.

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback (including free UK delivery)

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book.

📖 Pledge £75 9 pledges
£150
Darwin Statue

Limited edition Jesmonite bust of Darwin.

Print of Huxley-Wilberforce drawing used in video, and print of Darwin sketch used on endplates.

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback (including free UK delivery)

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge £150 4 pledges
£200
Launch Lunch

2 invites to launch lunch

Limited edition Jesmonite bust of Darwin

Print of Huxley-Wilberforce drawing used in video, and print of Darwin sketch used on endplates.

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback (including free UK delivery)

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book

£250
Be in the book

Interview with author (telephone or email)

2 invites to launch party

Limited edition Jesmonite bust of Darwin

Print of Huxley-Wilberforce drawing used in video, and print of Darwin sketch used on endplates.

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge £250 2 pledges
£500
VIP be in the book

Interview with author in person, in front of the Darwin statue at the Natural History Museum, London, followed by dinner with the author and founders of Unbound at a nearby restaurant of their choosing

2 invites to launch lunch

Limited edition Jesmonite bust of Darwin

Print of Huxley-Wilberforce drawing used in video, and print of Darwin sketch used on endplates.

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback

e-book edition, access to the author's shed and your name in the back of the book