British biologist Jones (Darwin’s Island, 2009, etc.) has fun examining miraculous biblical tales with the gimlet eye of science.
The author doesn’t go in for hard-boiled trashing of the Bible but rather stands back, takes a fresh look and discovers where adherents and scientists part company. Sometimes the divide is fairly clear-cut: In the beginning, God created the heavens and the Earth—or there was a “closed spherical space-time of zero radius.” But sometimes faith and science can coexist. Pituitary tumors could account for giants. Money may well be the root of all evil, although as Jones wisely points out, human beings (gender: male) come a close second or perhaps trump money, since it’s their creation. Celibacy? Like everything, there are pros and cons, though the pros are devilishly beguiling. After all, as Jones writes with his characteristic bright sense of humor, “[t]he cost of sex involves much more than the effort and annoyance associated with the act itself and the genetic events behind it. Liaisons with males force females to squander their energies in copying the genes of another individual, and to dilute their own investment with progeny who carry his DNA.” The author has some rough things to say about those who downplay or ignore the miraculous and the magical, which certainly can provide a spiritual lift. Still, in the end, Jones comes down on the side of rationalism: “From the cosmos to the continents and from primeval slime to philosophy, everything evolves. Science is an attempt to recover the process.” A central problem of faith is that quarrels frequently lead to disaster, and the more extensive the membership, the more the conflicts. What does God want? With enough believers, anything.
Fair but uncompromising, counseling us to slough what William Blake called the “ ‘mind-forg’d manacles’ of organized religion” and practice something universal: science.