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The Dissent Of Man

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

This book is fully funded, but you can still support it!

  • https://unbound.com/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.


Questions & Answers

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 replied:

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.

JF Derry JF Derry asked:

There is now a follow up Shed post to this question, plus this page will be updated in the near future.

http://unbound.co.uk/books/the-dissent-of-man/updates/rad-mix-fury-road

JF Derry JF Derry replied:

The rewrite of Chapter 1 that will get posted here on the project's landing page as the updated extract is going well. There is a recent related post now in the Shed
http://unbound.co.uk/books/the-dissent-of-man/updates/edit-where-edit-s-due-the-rise-of-the-replicates

William Hall William Hall asked:

Will you be including any contributions from the likes of Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons, Orthodox Jews, Muslims etc. ? I know they would probably resort to quoting from their respective holy texts, but it could be interesting to see how their views contrast with those at the other end of the spectrum.

JF Derry JF Derry replied:

Hi William,

good question, thank you.

My intention is to be as inclusive as possible within the obvious physical limits of the book. Also, I don't want to overburden the reader with endless quotes without a cohesive narrative, so there'll have to be some compromises made somewhere. However, while it won't be a comprehensively representative sample, I do hope to draw from a wide and diverse range of thought. As far as the intention of the book goes, each and every response adds to our understanding the human tendency to distance ourselves from nature. Thanks again for your question - it's good to keep on revising my ideas on this and check I'm still on the right track.

Best Wishes,
Julian.
Edinburgh.

Hi Julian,

Congratulations on being fully subscribed.

As a matter of interest, what draft are you up to, and what happens next?

Kind Regards,
Robert,
Canberra

JF Derry JF Derry replied:

Hi Robert,

thank you for your felicitations - I'm still feeling elated at our having reached the magic number. Also, thanks for asking this important question - I'm sure many of your fellow "pledgers" / "subscribers" / "supporters" are wondering the same. The Shed is definitely the place to keep posted on progress - I'll continue to pop snippets and thoughts in there as they occur to me. I had meant to add something in the last week or two, but I've been slowed down with a touch of post-festive lurgi.

In answer to your query, I've attempted to keep up with the pace of developments in the relevant fields of evolutionary science, neurotheology and cognition, over the course of funding (4.5 years), and before even arriving at Unbound (since 2003), but it's a huge scope that I am assimilating into a single cogent message, and inevitably there are some slippages, frayed edges, and widening cracks that need repair. So, I have finished the first draft. Many times over! But, it needs some fine toothcomb treatment once again, and there's one section I have purposely left unwritten until now. So, to an extent, this also determines what happens next: some serious (re)writing, which I'm very much up for, sharpened quill at the ready.

With respect to opportunity to spend time on the rewrite (I'm sure you'll appreciate that I have had to turn to other projects while waiting on the funding process). Fortunately, this opportunity is looming in the very near future. I have commitments for the next few weeks (the outcome of which will likely get posted in the Shed), and then I have blocked out a further three months to get the manuscript up-to-date, and submitted to my Unbound editor.

As far as possible, I am determined to produce the most informative, intelligent and up-to-date book on this subject area: everyone involved deserves the best in return for their wonderful patience and ongoing support. So, while I apologise for any further wait, the benefits are that you will be receiving a book that you would have purchased this year, and not four or fourteen years ago.

The editorial process is a slick operation at Unbound. The same for layout, art and design, and from the pace I have noticed for other funded books, each delivered with alacrity, their turnaround from final draft to in-the-hand "product" must be amongst the fastest in the industry.

Please let me know if this answers your queries, Robert, and keep asking and nudging as much as you like, here or in the Shed.

Best wishes,
Julian
Edinburgh

Hi Julian,

Thanks for the prompt and detailed reply. All is clear now.
It's always difficult to know when to stop 'polishing' one's opus.

As a psychologist by training, I look forward to seeing how neurotheology and cognition are woven into the mix.

Really looking to holding the book in my hands, but probably not nearly as much as you no doubt. Godspeed.

Kind regards
Robert
Canberra

JF Derry JF Derry replied:

Ha! Yes indeed, but unless anyone discovers a god gene in the next few months or so, I'll be able to rest my baton. Perhaps I'll ignore the news for a bit, just in case ;-)

The Rewards

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

$15
Digital

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

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$25
Hardback

1st edition hardback

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

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$45
Signed

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

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$95
Print

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

Signed & personally dedicated 1st edition hardback

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book.

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$190
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

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge $190 9 pledges
$250
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

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge $250 3 pledges
$315
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

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book

📖 Pledge $315 3 pledges
$625
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 founder of Unbound at a nearby restaurant

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

ebook edition and your name in the back of the book