The Dissent Of Man

By JF Derry

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

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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.


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.

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  • JF Derry avatar

    JF Derry

    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.

  • It is very un-Darwin-like to not recognise diversity in nature. One of Darwin’s greatest achievements was to explain how biodiversity came about. As a part of that nature, and having a nature of our own, humans also reflect a great wealth of difference in our appearances, habits, and beliefs.

  • JF Derry has written 7 private updates. You can pledge to get access to them all.

    9th November 2019 Latest news

    I am posting this reply to one of the project supporters to hopefully answer any concerns...


    On 8 Nov 2019, at 16:35, Rodger ************************* wrote:

    Good Morning,

    I made a couple of contributions to your book project n 2017. I have since not received (or even heard) anything related to my support. In addition to a copy of the book, my support qualified me for a Darwin bust…

    20th April 2019 Pay charity to be in DISSENT OF MAN

    Helloooo eneryone, it's going really well. Some great interviews just arrived (I'll save the juicy surprises), and the words are flowing fast. Every day, in every way, getting closer to publication. Meanwhile, a slight detour with this, please,...

    1. My nephew Ben (pictured), is cycling to Athens for charity - see here…

    28th February 2019 Pure Brilliance

    1. I’ve just boxsetted (is that the word?) the C4/All4 series of Rose Cartwright’s Pure. Not only am I immensely proud to be small part of the Unbound adventure, but I also feel vicariously excited to see Rose’s story, albeit vastly retold, stretching into another, far-reaching dimension. Undoubtedly, it’s a great example of publishing success. Writers bring ideas which they want to be heard. But…

    8th May 2018 For He's A Jolly Good Fellow


    Seems appropriate to repost this update today.

    10th December 2017 Is Statue Mr Darwin?

    News about the Darwin busts

    I'm always very pleased to receive any of your questions regarding progress and arrangements. I fully appreciate that this book is so much longer in the waiting than probably every other publication working it's way into the light of day thanks to you, the people who ultimately make it possible, and Unbound, who put everything into place to allow it to happen. Suffice…

    1st December 2017 In which we counter a certain claim about the value of religion, and end up on a road journey

    This is an older draught of a piece that I've used variously before, but it's useful to get an overview of my approach for Dissent of Man. 


    In an October article in Aeon Magazine (2015/6?), accompanied by a précis piece in The Guardian’s online Comment is Free – "Why Dawkins’ Humanists Remind Me…

    23rd November 2017 Time for a Sex Change


    Hello everyone

    we inch ever closer to finishing the book. I'm thrilled with how putting it aside for a decade has improved the contents so much. Instead of an A-to-Z linear slog through the obvious, progress in neuroscience since the early noughties has made reinterpretation of peoples' outlooks very very interesting. And a bit complicated too. 

    The lovely Unbounders have…

    7th July 2017 R̶E̶I̶G̶N̶ ̶O̶F̶ ̶E̶R̶R̶O̶R̶ SUTTON WHO?

    Update #2: apologies for indecisiveness, but with a slimmed down brief, and an idea for a new section in the DISSENT OF MAN, I'm definitely sticking with SUTTON WHO?



    Update #1: whilst developing the new website, I returned to my original choice of name, only put off by…

    6th May 2017 Daedalus Was the Dad of a Dipterist + * UPDATE *


    Well, it's all excitement here in Naturalist Villas. This week, Charlie D., Hugo and I have been joined by a pet spider. He's a bit of a daredevil as you can see, but we’re hoping he’s made the right choice. Life is a trade-off of risks, as Charlie D. is wont to remind me. Hugo merely shrugs and sighs, and continues to ponder Yorick’s mortality. We’re a bit worried about…

    21st April 2017 Busman's Holiday


    I had a day off writing yesterday, so what did I do? Went to a library and hung out with some natural history books. But it wasn't any old library, nor any old natural history books. It was the National Library on the George IV bridge, here in Edinburgh, which I'm surprised to find out isn't old at all. You assume living here that anything original-looking, comfortable in its place, well…

    10th April 2017 Back from a quick break


    Hi folks, I'm just back from a quick family break to Fuerteventura, to charge up on Vit D and assimilate latest writings. I'll drop a few sketched out passages this way soon. Meanwhile, I'm no birder but couldn't help notice some quite lovely feathered friends on our trip, which I've retrospectively looked up and can feature above. All the best, Julian. Edinburgh.


    17th March 2017 New Unbound Website Is Amazing


    Really digging this new website design. The project pages are a lot more fluid, and while the cartoon character was cute and always raised a feeling of bonhomie, the whole place now exudes a maturity befitting of the experienced and sagacious genre pioneers at Unbound. And capacious! Whoa, let me tell you something about capacious, mate. I only popped in here to drop…

    21st December 2016 Victory Lap

    Just a quick victory lap around this 100% sticker 


    Thank you everyone. 1624 days (over 4 years), but we got there. 

    Hope you have good Christmas and New Year festivities.

    Mine are certainly going to be :))

    See you next year.





    20th December 2016 On the 100th (Percent) Day of Christmas

    Hello everyone, new and, and, er, well, there’s no two ways about it… veteran. We’ve been on this raft, drifting at the whim of the curren-sea for so many years, half of us now have grey beards, long enough to match Darwin, and that’s just the …… no, no, I’ll stop there. 

    But, like the cavalry arriving in the nick of time on theiiiir…um… SEAhorses! yes that’s it. Galloping in on their seahorses…

    18th December 2016 Darwin: A Graphic Biography

    This is a lovely review of Simon and Eugene's beautiful Darwin graphic novel. I like this paragraph in particular, noticing that most of the frames are chocker with information, but here he is in the forest for the first time, and speechless. Brilliant!

    "There is something geeky, too, about Byrne’s dense blocks of text, appearing in practically every panel; it is rare for a page to have as little…

    20th November 2016 The Dissent of Man (OST)

    Hi folks,

    hope you're surviving these strange days. Trump has just had another hissy fit on Twitter calling for the cast of Hamilton to apologize[sic] for being “rude” by ending their show last night with, essentially, a well-written plea for the continued protection of family and ethnic diversity, to his buddy-in-vice Pence who was made to squirm. Kudos to Brandon Victor Dixon and the other cast…

    11th November 2016 Trumpism and Darwin

    It's the morning after and Ms America is trying to remember the night before, and in to what trouble she may have fallen, when…

    ____________.©David Rowe


    The horror stricken face is just perfect, in evoking the terror felt by everyone in the world, who is not a Trump supporter. It's a fear that grew from dismissive ragging, into burgeoning concern and, following the Republican Party nomination…

    10th October 2016 Why We (Do and Don't) Believe in Gods

    It is most gratifying when someone follows up one of my tweets or these Shed posts with a comment or question. Otherwise, to be honest, it feels like I'm shouting into the wind. Mira had obviously found the talk on Why We Believe in Gods interesting, and then asked this brilliant question, 



    and this is how I answered,


    29th September 2016 Competition Answer: our latest contributor to the book is SIR DAVID ATTENBOROUGH

    Hi everyone,


    thanks to all of you who entered the competition (some quick stats: 17% of supporters visited the page, and of those people, 10% entered the competition). So, because there's none too many entrants, and they were all correct in identifying that the latest contributor to the DISSENT OF MAN is indeed the legendary,



    17th September 2016 Competition Time: Will the Next Contributor Please Sign In…

    Scene - TV studio set with hackneyed panel game set design, and bored, hackneyed panel to match. Crew flit noiselessly in the penumbral shadows, skilfully navigating the nest of semi-coiled cables, snaking the stage floor perimeter. On-screen talent in question, turning shades of ruddy roast, beneath the scorching stage lights, biting their lips to hold in the waves of contumelious indignation…

    13th September 2016 Three Ducks

    Apologies if you were hoping for an insightful examination of Anatidae (ducks, swans, geese, waterfowl per se), but the titular 3 ducks refer to the third week in a row with no pledge on the book. But, hey, what's 21 days out of the 1524 days that have elapsed since launch date? 1.3779528% to save you reaching for the calculator. Now, some crowd-funded authors might be reaching for the gin or…

    17th August 2016 Back to School


    it's that tough time when the children have to haul themselves out of bed this side of lunchtime and drag themselves to skewl. I was dreading it, but I have to admit that my two daughters managed the whole ordeal quite magnificently this morning. I suspect that despite the late nights, the spring in their steps and their parents’ too, has something to do with the fortnight we’ve just returned…

    6th June 2016 Entelechy*

    I would like to share with you a momentous moment. It is only fair that I do because I think of you as my partners in this venture, and it is regarding the DISSENT OF MAN that something BIG has happened this morning.



    For two miserable months now, I have been working flat-out on a refutation about which I told you in a previous post. It's miserable because the number of mistakes I…

    31st May 2016 Edser Gonna Roll


    One of the inherent features of science is that ideas proposed as hypotheses will always be tested to exhaustion in the attempt to disprove them, not in order to dethrone the scientist, but to ensure the progress of science follows as true a path as possible. that’s not to say it is the perfect 100% truth, but the closest we can get to it as tested by a broad spectrum of methods, all approaching…

    5th May 2016 Damn Death

    I’m sick to tears of writing these damn death notices about contributors to this book. It was supposed to take far less time than this to get funded, but what can I say or do to make it any quicker? Instead, this is a fourth person who will not see the project they supported with their time and ideas. So far my homage reads,

    With gratitude and deep admiration for,

    Richard Gregory 


    26th April 2016 Refutation @ Stake

    Hi, hope you’re keeping well. Here’s a fleeting update to keep you in the proverbial loop,

    1. I’ve been working flat out on a refutation of a ludicrously silly accusation that Darwin and Wallace were plagiarists. It’s a repetitive occurrence arising out of some people’s refusal to make the effort to engage in research properly. To study science history, you’ve got to assess your findings in the…

    27th February 2016 PEEFACE : A Quiz


    hope all's well in your part of the universe. I'm sad that pledging has stalled again. Sorry for being so forward, but please can I urge / beg / plead with you to persuade at least an other person to pledge - you must know someone who would be interested. I honestly can not do this by myself, which has pretty much been the case until now. Please. 

    Right, that's the crawling out of…

    18th February 2016 Catalogue Catalysis

    To kickstart drawing together all the themes in a large work, I find it very useful to construct a bibliography of the literature I've consulted. A catalysing catalogue, of sorts. In this, I have an admission to make: I'm receiving some help with the cataloguing work. Meet my assistant, Simba…



    To do list

    1. Obligatory cat picture   ✓

    2. Bibliography 


    16th February 2016 Sekonyer Simpang Kanan - Borneo 2015

    Here’s that final post I said was coming too long a time ago; apologies. It’s about our trip to Indonesia in July 2015, now and then crossing Alfred Russel Wallace’s path, traversing the Wallace Line that lies longitudinally between Bali and Lombok, and following a similar river route to his, ours up the Sekonyer Simpang Kanan in the West Kotawaringin Regency of Central Kalimantan province, southern…

    26th January 2016 Our Time Has Come

    A man who dares to waste one hour of time has not discovered the value of life.  

    Charles Darwin from "The Voyage", page 266; letter to sister Susan Elizabeth Darwin (4 August 1836)


    I hope your year has started well, although, there have been a few major blows to our collected sense of well-being recently, haven't there? Migrants, daeth, Syria, Bowie, Bley, Trump, etc. What next? One…

    28th October 2015 Your £10 voucher has arrived

    Unbound are very kindly giving a discount to readers: £10 off any Unbound book for one week only. Just enter AUTUMN15 at the checkout and pledge before Thursday 5th November. 

    This is an unmissable opportunity for you to make that first pledge, or upgrade to a higher level. For example, it makes a 1st edition hardback only 1/2 price: a considerable saving. It's also a good chance for THE DISSENT…

    13th September 2015 Alfred Russel Wallace : Works

    Dear Reader,

    I've just been sorting through some photographs from my recent jaunt to Indonesia. I’ll be putting up a few in the near future to accompany a piece about what proved to be a highlight of the trip, following in the wake of Alfred Russell Wallace (8 January 1823 – 7 November 1913). Well, almost. His accounts of travel in Borneo seem to centre around Suluwesi and the north. I can't actually…

    30th August 2015 Oliver Sacks RIP

    This is becoming a loathsome habit, writing here that yet another contributor to THE DISSENT OF MAN has died. Last time I reported on a trio of deaths: John Fincham, Richard Gregory and Eliane Lacroix-Hopson. This time the loss will be ever more painful for the genuinely lovely interactions I had with Oliver Sacks (RIP). He was a brilliant man, perpetually busy, but always gave his time to reply with…

    14th August 2015 Oiling Palms

    I'll try to get around to writing more about the relevant bits of our recent trip to Indonesia, and for me the best bits, the Alfred Russell Wallace bits. Meanwhile, a note on something that is all too apparent as soon as we started travelling in Borneo: the nightmare problem that is the spread of oil palm cultivation.

    This crop has made itself so useful, ubiquitous in the production of a vast…

    30th June 2015 Wallace and Selamat

    This is going to be my view in a week or two. I'm heading to Borneo, via Bali and Java. It's a family holiday, but I can't go all that way and not think about Alfred Russell Wallace. It's a great excuse to travel upriver on a Klotok on the way to visit Camp Leakey, reading about Wallace's adventures thereabouts in his Malay Archipelago and Peter Raby's biography. It's also a great excuse to revisit…

    30th June 2015 60% Prize Draw Book Giveaway Winner


    Thank you everyone for getting us to 60%. I'm very happy to give what I can in return in thanks. I have some relevant books that I realised were duplicates, so I'll be giving them away too, as soon as I can arrange it. Meanwhile, let's do the prize draw for a copy of Darwin in Scotland. Drum roll please…

    Going to, I enter the number of supporters for Dissent of Man,…

    27th June 2015 The Value of Life

    There is a particular Darwin quote much touted on social media, particularly Twitter which, if one were to be cynical, tells you more about its convenient length rather than promulgation of the content. Hopefully it’s popularity is a function of both, but it is noticeably one of the very few Darwin quotes that does get bandied about. When Darwin was explicating on matters at hand in his writings…

    27th June 2015 Darwings

    Very excited to announce that we've made it to 60% which means not only are we 3/5 of the way to our target, but it's also time to send someone a copy of my previous Darwin book, Darwin in Scotland. I'll try to organise a draw and post the book out early next week, so it will be soon winging its way to one of you. Things are a bit hectic here at the moment, but I'll do my best.. 

    Thanks to…

    24th June 2015 A Shropshire Lad

    When shall I be dead and rid

         Of the wrong my father did?

              How long, how long, till spade and hearse

             Put to sleep my mother's curse?

    (from A Shropshire Lad by A. E. Housman)

    Still on the subject of fathers, following the previous post on Fathers' Day in the UK, here's Darwin's Dad, although I doubt he ever called him anything so informal. 

    Dr Robert Waring…

    21st June 2015 Aubrey Manning on being a 'Gent'

    Today is UK Fathers' Day, and it brought to mind a quote from an interview I carried out with biologist and presenter Aubrey Manning. Aubrey spoke about his first encounters with Darwin's work and how it influenced his study with Nico Tinbergen (Richard Dawkins was a subsequent PhD student of Nico's). We were talking about the accusations that Darwin had usurped, or at worse stolen, Alfred Russell…

    18th June 2015 Darwin is in the House!

    Yes folks, they've arrived. Even if it’s a book that came out years ago, and that you’ve had delivered before, it's still a thrill to receive your own books in the mail. One I hope I’ll never tire of, or one of which I hope I’ll never tire. Whichever you prefer. Hell, I get enough of a buzz when books I buy arrive, let alone ones I've actually written, but here, in your hands is a thing you’ve…

    12th June 2015 Competition Time - Well, More of a Book Giveaway, Really.

    Great news, the lovely publishers of my previous book on Darwin, Darwin in Scotland have just made some calculations and have worked out that they owe me some royalties. Always welcome, but never more so than now because I asked if, to cover some of the monies, they'd send copies of that book in lieu, and they agreed! So, now I can put up for grabs a copy of a book of which I am pretty proud, the …

    8th June 2015 Edit Where Edit's Due: The Rise of the Replicates

    I’ve always been loathed to discard any writing, but it is true that the better end result is arrived at by brutal editing,

    “So the writer who breeds more words than he needs, is making a chore for the reader who reads.” ― Dr. Seuss

    “Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings.” ― Stephen King


    29th May 2015 Rad. Mix : Fury Road

    When I first started compiling the material for this book in 2003, I approached the most famous and respected people in their field of interest known to me, without consideration of gender, sexuality, nationality, politics, hair colour, height, shoe size, etc. I mean, who cares about any of that?


    That’s not to belittle anyone who thinks any of those things important, it’s just that when it…

    20th May 2015 Stats, But Not Static, Not Quite

    Hi folks,

    just had a peek at our total. Still on 53%, but what does that mean in terms of reaching that magical fully funded status? Well, I'd like to share the progress chart that authors get to see behind the scenes on the Unbound website. 

    A few scribbles on the back of an envelope and the daily rate of funding between January 2013 and now has been 0.03% per day. "Not a lot!", as someone…

    11th May 2015 What is the DISSENT OF MAN about?


    I just read the paragraph below that rounded off a review of Karen Amstrong's new book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence. It looks like the book itself is full of Amstrong's usual hand-waving and glibness with fact, but it's an interesting criticism of this genre of book in general, and includes Dawkins in that mix, 

    "A balance-sheet of the harms and benefits attributable…

    30th April 2015 Ghosts and Guardian Angels

    I have written a piece for a book being compiled to celebrate the 60th anniversary of The Lord of the Flies. It won't be available for months, so as a small token in thanks for your pledging support, here's an excerpt which skips the main physcological biography and jumps to the Darwinian conclusion.



    For me, the vital importance of The Lord of the Flies touches…

    25th April 2015 Christmas aboard the Beagle

    Here's hoping all your festive plans are going well. It's a special time, whatever your beliefs (unless they're that it's not a special time), and one when thoughts turn to family and home (mostly). 

    Indeed, by the time it came for Darwin's fifth Christmas away from home on the Beagle voyage, he was understandably showing signs of homesickness,

    Christmas-Day.—In a few more days the fourth…

    25th April 2015 Gift of thanks to all DISSENT OF MAN supporters

    Hi everyone,

    I've told you before how grateful I am for your support by pledging for the DISSENT OF MAN. We're nearly 1/2-way which will hopefully bring with it a chance for another competition giveaway to launch us into the home strait.

    Meanwhile, here is a link to the PDF download of my DARWIN PAPERS, a little gift (worth £1.99!) from me to you. It's an eclectic mix of both academic and…

    25th April 2015 HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Thanks to everyone who has supported the book - it's not going to become a reality otherwise. Please do do what you can to promote it further. Between us we will make it happen. I hope you have a gloriously good new year and all your wishes come true, too. Jx

    25th April 2015 Some Important Decisions

    I recently had a meeting with Xander of Unbound to discuss the details of The Dissent of Man. Up until now we knew what the book was going to be about, and most of the content, as dictated by the interviews that I have been collecting over the years. But, we still had to decide on the way the book was going to flow, how those interviews would tell the story, and how we would highlight different sections…

    25th April 2015 Ken Ham Clip 1


    Ken Ham toured Scotland in 2007, as part of which he delivered a sermon on Young Earth Creationism and the literal interpretation of the Book of Genesis in Edinburgh, as the President of Answers in Genesis-U.S. and Joint CEO of Answers in Genesis International, and has been instrumental in setting up the Creation Museum in Petersburg, Kentucky. He frequently appears in the media and presents…

    25th April 2015 Richard Dawkins Clip 2


    More from our chat. This on Darwin's writing prowess. 

    Clip here:

    Richard Dawkins Clip 2

    Transcript here:

    "I had the great privilege of reading “The Origin ...” aloud for  CD, for recording, so I had to abridge it, and I had to read it extremely thoroughly to abridge it, and then also every sentence I read extremely thoroughly to get the exact sense so that when I read it aloud…

    25th April 2015 Richard Dawkins Clip 1

    I've been busy writing and sifting through the mounds of material I have for inclusion in the book. It's very exciting to listen back to these interviews. Thought I'd share this clip with you. 

    Richard Dawkins Clip 1 

    (link will work if you've already supported the book, otherwise please use player on the right of this page in Desktop version)

    "Darwin is so important, it is almost absurd…

    25th April 2015 The Other Charles Darwin


    I made a mistake in my book Darwin in Scotland, regarding Charles Darwin’s uncle, another Charles Darwin,

    Why would Darwin choose to attend Edinburgh? The quick answer is that he didn’t – his father decided for him, and Edinburgh was chosen because it was a family tradition to go there to study medicine. In fact, anyone pursuing a career in medicine was wise to go to Edinburgh, as since…

    25th April 2015 Charles Darwin's Grave In Edinburgh

    [© Joe Gordon, 2012] The other Charles Darwin (see shed post) died and was buried in Edinburgh.

    25th April 2015 Erasmus Darwin's letter to James Hutton

    Father of the other Charles Darwin (see shed post), the famous Erasmus Darwin, was summoned to Edinburgh upon his son falling ill, and for a few days after he arrived he had hopes that Charles might recover but this was not to be. Whilst in Edinburgh, Erasmus met James Hutton, and probably stayed with him. He later wrote to Hutton, entrusting him with supervising the cutting of the grave's inscription…

    25th April 2015 Darwin Miscellania

    Thank you for your patience in awaiting this next addition to our shed space. I've been amassing quite a collection of Darwin-related gems harvested from across the internet and I thought you good people might like a share of them. Sorry they're in no particular order or grouping, but I have checked through the links on posting them here, so I hope they all work for you.

    There are of course tons…

    25th April 2015 An Aside: Agnosticism

    Core to the book is the polemic exhibited by all sides in the science-religion debate. People really know their own minds, and often claim to know the minds of their opposition. The version put forward all seems very black and white.

    One point of view that hardly gets represented is agnosticism. In fact agnostics are if anything derided for being stuck in the middle, unsure and usually depicted…

    25th April 2015 Quick Update

    Hello everyone,

    furiously plotting and planning good stuff to bring you here in our shed. In the meantime, a quick note to say that we are on the cusp of a pivotal moment: 19% pledged brings us within striking distance of getting our competitions started. I say competitions when I really mean prize draws. You guys have done enough already just by backing the book, and I'd prefer to give back something…

    25th April 2015 Charles Darwin Bust


    It's almost impossible to find a decent statue of Charles Darwin available for sale. I know, I've spent a long time looking. The only ones I did find looked more like Socrates or Captain Birdseye. I wanted an instantly recognisable piece that got me thinking about Darwin and his works as soon as my eye fell upon it. I din't want to have to work to recognise him. I shared my frustrations with…

    25th April 2015 Huxley-Wilberforce Drawing

    This striking rendition of the Huxley-Wilberforce clash by Simon Gurr ( was used in the book's pitch video. Pledging at the PRINT level and above will not only obtain you a beautiful hardback copy of the book, but also prints of this drawing and of Simon's lovely Darwin Sketch that is to be used on the endplates of the book. This sort of attention to detail is what makes…

    25th April 2015 Epoch-making pledges

    Dear "Pledger", 

    or should I address you as "Partner", because you are helping to make this book happen, and we all want it to happen (otherwise we wouldn't be here): dear Partner, welcome to OUR Shed. 

    Firstly, a HUGE thank you for supporting this book project. It has literally been a decade in the making, and I would like to tell you more about that journey in future posts. Meanwhile, suffice…

    25th April 2015 Darwin Sketch

    We are going to use this wonderful sketch of Charles Darwin by Simon Gurr ( on the endplates of the book. This sort of attention to detail is what makes Unbound books so very special, and The Dissent of Man is going to be no exception. Pledging at the PRINT level and above will not only obtain you a beautiful hardback copy of the book, but also prints of this Darwin…

    25th April 2015 The Fellow in the Cupboard

    There are many reasons for which I get frustrated at the slow pace of funding for this book compared to other books I have seen pass by on their way to a successful 100% completion, but none more than the death of a contributor.


    It has been 1017 days since Dissent of Man was launched on Unbound and all of the books launched about that time have either been long published, and some of their…

    19th April 2015 Charles Darwin d. 19th April, 1882

    The Times, Friday, Apr 21, 1882; Issue 30487


    [last known photograph by Herbert Rose Barraud, 1881]

    Exactly a year to a day has separated the deaths of two of the most powerful men of this century, some have said of any century; and those who care for the task will find some very curious analogies between the progress and the ultimate results of the work of the two…

    3rd March 2015 Behind Every Great Man

    Hi there,

    here’s wishing you well at the opening of this, all-too-brief-and-infrequent missive for the sole purpose to provide myself a platform with which to be shamelessly boastful. Apologies in advance, but it’s either laid out here, or in front of the cats, and in opting for your good selves, I’m hoping you will neither, rip it to shreds, chew it, mark it with your secretions, nor shit on it…

    20th December 2014 Xmas 2014

    Here's wishing you all a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.

    Thank you for all your support so far - I think / hope 2015 will be the year that we get to 100% funding and finally get the DISSENT OF MAN into your hands and onto the bookshelves. 


    The book draft itself is in fine shape, but needs a thorough going over in the light of recent advances in Cognitive Science, and how…

    4th November 2014 We're All In This Together

    Hi, …, hi, …, uh, … All?

    Hmmm, "All" does sound a bit impersonal. It does its job, there’s no arguing against that; inclusivity is the beat of its drum, so much so that perhaps it would be better written with arms reaching out in welcome embrace, “ —A—“  (I know, I know. “lAl”, el-ay-el, but you'll just have to pretend / squint).

    Of course, when you use “All” to address a group, there is an…

    9th October 2013 More quotes from past interviews

    Steven Pinker

    "Like vision and language, our emotions and cognitive faculties are complex, useful, and nonrandomly organized, which means that they must be a product of the only physical process capable of generating complex, useful, nonrandom organization, namely natural selection." 


    Gert Korthof

    "Darwin had the courage to state 'That many and grave objections may be advanced…

    19th September 2013 Some quotes from past interviews

    This book is an attempt to explore the huge range of interpretations of Darwinism and to do this I interviewed over fifty commentators. Here are a few quotes from these interviews that might interest supporters and encourage others to pledge. I'll be putting more up over the next few weeks - but you'll have to support the book to read those.


    George Schaller

    "Darwin, whether he is mentioned…

    17th September 2013 Half-way house

    Dear Reader,

    congratulations all round, we've made it to halfway, actually a little further by the time this post goes live. To celebrate we held a prize draw and the randomly picked winner of a magnificent Darwin bust was Daryl Millar. Congratulations to him, commiserations to everyone else. Hopefully, there'll be more prizes anon.

    Okay, so there's a lot more to do, not least garner another…

    6th August 2013 The Writer's Dream

    It's likely a romanticised version of the writer's lot, to dream of feted launches, wined agents, and lazy lunches. Romanticised maybe, but it's what I crave, and what's life without ambition? Meanwhile, I prostitute my wares openly on any market that will take them, and hope to reach the shorter-term target of 100% funding for the DISSENT OF MAN. Platitudes aside, with your help, yes we can.

    23rd December 2012 Season's Greetings

    Season's greetings, Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays and thank you for supporting this book. Looking forward to it reaching full funding as soon as possible in the new year. Cheers!

    8th December 2012 Dissecting the Dissent of Man


    Current understanding suggests that religion is partly an adaptive advantage by fostering cooperation between individuals. However, antagonistic to this strengthening of community relations, psychological predisposition for faith initially established and now perpetuates a polarised science-religion debate. Yet this evolutionary pre-programming of people is an important but often omitted element…

    19th September 2012 2nd Prize Draw

    To celebrate reaching a quarter (25%) of the way to our target, I would again like to give something back to say thank you, and again it's a copy of Simon and Eugene's amazing "Darwin A Graphic Novel".

    So, as before, thank you again to all who have supported the book so far, and if you don't win this time, I hope you do so next. 102 names go into the hat (spreadsheet, sorted alphabetically), one…

    13th September 2012 On the Movements and Habits of Climbing Plants


    On this day in 1864, Charles Darwin's "The Movement and Habits of Climbing Plants" was published by the Linnean Society. He wrote about it in his "Autobiography":

    In the autumn of 1864 I finished a long paper on Climbing Plants, and sent it to the Linnean Society. The writing of this paper cost me four months: but I was so unwell when I received the proof-sheets that I was forced to leave them very…

    22nd August 2012 1st Prize Draw

    To celebrate reaching a fifth (20%) of the way to our target, I would like to give something back to say thank you. I am really sorry I don't have something to give you all, but hopefully we can share in the joy of someone winning this token. 

    The prize is really quite special. It is a copy of "Darwin A Graphic Novel", a collaboration between writer Eugene Byrne and Simon Gurr, the wonderfully…

    31st July 2012 Darwin Bust

    It's almost impossible to find a decent statue of Charles Darwin available for sale. I know, I've spent a long time looking. The only ones I did find looked more like Socrates or Captain Birdseye. I wanted an instantly recognisable piece that got me thinking about Darwin and his works as soon as my eye fell upon it. I didn't want to have to work to recognise him. I shared my frustrations with…

    31st July 2012 Prints of Simon Gurr's illustrations

    This striking rendition of the Huxley-Wilberforce clash by Simon Gurr was used in the book's pitch video. Pledging at the PRINT level and above will not only obtain you a beautiful hardback copy of the book, but also prints of this drawing and of Simon's lovely Darwin Sketch that is to be used on the endplates of the book.

    This sort of attention to detail is what makes Unbound books so…

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  • Rebecca Reynolds
    Rebecca Reynolds asked:

    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.

    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

    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.

    Robert Robinson
    Robert Robinson asked:

    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

    Robert Robinson
    Robert Robinson asked:

    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 ;-)

    Nesher Asner
    Nesher Asner asked:

    Soooo..... Will this book ever get finished and published? An update would be nice.

    JF Derry
    JF Derry replied:

    Apologies Nesher. Apologies to all. The manuscript has been with Unbound for several months now. I’m hoping to hear about a schedule to publication soon and will provide an update asap. Best wishes, Julian.