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The Serpent's Promise: The Bible Retold as Science [Hardcover]

Professor Steve Jones
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 May 2013

The Bible was the first scientific textbook of all; and it got some things right (and plenty more wrong). Steve Jones' new book rewrites it in the light of modern science. Are we all descended from a single couple, a real-life Adam and Eve? Was the Bible's great flood really a memory of the end of the Ice Age? Will we ever get back to Methuselah given that British life expectancy is still rising by six hours a day, every day?

Many people deny the power of faith, many more the power of science. In this ground-breaking work, geneticist Steve Jones explores their shared mysteries - from the origins of life and humankind to sex, age, death and the end of the universe. He steps aside from the noisy debate between believers and unbelievers to show how the same questions preoccupy us today as in biblical times - and that science offers many of the answers.

Erudite and accessible, The Serpent's Promise is a witty and thoughtful account of the ability and the limits of science to tell us what we are.

Product details

  • Hardcover: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown (2 May 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 1408702851
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408702857
  • Product Dimensions: 23.6 x 15.8 x 4 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (25 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 25,328 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Steve Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College London and the president of the Galton Institute. He delivered the BBC Reith Lectures in 1991, appears frequently on radio and television and is a regular columnist for the Daily Telegraph. His previous books include The Language of the Genes, Almost Like a Whale, Y: The Descent of Man and, most recently, Coral.

Product Description


With sensitivity towards religion and sardonic wit, geneticist Steve Jones delivers a masterful scientific take on biblical events (Nature)

Brilliantly told . . . highly entertaining and informative . . . one of the best books I have read (Biologist)

[A] treat, a tale from an experienced writer who is always interesting . . . The Serpent's Promise is not simply a continuation of an ancient confrontation on evolution between scientist and believer: the events chosen by Jones reflect well the breadth and quality of the questions asked in the Bible . . . Whatever your own starting point, you will need to read the evidence set out in this important book to judge for yourself its outcome (Bryan Lovell The Times)

Steve Jones is a master of deadpan one-liners that illuminate biological realities even as they make you laugh . . . Faith for him is by and large a vice, evidence a virtue. Sardonic and self-deprecating in a way that is, perhaps, characteristically Welsh, he is not angry in the way of so-called New Atheists . . . he is sensitive to the strength and power of religious ceremony (Caspar Henderson Sunday Telegraph, Book of the Week)

Erudite and accessible, The Serpent's Promise is a witty and thoughtful account of the ability and the limits of science to tell us what we are (New Statesman)

Book Description

Britain's favourite geneticist, Steve Jones, updates the Bible from the point of view of modern science.

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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Religion versus Science debate: the End? 11 May 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
Steve Jones is a non-believer, and has made clear in other books where he stands in the religion versus science debate. But not for him the no-holds-barred, all-out assault on religion favoured by Richard Dawkins and others. Jones' approach is calmer, sometimes ironic, but just as effective, and often even more devastating. In this book he revisits the Bible and interprets its stories and messages in the light of science. In doing so he presents the reader with an impressive torrent of facts from a wide range of scientific disciplines including physics, chemistry, paleontology, geology, anthropology, and above all his own specialty, genetics. They pour from the pages in a superbly presented elegant narrative that shows not only his scientific credentials and extensive research, but also his considerable knowledge of the Bible, possibly coming from his family history.

The book analyses many important Biblical stories and other general religious themes: Adam and his descendants; the origins of life in the Universe and on Earth; the role of sex, climate, and dietary restrictions; migration and floods; saintly hallucinations and visions; the tendency for religious movements to fragment and denigrate each other; and many others. At each turn there is no room for divine intervention and this is made explicit in the superb final chapter, particularly its closing paragraph, where he urges mankind to finally abandon its last great restraint, William Blake's `mind-forg'd manacles' of organized religion, with its dubious promises of an afterlife, and move confidently forward to a new single community, united by an unambiguous logical culture that embraces all mankind, i.e. science. For me, it is an unanswerable case made with great skill and erudition.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars What an enthralling book! 29 Sep 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
A good subject to get your teeth into and Jones certainly does! He has lovely style of writing, and you don't feel that he is attacking religion in the bigoted way that Dawkins does; he is far from being pro religion, but tackles the bible stories in a scientific and forensically based manner. I'm a Christian and trained as a scientist, so such books are part of my reading life. This is one book that has, for me, made a number of connections between the way we were and the way we are.
There are lots of 'wow' moments as you prgress through the chapters of the book and each chapter is as enjoyable as the one before.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Rambling and not really what it says on the tin 11 Jun 2013
By B. M. Clegg TOP 1000 REVIEWER
There are broadly two ways to write a popular science book. One is to pick a specific aspect of science and really dig into it. The other is to use a theme that allows you to explore a whole range of different scientific topics. But there has to be a reason for choosing the framework - and I find Steve Jones' hook in this particular book - the Bible - a little odd.

The bumf for the book says `The Bible was the first scientific textbook of all; and it got some things right (and plenty more wrong).' I'm really not sure about that premise - I don't think anyone sensibly would regard the Bible as a scientific textbook. The whole reason, for instance, that Genesis gets away with having two scientifically incompatible versions of the creation story is that it isn't intended to be a literal, scientific explanation, but rather a contextual, spiritual description. (Which is why those who take the Bible as literal truth have an uphill struggle.) This is a bit like thinking that people thought the Earth was flat in the Middle Ages, because the likes of the Mappa Mundi look like a flat Earth - again, this was a symbolic representation, never intended as a projection of the real world.

In his introduction, Jones takes a slightly dubious path, saying he isn't attacking religious belief per se, and then setting out to do just that. I've nothing against scientists attacking religious beliefs, there is plenty of reason to do so - but they shouldn't try to weasel out of what they are doing. However, in the book proper he moves away from this (until the last chapter) and gets down to some more interesting stuff.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly readable 8 Feb 2014
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
I bought this book because I have tickets to see Steve Jones at Words on Water in March. I thoroughly enjoyed the book, felt that I learned a lot, and would recommend it highly.
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Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I have read all of Steve Jones books listed in this volume and find this one does not achieve its sub-title.
People do not read the bible for a scientific explanation of creation and evolution or even of good and evil. Science and theology don't mix and God has been expelled from the material universe so that it is undetectable by scientific methods. I was sad to find this book was not confined to science. I would have liked to have been informed of the latest explanations of observable facts. I for one would have loved to read about the genetics of Steve Jones's snails!
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3.0 out of 5 stars Not what it says on the cover. 24 Dec 2013
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The supporting text of this book makes reference to Biblical inferences and comment. These connections are minimal, and you have to read a large portion of the tome before the slightest connection between evolution and the Bible occur. A real disappointment, even at the significantly even at the significantly reduced Amazon price at launch.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars The Original Was More Honest
Steve Jones' 'The Serpent's Promise' illustrates the limitations of science more than those of religion, not least in his attempt to divide opinions into two camps one of... Read more
Published 5 months ago by Neutral
5.0 out of 5 stars The past is division and religion, the future can be united by science
If you have fixed religious views you will not like, and probably not read this book. If you think that science and all the benefits it has brought and needs to deliver for... Read more
Published 5 months ago by RCP
5.0 out of 5 stars If you want insights from science on the big questions this is for you
Steve Jones has a way with words that makes his material grip your imagination. The insights he reveals from science are powerful and extensive. Read more
Published 7 months ago by morris
4.0 out of 5 stars Full of facts
If you are a person uncertain of how your religion balances with scientific opinions you may still not be able to plump for one against the other.
Published 8 months ago by Mr. Harold Cotton
2.0 out of 5 stars A rather narrow definition of science.
Written by a microbiologist. It is not an overall scientific view. After a good start (for a few pages) it becomes turgid and repetitive and not really very informative. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Artefact
4.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful book
The only criticism is that he's a bit soft on fundamentalist morons. You need to give those cretins both barrels so they can get past the 14th Century
Published 8 months ago by Mr. J. R. King
2.0 out of 5 stars Starts Badly and Gets Worse
Mr Jones' book crashes in flames on the front cover, though since I doubt he painted the illustration, or even designed it, we probably shouldn't hold it against him. Read more
Published 8 months ago by A. J. Bradbury
5.0 out of 5 stars A stimulating read
Professor Jones has an engaging style and the book is an easy read. He covers a wide range of topics and succeeds in linking them together in a cohesive whole. Read more
Published 8 months ago by Mike Warren
2.0 out of 5 stars Disappointed
Having heard the author speak about this on radio I was keen to read the bbok, especially in view of the subtitle. Read more
Published 9 months ago by Elephant Child
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