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The Serpent's Promise: The Bible Retold as Science Hardcover – 2 May 2013

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 437 pages
  • Publisher: Little, Brown; 1st edition (2 May 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1408702851
  • ISBN-13: 978-1408702857
  • Product Dimensions: 16.1 x 3.8 x 23.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (34 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 211,659 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)

Witty, urbane and erudite (Independent on Sunday)

[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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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

34 of 37 people found the following review helpful By Brian R. Martin TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 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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Steve Jones is an outstanding intellectual and scientist....and fine writer. His analysis of the Bible highlighting inconsistencies, contradictions, "miracles", superstitions and calls to perpetrate evil in the name of Jehovah / God is masterly with similar side-assessments of the Koran where appropriate. The only 'mistake' that I have found so far is his under-estimate of the percentage of the UK population that states itself to be of 'non-belief' .....not 25% but now 51% in 2009 (Social Attitudes Survey) and 53 % in 2011 rising at about 1% of the total population per year (from the Social Attitudes Survey and the official Census). We are not a religious country!
Steve is a prominent humanist, one of many who seek to live good lives without superstitious or religious beliefs. Any one who who feels they need support for their religious doubts should read this book and those who have struggled free of them can have their views and prejudices supported, quite gently!
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By markr TOP 500 REVIEWER on 6 May 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a fascinating and very readable book for the general reader with an interest in human evolution. The author, Steve Jones is a geneticist, and this book covers genetics and evolution, and touches on medicine, geology, sociology,and much more, to explore the scientific explanations for some of the key claims made in religion.

With chapters covering the origin of the universe and life on earth, as well as visions, the dietary requirements of religions, the spread and control of disease, immaculate conception and altruism, amongst many other topics, this is a wide ranging book full of fascinating snippets of fact.

The writing style is easy to follow, but not at patronising for the general reader. The author covers material rather similar to the works of Richard Dawkins, but in a way which I at least found more enjoyable. However, I suspect that this book would not be an enjoyable or comfortable reading experience for believers who do not wish their faith to be challenged.

This was the first book by Steve Jones which I have read, but I enjoyed it so much I have just ordered another
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10 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Brian Clegg TOP 500 REVIEWER on 11 Jun. 2013
Format: Hardcover
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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