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I. Garbutt "Historical laddie" (UK)

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The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us
The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us
by Alice Roberts
Edition: Hardcover

12 of 432 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Another Just-So And Somewhat Fishy Tale, 4 Sept. 2014
Fairy tales tell us that a frog turned into a prince. Alice calls it "evolution".

Trying to find "echoes of our evolutionary past" in human embryos ought to have been knocked on the head with the Haeckel controversy, but some people can't let go it seems.

Still she's a chirpy writer (and TV presenter) despite the just-so stories about how the human race invented itself - and in the face of "the incredible unlikeliness" of it actually happening - so it's two stars from me. However I did debate giving it three as it provides an interesting insight into biological and secular mythologies.
Comment Comments (43) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2016 9:08 AM GMT

Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety: A Guide to Successful Stress Management
Asperger Syndrome and Anxiety: A Guide to Successful Stress Management
by Nick Dubin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £13.99

12 of 24 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Blame it all on Darwin, 10 Dec. 2013
An utterly worthless book, unfortunately. It starts off promisingly enough but after only a few pages descends into a brand of "evolution did it" type of hokum that undermines everything which follows. Dubin waxes lyrical in a "Clan of the Cave Bear" style fashion about our hunter-gatherer ancestors before, hilariously, talking about traits we inherited "from our cold blooded friends the reptiles" (Is this before or after they sprouted wings and turned into birds?).

Dubin also helpfully points out that parts of our brains resembles that of rats and snakes. I'm sure he's also aware that we share much of our DNA with bananas (we wouldn't be able to ingest the darn things otherwise) so I daresay the next time I suffer a meltdown due to my Aspergers I can blame a piece of mouldy fruit?

I'd been given this book on recommendation in the hope it would help me develop (not evolve) strategies to cope with the challenges my condition presents on daily basis. Unfortunately Dubin bases his examination of human thought processes and behaviour on Darwinian just-so stories that throw the whole thing into the realm of psuedoscientific speculation. Apparently the Prince behaves the way he does because he was once a frog.

But that's just a fairy tale.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2014 4:19 PM BST

Imaginaerum (The Score)
Imaginaerum (The Score)

0 of 4 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Imaginaerum The Score scores a dud, 17 Dec. 2012
This review is from: Imaginaerum (The Score) (Audio CD)
Take Nightwish's bold and innovative Imaginaerum, remove the vocals, "reinterpret" the remaining music and you have this - a CD with a lot of noise on it.

God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion
God is Not Great: The Case Against Religion
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Hardcover

7 of 59 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Unreasonable attempt at 'reason', 28 Jun. 2007
Christopher Hitchens is one of a loud breed of anti-religious polemicists identified by the media as "New Atheists", a group of angry young (and not so young) men outraged by the knowledge that the vast majority of the world's population doesn't share their somewhat closed-minded beliefs. Atheists are undoubtedly the Great Pretenders of our age. Apart from pretending that God doesn't exist, that religion is the cause of all human misery, that faith is in decline when statistically its enjoying an upsurge, they also pretend that they're not atheists, hence the use of titles such as naturalists, secularists, humanists, anti-theists and other such monikers.

Hitchens takes these pretences a step further, with unsubstantiated claims that often descend into irrationality. He argues that the secular states of modern history - of which Nazi Germany and Stalin's Soviet Union were merely two examples - share religious characteristics and therefore the appalling crimes committed under their regimes were religious in nature!

Apparently the rise in Islamic militancy is not in response to perceived Western imperialism, but a reaction to the ludicrousness and unsustainability of the faith itself. Does this line of thinking, I wonder, also explain the phenomenon of atheist fundamentalism and the plethora of anti-God polemics currently swamping retailers' shelves?

He also makes the astonishing claim that charity and relief work have nothing to do with religion. The Salvation Army would dispute that.

Unsurprisingly, this book is doing well in the American bestseller charts. Atheists buy it because it tells them what they want to hear, no matter how bizarre, and a number of religious people will also dip in if only to discover what the anti-God brigade are ranting about now. However it's important to put this work in perspective. Even if it sells a million copies it is unlikely to make much of a dent in the vast edifice of American faith.

But Europe is another matter. Hitchens postulates some kind of atheist Armageddon in which religion will collapse and a period of secular post-reconstruction will follow. The belief that religion will die regularly pulls the carpet of credibility right out from underneath the secularist's feet (Dawkins himself fell into this trap during a TV interview with journalist Rod Liddle). Everyone, it seems, has their own idea of heaven.

Hitchens claims to feel uncomfortable around religious people. His unease can only intensify as faith continues to thrive and grow. Anti-religious books like this are fashionable in the way that "The Bible Code" and "Chariots of the Gods?" were in decades past. Eventually the world will move on.
Comment Comments (3) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Sep 4, 2014 4:20 PM BST

Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness (Oberon Master Series)
Against All Gods: Six Polemics on Religion and an Essay on Kindness (Oberon Master Series)
by A. C. Grayling
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £9.99

16 of 212 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Not another one!, 5 Jun. 2007
Whoops, another God bashing book is released and AC Grayling jumps neatly on the Dawkins bandwagon and into the laps of eager atheists and amused believers.

The notion that religion is in decline is a recurring piece of wishful thinking on the part of the world's atheist minority. Whereas many in the UK are, indeed, spiritually bankrupt, belief is very much on the resurgence in other parts of the world, particularly in areas formerly labouring under communist (or other) repressions.

Is atheism a form of religion? It's certainly a lifestyle. Take a look at rationalresponders.com for an example of just how rabid atheist thought can be. Links there will also take you to atheist personals, atheist dating, atheist merchandise and atheist clothing. What next, an atheist theme park?

Likening belief in God to a belief in the tooth fairy or magic goblins merely invites derision from the religious community, and justifiably so. The continual atheist bleat about the lack of scientific proof for the existence of God merely overlooks the notion that current science may simply not be up to the job. Until someone develops a `Godometer' we are in the position of stone age men trying to detect and measure microwave radiation.

Talking about this book in a national newspaper prior to its release, Grayling suggests that the time has come to pick sides. I'm entirely with him on that one. The various weaknesses of the established church have, quite rightly, been under public scrutiny for some years. It's only fair that atheism (naturalism, secularism, humanism or whatever else you want to call it) and its many absurdities should share the spotlight.

Grayling also talks about the importance of reason (There's that loaded word trundled out yet again!), reflection and sympathy. To see any published atheist use the word `sympathy' is refreshing in itself and is a credit to his background as a philosopher. However if Grayling believes that his existence is a fluke of nature in a blind, uncaring universe then he must reflect on the knowledge that his life, by definition, can enjoy little in the way of real meaning, purpose or future. That is the real tragedy of the non-believer.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: May 21, 2012 11:39 AM BST

The God Delusion
The God Delusion
by Richard Dawkins
Edition: Paperback

23 of 81 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Atheism as a religion?, 21 May 2007
This review is from: The God Delusion (Paperback)
So, religion is the root of all evil? Indeed this `love your enemy' and `forgive your neighbour' malarkey should have been banged on the head a long time ago. Dawkins seems to believe that if Britain abandoned faith overnight the entire population would give up watching East Enders and turn previously shackled minds to profound scientific considerations.

Provided it's the `right kind' of science.

My Oxford dictionary describes `science' as an `open minded study'. Dawkins' rationale throughout all his work is based on the theories of Charles Robert Darwin, a divinity student with no science degree or knowledge of microbiology. Darwin's theory of continental change has long been superseded by plate tectonics, and now an increasing number of open minded scientists are questioning his ideas on species transmutation (the biological equivalent of turning lead into gold). In blaming religion for the worlds ills, many secularists conveniently overlook the fact that Darwin's theories were used to justify colonial expansion and the subjugation of what were seen as `inferior' races. They also proved useful to members of society wishing to consolidate their position in the class system. No one would dream of blaming Darwin for this, so why blame God when mankind abuses Biblical - or other religious - ideals? Yes, the Old Testament is full of blood and thunder, but 300 years ago hanging someone for stealing apples was considered reasonable under English law.

Incidentally, Darwin is buried in Westminster Abbey, a building dedicated to "the glorification of God".

Other problems lie in the style of this book. Witty as Dawkins certainly is, the same loaded words are trundled out: `reason', `superstition', `rational', etc, etc as if invoking them will cause believers to melt in a cloud of steam like the witch in the Wizard of Oz. Darwin didn't create atheism - like the cockroach it's always been with us, even to the extent of being gently lampooned in the Old Testament Book of Isaiah. Dawkins claims there's no proof for a creator, but you get the feeling that if the Almighty reached down and plucked the good professor off the face of the earth he'd convince himself it was an alien abduction.

Where `The God Delusion' becomes downright insidious, however is in the claim that religious teaching harms schoolchildren and holds back science. Surely if the science itself is flawed then it should be resisted at all levels, not just in the classroom? Religion teaches that man has a meaningful place in a planned world, that there is universal justice, that love is a power above everything else, that he is accountable for his actions and has a positive hope for the future. Adults and children alike are given a clear set of moral standards. Atheism by comparison offers absolutely nothing. And Dawkins wants that taught to our youngsters?

By the way, is the Brian Eno quoted on the hardcover version of this book the same man who once claimed to be an extraterrestrial?
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Apr 14, 2016 5:41 PM BST

The Boleyn Inheritance
The Boleyn Inheritance
by Philippa Gregory
Edition: Paperback
Price: £4.00

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars More 'history' than 'historical', 12 May 2007
This review is from: The Boleyn Inheritance (Paperback)
Another Tudor book from Philippa Gregory. Compelling reading, of course, but more `history' than `historical'. The fates of the principal characters are all well documented so no matter how involving the prose, we already know the outcome.

I miss the dark imagination of the Wideacre Trilogy, the fabulous mix of fact and fiction in "A Respectable Trade" and even the supernatural eccentricity of "The Wise Woman". These books led to my appreciation of other historical authors like Janet Gleeson, Melanie Gifford and Emma Donoghue

I also have a problem with Gregory's current style where phrases are repeated several times in a paragraph. "He was outside. He was outside my door. He was outside my door and would enter with terrible news." Not an actual quote but it gives an idea of what I mean. Nevertheless the lives of Jane Boleyn, Katherine Howard and Anne of Cleves are skilfully weaved together to give different perspectives on the same events. Even if we do know what lies ahead, it remains a fascinating journey.

Life Mask
Life Mask
by Emma Donoghue
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Historical with bite, 5 May 2007
This review is from: Life Mask (Paperback)
A perfect antitode to the flood of Regency romances currently packing out bookshops. Emma Donoghue, like Melanie Gifford and, to an extent, Sarah Waters, is not afraid to endow her protaginists with seriously unlikeable characteristics. This gives the novel a hard, realisitc edge not found amidst the dashing heroes and simpering heroines of said Regency efforts. A historical with bite, 'Life Mask' has much to offer male and female readers alike.

The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine
by Alister E. McGrath
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.99

22 of 125 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars So just whose ship is sinking?, 24 Mar. 2007
McGrath dumps Dawkins in 96 pages. Given more time for the project he could probably do it in less. The anti-God brigade are already rubbishing this work, which is a good sign of just how effective it is. With more books due to appear from both camps the debate can only heat up, but is it worth the effort? Atheism appears to be getting more attention than it deserves. Though it boasts many adherents in the UK this psuedo-philosophy has little influence over world religion (in all its forms) and despite the hopes - if not prayers - of Dawkins and his contemporaries the situation is unlikely to change.

A Respectable Trade
A Respectable Trade
by Philippa Gregory
Edition: Paperback
Price: £8.99

12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You can always depend on a Gregory, 9 Mar. 2007
This review is from: A Respectable Trade (Paperback)
Cracking, self-contained adventure that is informative and entertaining throughout. A rollercoaster ride towards doom, you might think, and although most of your worst fears are realised by the end of the book, Gregory gives Josiah Cole a way out with the suggested formation of a bank. Though most people know about the American slave trade, Britain's part in this disgraceful business is not always so well covered. Thank heavens for Wilberforce.

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