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Steve Jones webchat 15 May 1-2pm

(119 Posts)
GeraldineGransnet (GNHQ) Thu 02-May-13 13:29:27

The Bible was the first science textbook, argues Steve Jones, who has rewritten it in the light of modern scientific understanding in his new book, The Serpent's Promise.

What does the Bible tell us about the big questions? Are we all descended from a single couple? Is the flood story really about the ending of the Ice Age? What are we to make of the virgin birth?

Steve is professor of genetics at University College London and we're delighted he's joining us for a live webchat at 1pm on Wednesday 15 May.

Grannyknot Fri 03-May-13 08:42:57

I looked at the title and wondered what we would want to ask a Welsh TV presenter ... but now I see. This looks very interesting, I'll be tuning in, may even post a question! But not this morning. Too early in the day.

gillybob Fri 03-May-13 11:36:55

Hi Steve. Fascinating topic. If the "virgin birth" happened today it could be easily explained by the use of IVF. However the Adam and Eve thing really baffles me given that (as the legend tells us) they had two sons. Which presents the problem that I am sure I don't need to spell out. I don't want to upset any of the religious people on here on Gransnet but I do think the whole thing is a little far fetched to be true.

Grannyknot Fri 03-May-13 12:55:19

Hi Steve. I've read a bit more about your book and this is the bit I am interested in finding out what it means: "Are all of us marked with the molecular equivalent of original sin, and if so what can we do about it?".

I've often wondered what is meant by the 'sins of the fathers ... visited upon the third and the fourth generations...' etc in the context of certain things e.g. genetic health problems or even addictions.

Galen Fri 03-May-13 12:58:06

I would .i,e to know more about your book. It sounds interesting.

Galen Fri 03-May-13 12:58:25


Moonwind Fri 03-May-13 17:44:52

Not seen the book. A very liberal christian, fan of David Jenkins (ex Bishop of Durham) and very interested in the topic.
I would ask we all do a little homework on metaphor, myth and symbolism in ancient texts before wasting time and energy scientifically lambasting those biblical parts that were more likely intended as poetry / myth eg: virgin birth, 7 day creation, miracle, heaven 'up there'; possibly physical resurrection...

LullyDully Wed 08-May-13 13:53:54

As an atheist I think you may be able to answer and raise a few questions. All the miracles fascinate me; parting of the Red Sea, tumbling of the walls of Jericho, not to mention those of Jesus Himself. I find it hard to put those down to faith as a fluctuating believer.

marionh Wed 08-May-13 15:06:21

I am a believer - yet I am finding it hard to square the biblical version of events with evolution. Subject of many a fascinating discussion of late with teenage GS but would love to hear your thoughts

kalinka Wed 08-May-13 15:13:59

If - and I may have this wrong - you are saying that the Bible is essentially a collection of myths and legends, what would you then say to people who find great comfort and strength in their faith?

j08 Wed 08-May-13 18:16:00

I would like to know why you feel the need to write such books? What are you atheists (and you quite obviously are one) afraid of? Why do you feel the need to challenge the idea of faith so much?

What can be wrong with John Adams assertion that if, "a nation....should take the Bible for their only law book... etc"? Why are you so bound up with the Old Testament anyway? Do you really not know that the Christian religion is based on the New Testament and the teachings of Jesus, whose only two commandments were, Love God and Love they neighbour as thyself? What can be wrong with that?

I do not agree with you that science and religion cannot co-exist. The spirit of mankind does exist and it is something animals do not have. And why would you think that a child brought up in the Christian religion cannot take on board and understand the theory behind global warming. Of course they can. And do. It is possible to be a Christian and a forward thinking scientist.

Do you ever think you are wasting your time with all this meaningless theory?

feetlebaum Wed 08-May-13 18:51:04

You would be better off finding strength and solace in reality...

Elegran Wed 08-May-13 19:07:27

Have you read it, jingle ? I have downloaded it for the Kindle and it is fascinating.

Did you know, for instance, that Goliath's DNA very probably had long sequences which were the same as those of Brian Boru and various other well-known "legendary" giants? Those same sequences have been shown to result in acromegalic effects. The O'Briens have produced many such extra-tall men. I am wondering whether Dara O'Briain has the blood of Brian boru flowing in his veins, he is a big lad.

The book is not an atheist manifesto, it is a parallel explanation in terms of what is now known of things which were explained in the bible by miraculous intervention. He is very fair about what has not yet (or will ever be) explained.

FlicketyB Wed 08-May-13 19:17:31

JO8, I couldn't agree with you more. I have never understood why so many Christians tie themselves up in knots about the old testament, which I have long accepted to be a mix of texts with varied origins, when Christianity is based on the New Testament and its very simple commandments.

I find it quite offensive to have it suggested that because I am a Christian I cannot understand science or the theory of global warming. I wonder what I have been doing for the last 70 odd years? I constantly in my everyday life make judgements and decisions based on an understanding of science, whether on the reasons for making sure there is adequate ventilation in the room containing my wood burning stove to understanding the geology of gas fields and coal formation.

Myth making is always with us and will never go away. Think about all the urban myths that forever do the rounds by mouth and online. From the beginning of humanity man has struggled to make sense of natural phenomena and developed theories or myths to help understand it. What is myth if not the precursor of science? Most religions, despite occasional hiccups, have moved and adjusted to the advances of science.

Where do the causes of modern myth lie other than in people trying to understand phenomena they cannot explain. Many religiously indifferent people will cling on to a modern myth rather than accept a rational, scientific explanation for it. Why do so many modern rational people still read horoscopes and consult Tarot Readers and Clairvoyants?

There is something in man that is looking always for an 'other' beyond the rational. It can take many forms, whether religion, in which I would always include atheism, even Richard Dawkins, when he was involved in putting posters on buses was reduced to saying 'There probably isn't a God', which makes its opposite, 'There probably is a God' a rational and reasonable statement.

Nonu Wed 08-May-13 19:27:41

Probably earns him a nice wad of cash .

Elegran Wed 08-May-13 19:33:30

But have any of you read it?

Have you read anything by Steve Jones?

If not, why are you commenting?

bookdreamer Wed 08-May-13 19:37:12

FlicketyB. Great post. J08 as well. "Love The Lord your god with all your heart and love your neighbour as yourself. The greatest commandment of all. If only we did those simple things!

I think the "churches" still use both the old and New Testament in their teachings.

You either have faith or you don't in my opinion. It is interesting that aetheists go such lengths to prove that there isn't a God. Believers on the other hand don't need to. It is within them.

Probably a bit off post!

Elegran Wed 08-May-13 19:57:22

Umm - have you read the book? I don't think it is about proving anything, except for showing that there is a non-miracle reason for a lot of things which were once thought to be beyond explanation, and that other things which were once regarded as mythical (a race of giants?) could have roots in reality.

FlicketyB Wed 08-May-13 20:04:43

So nothing new then. Most people, religious or not, have probably known that since childhood.

bookdreamer Wed 08-May-13 20:05:11

No I haven't read the book as can't download it. I just think from what i have read in other posts that "Goliath's DNA very probably had long sequences" is as much as a fiction as people believe the bible to be. How can they possibly know and "very probably" sounds like a guess.

I realise I'm talking "blind" as I said I haven't read the book.

FlicketyB Wed 08-May-13 20:09:25

Elegran, no I haven't read the book. Because I haven't all my posts are based on material in this thread not on the content of the book.

bookdreamer Wed 08-May-13 20:16:36

Just realised that I used a lot of " " which I hate!! Must pay more attention.

j08 Wed 08-May-13 20:33:30

And, by the way, for most people religious belief and understanding, evolves throughout their lives. A closed mind is a poor thing.

Elegran Wed 08-May-13 22:18:34

My mistake. I thought that comments on the crassness of scientists lambasting the poetry of the bible and the comfort of religion, stated in a thread about a scientist who has written a science-oriented book which has biblical references, were bound to be from people who were familiar with the book in question and who had found such an attitude in it.

I had forgotten how posts leave the original subject way behind.

And yes, science does very often deal with things that are "very probably" true, like the suggested origin of the "race of giants" who were said to have inhabited the world. They use that phrase accurately. In my post, it was my own words I was using, not a quote from the book. If you would like me to, I will find the whole genetic explanation and quote it at length, but I don't think you want that.

j08 Wed 08-May-13 22:20:54

At least he acknowledges that the King James Bible is better than modern versions. I'm with him there.