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4.6 out of 5 stars
Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God
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59 of 62 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 1, 2010
Here's how nerdy I am: My introduction to Greg Graffin and Bad Religion came through his doctoral dissertation, which I purchased from Graffin and got autographed. And then I read it. And it wasn't very good. Since then I've read a couple of other things that Graffin has written or co-written (Is Belief in God Good, Bad or Irrelevant?: A Professor And a Punk Rocker Discuss Science, Religion, Naturalism & Christianity), but nothing prepared me for just how damned GOOD "Anarchy" is.

It must be said that the best parts of the book are the parts that only Graffin could have written--the autobiographical sections about his earlier childhood in Wisconsin, his transition to the California punk scene, his approach to music, and so forth. Much of what he write about evolutionary biology will be familiar, at least, to people who have taken some evolution classes or read books such as Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body (Vintage), and Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo. But he does have an interesting take on natural selection. Graffin makes it abundantly clear that his slightly unorthodox view of the importance of natural selection to overall evolutionary theory should give no aid and comfort to creationists (or their better-dressed cousins, Intelligent Design advocates). But he also wishes to show that science, maybe especially evolutionary biology, is still an active, lively field with vivid, animated debates...not about the fact of evolution, but about interesting details related to mechanisms.

And Graffin's chapter specifically on atheism was interesting as well, mostly for its biographical elements. I appreciate what he says about preferring a more dialectical approach that encourages questions, versus the more confrontational approach assumed by "New Atheists" in books such as God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything,The God Delusion,Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon, and The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason. He makes an interesting and appealing case, but I'm still left thinking there is room for both diplomatic discussion and spirited debate. After all, the New Atheist books listed probably created a much larger space for the more nuanced and sophisticated conversation even to take place in.

I see this book finding its most natural audience among Bad Religion fans (and I don't know how intentional this might have been, but it's easy to see some cross-currents betwee Anarchy and Bad Religion's new album release, The Dissent of Man) and younger people--say high school age--interested in science, the arts, and their relationship to each other. Also fans of flipping off authority--a Graffin staple, and a real strength of both his musical and, it would seem, his scientific careers.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon October 8, 2010
I admit I was skeptical about this book. I saw the titles of the chapters included "The False Idol of Natural Selection" and "The False Idol of Atheism" and wondered just what Greg was going to be rambling about. Now, Bad Religion has been one of my favorite punk bands ( and maybe band in general ) for a few years now. Punk wise, their only competition for the title of favorite is the Misfits, but since the Misfit's lineup has been chaotic, Bad Religion's overall consistency ( apart from the few albums without Brett) makes them the current holder of that title. I've admired Gregg for balancing a band and a PhD with a career in both teaching and science. This book has led me to a whole new level of respect for Greg and Bad Religion.

Greg tells you everything you could want to know. He talks about his childhood, his high school years ( which upon reading about, I STRONGLY relate to -- both of us had a small circle of friends, were into punk rock, but not the illegal shenanigans and drugs most are into, and have had a passion for science rooted in our childhoods ), how the band came about ( I'll leave the names that they almost called themselves as a surprise for you ) , how he got interested in science, and many other interesting things about his youth. As far as his adult life goes, I've come to apperciate that he balances school, science, and music with raising kids and having a wife. Greg is not arrogant about his life. He's honest about the difficulties in it, and about the mistakes he has made in his life.

Other than getting to know the great singer, he presents some scientific views and philosophical views covered in the two suspect chapter names I listed above. Fear not, he's not out to destroy Natural Selection. In fact, he's just putting it in it's place. He acknowledges that random chance and chaos ( hence ANARCHY Evolution ) have as much or more to do with evolutionary change than the algorithm of natural selection. He's not trying to break new ground like Stephen J. Gould did ( Read The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design for a good analysis of Gould's ideas ). As far as atheism goes, he is indeed an atheist. But he acknowledges that the word atheist just means without gods. As far as a description of your world view, that doesn't really imply a lot. I also saw Richard Dawkins make this point in a TED Talk lecture ( Richard Dawkins on militant atheism at the Ted website ). Instead, Greg ( as well as Dawkins ) say that the term Naturalist is a more meaningful term. It implies a specific worldview, which atheism is only a part of. While I call myself an atheist ( because since most people dont know what naturalist mean, I just say what they will understand ) , I can sympathize with this sentiment. Atheism is a single component of MANY ideologies, from Objectivism to Marxism to Soviet Communism , etc, etc ).

One quibble I have is his sometimes less than great choice of wording. One example would be the chapter titles I previously mention, which imply something grandiose, but really isn't anything groundbreaking. Another instance is that he said he doesn't promote atheism in his songs, but I think a better choice of wording would be "I don't tell people what to believe" which, if you read further a few pages, is what he actually means. Those are two very , very minor complaints, however. This book is not a book on God. It's not like the God Delusion ( though I love that book). It's not a science book ( though it has science in it ). It's not a book on the band or an autobiography either. Instead, it's a mix of all of those, beautifully woven together in a little over 200 pages of actual reading material that took me 3 days to finish.

Get this book. You won't regret it.
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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on September 28, 2010
An astonishing insight into a man who is not only a legend in the punk rock scene, but also a doctor in evolutionary biology. Graffin shares tales of life as the front man of Bad Religion and his years of study and fieldwork. He also discusses his insights on evolution, as separate biological and cultural phenomena, and how they relate to his naturalist worldview. Recommended for anyone with an interest in the sciences or into Bad Religion.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on January 8, 2011
I was initially skeptical about the literary and scientific intentions of the book. My skepticism was allayed, however, by the first few chapters. The science writing outshines the autobiographical portions. Graffin's personal reflections, however, often dip into platitudes and cliches, especially in the latter chapters, which detrimentally contrasts against the more streamlined science writing (obviously due to the co-author's contributions). I'm left with the speculation that Graffin intended the book for high-school and college students, as well as quintessential punk rock fans (hence the overly-simplistic memoir prose). In general, I think the book offers a great introduction to naturalistic philosophy, as well as trenchant insights for the more knowledgeable atheist. The concluding chapter on "eternal life" is one of the more poignant and reflective sections of the book.
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26 of 34 people found the following review helpful
First of all I enjoyed this book and I really hesitated giving it only 3 stars. I found the final few chapters very inspiring and wonderful. The evolutionary ideas are pretty basic and the author tells too many biographical details of his punk rock experiences. They were interesting in the beginning of the book, but by the middle I just wanted him to get on with it. Even though it is a short and easy read, it could have done without so much irrelevant biography; in that case I probably would have given it 5 stars. I think the reviews here are mostly too glowing, so I'm offering a less enthusiastic thumbs up. You probably won't regret it, but you aren't going to have a WOW experience either.
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8 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on August 14, 2011
As a BR fan myself, I found this book biographically interesting and appealing, in order to see what it took to shape one of the greatest minds from the punk rock scene.

However, as a scientist myself in Biochemistry, it is impossible not to notice how Graffin simply had an incomplete, yet I might say misunderstood, view of some aspects of Evolution. Specially in Chapter 3, where Graffin tries to discredit many aspects of Natural selection. I could number several examples, but I will stick to one for the sake of space. At some point Graffin discuss that birds with nice plumage, for example, which confers to the animal sexual advantage only, and not survival advantage, are a example that Natural Selection is not the only way of Evolution 'modus operandi'. The mistake here is that Graffin ignored the fact that there are great energetic cost to maintain a nice hair, fur or feathers. Meaning that such animals should be kept well fed to succeed (any visit to a SPCA can tell a non-biologist that an underfed dog fur is weak and falling apart, f.ex.). The plumage itself does not bring survival advantage, but is a very efficient way to tell the potential sex partner that the organism is fit for survival. Natural selection at its best.

Don't get me wrong, Natural Selection is not the only way Evolution works, Graffin made no mistake there. It is well know by any Biology student that the Environment, f.ex., is equally important to shape an organism. The issue was that some of the topics/examples picked by Graffin were a bit incorrect.

In few moments, I had the impression that Graffin was just following his own non-conformist nature and wanted to "challenge the system" (the scientific one, he is already good enough challenging society/human nature/government in his songs), but with ideas that required better thought. Again, if you are a BR fan looking to know more about the band and the man behind it, buying this book is a must. But if you are looking for something else in the Science part, read it with a grain of salt.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on October 13, 2010
Having been a Bad Religion fan for about 16 years, Greg Graffin draws great parallels to his career as a scientist and a musician. He shows that it doesn't have to be all spikes, combat boots and leather to help change and influence the world we live in a positive manner. Thinking for yourself and asking tough questions. Truly anti-authoritarian.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon April 11, 2011
Reading this book was nostalgic. I was a punker in the 80's and I loved Bad Religion. And now in my 40's, I am a big fan of science and read mostly books on evolution, atheism, biology and astronomy.

Greg discusses the 80's and the punk scene at the time with clarity. The drug culture, the goofy times of the 80's and how people acted. I laughed out loud at, "Dude do you party" because I was the guy doing this. He later discusses his failed marriage while being mature enough to take responsibility for his own failings. He discusses his mom and dad's divorce. He recalls his days of feeling like a loner, not quite fitting in with the California kids when he moved from Wisconsin to California. He goes in depth upon the infancy, growth of Bad Religion and discusses his love for music, the band and even singing in the car with his dad. He also shows what a nerd he was by playing counting games with a friend in the car until the dates they had were plainly looking for the chance to make a run for it.

And let's not forget his love for studying evolution and science. From fossil cleaning as a kid at the LA Natural History Museum to his mountain trips to his lonely Boliva trip which somewhat disillusioned him as he was seemingly ditched and left in a country which had political tension occurring. His scary experience with some natives just "popping" on his boat having never seen a "white man".

I feel a connection with Greg through his experiences and his music though I have never met him personally, which is kind of odd as I was a punk kid in the 80's and I loved his band. How you can go from southern California to Ithica though astonishes me :-)

Recommended reading to fans of Bad Religion, science, evolution. Now, while I am at Amazon let me look for the Bad Religion CD's I don't have.....
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on April 9, 2015
I want to give it 5 stars since I found it enthralling and couldn't put it down... BUT... it's definitely not going to be that appealing to everyone. If you happen to love science and thinking about the philosophies that it impacts, as well as being a fan of this generation of punk music... you will probably LOVE this book. Greg is a very concise writer and has a very interesting, though sometimes jarring, way of linking in punk and cultural evolution with biological evolution. The autobiographical bits were fascinating as I grew up listening to these guys and reading their history was interesting, especially due to the way that Greg intertwined how his love of science and curiosity led to Bad Religion being what they are. As another review stated... it feels like reading two books in one: A review and critique of evolutionary science meshed with a biography of a punk band focused on it's singer. Well done and highly recommended if you like Bad Religion and take interest in science and the cultural impacts of both.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2010
First off let me say, I have been a Greg Graffin/Bad Religion fan since I was in Kindergarten. Brought up and have lived in the punk scene for as long as I can remember. The problem with the punk seen in general is that the lifestyle is full a self destructive nature that is very hard to escape from. Inspired by the depth of the lyrics if Bad Religion, I began studying the band only to find out that they were not your typical punk band, Dr. Griffin was an educated man that could balance the life of a punk rocker as well as the life of a professional. This made me realize, what is the ultimate defiance of a punk rocker? It is success. I achieved my Masters Degree and continue loving the roots of my inspiration.

I loved the book because it gave me great insight into the man that has inspired me throughout my life. Seeing the struggles that he went though, the items that inspired him, seeing the human aspect of a person that I would consider one of my greatest influences in life. The greatest gift humanity has is the ability to question everything and find truth through observation, experience, and the anarchy life presents us with. This book is this journey, definitely worth reading.
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