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Between the Covers 20/05/2012

Your weekly guide to what's really going on inside the world of books

Author Chris McGrath faces six figure legal bill after unfavourable Amazon reviews case is struck out

An author who tried to sue a father of three from the West Midlands over comments made in a series of unfavourable reviews on Amazon is facing a six figure legal bill after a judge struck out his case.

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Brian Cox

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Professor Richard Dawkins and the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams outside Clarendon House before the televised debate

Two existential heavyweights in a gentle contest for your very soul

Oxford University held its first debate on the subject of evolution in 1860, just months after the publication of Darwin's On the Origin of Species. Then, the Bishop of Winchester, Samuel Wilberforce, famously enquired of the biologist Thomas Henry Huxley whether it was through his grandmother or his grandfather that he traced his descent from a monkey.

Richard Dawkins, scientist: 'I am at a loss to understand how any reasonable person can defend first past the post. AV should be supported by every democrat'

Mary Ann Sieghart: Thank God for the Church of England

The Church of England couldn't hope for a better enemy than Richard Dawkins. Puffed-up, self-regarding, vain, prickly and militant, he displays exactly the character traits that could do with some Christian mellowing. In fact, he's almost an advertisement against atheism. You can't help thinking that a few Sundays in the pews and the odd day volunteering in a Church-run soup kitchen might do him the power of good.

Letters: Secularism Hitlerism? Absurdism!

Richard Dawkins and AC Grayling must have been mildly surprised to find that they are no better than Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot or Mao, and that they are incapable of compassion, altruism, serenity and enlightenment according to Peter Popham ("No secularism please, we're British", 15 February).

62% of the population never attend any form of religious service

Believe it or not, secularism is not what it used to be

Britain is in the thick of an acrimonious debate about secularism and religion. Religious belief and church attendance have been shrinking for decades, yet religion continues to play an important part in our national life. Prayers before council meetings may have been banned last week by a judge and an increasing number of our city churches have sad, decapitated spires and are put to sound secular use as indoor ski slopes or apartments. But there are still bishops in the House of Lords, prayers are said at the Cenotaph, the communal celebrations of Christmas and Easter are yet to become taboo.

Dragging dogmas out of the basement: Farm workers in India, where Rupert Sheldrake worked as a crop scientist

The Science Delusion: Freeing the Spirit of Enquiry, By Rupert Sheldrake

Science is wonderful and necessary - one of the great creations of humankind. Most importantly, it is helping us to see just how extraordinary life and the universe really are, far exceeding the unaided imagination even of the greatest poets. At its best, too, science lives up to its own mythology: a disinterested, self-effacing search after truth, carried out by people of humility in true generosity of spirit. As a fairly considerable bonus it has led us to create a wide range of "high" (science-based) technologies that have improved the lives of a great many people, and have the potential to help all humankind and our fellow creatures too.

Brian Cox’s TV work has made him Britain’s most visible scientist, but his latest book is far from populist

Last Night's TV - Inside Nature's Giants, Channel 4; Shameless, Channel 4

Desert dissection's worth a closer look

The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning, By Jonathan Sacks

We need all of our brain to understand and appreciate the world around us. The left-brain, associated largely with scientific activity, and the right hemisphere concerned with religious matters, must work in unison. But they also have to be kept apart. The logic of one does not apply to the other. The challenge of our time is to keep the two separate but integrated and in balance. This, in essence, is the main message of The Great Partnership.

Last Night's TV: Polar Bear: Inside Nature's Giants Special/Channel 4<br />Dance! The Most Incredible Thing about Contemporary Dance/BBC4

How's this for a fact? Polar bears are so fat that even if they don't eat for eight whole months they'll still be fine. They're practically supermodels! Or this: their penises have bones in them. Huge ones. Giant white pieces of calcium.

Death, revolution and forgiveness

On Father's Day, and as his new novel appears, Andrew Miller tells James Kidd how his own dad wanted him to get a 'proper' job

The Book of Books, By Melvyn Bragg

Those who wish to banish religion from public life dismiss any enduring legacy of Christianity on the way we live or think now on two main grounds. The first is that the legacy is widely exaggerated by scheming bishops. The second is that, even if it exists, it is wholly negative, saddling us with the baggage of sectarianism, sexual repression and illogical thought. Melvyn Bragg's elegant, accessible and passionately argued account of the influence of the King James Bible, in its 400th year, quite simply blows such arguments out of the water. The King James, he writes, "is one of the fundamental makers of the modern world".

The moral formula: How facts inform our ethics

Can science help us tell right from wrong? Sam Harris certainly thinks so. Julian Baggini sits down with one of the 'four horsemen of atheism' to learn how facts can inform our ethics
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Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
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Jack Cooksey goes for the grand unveiling - moments before dropping his new iPhone 6 on the floor
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Customers look at the new iPhones on display at the launch of the new Apple iPhone 6 and iphone 6 plus at the Apple IFC store in Hong Kong
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Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
propertyfilmReview: It's the sheer nastiness of the Riot Club that takes you aback, says Geoffrey Macnab

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Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week