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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
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
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Burgundy, the River Rhone & Provence – MS Swiss Corona - seven nights from £999pp
Lake Maggiore, Orta and the Matterhorn – seven nights from £899pp
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Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn