Deuce of Clubs Book Club: Books of the Weak

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I'm a Lebowski, You're a Lebowski

Guy Debord: Revolutionary

No Place to Hide

Command of Office

The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems

The Christian Delusion

Lincoln's Wrath

How to Do Nothing with Nobody All Alone by Yourself

The Sexy Book of Sexy Sex

Bossypants

Zombie Spaceship Wasteland

Catching the Big Fish

Dig Infinity

The True Adventures of the Rolling Stones

Crazy for God

Basin and Range

Anarchy Evolution

The File

John Ringo

The Supremes

End the Fed

Burning Book

The Hohokam Millenium

God's Middle Finger

Narcocorrido

In Heaven Everything Is Fine

The Shunning

Wisdom Sits in Places

The Marvelous Country

Hamilton's Curse

The Secret Life of Houdini

The Trouble with Being Born

Schulz and Peanuts

First Into Nagasaki

Joe Miller's Jests

Human Smoke

Dirty Tricks Cops Use

A Futile and Stupid Gesture

All For A Few Perfect Waves

Systemantics

Death in the Desert

American Signs

Secret Proceedings and Debates of the Constitutional Convention

Secrets Of A Stingy Scoundrel

The Self-Made Tapestry

A Constitutional History of Secession

The Neurotic's Notebook

Interrogation Machine

Monster Midway

The Harlot by the Side of the Road

Forced Into Glory

Imperial Life in the Emerald City

J. G. Ballard: Quotes

The Compleat Practical Joker

Laugh with Hugh Troy

Pranks!

A Liar's Autobiography

Cobb

Chasing Rainbows

Letters from Tucson, 1925-1927

The Five Fosters

The Giant Cactus Forest and Its World

How to Cheat Your Friends at Poker

World Famous Cults & Fanatics

That's Not All, Folks!

God's Problem

Will Christ Return By 1988?

Fragments of an Anarchist Anthropology

The Whiskey Rebellion

FDR's Folly

Wilson's War

Bully Boy

[If] I Did It

The Dark Side

Secret Origins of the Bible

Godless

The End of Faith

Why I Became An Atheist

"Life's Calendar for 1922"

Churchill, Hitler, and the Unnecessary War

The Negro Cowboys

EXPECT RESISTANCE

Monty Python Speaks

Baseball Between the Numbers

The Psychopath's Bible

Satisfaction

J. G. Ballard: Conversations

Days of War, Nights of Love

Gospel Fictions and Who Wrote the Gospels?

The Real Deadwood

Deadwood

The Revolution: A Manifesto

45

The Secret Man

Stormin' Mormon

From Psyche to Soma

I'll Gather My Geese

The Osama bin Laden I Know

Alias "Paine"

A Man Without Words

The Wild Trees

The World Without Us

Arizona's Changing Rivers

The Phoenix Indian School

Realm of the Long Eyes

John Dillinger: The Life and Death of America's First Celebrity Criminal

Buckey O'Neill: The Story of a Rough Rider

Thanks For Tuning In

Adventures in the Apache Country

Waylon: An Autobiography

My Life: Sunrise to Sunset

Mimes and Miners: A Historical Study of the Theater in Tombstone

The First 100 Years: A History of Arizona Blacks

Enter Without Knocking

City in the Sun: The Japanese Concentration Camp at Poston, Arizona

House by the Buckeye Road

Vanished Arizona

The Big Con

The Astronomy Cafe and Back to the Astronomy Cafe

A Handbook on Hanging

The Sinner's Guide to the Evangelical Right

A Mind Restored

Mr. Show: What Happened?!

Reclaiming the American Revolution

Stumbling On Happiness

Treasure Maps of the Superstitions

Sunny Slope

Did Genesis Man Conquer Space?

Look Homeward, America

Radicals for Capitalism

Kayaker's Little Book of Wisdom

God Is Not Great

The Echoing Green

The Secret Life of the Lonely Doll

K Foundation Burn a Million Quid

The Facts of Life and Other Dirty Jokes and The Tao of Willie

Just Six Numbers and Our Cosmic Habitat

Wild Goose Chronicles

Behind Bars: Surviving Prison

Silent Night: The Story of the World War I Christmas Truce

The Gang They Couldn't Catch

Manhunt

A History of the End of the World

Al Sieber: Chief of Scouts

Apaches & Longhorns

Deep Survival

Captured

DINO

Sock

Bo: Pitching & Wooing

You Are Worthless

You And Your Hand

Access All Areas

Field Guide to the Apocalypse

The War on Terrorism

Those Idiots From Earth

September 11: An Oral History

Mortal Questions

The Heresy of Self-Love

The White Flag Principle

Medieval Panorama

An Honest President

Those Words

À rebours

Peterson's Incident Report Book

Boo! Culture, Experience, and the Startle Reflex

Victory Denied

Nothing, Arizona

A Porcine History of Philosophy and Religion

O Holy Cow!: The Selected Verse of Phil Rizzuto

DOME COMPENDIUM OF TOPICAL TREATMENT IN PROCTOLOGY

¿Hablas conmigo

Thirty-three Candles

Black Monk Time

Men of Distinction

Alexander the Corrector

Space Viking

Mark These Men

Hallucinogenic Plants

Prohibition: An Adventure in Freedom

JESUS! He's Our President

LOVE

How to Watch Football on Television

Merrill Markoe's Guide to Love

Lincoln: The Man and The Car

Whatever Men Know About Women

Biographies of Italian War Heroes

ABC of Espionage

Art Colony Perverts

Devil-ution

Starting Right with Bees

Planet Earth is a Cult

Baseball Letters

Fetish

Dopey Doings

Democracy: The God That Failed

Handgrenade Talk

Hi, How Are You?

het zingen van het ijs

The Museum of Jurassic Technology Jubilee Catalogue

The Rector and the Rogue

Colorful Cacti of the American Deserts

Odd Jobs: The World of Deviant Work

The Hungry Man's Outdoor Grill Cookbook

How to Get Invited to the White House

How to Work for a Jerk

Never Work for a Jerk!

The Mentality of Apes

Your Vigor for Life Appalls Me

Dr. Strange: Sorceror Supreme

Nautical Notions for Nibbling

A Short Introduction to the History of Human Stupidity

The Fake Revolt

Coup D'Etat

History of the Town of Felicity

Hood of Death

Dolls' House Bathrooms: Lots of Little Loos

Border Security / Anti-Infiltration Operations

Living on Light

God is for Real, Man

Did the Apostle Paul Visit Britain?

Twin Peaks

2001

Power Phrases

The Truth About Wagner

The Life of the Bee

Tombstone

Science Looks at Smoking

The Chiricahuas

The New Dark Ages Conspiracy

The Big Question

Everybody's Book of Epitaphs

The Death of the Fuhrer

Mindfuckers

Gorbachev! Has the Real Antichrist Come?

The World's Worst Poet

Alyssa Milano: She's the Boss

Home is the Desert

Nine Lives: From Stripper to Schoolteacher

How to Start Your Own Country

How to Found Your Own Religion

Sex Objects in the Sky

Indian Oratory

Bastard Without Portfolio

The Bedside Book of Bastards

Hopeless -- Yet There Is Hope

Bible in Pocket, Gun in Hand

Margie Asks WHY

Death of a Hippie

Wake Up or Blow Up

Feeling and Form

Guilt

A Mile in His Moccasins

Mojave Desert Ramblings

Passing of the Outhouse

This Way to Happiness

The Happy Life

Young Only Once

The Monkey Gland Affair

Bert Bacharach's Book for Men

The Two Babylons

For Good and Evil: The Impact of Taxes...

Why Christians Crack Up!

Why Do Christians Break Down?

Hava Nagila!

Beethoven or Bust

How to Abandon Ship

Livin' in Joe's World

The Last Democrat

Salvation Mountain

The Varmint and Crow Hunter's Bible

Love in the Western World

Jack the Ripper: Light-Hearted Friend

Little Men of the NFL

No One May Ever Have The Same Knowledge Again

The Secret Museum of Mankind

James Bond's World of Values

We Did Not Plummet Into Space

The Boy Who Didn't Believe IN CHRISTMAS

The Great Escape From Your Dead-End Job

All About Tipping

My Loser Godfrey

A Haircut in Horse Town

Mucusless Diet Healing System

Jefferson Returns

Lincoln Returns

Churchill Returns

Corporation Freak

Null Bock auf DDR

So You're Going on a Mission?

Nudes in My Camera

Why I Hate the Nazis

Flesh, Metal & Glass

The James Beard Cookbook

Mortal Refrains

Deadbolt

Amy Grant: A Biography

The X Cars

We Were Five

Mr. Wilson's Cabinet of Wonder

Hello ... Wrong Number

I'll Kill You Next!

Murder in Vegas

Did MAN Just Happen?

Terror at the Atlanta Olympics

Criswell Predicts

Your Next Ten Years

They Pay Me to Catch Footballs

The Phantom Menace

Just For Fellows

The Lopsided Gal

Astrology and Horse Racing

The Cokesbury Stunt Book

The Origin of Things

Remarks on the History of Things

U.S. Government Sewing Book

Funeral Tributes II

Blinky, the Friendly Hen

The Serbs Choose War

My Mystery Castle

Iggy

Funeral Customs the World Over

The Right to be Let Alone

Mormonism and the Negro

The Church and the Negro

Preacher with a Billy Club

Fighting Parson of the Old West

Invisibility: Mastering the Art of Vanishing

How to Disappear Completely

The Gentle Art of Making Enemies

How to Catch a Man, How to Keep a Man, How to Get Rid of a Man

Langenscheidts Konversationsbuch

Marlene Dietrich's ABC

The Bible in the Hands of Its Creators


Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, and Bad Religion in a World Without God

Greg Graffin with Steve Olson (2011)

 

There are two possible ways of responding to these demands. One is to acquiesce, whether wholeheartedly or with reservations. Many of my friends are religious, and they’ve given me many explanations for their beliefs. “Because I want to go to heaven and live forever,” they might say. Or “because I want to avoid sin,” others respond, or “because I want to live the good life exemplified by the martyrs.” These answers are similar to those my nonreligious friends give me when I ask them why they bow to the demands of authority. “Because I don’t want to make waves,” or “life is easier if we avoid controversy,” or “I don’t really have my own philosophy, so I might as well try someone else’s.” People have many ways of justifying their behaviors to themselves and to others.

This fear is not entirely misplaced. The natural world and the evolutionary processes that produced us are anarchic. There is no ultimate reason for our existence. We were born to parents who loved us, if we were fortunate, and who wanted us to do well in life. But we were not placed on this earth for some divine purpose that only communion with the spirit world can reveal. However, people make a big mistake if they conclude from the anarchy of the physical world that life has no meaning. I draw just the opposite conclusion. The purposelessness of the natural world emphasizes the tremendous meaning inherent in the human world.

Greg Graffin Anarchy Evolution

It took me a long time to figure out and be able to describe what I rely on in place of authority. I had to experiment with different ideas. I had to get into the world to see which ideas worked and which ideas did not. What worked for me may not work for someone else. Yet I have discovered some things in my quest for meaning that I think other people might want to know.

I have had the great privilege of living my life at the intersection of art and science—or, more specifically, at the intersection of evolutionary biology and punk rock. These two fields may not seem to have much in common. When I am teaching biology at UCLA, most of the students do not know that I’m the singer for Bad Religion, though occasionally I see someone with a laptop who is obviously watching one of my shows. And when I am singing on stage, few people know or care about the work I’ve done in evolutionary biology. But I have found that the two have an underlying connection—a celebration of the creativity inherent in life—that makes the combination less exotic.

My resistance to authority eventually carried over into my science. In graduate school, I once did some research related to the evolution of fishes. The general consensus among evolutionary biologists is that fishes originated in salt water, probably in the shallows near the shore. Many renowned scientists support this consensus, but hardly any of them have done any geological work on the sedimentary rocks in which the earliest fossils of fishes are preserved. My graduate adviser, recognizing my antiauthoritarian youthfulness, knew that this was the perfect project for me. I could produce some basic data that would cause a stir among the gods of the paleontological community.

I was collecting fragments of the earliest vertebrate hard tissues, the first organisms with a bony skeleton. I put the fragments in small canvas sacks. Out west, at that time, you could go into small-town banks and tell them you were collecting rocks and fossils, and they would gladly sell you any surplus money sacks they had. I still have samples from my fieldwork in those bank sacks.

I have never forgotten that engaging in scientific data collection can be a great way of resisting authority.

Most of us can trace our families back a few generations. But if we take twenty-five years as the average length of a human generation, then eighty generations separate us from the time of Christ. That’s eighty cycles of births and deaths, eighty passages of DNA from one generation to the next, eighty opportunities for the line leading from our ancestors to us to go extinct. Furthermore, 80 generations is no time at all, from an evolutionary perspective. About 8,000 human generations separate us from the origins of the anatomically modern humans who lived in eastern Africa 200,000 years ago. And 8,000 generations is a tiny number compared to the 250,000 human generations that separate us from our common ancestor with chimpanzees, or the 2.5 million generations that separate us from the extinction of the dinosaurs, or the 140 million human generations that separate us from the origins of life on earth. We don’t even have a good way of comprehending such huge numbers. Maybe we can get a grasp on a thousand—counting to one thousand takes twelve minutes or so. But even one million is a very difficult number to comprehend, despite the fact that we read about millions in newspapers every day.

Could all these ecological replacements have some grand cosmic significance? The more I’ve studied paleontology, the more it seems crystal clear to me that the answer is no. Life isn’t guided by any purposive forces.

There is an immense history of life that needs to be explained if God is the Creator. Before creating humans, God would have done a tremendous amount of seemingly pointless experiments with living creatures, causing mass extinctions and limitless pain and suffering. How caring and wise was that? It’s hard to be a theist after spending much time with the fossil record.

Three passions, simple but overwhelmingly strong, have governed my life: the longing for love, the search for knowledge, and unbearable pity for the suffering of mankind. —Bertrand Russell

But to what extent do any of us have access to that universal sentiment—the thoughts and feelings of not just ourselves but also of others? This is a question for philosophers as well as songwriters. They have debated and framed the issue for many hundreds of years and have arrived at largely pessimistic conclusions. We are locked within our own skulls, some claim, powerless to draw any more than weak analogies between our feelings and the feelings of other people.

When the population density of a species declines to a level that inhibits successful reproduction, extinction is not far off. Only fifty years ago, majestic American elm trees grew throughout the eastern hardwood forests of North America. Almost every community in the United States established in the 1800s has a main thoroughfare called “Elm Street” that was named after the huge trees lining their sidewalks. Because of a fungal blight, spread by an immigrant Asian bark beetle, not a single elm remains on those streets, and by 1970, virtually all of the mature American elms in the forests were gone as well.

I have a tendency to apply these observations to things other than the natural world. When Brett and I talk about the popularity of Bad Religion, we sometimes use ecological analogies. We consider our audience a precious and finite resource, like a fishery. For example, the fisheries of Peru in the 1970s were among the world’s most productive for anchovies, which are used in all kinds of animal feeds. Because of overzealous fishermen from all nations, who flocked there to haul in unlimited amounts of fish, the anchovy population crashed and the fishery had to be closed. It took more than twenty years to rebuild the population of anchovies, during which time thousands of workers in the fishing industry were out of work and the markets for seafood changed dramatically. Only by respecting the balance of the ecosystem can we hope for a sustainable commercial fishing strategy in Peru. Whenever we prepare to go on tour or produce a new Bad Religion record, we think about the negative prospects of overmilking our fans. We liken this overmilking to overhunting during the late Pleistocene or overfishing off the Peruvian coast. We respect our fans’ intelligence and their desire to see and hear something new and special from us. Without our “core” fans, the band could not continue. We need to cultivate them by offering them new songs and playing live concerts for them with the hope that their enthusiasm for us will grow. Maybe they will tell their friends about us and our overall audience will grow. If we take them for granted and don’t offer them our best effort, if we do shows without rehearsing or put out an album of half-baked songs, our fans might show up, but they probably will leave disappointed and never show up again. Our audience could vanish in a single album cycle. It’s like the greedy carelessness of commercial fishing. Instead of cultivating a healthy relationship with their fans, some bands exploit their previous popularity and squeeze every last bit of loyalty from fans who grew tired of the “same old song” long ago. We approach our fans with the same respect I try to extend to the natural world. I am pretty sure they will turn out for our next concert if I remain committed to improving my skills and musical craft, just as I know those hemlocks will provide me with shade and solace so long as I continue to clip the parasitic vines away from their trunks.

In my opinion, there is no greater hope for an afterlife than being remembered by the people you touched, the things you did, and the ideas you shared. You don’t have to be a singer or even a public figure to enjoy such an afterlife. You only have to enhance the relationships you already have. By doing so, you can be confident that you will become part of something bigger than yourself. And after you die, people will remember you and talk about you and extend your influence to future generations.

I find comfort in the narrative of evolutionary history. When I create, I feel that I am a participant in the grand pageant of life, a part of the ongoing creative engine of the universe. I don’t know if that feeling is enough to replace the solace of religion in the lives of most people, but it is for me.


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