Graphic Novel Review of ‘Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth’

Evolution by Jay Hosler, **** Stars

I am of the opinion that science is now accessible to everyone with the onslaught of graphic novels covering everything from molecular biology to evolution to even quantum theory. If you have a little time in the evenings, enjoy reading comic books, and have a sense of humor you can self-educate on the basic principles of each field. You won’t be an expert but at least you will have an idea of what the news is talking about when they bring it up or you’ll know when someone is blowing smoke–like physics finding god in the math.

As with any product, there are good graphic novels and poorly done ones. I’m going to be reviewing one later that I felt was poorly done, but Jay Hosler’s Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth is excellent. Jay Hosler scripted the graphic novel and it was illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (no relation to each other). The Cannon team already have an excellent background in the comics field including the Eisner Award and the inking has a wonderful feel to it. Often what’s necessary when you do B/W pages is to have rich dark areas so that the reader doesn’t notice the lack of color and loses themselves in the art. The Cannons pour ink generously onto each page and when you buy this book you get your money’s worth.

However, more importantly, Jay Hosler uses an effective narrative to keep our interest as he explains a difficult subject: evolution. I don’t find evolution to be a dry subject but I know some people do and therefore it is hard to pay attention to the details or rather the mechanics of evolution. I also know that often people think they understand evolution but when you talk to them further they don’t.

The narrative Hosler uses expands on a previous book (The Stuff of Life) and we find that earth is being studied by Glargalian Astronomers, alien life forms including a one-eyed king, his son Prince Floorish and an tutoring underling who likes to grovel named Bloort. The character we relate to most is probably Prince Floorish who is slowly beginning to understand what Bloort is teaching. Bloort will make you smile as he is the ultimate brown noser. But in a way, he is brown nosing towards we the reader in order to get us to understand.

While I’m sure the target market for this book is pre-teen to teen, it’s for everyone who isn’t an evolutionary biologist. Possibly evolutionary biologists may get a kick out of it, but it’s basic stuff–even the basics can be complicated though depending on how much evolutionary science you have read prior. I would like to recommend this book to Christians who think they are creationists or who simply haven’t bothered to consider evolution due to time constraints with work and family. Honest, this book isn’t meant to turn you into an atheist (that’s my job! Just kidding!), it’s meant to give you an overview of the theory of evolution and even if you disagree with it you should understand what it is you disagree with. I guarantee that if you are only getting your information from creationism then you are getting misinformation. Creationism will give you doses of the theory but then try to explain away important facts, omit facts or even distort facts. Being raised on creationism myself, I know this to be true.

Freethinkers may also want to pick up the book for review or to read to their kids. The material covered is simplified, I’m sure, but not dumbed down. It makes for a nice read to remind you of certain core principles and even new information that has been added since you had to struggle through it in high school or college.

With all of the material laid out in a graphic novel format it’s a shame there isn’t a budget to turn this into an animated series.

Christianity Today Tweaks Christopher Hitchens’ Cancer

Christianity Today has an article on Christopher Hitchens, the famed atheist writer and speaker, about his esophageal cancer and how he has sadly now lost his voice to the disease. The article author couldn’t help noting the following, though, and from a Christian publication it was to be expected: “…ironically, one of the scientists that helped designed the experimental cancer treatment that Hitchens is using is none other than evangelical scientist Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.”

The irony Christianity Today is trying to infer is that Hitchens is being helped by a Christian. In fact, Hitchens and Francis Collins get along splendidly, but simply differ on questions of faith. There is no irony here except on the surface (and I guess I can’t begrudge CT for wanting to suggest it, they are a Christian news organization after all). Hitchens’ main complaint is not so much about individual Christians, a majority of whom are good and often talented people, it is religion itself and how corrupt it is on the mind and on culture. This is why he wrote God is Not Great. It also is a truth issue for Hitchens as well as most atheists. There are plenty of religious fantasies that are extremely appealing, but if they are not true then it is just that–a fantasy.

In some ways, the irony being suggested goes deeper. The suggestion is that maybe God gave Hitchens cancer or allowed him to contract it through his own vices in order that Francis Collins could save him with a “medical miracle” thus proving the love of Christ. Now that’s twisted, but is not far from how Christians think and what the Bible suggests in certain stories. God is revealed in “healings” even as he allows disease to continue unchecked.

Why would Hitchens need a medical miracle in the first place if it weren’t for an imperfectly designed body unable to heal itself and for God’s creation of something we enjoy but is eventually addictive and harmful–tobacco. In a secular sense, we can certainly place the blame on Hitchens for his vice since in another article for the Huffington Post he says he would drink and smoke all over again, but that’s not the point. Why is God’s design so fragile unless this again is Sin Theory–my term for the loosely placed blame on all things harmful due the fall of Adam.

Truly, if you want to prove God to Hitchens then the irony is that Francis Collins should do nothing but pray. No medical science as medical science is a human effort to fix the inadequacies of our natural bodies. If Francis Collins can pray and faith-heal Hitchens, eradicating the cancer and restoring his throat then it’s a good bet that Hitchens would ditch atheism and start singing “hallelujah.”

We know, however, that Christians trust medical science over faith healing in most circumstances. The response that God is revealing himself through doctors is a cop out because the obvious interpretation is that God is not there which is why we need medically trained doctors whether they’re Christians, Muslims or atheists. A true test of faith would be to do what some cults have done–avoid hospitals in favor of trusting God alone. Why is God so inept that he needs human hands, or is it that he can’t be bothered?

It certainly would be nice to see Hitchens recover and we wish him the best. I don’t even fully agree with all of his opinions and conclusions but he has always been out to debate and discuss his thoughts on God in a civilized (sometimes heated) manner and we’re all better for that kind of discourse. If you’re a Christian and want to find out what Hitchens thinks then I would recommend reading God is Not Great. It’s full of commonsense observations and if you’re an avid reader then you’ll devour it quite easily (even if you find yourself debating his opinions).

As some of the more famous and vocal atheists age and near towards death we should expect to see the pushing of deathbed confessions. Hopefully, we can stick to the truth as atheists and unbelievers in the past have had deathbed confessions of faith unfairly placed on them by believers who think somehow it is better to lie about the matter then simply say these unbelievers died without changing their minds.

‘Beware of Christians’ Movie

In what looks to be a more ambitious version of American Mormon (2005), four young, average white Christian guys go out in the world to find the real Jesus or rather shatter any preconceived notions of what it means to be a Christian. At least this is what seems to be happening by all appearances in Beware of Christians. Per their promo site:

Alex, Matt, Michael, and Will have grown up as Bible-believing Christians who did all the right thngs. As they’ve grown older, they’ve realized that the Jesus in the Bible doesn’t exactly look like the healthy, wealthy, American Jesus they’ve been trained to know and love. They soon realize that their biases and allegiances to worldly things have determined their views on Christianity.

That is a very promising premise. Regardless of the outcome, which I know is a reaffirmed faith in Christ, these individuals are at least attempting to broaden their knowledge and question their biases. I think in America there is such a thing as the “American Jesus” that does not fit the Biblical Jesus. The Bible involves all sorts of theological battles, but what we do know is that if Jesus existed he wouldn’t have been a blue-eyed white guy who was a member of the Republican Party (or the Democrats for that matter). Jesus may have been similar to how Joni Mitchell described Vincent Van Gogh in her song Turbulent Indigo:

The madman hangs in fancy homes
They wouldn’t let him near!
He’d piss in their fireplace!
He’d drag them through Turbulent Indigo
Don’t take offense, I’m not saying Jesus is going to piss in your fireplace. The whole point of Joni Mitchell’s song, if I’m allowed to interpret, is that modern society has sanitized Van Gogh as a person and yet if these same people who hang his beautiful pictures in their elegant homes met the actual artist they would be disgusted. It may be that the “Jesus” people have built up in their American minds is in conflict with a homeless messiah figure that went around preaching to sinners, often without a bath. How many Republicans have you heard approve of wandering homeless people? Most likely they would tell Jesus to “get a job!”
The official site says that after visiting 10 European countries these 4 young men truly learn what it means by “giving up the world to following Jesus.” I sort of doubt that and what really is “giving up the world”? Usually it comes down to sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll in Christian terms, but is it also Christian materialism? How many Christians actually live like Jesus giving up everything? It’s not realistic and not very productive. The irony here is that these 4 individuals have used a materialistic medium (film) to draw attention to themselves on how they are following Jesus and you can preorder the DVD at their site. I don’t know, not quite buying into the idea that this is “giving it up.”
Still, I have not seen the film so I am hoping they learn something about themselves despite the emphasis on Jesus. Americanized Christianity can limit your worldview and at least they are attempting to see beyond our borders. And from what they mention, they run into a nude beach–which is to be expected since European beaches are often topless (Americans are so obsessed with breasts we feel we have to make them taboo by hiding them).

Twittering the Second Coming, Franklin Graham Predicts

Franklin Graham, son of Billy Graham, the famous evangelist, is speculating that social media will play a role in the second coming of Christ. In other words, when the trumpet sounds and Christ returns coming down from the heavens everyone will be twittering, “I just saw Jesus Christ!”

This is for real. Franklin told this to famed journalist Christine Amanpour. It’s almost sad that this is being run as serious news and not something you would find in The National Enquirer.

Franklin may also be setting us up for a big hoax. He says:

“The Bible says that every eye is going to see [the Second Coming],” Graham said. “How is the whole world going to see [Jesus Christ] all at one time? I don’t know, unless all of a sudden everybody’s taking pictures and it’s on the media worldwide. I don’t know. Social media could have a big part in that.”

The reason Franklin is saying this is the problem with the earth being round. We can’t all physically see some guy floating down out of the clouds at one time. Franklin and other Christians are trying to be logical with something that is illogical. Possibly, Christ might have to repeat his second coming for different time zones and locales. So…social media might be the answer.

Imagine in the future someone clever enough to do what Orson Welles did back in 1938 on Halloween night when he used the popular medium of radio to scare the bejeezus out of listeners who thought his War of the Worlds play was a newscast about invading aliens. If it was possible, could a video be faked of Christ returning  and broadcast using social media in such a way that it is Twittered, Facebooked and picked up by a majority of the media outlets who won’t say either way if it is real or not (which they like to do to keep you hanging). Could people worldwide be tricked into thinking the second coming of Christ is here without ever actually seeing it except for on the web?

Hard to say. The upcoming generation is not as easily fooled, even those who strongly believe in Christianity. But if there is a large percentage of people who earnestly believed we are in the last days (such as Franklin Graham) and if the hoax took place after a major disaster (like a California earthquake for instance or a terrorist attack), I bet it could happen. I’m only saying a certain percentage would be fooled, but enough to cause a panic.

I don’t think social media is what the Biblical writers had in mind when they said that every eye will see him per the scripture found in Revelation 1:7 – Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.

Unless you believe John, the writer of Revelations, could see us using Facebook and Twitter, I think he was referring to a supernatural event. Dare I even say John may have thought the world was flat and therefore every eye could see Christ return–from a flat surface! We always seem to assume that ancient Biblical writers knew all that we know now like the earth is round and that it revolves around the sun. Greek intellectuals were able to determine some of these correct scientific theories, but Biblical writers?

Franklin thinks we’re in the last days. He also seems to think Donald Trump might make a good president (see the end of the article). I think Franklin is just “flat” out wrong.

Let Everyone Preach

I know people like to “argue” that there’s too much arguing in religion in politics, but wouldn’t it be scarier if everyone was listening to just one voice? Debate may be a better word but debates are usually moderated and organized–people tend to argue in casual situations or in confrontations. I don’t see anything wrong with it as long as it doesn’t lead to violence and if we can avoid personal insults (though I’m all for calling public speakers idiots when necessary, especially when they don’t allow for feedback). Is there such a thing as a civil argument? I think so.

I guess we should also consider if we are arguing about something worth about? You have to pick your battles.