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"Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science and Bad Religion in a World without god" by Greg Graffin & Steve Olson

Excellent title written by the lead singer of Bad Religion himself, and his take on living a god-less life.

How rare is it for a singer—punk rock singer—to show a passion in natural sciences all the while, sing songs preaching the harsh reality of our existence and living to think on your own, and not what some politician/religious figure says? Singer, professor and author Greg Graffin, lead singer of punk group Bad Religion, has written an excellent piece combining biographical writing with philosophy, biology, anthropology and sociology. Apparently, it's not all just screaming on the microphone but lyrically bringing a message, through songs, that separate Graffin from many singers and musicians today (rightfully so, if you hear the music being produced today).

The first chapters cover Greg's early life and how he came about with music, as well as his mom introducing him to the sciences, especially Carl Sagan. Having then moved here in California, it was a different social setting and nothing like how it was back in Wisconsin. Gradually adapting to the culture in CA, he was able to get in touch with friends who wanted to launch their own musical act—one that was rebellious and attention-grabbing. Greg then described the hoopla in Venice with the punkers ganging up against the jocks (go punkers!) for dissing their music. The words written about this scene made it clear that Greg didn't want any trouble, nor did he look for any kind of trouble. On the other hand, while singing to the masses, he found opportunities to get involved, and work, in the anthropological/biological field learning about nature as a whole. Complimented those experiences are his high-strung education in the field, writing about the natural sciences making it sound like a snippet from a college textbook.

Up around the middle of the book, you get Greg's take on life in general and the purpose of living. He also explains the cause of tragedy, talking about his first marriage which ended in divorce and coping with such event in life. (His solo album American Lesion reflects this.) However, I liked the way he explained about learning our reality, dumping belief in religion and live our own life, but may sour close relationships with our family, relatives and friends.

"Accepting new information means finding a new way of reasoning about, and possibly even understanding, your own behavior. It can mean breaking with friends and family, or a constant struggle to hide truth from those around you." (Graffin, 2010, p.109)

Definitely. Being that I have proudly rejected my religious beliefs it's very tough to tuck it in, having to break out of my shell, go out and find others who are a little more neutral with beliefs and/or folks who share the same.

One chapter I particularly liked was "Creativity, Not Creation," where Greg spoke about the aesthetics of being creative, in his case, through music. As a videographer/editor, I can completely relate. Greg explained this nicely, stating one does not need to follow some sort of rules abiding by the monotony that gives a lasting impression to "The Creator."

"Many people think that only artists are creative. But, in fact, all of our lives are creative works in progress. Each one of us has the potential for creativity." (Graffin, 2010, p.143-144)

"When one observes nature with an open mind, there is limitless opportunity for learning and for creative intellectual reflection." (Graffin, 2010, p.157)

On that chapter you get to go with Greg on his journey to Brazil, learning about his adventures, the forest trees, the hot temperatures and the natural surroundings. What was bizarre was how the folks in his group are in their own minds, not having to talk to one another. Another freaky part was how imminently silent the forest was as Greg tucked himself to sleep in the night. I can see how tough a job that must be—a natural scientist—however, Greg stated it was (likely) the only time he may have a trip like this.

Following that chapter is where Greg talked about the mainstream recognition of Bad Religion, particularly the time he was invited to perform at a theater in North Hollywood. After performances from NOFX and Pennywise, one of them noted the fans about the theater looking to shut down. Hearing that, Greg quickly hopped into his car and went back to his hotel, only to witness breaking news about a riot breaking out with heavy metal band Bad Religion being involved. This proves why people have jobs they don't deserve: Bad Religion IS NOT a heavy metal act, although Greg stated he simply fell asleep not having a care in the world. After the riot, Greg and his bandmates where smart enough to capitalize on this nationwide recognition, working a deal with the promoter and successfully landed a sold-out performance at the Hollywood Palladium. Nice way to turn a bad situation into something good. Near the end of the chapter is a philosophical view of Love. I have never read a philosophical take on true love, as a classmate once told me it is difficult to interpret despite its possibilities and likelihoods, however, I found this to be a worthy read (for those who are single or divorced).

The last few chapters talk more about life, the naturalist worldview and thinking. The last chapter "A Meaningful Afterlife" discusses human population and ancestry. I wasn't too keen in getting to know my family roots before my grandparents, however, I enjoyed this a lot (now I understand why "six degrees of separation" was a hot topic at one point). My late grandfather was born in Barcelona, Spain, and my grandmother is from Manila, Philippines. Both my parents are of Filipino descent, and now here in the US, I'm a Filipino-American-born citizen. I'll keep this chapter's information in mind when I have children someday.

From Greg's life to the birth of his hit band Bad Religion, to biology, philosophy, anthropology and some travel, you'll get quite a chunk in this book. I'm guessing you may not be mouth-watering over punk rock music, especially Greg hints writing lyrics from the band's actual songs, but you get a whole lot learning from these various sciences. What I was surprised was Greg mentioning some of his students don't believe that he's the lead singer of a punk band (his classes must be packed every semester). Nevertheless, being a solid fan of Bad Religion, thanks to a great friend back in high school who introduced me to their music, I learned so much than I asked for from this book. Even though Greg mentions his ups and downs, one thing he didn't do was call up on a god. Mistakes happen and it's up to us as humans to correct the/our wrongs instead of wasting time waiting for your callings to be answered, but I'm sure you know all about that by now.

Don't think for a moment that a book written by a punk singer is loaded with profanity, calling out on rival bands and incessant whining about illegal drugs, groupies, money and more. Having obtained a Ph.D, as he mentioned working on his dissertations after acquiring his Bachelor's Degree, is a professor at UCLA, a proud father and continually making music, it's hard to find an intelligent entertainer like Greg who can write eloquently in about 250 pages. You don't have to be a fan of Bad Religion, although it would help a little, but I'm certain you'll leave with something from this excellent book. And yes, like I already said, it's written by a punk singer. With that, I leave you with these excellent quotes:

"If there is no destiny, there is no design. There's only life and death. My goal is to learn life by living it, not by trying to figure out a cryptic plan that the Creator had in store for me." (Graffin, 2010, p.214)

"Life is an act of endless creativity. With all its simmering tragedy and occasional catastrophe, a human life is an amazing thing to contemplate and experience. None of us had any special plan laid out for us when we were born." (Graffin, 2010, p.251)





  • Semi-autobiographical writing.
  • Reads like a walk through life without the hang-ups and fears we normally face.
  • Very conversational.
  • Also talks about the start and rise of Epitaph Records.
  • None.
100% (A+)
Fan Rating
Title Anarchy Evolution: Faith, Science, And Bad Religion In A World Without God
Author(s) Greg Graffin & Steve Olson
Description Most people know Greg Graffin as the lead singer of the punk band Bad Religion, but few know that he also received a PhD from Cornell University and teaches evolution at the University of California at Los Angeles. In Anarchy Evolution, Graffin argues that art and science have a deep connection. As an adolescent growing up when "drugs, sex, and trouble could be had on any given night," Graffin discovered that the study of evolution provided a framework through which he could make sense of the world.

In this provocative and personal book, he describes his own coming of age as as artist and the formation of his naturalist worldview on questions involving God, science, and human existence. While the battle between religion and science is often displayed in the starkest of terms, Anarchy Evolution provides fresh and nuanced insights into the long-standing debate about atheism and the human condition. This is a book for anyone who has ever wondered if God really exists.
Dedication "For
Allison, Graham, and Ella

For Sara and Eric
ISBN 978-0-06-182850-8
Book Dimensions Width: 5.88″ (5 7/8″)
Height: 8.63″ (8 5/8″)
Depth: 1.06″ (1 1/16″)
Page Count 308
Contents Nine (9) chapters, Acknowledgements, Notes
Designed by William Ruoto
Jacket Design by Mary Schuck
Author Photograph --
Published September 28, 2010
Publisher !t An Imprint of HarperCollinsPublishers
Copyright © 2010 by Greg Graffin
Printed in United States of America
Book Format Hardcover, Paperback, Kindle, eBook
Quoted Reviews "Take one man who rejects authority and religion, lead a punk band, and is highly successful at it. Take another man who wonders whether vertebrates arose in rivers or in the ocean, and is fascinated by evolution, creativity, and Ice Age animals. Put them together, and what do you get? Answer: Greg Graffin, and this uniquely fascinating book." Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of 'Guns, Germs, and Steel and Collapse'

"Humble, challenging and inspiring....For Graffin, the appeal of both worlds was that, at their best, they challenged authority, dogma and given truths and opened up space for the anarchic process of creativity." Kirkus Reviews, starred review

"Graffin is one of those rare people who seem to have combined two lives in one. He's one of a small but growing number of atheists in the United States willing to talk about the damage they believe religion can do." Paste
Best Seller's List --
Other Greg Graffin was born in Madison, Wisconsin, and is the lead vocalist and songwriter of the legendary punk band Bad Religion, which he cofounded in Los Angeles in 1980. Graffin obtained his PhD in zoology at Cornell University. He has served as a lecturer in life sciences and paleontology at UCLA. He splits his time between Ithaca, New York, and Los Angeles.

Steve Olson is an award-winning science writer. He is the author of Mapping Human History: Genes, Race, and Our Common Origins, which was one of five finalists for the 2002 National Book Award for Nonfiction. A consultant writer for the National Academy of Sciences as well as for other organizations. Olson has also written for such publications as the Atlantic Monthly, the Washington Post, Scientific American, and Wired.

www anarchyevolution com
Library of Congress
Cataloging-in-Publication Data
1. Religion—Philosophy
2. Evolution (Biology)—Religious aspects.
3. Religion and science.
4. Atheism.
I. Olson, Steve, 1956-.
II. Title.
CIP Number ???
LC Control Number 2010021739
LC Call Number BL51.G7195  2010
DDC Call Number 210—dc22


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