**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK: Ruse’s book details the history of the enlightenment, especially concerning the advancement of ideas concerning ev**spoiler alert** MY NOTES ON BOOK: Ruse’s book details the history of the enlightenment, especially concerning the advancement of ideas concerning evolution and its relation to Christianity. He makes a distinction between “evolutionism” as a faith and “the theory of evolution” as a science. He also points out the motives for millenialists (who believe Christ’s return is imminent vs. post-millenialists who argue that there will be something like a heaven on Earth (and thus, believe in the progress of man).
***On p29, he describes how the belief in evolutionism long preceded the actual science behind evolution. In other words, there was a progression of already having lost one’s faith and looking for a credible substitute long before a real theory of evolution existed. In other words, the idea behind the theory was a means to an end for atheists and agnostics.
***On p34, Ruse makes clear that evolution started out as bad science and was not even considered by real scientists (it was more like phrenology or mesmerism, no empirical support).
***On p48, it discusses Robert Chambers’ work “Vestiges”, which offered not just a story on biological evolution, but a historical narrative of the entire universe. It was very ideologically motivated as a progressive interpretation of the world. In other words, it was materialistic and its purpose was to use knowledge of the physical world to make the world better over time. In “Vestiges” he argued for spontaneous generation and the power of the fossil record. Although he was associated with a church, he really wanted to conquer the beliefs of the church in the name of materialistic progress.
***Ruse points out some of the contradictions of the bible that were used to warrant a literary and historical analysis instead of treating it as inspired. E.g., two stories of creation – Adam and Eve created together vs. Eve coming from Adam’s rib; Deuteronomy – 2 accounts of Moses fasting on the Mount, in Exodus only one; God told Balaam to go with the visitors and then God was angry precisely because he went. ; Manasseh used enchantments and summoned spirits and wizards, but then he repented and was forgiven; why then does God keep punishing people later because of Manasseh’s sins? ; Gospels: was it four thousand people fed with seven loaves or five thousand with five loaves; did Simon of Cyrene carry the Cross, or did Jesus carry it?; Did Judas hang himself (Matthew) or fall headlong with his bowels gushing out (Acts)?
***On p85 he explains that because of the cultural environment at the time, when Origin of Species came out it became fashionable to accept and believe it. In fact, for many people, belief in evolution became an overnight conversion experience. *** One of the big objections to natural selection as a means to creating new species (during Darwin’s lifetime) was from physicists who argued that the Earth was not old enough to allow such changes to occur via that mechanism. Even though they already believed in millions of years, they did not believe in the billions of years necessary to make evolution happen. That came later with research on radioactive decay and the age of the earth.
*** Darwin did little work to promote his new theory, but Thomas Huxley did. Huxley turned a basic scientific theory into a worldview designed to help answer and deal with some of the hardships and decisions in the modern world. Huxley helped turn the theory of evolution into a driving force to update the education system to match the new industrialized world. Onward and upward was his calling card, and evolution was the means to convince others of his methods. He made evolution into a popular science, which also contributed its growth into a social tool (social Darwinism).
*** On p121 it talks about the struggle between true science and “evolutionism” as an ideology: “Tyndall stressed above all the need to be objective and to keep personal opinions and motives and desires out of science. “It is against the objective rendering of the emotions – this thrusting into the region of fact and positive knowledge of conceptions essentially ideal and poetic – that science … wages war.” And here precisely is where evolutionism, including its social Darwinian element, failed. Indeed, it did not even attempt to compete, because it had other goals: to promote a world picture, an ideology of progress. An ideology, to be sure. But would the term “religion” also be appropriate? Considering the nature of the beast, it truly seems so. The concept of a religion is notoriously hard to define, but one thinks in terms of a world picture, providing origins, a place (probably a special place) for humans, a guide to action, a meaning to life. There are other prominent features of many religions, such as belief in a deity and a formalized and recognized priesthood, but these features are not absolutely essential to the definition. Buddhists (and many Unitarians) would probably flunk the God question, and Quakers (by explicit design) have no clergy. Rather than getting too flustered by counterexamples, let us allow the oxymoron “secular religion” and cast our question in these terms. And the answer does seem positive.” P121-122.
*** “To use a phrase invented by Thomas Henry Huxley’s biologist grandson, Julian Huxley, the evolutionists were truly in the business of providing a “religion without revelation” – and like all fanatics they were intolerant of rivals.”p128.
*** Ruse details the shift in the church over time making it more “science friendly”. In 1861 a major criticism on the history of the Bible was endorsed by many clergy.” As the century drew on, theologically as well as legally, notions like substitutionary atonement and eternal punishment came increasingly under attack. The emphasis shifted from Easter to Christmas, from Christ as a sacrificial lamb to the infant Jesus as the embodiment of peace on earth, good will toward men – from atonement to incarnation. It seemed ethically distasteful that God should have to suffer for our sins, and contrary to his goodness that even the worst of sinners should suffer forever. As ideas like these declined in significance, so did the urge to tie faith tightly to a holy text. “ p139
*** With the founding of the journal “Evolution” in the 1940s there grew a subset of scientists who were determined not to let any kind of ideological evolution into their scientific treatises and studies. Dobzhansky and Mayr were two such scientists, and although they had many progressionist beliefs, they made sure to keep it out of their scientific writings. Instead, they began to play the game of being “culture free” and publish their value-free work in their scientific journals, and then write separate books for the popular public concerning the progressive policies/beliefs they endorsed.
*** Ruse admits half-heartedly some of the existing problems with evolution: “Not that all of the evolutionist’s problems have been solved, or are even close to being solved. The problem of the origin of life has always been a major headache for evolutionists.”p200
*** “The real issue is whether some evolutionists today use the supposed progressiveness of evolutionary theory to promote social and ethical programs. And indeed they do.” P212. “In this sense, evolutionary biology – Darwinian evolutionary biology – continues to function as a kind of secular religion. It offers a story of origins. It provides a privileged place at the top for humans. It exhorts humans to action, on the basis of evolutionary principles. It opposes other solutions to questions of social behavior and morality. And it points to a brighter future if all is done as it should be done, in accordance with evolutionary theory.”p213.
*** According to the ruling in Arkansas concerning intelligent design as a science, in order for something to be considered a science the judge said it had to be: “1. It is guided by natural law; 2. It has to be explanatory by reference to natural law; 3. It is testable against the empirical world; 4. Its conclusions are tentative, that is, are not necessarily the final world, and; 5. It is falsifiable.” P248.
*** On arguments against using methodological naturalism as the only way to know truth: “Plantinga goes so far as to argue that naturalism is self-defeating even as a strategy for approaching knowledge, for it makes impossible any genuine knowledge at all. If naturalism is true, then Darwinism is plausible – in fact, it is the best game in town. But Darwinism is not interested in our getting to the truth about reality; it is concerned only with survival and reproduction. And as a reproductive strategy, believing that this world is all there is might be advantageous. Advantageous, but not necessarily true. Conversely, believing in a Christian God might be advantageous, but it also might not be true – just an epiphenomenon of selfish genes. Naturalism leaves us with no way to know, one way or another, the truth about reality, in this world or in worlds beyond. A belief in the power of natural selection leads logically to acceptance of a perpetual state of deception.”p258
*** A poem by Miller Williams “In the sixteenth century Nicholas Copernicus told us the earth was a ball and, what was worse, was not the center of the universe. “Well and so,” we wanted to know, “where does that leave us in the scheme of things?” Wherever it left us, we were just about learning to live with it, when three centuries later Charles Darwin grabbed our attention with the news that we were cousins to the kangaroos. “And so,” we wanted to know, “where does that leave us in the scheme of things?” p263.
*** Ruse’s book is about the crisis of faith that took place during the Enlightenment and the role evolution had in that crisis. The crisis certainly did not begin with evolution, but rather with questions concerning where religious truth came from. If people from other cultures believed different and had different holy books, how could revealed religions be compared? Also, changes in culture with the populations of places like England becoming urban instead of rural changed relations with the church and organized religion. Reason and progress became the center of many people’s worldviews, and evolutionism fit perfectly with that.
*** “By the beginning of the twentieth century evolutionism and creationism were competing for space in the hearts and minds of regular folk. It was not a science-versus-religion conflict but a religion-versus-religion conflict – always the bitterest kind. Darwinians did not have to become secular theologians, but many did. Evolution did not necessarily entail evolutionism, but many evolutionists made the move. Likewise a Christian did not have to become a creationist (or anti-Darwinian), but many did. Creation did not necessarily entail creationism, but many creationists made the move.”p266-267.
*** “Scientists are among the minority of intellectuals who are almost universally optimistic. … Scientists buck the trend because (social constructivism notwithstanding) science is the one area of human experience that is unambiguously progressive. First Mendelian factors, next the classical theory of the gene, and then the double helix. Who would deny that, epistemologically, we have made progress? Unless you believe in scientific progress, you are going to flop as a scientist. You have got to push on and make advances, even when things seem darkest. Science stoppers are for theologians and philosophers, not for scientists.”p286-287....more
**spoiler alert** Notes and quotes for me: Du Bois on Booker T. Washington and the importance to be critical on points of disagreement: “But the hushi**spoiler alert** Notes and quotes for me: Du Bois on Booker T. Washington and the importance to be critical on points of disagreement: “But the hushing of the criticism of honest opponents is a dangerous thing. It leads some of the best of the critics to unfortunate silence and paralysis of effort, and others to burst into speech so passionately and intemperately as to lose listeners. Honest and earnest criticism from those whose interests are most nearly touched, -criticism of writers by readers, of government by those governed, of leaders by those led, - this is the soul of democracy and the safeguard of modern society.” P.83
*** His specific criticism of B.T. Washington is that he 1. Strives to make black businessmen and property owners, but Du Bois argues that it is impossible without fair legal and voting rights. 2. Washington argues for thrift and self respect, but wants a silent submission to civic inferiority to the whites. Du Bois argues that no race can be in this position without it sapping the strength of men over time. 3. Washington advocated more vocational training and less training from higher institutions, but Du Bois argues that without higher ed training there would be no one to properly train blacks on all levels.
*** “No. The dangerously clear logic of the Negro’s position will more and more loudly assert itself in that day when increasing wealth and more intricate social organization preclude the South from being, as it so largely is, simply an armed camp for intimidating black folk. Such waste of energy cannot be spared if the South is to catch up with civilization. And as the black third of the land grows in thrift and skill, unless skillfully guided in its larger philosophy, it must more and more brood over the red past and the creeping, crooked present, until it grasps a gospel of revolt and revenge and throws it s new-found energies athwart the current of advance. Even to-day the masses of the Negroes see all too clearly the anomalies of their position and the moral crookedness of yours. You may marshal strong indictments against them, but there counter-cries, lacking through they be in formal logic, have burning truths within them which you may not wholly ignore, O Southern Gentlemen! If you deplore their presence here, they ask, Who brought us? When you cry, Deliver us from the vision of intermarriage, they answer that legal marriage is infinitely better than systematic concubinage and prostitution. And if in just fury you accuse their vagabonds of violating women, they also in fury quite as just may reply: The rape which your gentlemen have done against helpless black women in defiance of your own laws is written on the foreheads of two millions of mulattoes, and written in ineffaceable blood. And finally, when you fasten crime upon this race as its peculiar trait, they answer that slavery was the arch-crime, and lynching and lawlessness its twin abortions; that color and race are not crimes, and yet it is they which in this land receive most unceasing condemnation, North, East, South, and West. “ p.137
*** “Now it happens that both master and man have just enough argument on their respective sides to make it difficult for them to understand each other. The Negro dimly personifies in the white man all his ills and misfortunes; if he is poor, it is because the white man seizes the fruit of his toil; if he is ignorant, it is because the white man gives him neither time nor facilities to learn; and, indeed, if any misfortune happens to him, it is because of some hidden machinations of “white folks.” On the other hand, the masters and the masters’ sons have never been able to see why the Negro, instead of settling down to be day-laborers for bread and clothes, are infected with a silly desire to rise in the world, and why they are sulky, dissatisfied, and careless, where their fathers were happy and dumb and faithful. “Why, you niggers have an easier time than I do,” said a puzzled Albany merchant to his black customer. “Yes,” he replied, “and so does yo’ hogs.” P.180
*** “It thus happens that in nearly every Southern town and city, both whites and blacks see commonly the worst of each other. This is a vast change from the situation in the past, when, through the close contact of master and house-servant in the patriarchal big house, one found the best of both races in close contact and sympathy, while at the same time the squalor and dull round of toil among the field-hands was removed from the sight and hearing of the family. One can easily see how a person who saw slavery thus from his father’s parlors, and sees freedom on the streets of a great city, fails to grasp or comprehend the whole of the new picture. On the other hand, the settled belief of the mass of the Negroes that the Southern white people do not have the black man’s best interests at heart has been intensified in later years by this continual daily contact of the better class of blacks with the worst representatives of the white race.” P.190-191
*** “We must accept some of the race prejudice in the South as a fact, - deplorable in its intensity, unfortunate in the results, and dangerous for the future, but nevertheless a hard fact which only time can efface. We cannot hope, then, in this generation, or for several generations, that the mass of the whites can be brought to assume that close sympathetic and self sacrificing leadership of the blacks which their present situation so eloquently demands. Such leadership, such social teaching and example, must come from the blacks themselves.” P.194-195.
*** “What in the name of reason does this nation expect of a people, poorly trained and hard pressed in severe economic competition, without political rights, and with ludicrously inadequate common-school facilities? What can it expect but crime and listlessness, offset here and there by the dogged struggles of the fortunate and more determined who are themselves buoyed by the hope that in due time the country will comes to its senses?”p.202-203.
*** On his son's death: "We could not lay him in the ground their in Georgia, for the earth there is strangely red; so we bore him away to the northward, with this flowers and his little folded hands. In vain, in vain! - for where, O God! beneath thy broad blue sky shall my dark baby rest in peace, -where Reverence dwells, and Goodness, and a Freedom that is free? All that day and all that night there sat an awful gladness in my heart, - nay, blame me not if I see the world thus darkly through the Veil, -and my soul whispers ever to me saying, "Not dead, not dead, but escaped; not bond, but free." No bitter meanness now shall sicken his baby heart till it die a living death, no taunt shall madden his happy boyhood. Fool that I was to think or wish that this little soul should grow choked and deformed within the Veil! I might have known that yonder deep unworldly look that ever and anon floated past his eyes was peering far beyond this narrow Now. In the poise of his little curl-crowned head did there not sit all that wild pride of being which his father had hardly crushed in his own heart? For what, forsooth, shall a Negro want with pride amid the studied humiliations of fifty million fellows? Well sped, my boy, before the world had dubbed your ambition insolence, had held your ideals unattainable, and taught you to cringe and bow. Better far this nameless void that stops my life than a sea of sorrow for you." p231
*** On Du Bois’ chapter with the example of black man going off to college: “John,” she said, “does it make every one –unhappy when they study and learn lots of things?” He paused and smiled. “I am afraid it does,” he said. “And, John, are you glad you studied?” “Yes,” came the answer, slowly but positively.” P.257....more
**spoiler alert** He begins the book with an analysis of one of the most well-known books on war: Clausewitz's "On War" written in the 1800s by the Pr**spoiler alert** He begins the book with an analysis of one of the most well-known books on war: Clausewitz's "On War" written in the 1800s by the Prussian officer. It gave the definition of war as the "continuation of policy by other means" and used the regiment as the basis for all military organization. He, along with Marx, used ideological descriptions to explain society, and specifically, war. He described "real war", which is how it was typically fought, to "true war", which is how he thought war should be fought. Specifically, he called for the development of political and social identity of soldiers in a regiment in order to continually motivate soldiers to willingly give their lives for their country, unit, etc. (instead of just leaving service as soon as possible). It was his ideas that led to the development of huge peacetime stockpiling of troops and weapons and the eventual destruction of WWI (because all of the wealth of Europe was used to create huge motivated armies). Keegan argues that Clausewitz failed in his definition/explanation of war because he failed to distinguish between all of the cultural differences in how war is carried out and to what purpose.
*** Japan was a unique situation in the history of war because they had the technology of gunpowder but declined to use it in favor of a culture of the sword. It was essentially a severe gun-control culture because gunpowder was not needed in order to ensure national security. The shogunate governed every detail of the peoples' lives and maintained the "natural" form of the sword instead of the chemical energy of gunpowder. It helped maintain the class and political system by preventing a quick overthrow of the government through military force (only the ruling class were even allowed to own swords). The swords of that time period were the best edged weapons ever constructed. There is a film of a sword made by a 15th century maker slicing through a machine-gun barrel. Some of these swords were hammered and rehammered so much they contained more than 4 million layers of finely forged steel.
*** The Arabs of Islam created a new type of warfare, one that was clearly based on religious principles. It taught the necessity of submission to its revealed teachings and the right of its believers to take arms against those who opposed them. Muhammad taught that Muslims were brethren and should not fight each other, but they should fight all other men until they confessed in the one true God. There were no problems with territoriality and kinship because Islam transcended those categories. There was also no conflict between material wealth and Islam so they could conquer as much land and wealth as possible (as did Muhammad himself). With the death of Muhammad, however, Islam was split, although its armies were still successful in uniting a vast section of the world because they traversed so many demographic boundaries (and the relatively weak status of most major empires at that time contributed as well).
*** Another interesting section explained the success of the horse people's (such as Ghenghis Khan, but others as well). Because they were essentially a highly mobile army in an age of slow movement, they were able to attack across vast distances with lightning speed. On the other hand, they could never be a truly occupying force, only a plundering one, because of the vast supplies required to maintain the hundreds of thousands of horses they traveled with. So they were great conquerers, but unable to maintain any kind of empire and usually fell apart in a relatively short period of time (other than in their native grassland areas where they could support a large amount of horses). ...more
This book served as an excellent contrast to Niall Ferguson's book "Colossus". Bacevich points out the dangers of overextending the U.S. on the globalThis book served as an excellent contrast to Niall Ferguson's book "Colossus". Bacevich points out the dangers of overextending the U.S. on the global stage in much the same way that Ferguson argues for the under-utilization of U.S. political influence. I thought Bacevich was a bit overly bleak on some fronts, but overall his analysis was compelling, especially given the current global economic transformation. It is unlikely that the U.S. will ever have the kind of economic pre-eminence it has enjoyed in the last few decades, so trying to maintain that status through military channels is going to become even more futile with each passing year. Overall a great book, and his point about war being inherently and eternally messy no matter how smart of bombs we create is especially timeless. ...more
Although I initially judged this book rather harshly after the first hundred or so pages of juvenile debauchery, I think it really grew on me after IAlthough I initially judged this book rather harshly after the first hundred or so pages of juvenile debauchery, I think it really grew on me after I began to consider its many religious undertones. The literal experiences of the characters take up so much of the actual text, but what makes the narrative so powerful is the intensity and depth of confusion the characters embody. Although their specific search for meaning and purpose takes place in the context of 40's and 50's Beat America, I think this book meant a lot more to me when I adapted the story to all the wanderers I know in our present cultural context. Oh, and of course it would be way cool to hitchhike across the U.S. on a flatbed truck. ...more
One of the other reviews really hit the nail on the head with this book. Great aspirations and some interesting segments, but the author fails to captOne of the other reviews really hit the nail on the head with this book. Great aspirations and some interesting segments, but the author fails to capture the essence of what makes us fall in love with libraries in the first place: a good story. On the other hand, maybe he does capture reality better than I think. I mean, aren’t most avid readers just aspiring writers who are better at absorbing the stories of others than telling our own? If I were a librarian with a good knowledge of the history of repositories of the written word, I would be bursting to tell the story to others. Unfortunately, I would probably do far worse than the somewhat haphazard and at times arrogant approach taken by the author. But bravo for tackling a truly noble subject, and thanks for the priceless knowledge concerning the relative durability of clay tablets compared to those highly flammable papyrus scrolls. Would recommend to all librarians who aspire to work at the Harvard library. ...more
I really enjoyed reading this book for a number of reasons, but primarily because it seems to fit the level of many of the conversations I've had withI really enjoyed reading this book for a number of reasons, but primarily because it seems to fit the level of many of the conversations I've had with non-Christians. Although it is obviously written at a somewhat general level because it covers so many topics, I find it much more useful than books like Strobel's "Case for Christ" because it does a better job of acknowledging competing worldviews and philosophical viewpoints. That being said, this book is definitely not for everyone. Keller's congregation consists of many well-educated young urbanites who probably know a reasonable amount about philosophy without being experts in the subject. If you are an expert, this book is going to seem to gloss over too many important distinctions, or if you haven't read any philosophy and C.S. Lewis doesn't appeal to you in the slightest, then skip this one. But as I said, I thoroughly enjoyed it and would recommend it to nearly all of my Christian and non-Christian friends.
My notes and quotes:
Keller points out that both skepticism and religion are on the rise (so neither side is disappearing any time soon).
*** He reminds believers that faith without doubt is like a body without any antibodies in it. Without practice and experience handling doubt, any severe crisis could completely destroy one's faith.
*** He begins by addressing the idea of there not being one true religion (i.e., it is close-minded to say so). He points out that outlawing, condemning, or privatizing religion would all fail to solve this problem because relativism is still a religion. It statest that no other religion is correct, so it is up to everyone to choose the best religious set of beliefs.
*** The next question he addresses concerns how God allows suffering. He points out that the question is even harder for nonbelievers because they have to answer why we perceive "just" and "unjust" in the first place. If there is no God, these seem to be innate moral arguments that have no basis in an atheistic world. He also points out the very nature of suffering, which is separation from God (which explains why Jesus suffered so much, when he died he was separated from God for the first time). He also points out how because of Jesus' sacrifice, none of our suffering is in vain, we will all be restored to perfection in heaven and turn every agony into a glory.
*** His next point concerns Christianity being a "straightjacket" that prevents us from living life. First he points out that Christianity is incredibly culturally flexible. It has taken many forms over time with the same confessions at the heart of it. It doesn't make everyone conform to the same culture, but rather tries to restore everyone's relationship with God. He also points out that arguments for increased freedom fail because all positive human experiences (like love) require that we give up freedom in order to experience them. So to settle for nothing less than true freedom is more of a prison than any religion. He also points out that no community can be completely inclusive because it will have to exclude people that exclude others. He points out that we do not live for God in a one-sided relationship, but rather God has already given an incredible amount to change for us by sending his son to die for us.
*** He next addresses how so many atrocities have been perpetrated by the church and by Christians. He addresses many aspects of historical events, but it can be summed up by understanding that the church is "Not a museum for saints, but a hospital for sinners." He also points out that violence and bloodshed occurs with or without Christianity.
*** His next chapter is on the issue of God sending people to hell. First he points out the fact that our idea of a God of love accepting everyone regardless of behavior is culturally bound. We immediately accept a God of forgiveness, but not of punishment because of our cultural ideas. He also points out that God's anger is at the cancer of sin, just as we get angry when our children engage in some behavior that is going to harm themselves or others. He also describes hell as a place we create for ourselves by focusing more and more on the self until we are unable to experiencing anything more than complete self absorbtion. *** His next two chapters on are science and faith (he is a theistic evolutionist) and on taking the Bible literally. He argues for the historical Christ and the reasonableness of believing in the historical accounts.
*** His second section of the book concerns "clues for God", which is his way of saying that we can't prove God, but there are many points of evidence that favor His existence. In this section he addresses evolutionary psychology.
###Quotes from book: "But you cannot go on "explaining away" for ever: you will find that you have explained explanation itself away. You cannot go on "seeing through" things for ever. The whole point of seeing through something is to see something through it. It is good that the window should be transparent, because the street or garden beyond it is opaque. How if you saw through the garden too? ... a wholly transparent world is an invisible world. To "see through" all things is the same as not to see." - C.S. Lewis
*** "Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket - safe, dark, motionless, airless - it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation. - C.S. Lewis
*** "One has only the choice between God and idolatry. If one denies God . . . one is worhsiping some things of this world in the belief that one sees them only as such, but in fact, though unknown to oneself imagining the attributes of Divinity in them." - Simone Weil
*** If I was saved by my good works then there would be a limit to what God could ask of me or put me through. I would be like a taxpayer with "rights" - I would have done my duty and now I would deserve a certain quality of life. But if I am a sinner saved by sheer grace - then there's nothing he cannot ask of me. - woman at Keller's church...more
Kind of an odd coincidence that I read this book literally right after I finished Pilgrim's Progress since they are written in such similar styles. IKind of an odd coincidence that I read this book literally right after I finished Pilgrim's Progress since they are written in such similar styles. I think that is a good thing because it prompts some important comparisons. Besides the obvious length and ease of language differences, I would say that the essence or purpose of both books are completely at odds. While both books are clearly meant to enlighten, The Pilgrim's Progress seeks to inform and engage readers of a very specific worldview. There are no alternative interpretations or any kind of demand to utilize the lessons from the book in any domain other than one's faith (and the one true faith at that).
William's book, on the other hand, is a self-proclaimed "Rubik's cube" of literature. His entire purpose seems to be to develop a symbolic puzzle that can be used by any person from any background to further his or her own worldview. His "commentary" at the end of the book makes this goal perfectly clear. The story really is cleverly developed, entertaining, thought provoking, and I believe Williams was successful in his stated goal, but I still didn't care for the book. For me, in trying to reach everyone, you end up reaching no one. I think this book represents relativism at its best. Lots of sound life principles (which can have practical benefits), but no real Truth (with a capital T) behind them. Although the book is thought provoking, if I want to think about ultimate meaning and the nature of life I'd much prefer to read books like Scott Adam's "God's Debris" or Daniel Quinn's "Ishmael", which at least proclaim some kind of truth (even if I disagree with it) rather than being everything to everyone. ...more
This book successfully combines two of my favorite subjects, philosophy and dumb jokes to great effect. It's a quick little read that uses humor to deThis book successfully combines two of my favorite subjects, philosophy and dumb jokes to great effect. It's a quick little read that uses humor to define philosophical schools of thought, or maybe uses philosophers to explain humor, I'm not sure which. Either way, it is a fun time for those with a penchant (and background) in philosophy and a knack for telling bad jokes.
And to add to the many quotes other reviewers have shared, here's one on situational ethics: "Armed robbers burst into a bank, line up customers and staff against the wall, and begin to take their wallets, watches, and jewelry. Two of bank's accountants are among those waiting to be robbed. The first accountant suddenly thrusts something in the hand of the other. The second accountant whispers, 'What is this?' The first accountant whispers back, 'It's the fifty bucks I owe you.'"