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Extract from What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Explain the Big Stuff

Wonderful WorldAs I recently mentioned, I’m hosting a stop on Marcus Chown’s blog tour to promote his outstanding new book. This is going on for two weeks, so if this interests you, do head along to see the other great things that are going on elsewhere.

I found myself in an awful bind over this. I wanted to run an extract of the book, but I was spoilt for choice in picking one. Every conceivable subject was covered with care and wit, providing a surprising amount of detail for such a huge range of topics. In the end, though, I went for the opening of the section on geology, introducing the subject with a general overview before moving on to cover the details of plate tectonics, as the explanation of why Young-Earth Creationists are wrong seems to fit so well with my typical subject matter.

I hope you enjoy it. Read More…

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What a Wonderful World: One Man’s Attempt to Understand the Big Stuff by Marcus Chown

clangersI’ve recently been very privileged to have a sneak preview of Marcus Chown’s latest book. In a departure from his usual focus on cosmology, he attempts to explain everything, from biology to banking, with stunning results.

I discovered that the entire human race could fit into a sugar cube, I’m one-third mushroom, and slime moulds have 13 sexes. I was introduced to the vital competitive advantage of sewing, the only two non-human species to have a menopause, and a creature that eats its own brain. All this and much more. It’s a brilliant read, with something for everyone. Read More…

Book Review: You Got To Be Kidding, by Joe Wenke

You Got To Be KiddingThe Bible has always offered a rich seam for satirists to mine. The sheer number of stories, and the variety of different genres covered in the different books, make it an easy target for anyone who feels inclined to pick a few of the more peculiar events and recast them in a new light. But everyone can do that – the trick is to do it well.

Dr Joe Wenke decided one day that he was going to work his way though the Bible and write his thoughts down almost as they came to him. The result of his labour was You Got To Be Kidding, a collection of short essays on Biblical events that he considered amusing, outrageous, or worthy of comment in some other way. Read More…

Book Review: Unapologetic by Francis Spufford

UnapologeticFirst, a confession. When I brought this book home after finally grabbing a copy from the library, my wife gave me one of those half-amused, half-offended looks and pointed out that not so long ago, I’d been dismissive and even scornful when she’d mentioned that it sounded interesting. I’d forgotten that, but she’s right – I think I’d previously read some comments by Francis Spufford that didn’t impress me, and a whole book of the same thing seemed less than appealing.

But when I got started (mainly, it has to be said, out of curiosity and with the intention of carefully dismantling it), I began to feel rather well-disposed towards both book and author. Spufford’s style is a disarmingly conversational faux-dialogue, answering questions he expects you to ask, waxing lyrical, spinning yarns and quoting liberally from sources as unlikely as Monty Python and Hannibal Lecter. If nothing else, it’s very readable. Read More…

Book Review: Love Wins by Rob Bell

I recently got round to reading Love Wins by Rob Bell. It’s a book that re-evaluates a lot of traditional Christian ideas, and it caused a lot of discussion, debate and even denunciations when it came out last year, so I thought I should see what all the fuss was about.

Bell does a good job of knocking down traditional, conservative and even fundamentalist ideas, pointing out the flaws in their  interpretations by quoting the Bible and using the conservatives’ own methods of argument against them to show that it’s rather more complicated than conservative dogma suggests. That’s clearly the strongest element of the book, and a very valuable one. Read More…

Responses to The God Delusion

The first to state his case first seems right, until the other side examines him

– Proverbs 18:17

In keeping with possibly my favourite Bible verse, one of the few that could claim to be self-evidently true, my next project on completing The God Delusion was to read a response to it, to hear the case for the defence. I knew of Alister McGrath’s book The Dawkins Delusion, and intended to read that as he has a pretty good reputation, but it seemed so flimsy when I picked it up (the text stretches to just 65 pages, and falls short of 80 even with the addition of notes and further reading) that I decided to augment my selection with Deluded by Dawkins? by Andrew Wilson (a comparative shelf-strainer at 112 pages), for no more reason than that it was next to it on the shelf. Read More…

Finally getting around to The God Delusion

Okay, I’m only six years late to the party, but I’ve finally got around to reading it, so here are my thoughts on a book I’ve been avoiding more or less since it was published – The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.

First, I should say that I read the paperback edition. This may be important, as it included a new preface, which helpfully dealt with a number of common responses to the book (such as “I’m an atheist, but…”, acceptance of religion as a fact of life, and descriptions of Dawkins as a fundamentalist equal to those he criticises), and mentioned that a few other unspecified changes and corrections had been made to the text. I found it a useful addition, heading off common objections before getting down to the substance. In some cases, I think people would benefit from reading this preface more than the actual book. Read More…

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