Sunday, September 06, 2009

The Evolution of God

Robert Wright's new book The Evolution of God sounds like an interesting read, although I can't help but be reminded of this passage from G.K. Chesterton's Everlasting Man:
One of my first journalistic adventures, or misadventures, concerned a comment on Grant Allen, who had written a book about the Evolution of the Idea of God. I happened to remark that it would be much more interesting if God wrote a book about the evolution of the idea of Grant Allen. And I remember that the editor objected to my remark on the ground that it was blasphemous; which naturally amused me not a little. For the joke of it was, of course, that it never occurred to him to notice the title of the book itself, which really was blasphemous; for it was, when translated into English, 'I will show you how this nonsensical notion that there is God grew up among men.' * * *

The editor had not seen the point, because in the title of the book the long word came at the beginning and the short word at the end; whereas in my comments the short word came at the beginning and gave him a sort of shock. I have noticed that if you put a word like God into the same sentence with a word like dog, these abrupt and angular words affect people like pistol-shots. Whether you say that God made the dog or the dog made God does not seem to matter; that is only one of the sterile disputations of the too subtle theologians. But so long as you begin with a long word like evolution the rest will roll harmlessly past; very probably the editor had not read the whole of the title, for it is rather a long title and he was rather a busy man.

2 Comments:

Blogger Joseph said...

What are the implications of the title "The Evolution of Physics"?

11:07 PM  
Blogger Chris said...

The excerpt from Chapter 20 ("Well, aren't we special") makes the book sound pretty dumb, actually.

(For example, that the author thinks that there's clearly been a moral progression in history is so fraught with assuming his conclusion -- alternatively, with assuming a really stupid moral code as the zenith of moral development -- makes whatever reasoning was used in the rest of the book seem unlikely to be of quality.)

What makes you think that this is going to be an interesting book?

12:07 AM  

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