It’s been a while. The new job has allowed me little time to write anything here. I’ve been very flattered by a few emails imploring my return (very few in fact, but still nice) and have now hit upon a wheeze to re-activate this blog. A new laptop computer that I can use on the long train journey into work means I can finally find some time to write. I am not sure how well this system will work but I am prepared to give it a go. However much anyone missed my thoughts, I have missed inflicting them on the world far more. Apart from the new job and new child, I have little to report. My PhD is still not granted although the final hurdle is in sight. Nor has God’s Philosophers been published. If you have not had a chance to look over the first chapter and sign my register of people wanting to see it published, then do please spare a moment at the web site here.
Before I got the computer, I read on the train. This has meant a substantial number of books on the ‘to read’ list have been knocked off. They include Steven Pinker’s The Language Instinct, John Julius Norwich’s A History of Venice, Francis Pryor's Britain in the Middle Ages, business bestseller The World is Flat and Jared Diamond’s Collapse. If anyone is keen on my thoughts about these, let me know. I may eventually get around to writing some brief reviews of them anyway. Of course, ‘to read’ lists never get any shorter. I’ve been adding to mine some big picture economic history – The Wealth and Poverty of Nations by David Landes and The Green History of the World by Clive Ponting among them. I’d like to see if the rumoured link between science and prosperity has been noticed by historians of the dismal as well as of natural science.
Lots of things have happened while I’ve been busy. Richard Dawkins has admitted he likes Christmas carols (although who will be left to sing them if he gets his way, I have no idea. For a tradition to survive, it needs to be alive and not just a quaint museum piece, which is how he views the festival of the Nativity). In Rome, Italian communists have kept the Pope from opening a university year by complaining about a remark he made seventeen years ago about an event nearly four centuries before. In 1990, Benedict XVI had said he agreed with the late Paul Feyerabend that the trial of Galileo was “rational and just.” As the final chapter of my book will make clear, this is true in a narrow sense, but it hardly exonerates the Church from the initial mistake of banning heliocentricism. I expect the Pope acknowledged that too, but he is just going to have to get used to be quoted out of context by troublemakers, whether Muslim or atheist.
The neo-atheist storm shows no signs of blowing itself out but neither has the standard of debate improved. I have now had one email from someone for whom Dawkins’ book has been a disturbing experience. I’m not sure if that is a great return from sales approaching a million, but then it is hardly a great book. Christopher Hitchens’ companion screed, God is Not Great was reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement by none other than Dawkins himself. Needless to say, it was hardly a critical examinations of Hitchins’ arguments. Various other articles have appeared here and there. I’ll note a few of them over the next few posts. Having managed to type this post out, despite the train bouncing around like a revivalist minister, I am confident that there will be some more to come.
Click here to read the first chapter of God's Philosophers: How the Medieval World Laid the Foundations of Modern Science absolutely free.