Another in the recent spate of arguments that scientists and theologians should pay attention to each other, by a latter-day Deist. Boston Globe science columnist Raymo (Virgin and the Mousetrap, 1991; Honey from Stone, 1987) joins fellow authors John Polkinghorne, Ken Wilbur, and Gerald Schroeder, among others, in tackling the subtle and often strained relationship of science and religion. Raymo’s scientific arguments do not approach the likes of Polkinghorne, whom he quotes freely, and his contributions to religion are even more trite. Raymo relies heavily on anecdotes, avoiding the abstract jargon of some science writers. He considers himself a skeptic (his opposing categories of —Skeptic— and —True Believer— are a bit too neatly dichotomous); the God that Raymo feels most comfortable with is one who doesn—t disturb the natural laws of science. Raymo should realize that he has embraced Deism, a fashionable intellectual position of the late 18th century. Discussing the Ebola virus, for example, Raymo credits the abatement of the outbreak to the intervention of medical personnel, not to the prayers of the Belgian nuns standing by. Fair enough, but Raymo wants to argue that God never performs miracles, stating that —God has no role in the micromanagement of viruses and bacteria.— What is even more deistic is the God he offers in the place of the miracle-worker: the distant creator. Like the famous watchmaker, Raymo’s God set the universe in motion, then left it to its own devices. So while Raymo sensibly attacks biblical creationists, UFO enthusiasts, and relic-obsessed Marianists—easy targets all—he fails to offer anything substantive in their stead. It’s too bad Raymo wastes his energetic prose on such hackneyed notions and that for him the two disciplines can only coexist if religion is the handmaiden and science the master.

Pub Date: June 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-8027-1338-6

Page Count: 304

Publisher: Walker

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1998

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.


The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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