THE SCIENCE OF GOD

THE CONVERGENCE OF SCIENTIFIC AND BIBLICAL WISDOM

This account of creation is the latest entry in the current endeavor to drag science and religion within shouting distance of each other. Schroeder, a physicist and Bible scholar (Genesis and the Big Bang, 1990), attempts to reconcile the Genesis account of creation with current scientific knowledge about the origin of life. No doubt he is well versed in both the Bible and biology; he's also a skilled pedagogue, explaining abstract or counterintuitive concepts in lay terms. But this book will fail to convince many readers because the author so relentlessly seeks to persuade the reader of the validity of some strange theories, and because his biblical interpretations draw on an exclusively Jewish tradition, including Kabbalah, Maimonedes, and selected passages from the Talmud, which he claims ``anticipated'' later scientific discoveries. Admittedly, some of his arguments (for instance, that the sequence of Genesis creation is congruent with evolution's progression from prokaryotic to human life) are compelling. But elsewhere Schroeder less convincingly rejects the notion of random, mutation-driven evolution, arguing instead that evolution is ``channeled'' toward an outcome preprogrammed into existing DNA. Schroeder's other theories include an odd insistence upon a pre-Adamic, soulless hominid ancestor. It's important to Schroeder that the literal Adam be the first ensouled human being, and since Genesis chronology (almost 6,000 years since Adam) doesn't mesh with what science tells us of the age of humankind, Schroeder sets out to prove that the Bible only picks up the story near the close of human development. Such hermeneutical gymnastics seem strangely outdated and obscure in an often intelligent, cogently argued book. Though respectful of both science and faith, this book is unlikely to convince either scientist or theologian. (b&w illustrations, not seen)

Pub Date: Dec. 1, 1997

ISBN: 0-684-83736-6

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Free Press

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Nov. 1, 1997

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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 48 LAWS OF POWER

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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The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

THE ROAD TO CHARACTER

New York Times columnist Brooks (The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character and Achievement, 2011, etc.) returns with another volume that walks the thin line between self-help and cultural criticism.

Sandwiched between his introduction and conclusion are eight chapters that profile exemplars (Samuel Johnson and Michel de Montaigne are textual roommates) whose lives can, in Brooks’ view, show us the light. Given the author’s conservative bent in his column, readers may be surprised to discover that his cast includes some notable leftists, including Frances Perkins, Dorothy Day, and A. Philip Randolph. (Also included are Gens. Eisenhower and Marshall, Augustine, and George Eliot.) Throughout the book, Brooks’ pattern is fairly consistent: he sketches each individual’s life, highlighting struggles won and weaknesses overcome (or not), and extracts lessons for the rest of us. In general, he celebrates hard work, humility, self-effacement, and devotion to a true vocation. Early in his text, he adapts the “Adam I and Adam II” construction from the work of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, Adam I being the more external, career-driven human, Adam II the one who “wants to have a serene inner character.” At times, this veers near the Devil Bugs Bunny and Angel Bugs that sit on the cartoon character’s shoulders at critical moments. Brooks liberally seasons the narrative with many allusions to history, philosophy, and literature. Viktor Frankl, Edgar Allan Poe, Paul Tillich, William and Henry James, Matthew Arnold, Virginia Woolf—these are but a few who pop up. Although Brooks goes after the selfie generation, he does so in a fairly nuanced way, noting that it was really the World War II Greatest Generation who started the ball rolling. He is careful to emphasize that no one—even those he profiles—is anywhere near flawless.

The author’s sincere sermon—at times analytical, at times hortatory—remains a hopeful one.

Pub Date: April 21, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-8129-9325-7

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Random House

Review Posted Online: Feb. 16, 2015

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 2015

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