A brilliant exposition of the possibility of science and religion, each in its own way, contributing to a better world.



A leading Jewish theologian argues that both religious fundamentalists and neo-Darwinian atheists such as Richard Dawkins have it wrong when they contend that science and religious faith are incompatible.

Instead, Sacks (Covenant & Conversation: A Weekly Reading of the Jewish Bible Exodus, 2010, etc.), chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth, believes that both are necessary, complementary ways of looking at the world. “Science takes things apart to see how they work,” he writes. “Religion puts things together to see what they mean…neither is dispensable.” As a metaphor for this duality, the author uses the distinction between right-brain intuitive processing and left-brain analytic functioning. Religious faith is interpretative (“the search for meaning constitutes our humanity”), while scientific knowledge increases our well-being. Sacks dismisses rage-filled, self-righteous biblical fundamentalism but also deplores the equally intolerant stance of scientists like Dawkins, who has compared religious belief to a virus. Sacks refers to traditional Jewish interpretations of the Bible to explain his own search for God in the bonds of family, the small compassionate acts of people toward strangers and the necessity of challenging injustice. He views the Creation as a work in progress begun billions of years ago by a God who “delights in diversity,” and he interprets Darwin's “wondrous discovery” as showing that “the Creator made creation creative.” The author compares his own Jewish view of God—consistent with the notion of emergence and evolution—to a literal interpretation of Genesis and suggests that God has called upon us “to become his partners in the work of redemption.” To accomplish this, he writes, we require “people capable of understanding cognitive pluralism."

A brilliant exposition of the possibility of science and religion, each in its own way, contributing to a better world.

Pub Date: Sept. 11, 2012

ISBN: 978-0-8052-4301-7

Page Count: 384

Publisher: Schocken

Review Posted Online: June 22, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2012

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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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