The Evolution Delusion
The other week on vacation in Los Angeles, I picked up my older brother from the airport. It's a long drive from the airport to the suburbs where we grew up, but he wasted no time, telling me that he had some DVDs he wanted me to watch, DVDs that would change everything, that would finally prove to me that the world is only 6,000 years old and all the scientists have been lying about evolution.
This is a guy who once called after two years of no contact to say that Satan was living within me. My new policy with him, after the 10-year campaign of hostility didn't work, is to be friendly. I tried to think of something innocuous to say, something about Seattle. Figuring there was a chance the DVDs were a product of the Discovery Institute, I said, "You know, the Discovery Institute is in Seattle."
"The Discovery Institute is the place that came up with 'intelligent design,'" I explained.
He sneered, "Uh, I think God came up with intelligent design."
Last week, I recounted this to a friend, and he asked if I'd read Sam Harris's Letter to a Christian Nation. He said I could read it standing in a bookstore. Harris's previous book, The End of Faith, addressed to religious people of liberal or moderate political leanings, was a bestseller in 2004. Letter to a Christian Nation, published last year, is addressed to conservatives, Harris writes in the introduction, to people who believe in "Christianity at its most divisive, injurious, and retrograde." People like my older brother.
I didn't read it standing in a bookstore. I bought it so I could mark it up. Nearly half the book I've underlined. ("53 percent of Americans... believe that the entire cosmos was created six thousand years ago. This is, incidentally, about a thousand years after the Sumerians invented glue.") There's no way we could actually have a conversation about this stuff, my older brother and I, but at only 91 pages, there's an outside chance I could get him to read it. I mean, fair's fair. I've put a copy in the mail. I'll let you know what happens.
Linda Goes to the Library
Where did all those books piled on steamer trunks at Smith (see Bar Exam, page 71) come from? And how many are there? According to owner Linda Derschang, they came from the Friends of the Seattle Public Library book sale, they were 50 cents each, and they cost her a total of $175. Meaning, there are 350 of them. Derschang took two people with her to the sale, and each time they'd gathered a stack of old-looking books they had to get in line again. The library people were baffled at how quickly they were picking through the piles.