Year in Reading

A Year in Reading: Alex Rose

By posted at 4:52 am on December 11, 2007 0

Alex Rose is a co-founder and editor of Hotel St. George Press. He is the author of the The Musical Illusionist and Other Tales, praised by Library Journal as “a potential cult classic” and the Village Voice as “uncanny.” His stories and essays have appeared in the Reading Room, McSweeney’s, the North American Review, the Forward and the Providence Journal, among others. As a filmmaker, Rose’s short films and videos have screened in over two dozen festivals worldwide, as well as on many television networks, including HBO, ShowTime, Comedy Central, the BBC and MTV.

coverOf the many atheist manifestos to hit the shelves within the past few years – among them, The End of Faith, Breaking the Spell, and God is Not Great – none have been so deliciously rewarding as The God Delusion, by the world-renowned evolutionary biologist, Richard Dawkins.

It’s to his credit that Dawkins has never been concerned with the tactics of the science vs. faith debate, with strategic savvy and political niceties, but simply with determining what is true. He believes that the “God hypothesis” falls in the realm of science in much the same way that other matters, such as the chemical composition of stars, or the mechanics of visual perception were once considered unanswerable until clear-headed investigation proved otherwise. Similarly, he claims, if we are genuinely concerned with the universe, with what exists and what does not, we should want to use modern methods and reasoning to reach a conclusion, as we do with nearly every other practical endeavor, rather than resort to myths, atavisms and soothsayings.

Because he is smart, Dawkins is careful not to state unequivocally that no omniscient deity could exist, only that the likelihood is so low that one may just as reasonably presume the existence of Zeus, Thor, or the “flying spaghetti monster.” The case he makes for this position is exhaustive, factoring in countless examples from biology, philosophy, history, politics and human rights.

As punishing as he can be, however, Dawkins is no provocateur. Indeed, his approach is neither superior and exasperated (like Hitchens and Harris), nor apologetic and kiddy-gloved (like Dennet). Not since Bertrand Russell has the balance between criticism and tolerance, between intellectual rigor and deeply felt compassion, been so masterfully struck.

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