Edward J. Larson provides a judicious and brilliant account of the Scopes Trial.
The late Israeli writer Amos Elon's masterful history is one for the ages.
For "Talking Head" Byrne, the the world's offerings are best seen from a bike.
Nobel-winner V.S. Naipaul, master of "suppressed history," takes his vivid subversion to Africa.
A British editor and an American eclectic make a strong case for the meaning of truth.
In bleak and dark North Korea, Barbara Demick digs in to find a love story.
With the checkered history of Hawaii at her disposal, Vowell offers mostly kitsch.
Minus Easter trimmings, Dan Barry has written a compelling baseball book.
Jim Brosnan's baseball reminscence is a rare bird: Words by a player who can write.
Tracking Rome street art is a noble cause, but not when words get in the way.
How We Believe: Science, Skepticism and the Search for God
By Michael Shermer
Owl Books, 2003. 330 pages
Michael Shermer makes his living by asking questions: If God made the universe, who made God? Is the universe perhaps not a universe at all, but a multiverse? What is the point of life, and what can we know about death? These are the fundamental questions that humanity has been wrestling with for millennia. Shermer is a professional skeptic with little patience for answers like, "God made the heavens and the earth" and "After death those who believe will be resurrected; the rest will perish is hell." What makes him bristle is not simple religious faith, however — he himself is a lapsed born-again Christian — but when science is perverted to accommodate it.
How We Believe goes to the heart of contemporary American credulity and its tropism towards easy, faith-based answers. One chapter focuses on James van Praagh, bestselling author and self-proclaimed "clairsentient" (he claims to speak with the dead); another tweezes apart The Bible Code, its "prophecy" based on crossword puzzles supposedly programmed by God in the text of the Hebrew Bible.
There is plenty to chew on regarding religion, anthropology, science and philosophy. Shermer's bread-and-butter is the paranormal, conspiracy theories, hoaxes and charlatanism. The book is highly lucid, well-informed and anecdotal. It distinguishes itself from many more recent books on atheism (or nontheism) by its Spinozan patience and will to understand the phenomena of belief.
Reviewed by Marc Alan Di Martino