No Words Wasted Sale
 
 

Special Offers see all

Enter to WIN a $100 Credit

Subscribe to PowellsBooks.news
for a chance to win.
Privacy Policy

Visit our stores

Bibliolatry: opinions from a very
independent
bookseller
No. 26: 

Au Revoir

Editor's note:
Where did human beings come from? How about, where did Carlisle come from? And why doesn't he go back? Don't be fooled. All this talk about moving is just bluster. Sorry to disappoint. To assuage your disappointment, why not lose yourself in one of the following books about science and/or mythology and the sometimes uneasy, sometimes fruitful relationship between the two.
Rock of Ages
Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
by Stephen Jay Gould


The most famous evolutionary biologist of the 20th century outlines a workable peace accord between science and religion.

Your Price: $12.95
(New - Trade Paper)
Add to
Cart
More about this book/
check for other copies

The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology
The Masks of God: Primitive Mythology
by Joseph Campbell


If you only read one work about mythology, make it this astounding four-volume survey of mythologies around the world by the greatest mythologist of our time. This first volume is a fascinating look at the mythologies of tribal cultures throughout history.

Your Price $18.00
(New - Trade Paper)
Add to
Cart
More about this book/
check for other copies
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
Consilience: The Unity of Knowledge
by Edward O. Wilson


An argument for a synthesis of knowledge across all fields of knowledge by one of the great minds of our time.

Your Price $14.00
(New -Trade Paper)
Add to
Cart
More about this book/
check for other copies
The Battle for God
The Battle for God
by Karen Armstrong


This lucid book explains why, at the turn of the millennium, the conflict between science and religion is not disappearing, but instead becoming even more heated.

Your Price: $15.00
(New - Trade Paper)
Add to
Cart
More about this book/
check for other copies
The Tao of Physics
TheTao of Physics
by Fritjof Capra


No book has ever demonstrated a more seamless kinship between science and religion. Fascinating.

Your Price: $15.95
(New - Trade Paper)
Add to
Cart
More about this book/
check for other copies
[an error occurred while processing this directive]

Over the years, many of you have written to tell me how much Bibliolatry has meant to you, how much joy it has brought to your humdrum, middle American lives. For one reader it has been a "ballast in rocky seas," for another a "touchstone of truth in a world gone mad." I would like to take this opportunity to thank you, dear readers, for all your support, and to let you know that it has meant no less to me bringing this column to you every other week, or every month (or whenever the hell I have managed to get the damn thing done). That said, you can imagine how difficult it is for me today to inform all of you that this will be my last column.

Now please don't send me tear-drenched letters attempting to dissuade me. This is difficult enough as it is. And, frankly, it won't make any difference. I've made up my mind. I'm quitting my job, and I'm leaving Portland. Yes, it's a great job, and Portland is a marvelous town. But for once I've found a place I truly belong, a community I can truly believe in. And it's high time I gave myself permission to follow my heart — which is telling me loud and clear to move to Cobb County, Georgia.

At a time when the US is demanding democratic reforms around the globe (except, of course, from our allies), Cobb County may be the only community in our own country that is actually interested in genuine democracy. For what is more fundamental to a healthy democracy than an educational system based on democratic principles. Duh! And last week, when a group of Cobb County citizen activists succeeded in persuading the school board to include creationism alongside evolution in the high school curriculum, they demonstrated a commitment to the democratic spirit that is supposed to be the backbone of this county.

As one parent explained: "Separation of church and state is a fallacy promoted by the liberal press. We're a Christian nation." By "Christian nation" I can only assume he meant inclusive, open-minded, and tolerant for as the school board chairman explained, "the point is, we want free and open discussion in the classroom."

That's why this year Cobb County biology teachers will follow their traditional lessons about the "survival of the fittest" and those mutating turtles with a second lesson discussing the biblical theory of the origins of life. The proponents of this view believe the evidence actually suggests that God created human beings shortly after creating the universe. He made the first man, Adam, by blowing life into a pile of dust. Then he ripped a rib from Adam and created Eve (not Steve), the first woman. Unfortunately, Eve (not Steve) immediately made life hell for everyone else for all eternity. But that's another story.

In most school districts in the country, biology teachers are required to teach one, and only one, theory about human origins. In other words, science teachers are limited to teaching science. How narrow. In Cobb County, the school board has a stated "philosophy of teaching a wide and objective range of ideas, particularly in discussing disputed views of academic subjects, including the origin of species." Therefore, after the lesson about Adam and Eve, Cobb County students will be taught a few more theories about the origins of human life.

For example, in the opinion of many Sioux, the first human was created when a rambunctious little rabbit was wandering around the plains and found a little clot of blood. Like a boy with a coke bottle, he began to kick the blood clot around. But as he did, the blood clot began to grow. And as it got bigger, it grew arms, legs, a head and all the other parts necessary to make a little boy. For that's what the blood clot became, the first human. Everyone called him "rabbit boy."

For the Bushongo of the Congo Basin it seems less plausible that human beings were created by the impersonal mechanisms of evolution, by the Judeo-Christian God, or by a foot-fancy rabbit than by a god named Bumba. Now before the world was created, Bumba was all alone in the universe. To make matters worse, one day he began to get sick to his stomach. It was pretty unpleasant. The rumbling in his tummy continued to get worse until he finally became violently ill and threw up the sun. Now that he'd started, he couldn't stop and retched again. This time he puked up the moon, and right after that the stars. Still not finished, he vomited up a series of creatures: a leopard, an eagle, a crocodile, a fish, a tortoise, a heron, a beetle, a goat, and — finally — the first man. After that it was just dry heaves.

Still another theory is promoted by the Experiencers. After being abducted into alien spaceships over and over, these privileged few have had a chance to look around and formulate their own informed opinion on where human beings come from. Though there is some disagreement within the group, the basic idea is clear. The human race has been purposefully bred, and continues to be genetically altered, by lizard-like aliens looking for an alternative food source.

The Eskimos insist that the first man was born from the pod of a beach pea. The Mayans believed that the Gucumatz made the first men out of beans and corn. The list goes on. It's as if every culture — and subculture— has a completely different idea of where we came from.

A wise man once said that truth is the intersection of many lies. It follows, then, that if you want to find some answers, even false or contradictory points of view are useful. The people of Cobb County seem to understand this better than any other place in the country. It therefore stands to reason that graduates of the Cobb County school system will be better equipped to arrive at an informed, intelligent opinion about the origins of human life.

But Cobb County doesn't plan to stop at biology. In future years, the school district will also allow democratic principles to shape the curriculum of a variety of subjects. In math, for instance, a panel of corporate CEOs will be brought in to explain why, in their opinion, 4 minus 2 equals 6. Cher will visit physics classes to demonstrate that gravity doesn't actually have to exist. And that guy down the street with the tin foil on his windows will visit the district's chemistry classes to explain to students what the teacher won't.

While Bobos everywhere have been whining about alleged threats to democratic values — "stolen" elections, "erosion" of civil liberties, and that sort of thing — the citizens of Cobb County, by "responding to the community's demand to teach a broader range of views," have been actually doing something about it.

Some Cobb Countians may get angry at me for spreading the word. Lord knows, if word gets out, malcontents everywhere will start migrating to this enlightened little oasis. But I don't truck with isolationists. I like to think that for each person I've told about Cobb County, I've planted a little seed. By canceling this column, I may be silencing one voice in the wilderness. However, I hope that by telling you about the efforts of one modest county to consciously broaden the parameters of community dialogue, I am drawing your attention to the possibilities inherent in every American community, perhaps even your own. Au revoir.

[an error occurred while processing this directive]
     

spacer
spacer
  • back to top

FOLLOW US ON...

     
Powell's City of Books is an independent bookstore in Portland, Oregon, that fills a whole city block with more than a million new, used, and out of print books. Shop those shelves — plus literally millions more books, DVDs, and gifts — here at Powells.com.