evolution

Currently Reading

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Here are the books currently taking up space in my reading pile. The top three are from the library and I’m yet to make any real progress in them. On the bottom, I’m borrowing a friend’s copy of Surprised By Hope. I bought Human Universe by Professor Brian Cox and Andrew Cohen just recently and so far it’s incredible. Tales from the Dead of Night: Thirteen Classic Ghost Stories, selected by Cecily Gayford, was my birthday present to myself last year and it is fantastic. It includes ghost stories by such authors as E. Nesbit, Ruth Rendell and Rudyard Kipling. This is my third time reading through the collection, many of which come from the late 19th and early 20th Centuries. There is just something about the way late 19th Century writers composed their tales that really draws me in. Without having intended it, I have found that roughly half of my most-favourite books come from Europe in the 19th Century, usually Russia and England, but some from other countries, too.

Hence the fact I picked up the 1830s and 1840s short story collection by Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol (or, if you prefer the Ukrainian translation of his name, Mykola Vasyliovych Hohol). Now, I won’t enter into the debate of his ethnicity or nationality, as those discussions are beyond me. Because my husband is part-Ukrainian I find it interesting learning about Eastern Slavic history, and have found that these old Russian novels are a really interesting insight into the culture. I particularly love the writings of Fyodor Mikhailovich Dostoyevsky – Crime and Punishment and The Brothers Karamazov are novels that were life-changing for me.

So far I haven’t read much of Gogol’s works. I have read some of Dead Souls though I’m fairly certain I never finished that. I have also watched two different film adaptations of his story Viy (Вий), a somewhat terrifying horror story. The 1967 film is said to be quite faithful to the original story, which I haven’t yet read. I also saw the 2014 version at a Russian film festival held at ACMI in Melbourne, Australia. I must’ve been one of five non-Slavic people in the whole audience (the others being a handful of our Anglo-Celt and Anglo-Asian friends – I love our multicultural city!). The 2014 film had rather steam punk vibes about it, and plot-wise had some similarities with the 1967 film, but only loosely so, and was a mix of Russian, Ukrainian and English elements. It also, in my mind, inspired moustache goals that I have since insisted the Husband fulfil. He’s not convinced.

The other two books on the pile, The Discovery of Middle Earth: Mapping the lost world of the Celts by Graham Robb is, as far as I can see, a history of Ancient Gaul and Druidry and the spread of Christianity through ancient Europe. Where Song Began: Australia’s birds and how they changed the world by Tim Low is an evolutionary history of the unique and diverse birdlife of our continent. I look forward to delving into these books.

References:

Cox, B. and Cohen, A. (2015). Human Universe. London: WilliamCollins.

Gayford, C. (2013). Tales from the dead of night: thirteen classic ghost stories. London: Profile Books.

Gogol, N. (translation from 2014). Petersburg tales. Richmond, UK: Alma Classics.

Low, T. (2014). Where song began: Australia’s birds and how they changed the world. Melbourne, Australia: Penguin.

Robb, G. (2013). The discovery of Middle Earth: mapping the lost world of the Celts. New York: WW Norton & Company.

Wright, T. (2007). Surprised by hope. London: SPCK.

Scenes from this year’s reading pile: Evolution versus Creation

 

On the evolution side: Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism edited by Petto and Godfrey.

On the Young Earth Creationist side: In Six Days edited by Ashton.

Not pictured: Intelligent Design by Dembski (I owned a copy that I read years ago, but it was the victim of a recent possession decluttering rampage).

Not represented: the myriad religious interpretations of the origin and development of life, including a whole lot of very diverse Christian approaches.

 

I will definitely and clearly state upfront that I am being an intentional fence sitter and won’t be proposing any personal beliefs on the One True And Correct Narrative On The Way The Universe Came Into Being. I have my own views, but I just can’t be bothered going down that fruitless and negative route attempting to explain it in a calm and reasonable fashion, offending just about everyone I know in the process. Some days I wish I could just say, well, maybe the Poetic Edda of the Ancient Norse peoples and their modern counterparts is the only true explanation of the universe, so in light of Ymir and his cow Auðumbla, who formed Búri while licking the ice, let’s stop all our bickering.

But as a bit of a challenge to myself I decided I would have some geeky fun and read some diametrically opposed books. Both are collections of essays written by highly educated scientists. Both are heavily referenced and ask some very interesting questions about life, the universe and everything. Both point the finger at the other to show how wrong the other side it. It really is fascinating. The Petto & Godfrey book is an excellent text, very thorough and accurate in its understanding of Creationist perspectives. The Ashton book is an interesting text that explores how scientists try to make sense of their field of research while rejecting materialist philosophy.

Because I know and care about people with strong feelings about the topic on both sides of this fence (not to mention a whole lot of in-between perspectives) I will avoid (for now) making any discussion of where my understanding lies. It’s a discussion I find is best had face-to-face. I long ago learned that social media doesn’t always provide the kindest environment in which to explore these concerns.

 

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