Saturday, October 21, 2006

"The God Delusion"

Editors of book reviews have a tricky job. They should enlist a reviewer with some experience or expertise in the subject of the book, yet avoid reviewers who are either too chummy with or antagonistic toward the book's author.

Or at least that's my sense of the American way; apparently in Britain they do things differently, as Jack Shafer approvingly notes in this article about a book reviewing fracas involving John Irving and Marianne Wiggins.

So who should be asked to review the latest atheist manifesto, Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion? Enlist a believer to write the review and readers (and the author) may suspect a certain amount of unhelpful prejudice colors the review. Enlist an atheistic reviewer and readers would have reason to wonder if the analysis is properly skeptical.

The New York Times Sunday Book Review editor had an inspired solution: assign the Dawkins book to Jim Holt, a brilliant, sharp writer who professes belief, though not of the conventional variety. Holt has volunteered his theological stance elsewhere: "You can believe, as I do, that the universe is presided over by a being that is 100 percent malevolent but only 80 percent effective (which explains pretty much everything)."

Click here to read Holt's review.

Click here to read one excerpt from The God Delusion, here to read another.

--Marshal Zeringue