Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On their way to a bookshop near you

Well look, you don't seriously think I'm going to go to all this effort if I do not allow myself a bit of advertising now and again. These two books - Universe of Stone (Bodley Head), a study of the twelfth-century renaissance through the prism of Gothic architecture, and The Sun and Moon Corrupted (Portobello), a novel - are on their way to the warehouses as I write. I have gleaming new copies of both books beside me now, and believe me, you should judge these ones by their covers. Oh, you don't need me to put an Amazon link here, do you?

You can hear me talking about the book on Gothic (and a mixed grill of other things, including creationism) on the latest Guardian science podcast (one "l" please).

And there is now a reissue of my book Bright Earth: The Invention of Colour available from Vintage, with a bright and bubbly new cover.


JimmyGiro said...

Listening to the Gruniad Podcast - ignoring the fact that CERN is only visited by women! - I was thinking about the Greek classic mathematicians, who according to Thomas L Heath, would travel to other cultures and enrol in the hosts religious sects in order to learn their ideas, and when returning to Greece, would promptly revert back to atheism.

Could that not be the case for medieval scholars, in that most were there because they were smart enough to escape the plough, and merely faked religious adherence out of expedience?

If so, then the difference between the two ages may be that more wealth during the enlightenment meant that scholars had more patrons to choose from, thereby freeing them up from the pretence of religion, or at least less shackled to the monastery.

Either way, the acknowledgement of miracles is a tacit recognition of the natural laws, and so is a corollary to the prevalence of realism during any period; making me wonder if there wasn't as many atheists in monasteries as there were Christians.

It all comes down to pleasing the sponsors, or the corruption of need!

Philip Ball said...

I would be surprised if the medieval world wasn't full of closet atheists. Some, such as William of Conches, were accused of it, but it's hard to read much into that - calling your intellectual opponent an atheist was a cheap way of getting the upper hand. Others, such as Bernard of Silvestre (another of the Chartres school) seem to us now to be pretty far adrift from mainstream Christianity (he looks like a pantheist). But the issue is not an easy one to discuss, because 'atheist' was not then what it is today. It was almost as hard then to doubt the existence of God as it was now to doubt the existence of, oh I don't know, vitamins - this was just a fact of life. But I'm sure that there were many who would rather keep God as something unquestioned but remote from their lives, so that they could just get on with it. You can sense that in William's rejoinder to his critics, in which he basically says "OK, OK, God is all powerful. Satisfied? Now let me get back to working out what the world is like."

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