The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Launched the Scientific Revolution, by James Hannam
We’ve been led to think of the Middle Ages as a period of “darkness”, intellectual stagnation, superstition, and ignorance. Forget it. This is utter myth primarily fabricated by the so-called Renaissance Scholars in what in many cases was a condescending attempt to enhance their stature and legacy. This myth has been refuted by modern scholarship in many places, none any better than in this engaging book. James Hannam is a physicist and historian of science who chronicles the march of intellectual and technological progress through seven centuries and illustrates convincingly that, without the scholarship of the “barbaric” Middle Ages, modern science simply would not exist. The chapters on the case of Galileo alone are worth the price of the book.
The Philosophy of Hebrew Scripture, by Yoram Hazony
This is a fascinating book that will totally change your perspective on how to read the Bible, particularly what we Christians call the Old Testament. The introduction begins with a couple of questions: What if the Hebrew Bible wasn’t meant to be read as “revelation”? What if it’s not really about miracles or the afterlife, but about how to lead our lives in this world? The author, who is Provost of the Shalem Center in Jerusalem and a Senior Fellow in the Department of Philosophy, Political Theory, and Religion, proposes a new framework for reading the Bible by showing how the biblical authors used narrative and prophetic oratory to advance universal arguments about ethics, political philosophy, and metaphysics. In the process, he makes clear the wisdom of the Hebrew Bible in a way that assimilates reason and faith, assumes no belief in God or other religious commitment on the part of the reader, and is free of disciplinary jargon. Well done.
The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia, by Roger Kimball
I came to know Roger Kimball as a subscriber to The New Criterion, which he serves as Editor and Publisher. His cultural commentary is particularly penetrating and this book, through a collection of essays, ranges from cultural relativism to multiculturalism to biography to art to books to socialism to the American cultural scene in general. In a review by Andrew Roberts which captured my attention, it is characterized as “essentially an exercise in cultural pathology, identifying and training a powerful light upon the enemies of excellence and truth” and “seeks nothing less than the blending together of the thought of Edmund Burke and Alexis de Tocqueville and to explain how their truths can be used to turn around the disasters that have beset Western culture in recent decades”. It certainly does that, but also has its uplifting moments and celebrates plenty of heroes of truth and freedom as well. A real treat.