May 18th, 2013
After ten years in the making, five years in the writing, and a few days doing little drawings, my first book, God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet, is now becoming available. This is a guide on how you can get it for yourself and—please, please please!—help spread the word.
Buy the book
There are some choices for how to do this.
- Get it direct from University of California Press—with the discount code 13W3359 it costs just $27.96 for the hardcover. Shipping now!
- Help Amazon put everyone else out of business by ordering it there for their ever-varying low price—though it won’t ship until around the pub date on June 10. And leave a revew if you’re so inclined!
- Ask for it at your local bookstore or find it wherever else books are sold.
The ebook version isn’t out quite yet, but it will be coming in a few weeks.
Come to the party
It isn’t a book release without a party!
- The big main release event, “An Evening of Song and Abstraction,” will take place on June 4 at 7 p.m. at the gorgeous Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn. I will be reading from the book along with sensuous, hanting renditions of medieval music by the ensemble Resonanda, which is reuniting for the occasion.
- Other God in Proof events are in the works, in New York City and elsewhere. If you want to help arrange an event in your area, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Spread the word
Media is social nowadays, so I can’t do this without you.
- Tell your friends the old-fashioned way: There’s no substitute for that.
- Share the link: To send people straight to the basic info and buying options, this webpage is where I’m stashing all the latest updates and reviews.
- Review it on Amazon, Goodreads, or B&N: If you liked the book, tell the world why!
- Draw your own proof: Already, some people who’ve read the book have felt inspired to come up with proofs for various things of their own! I’ve set up a proof-making contest, which I hope you’ll enter, and the most popular entries stand to win free copies of the book courtesy of UC Press. See what others have come up with at GodInProof.com, and enter by tweeting proofs to #GodInProof or emailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
…a word of thanks. I am so grateful for your support and your willingness to help God in Proof reach readers who might not otherwise find it. I can’t do this without you, and I’d love to hear what you think about the book.
May 8th, 2013
To celebrate the release of my book God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet, I’ll be joined by my friends in the medieval music ensemble Resonanda at the magnificent Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph in Brooklyn, New York. Readings from the book will intermingle with selections of medieval song, restoring the search for proof of the existence of God into the joys, the longings, and the struggles from which it came.
Resonanda was founded in December 2004 by Stephen Higa, who is currently a professor of medieval history at Bennington College. Since its inception, Resonanda’s members have taken an experimental approach to the performance of medieval song. In order to resurrect this antique repertoire, they work closely with medieval treatises and the nuanced period notation, relying heavily on improvisation, oral learning, and a wide variety of reconstructed vocal techniques. Resonanda savors lilting melodies, startling harmonies, and striking voices blending with fervent clarity and naked devotion.
Staff from Unnamable Books, an independent bookstore located nearby in Prospect Heights, will be present with copies of God in Proof for sale.
An after-party will be held following the performance with excellent beer, wine, and small dishes at Atlantic Co., 622 Washington Avenue.
RSVP on Facebook here.
May 3rd, 2013
In the national Catholic magazine America I’ve just published a short review of an important new book with a long title: The Scandal of White Complicity in U.S. Hyper-Incarceration: A White Spirituality of Resistance. It’s an effort by three Catholic thinkers to articulate the depth of white complicity in this country’s massive, highly racialized prison system and to outline an approach to resistance grounded in Catholic social thought.
What would a movement against mass incarceration be able to accomplish with the support of the country’s largest religious denomination?
Upon recognizing the depth of the problem that mass incarceration poses, it may be tempting for many whites, especially those used to positions of influence and authority, to leap into devising solutions. Reading Michelle Alexander’s book certainly brings to mind a litany of anathemas—for instance, discriminatory policing, the senseless drug war, wildly excessive sentencing laws, the broad discretion afforded to prosecutors, the perverse incentives of the private prison industry and chronic underinvestment in communities of color. But the authors of The Scandal of White Complicity do not venture far into policy proposals or political strategizing. Nor do they allude to the many biblical passages about freeing captives that might tempt one to play the liberator.
What they offer instead is a call to humility, to accountability to people of color, to solidarity. The task they set for white Americans is to organize themselves and each other as allies, and to follow the lead of their neighbors of color who are already fighting the battle against the new Jim Crow every day.
Read the rest at America.
April 17th, 2013
For as long as I’ve been interested in the search for proofs about the existence of God, I’ve been interested in drawing them. Words and equations just didn’t seem like enough; to wrap my head around what these constructs were expressing, and to try to communicate them to others, I had to make pictures. As I wrote my new book, God in Proof: The Story of a Search from the Ancients to the Internet, I was drawing every step of the way — and my publisher, University of California Press, let me stick some of my pictures in the text.
In doing, I soon discovered, I was retracing the history of proof itself. Long before the mathematical symbols and notation we generally use today, ancient proofs were drawn in diagrams and images.
Now that the book is finished, I want to share the fun I’ve been having by making these drawings with you. The press has agreed to pony up some free books for a drawing contest, and here’s how to win one: Draw a proof of something, divine or otherwise, and tweet a scan or photo of it to #GodInProof, along with any explanation you’d like to add. (You can also email them to email@example.com.) Selected proofs will appear here, where they’ll be entered for a chance to win a free book. Entries with the highest number of social media shares win. Multiple submissions are allowed, but only one book is allowed per winning author.
Download the PDF version of the contest postcard here.
April 1st, 2013
My profile of anthropologist Gabriella Coleman in The Chronicle of Higher Education opens with a scene from the New York City memorial service for Aaron Swartz in January:
The forces that seem to have hastened Swartz’s death were very much haunting the room. In the audience was a mischievous, greasy-haired hacker known as “weev,” who faces as much as a decade in prison for embarrassing AT&T by publicizing a flaw in its system that compromised users’ privacy. A member of Occupy Wall Street’s press team handed out slips of paper about the case of Jeremy Hammond, an anarchist and Anonymous member who was in prison awaiting trial for breaking into the servers of the security company Stratfor. There was Stanley Cohen, a civil-rights lawyer representing some of Hammond’s fellow Anons, and there was a T-shirt with the face of Bradley Manning, the soldier charged with passing classified material to WikiLeaks.
Just behind weev sat Gabriella Coleman, an anthropologist, occasionally jotting notes in a notepad. She teaches at McGill University. Coleman first met Aaron Swartz when he was just 14, and over the years she had come to know many others in the room as well. Even more of them were among her 17,500-strong Twitter following or had seen her TED talk about Anonymous. Part participant and part observer, she began fieldwork on a curious computer subculture while still in graduate school. Now, more than a decade later, her work has made her the leading interpreter of a digital insurgency.
Read the article at The Chronicle. And download Coleman’s new book, Coding Freedom, for free at her website.
March 15th, 2013
I like the new pope—more than I expected, at least. But even so let’s remember:
The pope is not the church.
It’s going to be very tempting to forget this fact over the next few days. The pundits, Catholic and otherwise, have been rapt in the suspense of awaiting the arrival of Pope Francis. We heard a lot of impossible hopes for who the next pope would be, along with the less thrilling reality of the actual candidates. But Catholics, along with the masses who have been suddenly and momentarily interested in Catholic affairs, should remember that the papacy is not to be confused with the church itself. At no time should this have been more clear than those strange and special few days when the Catholic Church was a people—an assembly, a community, a mystical body—without a pope.
Read the rest at Religion Dispatches.
February 3rd, 2013
The Holy Land is supposed to be a far-away place. So it has been ever since Peter and Paul journeyed there from Rome, since “next year in Jerusalem” became exilic Jews’ sigh of resolve or resignation, since the prize of that city excused crusades, since London redrew the map of Palestine as a solution to the Jewish Problem, since Birthright trips have taken suburban twenty-somethings to sip tea in Bedouin tents. Thus the place can appear especially distant even after you go there, and meet the people for whom it is, simply, home. In some sense you’ve been there all along and can never leave.
I went to the West Bank last September with little eagerness or preparation of my own, but on the urging of a colleague who once wrote a book about the First Intifada. The place had always seemed, to my head, comfortably remote—a notorious source of trouble I preferred not to assume for myself. I went only because my colleague made doing so seem easier than the alternative. She arranged for me to join the Freedom Theatre, based in the West Bank town of Jenin, for a ten-day tour of performances throughout the region. After the arrangements were all settled, I mentioned them to friends familiar with Israeli-Palestinian affairs and was told, “Woah. Be careful.”
Because traveling to the West Bank makes one immediately suspect in the eyes of Israeli security, I prepared ahead of time a story about being a religious tourist in the process of finishing a book—technically true—about proofs for the existence of God. I rehearsed the fictitious details over and over in my head. With every word I wrote in my notebook, there was the superego of the Israeli intelligence officer watching over my shoulder. A fellow journalist told me about the time when a film he’d made in Palestine was erased from his hard drive as he was interrogated at Ben Gurion Airport. Another had just been banned from the country. These are some of the techniques of presenting distances as greater than they actually are, and of giving words meanings other than the reality to which they refer.
Read about the trip in a new essay published at Killing the Buddha called “The Hourglass.” It also appears in slightly different form at Waging Nonviolence.
October 10th, 2012
Most of my writer friends are used to me extolling the virtues of Midori MD notebooks, these fabulous little buggers from Japan: tough signature-bound pages, bendability for comfy back-pocket storage (unlike your average Moleskine), and the ability to lie flat, on any page, at a moment’s notice.
The toughness was especially useful when I took my first Midori on a reporting trip in Costa Rica, where the moisture in the air makes short work of flimsy books. Back-pocket storage was often necessary while reporting on Occupy Wall Street, when at a moment’s notice I’d have to take off my reporters’ hat and help out on something with both hands. Lying flat, then, came especially in handy on my recent trip to Israel/Palestine when, for fear of the notorious security at Ben Gurion Airport and Israel’s anxiety about anyone seeing its occupation up close, I decided to photograph my entire notebook, upload it, and leave the book itself behind. […]
September 13th, 2012
For my report that appears in this week’s issue of The Nation, I had the chance to call Occupy movement organizers around the country and check in. The thing I heard, more than anything, was something like this: “I now know who I’m going to organize with for the rest of my life.” But this organizing is taking a lot of different forms—ones that I think may be even more important than the occupations themselves.
Distance and time—as well as involvement in ongoing local struggles—have lessened many people’s attachment to the Occupy label. “I’ve been working with all the same people I worked with in Occupy,” said Kate Savage, who specialized in facilitating assemblies at Occupy Nashville, “only it’s not called ‘Occupy’ for a variety of reasons.” For many issues and on many fronts, onetime Occupiers are finding that the Occupy brand—and all the associations that come with it—can sometimes hurt more than it helps.
Thus, the internally splintering movement shows signs of morphing into a productively subdivided movement of movements. One example of this has been this summer’s escalating wave of direct actions against the worst culprits of the environmental crisis. For the first time, a fracking well was blockaded and shut down in Pennsylvania, and a mountaintop-removal coal mine in West Virginia, at the request of local residents, received similar treatment. The Keystone XL oil pipeline, which inspired protests at the White House last year, now has locals and out-of-towners putting their bodies in the way of construction in Texas. In New York State, the fight is against the Spectra pipeline, which would funnel explosive fracked natural gas into parts of Manhattan.
At each of these protests, Occupy veterans have brought their bravado, their experience and their networks with them. “Lots of folks are going from eco-action to eco-action,” said Longenecker. “They’re building their skill sets.”
The environmental campaigns are only one such beneficiary of the movement. Some Occupiers are serving as hired guns for big unions, helping to agitate in unusually militant campaigns against corporations and austerity budgets. Others are working to draw attention to the massive influx of corporate cash into the electoral system post–Citizens United, while still more are fighting the National Defense Authorization Act and have successfully challenged its most troubling provisions in federal court. Home liberation efforts are taking place around the country—from Occupiers’ support of a high-profile rent strike led by Latino women in Brooklyn to under-the-radar house reclamations in the poorest neighborhoods of Chicago’s South Side. Partly thanks to the light that Occupy Wall Street has shined on it, the NYPD’s use of a discriminatory stop-and-frisk policy has declined dramatically. Meanwhile, the Strike Debt campaign being mounted by Occupiers in New York is developing online memes and public assemblies meant to mobilize those suffering from predatory lending into a mass movement.
Read the rest at The Nation.
September 3rd, 2012
Along with this most illustrative of illustrations, The Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Chronicle Review this week includes a feature story of mine, “The Templeton Effect.” It’s something of a sequel to an article I did a couple of years ago in The Nation about the John Templeton Foundation—a sizable and eccentric funder whose interests include shaping the academic discourse about religion and science.
This latest piece picks up a thread that was in the back of my head while working on the earlier one, but for which at the time there wasn’t quite enough evidence: that Templeton is strategically pouring unprecedented sums of money into analytic philosophy. And while much of the money goes to non-religious scholars, there actually appears to be a distinctly apologetic aim:
Templeton’s recent projects—even those led by people outside the Christian-philosophy fold—seem to follow a certain apologetic logic. Free will, for instance, is a critical feature of Plantinga’s celebrated defense against the problem of evil; although Al Mele does not partake in religious speculation himself, he is a respected opponent of the brazen neuroscientists, like Michael S. Gazzaniga, who announce free will’s nonexistence. Cosmology, too, is considered one of the most promising avenues lately in arguments for God’s existence, particularly thanks to evidence that basic features of the universe may be “fine-tuned” to provide for the possibility of life. Barry Loewer isn’t particularly interested in arguing for a divine fine-tuner, but his efforts might indirectly lend aid to someone who is. The recent $5-million grant to study immortality went to a philosopher who doesn’t believe in the afterlife, but the very fact that so much money is going to study it might give more credence to those who do.
Academic philosophy represents a distinctly Templetonian opportunity. Grants of a few million dollars are a drop in the bucket for the sciences, awash as they are with tax dollars and corporate contracts; but in philosophy, where such sums are unheard of, they have the potential to transform the whole field. The only question is whether philosophy is a worthwhile prize anymore—whether the discipline can still change how we think about science, what we think it means, and how we do it. The foundation is putting its money on yes.
Read the rest at The Chronicle.