RE: Hitchens and the NYT Book Review
from First Things
"Here’s the latest example of a fascinating, though depressing, cultural phenomenon. A fellow who clearly knows nothing about a deep and difficult intellectual problem produces a manuscript purporting to resolve the problem definitively. Such a fellow is a crank, you might think, and will quite properly be ignored. But, no, he actually finds a publisher for his book, and a respected one at that. Even more surprisingly, the New York Times commissions a review of the book from a famous columnist, and, instead of exposing the book for the ignorant twaddle that it is, the columnist writes a glowing review. How does this happen?

Generally speaking, of course, it doesn’t. We have social institutions like the New York Times Book Review precisely in order to make sure that it can’t. Given the amount of material published nowadays, it’s essential to be able to sort the good from the bad, and we rely on prestigious publications like the Times Book Review to do part of the work for us. Book reviewers for this paper are expected to know something about the topics of the books they review, and they are expected to exercise informed judgment, separating the serious books from the intellectual junk in a basically fair sort of way. If a book like the one I describe makes it all the way to a positive review in the Times, there has been a serious failure of the epistemic institutions of our society.

And such there has been, and such there commonly are, when the subject is the philosophical treatment of religion."

"We need to allow the ideas of others to act upon us, to try them on to see if they fit, to live with them for a while to test their humanity."

R.R. Reno interpreting Francis Bacon


"One of his famous theories was that revolution is more likely when things are getting better than when things are getting worse. When things are getting better, people want them to get better still and lose patience more quickly."

Mansfield on Tocqueville