Culture

Ted Kennedy, Victorian Hero?

Darwinian literary critics on how to tell the "bad guys" from the "good guys"

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Why is it that politicians who give away other people's money are so highly esteemed by so much of the public and the press? Reading the fulsome encomiums showered on the late Sen. Ted Kennedy in recent weeks, it occurred to me that a recent study produced by a collaboration between two literary Darwinists and two evolutionary psychologists might shed some light on this puzzle. The study, "Hierarchy in the Library: Egalitarian Dynamics in Victorian Novels," delves into the recesses of human social psychology by looking at the heroes and anti-heroes in Victorian novels.

English professors Joseph Carroll of University of Missouri-St. Louis and Jonathan Gottschall of Washington & Jefferson College polled 519 literary experts who assessed the behavior of 435 characters in 201 canonical British novels of the 19th and early 20th centuries. The upshot of their analysis, published in the journal Evolutionary Psychology, is that novels have an agonistic structure—that is, they pit protagonists against antagonists, good guys against bad guys.

Antagonists personify social dominance—the self-interested pursuit of wealth, prestige, and power. They are undisciplined, emotionally unstable, and intellectually dull. Protagonists, in contrast, are conscientious, emotionally stable, open to experience, and mild-mannered. They nurture kin and help non-kin. While this may seem like restating the obvious, the researchers point out that for many literary critics it is considered "too simple-minded to think that agonistic categories exist."

How do we know to side with the idealistic Nicholas Nickleby versus his miserly uncle Ralph Nickleby in Dickens' eponymous novel? "Protagonists exemplify traits that evoke admiration and liking in readers," the study found, "and antagonists exemplify traits that evoke anger, fear, contempt, and disgust." The researchers suggest that novels (or at least this set of British novels) amount to morality tales that reinforce ancient egalitarian impulses that evolved among our hunter/gatherer ancestors.

In support of this hypothesis, the researchers cite University of Southern California cultural anthropologist Christopher Boehm's theory that human nature evolved among egalitarian hunter-gatherers in which group members would band together to thwart individuals who try to dominate their fellows. Indeed, recent research disturbingly finds that players in specially devised economic games will sacrifice their own resources, with no expectation of personal gain, in order to reduce the incomes of top earners and boost the incomes of low earners. This result suggests that people may, in some sense, be natural born communists.  

So how do novels promote egalitarian norms? Carroll and his colleagues speculate that "if agonistic structure in the novels reflects the evolved dispositions for forming cooperative social groups, the novels would provide a medium of shared imaginative experience through which authors and readers affirm and reinforce cooperative dispositions on a large cultural scale." On this view, novels are a cultural technology for teaching cooperation and suppressing attempts to gain dominance.

This bit of literary speculation implies that Sen. Kennedy was cast in the role of prosocial protagonist in our national political drama. For example, in its obituary of Kennedy, The Boston Globe noted, "He became a Democratic titan of Washington who fought for the less fortunate." Newsweek declared, "Ted Kennedy became the Senate's great lion by fighting for the poor and the dispossessed." Clearly, the senator is being lauded for his perceived advocacy of egalitarian policies—classic protagonist behavior. The Massachusetts senator styled himself as the opponent of the corporate fat cats most easily slotted into the political narrative as social dominance-seeking antagonists.

According to the New York Daily News, Kennedy was responsible for the passage of more than 300 laws during his 47 years in the Senate. These include the State Children's Health Insurance Program of 1997, Title IX, increases in the federal minimum wage, the No Child Left Behind Act of 2002, and the Medicare prescription drug benefit for seniors. And, of course, Kennedy was famous for his long advocacy for universal government-funded health care.

These kinds of policies appeal to our natural egalitarian instincts. In fact, they are so deeply attractive that it is easy to overlook their deleterious unintended consequences, such as crowding out private health insurance for children, cutting back on sports activities for young men at colleges and universities, boosting unemployment, imposing one-size-fits-all education, and creating a fiscally unsustainable new entitlement program. These attempts to gratify primitive egalitarian impulses actually undermine the most effective system of voluntary cooperation ever stumbled upon by humanity—free market capitalism—but that doesn't reduce their basic attraction.

One crucial difference between the senator from Massachusetts and the protagonists in Victorian novels is that the latter did not generally wield political power. Our natural suspicion of would-be dominators obliges politicians to portray themselves as selfless public servants, i.e., prosocial cooperators. But the plain fact is that becoming a United States senator is a pretty good example of successful dominance seeking. And once this kind of social dominance is achieved, it is often sustained by selflessly dispensing other people's money to "deserving" individuals and groups.

The irony is that appearing to support egalitarian norms turns out to be the royal road to attaining social dominance, and thus to gaining wealth, prestige, and power. Sen. Kennedy's long political career proves that he was a master at finessing the agonistic structure of American politics.

Interestingly, the researchers also found that male protagonists in the Victorian novels "lack specifically male qualities of aggressive assertion." The self-effacing cooperativeness of male protagonists apparently makes them less dynamic and less interesting to readers than antagonists. This might explain why the press and the public sang the praises of Kennedy's good guy deeds, but remained even more deeply fascinated by his lifetime of bad guys antics.

Ronald Bailey is Reason magazine's science correspondent. His book Liberation Biology: The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution is now available from Prometheus Books.

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  1. "This result suggests that people may, in some sense, be natural born communists."

    That, is fucking depressing. Thanks Ron, you managed to make my day just a little bit worse with that part.

  2. Nothing on Crop Circle season beginning? Or is it ending? The Google has a crop circle logo up . . .

  3. Great, the next time I go pick up my comics, I have to see that. Who the duck is buying these?

  4. We have big intrusive government because we want big intrusive government. Not all of us, of course, but the vast majority does. We are indeed natural born communists. Part of it is the agonistic attitude Ron describes. Part of it is a "freedom for me but not for thee" attitude. Part of it is just a convenience to deal with pesky externalities.

    The CFLers I've talked to just don't understand this. They think that with just a few more newsletters asking for money that the whole populace will magically wake up and toss the government out. They've got it wrong, because the libertarians will never be more than a tiny minority on the fringe. The Dems and Reps know the secret of political success: fear, uncertainty and doubt.

  5. You know what, I will flip the pages see if they cover Mary Jo.

  6. He cared for the peepul.

  7. Is this why Rand's heroes are so insufferable?

  8. "Is this why Rand's heroes are so insufferable?"

    You see yourself as a Rand hero? How odd.

  9. Why is it that politicians who give away other people's money are so highly esteemed by so much of the public and the press?

    The public and press, in a twisted sort of way, consider such thievery as altruistic. And altruism is one of the cardinal principles in Christianity and other primitive, canned philosophies.

  10. Considering that (according to NPR) there hasn't been such a large contingent of declared independents as there are today, I'm thinking it will only take a small group with an appealing line to form a third party.

  11. "Is this why Rand's heroes are so insufferable?"

    You see yourself as a Rand hero? How odd.

    Oh shit, Tony, did that bitch-slapping give you whiplash?

  12. That, is fucking depressing. Thanks Ron, you managed to make my day just a little bit worse with that part.

    Don't despair. The same evolutionary psychologists who give us bad news about human nature are engineering ways to work around it. For instance, counterintuitive good ideas such as libertarianism could be made teachable to natural-born communists. The more of the bugs in our grayware we know about, the better we can correct for them.

  13. Kudos to brandybuck and ed; you have it right.
    How blessed was the U.S. to have the founding fathers and the political circumstances that allowed the U.S. to come into being. Pretty much downhill from there as the Santa Claus myth has re-asserted itself. CFL has to make a more compelling case for individual liberty
    (as indeed does Reason, Cato, etc. etc.). I fear we are the remnant that will be rediscovered in the books in some buried library eons from now.

  14. At first, man was enslaved by the gods. But he broke their chains. Then he was enslaved by the kings. But he broke their chains. He was enslaved by his birth, by his kin, by his race. But he broke their chains. He declared to all his brothers that a man has rights which neither god nor king nor other men can take away from him, no matter what their number, for his is the right of man, and there is no right on earth above this right

  15. When I wrote grayware, I really meant wetware. There's no reason to drag Roger the Alien into this.

  16. How blessed was the U.S. to have the founding fathers and the political circumstances that allowed the U.S. to come into being.

    Indeed, the founders snatched a nation from the jaws of history.
    It could not have happened at any other time.

  17. There's no reason to drag Roger the Alien into this.

    Didn't he sing for The Who?

  18. Didn't he sing for The Who?

    It depends. Did any singer for The Who sound like Paul Lynde?

  19. BS,

    No, but that could fit Led Zepplin easily.

  20. Speaking of Paul Lynde, he told one of the dirtiest jokes ever, on the Hollywood Squares, over 30 years ago (from memory):

    Peter Marshall: After its death, Roy Rogers had this loved one stuffed and mounted.

    Paul Lynde: Dale Evans, but not necessarily in that order.

  21. So, he was basically the embodiment of an Ayn Rand villian. Not saying objectivism is right or anything, but it would be cool if the governemnt couldn't just take my money and blow it on someone else.

  22. PS: suck it, McArthur! Most everyone is NATURALLY communist!

  23. Not saying objectivism is right or anything

    You'll get there someday.

  24. Of course we're natural born communists. We evolved to live in small groups of people who were mostly related to us, thus promoting cooperation. Small groups spontaneously resort to communist economics because anyone selfish enough to hoard might likely find himself dead and his stuff redistributed. No matter what ratio of productivity you contribute to the group, it remains in your best interest to share, most especially since your group likely consists of genetic relatives.

    So the question becomes what sort of economic situation should apply to the 'unnatural' state most humans find themselves in today: large societies? The principle of cooperation still applies to some extent on a macro scale. Too much hoarding by an elite is not only unjustifiable morally but also likely to find heads rolling. So do we view society as lots of individuals (or familial groups) in competition, or as one giant familial group? A little from column A and column B seems to work the best.

  25. politicians who give away other people's money are so highly esteemed

    It's the stealing, or the being-in-a-position-to-steal-without-punishment, that has to precede the "giving" that people really love.

    Those guys need to read more Darwin.

  26. Tony - I would be very careful relying on "natural" instincts and history to bolster your argument. Need we go over, again, all of the historically bad things an organic view of government has created?

  27. Too much hoarding by an elite is not only unjustifiable morally but also likely to find heads rolling. So do we view society as lots of individuals (or familial groups) in competition, or as one giant familial group? A little from column A and column B seems to work the best.

    Column A and column B are based on mutually contradictory ideas. I say we resolve to take it all from the column based on truth, then figure out how to persuade enough people of the wisdom of that column.

  28. all of the historically bad things an organic view of government has created?

    Not quite sure what you're referring to. Even now our understanding of human evolution is incomplete, so any attempt to create government based on "human nature" is likely to be flawed. I said that large societies are "unnatural": I would argue they therefore require largely artificial organizational structures. What seems clear is that the notion of every man being an island is the most flawed idea of all.

  29. Humans are also wired to fear and hate those who are different. We have overcome that using reason (some of us, anyway). We can overcome our commie/egalitarian leanings as well.

  30. What seems clear is that the notion of every man being an island is the most flawed idea of all.

    Here we go again with the idea of the selfish libertarian. In an admittedly paradoxical, counterintuitive way, individualism just happens to be what works for the greatest good.

  31. In an admittedly paradoxical, counterintuitive way, individualism just happens to be what works for the greatest good.

    Pity about the lack of historical evidence for this claim.

  32. Pity about the lack of historical evidence for this claim.

    I beg your pardon? History keeps on teaching just that.

  33. Pity about the lack of historical evidence for this claim.

    I'm sure any historical evidence given will be rebutted by moving the goalposts.

  34. History keeps on teaching just that.

    For example?

  35. Tony-troll is just going to weave and dodge around any "evidence". Evidence like, say, the United States.

  36. For example?

    Societies that honor individual liberty tend to be more stable, more prosperous, and less likely to fight one another. Look at European history, for example, with special attention on the time markers at 1945 and 1989.

  37. I said that large societies are "unnatural"

    They are so unnatural, we have been living in them for 8,000 years. Stunning rejoinder, Tony.

    Tell me this, Tony, are you asserting that humans are living outside of their nature by forming large societies? Is it not possible that it IS our nature to live as such?

  38. Tell me this, Tony, are you asserting that humans are living outside of their nature by forming large societies? Is it not possible that it IS our nature to live as such?

    We're getting into semantics, but it's unnatural only in that large societies are not the circumstances we are evolved to be most adapted to. Physiologically we are the same as hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived in small tribes. Of course we are not separate from nature, so in that sense nothing we do is unnatural.

  39. Brian,

    Being the country that most values rugged individualism has hardly kept us out of foreign entanglements. But it seems to be true that liberal democracies engaged in relatively free trade tend not to fight one another and do prosper. My point about evidence is that there has never been, the US included, a society that resembles libertopia in any way, so claiming it leads to the best possible world is an article of faith and not evidence.

  40. We're getting into semantics, but it's unnatural only in that large societies are not the circumstances we are evolved to be most adapted to. Physiologically we are the same as hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived in small tribes. Of course we are not separate from nature, so in that sense nothing we do is unnatural.

    Tony, I credit you with acknowledging the role of evolutionary psychology in political theory. However, you're still intellectually sloppy in applying it to individualism versus statism. Just because a way of life seemed to make sense to our foraging ancestors doesn't necessarily mean we twenty-first century people owe any allegiance to it.

  41. but it's unnatural only in that large societies are not the circumstances we are evolved to be most adapted to.

    So what?

    Physiologically we are the same as hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived in small tribes.

    Physiologically, there is no reason to get consent from women before you have sex with them. Physiologically, there is no reason to not just bash you over the head for your stuff.

    Again, so what?

    What you are missing is that man is not primarily defined by his physiology. His physiology is largely irrelevant.

    Intellectually speaking, we aren't even in the same leauge as our ancestors, so your entire appeal to the "unnaturalness" of large societies, the "fact" of which (somehow! you don't say how!) necessitates Big Government completely falls apart.

  42. Seriously, Tony, give me step two here:

    1. Man isn't evolutionarily "meant" to live in large societies
    2. ?????
    3. Big Government!

    I mean, huh?

  43. My point about evidence is that there has never been, the US included, a society that resembles libertopia in any way, so claiming it leads to the best possible world is an article of faith and not evidence.

    Your logic escapes me. It appears impossible to bring the murder rate down to zero, therefore it's hopelessly pie-in-the-sky utopian to try to learn any general lessons about what reduces a society's murder rate. Huh?

  44. "Darwinian Literary Theory"?

    You are wrong.

  45. "According to the New York Daily News, Kennedy was responsible for the passage of more than 300 laws during his 47 years in the Senate. These include ..." blah, blah, blah.

    We should never forget that Ted Kennedy was the leading sponsor of the HMO Act of 1973.

    The HMO is, by and large, a political creation designed to eliminate individual health insurance.

    Yes, the HMO, the same HMO that Democrats love to demonize, is the creation of the sainted Senator Kennedy.

  46. We're getting into semantics, but it's unnatural only in that large societies are not the circumstances we are evolved to be most adapted to. Physiologically we are the same as hunter-gatherer ancestors who lived in small tribes. Of course we are not separate from nature, so in that sense nothing we do is unnatural.

    Can you pinpoint the exact date when human evolution stopped occuring?

    Criminy, sometimes you are just plain ignorant.

  47. (sigh)
    Silly monkeys engage TonyTrollMonkey in verbal masturbation.
    Will they never learn?

  48. feeding trolls leads to herpes and other bad things.

  49. (sigh) Silly monkeys engage TonyTrollMonkey in verbal masturbation. Will they never learn?

    feeding trolls leads to herpes and other bad things.

    I like arguing with Tony. It makes me feel intelligent by comparison.

  50. but it doesn't go anywhere. ever. like oral sex on a parapalegic.

  51. I would say that humans band together voluntarily. As time goes by certain individuals or groups of them start making shit up (customs, religion, etc.) to gain unfair advantage over others. Some humans never challenge the mythologies used to take advantage of them and by sheer lack of will (through fear usually, founded or unfounded) acquiesce to the customs, religion, etc. They become willing slaves and while someone gets to be king of the rest, he isn't king of much.

    When such a band of humans meets another one where even the lowest members have more shit or a better condition than their own king, many or all will defect from their own band.

    A healthy band is not the 'lifeboat' one, but the one that learns to trade for mutual benefit. Communism is never a natural state. It is unnatural. It like any other statist form of 'banding together' is an artificial one achieved by one hoodwinking the rest.

    A statist is one who believes that this hoodwinking is a necessary process.

  52. "Small groups spontaneously resort to communist economics because anyone selfish enough to hoard might likely find himself dead and his stuff redistributed."- Tony

    Nice self admission that socialist economics is based on the mugger's credo of "your money or your life". No morality, no justice, just the threat of violence as the result of wallowing in envy. This is one of the tomes I wonder if Tony is for real, because he essentially agrees with Rand on the nature leftist economics, but he seems to think it is a good thing.

    The problem, I'm not sure this is quite true, or how small the group has to be. The first English settlements in America flirted with a type of communist economics with decidedly bad results. Part of it, I think, has to do with seeing the group as a family for that kind of altruistic behavior pattern to not result in resentment.

  53. Lest we forget...Ted Kennedy was a murderer...worst than that, he was a criminal who got away with his crimes.....of course, that describes a lot of people in our government...all this "Darwinian" dog-sh** and pyschological illogic makes about as much sense as the crap Teddy and his family was all about.

  54. "The Dems and Reps know the secret of political success: fear, uncertainty and doubt."

    You left out bribery.

  55. Tony | September 15, 2009, 5:38pm | #

    In an admittedly paradoxical, counterintuitive way, individualism just happens to be what works for the greatest good.

    Pity about the lack of historical evidence for this claim.

    East Germany versus West Germany. North Korea versus South Korea. Cuba versus South Florida. Hong Kong versus the adjoining territory.

    Like shooting fucking fish in a barrel, Tony.

  56. The communist inclinations are based on the evidence of a successful socialist model, the family.

    Except this model doesn't work when scaled up to large groups of unrelated individuals, whereupon it devolves into rampant theft.

    This is not hardwired behavior -- people can learn to distinguish between a working model in their personal life and a dysfunctional public application.

  57. "This result suggests that people may, in some sense, be natural born communists"

    Maybe its just because capitalism is fairly recent. In most of recorded history the rulers tended to be the most effective killers and thieves. Look

    Actually i think people might be only natural born communists in abstract experiments. In the "real world" not many people seem to be.People in the experiments tend to only see the unequal outcome and not the processes that led to that outcome.

  58. I am a sexual comunist! That is, all women belong to everybody!

  59. Can you pinpoint the exact date when human evolution stopped occuring?

    Didn't say that. Just said that civilization has progressed more rapidly than evolution.

  60. I am a natural-born communist except for the atheism part. I pray to Obama mostly and sometimes to St. Teddy. I often worry that my soul is being taken over by the demon Mary Jo.

  61. I like arguing with Tony. It makes me feel intelligent by comparison.

    LOL! I'm so guilty of this as well.

    That said something in this conversation has him sounding almost intelligent, even asking reasonable questions. To whit:

    Just said that civilization has progressed more rapidly than evolution.

    You're close Tony. But what do you think evolution is? If you ever understand that and apply it to psychology, economics, politics, philosophy there's a light just waiting to turn on for you.

  62. Interesting article. Just one point:

    "Indeed, recent research DISTURBINGLY finds that players in specially devised economic games will sacrifice their own resources, with no expectation of personal gain, in order to reduce the incomes of top earners and boost the incomes of low earners..."

    While the author of this article may have been disturbed by these results, it is not necessarily true that all reasonable and moral people would be so disturbed. The results would certainly not have surprised John Rawls, for instance, who is "widely considered the most important political philosopher in the 20th century" (Brittanica). For those unfamiliar with Rawls' work:

    http://www.iep.utm.edu/rawls/

    Recognizing that social institutions distort our views (by sometimes generating envy, resentment, alienation, or false consciousness) and bias matters in their own favor (by indoctrinating and habituating those who grow up under them), Rawls saw the need for a justificatory device that would give us critical distance from them. The original position (OP) is his "Archimedean Point," the fulcrum he uses to obtain critical leverage. TJ at 230-32. The OP is a thought experiment that asks: what principles of social justice would be chosen by parties thoroughly knowledgeable about human affairs in general but wholly deprived-by the "veil of ignorance"-of information about the particular person or persons they represent?

    ...On what basis, then, can the parties choose? To ascribe to them a full theory of the human good would fly in the face of the facts of pluralism, for such theories are deeply controversial. Instead, Rawls suggests, we should ascribe to them a "thinner" or less controversial set of commitments. At the core of these are what he calls the "primary goods:" rights, liberties, and opportunities; income and wealth; and the social bases of self-respect. To give the parties a definite basis on which to reason, Rawls postulates that the parties "normally prefer more primary goods rather than less." TJ at 123. This is the only motivation that [Rawls] ascribes to the parties...

    ...Its sticking point has always been the Difference Principle, which strikingly and influentially articulates a liberal-egalitarian socioeconomic position. While there are questions about Rawls's precise formulation and implementation of the principle of Fair Equality of Opportunity, it is far less controversial, both in theory and in practice. It is the Difference Principle that would most clearly demand deep reforms in existing societies. The set-up of the OP suggests the following, informal argument for the difference principle: because equality is an ideal fundamentally relevant to the idea of fair cooperation, the OP situates the parties symmetrically and deprives them of information that could distinguish them or allow one to gain bargaining advantage over another. Given this set-up, the parties will consider the situation of equal distribution a reasonable starting point in their deliberations. Since they know all the general facts about human societies, however, the parties will realize that society might depart from this starting point by instituting a system of social rules that differentially reward the especially productive and could achieve results that are better for everyone than are the results under rules guaranteeing full equality. This is the kind of inequality that the Difference Principle allows and requires: departures from full equality that make some better off and no one worse off. While this is the intuitive idea behind the Difference Principle, Rawls's statement of the principle is more careful and precise...

  63. Aside from the philosophical (and theological) illiteracy in writing of this kind (seemingly bereft of even a rudimentary theory of intentionality), it's perversely satisfying to see neodarwinian and evolutionary psychological fantasies enter the territory that critics such as Raymond Tallis and Stephen Rose long ago forecast they would end up. At least now that the movement's retractable political incisors are out on full display we can see what was powering (and funding) it all along: a regressive culture-free politics conditioned not by the irresistible march of the darwinian insight into human nature, but by the passing neoliberal economic fads of the last thirty years (the ruin of which, with piquant irony, we can now see all around us).

    The dodgy science; the threadbare philosophising; the tedious minimal state politics: like most pantomime monsters, when it's actually out on full display it looks much less impressive, and much funnier, than the audience ever feared.

  64. New here (arrived from aldaily.com), and trying to make sense of the scorn and abuse directed at social provision programs which, for all their obvious flaws, have helped millions of people who'd otherwise have no insurance or security at all.

    Q for you: does anyone on these boards have any experience of living in any of the advanced social democracies of northern/northwestern Europe? If social spending is as deleterious as you suggest, then how can it be that countries such as Denmark, Ireland, Sweden etc have an exceptionally high standard of living and very high economic growth alongside their generous social welfare systems?

    Is this because Americans, uniquely among the advanced democracies, are simply not competent at delivering such services on a mass scale? Or is it due to the huge underclass we've inherited from our legacy of slavery and more recently from our bizarre Mexican immigration policy?

    I'm bracing for a series of short, sarcastic Artful Putdown responses, but I think it would behoove you here to ponder whether there is a sensible hybrid along the lines of "socialism for children (and the infirm, and elderly), capitalism for adults." Curious to hear your considered, well-(R)easoned thoughts.

  65. It is true that fiction from the great age of novel-writing tends to posit the notion of the poor, quiet, overlooked but generous of heart triumphing over the heartless, powerful, small-minded and self-regarding.

    If this troubles 'Libertarians' and other panegyrists of egotism, let them take comfort from the thought that most people don't read 19th century novels anymore.

    Your triumph is assured as our sensibilities become coarsened. Good luck with the ensuing mess!

    Meanwhile, I'm dusting off my Dickens, George Eliot, Hugo and Tolstoy.

  66. I can't believe Ron Bailey and other libertarians believe this evolutionary psychology shit. And you make fun of creationists? BTW, I use the word 'shit' because apparently that makes me pithy in this comments section judging by you idiots.

  67. Am I missing something? I know you qualified this as potentially restating the obvious, but does this say more than, "A culture's art is a reflection of its values, and those which are seen as epitomizing (nominally or functionally) those values garner the greatest social capital, which can in turn be parlayed into power?"

    That said, it's pretty good to have so many concrete examples laid out and on hand.

  68. My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane. Even some cursory knowledge of Hebrew and doing some mathematics and logic will tell you that you really won't get the full deal by just doing regular skill english reading for those books. In other words, there's more to the books of the Bible than most will ever grasp. I'm not concerned that Mr. Crumb will go to hell or anything crazy like that! It's just that he, like many types of religionists, seems to take it literally, take it straight...the Bible's books were not written by straight laced divinity students in 3 piece suits who white wash religious beliefs as if God made them with clothes on...the Bible's books were written by people with very different mindsets.

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