Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.


Vol. 24 No. 11 · 6 June 2002

Search by issue:

Vive la République

I enjoyed Jeremy Harding's Diary on the French Presidential election (LRB, 9 May) but I would question his doctor's confident judgment that it was all about nostalgia for Vichy, Pétain and the First World War. The election materials of Mme Jaboulet-Vercherre, our local FN candidate in the forthcoming legislative elections, focus on crime and immigration, but make no attempt to capitalise on enthusiasm for a putative Fascist tradition. The mechanics of the French election system are largely to blame for the embarrassing spectacle of the second round, but the widespread and growing appeal of the nationalist Right is not so easily explained away. It is a Europe-wide phenomenon, and if Britain had PR it would be much more visible there, too. When we think of Europe, we still for some reason forget about Eastern Europe. Xenophobic nationalism is highly developed there, and with a few exceptions we have nurtured this kind of politics wherever we have found it – assuming, I imagine, that the infection would never spread in our direction. Whether it is anti-Russian policies in Estonia, the exclusion of Roma from mainstream society in Central Europe or – perhaps the most striking case – the violent xenophobia of the Kosovo Albanians, we have apparently accepted the principle that democracy and xenophobia go hand in hand, to the point where what looks like extreme nationalism is almost a required qualification for having a country in the first place.

Christopher Lord
Le Vieux St Pierre

Since he first ran in a Presidential election in 1974, Jean-Marie Le Pen has been telling his audiences that the French political classes are lying to them. He is not wrong. Mainstream politicians of all parties have maintained, even more than in most other industrial democracies, a pas devant les enfants approach to difficult issues of all kinds, including the funding of political parties, economic policy, the often unfathomable decisions of the public sector and France's role in Europe (and the world). Yet never until this election has the press dared to present clear evidence that the two leading candidates have lied systematically and on the record (one about personal corruption and the other about his past political affiliations). Not only did neither candidate make the least sign of apology, but their mainstream rivals maintained a discretion about these revelations that can only have fuelled a sense that members of the establishment are all in it together (the humbling of Helmut Kohl stands in interesting contrast). Now that the second round is over, this same establishment has congratulated itself on saving the Republic; there is no sign that any of the mainstream parties have learned any lessons. Le Pen could not have written their script better himself; he is now probably too old to reap the benefits, but he has younger lieutenants who must be delighted.

Paul Seabright
Université de Toulouse

It was misleading to say, as I did, that the count, in the French Presidential elections, is ‘organised at canton level’. In the regional press, round here at any rate, the results are published by canton, but a breakdown of each canton result shows the vote in each of its member communes. For the purposes of voting, the ballots of one or two obscure communes – no shortage of these – may be totted up under the aegis of a larger one. On 5 May, I had the good fortune to see the mayor of our commune deliver his citizens’ second-round ballots at the Mairie where I was watching the count. The ballots go onto a pair of spikes – one for Chirac, one for Le Pen – on each of the counters’ tables and it was with some relief that the onlookers watched the paper high-rise climbing fast on the Chirac spikes. It made me think of the great RPR scam in Paris, when Chirac was mayor, and now, it turns out, in quite a lot of places: awarding public housing contracts to construction companies in return for a major contribution to the party’s coffers. That’s how big building has always gone on in Chirac territory, whether it’s bricks and mortar or ballots on a spike. Vive la République.

Jeremy Harding


Reading Rita Giacaman’s piece ‘From Ramallah’ (LRB, 25 April) reminded me of sitting at a breakfast table in the American University of Beirut in 1949 with the well-known journalist Dorothy Thompson, who had been sent by the New York Times to write six articles on the Palestinian refugee situation in southern Lebanon. At the time hundreds of Palestinians were daily being driven from their homes by the Israeli Army and fleeing to the ‘shack camps’ being erected outside Beirut. She had completed five of the articles, and the first had been printed in the New York Times the previous day. That morning at breakfast she was handed a cablegram, which she opened, read, and handed to Stephen Penrose, the president of the university, at whose table we were sitting. She then turned to the rest and said: ‘I was afraid of this.’ On the day of publication, all the major Jewish-owned businesses in New York had threatened to cancel all ads if a further article appeared. Naturally, no more did appear and the American public has been kept in the dark ever since.

Tim Andrews

Shame on you, Azriel Genack (Letters, 23 May), for accusing the whole world of anti-semitism when anyone dares to criticise Israel. On the matter of the pornographic films broadcast on Watan Television during the Israeli incursion into Ramallah and the occupation of the television station's facilities, all I can tell you is that, as the mother of a teenage boy, I was witness to two days of energetic telephone exchanges between my son and his friends on the content of what they considered salacious (and titillating) broadcasts. These consisted not of tapes, as you say, but of European sex channel programmes. Having become tired of policing the television at home, I called an Israeli journalist I know, and was told by her that she had called the Israeli military authorities several times about the offending broadcasts, but was told that the allegations were baseless. Only after a member of the Knesset pressed the military on the matter did the broadcasts stop.

Lisa Taraki

Walking towards Death

I am confused by Kaori Miyamoto’s letter (Letters, 23 May). She accuses Hideki Matsuoka of being a Westerner romanticising Japanese society and culture, then promptly launches into a manifesto of idealised Japanese behaviour that wouldn’t look out of place at the Zennippon Aikokusha Dantai Kaigi (National Conference of Patriotic Associations). To suggest that Japanese parents would be any more aware of where their children were going or what they were going to do than parents in any other culture highlights a problem that has always been peculiar to Japan: the denial of parental fallibility. Were Japanese parents superior to all others, there would not be such high instances of child prostitution in Japan. This, incidentally, is not a modern condition but dates back to the days of the war, when the Japanese Army enlisted ‘comfort-women’ to ‘ease’ the soldiers’ wartime burden. Many of those enlisted – ‘coerced’ is probably the right word – were children. Today the circumstances are different and Japanese schoolchildren are selling their bodies for mobile phones. Do their parents know where they are or what they are doing?

Back in the war there were people who pursued academic studies – not many, but enough to warrant a mention. My uncle was among them. Contrary to what Miyamoto’s schoolbooks may have taught her, history ‘koshiki happyo’ is never the entire story. The Nanjing Massacre did happen, and some Japanese felt shame, perhaps the same shame that Dr Koshiro experienced. Pockets of people wanted their lives back, pockets of people didn’t appreciate the emperor worship that was crippling their country, and pockets of people did what they could to maintain their own sense of dignity and independence – including continuing their studies behind closed academic doors. Ironically, this is what the war came to symbolise for the Japanese. Koshiro was more patriotic than he perhaps thought himself to be, and needn’t have carried so much guilt.

Yoshida Masayuki
Kuala Lumpur

As someone who has only limited knowledge of Japanese society and culture beyond manga and Kurosawa films, I suppose Kaori Miyamoto would think of me as someone who romanticises her people. But if Hideki Matsuoka is not Japanese, why would he make up such a story? There is a reluctance on Miyamoto's part to face up to the real issue at stake: Japan's wartime conduct and its subsequent refusal to acknowledge the effects of xenophobic militarism on its own society, let alone on those nations that Japan invaded.

Chang-rae Park
London W12

Marguerite Helmers (Letters, 9 May) conjectures that the fact that the First World War is ‘not as much of a presence in American consciousness and culture as it is in England’ is partly accounted for by the prevalence of war memorials and related memorabilia here. It seems perverse not to mention the obvious fact that the war memorials and the awareness have a common source in the fact that Britain was at war for four years, and the British Empire suffered over three million casualties, with over 900,000 dead, whereas the US was at war for 18 months, with troops in action for less than a year, and suffered 350,000 casualties, with 126,000 dead.

Peter Regent
Newport-on-Tay, Fife

Why not Berlusconi?

Fedele Confalonieri, one of Silvio Berlusconi’s closest and reputedly most intelligent friends, tells your readers (Letters, 9 May) that ‘there is not, nor has there ever been, any evidence to support the claim that Berlusconi had links in his early career with the Mafia.’ How does Confalonieri explain Vittorio Mangano, who, in the 1970s, when Berlusconi was on the way to becoming one of Italy’s richest businessmen, was employed by him, and housed in his villa near Milan? Mangano was described by Paolo Borsellino (one of the top two Italian anti-Mafia prosecutors in the 1970s and 1980s, along with Giovanni Falcone) as ‘one of those people who have become the Mafia’s bridgeheads in Northern Italy’. He said this (in an interview for a TV programme which was never shown) on 21 May 1992, just weeks before being blown up by a bomb planted by the Mafia. Berlusconi and Marcello Dell’Utri (the latter is, together with Confalonieri, one of the top managers of Berlusconi’s economic empire) were actually indicted for the murder of both Borsellino and Falcone (who was killed a few weeks before): they were acquitted of this charge last month, but the judge also concluded that ‘links have been ascertained between companies which are part of Fininvest’ – Berlusconi’s firm – ‘and people who are in various ways linked to Cosa Nostra’ (Corriere della Sera, 5 May 2002).

Confalonieri also points to ‘two fundamental contributions’ which Berlusconi has made to the wellbeing of Italians: ‘introducing commercial television … [which] created the conditions for a consumer-led boom that drove economic growth in the 1980s’ and ‘forcing Italy towards a more bipolar political system’.

On the first count – the ‘consumer-led boom’ of the 1980s – the claim is, to say the least, extravagant, given that the average rate of GDP growth dropped in the 1980s by more than 30 per cent, from 3.6 to 2.4, the rate of growth of private domestic consumption dropped from 4.2 to 2.9 and the contribution of private domestic consumption to the growth of GDP dropped by 30 per cent. On the second count (‘a more bipolar political system’), Confalonieri omits to report that in August 1993, i.e. several months before Berlusconi chose to run in the general election to be held the following spring, a Bill was passed by the Italian Parliament that introduced a new electoral system, on the basis of which three-quarters of the members of the lower house were to be elected by a first-past-the-post system.

Of all the claims made by Confalonieri on Berlusconi’s behalf, the most bizarre is the suggestion that Berlusconi has made an important contribution to ‘making Italy a more “normal" country’. Berlusconi directly owns three of the six national TV channels – and as Prime Minister more or less directly controls the other three. On top of this, he also owns national newspapers (though because this is against the law, the technical owners are his wife and his brother), as well as the country’s main publishing house, the titles of which include one of the two main political weeklies, and so on. And I know of no ‘normal’ country where the members of the judiciary have virtually unanimously decided to go on strike against the Government, because the ‘reforms’ it is introducing are an attempt to undermine the judiciary’s independent powers.

Giancarlo de Vivo

What MPs Read

After years of being lectured by liberals about the well-meaning sentiment, historical and political profundity and ‘greatness’ of Robert Tressell’s The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists (Letters, 9 May), I found it turgid and sentimental. Admittedly, I grew up within a Fife mining community, so my early reading was Lenin, Pushkin, Burns, Homer, Milton and Grassic Gibbon, which tends to put Tressell right where he belongs: in the tradition of shallow-minded social moralism allied to the Condition of England novel. The autodidacts and Communists of the Fife mining community and my own close family regarded Tressell as compromised politically and a failure aesthetically. This judgment was not based on political exigencies or national prejudice. But for some reason, Tressell, as a figure and as a writer, appeals to English Christians from the middle classes and to mild social reformers from the English Labour Party. In many ways, his ‘novel’ is a version of pastoral that seeks to place the figure of the skilled worker ‘back’ in a notional small craftsman’s guild within the context of a ‘healthy’ England.

David Miller

No luck (or no brains)

When my eyes alighted on the words ‘Monica Vitti’ in the title of Anne Carson’s poem ‘Ode to the Sublime by Monica Vitti’ (LRB, 25 April), I set to reading with what I can only describe as lust, because unless there are two Monica Vittis in this world, the subject of the poem must be the Italian film star, one of whose films was L’Avventura (1960). I saw this film a long time ago, probably only a few years after it came out, and my then adolescent hormones were so impressed by the leading lady that I cut a picture of her out of a newspaper, and stored it, to be looked at whenever I needed to be reminded of some of the astonishingly beautiful things the world contains. I read the poem once, I read it twice, I read it again – and again, many times. I looked at it from different angles – literally not figuratively – in case some sort of physical manipulation might render it comprehensible. No luck (or no brains). I liked it, I hasten to add, but I could have screamed with a frustration almost equal to the frustration, 35 years ago, of not being able to make love to Monica Vitti: the frustration of not understanding what Anne Carson is talking about. In fact I stalked over to my wife and used some loud and unprintable words to her, as she writes poems which can be almost as obscure as this one and could therefore be expected to see straight into the heart of Anne Carson’s project. She told me to control my language and to throw that issue of LRB into the nearest rubbish bin. In case I should be thought a literary pygmy I should mention that I have actually studied literature to postgraduate level and taught it for about twenty years, including so-called practical criticism of unfamiliar texts. On the minus side, I should mention that I now live in Zimbabwe (or try to) where our brains have recently received quite a battering.

I’m willing to be humiliated, but could Anne Carson, or anyone else – even Monica Vitti – please explain ‘Ode to the Sublime by Monica Vitti’?

Pete Hutton
Bulawayo, Zimbabwe

Escalator Stories

In the 1960s I was going up the escalator in a Tokyo department store behind a little old lady in full kimono gear. For some reason, she stumbled and fell backwards. Quick as a flash, I caught her and sustained her in a semi-recumbent posture until we reached the next floor, where I levered her into an upright position. There then followed a hilarious exchange of competitive bowing, since I am 6'5½" and she seemed to be about 4'6".

David Mason
Devonport, New Zealand

Boortree etc

I think I can help Frank Kermode with Tom Paulin’s use of ‘boortree’ in The Invasion Handbook (LRB, 23 May). It is a Scottish word. The spelling in the Concise Scottish Dictionary is ‘bourtree’, and the definition given there is ‘the elder tree’. There is a place in Aberdeenshire called Bourtree Bush (I think that’s how the locals spell it).

W.S. Milne
Esher, Surrey

Frank Kermode notes in passing that Tom Paulin was probably remembering Auden in his reference to the ‘pluck’ of the tide. Auden himself owed this and several other striking images to Anthony Collett’s The Changing Face of England (1926, reissued 1932), in whose opening paragraph he read that ‘cliffs fall, capes push seaward, or drift at the tide’s pluck like the shadow on a dial.’ He acknowledged his debt to Collett by citing him at length in his commonplace book, A Certain World.

Tony Sharpe
Lancaster University

King of Razz

Alfred Appel Jr writes well on how Fats Waller and Louis Armstrong managed to sing absurd and racist lyrics without losing all self-respect (LRB, 9 May). However, the case of ‘Shine’ is more complicated than he acknowledges. Ry Cooder’s version on his 1978 album Jazz claims to be one of the few to use the first verse of Cecil Mack’s lyric, in which the singer (‘they christened me plain Samuel Johnson Brown’) lists the names that some folks call him: ‘Sambo’, ‘Rastus’, ‘Chocolate Drop’ and now (‘to cap the climax’) ‘Shine’. In the more familiar, but to modern ears painfully odd, second verse he cites some reasons for this abuse: his pearly teeth, curly hair and shady colour, his uncomplaining nature and his fashionable clothes. He clearly can’t enjoy this, but chooses not to care a bit. What Armstrong thought of this I should be interested to know, but there seems to be more here than minstrelsy.

Graham Kemp
University of Liverpool

All Mouth and …

In her review of Hilary Spurling’s biography of Sonia Orwell (LRB, 25 April), Jenny Diski speaks of ‘an old story of all mouth and no trousers’. The saying with which I became familiar growing up in the East End is ‘all mouth and trousers’ – which may be one of those pieces of verbal impressionism that defies definition but communicates perfectly.

Rick Osborn
Sheffield Hallam University

Rival Brownings

Is the ‘Danny Karlin’ who so brusquely dismisses the excellent Penguin and Oxford editions of Browning’s The Ring and the Book (LRB, 23 May) in any way related to the ‘Daniel Karlin’ who coedits the rival Longman Poems of Browning (in progress)?

Paul Stephens

Danny Karlin writes: I am indeed both Danny and Daniel, but I don’t recognise either of my selves as brusquely dismissing the Broadview (not Penguin) or Oxford editions. I hope someone in the future dismisses my work by saying it ‘can hardly be bettered for clarity and informativeness’ and ‘richly enhances and illuminates’ its subject, as I say of Hawlin and Burnett’s excellent introduction. If the Longman edition of The Ring and the Book had already been published or was about to appear I would have had scruples about reviewing rival editions; but this is not the case. There’s no underhand plot here.

Intergalactic Jesus

I have subscribed to the London Review of Books for more than two decades. Every morning, my first cup of tea is happily slurped from an LRB mug. And every time I publish a book I hope that it might be deemed worthy of a review in the paper. Finally, my dreams have come true: Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion has been favoured with full treatment in your pages (LRB, 9 May).

Pray that your prayers will never be answered! My dreams have turned to nightmares. I feel like the Pope at the end of one of Ian Paisley’s sermons. My book, according to Jerry Coyne, is littered with ‘sly’ suggestions, ‘inconsistent’ treatments, failures of ‘logical fit’, instances of ‘judicious silence’ and a multitude of other sins.

Scourged by this Savonarola of the Darwinian world, I have gone into retreat like other religious fanatics of my ilk. But may I ask what Coyne intends seriously as an alternative to what I propose, namely – for those who want to combine science and religion – a peaceful and fruitful interaction between Darwinism and Christianity? At the end of his review, he proposes that we take religion metaphorically. But that is precisely my point. Adam and Eve did not exist literally, but the idea of Original Sin – a tendency in us all towards sinful acts – makes good sense. Coyne proposes that perhaps God simply started everything moving and then sat back and let unbroken law do all. He may be right – this was probably Charles Darwin’s position when he wrote The Origin of Species – but it is not Christian theism. It is rather 18th-century deism.

Of course Coyne really believes that if you are a Darwinian then religion is false, and the real theme of his review is that any attempt to claim that a Darwinian can be a Christian is doomed to failure. If this is true, consider the significant legal and political and pedagogical consequences in the United States. The US Constitution separates Church and State. This means that you cannot teach Genesis in the biology classrooms of publicly funded schools. But if Coyne and fellows are right, then – as today’s Creationists point out non-stop – it can hardly be any more legal to teach Darwinism in the biology classrooms of publicly funded schools. As it happens, I have no more religious belief than Coyne. But that is not quite the point. The Constitution does not bar atheists from teaching in schools. It bars atheists from teaching atheism in schools. Coyne might reply that although my non-belief makes me less of a fool, it makes me more of a knave in writing a book claiming that a Darwinian can be a Christian. But my point is not whether a Darwinian should be a Christian, but whether a Darwinian can be a Christian (and conversely). If Coyne genuinely believes that Darwinism leads to atheism, and if he believes in the separation of Church and State, then I hope he has never taken a penny of Federal support for his researches.

Michael Ruse
Florida State University, Tallahassee

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.