Discovering the Mammoth

Book Review Comments

John J. McKay’s Discovering the Mammoth: A Tale of Giants, Unicorns, Ivory, and the Birth of a New Science (New York: Pegasus Books Ltd., 2017) describes the history of paleontology by tracing the history of the discovery of mammoth bones. The first part of the book provides some references to ancient and medieval Christian views and many connections to early modern, Christian views of giants, unicorns, and the biblical flood as people discovered the bones of large animals and tried to make sense of them. Mammoth bones were often associated with giants (cf. Genesis 6) and unicorns (as per the King James Bible translation and other resources). German scientists were especially involved in the modern period as they had greater access to Russia and Siberia.

The book is fun to read. However, the text has so many typos, one wonders what editorial process was used. Many of these typos should have been noticed by an alert reader. Perhaps the editors used some software based process that sped up work but in the end did not achieve the best results.


Religious Makeup of the New Congress

(RNS) Nearly 91 percent of members of the 115th Congress convening Tuesday (Jan. 3) describe themselves as Christian, according to a new analysis by Pew Research Center.

Source: Religious makeup of the new Congress overwhelmingly Christian | Religion News Service

A second article provides some analysis.

Why Newton Believed a Comet Caused Noah’s Flood

In the 17th century, scientists used physics to explain the miracles described in the Bible.

CHR Comment: Biblical studies and scientific studies were not always regarded as conflicting. One might imagine at least three different relationships between the two disciplines: (1) Bible centered, (2) science centered, and (3) a sort of binary orbit where the disciplines orbit their common ground.

Source: Why Newton Believed a Comet Caused Noah’s Flood

Top 5 ‘heresies’ of 2016

(RNS) As Christians prepared to mark 500 years since Martin Luther — one of history’s great heretics, or heroes, depending on your point of view — 2016 found them debating theological questions most thought had been settled a millennium ago.

CHR Comment: A helpful summary of theological issues that made headlines, showing that Christians are still quite able and willing to argue about doctrine. Although some might regard this as tragic, one might also note that people argue about things they care about most (which is why religion and politics are often off the menu for family holidays). Ironically, the opening illustration about Luther being either a heretic or hero is going by the wayside as both Roman Catholic and Lutheran leaders discuss the great reformer’s legacy.

Source: Top 5 ‘heresies’ of 2016: ‘One God,’ biblical authority and more

Race and Religion in American History

With all the memes wishing a good riddance to 2016, and John Oliver’s epic send-off to this annus horribilis, it may seem small comfort that this was a year that might be remembered as one of the most important in a long time in my corner of the scholarly universe: for works that illuminate race and

CHR Comment: In view of this collection, scholars for this history are focused on liberation theology (Black theology) and on non-Christian religions that emerged among African Americans. These are valid fields of study yet I wonder what new histories are available on traditional, Trinitarian Christianity among African Americans, since they make up the great majority of African American churches.

Source: Year-End Best Books in Race and Religion in American History | Religion Dispatches