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Atheism again

I said a few posts ago, about my own atheism, “I don’t believe in unicorns either, but I’m not about to go to any meetings about it.” Well, I haven’t been going to any atheist meetings, but I have been reading the comment threads at Pharyngula, which is a pretty good internet equivalent.

My own stance on evolution and religion is hard-line: I think the evidence for evolution is overwhelming, that anyone who doesn’t accept it is just plain wrong, and that standard compromise of evolution being somehow guided by God is just a muddle-headed cop-out. I get as angry as the next atheist at attempts to get creationism/ID taught in biology lessons. And as a social liberal, I don’t have much time for Christian fundamentalism in any circumstance, and I’ve done my fair share of internet Christian-baiting.

And yet, despite my own intellectual intolerance and the fact I share all the biases of the commenters at Pharyngula, I still find the atmosphere there toxic. There’s so much energy being expended on hostility and derision, such a sense of superiority on display. Anyone who rejects evolution – or believes in God, really – must obviously be an idiot or a liar. There’s not even an attempt to empathise with anyone who values faith over reason.

I don’t know. Maybe I’m getting soft. Or maybe I just recognise my own worse qualities in the people there. I should probably say, to be fair, that not everyone there matches the description I’ve just given. Perhaps no-one does, really; but that’s the overall tone of the site. And I should also point out the endless provocation from the anti-evolution people. But still. I’m tempted to say that I think it’s bad strategy, that they’re alienating more people than they’re persuading, but I have no idea. What I do think is that, for want of a less spiritually loaded term, it’s just bad karma.

hardbacks vs. paperbacks

John Barlow has this to say about hardbacks:

Personally, I think hardbacks are a disaster for the emerging writer. Who the hell wants their book out at $25 instead of $15? It’s crazy. How many readers regularly plump for new/unknown writers in hardback? It’s an extra ten dollars that you are risking.[…]

My first book came out in the UK in hardback, and just to cap it all they upped the cover price to a fairly steep £15 ($25ish) just before publication. Who on earth was going to pay that for an unknown writer of short fiction? Even friends winced. The book flopped on the Roman scale, and paperbacks were never mentioned.

(via The Reading Experience)

His comments on the economics of the thing seem like good sense to me (not that I’m a publisher or an economist). But also, on a personal level: I hate hardbacks. I can’t be the only one. They’re heavier, they take up more room in your briefcase/handbag/pocket/luggage/bookshelves/bedside table, they have pointy corners, and the dustcovers go missing or get ripped. Offered a choice of paperback and hardback at the same price, I’d take the paperback every time. Having to pay an extra tenner for the hardback just makes me feel ripped off, and I only do it if I’m very very eager to read something. Far more often, I see something that looks good, decide to wait for the paperback, and never get around to buying it. It is, basically, a fucking stupid system, and the sooner publishers make paperback originals standard the better.