Living the Scientific Life (Scientist, Interrupted)

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Philip Pullman responds to the jackasses and crybabies of the world with regards to their whiny complaints about the title of his new book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ. His answer succinctly addresses the larger issue of freedom of publishing/presses/speech. My response? AMEN!

Philip Pullman, addressing an audience at the Sheldonian Theatre in Oxford, on 28 March 2010, was asked about whether his latest book, The Good Man Jesus and the Scoundrel Christ, was offensive. Here’s his reply:

“It was a shocking thing to say and I knew it was a shocking thing to say. But no one has the right to live without being shocked. No one has the right to spend their life without being offended. Nobody has to read this book. Nobody has to pick it up. Nobody has to open it. And if you open it and read it, you don’t have to like it. And if you read it and you dislike it, you don’t have to remain silent about it. You can write to me, you can complain about it, you can write to the publisher, you can write to the papers, you can write your own book. You can do all those things, but there your rights stop. No one has the right to stop me writing this book. No one has the right to stop it being published, or bought, or sold or read. That’s all I have to say on that subject.”

Comments

  1. #1 Arancaytar
    March 30, 2010

    He’s writing another book, and one with this title to boot? I should follow the news more…

    It’s like an early Christmas, in a wonderfully secular way! =D

  2. #2 Antifia
    March 30, 2010

    Freedom of speech is a funny thing. In principle it is good thing – especially in a political context. It is the very base of democracy. But then one comes to inter-personal relations and the desirability of respecting the other – their beliefs, values and aspirations, without necessarily sharing on them. Would it be reasonable to have the expectation of living one’s life without being purposefully offended by others? Sure it would. Of course, there will be areas were you and I will desagree on how offencive (if at all) something is, but in these cases most of people will try to find ways to compromise – tone the message down or choose the right forum to express and discuss the idea. All the time I see someone having a position that freedom of speech in any matter and under any circunstances should trump every other consideration of human interaction, it is on the back of a self-serving situation. The writer in this article wrote a book on Jesus (from a man vs holy man perspective, I would guess – I haven’t read the book) and his views on the subject. Great stuff and he is exercising his right to free speech. But then he goes one further and put that title on it. Well, he says it himself that he was after its shock value (instead of another non-descript book in the bookstores, it will now stick out…more sales he!?). Of course it offends those who believe Jesus to be the encarnation of God and he does not give a dam to this fact as long as he can sell more books while doing so. The funny thing is that all this principled zeal (gimme free speech or gimme death) tends to desappear when things go the other way around. In such cases they always find a way to rationalise on why that situation is different. Let me be clear about my position: When a book comes by denying the holocaust, for example, it should have the same reception of a book with the title like the one above – the cold embrace of despise (and I am not a religious person).

  3. #3 Phillip IV
    March 30, 2010

    Antifia @ 2:

    In such cases they always find a way to rationalise on why that situation is different. Let me be clear about my position: When a book comes by denying the holocaust, for example, it should have the same reception of a book with the title like the one above – the cold embrace of despise

    That would be very easy to rationalize, in fact:

    Holocaust – fact
    Jesus – legend

    But that’s beyond the point – of course you have the right to despise none, both or either type of book you mentioned, but nobody should have the right to prevent either one from being published based on an assumption of how offensive it is going to be to what number of people.

    choose the right forum to express and discuss the idea

    The people who get offended by the mere existence of a book nobody is required to buy or read are not really interested in discussions, and most of them would be just too happy to suppress the expression of any idea that threatens to reveal their most closely held believes as baseless.

  4. #4 emc2
    March 30, 2010

    I’m religious and I don’t find this title offensive. Jesus Christ was a radical and radicals offend people and break down the current order. Or maybe the word ‘scoundrel’ is more of an affectionate barb in the U.S.

  5. #5 Pierce R. Butler
    March 30, 2010

    If only there were a little more about this book (besides its availability in an expanded iPhone edition) on its website

  6. #6 EnhancedEditions
    March 30, 2010

    We were there at the Sheldonian, and Mr Pullman well and truly brought the house down. We recorded the event in full which will be going live very soon – follow our twitter feed at /enhancededition to find out more.

    In the meantime, you can find out more about the iPhone app (text, audio, video and more) at http://bit.ly/ee-Scoundrel.

  7. #7 Rob Monkey
    March 30, 2010

    Antifa, you seem to be talking about two different things. If you didn’t like something I said, you’d be free to criticize it. Neither one of us should have our free speech limited by the other, but this still doesn’t justify silencing voices. Yes, of course the people who advocate for free speech are often the ones accused of offending someone, but that’s usually because they actually have something interesting to say. Frankly I couldn’t give a flying fuck (or a ground-based sliding fuck) about what a bunch of God-botherers say about a book that actually puts some reality in front of them, but where we should all agree is that neither the author nor the critics should be silenced by authority.

    As for your holocaust example, no true defender of free speech would say that a book denying the holocaust should be banned or prevented from being printed. Of course, I wouldn’t shed a tear if the guy who authored it is shunned by all reasonable members of society, but I still defend his right to say what he wishes. How exactly would preventing him from printing his book solve the problem of holocaust denial? I’m more interested in getting these ideas out in the open, so they can be resoundingly mocked for all time.

  8. #8 mrcreosote
    March 30, 2010

    I wonder if there was the same outcry at the publication of ‘Behold the Man’ by Michael Moorcock?

  9. #9 wellread
    April 5, 2010

    well, what about ‘King Jesus’ by Robert Graves; ‘The Last Temptation’ by Nikos Kazantzakis.

    Also books about the legend, the story & what might really have happend.

    At least one is banned by the Vatican.

    I loved ‘His Dark Materials’ and I cannot wait to read this.