As I’ve mentioned before, I collect pop culture bibles such as The Action Bible or The Picture Bible. Yesterday, I was at Barnes and Noble and in the “value” section I found The Brick Bible by Brendan Powell Smith. A Bible completely illustrated with Legos. There are two volumes, one for the Old Testament and one for the New Testament. I was able to grab the Old Testament.
As an artistic accomplishment, The Brick Bible is amazing considering how much work must have gone into it. As a spiritual reference, it’s ridiculous. I was amused by the quote on the inside flap from The Washington Post: “Our evolving forms of religious expression may be unsettling, but it’s hard to find fault with Brendan Smith’s whimsical artwork…” Whimsical doesn’t quite describe it. The facial expressions on the characters are hilarious and got me to thinking it would be like illustrating the Bible with South Park characters.
This isn’t what I would call evolution but a regression to pop culture over fine art. The advantage of classical art is that it gives Biblical themes (as well as mythological themes) validity, whether you take them literally or for for spiritual truths and moral teachings. Depicting Abraham about to sacrifice his son Isaac for god with Legos is absurd. I’m actually jealous; this should have been done by an unbeliever as it breaks through the illusion of factual history and holiness which we have come to know by touting ancient writings, medieval art and “heavenly” choir music. Classical art has fooled us and Legos demonstrates that what we are reading is a bunch of fairytales not to be taken seriously.
I do recommend picking up The Brick Bible, it is fascinating and humorous to look at. It’s nice to see an artist show Adam and Eve nude as described in the Bible except I guess there is no such thing as Lego genitalia or even Lego boobs (although, after “the fall,” I see Lego cleavage).
I am of the opinion that science is now accessible to everyone with the onslaught of graphic novels covering everything from molecular biology to evolution to even quantum theory. If you have a little time in the evenings, enjoy reading comic books, and have a sense of humor you can self-educate on the basic principles of each field. You won’t be an expert but at least you will have an idea of what the news is talking about when they bring it up or you’ll know when someone is blowing smoke–like physics finding god in the math.
As with any product, there are good graphic novels and poorly done ones. I’m going to be reviewing one later that I felt was poorly done, but Jay Hosler’s Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth is excellent. Jay Hosler scripted the graphic novel and it was illustrated by Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (no relation to each other). The Cannon team already have an excellent background in the comics field including the Eisner Award and the inking has a wonderful feel to it. Often what’s necessary when you do B/W pages is to have rich dark areas so that the reader doesn’t notice the lack of color and loses themselves in the art. The Cannons pour ink generously onto each page and when you buy this book you get your money’s worth.
However, more importantly, Jay Hosler uses an effective narrative to keep our interest as he explains a difficult subject: evolution. I don’t find evolution to be a dry subject but I know some people do and therefore it is hard to pay attention to the details or rather the mechanics of evolution. I also know that often people think they understand evolution but when you talk to them further they don’t.
The narrative Hosler uses expands on a previous book (The Stuff of Life) and we find that earth is being studied by Glargalian Astronomers, alien life forms including a one-eyed king, his son Prince Floorish and an tutoring underling who likes to grovel named Bloort. The character we relate to most is probably Prince Floorish who is slowly beginning to understand what Bloort is teaching. Bloort will make you smile as he is the ultimate brown noser. But in a way, he is brown nosing towards we the reader in order to get us to understand.
While I’m sure the target market for this book is pre-teen to teen, it’s for everyone who isn’t an evolutionary biologist. Possibly evolutionary biologists may get a kick out of it, but it’s basic stuff–even the basics can be complicated though depending on how much evolutionary science you have read prior. I would like to recommend this book to Christians who think they are creationists or who simply haven’t bothered to consider evolution due to time constraints with work and family. Honest, this book isn’t meant to turn you into an atheist (that’s my job! Just kidding!), it’s meant to give you an overview of the theory of evolution and even if you disagree with it you should understand what it is you disagree with. I guarantee that if you are only getting your information from creationism then you are getting misinformation. Creationism will give you doses of the theory but then try to explain away important facts, omit facts or even distort facts. Being raised on creationism myself, I know this to be true.
Freethinkers may also want to pick up the book for review or to read to their kids. The material covered is simplified, I’m sure, but not dumbed down. It makes for a nice read to remind you of certain core principles and even new information that has been added since you had to struggle through it in high school or college.
With all of the material laid out in a graphic novel format it’s a shame there isn’t a budget to turn this into an animated series.
I have to share one of the best graphic novels I have ever read. It’s called Logicomix: An Epic Search for the Truth. While I like the subtitle, I think they could have come up with a more accessible main title than “Logicomix” as when I first picked it up the title alone made it sound stuffy and pretentious. It’s far from that. It is a mathematical and philosophical adventure and you may wonder how it this story could possibly be interesting and not a trick by some professor in order to get us to learn the Principia Mathematica, but it’s not. It is, as with most stories, a human adventure filled with darkness, discovery, jubilation, failure and realization.
The principal character is Bertrand Russell, who spoke to me from the dead through his book Why I Am Not a Christian when I was examining my faith at age 23 after chasing after the “True Church.” Russell was the Sagan of his time, one being a logician and the other an astronomer, in that he simplied the hardest concepts for the public to grasp. This is something I appreciated as my background in science was muddled by creationism and my education in math destroyed by sheer revolt against learning it–no one ever answered my questions as to how math applied to me which is a sad note on how morally bankrupt and learning-deficient public schools are. Russell was looking for truth–the consequences be damned–and he did it, as this book relays his history when he pointed out a logic flaw early in his career called “Russell’s Paradox.” It was one that shattered another mathemetician’s book that was about to be put to print after years of work.
I won’t bother to explain “Russell’s Paradox” as I believe it is preferable to read the narrative of it in Logicomix and see the reactions of his fellow colleagues. One of the anxieties of mathemeticians and philosophers, especially at this time, is that some upstart kid will come along and tear apart your life’s work. And yet, one of the underlying themes of Logicomix is that it is necessary to have “failure” in order to have progress in thinking. Just as Russell pulled the carpet out from under his logician kin, specifically Gottlob Frege, so did other, younger, logicians do to him after reading his failed work Principia Mathematica (Russell describes it as a failure according to the graphic novel).
I don’t think I have had a more enjoyable read than Logicomix in quite some time. It deals with infinity, the quest for truth, the consequences for delving so deeply into such questions (though I think it is highly debatable that it will drive you mad) and ultimately it is a graphic novel about truth or rather the history of truth. One of the most interesting points within the novel is when logician Kurt Godel is lecturing to his colleagues and says in regards to the question, “Is every mathematical statement provable?” Godel’s answer is, “There will always be unanswerable questions.” Why? Because “the scope of truth is infinite.”
In other words, you can never know the entirety of truth. I’m simplifying of course since I’m hardly a logician and I do not know the resulting math, but the statement seems so obvious and yet it struck me pretty hard. I had been raised on the idea of absolute truth or transcendent truth which is the foundation of morality for Christians because God is “all truth.” I have since modified absolute truth to “absolutes within context” as I don’t believe it makes sense for an absolute to transcend context–maybe time, but not context. This may be a contradiction or it may be an easier way of understanding a form of relativism (the moral law or legal rule has to be relative to the situation), though hardly is this cultural relativism as our rule against murder would fall into context for the human race and override any tradition, religion or ritual that advocated murder. Why would it be absolute? Because of reason and the struggle for reason. Need proof? Do we have to remind Christians that we do not stone homosexuals?
If you think God is this transcendent absolute, a foundation against murder, then ask yourself how God can be good apart from God? Or rather how can we know that God is good apart from God? If you cannot separate the two then you cannot know that God is good. You only have blind faith that he is so and we would have to question his genocidal acts against humanity in the Old Testament and the ones supposedly planned for the future. He may certainly be all powerful, but not necessarily good. Otherwise good is relative to God’s desires and as we all know, power corrupts (“Don’t question me you little flea of a human!”).
As usual, I bring this around to religion, but the moral argument is the hardest, Russell struggled with it as well, and it is what Christians hold onto as their last piece of evidence for God. If you want to see what a real struggle is for finding truth, put down the Bible and read Logicomix. It’s a mindbender even if you’re not a math whiz–because I failed Algebra in highschool. I’m only catching up and I was enthralled by this wonderful book!