Book review: Where God Comes From

by Ira Livingston


We humans are a curious lot, aren’t we? Always digging for meaning.

Ira Livingston once found a miracle message in a plate of noodles that tasted so incredibly good it overcame a deep funk. It was as if God had left a pick-me-up message just for him, embedded in noodles. As the Jews and Chinese say, Food is Love.

From noodly transubstantiation, Ira progresses to a million dollar question: Where does God come from?

Do understand that this is not really a book about God. It is an eccentric and intelligent philosophical road trip. The subtitle is Reflections On Science, Systems and the Sublime. The topic meanders around aimlessly like a good philosophy book should, until near the end you realize you’ve been circling something meaningful, if also something melancholy, the whole time.

“Where God comes from” is not the same question as “Who is God?” Says Livingston’s beloved professor, “I’ve got no particular quarrel with any of these explanations [of God]—inflated parent, synaptic ghost, social glue—all fine, though obviously too reductive—but at the same time, I also don’t object to various personalizations of God—an old guy with a beard, or a wafer or whatever.”

The problem with God (or evolution or a mechanistic universe) as a concept is that it casts the miraculously complex as something familiar. Says the professor, “the problem is not in how we use God or evolution or mechanism as ways of thinking about these things but as ways not to think about them.

…and therein lies the problem with Livingston’s book. It makes you think.

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