From the outset, I knew In God We Trust by Steve Ham was going to be a challenge for me to complete.
One word – footnotes.
On the very first page of the very first chapter of his book, Mr. Ham has elected to provide us with two footnotes – both of which are entirely useless, virtually vestigial. He quotes two giants of modern philosophy – Thomas H Huxley and Blaise Pascal. It is not his quotes that challenge me. It is what he cites as his sources.
Footnotes serve one purpose: to provide a citation of source for the reader. When making a direct quotation, you cite the actual source. You don’t cite some rehash website as if it is a source.
It is not as if it is difficult to find the actual sources. It took me all of five minutes to do some quick research and find that the Huxley quote comes from The Agnostic Annual of 1884 (“The Huxley File”, Clark University, 1998). The Pascal quote was easier to find. It appears in Pascal’s Pensées (4:265), which was published in 1660. I did this research using Google. It is not like I had to access some scholarly resource to find the information. Both men’s works are in the public domain.
The list of poor citations goes on and on. John MacArthur gets a direct citation, but whether it is crediting Paul Anka’s words to “My Way” to Frank Sinatra (who sang the first version of it in 1969) or using websites instead of citations from Eusebius, Mr. Ham continually gives the impression that he grabbed these quotes from quick google searches and never thought to research them a little more thoroughly. It looks shoddy.
No insult to Mr. Ham, whom I assume is a very busy man, but this kind of stuff is just plain lazy research. That is not to say that the content of In God We Trust is not good or that Mr. Ham does not present a good argument. He might have. I am a very fast reader, and something like this makes a book wholly forgettable. When I see something like these silly excuses for footnotes, I am tempted to put the book back on the shelf where I found it because it will just be a waste of time for me. I will absorb little because I will be drawn to these silly footnotes.
A snap judgment? Yes. A false perception? Perhaps. A reality? You better believe it.
Little things are important. I know that New Leaf, the publishes, is a small firm, but that’s no excuse for half-cocked research and editing. A few extra hours of research would have taken this from a mediocre book I had to force myself to keep reading to an engaging conversation that would have drawn me in.
Am I being unfair? Am I really not going to cut my Christian brother a break? Is it really fair to hold Christian writers to the same standard that you hold secular writers to? You bet your sweet bippy! When you’re competing with competent professionals like Richard Dawkins, you’d better dot every i and cross every t or they will make you look like a fool.