Conversations about the End of Time

Stephen Jay Gould, Author, Jean Delumeau, Joint Author, Umberto Eco, Joint Author Fromm International $26 (256p) ISBN 978-0-88064-217-0
Just a bit late for the party in Times Square--though rather early for the Apocalypse--comes this friendly book, first published in France (and in French) in 1998. Its four eminent thinkers from the U.S., Italy and France discuss--in chatty Q&A format--history, chronology, religion, paleontology, ecodisaster, and other subjects linked to Y2K. Paleontologist Gould (Questioning the Millennium, etc.) delves into the history of the calendar and of human error, and explains the different ""time-scales"" appropriate to microbes, mice and minerals: he declares affably that ""the way reality proves predictions false is a constant pattern in human history."" French Catholic historian Delumeau has penned treatises on fear, reassurance, and Paradise in medieval and Renaissance Europe: here he discusses ""the meaning of suffering,"" Christian ethics, Old Testament prophets, millenarian monks' vision of Y1K and Renaissance eschatologies. Playwright and screenwriter Carri re skips from Hindu cosmology (discouraging) to local oenology (very encouraging) to literary history. And novelist Eco (The Name of the Rose, etc.) reconsiders religion, mysticism, New Age movements, the Web, the Tower of Babel, and the crowd of ""Diabolicals,"" wannabe prophets who see urgent meanings in every squiggle. Sometimes provocative, sometimes superficial, all four ""conversations"" take similar turns: the world won't end tomorrow, the authors agree, but it's interesting to explore exactly why we care who thinks it will. Each thinker's conversation takes place not with the other thinkers but the French editors; each man, however, contributes a two-page conclusion responding to the other thinkers' ideas. (Apr.)
Reviewed on: 04/03/2000
Release date: 04/01/2000
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