The Mythical Man-Month - Fred Brooks
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Members of the Folio Society have named the Bible as the most important book of all time, with Darwin's On The Origin of Species coming in at a close second place. The literary group commissioned YouGov to survey more than 2,000 British grown-ups and ask them which book they thought was the most valuable to human civilisation …
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I'd rate it as pretty important too and I haven't ever read it, and I'm a Christian. I don't agree with Islam's teachings but it's a very important book merely because so many people do - similar to the bible in that respect. Together they have shaped our world (for better or worse is for each individual to decide).
Whether we like it or not, and utterly regardless of our own levels of piety, the most important books in human history are those which shaped world culture, and continue to shape it. Religious texts dictate the morality of entire civilizations. Four of the top five books pretty much have to default to being the core tomes of Buddhism, Hinduism, Christianity and Islam. Our ways of life, calendars and ethos are inspired by them.
Somewhere in the top 10 you'd have to fit the Little Red Book, too. It's an almost non-religious religious text, in that it shaped the most populous nation of earth. And of course they were inspired by The Communist Manifesto and Das Kapital. Even if you hate all things left of centre, half the planet didn't and they shaped their culture, which in turn resulted in a lot of changes in our society and the Cold War.
"Together they have shaped our world (for better or worse is for each individual to decide)."
So Bible and Quoran... but no Bhagavad Gita or Buddhist texts? Only half of the world's religions are important? ;)
"Re: brief history of time??
It's had WAY more impact."
I don't believe either books are close to top 10 material, given that upward of 98% of the world has never read them (all the way through at least) and that neither have heralded any social change or shifts in society, nor major things in the thinking of the intelligentsia.
It's quite hard to think of a popular science book that makes the grade, unfortunately. Lot's of great books, but I don't think that there are any which caused major shifts in thinking on a scale that could be measured globally. One could probably make an argument for Daniken having more popular influence.
Pedants will say the bible is a collection of books. Ultra-pedants will argue the Magna Carta is a single page book and should be top of the list. Trolls will vouchsafe their dismal political opinions / (lack of) spiritual beliefs, and generally try to appear the cleverest person in the room while also having read non of the listed books in their entirety. And somebody will say "sheeple".
>The Bible's an usual series, in that it started dark and edgy, then got rebooted to light and fluffy.
No it's just a rip off of the Terminator
In part 1 the central character is an all powerful destroyer who doesn't stop wiping out everybody who opposes him
In part 2 he is switched 180deg into a fluffy empathising do-gooder who is there to sacrifice himself to save everyone
or 616, in case any QI watchers are around
and just for fun, for those that voted for the Bible? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3CPjWd4MUXs#t=44
"My chief of staff, Leo McGarry, insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly says he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself, or is it OK to call the police?"
Crisp, pedants would say that the count depends upon which canon is used; for example, the Protestant canon has 66 books, the Roman Catholic canon has 73 books, and the Eastern Orthodox canon has 78 books. (I think that some of the other Catholic and Orthodox churches also have their own canons.)
A common mistake people make,
The bible as a collection of writings, not all of the same category, some if it is undoubtedly historical records, some is poetry, some is philosophy, some is tradition, some is law - which has under pined western thinking for a very long time. So much of the modern world is conditioned around us by a time when the bible was central to most people lives.
"Most important" is vague.
"Had a hugely signifficant effect on history": "Mein Kampf", "Das Kapital" both qualify.
"Has contents that everyone ought to know about": MK definitely not, DK probably not.
BTW even as an atheist, I'll agree with putting the bible (or at least the New Testament" on the list. It's the foundation stone of our accepted system of morals and value judgements. Much of what's gone wrong recently wouldn't have gone wrong, if the people in charge had adhered more strongly to that moral framework.
"It's the foundation stone of our accepted system of morals and value judgements"
Those morals and value judgements existed long, long before.
The idea that the world was total chaos before a highly edited compilation of short stories came out is a bit silly.
Those morals and value judgements existed long, long before
I'd argue that they didn't, or at least that no society had hitherto been founded upon them. The Roman and Persian empires, China, Japan, the other ancient empires I have read about, ran on completely different moral codes. Today's Islamic world and today's post-communist China likewise do not share our moral code (hence much trouble in today's world).
The enlightenment refined the moral framework and downplayed the superstition and dogma. Darwin's church was Christianity at its best. Seems to me that things have been going downhill since then.
"I'd argue that they didn't, or at least that no society had hitherto been founded upon them. The Roman and Persian empires, China, Japan, the other ancient empires I have read about, ran on completely different moral codes."
Don't confuse morality and customs. Morality is fundamental and is the same for everyone because it is determined by laws of nature. Customs are whatever rules and edicts considered expedient for inclusion by the author of the particular rule book, given his own baggage of life experience, understanding (or not) of it and political ambitions.
Every religious book starts with the fundamental morality and then tries to distort it to justify and support enforcement of unrelated, petty and self-serving rules designed to preserve the position of power of the authors or their sponsors.
"hence much trouble in today's world"
I believe that the fact that our moral code is being routinely ignored by our own leaders has more to do with that then some fundamental difference in moral principles of different cultures in today's world.
And also the internal conflict of some of the tribal/cultural/customary rules with those determined by fundamental morality.
> Morality is fundamental and is the same for everyone because it is determined by laws of nature.
Morality is fluid and changes decade by decade.
There is a very small number of laws which are indisputably set in stone such as those related to murder and rape. Note that they are not immutable, but have stood the test of time.
In essence it is likely that there is one true morality and we are approaching it over time.
The number of laws in that morality are likely to be very small indeed.
All morality, the Bible or otherwise, starts with a set of basic assumptions and premises. These are not built in to the universe, they are simply the best choices we know of for a society comprised of individuals with freedom of thought and (to a certain extent) of action. Morality is NOT fundamental.
"TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY." - Death, as depicted by Terry Pratchett
And yet despite this I am a strong proponent of deontological ethics. Go figure.
"These are not built in to the universe, they are simply the best choices we know of for a society comprised of individuals with freedom of thought and (to a certain extent) of action. Morality is NOT fundamental."
I'm afraid you contradict yourself in the above statement.
Basically, you are saying that a society comprised of individuals with freedom of thought will have a range of choices available to them. If they consistently choose sub-optimally, they will either suffer or die. This is determined solely by the combination of natural laws exisiting in this particular Universe. A social thermodynamics, if you will.
Any society exisiting and prospering in this Universe will therefore follow a similar path of best decisions and will work out a set of key rules that guide them in making those decisions. Those rules will be common across the Universe and will describe the fundamental principles of successful social behaviour = morality, built into this Universe.
Those morals and value judgements existed long, long before.
The idea that the world was total chaos before a highly edited compilation of short stories came out is a bit silly.
To be fair, Folio did not say that moral values were non-existent before the Bible, just that the Bible codified them and heavily influenced what we have today. Which is indisputably true, as any law student will tell us.
I would argue that moral values have existed since the beginning of man otherwise we would have wiped ourselfs out a long time ago.
The fact that those morals were written down has very little importance other than as a means of propoganda ( albeit with an altruistic leit motif).
If that book had been written without all the Sky Fairy nonsense then it would have been a very good but very short book.
Everyone also seems to forget that Occident societies were not the only people on the planet. Moral values, I believe were well know and even documented within the middle kingdom..
Confuscious was around 500bc...
This is not a sectarian rant, merely a statement of factual history.
Organized Protestant Christianity give our ancestors access to a universal education system in this country. Without the Protestant Christian free schools many would still have been subject to the horrors of (almost) serfdom or worse.
I'm sure there are examples of exemplary Catholic schools too, but let us not forget that reading was discouraged and that's why the Pope resisted the translations of the Bible from Latin.
Perhaps the list should start with The King James Bible?
That's because "Das Kapital" was trashed by Böhm Bawerk even before WWI and only hipsters sporting Che T-Shirts find any redeeming value in that multi-tome work.
Note that Marx conveniently died before managed to finish his Magnum Opus so he never had to deliver on his promise that we would explain eventually how all of the demagoguery culled from a few centuries of communist collectivist dogma and moaning (always ending in tears and people being shot for not following the line to peasant freedom) actually makes any sense.
Most rectconned book of all times. Rewritten several times and redacted according to prevalent dogma / papal edicts. The older part was about removing kebabs, chosen people being strong for their tribe and relentless hailing of genocide, with some rape throw in. Also possibly written at the time when human consciousness underwent deep remodeling, though that is evidently debatable.
Flaming Bush icon, of course.
P.S. "A Brief History of Time" on 3rd place? Utterly Ridiculous.
I wonder what the list would look like if it was based on books purchased rather than given away like a breakfast ceral toy.
The bible would be at the top still (in the UK at least), but none of the others would be even close. Note that the bible is not included in the bestseller lists as it would win every year.
Further to my "citation needed". There seems to be no doubt that more bibles have been printed in the last hundred years than any other book - but that's not quite the same as "would win every year".
Snopes doesn't help, surprisingly.
But this is interesting.
So in Norway, that year, the Bible was indeed one of the best sellers of the year. But please note that (a) it was a new translation and (b) it was still only in the top 15 books for 50 out of 52.
So five minutes of research convinces me that the Bible is not the huge bestseller people would like us to believe, and that there is little evidence for the statement that it is generally omitted from bestseller lists.
It's hard to say the bible's place in the best-seller lists. Leaving aside bulk orders (which I think count?) there are so many versions. Probably a dozen or so 'mainstream' (NIV, NKJV, American standard, etc) of which many are published in different formats (plain bible, study bible, bible in a year, amplified bible). And that's before you get on to less rigid translations like The Message which are very popular but cannot really be classed as translations.
You'd have to combine the sales of dozens of different books to get a meaningful figure. Maybe this is done as a matter of course, I have no idea?
> contains principles and guidelines to be a good person
Contains quite a lot of other shit which I don't recommend to anyone. Burning witches, killing idolaters, making sure women know their place. Good thing we have innate morality to determine which is bullshit and which is kosher.
Interesting point. The goal of distributing the bible to as many people as possible must have driven advances in technologies such as printing, as well as in understanding many many languages... people learning obscure languages purely so they can provide a translation to those people.
The Witclif Bible Translators, tech link Larry Wall of Perl fame worked there, go out into those parts of the world where there is no written language with the express intent of creating one based on the local spoken tongue so the can create a translated version of the Bible for them.
Unsurprisingly they are heavily into Unicode and Fonts. Perhaps surprisingly they where supporters of the Open Document Standard.
Of course. Before I get trumped on the opportunity - The Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy MUST be the most important work ever (if you consider the breadth (time-space continuum) of the subject). And it was available on an e-reader before anything else too, making it hip too!
Two key bits of knowledge
"Matter is made of atoms which are ordinarily indivisible. They tend to stick together, but if you try to squeeze them closer they repel each other strongly" (Paraphrase of Richard Feynmann's suggestion)
"Disease is caused by invisibly small parasites called germs and viruses" and advice on how to stop them being spread around.
Not sure if there is a single key book that encapsulates these - one on solid-state physics and chemistry, the othe on microbiology. There ought to be!
Talking about "important" books doesn't really make much sense unless you sort them somehow, categories, at least for fiction and non-fiction. For example, there is no Shakespeare in the list, which is absurd, and you can't mention Nineteen-Eighty-Four without also mentioning Brave New World. And you might as well put the Bible in its own category. And what about the first novel ever written - Don Quixote or whatever it was ?
As an engineer, I say Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica.
Well, then I would argue that The Epic of Gilgamesh would blow any other suggestion right out of the water, twice as old and probably one of the most important works for establishing written script(from our current perspective that is).
Eye for an Eye
Destroying the planet
Sleeping with your best mate's wife then having him sent off to be killed
Murdering your brother
(Nearly) Sacrificing your children
Death of the First Born
Ohhh... they mean the NEW Testament? My bad. Let's not count the Old bit then. Troll icon to placate anyone who thinks I'm not entirely serious.
Good to see that four fictional works are considered so important (sarcastic smiley).
Given YouGov's reach I'm surprised they were only surveying 2,000. Doesn't strike me as likely to be representative of the UK as a whole. Do it again with 20,000 and I'll bet the bible and qur'an slip down the list.
The Bible is on the list because it "contains principles and guidelines to be a good person”
I would disagree - the bible contains lots of principles and guidelines for being pure evil..
As an example (for the promotion of murder in the bible) , see here: http://www.evilbible.com/Murder.htm
It wasn't insightful the first time either :)
I'd bet the majority commenting about the morality of the bible (whether in a positive or negative light) are doing so primarily based on what they remember from religious studies lessons as children.
Considering the majority of Christians haven't read the whole thing, and most lay-people people will happily believe just about anything you tell them about the bible/Christianity if you sound certain, I think it's a safe bet. Certainly most of what I thought the bible taught before I read it was either incorrect or came from somewhere else entirely.
Must be The C Programming Language
I think that _The Unix Programming Environment_ is better. Languages go out of fashion and C itself has lots of bad coders, but TUPE described a philosophy that's still relevant today. As someone once said, "Those who do not understand Unix are condemned to reinvent it, poorly." If there wasn't Unix, there would never have been MS-DOS, which was a obviously terrible copy, but it did kickstart the PC revolution (and continues even though it's moved further and further from the Unix philosophy).
Pleased to note that there are six factual books, with the remainder firmly rooted in the fiction category.
As works of fiction, the Qu'ran and the Bible are respectable collections of short stories, poetry etc, not too dissimilar to Aesop's Fables or any number of anthologies.
Not, "most impact".
On the origin is probably more valuable than any religious text (Bible, Qur'an etc.) purely because it's neither directive nor prescriptive - it documents a process whereby it demonstrates how closely related we are to each other (and higher apes, other animals).
Religious texts separate people, sexes, ideas, create the concept of thought crimes, hell, vicarious redemption where you don't need to apologise to the victim, just the judge.
While we obviously wouldn't want to model civilisation on Darwinian evolution any more than reading Animal Farm means you agree that it what should also happen.
Neither of those are in the bible. At the very least you have paraphrased them. And you've done the usual thing of make some statement about the bible without providing references, knowing most people will blindly believe you (ironic in the circumstances).
That aside, you can play that game - cherry-picking sentences or shorter out of context - with just about any source. The papers like to do it all the time, as do politicians.
> That aside, you can play that game - cherry-picking sentences or shorter out of context - with just about any source. The papers like to do it all the time, as do politicians.
Or....you can do what most bible-bashers do and claim that the "bad bits" are clearly allegory.
Trouble is the allegorical portion gets larger and larger as we come to realise what a load of bullshit a lot of it is.
Or...you can do what some of the other bible-bashers do and claim that our interpretations from the past were misguided and our modern interpretations are much better. The bible is merely misunderstood.
Or....you can do what a relatively small number of bible-bashers do and claim that every word is the truth of God and as a society we have merely lost our way.
For such a definitive basis for our morality, there does seem to be an awful lot of leeway.
Is one of my favourites. Excellent guidelines on how to understand bureaucracy. For superb moral guidelines I find the Discworld series offers a lot, like the definition of sin by mistress E. Weatherwax:
"Easy, it's treating people like things!"
It is more fun to read than the bible, and does not threaten you with eternal punishment.
Dunno if it actually suggests anything, but I find it interesting that most of the books originate in Europe/USA, with the Bible and Qur'an being the exceptions but having had a significant impact here. What about the Hindu Vedas, which lead on to a huge range of religious faiths in the East including Buddhism? Or Diophantus' "Arithmetica" and Euclid's "The Elements", which most of our mathematics are based on?
Edit: Aand that'll teach me to read the article more carefully, not really surprising most people wouldn't think of them off the top of their heads
What about, "The Complete Works of William Shakespeare"?
Just like The Bible it contains many sub-books, and a lot of it retells the history of people's based on handed down myths twisted with the prejudices of the author and contemporary politics.
And both have had a large influence on the English language.
As an actual 'bible-bashing' Christian, "contains principles and guidelines to be a good person” is not what the bible is about. That's a massively watered down, namby-pamby don't-want-to-offend-anyone interpretation tied to the middle-England idea of Jesus as a friendly white bloke with flowing blond locks who went round telling people nice things about themselves.
Having said that, "seriously awful things in the bible" is also rather disingenuous.
> Having said that, "seriously awful things in the bible" is also rather disingenuous.
Having said that, stoning adulterers to death is pretty awful.
Ah yes, but halfway through it does change its mind on that, on the basis that we're all sinners and it's not for us to judge others. Shame so many Christians are really into the judgement thing.
Yes, it is a shame. They haven't understood it properly, and are partly responsible for the mainstream view of Christianity being preachy and judgemental; the "Dot from Eastenders" stereotype. But it's again unfair to use that generalisation, when so many others are out feeding the poor and advocating for the helpless at the grassroots level. But of course you only want to mention negatives as that supports your viewpoint. In fact, "The Church" has caused great good and great harm throughout history.
You might as well say all IT folk are arrogant borderline autism sufferers based on stereotypes and vocal minorities on internet forums - in reality most are fairly normal.
> But it's again unfair to use that generalisation, when so many others are out feeding the poor and advocating for the helpless at the grassroots level.
You don't need to be religious to do that. Exhorting people to do good is good enough in my view. You don't need to end it with "or go to hell" or because Jesus says so.
Anyway, being good because I'll burn for ever otherwise is a pretty shabby excuse. I would respect people more for doing good because it is the right thing to do.
Oh, and preaching to those that you help is not an entirely selfless occupation either.
-- The Bible is on the list because it "contains principles and guidelines to be a good person”
That is not why the Bible is on the list. The Bible is on the list because it has influenced our history and culture for thousands of years. I have no problem with The Bible being labelled the most influential book, but NOT for giving us morals. There's so many things wrong with that statement.
I'd argue the same for Mein Kampf - the people who say it's influential haven't actually read it, much like most of the Germans it allegedly influenced. It was so poorly written that it's Mr Hitler would have enjoyed far less support if his book had been more widely read.
While I commend you for reading it and making an informed decision, it's reaching to suggest your experience speaks for others. For instance I approached it as an atheist determined to analyse what it actually taught, and went the opposite direction to you... but I don't claim that would happen to everyone.
I think quite a lot of people set out to read it to prove their pre-determined ideas about religion - from either side - are right. It's actually quite hard to read it from a neutral/objective point of view - because like it or not things that resonate jump out at you.
But I agree most people who would say the bible is important have no idea what it says!
"For instance I approached it as an atheist determined to analyse what it actually taught, and went the opposite direction to you... but I don't claim that would happen to everyone."
I have to wonder if this is true. The book is so obviously just bad folklore and contradictory nonsense mixed with flat out lies that it's very hard for me to see where anyone could be inspired to take it as any sort of guide to existence. At the least, there's nothing that distinguishes it from other folklore from around the world, except for some 300-year old Greek philosophy that got mixed into the "jesus" (not his real name, even) bit.
"I have to wonder if this is true. The book is so obviously just bad folklore and contradictory nonsense mixed with flat out lies"
Oh yes, it's "obvious". And clearly I'm just lying, because nobody could possibly have a different viewpoint than you based on the same facts. All those centuries of debate, and some IT nerd has the arrogance to suggest "it's obvious".
I rather doubt you bothered to read the thing or read books around the subject because it's so obvious that would be a waste of time, right?
This reminds me of a non-technical person "what do you mean it will take 2 weeks for this feature, you just have to do this one thing. It's obvious"
"I rather doubt you bothered to read the thing or read books around the subject because it's so obvious that would be a waste of time, right?"
I have both read it and read around it. It's just typical folkelore and it has roots back to previous "drafts" of those stories. There's nothing in it that is not obviously the same old mythological viewpoint except for the bits that are ripped-off from Greek philosophers. What makes it obvious is putting it into its context as just another collection of Just-So stories; a context that people could not put it into in, say, 11th century Poland. But 1000 years later that's easy to do; the world has changed and moved on thanks to exactly the sort of person Darwin was.
Indeed, it's easy to compare it to straight-up fiction like LotR and see that there's nothing in the Bible that is inherently and objectively not something someone made up, unless you count some very biased versions of history in the OT. There's two possible explanations for that, and one of them is a lot simpler than the other.
But, going beyond even these things, dissecting the internal structure and history of the book just knocks the absolute stuffing out of it. Especially the new testament, which has so little connection with any real Jesus that it's hard not to see the entire thing as a fabrication decades after all the primary witnesses are conveniently dead. It certainly has no substantive or reliable input from the man himself.
And you're right about the centuries of debate - in the end, your side lost. Grow up and deal with it instead of pretending that your imaginary father-surrogate is going to sweep in and fix everything and then tuck you up in bed afterwards.
Those two points weren't linked? You weren't suggesting others who read it wouldn't reach the same conclusion?
If not, fair enough my mis-comprehension.
Although becoming an atheist because you don't believe one religion's teachings seems a little narrow. That sounds more like "I don't WANT it to be true" rather than "I strongly believe it's not"?
More than half of Americans think the Bible has too little influence on a culture they see in moral decline, yet only one in five Americans read the Bible on a regular basis, according to a new survey.
Anything by David Gemmel*, and some by Terry Pratchet if you're after guidance on how to live. In some cases by laughing at the mistakes of others
*"Do not complain of life's unfairness. It is never fair - at best it is impartial"
Since the question was which is THE most influential book, which by definition is a one-answer question, and the percentages add up to more than 100%, the journo who wrote this needs to revisit his maths skills. The percentages work if the question was to name the top few most influential books, but the article doesn't say that.
This article is awful, the headline refers to the most INFLUENTIAL book, the precis refers to the most IMPORTANT book, and the body refers to the most VALUABLE book; these words have different meanings, something can be influential without being important, or valuable, many people are influenced to watch reality TV, few would argue that it is important or valuable to society, the Bible is demonstrably an extremely influential book given the historic wars and even current laws that derive from it, just as the Origin of the Species can be seen to be less influential given the number of Creationists who dismiss it.
My second point is regarding the quote “The first question I had was whether the similar figure for Darwin and the Bible does show a continuing polarisation between the realms of science and religion, or whether in fact it reveals a more balanced approach to ideas for the modern reader,” ... thiis is an incomplete analysis, ignoring the remaining selection, as majority of the other books are Scientific, and even Literary books outstripping Religion.
Finally I have to ask how you can get a total of 162% of people within just the Top-Ten, presumably even higher with lower scoring entries, I can only assume particpants were not infact asked for their MOST [insert whichever adjective it actually was here] book, as that would mean choosing only 1 book and therefore the total would be 100%, the only way you could have more than 100% is if people are selecting more than one MOST important book.
Remember people, Statistics Lie!
The Bible really is an awful book of nonsense and gibberish. Half of it is Egyptian/Babylonian folk lore and half of it an Egyption/Greek attempt at making a synthetic god from left over bits of old ones. It's moral compass is highly dubious too - at BEST it manages to preach just being a normal person and not a psychopath. Killing is bad, mmkay? Except, you know, when it isn't.
1/10. Must try harder.
Perhaps Darwin has influenced people - but only indirectly.
I bet less than one in ten who talk about Darwin have ever read his writing. At best, most people have just read the overview in Wikipedia.
While Darwin has some interesting things to say, the book is heavy going. I've been reading it slowly over the last year. Not exactly a thriller.
As much as the bible is full of craziness, at least the people who use it as their guiding book tend to actually read it.
Origin of Species isn't a gripping read overall, but it's influence is indirect and huge. By freeing intellectual thought from the limits of "God did it and then ran away" it made a lot of other things possible. Not least of which was ignoring religious leaders who wanted to wage war. It's not a coincidence that the most bloodthirsty people are religious, or that we're never worried about extreme Darwinest attacks on the Tube or against army barracks.
Good Book beats Darwin to most influential tome title
Apparently proving that you can't judge a book, not only by its cover, but its content too. Still if 'influential' is the marker, not being responsible for influencing repression, any number of wars, TV evangelism, institutionalised kiddy fiddling (and the vehicle for covering it up) and general all round backwardness is probably a badge of honour. Still, on the bright side we did at least get Monty Python and Jesus & Mo.
...a man was once sent to the Gulag for claiming that Lenin's books were better than Stalin's, or so reports a book by an American held there.* They gave more heat.
*IIRC: An American in the Gulag, Alexander Dolgun, 1976;
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