Lead book review

Was there ever a time of equality in human society?

Origin stories have always helped humans gain a moral compass. Locked in a tight embrace, the Maori deities Rangi and Papa are separated by their enveloped children, creating the distant father sky and nurturing Mother Earth, bringing light to the world. Mayan gods fashion man from maize after destroying earlier clay and wood versions, who

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The balance of power between humans and machines

The twin poles of the modern imaginarium about technology and society can be represented by two masterpieces of popular culture. In James Cameron’s film The Terminator (1984) and its sequels, a global computer system called Skynet becomes sentient and proceeds to try to exterminate the human race by means of time-travelling Austrian bodybuilders. In Iain

Leap of faith: the miraculous phenomenon of levitating saints

The ‘ordinary academic mind’, William James wrote, struggles to recognise things which ‘present themselves as wild facts with no stall or pigeonhole’. The Yale professor Carlos Eire has a passion for them. His erudite, wilfully eccentric study of baroque Catholicism glories in the supernatural powers of holy persons. He showcases two kinds of miracles they

The feel-good football story of Watford Forever

One Saturday in 1953, the six-year-old Reggie Dwight of 55 Pinner Hill Road went to his first football match with his perennially gloomy father, Stanley. ‘Emerging from the Tube station,’ writes John Preston, ‘Stanley reached down and took his son’s hand.’ Reggie was enchanted by Stanley’s sudden happiness. The only place the two would ever

A choice of this year’s cook books

What a relief to find ourselves in a non-faddy cook book year. We are not being encouraged to chew only plants, ferment everything, grow burgers in labs or devour insects. It’s not that I don’t look for answers to how we should eat to survive the future, but I know a thing or two about