Why? The Challenge of Giving Explanations for Tragic Experiences in Life

Why? The Challenge of Giving Explanations for Tragic Experiences in Life

Ray Barraclough
Zeus, $31.95

Retired Anglican priest and academic Ray Barraclough handles this controversial topic in an unusual manner by stating what and who he does not believe long before he states what he does believe or at least considers plausible.

He looks at what other writers (Christian and other religious, modern and ancient) have said on the whys of tragedies and disasters and analyses and, where necessary, points out the flaws in their arguments.

Barraclough also looks at events from a Who? or What? focus. He writes: “In a who explanation, a person or persons or God or some other supernatural being is regarded as having caused the event.

“In a what explanation, impersonal facts are seen as the cause of this event.”

He also provides lots of history about what other people believed or did not believe in ancient times. This includes the origins of certain superstitions and the beginnings of scientific theory about natural disasters.

For example, Pliny the Elder (23/24-79CE) believed that earthquakes were caused by “the pressure of mighty winds beneath the earth”. This could be addressed by having sufficient cavities in the earth such as wells, caves and conduits as they “provided a release valve and made regions which contained them safer”.

For the theories Barraclough espouses as explanations for natural disasters and other tragedies … you’ll have to buy the book!

Katy Gerner

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