The Bible has been voted as the book deemed “most valuable to humanity” in a YouGov poll for the Folio Society, edging Darwin’s On the Origin of Species into second place. Only two novels made the top ten, whilst the Quran came in eighth place.
2,044 British adults were asked to choose three books they thought had the most significance for the modern world from a list of 30 titles, and to give reasons for their choice, the Guardian has reported. The results revealed that those who plumped for the Bible did so because it “contains principles/guidelines to be a good person,” while Darwin’s seminal text describing his theory of evolution was chosen as it “answers fundamental questions of human existence,” according to the Folio Society, who commissioned the poll.
The Bible garnered 37 percent of the vote, whilst Darwin’s Origin of Species was close behind on 35 percent. The next popular was Steven Hawking’s Brief History of Time on 17 percent, followed by Einstein’s Relativity on 15 percent, giving science texts a strong following. Likewise, Isaac Newton’s Principa Mathematica was in sixth place with 12 percent, and James Watson’s account of how DNA was discovered in his The Double Helix sneaked into the top ten with 6 percent.
Political books, and novels conversely had a relatively poor following. Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four was the most popular, in fifth place on the list with 14 percent of the vote. Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird was the only other novel in the top ten, on 10 percent. But the Communist Manifesto was further down the list, gaining just 5 percent of the vote.
Cicero’s Orations, Salman Rushdie’s Midnight’s Children, and Kurt Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five all received no votes at all.
Tom Walker, editorial director at The Folio Society said: “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. They are the two ideas which have clashed in the 20th century – this shows, I think, that we can take understanding from both of them.”
However, not everyone agrees that there is an inherent contradiction between religion and evolution. Francis S Collins, the former head of the Human Genome Project is a committed Christian who in 2006 released a book titled The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief. In an interview with Christianity Today, Collins said “it seems to be a pretty well kept secret these days that the scientific approach and the spiritual approach are compatible. I think we’ve allowed for too long extreme voices to dominate the stage in a way that has led many people to assume that’s all there is.”
YouGov has also broken down the results by sex, revealing that men had Darwin in the top spot on 37 percent, followed by the Bible (36 percent), Steven Hawking and George Orwell. For women, the top four were The Bible, on 38 percent, then Darwin on 33 percent, Hawking and Einstein.
Walker suggested that the list possibly revealed “which books are perceived as having influence or giving understanding, rather than those which we personally read in order to understand the world around us,” as the actual readership for Newton’s tome is “pretty thin”. He also pointed out that “there is an overtly political message to both of the fiction titles, but fiction generally doesn’t seem to be seen as so highly influential in how people judge ideas in society; Shakespeare and Tolstoy also have low percentages.”
The Top Ten in order were:
– The Bible – 37%
– Charles Darwin On the Origin of Species – 35%
– Stephen Hawking A Brief History of Time – 17%
– Albert Einstein Relativity – 15%
– George Orwell Nineteen Eighty-Four – 14%
– Isaac Newton Philosophiæ Naturalis Principia Mathematica – 12%
– Harper Lee To Kill a Mockingbird – 10%
– The Quran – 9%
– Adam Smith The Wealth of Nations – 7%
– James Watson The Double Helix – 6%