Monday, December 24, 2007

Has Antony Flew forgotten English?

On page 116 of 'There is a God' we read the following.

'The principle of special relativity ensures that forces such as electromagnetism have an invariable effect regardless of whether they act at right angles to a system's direction of travel'.

This is not even a grammatical sentence, whether Flew wrote it or whether Bob Hostetler hacked it out.

I guess Antony Flew has simply forgotten how to write English sentences.

Of course, that chapter was never written by him.

Just 3 pages earlier, 'Antony Flew' talks about 'favorite' (sic) 'cookies' and 'candy'.

An 84 year old public school educated Englishman would never use the word 'cookies'.

Antony Flew has never eaten 'cookies' or 'candy' in his life. He has eaten 'biscuits' and 'sweets'.

The book is a shameless deception.

6 Comments:

Blogger Brody said...

'The principle of special relativity ensures that forces such as electromagnetism have an invariable effect regardless of whether they act at right angles to a system's direction of travel'.

This is not even a grammatical sentence, whether Flew wrote it or whether Bob Hostetler hacked it out.


Actually, it's perfectly grammatical, even (I would suspect) by the standards of "proper" British English (for the distinction really ought to be made). Here, I can lay it out for you (certain modifying phrases omitted for clarity):

'The principle...ensures that forces...have an invariable effect regardless of whether they act at right angles to a system's direction...'

My primary complaint would be the use of the preposition 'to' at the end of the sentence; I would probably use 'from,' personally. But the syntactical structure of the sentence (i.e. grammar) is just fine.

Now, you might have something on the use of American terms; if nothing else, it would tell us that the editor(s) are taking liberties with exact language. Then again, no one should be putting too much stock into this Flew book, anyway.

4:37 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

Your sentence also makes no sense.

There should be an alternative to the 'whether'.

You could put 'whether or not' for example.

That would help. I'm sure a careful writer like Flew would have written proper English.

And of course, the science is gibberish as electromagnetic forces have entirely different effects if they are acting at right angles to a system's direction of travel or acting parallel to an object moving in a field of force.

4:54 PM  
Blogger Brody said...

Whether or not the omission of 'or not' is improper (see, I can't help writing it that way) might be a matter of debate. In any case, it would be a question of usage, not grammar.

And beg pardon, but my truncation of the sentence makes sense syntactically (I can't speak for the science, so I'll take your word for it). If it makes no sense, then I think that ought to be blamed on content rather than structure unless you happen to know where the sentence might have gone (other than the aforementioned 'whether or not' problem, which is again one of usage).

5:51 PM  
Blogger Wyatt Roberts said...

Brody is correct. The addition of "or not" after "Whether" is redundant. The idea of "or not" is implied in the use of "Whether."

On the other hand, "Whether" could be used to introduce two non-opposite alternatives (e.g. "It doesn't matter whether you eat beef or chicken.")

8:46 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

9:49 PM  
Blogger Steven Carr said...

It is not gramatically correct, whether you speak English.

9:50 PM  

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