The Faith of Scientists: In Their Own Words

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Overview

"Nancy Frankenberry provides a rare glimpse into the interior lives of scientists as they talk about their faith, their views about God, and spirituality. From Galileo to Ursula Goodenough, she shows critical acumen in selecting the source material and authoritative scholarship in interpreting it. This book offers an unsurpassed treatment of a vital subject."--Max Jammer, author of Einstein and Religion

"Frankenberry has given us a great gift, a groundbreaking collection of writings by preeminent scientists, past and present, on religion and its relation to mathematics and science. The breadth of sources dazzles as does the range of views, from Pascal's Catholicism to Goodenough's religious naturalism. One emerges from this heady mix with the firm conviction, as Einstein puts it, that 'science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind.' This is a magnificent achievement, one of the most important books of the year."--Philip Zaleski, editor of The Best American Spiritual Writing series

"Nancy Frankenberry writes lucidly on the long interplay between scientific and religious ideas. With the eye of a professional philosopher of religion she has selected a fascinating parade of scientists and has illuminated their views on religion with particularly perceptive analyses."--Owen Gingerich, author of God's Universe

"An important contribution to the ongoing dialogue between science and religion. I know of no work that deals with a broader chronological and disciplinary range of scientists than does Frankenberry's collection. This book promises to be useful to general readers and members of the academic community. It constitutes an important addition to the burgeoning library of books on the relationship between science and religion."--Jon H. Roberts, coauthor of Darwinism and the Divine in America

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Editorial Reviews

European Legacy
As an introductory text that offers a fair and accurate treatment of the roles and non-roles of faith for important scientists, one would be hard pressed to do better.
— Jason Robinson
Washington Post Book World - Amy E. Schwartz
The Faith of Scientists, a stout anthology of primary sources compiled by Dartmouth religion professor Nancy Frankenberry . . . makes clear the rich variety of religious experience of scientists from Galileo and Darwin through Rachel Carson and Stephen Hawking.
National Catholic Reporter - Christopher Fenoglio
[A] valuable collection of source materials for your own quest for knowledge. Equally rewarding is Frankenberry's juxtaposition of scientists with differing views.
St. Anthony Messenger - Mark M. Wilkins
I suggest reading Nancy Frankenberry's anthology of writings by 21 notable scientists from the 16th century to the present. The selections center on faith, their views about God and the place religion holds—or does not hold—in their lives in light of their commitment to science. Drawn from their own words in many primary sources, the essays show a spectrum of views from many areas of scientific inquiry.
CASE Magazine - Patrick Chan
This book raises important issues. . . . I would recommend this book for the explorer in all of us-whether we think we've found what we're looking for, or are still searching.
European Legacy - Jason Robinson
As an introductory text that offers a fair and accurate treatment of the roles and non-roles of faith for important scientists, one would be hard pressed to do better.
From the Publisher

"[T]his is one classroom anthology that will hold wider appeal to general readers. . . . [F]rankenberry's new collection is very different and broader in scope."--Library Journal

"The Faith of Scientists, a stout anthology of primary sources compiled by Dartmouth religion professor Nancy Frankenberry . . . makes clear the rich variety of religious experience of scientists from Galileo and Darwin through Rachel Carson and Stephen Hawking."--Amy E. Schwartz, Washington Post Book World

"[A] valuable collection of source materials for your own quest for knowledge. Equally rewarding is Frankenberry's juxtaposition of scientists with differing views."--Christopher Fenoglio, National Catholic Reporter

"I suggest reading Nancy Frankenberry's anthology of writings by 21 notable scientists from the 16th century to the present. The selections center on faith, their views about God and the place religion holds--or does not hold--in their lives in light of their commitment to science. Drawn from their own words in many primary sources, the essays show a spectrum of views from many areas of scientific inquiry."--Mark M. Wilkins, St. Anthony Messenger

"The Faith of Scientists presents a series of excerpts from researchers' own writings on the subject, accompanied by short biographical sketches from editor Nancy Frankenberry, a religion scholar at Dartmouth College in the US. The resulting collection spans the period from Galileo Galilei to Stephen Hawking and encompasses both devout believers like Freeman Dyson and ardent atheists like Richard Dawkins."--Physics World

"This is the first book to bring together so many world-renowned figures of Western science and present them in their own words, offering an intimate window into their private and public reflections on science and faith."--Spartacus Educational Review

"This book raises important issues. . . . I would recommend this book for the explorer in all of us-whether we think we've found what we're looking for, or are still searching."--Patrick Chan, CASE Magazine

"As an introductory text that offers a fair and accurate treatment of the roles and non-roles of faith for important scientists, one would be hard pressed to do better."--Jason Robinson, European Legacy

Washington Post Book World
The Faith of Scientists, a stout anthology of primary sources compiled by Dartmouth religion professor Nancy Frankenberry . . . makes clear the rich variety of religious experience of scientists from Galileo and Darwin through Rachel Carson and Stephen Hawking.
— Amy E. Schwartz
National Catholic Reporter
[A] valuable collection of source materials for your own quest for knowledge. Equally rewarding is Frankenberry's juxtaposition of scientists with differing views.
— Christopher Fenoglio
St. Anthony Messenger
I suggest reading Nancy Frankenberry's anthology of writings by 21 notable scientists from the 16th century to the present. The selections center on faith, their views about God and the place religion holds—or does not hold—in their lives in light of their commitment to science. Drawn from their own words in many primary sources, the essays show a spectrum of views from many areas of scientific inquiry.
— Mark M. Wilkins
Physics World
The Faith of Scientists presents a series of excerpts from researchers' own writings on the subject, accompanied by short biographical sketches from editor Nancy Frankenberry, a religion scholar at Dartmouth College in the US. The resulting collection spans the period from Galileo Galilei to Stephen Hawking and encompasses both devout believers like Freeman Dyson and ardent atheists like Richard Dawkins.
Spartacus Educational Review
This is the first book to bring together so many world-renowned figures of Western science and present them in their own words, offering an intimate window into their private and public reflections on science and faith.
CASE Magazine
This book raises important issues. . . . I would recommend this book for the explorer in all of us-whether we think we've found what we're looking for, or are still searching.
— Patrick Chan
Washington Post Book World
The Faith of Scientists, a stout anthology of primary sources compiled by Dartmouth religion professor Nancy Frankenberry . . . makes clear the rich variety of religious experience of scientists from Galileo and Darwin through Rachel Carson and Stephen Hawking.
— Amy E. Schwartz
Physics World
The Faith of Scientists presents a series of excerpts from researchers' own writings on the subject, accompanied by short biographical sketches from editor Nancy Frankenberry, a religion scholar at Dartmouth College in the US. The resulting collection spans the period from Galileo Galilei to Stephen Hawking and encompasses both devout believers like Freeman Dyson and ardent atheists like Richard Dawkins.
Library Journal

Originating as a classroom anthology and retaining the format of one, this book offers chronologically organized sets of primary-source readings from 21 famous scientists from Galileo to Ursula Goodenough. Editor Frankenberry (John Phillips Professor of Religious Studies, Dartmouth Coll.) excerpts from books, letters, diaries, interviews, essays, and speeches and provides a brief introduction and further readings for each figure. The bulk of the book focuses on 20th-century scientists. Readers may see the title as something of a misnomer, as "faith" may not be the proper word to apply to many of the belief systems discussed herein. Overall, however, this is one classroom anthology that will hold wider appeal to general readers. Apart from dogmatic approaches, John Marks Templeton and Kenneth Seeman Giniger's Spiritual Evolution: Scientists Discuss Their Beliefs is the only similar work in this area, and Frankenberry's new collection is very different and broader in scope. Recommended for academic and larger public libraries.
—Darby Orcutt

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691134871
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 8/11/2008
  • Pages: 542
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Nancy K. Frankenberry is the John Phillips Professor of Religion at Dartmouth College. Her books include "Radical Interpretation in Religion" and "Religion and Radical Empiricism".

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Read an Excerpt

The Faith of Scientists

IN THEIR OWN WORDS

PRINCETON UNIVERSITY PRESS

Copyright © 2008 Princeton University Press
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-691-13487-1


Chapter One

Galileo Galilei (1564-1642)

Introduction

The playwright Bertolt Brecht labored for two decades over his anti-Third Reich play Leben des Galilei. The seventh scene is set on March 5, 1616, just as the Inquisition has censured the Copernican texts positing the heliocentric model of the universe. Galileo learns of this event during a conversation with several cardinals at a dinner party in Rome. Brecht dramatically captures the heart of Galileo's religious faith:

Barberini: He's [i.e., Galileo is] really dreadful. In all innocence he accuses God of the juiciest boners in astronomy! I suppose God didn't work hard enough at His astronomy before He wrote Holy Scripture? My dear friend!

Bellarmine: Don't you think it likely that the Creator knows more about His creation than any of His creatures?

Galileo: But, gentlemen, after all we can misinterpret not only the movements of the heavenly bodies, but the Bible as well.

Bellarmine: But wouldn't you say that after all the interpretation of the Bible is the business of the Holy Church? (Galileo is silent.)

Galileo is silent because in fact he believes that the business of biblical interpretation, in the hands of fallible humans, can prove to be highly fallible. He is silent because he does not believe the Bible is meant to be read literally, and biblical literalism has been hardening into a new position within some circles of the Counter-reformation Catholic Church following the Council of Trent.

Far from being a biblical literalist, Galileo believed that the Bible was intentionally simplified by the Church so that lay people could access its meaning. In the letter excerpted to his student Benedetto Castelli, Galileo underscores the Brechtian point by clearly stating "though Holy Scripture cannot err, nevertheless some of its interpreters and expositors can sometimes err in various ways." As the other texts selected in this chapter show, however, Galileo's strong religious faith is rooted in a conviction that truth is always one and cannot be at odds with itself. Knowledge of the truth is available through two avenues, one scientific and one religious. Reason and mathematics produce the exciting and disturbing astronomical data that Galileo regarded as a true reflection of the craftsmanship of the divine work, and Holy Scripture presents a true reflection of the divine word. Fallible humans can misinterpret both of these, as Brecht's Galileo observes, but neither one can ever be fundamentally in conflict with the other. If truth cannot be at odds with itself, then scientific truth and religious truth will never contradict each other, Galileo believed. When they appear to conflict, it is because one or the other has been mistakenly interpreted.

Galileo makes it still clearer, in the second excerpt, which is taken from his unpublished writings, that he champions the autonomy of science with respect to faith. Science-then called "natural philosophy" -does not proceed from theology, Galileo declares, and in disputes about natural phenomena one must begin not with the authority of scriptural passages but with sensory experience and necessary demonstrations. Here he advances the argument that two truths cannot contradict one another, so that in cases where a known scientific fact is available, the Bible, an inspired text, ought to be interpreted in such a way as to be compatible with the scientific truth. Augustine had argued along similar lines in the fourth century, and many contemporary theologians take much the same position today, but Galileo was warned a year later, in 1616, not to teach or to defend the Copernican view except as a possible hypothesis.

Had he been content only to differentiate two senses in which biblical texts could be interpreted, either as commonsense language or as scientific language, Galileo's position might have been as simple as that of Cardinal Cesare Baronio, the sixteenth-century Vatican librarian whose quip he quotes approvingly: the Bible is a book that tells us how one goes to heaven, not how the heavens go. If the sun were said to stand still during Joshua's surprisingly long day, this should be given an allegorical meaning, not a scientific sense that would present a challenge to Copernican astronomy. But Galileo went further and argued for the mutual relevance of science and religion. In his letter to the grand duchess Christina in 1615, Galileo argued that known scientific truths should help guide biblical exegesis. It was as though he expected the theologians to become astronomers first! Creatively theologizing himself, Galileo interpreted Joshua's command that the sun stand still in the middle of the heavens as referring to the sun's axial rotation. His conclusion was unmistakable: it is the Copernican framework that preserves and best understands the biblical record.

Recent scholarship on the so-called "Galilean affair" dispels two popular myths about Galileo and his conflict with the Catholic Church. Both have persisted despite the lack of historical evidence for them. We might call these the "Myth of Galileo the Religious Rebel" and the "Myth of the Catholic Church as Arch-Enemy of Science." The more complex picture that now emerges in the work of contemporary historians of science depicts a Galileo who was generally committed to the Church and a Church that was traditionally committed to natural philosophy as a rational, independent route to truth. In other words, Galileo was far more inclined to a conservative religious position and the Church much better disposed to the new astronomical data than is commonly believed. Galileo was not eager to undermine the Church, especially not his once friendly ally Pope Urban VIII, and the Church, at least as represented by the Jesuits, was not especially eager to condemn the Copernican heliocentric cosmology adopted by Galileo, and also championed by Johannes Kepler as early as 1590. It is easy to see how Copernicus and Kepler escaped Galileo's fate of virtual house arrest. Copernicus died soon after his heliocentric theory became public, and the actual printing of his six-volume, generally unreadable book, On the Revolutions of the Heavenly Spheres, did not get underway until his death in 1543; it took more than seventy years for it to create much of a storm in Europe. Johannes Kepler, on the other hand, enjoyed not only a different status as a Protestant, outside the jurisdiction of Rome, but also royal patronage once he was settled in Prague as official imperial astronomer.

Why then was Galileo sentenced to house arrest in the year 1633 and forced to abjure his former beliefs for the remaining nine years of his life? Part of the answer is that this was simply a tragically unnecessary outcome: Copernican heliocentrism was gaining the day within the Catholic hierarchy and might very well have succeeded on its own merits had Galileo not brought matters to a head with his forceful Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems in 1632. More deeply, this was a highly complex and ambiguous story involving multiple levels of faith and reason, political machinations in the Italian Renaissance court system, the gathering storm of the counter-reformation, and a personal sense of betrayal between Galileo and Pope Urban VIII, who had, as Maffeo Barberini, earlier assured Galileo he could write about Copernicus's theory if he presented it as just that-a theoretical hypothesis, not a truth. One of the most fascinating parts of the story is Galileo's growing conviction that science should stipulate or help determine theology. The modernization of Catholic teaching, he thought, could succeed best by replacing Aristotelian astronomy with Copernican. The new seat of authority was to be science, and those who could claim expertise in astronomy and mathematics ought to be allowed to pronounce on theology as well. Above all, the old seats of authority-whether Aristotelian or biblical-were no longer the arbiters of scientific truth.

An intemperate zeal for hermeneutics was perhaps finally responsible for Galileo's troubles with the Church hierarchy, but his very insistence on the inescapable need for interpretation, rather than any simple acceptance of literal readings of scripture, produced the most important statements of Galileo's own faith. Had he not allowed himself to be drawn into an argument about the proper interpretation of scripture, we would not have the fascinating document Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems (1632). The dialogue, excerpted here, engages three characters: Simplicio, a geocentric Aristotelian; Salviati, an obvious alter ego for Galileo and spokesman for the Copernican view; and Sagredo, an interested and intelligent bystander to the debate. In a masterful polemic, the Dialogue teaches that astronomy and the science of motion go hand in glove. There is no need to fear, Galileo explains, that earth's rotation will cause it to fly to pieces. Salviati systematically destroys Simplicio's arguments, and with a final flourish Sagredo concludes that Salviati is right, Aristotle is wrong, and wine and cheese are waiting.

Though marked by Galileo's characteristic caustic wit, the document is also somewhat marred by arguments so convoluted that one marvels that heliocentrism ever prevailed. For all its notoriety, Galileo's Dialogue offered no proof that the earth truly moved. Yet in religious matters, he exhibits a sophisticated form of faith. In his own words, Galileo is by turns poetic, didactic, reverent, combative, and witty. Whatever serious doubts he might harbor about the institutional Church and the rectitude of some of its interpretations, he has no doubt about faith itself. He can artfully embrace all the elements of a typical Renaissance Roman Catholic piety with one remarkable exception, its Aristotelian cosmology.

In fact, Galileo was always much more an opponent of Aristotelian physics than of Church theology. And the Catholic Church, for its part, was committed to the role of reason in support of faith, and to philosophical thinking as an aid to reason. Far from opposing faith to reason, the Jesuits, if not the Dominicans, deliberated with, for, and against Galileo, all the while valuing natural philosophy and championing a reasonable faith. Perhaps the deepest difference between Galileo and those who opposed him was a very basic philosophical outlook. The longing for permanence over and against change defined the ancient and medieval worldview. Largely because of Plato and Aristotle, the assumption that perfection and permanence go hand in hand-as do imperfection and change-became axiomatic in Western thought. Galileo's challenge to that assumption was thorough, as seen in this emphatic passage from the Dialogue, where he states a philosophical belief every bit as fundamental to him as his religious beliefs: "I cannot without great wonder, nay, more, disbelief, hear it being attributed to natural bodies as a great honor and perfection that they are impassible, immutable, inalterable, etc.: as conversely, I hear it esteemed a great imperfection to be alterable, generable, and mutable.... These men who so extol incorruptibility, inalterability, and so on, speak, I believe, out of the great desire they have to live long and for fear of death.... These people deserve to meet with a Medusa's head that would transform them into statues of diamond and jade, so that they might become more perfect than they are."

Galileo was born in the same year that Michelangelo died, and he died in the same year that Isaac Newton was born. In that span, an entire cosmological worldview was overturned. Yet it was only in 1992 that the Roman Catholic Church formally admitted to having erred in dealing with Galileo. It is a remarkable irony that the very words used by Pope John Paul II come so close to those of Galileo himself, and that the two men seem to share an almost identical position on the relation between science and religion. "There exist two realms of knowledge," the pope explained, "one which has its source in revelation and one which reason can discover by its own power. To the latter belong especially the experimental sciences ... the distinction ... ought not to be understood as opposition. The two realms are not altogether foreign to each other; they have points of contact. The methodologies proper to each make it possible to bring out different aspects of reality. So there we have it. Science and religion do not conflict, but they describe two different aspects of reality."

* Galileo's Contribution to Science

Galileo Galilei discovered new features on the moon's surface, four of the moons of Jupiter, the rays of Saturn, sunspots, and the fact that Venus undergoes a regular series of phases similar to the phases of Earth's moon. He determined the parabolic path of projectiles, calculated the law of free fall, invented a microscope, advocated the relativity of motion, and created a mathematical physics.

Galileo in His Own Words

Letter from Galileo to Benedetto Castelli, (December 21, 1613)

Very Reverend Father and My Most Respectable Sir:

Yesterday Mr. Niccolò Arrighetti came to visit me and told me about you. Thus I took infinite pleasure in hearing about what I did not doubt at all, namely, about the great satisfaction you have been giving to the whole University.... However, the seal of my pleasure was to hear him relate the arguments which through the great kindness of their Most Serene Highness, you had the occasion of advancing at their table and then of continuing in the chambers of the Most Serene Ladyship, in the presence also of the Grand Duke and the Most Serene Archduchess, the Most Illustrious and Excellent Don Antonio and Don Paolo Giordano, and some of the very excellent philosophers there. What greater fortune can you wish than to see their Highnesses themselves enjoying discussing with you, putting forth doubts, listening to your solutions, and finally remaining satisfied with your answers?

After Mr. Arrighetti related the details you had mentioned, they gave me the occasion to go back to examine some general questions about the use of the Holy Scripture in disputes involving physical conclusions and some particular other ones about Joshua's passage, which was presented in opposition to the earth's motion and sun's stability by the Grand Duchess Dowager with some support by the Most Serene Archduchess.

In regard to the first general point of the Most Serene Ladyship, it seems to me very prudent of her to propose and of you to concede and to agree that the Holy Scripture can never lie or err, and that its declarations are absolutely and inviolably true. I should have added only that, though the Scripture cannot err, nevertheless some of its interpreters and expositors can sometimes err in various ways. One of these would be very serious and very frequent, namely, to want to limit oneself always to the literal meaning of the words; for there would thus emerge not only various contradictions but also serious heresies and blasphemies, and it would be necessary to attribute to God feet, hands and eyes, as well as bodily and human feelings like anger, regret, hate and sometimes even forgetfulness of things past and ignorance of future ones. Thus in the Scripture one finds many propositions which look different from the truth if one goes by the literal meaning of the words, but which are expressed in this manner to accommodate the incapacity of common people; likewise, for the few who deserve to be separated from the masses, it is necessary that wise interpreters produce their true meaning and indicate the particular reasons why they have been expressed by means of such words.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from The Faith of Scientists Copyright © 2008 by Princeton University Press. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction vii
Acknowledgments xvii

PART ONE: Founders of Modern Science 1
Chapter 1: Galileo Galilei (1564-1642) 3
Chapter 2: Johannes Kepler (1571-1630) 34
Chapter 3: Francis Bacon (1561-1626) 59
Chapter 4: Blaise Pascal (1623-1662) 79
Chapter 5: Isaac Newton (1643-1727) 102
Chapter 6: Charles Darwin (1809-1882) 122
Chapter 7: Albert Einstein (1879-1955) 143
Chapter 8: Alfred North Whitehead (1861-1947) 177

PART TWO: Scientists of Our Time
Chapter 9: Rachel Carson (1907-1964) 197
Chapter 10: Carl Sagan (1934-1996) 222
Chapter 11: Stephen Jay Gould (1941-2002) 249
Chapter 12: Richard Dawkins (1941-) 268
Chapter 13: Jane Goodall (1934-) 296
Chapter 14: Steven Weinberg (1933-) 317
Chapter 15: John Polkinghorne (1930-) 340
Chapter 16: Freeman Dyson (1923-) 365
Chapter 17: Stephen Hawking (1942-) 392
Chapter 18: Paul Davies (1946-) 412
Chapter 19: Edward O. Wilson (1929-) 437
Chapter 20: Stuart A. Kauffman (1939-) 452
Chapter 21: Ursula Goodenough (1944-) 475

Permission Acknowledgments 505
Index 513

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