Milton’s God (and Google’s)

Franklin Foer:

What is God? It is only a subject that has inspired some of the finest writing in the history of Western civilization—and yet the first two pages of Google results for the question are comprised almost entirely of Sweet’N Low evangelical proselytizing to the unconverted. (The first link the Google algorithm served me was from the Texas ministry, Life, Hope & Truth.) The Google search for God gets nowhere near Augustine, Maimonides, Spinoza, Luther, Russell, or Dawkins. Billy Graham is the closest that Google can manage to an important theologian or philosopher. For all its power and influence, it seems that Google can’t really be bothered to care about the quality of knowledge it dispenses. It is our primary portal to the world, but has no opinion about what it offers, even when that knowledge it offers is aggressively, offensively vapid.

If Harold Bloom or Marilynne Robinson had engineered Google, the search engine would have responded to the query with a link to the poet John Milton, who is both challenging on the subject of God and brave on the subject of free speech—and who would have been a polemical critic of our algorithmic overlords, if he had lived another four hundred years.