8/26/08

Need some feedback here

It turns out I will have a bit of free time this semester (at least, it looks that way). So I thought I'd do something a little interactive. I'm thinking of doing book reviews every once and awhile to highlight my own thoughts on contemporary (or not so contemporary) works. I'd need some suggestions, though. That's where you come in. I am willing to read nearly anything within reason (no Shel Silverstein books) as long as the book is generally available and would roughly be a significantly viable topic for this blog.

My areas of interest and education are:

*Philosophy
*Religion (the history and development of Christianity)
*Evolutionary Studies
*Consciousness
*Politics
*Atheism

You shoot me some titles, I talk it over with the guys and you get a review from me with the intent of spurring discussion. Sound good?

22 comments:

  1. I'd like you to review something lightweight on evolutionary psychology, or evolutionary biology relevant to the aforementioned.

    If you haven't read them already, there are two excellent books by Matt Ridley on this and related subjects: "The Origins of Virtue" (1996) and "The Agile Gene" (2003). The latter is a better book overall, although not so much about evolutionary psychology, and the former is maybe closer to your area of interest; both are fairly short (less than 300 pages), and available in cheap paperback that you can scribble your notes in :)

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  2. No Shel Silverstein books? Darn, that shoots down half my list...

    One author, whose musings on consciousness I admire a great deal, is Douglas Hofstadter, and I would be curious to hear what you think of, say, Le Ton Beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language or his most recent title I am a Strange Loop.

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  3. I have been wanting to read Atheism is False by David Ruben Stone but haven't had the time.

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  4. Oh man have I got some recommendations for you. I'm not sure if you're looking for a more academic style book to review, or something more popular, so I'll include a little of everything.

    Books on atheism:

    Atheist Manifesto by Michel Onfray, The Case Against Christianity or The Improbability of God by Michael Martin, Sense and Goodness without God by Richard Carrier, The Empty Tomb by Robert M. Price and Jeffrey Jay Lowder, God's Defenders or Atheism: A Reader by S.T. Joshi, What is Atheism? by Doug Krueger, Atheism: The Case Against God by George Smith.

    Theism:

    God, Reason and Theistic Proofs by Stephen Davis, The Virtue of Faith by Robert Adams, Is Religion Dangerous? or In Defence of the Soul by Keith Ward, Handbook of Christian Apologetics by Kreeft, The Irrational Atheist by Vox Day, Creation out of Nothing by Craig and Copan.

    Also, The Devil's Delusion by Berlinski would be sure to spark some debate.

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  5. Try "A History of God" by Karen Armstrong. I'm sure you wouldn't find it as convincing as I did, but it does lay out an interesting speculation on the origin of the Abrahamic Religions and chronicles a scenario for their evolution over time based on anthropological evidence. It starts from the premise that religion is a social construction, but that's why it would be good for starting debates here ;-)

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  6. Adonais: I think I have Ridley's later book, so if I can dig it out I'll see what I can do.

    Zilch: I generally enjoy Hofstadter, but after all the fuss I finally read GEB and was a little let down. I had never heard of that other one, so I'll see where I can find it.

    Jules: I will definitely look into it. I hadn't heard of it but it sounds interesting.

    Logan: Dang, that is quite the list. I've read a few of those, and just happened to finish Craig and Copeland's book about a month ago. That seems to be more of an in-house debate, even though there is a lot of theistic argumentation involved.

    Before I had written this post I started Carl Sagan's Varieties of Scientific Experience. Would anyone be interested in hearing my thoughts on that?

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  7. "Before I had written this post I started Carl Sagan's Varieties of Scientific Experience. Would anyone be interested in hearing my thoughts on that?"

    Oh definitely, that's a beautiful book, I liked it very much! The Q&A section at the end is hilarious too.

    But perhaps even better, if you would review his seminal 1996 book "The Demon-Haunted World." That's a masterpiece in my opinion, and one of the first books that turned me into a skeptic. It contains such gems as the "The Fine Art of Baloney Detection" and "The Dragon in My Garage," which some of us have been citing here occasionally :-) Very often I have cited this book as one that genuinely changed my life.

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  8. Here is an overview from amazon...

    Chapter 1: The Argument From The Laws Of Physics. This is a new argument developed by Stone, presented in 19 premises. The gist of the argument is that all physical event patterns (laws of physics) describe physical events caused by persons. And, since most such events are not caused by a human person, such events must be caused by a non-human person (i.e., God). A number of objections are considered along the way.

    Chapter 2: The Fine-Tuning Argument. This argument is not actually new, but Stone's analysis of it is new. He gives a mathematical proof of a probabilistic modus tollens argument form (Elliott Sober beware! Stone is hot on your trail...), and he uses it to defend one of the fine-tuning arguments presented by Hugh Ross in The Creator and the Cosmos: How the Latest Scientific Discoveries of the Century Reveal God. Stone later emphasizes this analysis in his defense of Ross against arguments presented by Michael Ikeda and Bill Jefferys.

    Chapter 3: Atheistic Cosmological Arguments Refuted. Stone responds to every argument in Part 1 of The Improbability of God. This includes critiques of Victor Stenger, Theodore Schick Jr., and many essays by Quentin Smith.

    Chapter 4: Atheistic Teleological Arguments Refuted. Stone responds to every argument in Part 2 of The Improbability of God. This includes critiques of Nicholas Everitt, Victor Stenger, Michael Ikeda and Bill Jefferys, Wesley Salmon, Michael Martin, Bruce and Frances Martin, and Richard Dawkins.

    Chapter 5: Atheistic Inductive Evil Arguments Refuted. Stone responds to every argument in Part 3 of The Improbability of God. This includes critiques of Quentin Smith, many essays by William L. Rowe, Michael Martin, and Thomas Metcalf.

    Chapter 6: Atheistic Arguments From Nonbelief Refuted. Stone responds to every argument in Part 4 of The Improbability of God. This includes critiques of several essays by Theodore Drange, Victor Cosculluela, Walter Sinnott-Armstrong, and several essays by J. L. Schellenberg.

    Chatper 7: Richard Dawkins And His Atheism Delusion. Stone responds to the atheistic argument found in chapter 4 of The God Delusion. The critique is calm and systematic, and provided at a level of analysis much higher (and more respectful) than that used by Dawkins. Stone presents an open invitiation to a response from Dawkins.

    Hope this summary helps.

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  9. "Logan: Dang, that is quite the list. I've read a few of those, and just happened to finish Craig and Copeland's book about a month ago. That seems to be more of an in-house debate, even though there is a lot of theistic argumentation involved."

    Like I said, I wasn't sure what kind of book you'd prefer to review, so I just threw out some names that I either read and thought highly of, or heard some good things about.

    I do happen to own the David Reuben Stone book, though have not read it yet. Much of the book is quite technical and is certainly not, as one amazon reviewer pointed out, an "armchair philosophy" book. As Jules's overview points out, he critiques quite a few arguments from many of the biggest names in atheism that you can think of. If you're thinking about reviewing a fairly technical book, you could consider it. I think you said that you were thinking of reviewing something that has been "under the radar", in which case this might be something you'd be interested in.

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  10. Nonfiction

    The Fruits of War
    Moral Politics
    Guns Germs and Steel
    Collapse
    A People's History of the United States
    Why the Allies Won

    They are all good and informative books- I think you will enjoy them.

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  11. Can you inform us which books you have chosen to read? Thanks.

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  12. I'm still working on it Jules.

    Someone bought me a copy of Dan Barker's new book "Godless" so I'm taking notes on his chapter on the Cosmological Argument.

    But I'll be moving for the next week without internet access, so I may be rare for a bit. But here is my rough plan:

    1) Dan Barker's "Godless"
    2) Sagan's "Scientific Varieties"
    3) Go back and talk about Plantinga's Evolutionary Argument
    4) Look for David Ruben Stone's book
    5) Peruse the bookstores and libraries for some of the books mentioned here.

    I won't promise everyone that I'll review all the books here, but I would like to interact with most of them publicly.

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  13. Josh, very nice plan for reading.
    I'm really not trying to be a smartpants, but judging from the polite and thoughtful way you handle yourself here and elsewhere and the things you are willing to read and digest, I predict that you will someday become an atheist.
    I know it doesn't sound like it but it is.

    Also delete that crap about John Loftus from daddy cool will ya? It really has no place in any civilized discussion.

    Just delete it.

    -Scary

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  14. Why would he become an atheist?

    What do you think about SJ's prediction Josh?

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  15. Hi, my son in college just started reading these three books and I really need somebody to read them and give me some counterpoints so I don't lose him to atheism. Two of these are brand new and likely to become best sellers, and the other (Atheist Universe) is a couple years old and is already a best seller. (Relatively speaking -- best selling in the atheist community. Hopefully not throughout the world.)

    Here they are:

    Christian No More (by Jeffrey Mark) ISBN 0981631304
    50 Reasons People Give For Believing in a God (by Guy P Harrison) ISBN 1591025672
    Atheist Universe (by David Mills) ISBN 1569755671

    I can't believe how popular these books are, and it's a relief to see a college student like yourself determined to spread the word of God.

    Martha

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  16. Hi martha,

    I'd be willing to personally help you out with this. Let me know for sure.

    Sarah,

    Ayn Rand's works are generally pretty large. I think I've read most of them; do you have something in particular that you'd like me to discuss?

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  17. Martha,

    While not being trained in philosophy, I am a scientist that has a great interest in faith and know a lot of resources that you may be interested in from those of us in the academic scientific community.

    A lot of these books like to claim that science removes all need for God and faith which according to many scientists is completely false. Let me know if I could help in any way.

    Like I said though, I am not a trained philosopher but I am a trained molecular biologist.

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  18. You should read "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson.

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