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What have you been reading?
Posted: 07 August 2008 09:16 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I recently finished Dawkins The God Delusion and enjoyed the read. He did a nice job covering a lot of old arguments against the existence of God in a fresh way that made it worth-the-while despite that I’ve read many others that essentially cover the same ground.

Check out Dawkins Web Site for video clips from personal appearances and other goodies.

An easy, but interesting book I recently read is Is God good, bad, or irrelevant? by Preston Jones (Intervarsity Press). It’s an e-mail exchange between a Christian college professor and Greg Graffin the lead singer of the punk bad Bad Religion who just so happens to have a PhD in evolution from Cornell.

[ Edited: 07 August 2008 09:37 AM by Jefferson Seaver ]
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Jefferson Seaver
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jseaver@centerforinquiry.net

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Posted: 07 August 2008 08:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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I have been taking a break from reading books like ‘The God Delusion’. I have been reading Neruda’s ‘Veinte Poemas de Amor y Un Cancion Desesperada’, Thomas Pyncon’s ‘Vineland’, and I browse Darwin’s ‘Origin of Species’ and V.S. Ramachandran’s ‘A Brief Tour of Human Consciousness’.  I am really intrigued by neuroscience and evolutionary anthropology these days.  E. Thomas Lawson and Robert N. McCauley’s ‘Rethinking Religion’ has been a recent favorite, also.

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Posted: 11 August 2008 07:07 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Life On The Mississippi by Mark Twain.  If we could go back now and view the grandeur and beauty of the Mississippi River as it was in Twain’s youth, we might better understand just how much Americans love to squander and abuse in the name of “progress”.  Reading anything by Mark Twain reminds us that since the beginning, our country has been over-run by Christian zealots and political blow-hards, punctuated by the occasional moment of clear-mindedness.

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Posted: 27 August 2008 08:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Hello, I’m new to the forum but thought I would share a couple of good books I am currently reading:

“Why I Became an Atheist - a former preacher rejects Christianity” by John W. Loftus

“Atheist Universe - The thinking person’s Answer to Christian Fundamentalism” by David Mills

I find Mills to be an excellent writer - clear and concise and very engaging.

I have just begun Loftus’ work, but it looks promising and I am eager to see his arguments for rejecting Christianity. It was refreshing to see someone talk about their own personal battles and transgressions so early on as well. He divulges a great deal of his personal life in the first 2 chapters. He is a midwesterner, and also taught at Great Lakes Christian College (GLCC) in Lansing. For those interested in perusing their site, here you go: http://www.glcc.edu/main/index.php

I recently moved to GR from Chicago and must admit I am a little shell shocked by the pervasive Fundamentalism here in this area. I was even more flabbergasted when I was informed by colleagues that some staff meetings use to begin with prayer, until HR caught wind of it (this was prior to my becoming an employee). I’ll save those comments for another thread though.

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Posted: 27 August 2008 05:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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i’ve just started re-reading “surely your joking mr feynman!”  great little book.

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hmmmmm  π

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Posted: 16 October 2008 07:32 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I read the http://slashdot.org site for commentary by the Slashdot
community on news concerning software, and Internet sites.  There is
also emphatic debate on all topics of network and software security.
And Microsoft-using authoritarians argue with libertarians and liberals,
who typically use Linux, over government monitoring and corporate
control of the Internet, as well as the state of other civil liberties.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 16 October 2008 07:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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“The Lucifer Effect” by Howard K. Bloom

I found a copy at the Grand Rapids Public Library.  This is the first of two volumes by Bloom on the effects of natural selection working on local alliances of organisms, groups rather than individuals.  The originator of this theory of group evolution, V. C. Wynne-Edwards, went mostly unnoted in the 1980s.  But Howard K. Bloom is a polymath who built a historical commentary on the effects of group evolution on humanity. See http://howardbloom.net/ .

In the second work, “Cosmic Brain”, he studied the phenomenon of specialized individuals that the evolutionary impact of groups allows for.  Not every one is on the same normal curve then.  Even bacteria soon after the dawn of life were organized groups, with special individuals who filled tasks such as exploration, and who died prematurely upon failure - contrary to self interest.

In humanity, there are even physical variants not on the same normal curve, namely men and women.  There are also variants of temperament, some of which are plausibly on different normal curves.  The failures of these in their high risk missions do lead to premature death.  Howard K. Bloom names the “Faustian introverts” as one distinct type with the high risk mission of cultural exploration.  This is illustrated by commentary on telling examples from human and bacterial history.

His first volume, “The Lucifer Effect”, studies, with a commentary on history, the co-option of individual violence by the (evolutionarily mandated) existence of groups.  The violence of tribalism and fascism deserves designation as the root of evil.

Howard K. Bloom has escaped sufficient notice (and has even evaded censorship in Grand Rapids).  I only read his work after hearing his interview by Art Bell on “Coast to Coast, Late Night”.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 19 October 2008 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Medical-Surgical Nursing by Lemone

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Barry Manilow didn’t write I Write The Songs. Bruce Johnston did.

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Posted: 31 January 2009 03:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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I nominate as book of the last century Sigmund Freud’s “Totem and Taboo”. It is a devastatingly elementary deconstruction of religion, traditional practices, and even the dramatic arts as a nice finishing touch. Howard K. Bloom concurred in part with my notion, but I know that this evaluation is hard to swallow for casual students.

Howard K. Bloom’s work wins for the ‘90s, I think. It’s Eric Berne’s work for the ‘70s, and Galbraith and Eisenstein for the ‘50s.

So, the book list is: “Totem and Taboo”, “The Lucifer Effect”, “Cosmic Brain”, “Games People Play”, “What do You Say after You Say Hello?”, “The Affluent Society”, and “The ‘Isms”.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 31 January 2009 03:57 PM by mburns ]
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Posted: 03 June 2009 08:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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One of Christopher Michael Langan’s sites is http://ctmu.org. Mr. Langan is the blue collar philosopher who has developed the CTMU, the cognitive-theoretic model of the universe. He illustrates the fact that a sufficient supply of gifted temperament makes for mutual incompatibility between the individual and academic departments.

The ideas there can be usefully studied, I think. They are an antidote to to the shrunken perspectives of academia (and even of CFI Central Dogma). By comparison with falsificationism, he gets some things right - the viability of some sort of mathematical realism and the utility of pursuing that lead with integrity rather than following incoherent precedent.

In the end he gets stuck on an excessively particular idea, an observer elaborated world. And he has no way to deal with the inherent multiplicity of mathematics as proved by Kurt Godel.


Michael J. Burns

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Posted: 06 August 2009 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Hello all…....new to CFI and the forums.  Wish I’d known about the organization when I lived in GR!

Currently reading The Mormom Murders…..almost makes the catholics appear sane!

Next on deck is “The Family….The Secret Fundamentalism at the Heart of American Power” by Jeff Sharlet…...an expose on C Street…..a calvinist’s dream!

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Posted: 06 August 2009 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I recently finished Leonard Mlodinow’s The Drunkard’s Walk. It takes a while for the book to begin to live up to its subtitle, How Randomness Rules Our Lives. In fact, you could say that that idea does not emerge clearly until the book’s concluding chapter, which is titled “The Drunkard’s Walk.” For the first several chapters, Mlodinow is mainly occupied with giving a historical introduction to the basic concepts of probability and statistics. But the book gets more interesting as the illustrations come to be drawn from sports and business rather than gambling. It builds toward revealing that much of our thinking about how the world works is a superstitious attribution of causal and purposive patterns to random processes. I’m glad that I kept on till the end of the book.

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Posted: 08 August 2009 10:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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“Between Heaven and Earth”, a manuscript by Alexander Patterson:

Terror, boy philosophers, and lyrics. I was moved.

The Discover edition on Albert Einstein:

I learned of the depth of Einstein’s specific commitment to the results of Spinoza. The genius of the 20th century rightly emulated the genius of the 17th in a commitment to the utility of analysis and reason that was clean of the notion of arbitrary mischief or obfuscation by metaphysical entities. Other academic physicists have not been so committed, and the trend is not encouraging.

An article included explains that Einstein renounced the possibility of black holes due to the rising of contradictions affiliated with that context of physics. But both event horizons and the contradictions that arise across them are inescapable consequences of the single premise underlying this kind of physics. This is the existence of the metric - which represents the possibility for observers to agree on the spacetime interval between events.

Einstein did not want a single unitary mathematical system of the universe to fail in such a manner. Spinoza was the origin of the quest for a unified theory.

The contradictions arising in the context of event horizons are actually resolved by their presence. Observers find themselves prevented by event horizons from communicating about properties of spacetime which irreducibly contradict the results from the other side. Even the Star Trek Enterprise would be permanently enjoined, I think.

Academics might protest my description, but they actually have a significant amount of remedial study to be completed before they master this context.

Spinoza and Einstein did not understand the contingent existence of the axioms of mathematical systems. Nor did they understand or accept the necessary, if partial, logical divergence between mathematics systems - proved by Godel, Einstein’s friend. There is no single substance after all. But this does not mean the failure of mathematics, or even significantly impede progress in understanding physics by the wise student. The academic departments seem to me to be a lost cause though.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 08 August 2009 10:54 AM by mburns ]
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Posted: 18 October 2009 11:59 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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“Hyperspace” by Michio Kaku:

This is written by a theorist who is also a popularizer of physics and cosmology. He can be seen often on science TV.

He reports on theoretical work done in the 1980s, which contains some good results mixed in with aspects which I regret.

Computerized algebra and calculus was already available in 1982, to the point that I was able to use it myself then. The 100 page mathematical calculations which he boasts of should have been computerized. And the zero result that he wanted most likely could have been arrived at by understanding the topological theorems available, namely the Bianchi identity - “The boundary of a boundary is zero.”.

Many of the compensating errors or outright errors come from a neglect of the principle of general covariance, that physics must not be defeated by arbitrary coordinate systems. Out of a traditional rebellion against this standard, physicists all but invariably use representations of physical objects that are not covariant - that do depend for their properties and appearance on a particular set of coordinate systems. When traditional calculations are taught, strategic compensating errors are made later in the process to hide the problem.

The properties of exotic matter and “rips” in spacetime are related in an entertaining way but erroneously.

Significantly, he admits that his string theory is not basic, but a cover for a deeper geometric theorem; it is wooden instead of marble.

Michio Kaku, along with many other philosophically oriented physicists, expects a single theoretical system to unite gravity with quantum mechanics, but a serious consideration of Godel’s proof deprecates this possibility. Alas, this consideration has been treated as too hot to handle since the time of Einstein.


Michael J. Burns

[ Edited: 18 October 2009 12:13 PM by mburns ]
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Posted: 02 February 2010 01:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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All Dawkin’s work is great, but getting repetitive. I have really been digging Harris’s books. Will Hopper’s Heathen’s guide was fun. Steven Pinker’s book are great. That said I hope people start with the roots and work their way up. Darwin, Neitzsch (my dogs namesake), William James, Voltair, ect.
Right now I’m reading “36 Arguments for the Existence of God; a work of fiction” by Rebecca Newberger Goldstein. I highly suggest it.

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Posted: 03 May 2010 07:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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I’m reading Dawkin’s “The Greatest Show on Earth”

Jefferson, is it just me or do you resemble either actor Timothy Stack or John Grisham?  LOL

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“Live Every Day As If You’re Dying Of A Contagious Disease That Turns People You Bite Into Zombies” - (The Onion)

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