Gleick explains information theory from soups to nuts, from African drum talking through Shannon's information theory. His chapter on information entropy is the first time when I finally started understanding the second law of thermodynamics (since they relate so well).
Because of this book any books that have anything regarding information theory, I ended buying it and listening.
Through the lens of Moody and his bible institute the author describes the growth of the 'evangelical and the 'fundamental' movement from the post civil war period to about 1925. The Institute consciously used modern business practices in selling its products to individuals and the book will give an extensive metaphor on how Quaker Oats used the same methods in selling their product to its consumers. (The founder of Quaker Oats also happens to be one of the key players within the MBI).
It's clear from the book how modern evangelicalism does owe its foundations to Moody and his methods. The book will also talk about how the original evangelicals associated with Moody wanted to bring all individuals together as socially independent consumers of religion but under a general umbrella while using a 'personal relationship to god' and a 'plain reading of the bible' in order to form a non-sectarian set of beliefs. I have no idea what those terms mean but the practitioners seemed to have understood. From time to time, I hear politicians speak like that, but it just goes right past me. I don't know what it means to have a personal relationship with an imaginary friend and somebody if he does not talk back to you. The "plain reading of the bible" doesn't make sense to me either. I wish the author had explained what that meant. Also, the evangelical movement seemed to have morphed into something called dispensationalism. Apparently it means something about there are different biblical ages that must be considered before one can properly understand the plain reading of the bible. Also, the final morphing into fundamentalism involves a premillennialism belief of some kind, the imminent return of a King of some kind to rule over the earth.
Overall, the book is an interesting read and by looking through the narrow focus of one person and institution to explain a modern day phenomena for which I often have no understanding of whatsoever is an effective approach. I still don't understand republican political presidential candidates when they talk about their 'personal relationships' with some one named God (or Jesus) but that 'person' doesn't talk to them in any conventional sense whatsoever, but now I know that they talk like that because of the modern business methods which the Moody Institute employed over 100 years ago.
Creationist believe silly things based on nothing but intuition and a belief system based on their revealed religion. Even among themselves they will argue about the placement of a comma and will accept what a book written thousands of years ago says over what science, common sense, reason, empirical data and rational thought processes show to be true.
It's incredible that people still reject the fact of evolution (the fossil record exist regardless of what people falsely may believe) and the Theory of Evolution provides the narrative for the explanation of the appearance of design around us. I recently went to a fundamentalist church and the church took it as given the literal truth of Noah's flood and how it explained everything the congregation needed to know about evolution. Yes, there are churches where people actually do believe those kind of things, and books like this one are needed to correct those silly beliefs.
What the book does mostly is show how much funner it is to rely on complicated thought processes to understand than it is to just assume the truth has been revealed to man through magical means and that the same magic never allowed for errors in the translations through millenniums. Give me a world with doubt any day, over a world with certain knowledge based on 2000 year old books. Science only shows things to be less false, but always fascinates. Certainty leads to no growth because nothing else is needed for understanding.
The author goes beyond science and examines what it really means to believe in a holy book such as the bible. He's got a good chapter on "hell" and why it just makes no sense. I would recommend one of my favorite books that dealt with that similar theme and used that as a central character the memoir of Jerry Dewitt "Hope After Faith". It was his non acceptance of hell that led him out of his journey from a Pentecostal Preacher ultimately to an atheist. And does having some one else dying for your sins really make any sense?
I would recommend this as the best book I've read for a fundamentalist who is starting to doubt the revealed truths she's been hearing on Sundays and has started to realize that there is such a thing as science which can explain our place in the universe better than a book which documents a world wide flood and claims animals must come from their 'kind' thus completely rejecting the Theory of Evolution before it was proposed.
I preferred Richard Carrier's book "Sense and Goodness without God" slightly more than this book, but I would rank this book slightly higher for those who haven't read hundreds of science books because this book is definitely less rigorous and more accessible.
The best understanding comes about by talking about what we know. There is no explanatory power in invoking the supernatural when trying to explain anything including the problem of consciousness. The idea of a soul to explain consciousness adds nothing to our understanding. This book looks at how we no longer need the Cartesian duality of the mind and the brain in order to explain how we think.
This book looks at the 'hard problem' of consciousness and goes about systematically explaining why it should never be considered unsolvable or classified as the 'hard problem' and how significant progress is currently being made in the field and for which is best explained to layman by a Neuro-Philosopher such as the author is instead of by a neuroscientist.
She writes in a very conversational manner and excels at story telling. The book really comes alive when she gives real life stories from her past. But, make no mistake, she doesn't dance around explaining difficult concepts about evolution, genetics, brain functions, and even the common fallacies you'll often hear which over simplify about race (such as the truly vile book by Nicolas Wade, 'A Troublesome Inheritance'), gender identity and free will. She did point out in the book that Daniel Dennett (whose books I love and have listened to on Audible) is wrong when he says that consciousness needs language. I still love Dennett but Churchland is right on the points she made.
Overall a very sophisticated book written in a conversational manner even while covering hard to understand topics.
This book looks at the how America got "In God We Trust" on our coins and "Under God" in the pledge of allegiance during the 50s. The common wisdom of today is that it was mostly a reaction to the spread of 'atheistic' communism. As is usually the case, the common wisdom is wrong and only tells a part of the story.
A good history of a subject looks at all the nuances, moving parts and complexity of the times before showing how the common wisdom has gotten it wrong. This book does just that. The author's major thesis that he lays out in this book is that the corporations needed allies in their fight against Roosevelt's New Deal policies and realized that Christian Americans would be a perfect ally. The religious saw the government as a threat to "Freedom Under God" and this led to "Christian Libertarians".
The author looks at all the moving pieces and how they interacted primarily through out the 1950s and into the mid 60s. We came really close to having a constitutional amendment allowing for official sanctioned prayers in government building and schools. Billy Graham seems to be wrong about everything. From Graham telling us "there were no labor unions or strikes in the Garden of Eden", but there was a talking snake to his fervently desiring forced prayers within schools and steadfastly standing with Nixon. The Unitarians seemed to be right about everything and keep popping up through out the story on the correct side of history.
Overall the book makes for a good story and is well worth a listen to learn a more nuanced telling of history for a period of time when religion tried to rule our lives and did not respect the secular.
The weakest arguments for the existence of God are 1) life would have no meaning without God (therefore God must exist) and 2) how can something come from nothing if there isn't a God to make it happen (an ontological argument). This book refutes those two arguments. As he says in the book it's a rare person who acquires a belief in God because of those arguments, but usually a person believes in God first and then adopts those arguments.
This book firstly demolishes the premise that the purpose for life must come from outside of us since we can be inspired from within and don't need to be "out spired" to find our meaning. The author doesn't just state things but steps the listener through on how to get past the sophistry foisted upon us by fundamentalist who can't get past their slave/master mentality inherent within their self referential religious belief system, Adam sinned, Jesus died for your sin of Adam, and forgiveness must be asked for and submission to God must be asked for the sin which you have for which you were born in and you must only accept this so you can be forgiven. And the fundamentalist say morality must come from this revealed book based on this revealed religion. The religious book written by men but claimed to be inerrantly written by God or Gods unlike any other book tells us LGBT are abominations and women are second class citizens and even mentions how all the tombs of Jerusalem opened up and the Saints walked the streets of the city (the first Zombies! Matthew 27:52) and our morality and ethics are selectively chosen from this book.
Understanding morality is hard, the author makes it easy, "do no harm". There are nuances and there are ethics to consider but first the author starts there. He develops it better than most authors do (much better than Michael Shermer did in his latest book). He'll even tells us we need to consider our intuition, our reason and the law. It's tough being a "good" human but much more profitable than believing a book based on magic can answer such complex questions.
The second thrust of the book deals with why the question "why there is something rather than nothing" is as flawed as saying twelve divided by zero. The question needs context, 'nothing' only has meaning contrasted with something. In our universe virtual particles are created all the time and as the author states when this happens on the boundary of a black hole matter is created. Even stipulating to the premise that 'God did it' how do we know that God is not a machine with advanced AI and it too realizes morality is complex and has been programmed to never interfere.
There are two ways of discovering the truth about revealed religions. One is to read science books (I've read over a hundred science books in the last four years), such as Dennett's "Darwins Dangerous Idea" which was referenced in this book, the other is with books like this one which demonstrate that our purpose in life can come about by learning about the universe by reading books like this one.
I really like the author. I enjoy watching his debates online. He's always polite in his debates as he is in this book. I liked this book so much that I'll end up getting one of his other books (even though it's not on Audible and I'll have to actually read it) in order to understand how he got out of the narrow minded fundamental trap he was in before realizing truths such as happiness (subjective well being) comes from within us not outside of us instead of some imaginary transcendent plane which is undefinable.
For me, there is no greater compliment to an author that I like him so much that I'll read his other books even though there not available on Audible.
The author quotes John von Neumann (a developer of game theory among many other things) in the beginning of the book to the effect that the Game of Chess doesn't require a strategy because there is an exact mathematically correct move for every situation but for most other areas a correct strategy is not determinable. This book covers all those different areas in an encyclopedic fashion.
The book is a long read, but who among us can't devote thirty hours or more to such an interesting topic. The book is thematically arranged by area (war, politics, social sciences, business, and so on). He'll talk about the different strategies and almost always shows that they work until they don't.
The book illustrates how dangerous it is to just have intuition with a good narrative when developing a strategy while ignoring the empirical and reality. Reality is complex. Most of the time narratives will only get you so far.
Overall a long read, but worth it. There is a central narrative in the book, but sometimes the author didn't understand how to tie his stories together coherently.
Politics is the art of the possible. A perfect piece of art is the one in which no item could be added or subtracted from the canvas without making the picture less perfect. The author of this book has made the development of Lincoln's understanding of slavery like a perfect painting.
Lincoln is always ready to grow and revise his understanding of the 'peculiar institution'. He realizes that he can't get too far ahead of the people or the politics without marginalizing his ultimate objectives. For example, Lincoln fully believes the border states are vital for the success of the Union, and realizes their importance, "We want God on our side, but we must have Kentucky". He'll make political compromises in order to secure the border states while at the same time refining how he sees the moving parts that make up the issues of the time.
I just recently read the book, "What Had God Wrought", a history of America 1815-1848. From the book, it's clear that Slavery is the main character for American History during that time period. I wanted a book that filled in the period from after 1848 through the Civil War. This book, "Fiery Trial", does that superbly by showing how one man handled the question and how he led the change for the country as a whole and was always willing to grow and learn as the times would permit.
The author starts with the major premise that the bible is the inerrant word of God. The bible tells us that in multiple places therefore we know it's true. He'll go on to tell the reader, we are born with sin and the only way to overcome that is through belief in Jesus. Paradoxes within scripture are only because of lack of faith. The more holy we become, the more we realize how unholy we were. Faith leads to justification and salvation. He quotes a lot of scripture to prove his points. Prophecy is perfect and the Old Testament prophesied Jesus. The ressurection is true and proves the divinity of Christ. He'll argue that God has a plan for all of us. The story of Joseph and his brothers illustrates how God has a perfect plan for us. Moses in the desert demonstrates God's wisdom and shows us why we should rest on the sabbath. Obedience is part of God's plan. Free will is a gift from God and that proves the truths in the bible. Christianity must be true because it's the only religion that uses grace from God to save us from our sin which we are all born with and we must be born again in order to be saved.
He uses Kierkaard to defend his point on the value of reason for our faith. He probably shouldn't because Kierkegaard would argue faith isn't necessary because it's correct, but faith is necessary because it keeps us balanced. The author does comment on my favorite book of the bible, Ecclesiasties, but he says "almost certainly it was written by Solomon".
There is not much to recommend in this book except for those who do believe in the authors major premise. He has no doubt in his certainties, but makes weak arguments in support of his major premise.
The author gives a fairly good look at how Virologist think and see the world. He'll explain in general terms how they see the world and what kind of work they do. I would strongly recommend this book for anyone who thinks they might want to enter the field or for those who have not read any other books on similar topics.
It's obvious to me that the author knows a whole lot more about the subject, but in order to keep the book interesting for the widest possible audience he usually only explains the field in the most general terms.
For me, I wish the author would have written a more detailed book and my expectations weren't met.
The author tells a series of stories from 1492 until today, and he tells the stories so well that if I were to pick a random year, I could tell you which story the author told and also tell you the chapter that came before and the chapter that came after. He tells his story so well that I can in my mind recreate the book from the first chapter to the last and not miss a chapter in the telling. Within each story the author will put the story into the context of the time and then tie the pieces together.
The best way to illustrate his technique is to highlight one of his chapters, Mary Moody Emerson, known as the baby who was at one of the first battles of the Revolutionary War, saw a Hindu give a talk at her boarding house, this made her aware of beliefs beyond her own, and while she lived with her nephew, Ralph Waldo Emerson, she taught how one could think beyond their own certainties, and that led to the Transcendental Movement and led to Moby Dick by Melville. He ties the connections of each of his stories, gives the context, and always entertains. (A chapter after will be about San Francisco and the Chinese, and a chapter before was on the burning of the Capitol in the War of 1812 and Jefferson's library. Everything connects within this book, both within the chapters and between the chapters).
Within each chapter he ties each piece into a coherent whole and puts the context around the story, and between each chapter he relates it to the previous chapter such that he writes an incredibly interesting set of stories which gives everyone a peek into how a country is seamlessly woven together into a tapestry of different pieces which only makes sense after the whole is observed.
I found each of the stories awe inspiring. He is that good of a story teller, and he'll always tell you why the story matters today.
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