IMO, among Thomas Sowell's small library of outstanding contributions, Knowledge and Decisions easily ranks as the finest. This is the 1996 edition, which simply adds a substantial preface to the original 1980 edition as far as I can tell.
The first half of the book is a brilliant, seminal, and timeless treatment of the nature of knowledge, how it is obtained, validated, transmitted, coordinated and acted upon. Sowell analyzes social, economic, and political structures and institutions in terms of their decision making processes and incentives as opposed to their intentions and hoped for results, and explains in a truly fundamental way how complex societies work.
The second half of the book examines specific trends and issues in the social, political, economic, and legal arenas. At the time of its publication, this was the current events section. Of course, the world has changed in many profound (and superficial) ways since 1980, so this section today is more historical in nature.
But since one of the great strengths of Sowell's work is its basis in and exposition of global and world historical experiences and perspectives, section two retains its interest and force, and is an effective reminder of the failures of centralized decision making structures that were viscerally evident a generation ago (especially via communism), but whose implications are largely forgotten today. As the saying goes, those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.
All in all, this is a great book that stands the test of time quite easily.
This is easily the best book on modern theoretical physics for a general audience. Michio Kaku is remarkably lucid in his presentation of this material which ranges from experimentally established areas like relativity and quantum theory, to the theoretical realms of string theory and M-theory, cosmology, and the anthropic principle. The later parts of the book become highly speculative, almost science fiction in flavor. Through it all, he weaves balanced, multi-sided discussions of what it all means. A terrific, mind expanding book.
Thomas Sowell does just what you would expect him to--get right at the root problem of the financial crisis with all the important facts, lucid analysis, and clean prose. In that sense, this book is the definitive overview of the genesis and trigger of the 2008 financial crisis.
On the other hand, I was disappointed that he did not go into the derivative problem--what the finance industry ("Wall Street") engineered out of the underlying fundamental mortgage securities, and the collusive relationship of that end of the industry with Washington DC.
Whereas Sowell's treatment of the primary phenomenon is outstanding, he seems uninterested in the secondary problem, remarking in passing that if everybody had kept paying their mortgages, there would not have been a problem. In that sense, this book is a missed opportunity for one of the finest minds of our time to fully analyze the financial crisis.
reductionist scientific materialist, than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
As someone who has occasionally followed the near death experience literature since encountering Raymond Moody as a teen in the late 1970s, I found this to be by far the most compelling contribution and experience so far. This is because of the author's distinguished career as a neurosurgeon, and his scientific, scholarly approach to assessing the data of his own experience, and then the broader phenomenon of NDE and consciousness.
Science has become arrogant with the manifest successes of its method, to the point of excluding the possibility of truths not accessible by its techniques. This book provides a compelling counterexample to the materialist zeitgeist, and a more catholic approach to truth.
In a universe where 96% of what is (dark matter and energy) has never been directly observed (a point whose significance was infused into Alexander during his experience), I am mystified by the confidence of science and scientists and the new atheists in believing that their findings disprove the possibility of meaning or creation or a creator. Alexander points the way to a fuller, and humbler, awareness of reality.
This is a mind expanding and profoundly moving and important book.
Late in the book, the author describes it as a "personal memoir". That is what it is. I was drawn to the book by the promise of a cogent statement of the workings and economic and social utility of his "good" derivatives, and hoped for a contrast with "bad" derivatives.
Unfortunately this is not that book, although I am sure the author is eminently qualified to write it. Instead it is a long journey through his life, travels, lunches, and what not. There are innumerable meetings where X is discussed, but seldom a discussion of X.
I finished not really knowing very much that I did not know at the start about the topic of derivatives, while I learned a lot about Richard Sandor and his role in creating the markets he was involved in.
The most revealing moment of the book for me occurred when this multi-decade player at the upper reaches of the financial markets goes to Washington late in the last decade and is astonished by its wealth. I guess that's why the governing class is called "public servants".
Many other reviews highlight this book's strengths, which are considerable, but there is another side. A few of the revealing details:
1) Pinker's grotesque and malignant caricature of religion in general and Christianity in particular acknowledges no positives whatsoever and exaggerates historical negatives.
2) He rationalizes abortion as not violence in one part, but treats it as violence in another context where females are disproportionately selected for termination. Well, which is it?
3) Not one, but two star turns for the odious Peter Singer.
4) A social science based argument that liberals are smart and conservatives are stupid.
Over and above these points, the book is almost suffocatingly smug in its aggressive left/progressive/secular/atheist ideology, which is unnecessary for the main point but helps drive its bulk. Arthur Morey's reading superbly conveys this complacence.
Covers all aspects of our modern energy situation--scientific, technological, environmental, political, economic--in a global narrative history that presents every side of every issue in a fair and straightforward way. Full of compelling stories and fascinating facts.
This book is foundational for understanding the global economic and political challenges of the 21st century, because every aspect of our modern way of life depends on reliable and sustainable energy.
This is a fascinating and foundational work that takes a topic (for me) shrouded in obscurity (how and why did civilization emerge in the pattern it did around the globe), and provides a vivid, detailed, and substantially convincing explanation. Thanks to GGS, I see world and cultural history with new eyes. That is pretty much the highest praise I can think of for a book.
I have a personal policy of ignoring (or at least trying to ignore) negative narrator reviews, as I find them always overstated. This reading is on the dry/flat/dull side, but it is still professional. The book is great and one of the most stimulating I have ever listened to. It is dense, but if you don't like fact, analysis, and theory, you wouldn't seek out this sort of book. Extremely highly recommended. It will change the way you see the world.
Negative reviews elsewhere, by names little and big (e.g. Dawkins), are full of name calling, appeals to authority (authorities who dismiss Behe's argument a priori), irrelevancies, and anger, but nothing that addresses the substance of his case. Behe provides detailed examples and arguments supporting natural selection and common descent. His sole challenge to the reigning dogma is the sufficiency of RANDOM variation to explain the complexity of life as we have come to know it through modern biochemistry and genetics. The howls of Dawkins et al betray a faith in life as a random accident challenged at the foundation.
This is the best book on the greatest man of our time. I give it four stars only because it is abridged. Also it ends around 1998/1999, when it was originally published. I'd love to see an update with the rest of the story, and in an unabridged audio format.
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