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Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible
Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible
by Jerry A. Coyne
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $19.68
82 used & new from $12.50

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Gets to the heart of the issue...a worthwhile read!, June 22, 2015
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Having enjoyed "Why evolution is true" and having read Dr. Coyne's blog of the same name for several years, I was interested to see how he handled the broader issue of the interface between science and religion.

Realizing that this is contentious material, and conscious (I imagine) that whatever he writes will be deconstructed by philosophers and theologians, he makes his case with care - being clear to define what he means by "science", "religion" and "incompatible" before turning to the core of the incompatibility: science and religion are both in the "truth" business (that is: telling us about the reality we live in) but that science has a method for determining what is true in the world around us (a method based on constant critiquing and reviewing of tentative conclusions, a method that prizes doubt) whereas religion does not (it's "methods" are based on certainty, revelation and dogma, leading to thousands of mutually inconsistent versions of the "truth").

On the way to establishing (convincingly, in my view) that science and religion are incompatible as ways of determining truth, the book explores: what in practice the "scientific method" actually means; the ways in which religion makes truth claims, and the practical harm these truth claims lead to.

A good read on an important issue of our time. I'd especially recommend it to open minded believers.

Alpina BC-1550 Back-Country Nordic Cross-Country Ski Boots for NNN-BC bindings
Alpina BC-1550 Back-Country Nordic Cross-Country Ski Boots for NNN-BC bindings
Price: $149.99 - $159.99

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars and they've been great.., December 16, 2014
I've had these for several years, and they've been great...apart from one big flaw which means I can't honestly recommend them. As another reviewer mentioned, the boots crease on the top of the foot just behind the toes, creating "toe chop", friction on the top of the foot during every step. I hoped with time and lots of layers the problem would ease, but it's not something that goes away after a break in period, in fact, if anything, the boots flex more easily with time, making the problem worse. I can only recommend them for short trips of an hour or two. Beyond that, expect to need some foot care afterwards...

by Iain M. Banks
Edition: Hardcover
82 used & new from $0.01

49 of 54 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Takes time to get into, but worth the effort, September 21, 2009
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This review is from: Transition (Hardcover)
Although I gave this book 5 stars, it's not for everyone: if you like your sci-fi to have a clear and straightforward plot line, conventional narration, and the usual trappings of sci-fi, there's very few of those things on display here. Instead the narration flits disconcertingly between a variety of characters, who, we are informed, may not be reliable (or even identifiable: in some cases we aren't even given a name).

If you're prepared to journey with this cast of unreliable narrators and stick with the journey through the (at times quite slow-paced) initial machinations, it builds to a very satisfying and thought-provoking read - one of Mr. Bank's best, in my opinion.

The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism
by Timothy Keller
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.41
330 used & new from $1.64

93 of 173 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars The reason for me giving this book one star, August 24, 2009
I approached this as a skeptic, thinking from the reviews that it would give me insight into why highly intelligent people subscribe to beliefs, such as the literal truth of the bible, that to me appear completely unsupportable, and would be ridiculed in any other field. From the reviews of this book I expected the state of the art in religious advocacy: I hoped for some very sophisticated arguments for faith that I'd never been exposed to in my own upbringing, that would perhaps cause me to look at belief again.

I was deeply underwhelmed. Althought the books structure and chapter headings address big themes like the presence of evil, whether science disproves the existence of god, and so forth, the content of each section is very thin and glib. In most cases the author appears to be talking to his own inner straw man rather than addressing arguments someone who is not a Christian would make; in fact many sections read like adaptations of sermons, addressed to the those wavering in the congregation rather than someone outside the faith. if you didn't grow up in the Christian tradition you'll be bewildered, as the author assumes that, for example, you are already familiar with the story of Jesus and the resurrection and see it as the greatest story ever (instead of a rather weird tale).

Bottom line: if you don't already love Jesus, or really want to, this won't do much for you. If you are curious as to why there is a case to be answered, I'd highly recommend "The End of faith" by Sam Harris as a starting point.
Comment Comments (12) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Nov 9, 2010 10:44 PM PST

Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why
by Laurence Gonzales
Edition: Paperback
Price: $9.38
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Many interesting stories, but meandering conclusions..., August 11, 2009
An uneven read: the author pulls together a disparate collection of survival yarns, and in telling them attempts to answer some basic questions: what makes a survivor? Why do some survive, and others die? In answering, he intersperses the stories with diversions into psychology, brain science, and less predictably, complexity theory and chaos.

The collection is strongest when the survival narrative is compelling, and he lets the story propel itself (for example,a tale in the final third of the book about a sailor who survives months drifting in the Atlantic on a raft). Weaker are the more humdrum stories about weekend warriors getting out of their depth (and I speak with some experience here). Often the digressions into brain chemistry and complexity theory seemed like pretentious padding (though I should say I did learn a few things). Also, while Gonzales has a wealth of experience as an adventurer, some of his personal anecdotes seemed somewhat self-aggrandizing (such as a motorbike trip he relates - the main purpose apparently being to let us know that Lyle Lovett is his pal).

Finally, my issues aren't just stylistic - I feel in many cases Gonzales' conclusions miss a teaching opportunity by going failing to point out the obvious. For example, one story discusses a pair of hikers that get separated in the Rockies (resulting in a near-death experience for one of them). Gonzales describes them as well-equipped and experienced, but we learn early on that one of them has the map and the other the compass - in a very rugged area neither of them knew. By definition that is not well-equipped (google "Ten essentials"). So don't expect to learn much about the mundane details of how to maximize your safety in the outdoors here - what to pack, do's and dont's...

So, good tales for an quiet evening (don't read them before or during a climb!) - but look elsewhere for practical survival tips....

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Vintage International)
Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Vintage International)
by Haruki Murakami
Edition: Paperback
Price: $10.00
99 used & new from $1.64

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A magical collection..., August 11, 2009
Yes, as one review says, these stories are addictive - Murakami has this amazing ability to take you into an utterly strange world in a few strokes of the pen. However you have to be prepared to go there - many of the stories take bizarre twists into the supernatural (and consequently, they often don't have nice logical resolutions). But if you're willing to go where the stories take you, it's a rewarding experience.

The Turning: Stories
The Turning: Stories
by Tim Winton
Edition: Paperback
Price: $16.10
72 used & new from $0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars A memorable collection..., August 11, 2009
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This review is from: The Turning: Stories (Paperback)
I've read several of Tim Winton's books, and though others are also excellent (Dirt Music, for example), this might just be his best. While it's organized as a collection of short stories, there's many interconnections, giving the collection as a whole a real depth that it might not have had otherwise. While not every story will resonate with you to the same extent, expect many of them to stick with you long afterwards...

Introduction to Maple
Introduction to Maple
by A. Heck
Edition: Hardcover
Price: $40.00
56 used & new from $2.62

7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Out of date and poorly structured, August 20, 2008
This review is from: Introduction to Maple (Hardcover)
I'm a college math lecturer who uses MAPLE as part of teaching calculus. As an introduction to MAPLE I have to give the book a poor review. While the author clearly has extensive knowledge of MAPLE, the book is structured so it's virtually impossible to find anything except by accident. Many of the topics covered are highly specialized and of little relevance to the reader looking for a general introduction. Finally, the book covers MAPLE 8. MAPLE is now at version 12, and has gone through many package extensions and user interface changes since then. The current user will be mystified with the disconnect between what they are reading and what they see on the screen.

Where else to go for an introduction? I'm not aware of a really good text out there, but the short instructional videos on MAPLE's web site give good brief overviews of new features, and the sample commands in the online help can help you get started.

History of Bombing
History of Bombing
by Sven Lindqvist
Edition: Hardcover
3 used & new from $473.01

5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Distinctive, Passionate and thought provoking, August 15, 2008
This review is from: History of Bombing (Hardcover)
This is a book I read a long time ago and it stuck with me afterwards - it's got an unusual nonlinear structure (the short segments are arranged roughly chronologically, but you read them non-sequentially as the author mixes history, personal anecdote, etc). This structure could be seen as a gimmick, but I felt it worked well to create a work whose whole felt greater than the sum of its parts. Other reviewers have faulted the book as a "History of Bombing" - but the intention was not to write a history as such. As a rumination on the human predilection for war, past, present, and (sadly) future it's a worthwhile journey.

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