Thursday, December 27, 2018

• God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist

God: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not ExistGod: The Failed Hypothesis: How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist by Victor J. Stenger
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! In reading through the various reviews of this book, which has a near-4 rating, it's incredibly funny and predictable how the fundies and other bible thumpers try to attack Stenger -- who allegedly not only doesn't use science in this book, but apparently doesn't even know it; I assume all of the fundies making this criticism have their freaking PhDs themselves in scientific fields since they obviously are claiming authority on what is and isn't science??? Anyway, these people nit pick and target a few select lines or assertions of his to "prove" that Stenger did not "disprove" god. So predictable. I just read one who was sarcastically (presumably) making fun of his interpretation of Stenger asserting that anything that can be described or generally proven though "natural," scientifically accepted methods means such things aren't God's doing. This critic is making fun of that. Holy crap, what an idiot! Um, yeah, that's basically the massively accepted and assumed consensus on the part of nearly all scientists, as well as freethinkers, rationalists, and plenty of other people. That pretty much nails it on the head. If science can explain natural causes, etc, for a whole variety of things, events, etc, then YES, you don't bring god into it! It's been proven to be non-supernatural. Duh! Fundies excel at nit picking non-fundie philosophers, other religionists (particularly other theists), scientists, and other people of differing persuasion, yet once you start pointing out the thousands of discrepancies, inconsistencies, inaccuracies (god showed Moses the part of Cannan known as "Dan" before he died, the irony being, there was NO place named "Dan" at the time; how do you know which of the two creation stories to believe in Genesis?; the crucifixion is described in all four gospels, yet while each described a sign above Jesus's head on the cross, they are ALL different from each other, so again, how do you pick out which one to believe?,; Moses, the author of the Torah/first five books of the OT, describes in detail his own death and burial in Deuteronomy, which I guess made him a zombie, and SO many damn more falsehoods and bullshit that countless books many hundreds of pages in length have been authored by Christians, atheists and others, pointing out just a number of them, because to get them all, it would surely exceed 1,000 pages), conflicting information, outright falsehoods (Nazareth evidently did not exist during this alleged census -- which also is verifiably historically wrong: there was none then, and not for about another decade -- and would not exist for several hundred more years, so obviously Joseph did not come from there.), and totally stupid "evidence" or "logic" (Example, with two problems -- Jesus's genealogy. The Jewish Messiah was supposed to have descended from King David's lineage. So two gospel authors felt it important to include Jesus's genealogy to "prove" he descended from David, thus helping to confirm his legitimacy. However, one just goes back some 14 generations to David while the other exceeds 30 and more generations, and to top it off, virtually none of the names of Jesus's ancestors leading to David match! Maybe one name. That's it. So, which one's right? How do you know which to believe? Or are neither of them right? This spurious discrepancy immediately calls into question the credibility of both authors and both gospels. But I said there are two problems. The beauty of the second problem is that it's so much more relevant that it pretty much wipes out any issues with or complaints about the previous problem I just described. The Messiah had to be of the line of David, and if Jesus was the Messiah, he would then have to have descended from the line of David. Well, throughout their history up to and beyond this time in Jewish culture, a person's line and genealogy was defined SOLEY through their fathers! Indeed, these two gospel genealogies refer, as is seen regularly throughout the bible, to a person as "son of 'X'," etc. And I hope you're seeing the irony now, and thus the outright bullshit? Joseph, an apparent true descendant of David, was NOT the biological father of Jesus!!! He literally passed no genes or DNA on to Jesus. Meaning that Jesus was absolutely NOT from the line of David, meaning he could not have been the Messiah at all! Freaking beautiful. And yet you'll never hear that mentioned in church, will you?), etc.

Look, not everyone will agree with the thesis of this book or Stenger, his points, examples, etc, and I get that. No book is universally loved and respected. And while I agree that a couple of the chapters are certainly weaker than others, which is virtually inevitable in a book such as this, and while Stenger doesn't resort to a Ph.D.-level volume on the subject, I tend to think he does a basically decent job of what he sets out to do, and at a very reader-friendly level, which some can't seem to accomplish. And while I've obviously read better, conversely I've read much, much worse, so I thus think that Stenger did a fairly good job at a complex and incredibly comprehensive subject (books 10 times this length could have been written about this, and you still wouldn't touch on everything), and while Stenger could have chosen to better address a few issues or perhaps have touched on some that are left out of this volume, on the whole, it's not a bad place to start for those who want to see how god stacks up against science. Oh, and I read one or two criticisms that focused on Stenger apparently addressing only the christian god. Well, I'm pretty sure that most points made in this and similar books could and do apply to ALL theistic gods, if not ALL alleged supernatural entities as a whole. The fact that Stenger refers to the christian god should not be held against him, because he is writing from the perspective of one raised and educated in, and almost certainly lives in the primary biggest and best known christian country, one in which you're exposed almost exclusively to the christian god and one in which right wing evangelicals have been working for decades to creative an evangelical theocracy here, and in which they've nearly succeeded and probably will. Thus destroying the country in the process. Finally, I'm very willing to bet the people criticizing this author for focusing on the christian god, apparently to the exclusion of Allah or Yahweh, are believers of and followers of these other religions, or even other ones, and I'd be shocked if these people actually think Stenger should be additionally addressing these other gods, as they share equal importance to the christian god. In fact, I'd be willing to bet a whole lot on that. So, hypocrites, don't be so damn stupid! If you can't fight the facts, shut up. And ultimately, please know that if science doesn't have the answer for everything (and it doesn't - yet), that doesn't freaking automatically mean the answer must obviously be supernatural, and moreso, must also be the christian god! There's no logic to that at all! Even if the supernatural were given partial credence, what gives you or anyone the right to insist it be the damn christian god (yours) instead of Buddha, Allah, Thor, Zeus, or any of the thousands of other gods that have and do swirl around this planet? Geez, try to use your brains for once and stop being a sheeple! What makes you so sure that you are right, in your christian god, while Muslims, who are equally as fervent and devout -- if not moreso -- and equally convinced of their heaven and hell, are obviously wrong, or ditto for Jews, Hindus, and so on? Even IF there were supernatural explanations for anything, why in the world does it have to be your own instead of someone else's? Think about that, why don't you. In the meantime, recommended book.

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Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action

Death by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to ActionDeath by China: Confronting the Dragon - A Global Call to Action by Peter Navarro
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Some interesting assertions mixed with some plausible facts, but the author clearly has an agenda and is literally resorting to little more than scare tactics to get his message across. I'm well aware that there are legitimate issues with China, their government, foreign policies, regulations, business strategies, etc, but I don't think one needs to go quite this far to get certain legitimate points across. Further, the author has developed a certain, say, "controversial" reputation over the past few years, has apparently benefited from it in unanticipated ways, and one could possibly argue that he remains a more fringe element "expert" that other, possibly more credible, individuals may be.

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Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer?

Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer?Decoding the Language of God: Can a Scientist Really Be a Believer? by George C. Cunningham
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Not spectacular, not bad. This book is designed to be a point-by-point refutation of Francis Collin's claims about his faith in a personal god as being compatible with science. Well, many people, including a very vast majority of the world's scientists, that the two are not compatible. I don't think Cunningham has to make much effort to show the flaws, holes, logical fallacies, etc, that Collins presents in his book and thinking. Really don't need to make much of a stretch here. Unfortunately, I do think a couple of Cunningham's points tend to be weaker than preferable and he should have elaborated or made more of an effort to finish Collins off. Not as good as Dawkins and some of the other current intellectuals addressing these issues, but I think the author went out of his way to "dumb it down" and make his thesis and evidence as accessible to all laypeople as possible, thus making his book seem less intellectually impressive. That still doesn't diminish the authenticity and truth behind the points he makes. Solid, above average effort. Recommended.

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Monday, December 17, 2018

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest

The Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National InterestThe Tragedy of U.S. Foreign Policy: How America's Civil Religion Betrayed the National Interest by Walter A. McDougall
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I didn't like this book. And my criticisms are probably unfair, because the author most likely accomplished what he set out to do. I think I merely misinterpreted or misunderstand the primary thrust of where the thesis was going. I had been hoping for a general history of America's "civil religion" over the years through the present, but especially focusing on the Reagan years through the present, and I guess I expected some analysis which would frankly be somewhat critical of the present situation.

Now before you jump on me to tell me that that is exactly what happened in this book, let me admit that I gave up and stopped reading before I got too far in. So if the author did what I expected, it's my own fault for giving up. However, I literally have hundreds of books here waiting to be read, and I'm in the middle of reading over 100 at the present, so I really don't have the time or patience for authors who micromanage their topics to death, particularly when a layman's book is being somewhat treated as an academic book. Because this was detailed freaking history starting in the 1600s, going excruciatingly slow, unbelievably boring, and to be honest, while it's fine for historical authors to be objective and not have an agenda, on the whole, the very title of this book implied a definite agenda, one with which I'd probably agree. Yet, for the life of me, I couldn't tell what the author felt, believed, perceived, was advocating -- nothing!!! -- as he proceeded to regale the reader with amazingly boring trivial shit! And trust me, I don't claim to be the smartest person around, but I'm not entirely dumb either. For instance, I'm presently reading books in fields such as public policy, nuclear engineering, religion (especially the primary theistic ones), atheism, philosophy, history, business, blockchain technology, network engineering, espionage, biographies, science, fiction, poetry, cryptography, culture, international relations, think tanks, hardware, software development, health, machine learning, AI, electronic warfare, limited nuclear warfare, radar signal processing, management consulting, quantum mechanics & quantum computing, among other topics. Trust me -- I can handle details, I can handle boredom, I can handle a lot of "difficult" material. Sometimes I want to quit reading a couple of these other book -- one nuclear engineering book is killing me, and one book on microwave RF design is boring -- but I rarely have any questions as to the thesis of the books, the authors' stances or where they stand on issues, what their agendas are, etc. And while I obviously know sometimes you have to work hard to reach certain points, this damn book simply seemed pointless to me. Mere American religious and political history. Ho hum. Pretty much know those fields already. By heart. I thought this would be a little more cutting edge, and again, perhaps it is, but dammit, give me a reason to reach the point in your book where you venture into uncharted territory! Otherwise, I've got better, more educational, more stimulating, more challenging books to read -- piles of them. So for those of you who read this book in its entirety and came away impressed, please enlighten me as to why I am mistaken in my response to the book. In any event, I can't possibly recommend this book. I'm sure there are alternatives that do a much better job. I'm extremely disappointed. Two stars.

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