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Full title The God Delusion [permalink]
Language English
Author Richard Dawkins (author)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Category Religion
Publication year 2006
ISBN 978-0-618-68000-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 406
Synopsis

The God Delusion unapologetically criticizes religion (as the title implies, belief in gods is a delusion, on the same level as believing you're Napoleon). First off, he tries to avoid confusion with the way Einstein and Hawking have used religious terms to express their appreciation of contemplating the universe, by invoking what he calls Einsteinian religion (neither Einstein nor Hawking are theists, by the way). In that respect, Dawkins tells us that he's a deeply religious non-believer, but dislikes using the word, instead preferring to reserve it for traditional religion.

Images Back flap of The God Delusion.Back of The God Delusion.Spine of The God Delusion.Front of The God Delusion.Front flap of The God Delusion.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Preface

1: A Deeply Religious Non-Believer

  • Deserved respect
  • Undeserved respect

2: The God Hypothesis

  • Polytheism
  • Monotheism
  • Secularism, the Founding Fathers and the religion of America
  • The poverty of agnosticism
  • NOMA
  • The Great Prayer Experiment
  • The Neville Chamberlain school of evolutionists
  • Little green men

3: Arguments for God's Existence

  • Thomas Aquinas' 'proofs'
  • The ontological argument and other a priori arguments
  • The argument from beauty
  • The argument from personal 'experience'
  • The argument from scripture
  • The argument from admired religious scientists
  • Pascal's Wager
  • Bayesian arguments

4: Why There Almost Certainly is No God

  • The Ultimate Boeing 747
  • Natural selection as a consciousness-raiser
  • Irreducible complexity
  • The worship of gaps
  • The anthropic principle: planetary version
  • The anthropic principle: cosmological version
  • An interlude at Cambridge

5: The Roots of Religion

  • The Darwinian imperative
  • Direct advantages of religion
  • Group selection
  • Religion as a by-product of something else
  • Psychologically primed for religion
  • Tread softly, because you tread on my memes
  • Cargo cults

6: The Roots of Morality: Why Are We Good?

  • Does our moral sense have a Darwinian origin?
  • A case study in the roots of morality
  • If there is no God, why be good?

7: The 'Good' Book and the Changing Moral Zeitgeist

  • The Old Testament
  • Is the New Testament any better?
  • Love thy neighbour
  • The moral Zeitgeist
  • What about Hitler and Stalin? Weren't they atheists?

8: What's Wrong With Religion? Why Be So Hostile?

  • Fundamentalism and the subversion of science
  • The dark side of absolutism
  • Faith and homosexuality
  • Faith and the sanctity of human life
  • The Great Beethoven Fallacy
  • How 'moderation' in faith fosters fanaticism

9: Childhood, Abuse and the Escape From Religion

  • Physical and mental abuse
  • In defence of children
  • An educational scandal
  • Consciousness-raising again
  • Religious education as a part of literary culture

10: A Much Needed Gap?

  • Binker
  • Consolation
  • Inspiration
  • The mother of all burkas
  • Appendix: A partial list of friendly addresses, for individuals needing support in escaping from religion
  • Books cited or recommended
  • Notes
  • Index
Full title Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor: 640 Jokes, Anecdotes, and Limericks, Complete with Notes on How to Tell Them [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Categories Anthology and humor
Publication year 1971
ISBN 978-0-395-57226-9 [Amazon, B&N, Abe, Powell's]
Pages 420
Synopsis

As advertised on the front cover, the book contains 640 jokes, anecdotes, and limericks, complete with notes on how to tell them. The jokes are sorted into eleven chapters (Anticlimax, Shaggy Dog, Paradox, Put-down, Word Play, Tables Turned, Jewish, Ethnic, Religion, Marriage, and Bawdy), more or less successfully (apparently it's hard to classify jokes).

Review

Most of the jokes are pretty good, and some stand out. Here's a little selection:

Science has a language of its own which sometimes puzzles laymen. The word "obvious" is a case in point.

Thus a professor of physics, deriving some profound point of theory for the class, scribbled an equation on the board and said, "From this, it is obvious that we can proceed to write the following relationship —" and he scribbled a second equation on the board.

Then he paused. He stared hard at the two equations and said, "Wait a while. I may be wrong —"

He sat down, seized a pad and started to write furiously. He paused for thought, crossed out what he had written, and began over. In this fashion, half an hour passed while the class held its breath and sat in absolute silence.

Finally, the professor rose with an air of satisfaction and said, "Yes, I was right in the first place. It is obvious that the second equation follows from the first."

Two gentlemen, both hard of hearing and strangers to each other, were about to ride the London Underground. One of them, peering at the station they were entering, said, "Pardon me, sir, but is this Wembley?"

"No," said the other, "Thursday."

"No, thank you," said the first, "I've already had my little drink."

The Latin professor arrived home in a state of utter confusion, and much the worse for wear. His jacket was torn, his trousers muddy, his hat a battered ruin, his eyeglasses bent askew.

His wife ran to him, startled. "Septimus," she cried, "whatever has happened to you?"

"Why, my dear," said the professor, seating himself carefully, "I scarcely know. I was passing the corner of Second and Main when, without provocation of any sort on my part, I was suddenly assaulted by two hoodla."

The curator of one zoo was shipping several animals to another zoo, and wrote an accompanying letter which said in part, "Included are the two mongeese you asked for."

The curator paused. "Mongeese" looked funny.

He tore up the letter and tried again, saying, "Included are the two mongooses you asked for."

That looked funny, too.

After long thought, the curator began a third time and now completed it without trouble. He wrote in part, "Included is the mongoose which you requested. Included is also the other mongoose which you also requested."

Tell me why the stars do shine;
Tell me why the ivy twines;
Tell me why the skies are blue;
And I will tell you why I love you.

Nuclear fusion makes the stars to shine;
Tropisms make the ivy twine;
Rayleigh scattering makes skies so blue;
Testicular hormones is why I love you.

I highly recommend the book.

Images Back of Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.Spine of Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.Front of Isaac Asimov's Treasury of Humor.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Introduction
  • I Anticlimax
  • II Shaggy Dog
  • III Paradox
  • IV Put-Down
  • V Word Play
  • VI Tables Turned
  • VII Jewish
  • VIII Ethnic
  • IX Religion
  • X Marriage
  • XI Bawdy
  • Index
Full title Words in Genesis [permalink]
Language English
Authors Isaac Asimov (author) and William Barss (illustrator)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Categories History, religion and science
Publication year 1962
Pages 233
Synopsis

Asimov explains, as the book is titled, the words in Genesis, the first book of the Bible.

Review

This is actually more than simply a list and explanation of the words used in Genesis. It goes into great detail into important verses in Genesis, explaining the history behind the verses as well as the etymologies of the words used (Asimov was Jewish by descent and spoke Yiddish, which helps). There are even appendices with maps of the relevant areas of the time, and genealogies of antediluvian (pre-Flood) and postdiluvian patriarchs.

Images Back flap of Words in Genesis.Back of Words in Genesis.Spine of Words in Genesis.Front of Words in Genesis.Front flap of Words in Genesis.
Structure [Toggle visibility]
  • Author's Note
  • Introduction — The Bible
  • 1 In the Beginning
  • 2 The Garden of Eden
  • 3 The Descendants of Adam
  • 4 The Flood
  • 5 Abraham
  • 6 Isaac
  • 7 Jacob
  • 8 Joseph
  • Appendices
  • Index
Full title Words of Science and the History behind Them [permalink]
Language English
Author Isaac Asimov (author)
Publisher Houghton Mifflin
Categories Encyclopedia and science
Publication year 1959
Pages 266
Synopsis

An alphabetical listing of common words in science, with one page of explanation for each of them.

Review

Asimov explains a whole bunch of common scientific words, from abacus to zodiac, in great detail and with particular care to their etymologies (it should be no surprise that many of today's English words are derived from either Latin or Greek, and this book makes that point more than clear). The book is in a sense an encyclopedia, and it can be read straight through or used as, well, an encyclopedia.

Images Back flap of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Back of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Spine of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Front of Words of Science and the History behind Them.Front flap of Words of Science and the History behind Them.

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