pg. 6: "Some philosophers have argued that the very open-endedness of human appetite is responsible for both our savagery and civility, since a creatu...morepg. 6: "Some philosophers have argued that the very open-endedness of human appetite is responsible for both our savagery and civility, since a creature that could conceive of eating anything (including, notably, other humans) stands in particular need of ethical rules, manners, and rituals. We are not only what we eat, but how we eat, too."
pg. 43: "[Vaclav Smil] estimates that two of every five humans on earth today would not be alive if not for Fritz Haber's invention [process to artificially fix nitrogen]."(less)
I managed to make it halfway through this book before finally giving up. It’s not that it’s bad - it just isn’t very compelling. Maybe it would work a...moreI managed to make it halfway through this book before finally giving up. It’s not that it’s bad - it just isn’t very compelling. Maybe it would work as a bathroom book. It’s mildly interesting, and conveniently broken into < 5 minute sections.
I think the premise of the book - hitchhiking across Canada and writing about it - could work, if the author wasn’t so obviously just doing his job. Stackhouse doesn’t actually seem to enjoy the trip - he might enjoy parts of it, but he’s on schedule, he doesn’t have time to stop and linger or change plans on the fly, which I would think would be the whole point of hitchhiking across the county.(less)
Written in 1985, this book argues that switching to television as the primary means for getting our news changed public discourse so that, because of...moreWritten in 1985, this book argues that switching to television as the primary means for getting our news changed public discourse so that, because of the medium being used, it basically became impossible for us to engage in thoughtful, meaningful public discussion. That news and other so-called "serious" television became entertainment not through some sort of conspiracy or active choice on anyone's part but just because of the nature of the medium - that soundbites and emotional vs. rational arguments became dominant because of the visual nature of TV. And that as a result of the domination of TV, print media changed to become more TV-like (tabloid newspapers and the like).
A lot of this whole discussion reminds me of the Amish approach to technology, which is to carefully think about how new technologies will impact family life before deciding whether or not to adopt them. Versus the approach of the rest of North American society, which is just to accept everything new, without much thought as to whether it might have a negative impact on society. And I can relate to the first approach - it's what I try to do in my personal life. But I don't think it's something that should be imposed on society as a whole. Sure, have the discussion, but people should get to make up their own minds about how they live their lives, even if that means they choose 6 hours of reality TV each night.
One thing that I didn't realize was how relatively well-educated the first colonizers of North America were, and wonder how much of an impact this had on the development of North America. For example:
"In this connection, it is worth citing a letter, dated January 15, 1787, written by Thomas Jefferson to Monsieur de Crève-coeur. In his letter, Jefferson complained that the English were trying to claim credit for an American invention: making the circumference of a wheel out of one single piece of wood. Jefferson speculated that Jersey farmers learned how to do this from their reading of Homer, who described the process clearly. The English must have copied the procedure from Americans, Jefferson wrote, "because ours are the only farmers who can read Homer.""
In all, an interesting read, although parts of it came across as curmudgeony.(less)
I wonder if Dawkins would class the 'God' that appears in Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God as a supernatural god - the type th...moreThis was interesting.
I wonder if Dawkins would class the 'God' that appears in Robert J. Sawyer's Calculating God as a supernatural god - the type that Dawkins is arguing against. I suspect not, and yet that seems to be exactly the sort of god that he statistically disproves.(less)