the Martian is a fun story that is told without any sort of grace or skill whatsoever. I'm curious about weir's background. The book smacks of somethithe Martian is a fun story that is told without any sort of grace or skill whatsoever. I'm curious about weir's background. The book smacks of something written by a scientist who decided to try his hand at writing rather than someone who has devoted their life to the craft of storytelling. There were lots of moments where the writing itself yanked me out of the story faster than one of his broken airlocks; that's never pleasant. Some of the action sequences are told at a pace so quick, there's no time for the tension to really build before its all over. It isn't great writing. The dialog is wooden and unimaginative. The attempts at foreshadowing are blunt and transparent.
So why did I enjoy it so much? You got me, but I did. It's a super light read. The main character is super relatable. You're rooting for him. It appeals to your sense of adventure. But mostly I think it just has so much sheer science nerdery, it very nearly makes up for what it may lack in craft. It's not a great work, but I really enjoyed it. ...more
I've finished this book, and I'm not really sure what it is. Is it a holiday memoir? A political essay? A religious self-help primer? Recipe book? ComI've finished this book, and I'm not really sure what it is. Is it a holiday memoir? A political essay? A religious self-help primer? Recipe book? Comedy? Tragedy?
I guess it's all of the above. I can't help but wonder if Palin had a ghost writer for this book. If she did, I feel really sorry for that writer, trying to make any sense at all out of this complete nonsense. It's mind boggling that someone with such a fundamental misunderstanding of the concept of freedom of speech and religion was once a serious candidate for the vice presidency. Palin clearly sees religion as some kind of contest that must be won by any tactic possible. At one point, after droning on and on for pages about how Christians are in danger of losing their fundamental rights to push their religion onto other people, she stops to pay tribute to the proud day that Christianity confiscated the Winter Solstice from the Pagans. They won the Solstice for Christ, and it's the duty of every American Christian to make sure the pagans never take it back. The thought process behind this argument is so bonkers and un-christlike, you can't help but laugh. Still, she makes a lot of emotional arguments that will successfully incite fear in her fans. And maybe some of the arguments almost seem convincing on their surface, if you live in a fear bubble, and if you take her words as a balanced representation of the facts. It's too bad there isn't a single citation anywhere in the book, so good luck with the fact checking. Palin seems to misunderstand the most basic issues upon which she bases her thesis. She fundamentally doesn't seem to understand the difference between public and private institutions and property, and she has no concept of why the government should remain religiously neutral, all the while attacking all the religions she doesn't want to have any part of. You can taste the irony. There should be a recipe for it in the last chapter. She cries 'freedom' over and over, but she's not interested in freedom. She wants a Christian Theocracy, and the further we move away from that ideal, the more violated she feels.
If the book weren't written at a 4th grade reading level and easily readable in a couple of hours, I never would have been able to finish it, but I'm glad I did, because I really appreciated her detailed recipe on how to make Rice Krispies Treats. But if you don't have 2 hours of your life to waste on complete drivel, I recommend you skip straight to the chapter where Palin imagines visiting her grandson in college 20 years in the future. It is a fascinating inside look at the rantings of a clearly delusional mind. Incidentally it's also in this chapter that I think Palin got one fact right. In 20 years, no one is going to remember who she is....more
I picked this book after reading Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth. After a series of conversations I had with some young-earth creationists, and in ligI picked this book after reading Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth. After a series of conversations I had with some young-earth creationists, and in light of what is occurring in the battle for science curriculum here in Texas, I wanted to find a book that I could recommend to creationists, since most creationists have absolutely no clue about the actual science. Dawkins' book is not that book because he is unable to keep his contempt for young-earth creationists out of the conversation. I think the book would only insult those people who I wish would open up their worldviews a bit. To that end, Dawkins defeats his own purpose for writing the book in the way he delivers the material.
This book has a far more neutral tone, and is a a nice succinct look at the science of evolution. He chases less rabbits than Dawkins also, and he presents the evidence with a less impassioned tone than Dawkins, which I think is real plus if you're actually hoping to get those who disagree with you to listen to what you're saying.
You can see the differences in these two books just by looking at the titles. Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth is an impassioned case for evolution. It's practically a love letter to the natural world. Why Evolution is True is a far drier presentation of much of the same evidence. I personally enjoy Dawkins clever writing and all his rabbit chasing, and the passion for the subject that he can not hide, so personally I didn't enjoy this book as much as The Greatest Show on Earth. But it's a very good general-interest overview of the science of evolution. Reading these two books together, I realize how much my education as a child failed me, largely because my science teachers were clearly afraid of wrath of the religious influences in our community if they really taught the facts of evolution. To me that this is still going on is a travesty.
Since I started the quest for a book that I could share with young-earth creationists, I've realized the search is a futile one. Once you realize where creationists begin their argument, you realize there's no point in trying to have a reasoned conversation with them. They start by stating their hypothesis is fact, and indeed is revealed through God's own words. Then they work in reverse. Anything that doesn't support this conclusion is suspect, and is thrown out, or otherwise ignored. They aren't looking at the evidence to see where it leads, they are looking at the evidence to figure out how to discredit it, or how they can possibly warp it into a way in which it might lend some kind of credibility to what they already believe. Their minds are already made up. They have no respect for the scientific process, and consider the academic process of peer reviewed publication--probably one of the greatest things to happen to the process of learning--to be a conspiracy. I don't know how I forgot this, but i'm grateful for the reminder. Far greater minds than me have been unable to get these people to see how flawed this worldview is. It's certainly not something I'm going to cure. So I think this book concludes my quest. I don't think it will sway many minds that are already made up, But if you're someone out there just looking for a great overview so you can learn more about about the massive evidence used to understand the process that got us here, or if you genuinely don't know what to believe, because science education in this country has failed you miserably, this is a great place to start.
One more thought. I think he should have left the final chapter out. I understand why he feels like he needs to assuage fears that if society in general accepts evolution is true, we'll quickly de-evolve into a pack rabid dogs, but i don't think the argument is something that can be tacked on to this conversation and dealt with fairly in a few pages, and I don't think it has any place in a book about the science itself. It's the job of science to excavate the truth about how the world around us works. It's up to philosophers and religious leaders and the like to figure out what to do with that information. I think the fear of evolution destroying religious world views is about as rational as the fear that the entire universe doesn't revolve around the earth will end the Christian world view. When religion and science spar, historically, religion always loses, and it always finds a way to bounce back. I think the best way to forward for science is to continue to present the evidence and let the religious leaders work out how they're going to work it into their wordview, though I see why Coyne and Dawkins and others feel that to this point, that approach hasn't worked out so well. Still I think the important point that should be hammered relentlessly is that science makes no commentary on faith. Evolution makes no true commentary on God. It isn't even a theory on origins, merely a theory on how life adapted over time. Faith deals with the super-natural. Science stops at the natural world. I think the scientific world would make better progress if they continue to make this point with the religious communities. ...more
I really enjoyed this book as a good comprehensive primer on the current state of the theory of evolution, and how the evidence continues to mount inI really enjoyed this book as a good comprehensive primer on the current state of the theory of evolution, and how the evidence continues to mount in favor of the undeniable fact that the earth is ancient on the scale of billions of years, and the diversification of life on earth through natural selection. I can't imagine how difficult it must be for someone like Dawkins to walk a delicate balance between making these subjects easy enough for those of us who don't hold PhDs in zoology or microbiology to follow the evidence, without watering it down to the point that it loses all poignancy. I think He does a brilliant job.
One of my primary reasons for reading the book was to find something I could give to christians who are young-earth creationists that might give them a singular place to go to unpack just how misleading and manipulative the young-earth intelligent design movement is. I think most people in this position mostly read information from dishonest sources that are deliberately misleading and full of pseudo-science and rhetoric. I'd love to find a primer on the actual science behind evolution that could explain the massive problems with young-earth creationism in a way that doesn't insult their core beliefs. I had my doubts that a writing by the world's most famous atheist could do this, and I think I was right. Despite what I think is an honest effort, Dawkins still has trouble hiding his contempt for "history-deniers" as he calls them, and his atheist world view bubbles to the top pretty often. I don't personally have an issue with this, and in fact I can empathize with why Dawkins is so demonstrably irritated with proponents of young-earth creationism. And he's right. It's deplorable that scientists in 2012 have to stop their legitimate research and put dealings in the academic arena on hold in order to defend the basic facts of the universe from what basically amounts to medieval religious persecution. And I think his anger over the matter is directed entirely at the leaders of the movement who are so deliberately ignorant and/or misleading, and not at the average believer on 'the street." But, that's a subtlety that readers who don't believe in evolution on spiritual grounds will likely miss. In a perfect world, people would be able to read this dispassionately. Unfortunately we live in the polarized time of rhetoric and sound bites, and I think the people that most need the information in this book will be turned off and offended by Dawkins' tone. It's a shame, and it shouldn't be true, but it is. What evolution needs is someone who can deliver the science on this 'street-veiw' level without being critical of people's spiritual views. I don't think this book quite hits the right tone.
Still, I really enjoyed it. I learned many things I didn't know. I read it twice straight through, because there was so much here to chew on. ...more
From what I can tell, there are two kinds of people out there. People who love Cormac McCarthy and people who think he's a blasphemer of the holy bookFrom what I can tell, there are two kinds of people out there. People who love Cormac McCarthy and people who think he's a blasphemer of the holy book of grammar and punctuation. Count me squarely in the first group. He's a gifted storyteller, and a master wordsmith and stylist.
This book is based around themes I care very little about. I'm not into westerns, I've never owned a pair of cowboy boots, I don't know anything about horses, I'm not particularly enamored with the old west or cowboy culture. Nevertheless, from the second I opened the first page I was swallowed whole.
All the pretty horses is a love story. A love story between John Crady Gole and his horse--or maybe more precisely horses. There's a girl in there too, and the girl gets him in trouble and lots of horrible things happen, and alas, he and the girl are not to be. But that's okay, because it's not really a story about her. It's about the horses. And it is beautiful. ...more
This is one great book, and I'd recommend pretty much everyone read it. Especially if you struggle with your weight, or heart disease or diabetes runThis is one great book, and I'd recommend pretty much everyone read it. Especially if you struggle with your weight, or heart disease or diabetes run in your family, as they do in mine. My mom recommended this book to me after she was diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, despite the fact that she's very fit and active, not even slightly overweight, and has eaten 'right' all of her life. The basic theme of the book is everything you've been taught about the right way to eat and manage your weight is wrong. It's based on bad science with little to no evidence to back it up, while there continues to be more and more and more mounting evidence that the food pyramid is killing us all. Taubes is not a particularly gifted writer. There is little here in the way of clever writing. It's just straightforward explanation of facts. The amount of research he has done to uncover data and debunk popular concepts of healthy eating is enlightening and frightening.
My one issue with the book is how down on the concept of exercise Taubes is. I think he's only trying to make the point that if you continue to heat high-carb diets, exercise a ton, and subscribe to the calories in/calories out ideas about weight loss (which he disproves both through an in-depth look at how your body actually metabolizes food, and through lots and lots and lots of clinical data) you're never going to lose weight, and you'll still be at risk for things like heart disease and diabetes. But he's practically dismissive of exercise, giving it only one general nod in the whole book that it "may have other health benefits." People looking for an excuse not to exercise could certainly use this book to come to the conclusion that it isn't necessary, and while maybe it's true that exercising is not going to keep you thin if you don't understand the devastating effects of carbs on your body, There most certainly are lots and lots and lots of other reasons to keep yourself fit and strong through regular exercise.
Other than this one point, I think Taubes has laid out a solid, easy-to-understand, if sometimes dry blueprint for what's wrong with modern Western diets, and why the way we eat is killing us via obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and a plethora of other diseases.
If you've done a bunch of traditional diets to try and manage your weight and failed, I think Taubes work could be particularly helpful. His contention is that it isn't your fault, to this point, that you can't control your weight. It's not that you lack will power or are too lazy, as many of us have been told. It's that you've been given the wrong information to succeed. You've been set up for failure, and then blamed when you do fail. Do yourself a favor, read this book, find a physician who understands these principals, and tell your nutritionist to suck it.