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Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selection 
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Post Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selection
This thread is for making nominations for our March & April 2004 book selection. Please, please, please include an explanation for why you think your suggestion would be ideal for a BookTalk selection. Do not just post a book title. By doing so you are expecting people to do research when you should have done it yourself.

You can simply copy and paste a description of the book from Amazon.com if you like. You don't have to type an essay as to why the book is so wonderful. Just do something to educate us on what the book is about.

One of these days we will have an improved nomination and polling process for our book selections. I'm working on it now.

Now lets hear some great ideas! Oh, and please limit your suggestions to one or two. I've seen some nominations that include over a dozen books. You're killing your chances of selling someone on any one of those books because you're diluting your enthusiasm. Wow...diluting your enthusiasm. :b

Chris

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Sun Jan 11, 2004 1:20 am
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
I'm again going to suggest Pale Blue Dot, but also perhaps an anthology of science fiction? I can't think of any off the top of my head, but the stories may be good to start a discussion on what is and isn't potentially possible, or what parts of society and the human experience are illuminated in the work.




Sun Jan 11, 2004 4:05 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
I strongly suupport the nomination for Pale Dot. Carl Sagan's widow, Ann Druyan, will be at a conference I'll be attending in April of this year. Just like I was able to get Dawkins to chat with us I think I could get Druyan. I'll be able to talk to her 1-on-1 and this increases the probability of success dramatically.

Reasons for Pale Blue Dot

1. Ann Druyan
2. Mars exploration
3. Bush announcing new $800 billion NASA budget

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Tue Jan 13, 2004 1:29 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
Another $800 billion onto the deficit, hurrah! Ahem.

I'd like to nominate a book by Toby Litt called deadkidsongs - all one word, no caps.

It's the story of four boys growing up. It's a powerful and moving account of that time, and Litt certainly doesn't pull any punches; at times it is genuinely shocking and even a little frightening. Two of the lead protagonists are set up in the early stages to die later on, although Litt doesn't reveal who until later.

Because someone on Amazon said it better than I feel able to right now, I'll quote him:
Quote:
Litt cleverly taps into the egotistical psyche of the bully as well as the subservient and machiavellian interests that comprise the timebomb that is "Gang". The draconian rules invented by the members of Gang reflect a strict hierachy and exaggerated sense of honour and discipline, influenced by the military. In a fantasy world, where each Gang member yearns to die a hero in defence of mother England, grown-ups are perceived as the enemy. The one exception being Andrew's dad - the "best father", whose appalling abusive behaviour is glorified by the boys. Ringing faint echoes of "Lord of the Flies", the unsettling sense of impending doom in Deadkidsongs builds in a most compelling manner until the bloody conclusion. Whilst more than half expected, the pay-off is in no way diminished and is suitably satisfying and shocking. A few moments of gawky adolescent humour thankfully intersperse the mostly grim and cruel prose. The frequent switching of narrator generally worked well although, on occasion, produced a slightly frustrating lack of momentum.


It can be bought by searching at Amazon.com or Amazon.co.uk or at the page for the book, which is here.

Toby Litt also has a website at www.tobylitt.com





Tue Jan 13, 2004 1:56 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
Ann Druyan spoke at the FFRF convention in 1997 and someone in the audience made a comment to her about how the image of Earth as a pale blue dot impacted them greatly. Here is how she responded...

Audience member: I have every one of your and Carl's books, every one. But the picture of the blue dot is something I will never forget.

Ann Druyan: I'm glad you mentioned that, because Carl begged and pleaded with NASA to take that picture. The Voyager spacecraft are two of the greatest achievements, I think. I had no role in the engineering or the mission trajectories or the design of it, only of the message that happens to be on board. But I have to say that I think that the engineers and the scientists who created the Voyager spacecraft deserve the highest praise. They should be the heroes. We should know who they are, because what they did was give us, on schedule, under budget, exceeding their design specifications in every way, our first glimpse of some forty new worlds. It didn't hurt a person in the process of making it. It was a wonderful, brilliant achievement. It was Carl's great gift to plead with NASA over many, many months that as one of the spacecraft was beyond Neptune that it would turn its cameras for one look at the Earth--not the Apollo frame-filling Earth that is a great coming-of-age turning point in our history as a species, but instead: this little, tiny blue dot.

I remember Carl very frequently would give talks, and he would show that slide and he would just leave that last slide on. He would say, "Every writer, every scientist, every scoundrel, every corrupt politician, every great moral teacher, every philosopher, every young couple in love, every mother, every father, everyone you've ever heard of, lived there, on that tiny, pale blue dot. Who were the great tyrants in history but momentary rulers over a tiny fraction of that pale blue dot? Think of the rivers of blood that have been shed because of them." I don't think anyone was ever unaffected by that notion. Once you grasp that, nothing is ever the same.

If that doesn't give you chills you need to turn your radio down and read it again. Think about it.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Tue Jan 13, 2004 8:05 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
Being a Carl Sagan fan myself, I would definitely love to read Pale Blue Dot. It is awe-inspiring to think of everyone living on that one planet that looks so small from Neptune. Pale Blue Dot has my vote.

I will also want to look at Contact but can read that later. ;)

In Love and Reason,


Christian L. Ambrose




Thu Jan 15, 2004 3:54 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
Ok, so Pale Blue Dot makes the poll. We need 2 or 3 more book nominations.

Chris

"The man who does not read good books has no advantage over the man who cannot read them"



Thu Jan 15, 2004 5:05 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
I would suggest Consciousness Explained, by Daniel C. Dennett
Yes...it is probably the most arrogantly titled book of all time, but many people think its title is justified. Others however, disagree, claiming a more appropriate title would be "Consciousness Denied" or "Consciousness Explained Away".

Link to book on amazon.com


Short Description
In the book, Dennet attempts to do two things:
1. Destroy our intuitive model of consciousness (what Dennet refers to as the Cartesian Theatre model), and illustrate the fallacies contained in it, and
2. Replace the debunked model with Dennet's new counter-intuitive Multiple Drafts model.

As far as Dennet is concerned many people, whether they know it or not, base their understanding of consciousness on The Cartesian Theatre Model. The original Cartesian Model, put forward by Descartes was Cartesian Dualism, which essentially consisted of an unconscious brain under the control of the pituitary gland, which was essentially "the fax machine to the soul". The homunculus or the soul could read data from the brain, and transmit instructions to the brain via this "fax machine".
Of course no modern philosopher actually holds such a view these days, instead it seems to have been replaced by Cartesian Materialism. There is no homunculus beaming instructions into our brain, but rather the decisions are made solely by the by the brain. The "fax machine" of the brain has been replaced by the "oval office" of the brain. This idea of a "central observer" inside the brain is equally fallacious as Dennet sets out to prove, consciousness is not a result of a single point in the brain, but rather it is spread out in the massively parallel architecture of the brain.

After forcefully knocking over the Cartesian Theatre model, Dennet then goes on to put forward his own model of consciousness, The Multiple Drafts Model. Dennet believes that consciousness is the result of the information processing abilities of the brain, and its ability to interact with the outside world. In many respects he is a behaviourist, and he is also a supporter of Strong A.I. (essentially the claim that a computer could be conscious). Dennet uses evidence gathered from many experiments, and also encourages you to take part in many of his thought experiments, which illustrate many of the important ideas on the way. It's one hell of a philosophical ride, but Beware! Nothing is sacred, as Dennet goes after some of our most cherished ideas, the "Central Meaner" of the words that come out of our mouths, and even the very existence of our own personal subjective experiences (or qualia).

Reasons for suggesting
I think that this book would be a great one to discuss here on Booktalk. First of all, it is a highly controversial book...always a plus for generating interesting conversation. Second, what the general consensus of this book will be is not a foregone conclusion. If we were to read a book on, say the fallacies of religion, it is pretty much certain that we are all going to come out in agreement with the book. Not so with this book. I would love to hear the different opinions on how to deal with the mind/body problem. The usual objection to any explanation of consciousness is usually in the form of "You're obviously wrong. We are conscious because of our souls, which were given to us by God. End of debate!". Thankfully we can rest assured that such "objections" won't arise on this forum, and we can get down to a real discussion.
In short, I would love to see this book nominated, not just for the primary pleasure of reading it, but also for the secondary pleasure of participating in the great discussions, which it is bound to generate.
I am convinced that even if you completely disagree with Dennet's views, you will still thoroughly enjoy this book, and will not be able to walk away without having been given something to think about.




Sun Jan 18, 2004 7:23 pm


Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
I would like to nominate Women Without Superstition: "No Gods - No Masters" in honor of women's history month which is coincidentally March.

Brief description:

This is an anthology of women involved in freethought in the 19th and 20th century. It was edited by Annie Laurie Gaylor of Freedom From Religion Foundation. I sat in on her talk concerning this book. This anthology has an interesting story for its title. Women Without Superstition refers to Robert Ingersoll's statement about his wife and "No Gods - No Masters" is a Margaret Sanger quote who was a pioneer for women's reproduction rights.

The Reason for the Nomination:

Like I said above, it's in honor of women's history month. It is appropriate, not only because it's about important women in history, but because it was editted by a woman. :)

In Love and Reason,


Christian L. Ambrose




Mon Jan 19, 2004 7:10 pm
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Post Re: Nominations for our March & April 2004 book selectio
How about The Case for Mars?

A comment from Amazon:

"For our generation and many that will follow, Mars is the New World," writes Zubrin. This book went to press serendipitously, just as NASA was making its startling if heavily-qualified announcement that simple life may have once existed on the fourth rock from the sun. Zubrin doesn't spend an enormous amount of time arguing why Mars exploration is desirable -- we all want astronauts to go there, don't we? -- but rather devotes the bulk of this book explaining how it can happen on a sensible, bare-bones budget of $20-30 billion and a "travel light and live off the land" philosophy.

I think this could be an interesting read, especially given the current interest in the planet. We (the US) have 2 rovers currently on Mars, and both we and the Europeans have several orbiting satellites around the planet.




Sun Jan 25, 2004 8:40 pm
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Post Healing Israel/Palestine:A Path to Peace and Reconcilliation
Healing Israel/Palestine
A path to peace and reconciliation


by Rabbi Michael Lerner.

There IS a path to peace in the Middle East.

A first step is for both sides to stop the "blame game" and the attempts to make one side "right" and the other side "wrong." Both Israelis and Palestinians have legitimate claims, both sides have been unnecessarily hurtful and cruel toward the other



Mon Jan 26, 2004 12:53 am
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