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Luis

Luis

"Why do you need the supernatural, when the natural is already so super?"

I made this up when I saw the canyons of Kaua'i.

I wish I was here
I wish I was here

Excellent defense of compatibalism

Elbow Room: The Varieties of Free Will Worth Wanting - Daniel C. Dennett

Here, Dennett offers a highly cogent defense of compatibalism - the notion that determinism and free will are not in conflict. Dennett defends a "free will worth wanting" - that is, one that apportions moral responsibility to us as thinking, feeling and conscious agents, but that doesn't rely on any spooky notions of immaterial minds or souls detached from the physical universe.

 

Challenging, but not overly technical, this book is a must-read for anyone interested in questions of free will, morality and our place in the material order of the universe. This is a serious work in both scientific and moral philosophy, and Dennett's skill as a writer makes it accessible to all interested readers.

Utterly exquisite

The Ancestor's Tale: A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution - Richard Dawkins

If you love anything having to do with biology, then sit back and enjoy the ride, as you travel back in time and meet the "concestors", all the way back to LUCA - the Last Universal Common Ancestor. Each stop along the way is a pearl of fascination, while also deepening your realization that all animals and plants on this planet are kin. The book will leave you with a deep, deep sense of wonder and admiration for the process of evolution, and the eons of experimentation that have taken place on Earth.

 

The book is lavish and perfectly executed. Dawkins' writing is elegant, informative and entertaining. He offers up evolutionary riddles as well as answers, and instills in the reader not only a love for biology, but for the process of science and investigation. Every home on the planet should have a copy of this book. This masterpiece is a rare indulgence. Buy it and cherish it for the rest of your life. I'm not even kidding.

Fantastic, and humbling

Jurassic Park - Michael Crichton

This book is superb for a number of reasons. It's chilling in its believability. You really do feel that a park filled with dinosaurs could be like this. It also has a tonne of stuff that didn't make it into the movie. As much as I adore the movie, I think I prefer the book. Its that good.

 

The science is flawed, of course. But Crichton was getting his readers to think about themes, including the dangers of corporate-driven arrogance mixed with scientific power. SHOULD we bring back dinosaurs if we could? You'll be asking yourself that, even if your answer beforehand was "hell yes!"

 

The technical detail is really well done, as is the corporate angle (represented by John Hammond, who is much more cynical and arrogant here than he is in the movie).

 

I love this book. It's brilliant, genuinely scary, fascinating, and exciting.

I LOVE this

Foundation and Empire - Isaac Asimov

This is a story about politics, with science fiction as a backdrop. If you want pow-pow lasers, this isn't for you.

 

This book is really a work of art. I've read it three times and plan to read it many times more.

 

It's also highly believable. There really could be a science of mass psychology, made mathematically precise. If you believe that there are historical laws of human societal development, then this book will resonate with you. The themes are familiar, and they serve as a haunting reminder that 10,000 years in the future, when Earth is forgotten, the fundamental importance of strategic planning, politics and economics may remain unchanged. Humans expanding out into the cosmos will not be gods; they'll still be people, doing people things. Asimov constructs a whole universe in this relatively short book, and manages to make politics FUN to read about.

 

Read this book. You WILL enjoy it.

SPOILER ALERT!

Really good, but flawed

Footfall - Larry Niven, Jerry Pournelle

First, what I love about this book:

 

the aliens! I've never read such a believable account of what aliens might be like. The ETs in this book are totally believable. They're brilliantly described and conceived. That's because they're conceived as biological animals with the same ultimate needs as humans. The authors cleverly exploit the biology of these beings to weave a highly credible take on their hubris, culture, customs, politics, and basic needs and wants as living, breathing organisms.

 

Secondly, I really like the way the warfare is described, and the way in which the aliens use their technology to compensate for their numerical inferiority. The aliens are technologically advanced (though there's a twist in there), but not invincible. And they're far from perfect themselves.

 

Third, I love the finale.

 

Now what I hate:

 

this book DRAGS ON in places. You're treated to pages of insipid drivel about what people are having for dinner and sexual jealousy. I kept rolling my eyes when I read much of the human dialogue, which was plain boring for the most part. The Soviets were mildly interesting, but the right-wing bias of the authors shines through. At times, I had to ask myself if Ronald Reagan was the real author of this book. The venality of the Soviets is simply comical at times.

 

I did enjoy the character named Harry, though. He was perhaps the only likeable person in the whole book. Overall, the human characters were whiny, irritating, and obnoxious.

 

Read this book for the ET biology and the warfare, but be prepared for a long, loooooooong slog in a book that could easily have been a third shorter.

Incredibly fascinating

The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Popular Science) - Richard Dawkins

I read this book many years ago, but I still remember its wonderfully delivered prose and the next-level fascination that it delivered. It's challenging, but well worth the effort. It'll make you see life and evolution in a whole new way (if you aren't already familiar with the message of The Selfish Gene, also by the same author). Extraordinary.