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Let's exchange reading material!


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9/8/2005 12:46 AM
Michael Tousek Let's exchange reading material!
Hello OT/BS'ers:  
 
I just startled myself by having what I think might be an interesting idea.  
 
With the crickets chirping around here, why don't we trade book suggestions? It sounds kind of geeky (because it is), but it could get interesting if these trades are made across the ideological divide -- especially if people actually read the books that are suggested. It might prime the pump for entertaining arguments and bickering in the future.  
 
I'll get the ball rolling by suggesting that the liberals here read The Quest for Cosmic Justice by Thomas Sowell.
 
9/8/2005 2:40 PM
Dave Rich
Good call, Thomas Sowell is one of my favorite writers. Here is an archive of some of his recent articles;  
 
http://www.townhall.com/columnists/thomassowell/archive.shtml
 
9/9/2005 1:02 PM
Michael Tousek
Yep, Sowell is cool. I like it when Walter E. Williams is filling in for Rush and has him on as a guest.
 
9/8/2005 8:48 PM
Enzo

Wow. We have Thomas Sowell's syndicated columns in our local paper weekly. Never have I encountered someone so challenged by logic. Even when his stated premise seemed reasonable, by the time we got to the end of the article it had been twisted into something non-sensical. His arguments rarely follow from his premise. Even when his conclusions seem correct, the tortured arguments he presents do not support them.  
 
I don't mean to take from your enjoyment, just surprised that of all the authors, it was he.  
 
Now going out on my own limb, I think an excellent book for anyone - it is not anything political or "socially illuminating" - is:  
Innumeracy, by John Allen Paulos. Innumeracy is the math equivalent of illiteracy. The average soul has almost no understanding of real probability, what statistics might mean, or matters of scale. This is not technical reading, it is engaging.  
 
James Randi - a tireless promoter of rational thought and critical thinking - has written numerous good books. One I like is The Faith Healers. it is an in depth expose of fraudulent practices in the title field. He was the main factor in the downfall of Peter Popoff who was a faith healer working "miracles" until his radio frequency was stumbled upon with a scanner. He was taped listening to his confederates feed him information about audience members in his earpiece while he acted as though God was speaking to him. Several other bogus faith healers are disected.  
 
Randi's Flim Flam also takes on such supernatural things as dowsing and other scam artist activities. People shell out good money to charlatans who promise things they cannot deliver. The results of testing these individuals is enlightening.  
 
Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer is a good read. He gets into Holocaust denial, cults, near death experiences, and other pseudoscience.  
 
Certainly Carl Sagan's The Demon Haunted World is worth reading. SUbtitle is Science as a candle in the dark. He gets into all manner of paranormal and pseudoscience topics.  
 
Voodoo Science by RObert Park takes on Free Energy, Perpetual motion, cold fusion,etc, and even discusses how well meaning scientists can delude themselves.  
 
There are other books I enjoy,but they tend to be more dry and acedemic. I have read several scholarly books on Bible origins, and they fall into this category.  
 
If you see any book by Deepak CHopra, turn and walk away quickly. It might even follow you to try and take your money.  
 
 
And more politically, I like Jon Stewart's AMerica. Yes, COmedy Central's Jon Stewart. While the book lampoons conservatives harder than liberals, it still takes on stupidity on either side, wielding a stupidity of its own that is refreshingly creative. If yuo don't like The Daily Show, you might not like this eaither.  
 
Unintelligent Design by Perakh takes on the ID crowd, and while it is intersting to me, I admit it is more of a point by point refutation to Behe and Demski than it is a book all by itself. I recommend it if you are on either side of the ID "debate."
 
9/9/2005 12:46 PM
Michael Tousek
Wow. We have Thomas Sowell's syndicated columns in our local paper weekly. Never have I encountered someone so challenged by logic. Even when his stated premise seemed reasonable, by the time we got to the end of the article it had been twisted into something non-sensical. His arguments rarely follow from his premise. Even when his conclusions seem correct, the tortured arguments he presents do not support them.  
 

What a bunch of overstated garbage.  
 

You attack Sowell's reasoning skills with statements that are themselves unreasonable. Do you see the irony? And what language have you left for yourself to describe someone who actually is grossly challenged by logic and who actually does deal in nonsense? I'm sorry, but it takes more than a few silly insults to dismiss a guy like Thomas Sowell.  
 
So I challenge you to read The Quest for Cosmic Justice and to deal with the arguments in it, and, if you feel inclined, to come back with a reply to it that can be taken seriously. I'll even make a deal with you: if you'll read Sowell's book, I'll read a book of your choosing. Feel free to pick something you think will really flip my wig (I'd prefer the subject be something political). I'll do my best to get it and read it.  
 
I don't mean to take from your enjoyment, just surprised that of all the authors, it was he.  
 

I chose Sowell's book for a couple reasons. The first is that it's readable. Sowell is one of those writers with the humility to be brief and clear. The book is written for an intelligent lay audience, so it's meaty, but it won't exhaust you or put you to sleep.  
 

The second is that Sowell isn't a bombthrower and he's not abusive. If you're a liberal, you'll probably disagree with what he writes, but when you're done you won't feel like you've been dissed.  
 

The third is that the book's basic argument is an important one. The title suggests that he's going to deal with the concept of justice, which he does, but his purpose (IMO, and it's been a while since I've read it, so I can't remember how explicit he is about this) is really to shed light on the classical dispute over how best to conceive of rights -- in particular over whether rights should be conceived of in the positive or a negative sense.  
 
This positive/negative thing is important, because which side you favor will strongly affect how you see the proper role of government. The book's appeal is in how crisply Sowell demonstrates and explains the practical effects of this core philosophical orientation. He explains how modern liberals (as a result of their positive understanding of rights) wish to see the government render what he calls cosmic justice in human affairs. And he shows how the unintended consequences of allowing the government to do so causes big problems.  
 
It's a book that's well liked and fairly widely read by conservatives, so even if you don't find what Sowell has to say convincing, you'll at least come away with some insight into what the other side thinks.  
 
MT

 
9/9/2005 6:04 PM
Enzo

A bit of rhetorical hyperbole perhaps on my part. I will grant you that Sowell is rarely as hateful or spiteful as the Pompous Cal Thomas. On the other hand I don't feel Sowell is as intellectually honest as say Pat Buchanan. I disagree with Pat at just about every step, but Buchanan is amazing ly honest politically in my view, and remarkably consistent. I don't find Sowell nearly as consistent. I would much rather read George Will if I wanted someone from the right. He states his case without rancor.  
 
I don't offer any political books because in general you either agree with everyhting it says, or you disagree with everything it says in line with your existing viewpoint. I could have suggested either of Al Franken's books, but what would be the point?  
 
A book like Innumeracy has no more political agenda than a cookbook or a book about polar bears. But it does have implications for your everyday life.
 
9/10/2005 3:17 PM
Michael Tousek
A bit of rhetorical hyperbole perhaps on my part.  
 
Since I've never overstated anything in my life, I can't imagine how you could've let such a thing happen < /tongue in cheek>.  
 
I will grant you that Sowell is rarely as hateful or spiteful as the Pompous Cal Thomas.  
 
This isn't granting much, since you're saying that Sowell is occasionally hateful.  
 
I'm more familiar with Sowell's books than with his columns -- maybe he's more provocative in his columns -- but nevertheless I suspect you would have a hard time making a claim that Sowell is hateful, even occasionally hateful, stick.  
 
On the other hand I don't feel Sowell is as intellectually honest as say Pat Buchanan. I disagree with Pat at just about every step, but Buchanan is amazing ly honest politically in my view, and remarkably consistent. I don't find Sowell nearly as consistent.  
 
You say you disagree with Buchanan at just about every step, but I doubt this is so.  
 
Buchanan is a critic of the Bush administration and many of his criticisms are shared by liberals. Buchanan opposed the war in Iraq, Buchanan recently sided with the unions on CAFTA, Buchanan is in vehement disagreement with the foreign policy ideas of the so-called neoconservatives.  
 
Mostly likely you agree with Buchanan on all of these. And these are not small issues. Rather, these are among the issues that most divide conservatives and liberals today.  
 
Going back to your comments, you praise Buchanan for his intellectual consistency but find such consistency lacking in Sowell. But I think this is a misuse of the term "intellectual consistency", which is generally taken to mean the consistent application of one's own stated principles. Instead, I think your judgement is based on something slightly different: namely, whether or not a person's ideas are consistent with Enzo's principles (stated or otherwise).  
 
In other words, because you share broad areas of agreement with Pat Buchanan, you praise his as intellectually consistent; but Thomas Sowell, who you are in near universal disagreement with, you write off as intellectually inconsistent.  
 
In fact, because you disagree with Sowell's principles, it's likely that if he were more consistent with them, you would actually find him more objectionable.  
 
I don't offer any political books because in general you either agree with everyhting it says, or you disagree with everything it says in line with your existing viewpoint.  
 
In general, probably true. However I think there are a few political books out there that make can be of benefit to anyone with an open mind.  
 
I could have suggested either of Al Franken's books, but what would be the point?  
 
Obviously there would have been no point in that because Al Franken is a provocateur, and his book was written to be red meat for his intended audience. That would have been a very poor choice.  
 
On the other hand, Thomas Sowell's main mission is to teach. Remember, Sowell spent much of his life as an economics professor. His many books (which aren't all on political topics by the way) are well researched and well presented, and as a result have been read and appreciated by lots of people. The notion that he can be swept away in the same breath as Al Franken is a little hard to take. I'll grant you that Sowell is distinctly ideological, but that doesn't keep him from being worth listening to. In fact, just the opposite in my opinion. It all boils down to is the writer reasonable, and I think Sowell is.  
 
But that's cool. If you don't feel like reading his book, I fully understand (seriously).  
 
A book like Innumeracy has no more political agenda than a cookbook or a book about polar bears.  
 
DON'T GET ME STARTED ON POLAR BEARS!!!  
 
(heh heh, just kidding)  
 
MT
 

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