Book Discussion: Readers' Choice

Our February 23 discussion of Susan Jacoby's The Great Agnostic was well received and left participants eager for another go. I'm calling this a readers' choice initially, to get your input on what you've read and loved and/or what you're dying to read in the greater non-belief genre (I just invented that.) So here's the plan: RSVP yes for the event and leave comments about the title we should choose. The "genre" covers a lot of turf as I see it, so don't feel too constrained with your suggestions. In past musings over titles, we've thought about discussing things like Edward J. Larson's Summer for the Gods, a Pulitzer winner about the Scope's trial (in which you learn it was all a set-up); Rebecca Newberger Goldstein's 36 Arguments for the Existence of God, A Work of Fiction (into every man's life, a Roz should fall); Greg Bear's Darwin's Radio (fun Sci-Fi that asks what happens to God when a new human species suddenly appears); the Sagan classic, The Demon-Haunted World; and Michael Shermer's The Believing Brain.

A while ago, John Snyder at the American Freethought podcast surveyed his listeners and put together an "Essential Freethought Llibrary" of titles they most frequently mentioned. This may give you some further ideas. And of course, I especially want to hear about your independent finds.

After about two weeks, I'll exercise my organizer's dictatorial powers and make the call of the title, which will still give more than three weeks to read.

The room holds 25 but I'm going to limit this to 15. The smaller group helps, in my experience, to keep the discussion intimate and free-flowing. So jump on it!

Join or login to comment.

  • Andy

    I just finished the book. Interesting read and has very little to do with god, except to dismiss it as irrelevant, and absolutely nothing to do with a personally involved god of the dogmatic religions. The biggest takeaway I had is the author pointing out the difference between the phrases "why something is" and "how something is." "Why" implies a purpose, "how" describes the mechanics. He gives two great examples: "How is the earth 93 million miles from the sun, not why", and "how is there something rather than nothing", pointing out the flaw in the title of his book. Keep this in mind as you read the book.

    For those interested, there have been several recent TV shows on this same subject on the Sicence/History/Discovery channels. I watch "Wormhole: Particle" the other day on Time Warner Cable on demand. 49 minutes run time with much less commericals than the regular broadcast.

    April 11, 2013

    • Andy

      Nice write up. I guess the answer to why is why not. Somethings we don't know yet, some we may know as science progresses. and somethings we may never know. Krauss did a nice job pointing out how 2 trillion years in the future, the intellient beings then could not know what we now know because of the changes in the universe. Interesting to think about.

      April 11, 2013

    • Dareth M.

      My own biggest takeaway from the book was that there is stuff "out there" that we know is there and can describe the behavior of mathematically, but that whose nature we still don't completely understand. I think that is exciting, comforting and scary all at the same time – the thought that there is something so hugely significant in the underlying workings of our universe that we don't really understand yet but hopefully can and will. Imagine all the doors it will unlock when we do figure it out the rest of the way!

      April 25, 2013

  • Dareth M.

    I grabbed links for some things that were mentioned during the discussion and I thought some other people might like to have them too:

    NY Times article:
    Universe as an Infant: Fatter Than Expected and Kind of Lumpy
    (this was the article that Janet had in print)
    http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/22/science/space/planck-satellite-shows-image-of-infant-universe.html?ref=space

    NY Times book review:
    "On the Origin of Everything"
    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/03/25/books/review/a-universe-from-nothing-by-lawrence-m-krauss.html?_r=0

    Book Recommended (by one of the gentlemen who sat along the side of the table to my left, I forget who):
    13 Things That Don't Make Sense
    http://www.amazon.com/Things-that-Dont-Make-Sense/dp/0307278816

    And just for fun I am sharing this link with you - I found it amusing
    LHC Rap:
    www.youtube.com/watch?v=j50ZssEojtM

    Hardcore History (mentioned in passing also by someone to my left):
    http://www.dancarlin.com/disp.php/hh

    1 · April 25, 2013

  • Dareth M.

    So nice to meet/see you all! It’s cool that, with our disparate backgrounds we could come together and all participate in a lively, friendly discussion!

    My biggest takeaways from our chat were:
    - the info we have access to doesn’t ( can’t) tell us what might’ve been before the Big Bang, or outside of our universe (multiverse?). Krauss paints a rather depressing (to me) but admittedly speculative picture of the future.
    - the book wouldn’t be useful as a "god-disprover" - which doesn't make it any less fascinating or exciting.
    - the book is a very nutshell description of the science of cosmology, and that if we want to actually see the solid facts/mathematics we would need to turn to other resources (and my own experience is that this could easily take at least a semester to absorb)
    - I misunderstood and/or misremembered a few things I read in the book, which thankfully were cleared up by the group, especially Rajesh. AND that I am way less apt at explaining things than Rajesh.

    1 · April 25, 2013

  • Andy

    Good discussion, I emjoyed it very much.

    April 25, 2013

  • A former member
    A former member

    Sadly can't make it after all! Have fun! Hope to see you all soon

    April 24, 2013

  • Mark P.

    When I get there I will be a regular!

    April 19, 2013

  • Rick M.

    For any who didn't get the email, we've selected Lawrence Krauss' "A Universe from Nothing: Why There IS Something Rather Than Nothing." See you on the 24th!

    1 · April 3, 2013

    • Dave

      Oh good, the book I suggested. How did that happen.. ? :-P

      April 5, 2013

  • Nolan D

    Whoops. Looks like I'm probably working. Luckily, I work at Albany Public Library, so I'm sure I'll see a few people there.

    March 25, 2013

  • Lewis

    I'm out of town Apr 24. but am interested in reading "Summer for the Gods". Might also be interesting to read "The God Game" ahead of its production at Capital Rep.

    If Apr 24 sells out, perhaps we can schedule a second session on the same book.

    March 22, 2013

  • Dave

    'A Universe from Nothing: Why There Is Something Rather than Nothing' by Lawrence M. Krauss.

    March 18, 2013

  • Andy

    I'd be interested in any book about why religion has always existed in society or why people have a need for god. I do not want to read any books that purport to prove or disprove the existence of god.

    March 18, 2013

  • architguy

    I'm reading "Answers for Aristotle" by Massimo Pigliucci, hes an NYC prof which does lectures for CFI in the city, I've gone to one. its about blending science and philosophy. He himself sees himself as a philosopher of science, writing "Nonsense on slits" a book on junk science. A for A just came out so it should be available.

    1 · March 15, 2013

    • Dareth M.

      Ooh! I listen to Massimo Pigliucci's podcast, and have been really enjoying it. When he mentioned he had a book coming out, I knew I definitely would like to pick it up, so I'd be glad if it ends up our choice for this discussion. So, I second this nomination.

      March 16, 2013

    • Nolan D

      I'm a big fan of the podcast too. I read his earlier book Nonsense on Stilts. All really well written and worth reading.

      March 18, 2013

  • Nolan D

    I'd recommend "The Christian Delusion" or "The End of Christianity," both anthologies edited by John Loftus. The nice thing is that they each have extremely varied chapters about many different subjects, so there will be ample discussion material. Most chapters are really well written, and I think these two books cover some really awesome areas and are written by (mostly) experts on the subjects. Here are a few web pages with the contents:

    https://sites.google.com/site/theendofchristianity/table-of-contents

    https://sites.google.com/site/thechristiandelusion/Home/table-of-contents

    March 15, 2013

  • Jim H.

    I've just finished "Why I Believed" by Ken Daniels, which is both illuminating from academic atheism AND theism. It's a Two-fer!!!

    March 15, 2013

  • Rick M.

    Or how about Michelle Goldberg's Kingdom Coming, about the history and rise of the Christian Nationalist movement that so animates the right wing of American politics.

    March 15, 2013

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