Saturday, June 23, 2012

Homeless Teacher's Amazon Kindle Review Sample Corner #4

 "Mission Statement: I review the sample of the book so you don't have to read either one."
--Homeless Teacher (By the way, I will reveal my name sometime in the near future, but employers are sensitive about people who live in shelters even though I shower every day, use deodorant, mouthwash, dress in descent clothes, and don't screech and mumble and windmill my arms, except when someone mentions "American Idol" or "Occupy" movements, among other things).  

I've been floating a great idea for an number of years about late-night TV sketch shows like Mad TV and Saturday Night Live.  Everyone knows that even a rare sketch with a funny premise peters out ofter 2 minutes, occasionally limping and wheezing into 3 minutes, but instead of whipping off the to next sketch they drag the whole thing out to an excruciating 10 or 12 minutes before the blessed commercial, jokes dribbling second by second down the drain.

Why not, I've suggested, have a Friday and Saturday night 15 minute screen scroll down the screen of the shows' premises --which are the funniest part anyway?  It may take  while to catch on, but it will, just like my brilliant Amazon kindle sample review idea.   Now you never have to feel guilty at parties or college "mixers" or late-night bull sessions with your dorm or frat chums whenever you haven't read the book under discussion.  After the 15 minutes or so reading my review corner in the bathroom or on the bus, you'll be able to quote passages, discuss main ideas and flaws, assert the way in which you would have effortlessly improved the book, and probably end up with a date for next weekend or even the next 24 hours.   Ready?  Let's Go!

A Universe From Nothing by Laurence Krauss.  Jerry Coyne read Krauss's book, which contains a fawning afterward by Richard Dawkins, who sees the book as the death nell of theism,  and was sorely disappointed.   Jerry authors one of the best, most rational, and entertaining blogs on the web, Why Evolution is True, which grew out of his knock-out book of the same name, and stands as just about the best defense of evolution currently available, possibly tied with Dawkins' Greatest Show on Earth.  Jerry--a geneticist at the university of Chicago, loves evolution, cats (kettahs and Ceiling cat--Feline God), nomming delish international food, clouds, cowboy boots, and many more wonderful hings--has a funny and grim post  up right now about what a vile, stupid book the Bible really is ( I could have told him that 3 decades ago when I read the fat thing in high school cover-to-cover and wondered by why God was such a psychopathic bully and was so stupid, exactly like the powerful but imbecilic aliens Kirk and Spock were always circuit-frying with elementary logic.  Jerry agrees with me that most of the beautiful diamonds of poetry and wisdom buried in this feculent, evil dung hill probably have more to do with the King James translation than any intrinsic worth.

Really, think about it.  If you were the unimaginably powerful being responsible for 100 billion stars and 100 billion or more galaxies aside from ours, and uncountable worlds possibly supporting life and intelligence, would you reveal yourself to a group of sun-struck doltish iron-age nomads, who though they were living on a kind of platform with heaven right there above them, and who probably spent lots of time clearing sand out their undies and butt-cracks and then leave them with a bunch of fragmentary, incomprehensible, boring, contradictory (to me it's plausible and likely that Jesus was several preachers rubber stamped with the name Jesus) badly edited manuscripts (none of the originals are with us) that no one can agree on and over which people have killed and tortured hundreds of thousands of men, women, and children?   And God who created the universe  has a son?  A son?   Why the hell would he want one when he could have so many cooler things than a party pooper like Jesus who says things like, "Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword.  For I am come to set a man at variance against his father and a the daughter against her mother." Matthew 10: 34-35  And lots of other weird, scary things. 

Didn't you love it when Bart Simpson used to make his Sunday school teacher pull her hair out trying to explain things like that in the first few seasons?

And then presumably God and his son traveled around really fast like Santa Clause on Christmas Eve to other trillions of other planets to burn bushes and get nailed to crosses.   Didn't you think about stuff like that when you were about 7 or 8 years old and experience some weird cognitive dissonance resulting in night-terrors?  In fact, I think that's what a lot of children's night terror comes from: trying to reconcile what they intuitively know is true with the garbage adults shove at them as true, like Noah's ark, walking on water, coming out of grave after you're dead, and biting into a piece of fruit and thereby introducing the bizarre, entirely superfluous, and poorly defined concept of "sin," and the idea there's some "Devil" guy whispering in your ear and making all kinds of mischief that God apparently can't control?   It's child abuse.  

All this digression fits in to the review (really!), and if it doesn't, I'll do a post hoc shoe-horning so skillful none of you will notice.  Jerry really wanted to like physicist Laurence's book because it seemed from advance word that the book and its afterward by Richard Dawkins supported one of Jerry's pet topics, the dead end of religion and the ascent of scientifically rigorous atheist thought and the refusal of stalwart scientists to have any truck with palid, liberal accommodationists who want science and religion to "dialog" and get along and form human daisy chains and all that dingle berry stuff.   Instead, Jerry found Krauss's book awkwardly written, badly organized, and not really clear about how the universe arose from a quantum vacuum of nothingness or even how that could be defined as nothingness. 

Jerry Coyne quotes physicist David Albert, who panned Krauss's book, and was especially critical of the Krauss's attempt to define nothing as a quantum field-theoretical vacuum: 

But that’s just not right. Relativistic-quantum-field-theoretical vacuum states — no less than giraffes or refrigerators or solar systems — are particular arrangements of elementary physical stuff.  

In other words, Krauss's book is just a mediocre bait and switch, goalpost moving, awkward repeat of stuff other physicists like Victor Stenger have said much more clearly.  The sample I got on my Kindle isn't much more than throat clearing and promises of dazzling revelations to come, but I think I trust Jerry and David and a bunch of others who've panned the book.  So I can't even state the Main Idea or my Best Part or give you and Also thought to ponder in bed tonight.

Actually that's not true.  I'm a big fan of Richard Dawkins, but I think the enthusiastic-gimme! gimme! gimme! way he and other atheists pounced on this book says something important.  Krauss's lecture on the universe from nothing on YouTube has had over a million views and is still going strong.   Let's be blunt: atheists and agnostics and seekers aren't being persuaded--in this particular case--let's be clear about that--I'm an agnostic-- by careful science; they're being codswalloped by their own emotions and insecure hopes.  They want the philosopher's stone to pound the final nail in theism's coffin, and their hungry tongue lolling and scrabbling is just a bit embarrassing.  

Not recommended.  Read Victor Stenger instead.  

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