Book Log – The Science of Good & Evil

The Science of Good & Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow The Golden Rule by Michael Shermer

This is Shermer’s third book in his pseudo-trilogy, the first two of which were Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe. The first book was an interesting look at people who believe in UFOs, witches, holocaust denial, and other, well, weird things. The second got more into the nature of belief from a scientific and social point of view.

This one takes on morality and suggests an evolutionary basis for doing good. It’s a good, sound dissertation on the topic.

And, as always, he has lots of interesting side stories, studies and statistics. One bit I’ll bring out because it gave me a jolt:

Consider that, according to polls, 95% of the citizens of the United States believe in God. Elsewhere, I read that Agnostics and Athiests account for about 0.9%.

And consider this excerpt:

A 1999 Gallup poll… When asked, “If your party nominated a generally well-qualified person for president who happened to be an X would you vote for that person?” (with X representing Catholic, Jew, Baptist, Mormon, black, homosexual, woman and athiest), while six of the eight received more than 90 percent approval, only 59 percent would vote for a homosexual and less than half, 49 percent, would vote for an athiest.

That means I belong to a group that is more of a minority than homosexuals, blacks, hispanics, jews, and Asians. Roughly on a par with Native Americans and Alaska natives. In addition, we’re more mistrusted than all of the traditionally villified groups in the U.S. (They didn’t put terrorists on the poll, but I’m confident we’d have a better chance at the White House than Osama. Maybe.)

For the first time in my life as a white, heterosexual, middle class male from the midwest, I believe I might qualify for some sort of Affirmative Action.

I’m writing my congressperson.

Dishonest People Suck

Wherein I get a wee bit political:

—————————————-

Dear Ms. Walldorff,

As a resident of Dekalb County, I am writing to you in support of the Dekalb Infill Task Force recommendations, as displayed on www.dekalbinfill.org.

I was only moderately interested in the issue until I went to the website www.truthaboutinfill.com, which purports to be a “grassroots organization of concerned citizens.” A simple lookup on http://precow.tucows.com/cgi-bin/whois.cgi shows the site owner to be Holly Berry of Berry Realty. As you probably know, Berry Realty is involved in a number of infill projects around town, including the home two doors down from mine.

This, to my mind, is flagrantly dishonest propoganda. I understand such distastful tactics are ever present but I believe in ferreting out and discrediting what we can.

I do not necessarily know the correct answer on this issue. It is difficult to know what to believe when being lobbied by vested interests, especially when part of the issue relates to property values (a nebulous, subjective value to be sure). But once I discover that one side of the argument is using dishonarable tactics, I tend to believe they do so because their argument is too weak to support itself.

The website in question also contains a page describing how to contact commissioners, and a suggestion for letter content. I am copying the letter below so that you may identify missives originating from this source. Know that the senders procurred the copy from a biased, dishonest source.

Thank you for your service to our community.

Kind Regards,
Ryan J. Lucas
[email, address, phone deleted]

—letter from www.truthaboutinfill.com copied below—

Dear Commissioners:

As a citizen in Dekalb County who stands to be negatively impacted by the zoning restrictions that are currently under consideration, I implore you to please come to the public meeting and hear us. Further, we ask that you delay the vote on September 27th until you have given us this opportunity.

If you cannot delay your vote, please vote for neighborhoods who wish to have protection to have to vote it in. Otherwise, many of us will fall victim to inverse condemnation due to over regulation that deprives us of property rights and the loss of value as a result. This is a very measurable and definable issue. Citizens in your county will lose half their nest egg the day these restrictions get passed. Please do not take property rights from one citizen for the benefit of another.

As Vernon Jones himself recently wrote in a letter to Congress and the Georgia General Assembly ” using the power of condemnation to take from one private property owner and give to another private owner is wrong. I don’t believe our founding fathers intended eminent domain to be used in this way, and I believe most of us think that Robin Hood is not a role our government should play”. Isn’t this what is happening to us now? Property rights are being taken away from one to benefit another and it is being called quality of life…only its true name is inverse condemnation.

Senator Chip Pearson is currently sponsoring a bill on inverse condemnation that will provide protection for citizens who have lost valuable property rights as a result of over regulation and makes government accountable for the loss in value. We ask you to take the first step in protecting our rights so that we need not look further for it.

Thank you for your time and consideration.

Best regards,

[Your Name Here]

Book Log – Gravity’s Rainbow

Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon

This is not technically a book I’ve read, but rather one I’ve abandoned on page 59.

There are often books I set aside and come back to later.

But it is extremely rare that I come across one like this one, where I have no intention of coming back to try it again. Although I may be betraying a lack of intelligence or sophistication, I find it unreadable and uninteresting. To be fair, the person who recommended it to me said it was a bit chaotic, likening it to James Joyce. I’ve never read James Joyce, so that didn’t serve as much of a warning.

Also, the book has things I can’t much abide by: dream sequences. I almost universally hate dream sequences. I hate them in movies, tv shows and books. I’m not even crazy about hearing about people’s dreams, unless they involve me and/or sex. When this book isn’t describing a dream sequence in stream-of-consciousness, it is telling the actual story in a dreamlike stream-of-consciousness. Yuck.

So that’s that. Anyone want a book?

Sucks.

Not having LiveJournal access at work sucks.

I’m just saying.

Not as much as New Orleans being obliterated from the face of the earth.

If my alma mater, Tulane, is under water, is it still accredited?

*sigh*

Book Log – The Shakespeare Miscellany

The Shakespeare Miscellany by David Crystal and Ben Crystal

Stacey picked this book up in New Jersey, thinking it might make a good addition to the Georgia Shakespeare bookstore.

It’s random, but interesting. Basically, a bunch of facts, stories and quotes about Shakespeare in no discernable order. In fact, I’d say some were out of order, giving facts that were needed to understand other facts after the fact, so to speak.

Many, many tidbits that I will probably never remember, but enjoyed hearing at the time.

If you see it at the Georgia Shakespeare bookstore, buy it!