Archive for ‘reviews’

April 18, 2017

Review of “Why I left, Why I stayed”

by Neil Rickert

It’s about a month since I listened to a podcast, featuring a discussion with Bart Campolo.  I found that interesting, so I bought the book that was co-authored by Bart Campolo and his father Tony Campolo.  This post is mainly a review of the book.  However, you might want to start by listening to that podcast.


Tony Campolo is well known as part of Evangelical Christianity, specifically the Evangelical left.  Bart, his son, started off in Evangelical Christianity, but reached a point in his life where he could no longer believe.  How he reached that point is discussed in the podcast and in the book.  Although he rejected Christianity, Bart continued with a humanist mission.  Tony, Bart’s father, regretted Bart’s decision but accepted it nontheless.

The book is mostly a sequence of chapters, alternately written by Tony and by Bart, with a final chapter that was jointly written.

My review

I found the book a bit uneven.  But this is to be expected when it consists of an alternation of chapters with two different authors.

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February 5, 2016

Denton: “Evolution: still a theory in crisis” — a review

by Neil Rickert

Michael Denton has a new book, “Evolution: still a theory in crisis“.  So I picked up a copy, and will review it in this post.  I actually purchased the Kindle version of the book.

Structuralism vs functionalism

Denton outlines the main gist of his argument in chapter 1, where he explains that he is a structuralist rather than a functionalist.  He expands on that in later chapters.

Denton seems to be using “functionalism” to describe what I would call “pan-selectionism” or “pan-adaptationism”.  So he would see Dawkins, and probably Jerry Coyne, as functionalists.  Denton himself prefers structuralism, which is an emphasis on the forms or body plans (he uses the term “bauplan”) of organisms (or groups or organisms).

I’m inclined to say “a pox on both of their houses”.  I am not a pan-selectionist.  I usually say that I am not a Darwinist, for I see Darwinism as an over-emphasis on natural selection.  To me, Denton’s preference for structuralism seems strange.  Surely the structural features are their because of their functional role.

In section 1.1, Denton writes:

It is hard to imagine two scientific frameworks as diametrically opposed as structuralism and functionalism.  Whereas functionalism  suggests that function is prior and determines structure, structuralism suggests that structure is prior and constrains function.

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September 1, 2015

The “Random Genetic Drift” Fallacy — a review

by Neil Rickert

I often see suggestions that random genetic drift drives speciation.  I’m a bit skeptical of that idea.  In any case, a discussion developed elsewhere, and Will Provine’s recent book on the topic was suggested as reading.  I found the book interesting, though perhaps not decisive on the issues.  So I am still at the same point of skepticism as where I started.  But I at least have a better grasp of some of the issues.

I should add that I am not a biologist, though I have taken an interest in evolutionary biology.

What is random drift?

Let’s start by looking at the main issue.  The proponents of random drift seem to be suggesting that

  • there are near neutral mutations (neither benefiicial nor deleterious)
  • by random chance, some of those neutral mutations take over the population (the new genes become fixed).

That is the sort of drift that Provine is discussing.

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May 23, 2015

Searle’s book on perception

by Neil Rickert

I have been reading Searle’s recent book “Seeing Things as They Are: A Theory of Perception”.  I have left a review of the book at Amazon.  HERE’s a link to that review.

I am tentatively planning a future post about Searle’s theory.

October 26, 2014

Dembski’s “Being as Communion” — a review

by Neil Rickert

I’ve had a copy of Dembski’s new book for a little more than a week.  That has been enough time for me to read it in preparation for this review.

The title itself is strange, at least to me.  It is a title that suggests that this is a book on religion.  It isn’t, though it does not completely avoid religious ideas.  The more complete title is “Being as Communion; A Metaphysics of Information.”  And that suggests that it is a book about information.  To some extent it is, though it also comes across as a diatribe against materialist metaphysics.

Dembski begins this book with:

What does the world look like if the fundamental stuff of reality is not matter but information?  That is the question animating this book.  We live in an information age.  Yet we also live in an overwhelmingly materialist age in which the things that seem to us most solid and inspire the most confidence are material.  Information itself therefore tends to be conceived in material terms, as a property of matter.  But what if information cannot be reduced to matter?  To turn the tables even more sharply, what if matter itself is an expression of information?

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June 10, 2014

Frank Schaeffer’s latest book: a review

by Neil Rickert

This will be a brief review of Schaeffer’s recent book:

  • Why I am an Atheist Who Believes in God, Frank Scheffer 2014.

Full disclosure — I “purchased” the Kindle edition of this book when the price was right (i.e. it was free).

I follow Schaeffer’s blog: “Why I Still Talk to Jesus — In Spite of Everything“.  I at least skim most of the posts, but only read a few in detail.  Schaeffer is a relentless self-marketer.  Some of his posts are of broad interest, and some are just selling himself or his latest book.

I had already purchased (for real money), his previous book “And God said Billy”, but I stopped reading that about halfway through.  So I had decided not to buy his latest book.  Even when Schaeffer announced that it would be free for two days, I continued with my decision to not “buy”.

Then I read Benjamin Corey’s post “When Two Formerly Fundies Chat: My Video Interview With Frank Schaeffer (and get his new book FREE)!”  It was a great interview.  I recommend that you watch it.  For me, it was Corey, rather than Schaeffer, who was the star of that interview.  In any case, that’s when I changed my mind and picked up the Kindle book while it was still free.

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February 23, 2014

On David Snoke on Nagel’s book

by Neil Rickert

Physicist David Snoke has written a review of Thomas Nagel’s book “Mind and Cosmos” (h/t Uncommon Descent):

In this post, I shall discuss Snoke’s review.  I suppose that makes it a review of a review.

I have previously discussed Nagel’s book on this blog — you can find those posts with a search on the main blog page.  I clearly disagreed with a lot of what Nagel wrote in his book.  By contrast, Snoke seems to like the book.

While I disagree with Snoke about the book, I do think Snoke’s review is well worth reading.  Nagel’s book is not to everyone’s taste, and some might find it a hard read.  Snoke, in his review, gives a synopsis of what he sees are some of the important parts of the book.  So I’ll recommend that you read the Snoke review, particularly if you want to get an overview of what Nagel was arguing.

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July 1, 2013

Does atheism lead to nihilism?

by Neil Rickert

The recent book

by John Loftus and Randal Rauser, has been made available as a free kindle book for one day.  I guess that is intended as a way of promoting the book.  And I guess that works, since here I am making a blog post that will help to promote the book.

I have not read the entire book so I won’t call this post a review, though I am categorizing it in “reviews”.

The book consists of 20 chapters, each covering a question that is supposed to be an issue between the religious and the non religious. For each chapter, John Loftus presents an atheists viewpoint on the question while Randal Rauser presents a theist’s viewpoint.  It will be no surprise to readers of this blog, that I tended to side with John Loftus in these debates.

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April 8, 2013

Nagel’s “Mind and Cosmos” – not quite a review

by Neil Rickert

I have been reading Nagel’s book, “Mind and Cosmos:Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False“, so naturally I want to say something about it.  However, this won’t be the usual kind of review.  There’s no need for that.  There are already plenty of reviews available for this book, some of them scathing critiques and some of them offering high praise.

For myself, I disagree with much of what Nagel writes.  But I find it interesting nonetheless.  Readers of this blog will have noticed that I disagree with a lot of traditional philosophy.  And Nagel particularly emphasizes some of those parts where I disagree.  So, in a way, this highlights my disagreement.  If I were to suggest an alternative title for Nagel’s book, it might be:

  • “What’s wrong with philosophy” on steroids

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November 20, 2012

Book review – “Broken Words: The Abuse of Science and Faith in American Politics

by Neil Rickert

I recently received a copy of “Broken Words” (by Jonathan Dudley).  I have learned a lot from reading this book.  It is a book about the disputes that underlie the cultural wars that have been poisoning American political discourse over the last 30 years or so.

The main topics discussed are the disputes over abortion, over sexuality (particularly gay, lesbian and similar issues), the disputes over global warming and the disputes over biological evolution.  However, this is not a book about political intrigue in Washington.  It is more about the shifting sands of the theology of conservative evangelical Christianity.  That theology could change so much is remarkable, given the claims of evangelical Christianity that their theology is derived from the timeless word of God.

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