Category Archives: books

Bertrand Russell on faith versus fact

I was shocked when a reader mentioned, in a recent comment, that the famous philosopher, logician, mathematician and vociferous atheist Bertrand Russell had written a book about the conflict between religion and science. How could I have missed it when I wrote a book about the same issue in 2015, and spent two years reading […]

Once again: the supposed need for the self-justification of science

Reading the latest edition of The Chicago Maroon, our student newspaper, I saw an op-ed about self care by Ada Palmer, an associate professor of History. I’m not going to write about that; her piece is pretty straightforward and empathic towards our students, who will be having a rather stressful semester. Rather, when I looked […]

A quick book review, movie review, and a new movie to see

The book: I just finished this book for the second time (I read an earlier edition without the introduction; click on image for Amazon link): This is the memoir of pilot, horse trainer, and adventurer Beryl Markham (1902-1986), recounting her years in Africa with the Happy Valley set, which included Karen Blixen (author of Out […]

J. K. Rowling again demonized on bogus grounds

There is no middle ground on J. K. Rowling; you consider her either an unrepentant transphobe or a feminist who, while accepting transgendered women’s self-identification in most respects, doesn’t think that they should always be treated the same as biological women. I hold the latter point of view, as I’ve read her explanation for the […]

An evolutionary psychology book that shows the discipline’s value—but not the value of memes

I’ve just finished reading Steve Stewart-Williams’s recent book The Ape That Understood the Universe (Cambridge University Press, revised edition 2019). I recommend it highly as a good way to get not only an introduction to evolutionary psychology, but also to see why the discipline is worthwhile and why its detractors are often misguided. Click on […]

Andrew Sullivan: The genetic underpinnings of IQ means we shouldn’t value it so much, that we should ditch the meritocracy, and that we should become more of a communist society

Andrew Sullivan has devoted a lot of the last two editions of The Weekly Dish to the genetics of intelligence, perhaps because he’s taken a lot of flak for supposedly touting The Bell Curve and the genetic underpinnings of IQ.  Now I haven’t read The Bell Curve, nor the many posts Sullivan’s devoted to the […]

A new book justifies looting

It was inevitable. Although many on the left have downplayed looting and violence that sometimes accompanies protests, there have also been some who came close to excusing the violence, if not justifying it. Now comes writer Vicky Osterweil—on National Public Radio (NPR), of all places—touting her new book, In Defense of Looting. The NPR interview link […]

Steve Stewart-Williams on the value of evolutionary psychology

When I give talks about why Americans reject evolution so frequently, I refer to Steve Stewart-Williams’s excellent book from 2010: Darwin, God, and the Meaning of Life: How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything you Though You Knew.  It goes through reason after reason why evolution not only undermines our ideas, but why that undermining makes people resistant […]

Turning literature into ideology: Flannery O’Connor gets cancelled

In June I reported that among the books I pried from the university library before it closed was the collected works of Flannery O’Connor, a writer who’s celebrated but whose work I hadn’t read.  After having worked my way through all her short stories and one of her novels, I decided she is indeed among […]

The insanity defense: is it sane? Thoughts from the Leopold and Loeb case.

I’m reading the book below, which I found in a free book box, about the famous Leopold and Loeb murders of 1924.  The murders took place in Hyde Park/Kenwood, just a few blocks from where I sit. Nathan Leopold (left on the cover below) and Richard Loeb, once University of Chicago students, 19 and 18 […]