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KingBunghole

What Are You Reading?

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Talk about what books you're reading in this topic. Fiction and non-fiction alike is welcome, even internet content if you want. 

I just finished reading The Blank Slate, a book by the cognitive scientist Steven Pinker. He argues that intellectual and political argument has been taken over by three wrong-headed doctrines: the Blank Slate, the Noble Savage, and the Ghost in the Machine. The Blank Slate argues that individuals are born with no innate traits or temperaments, regardless of genetics. The Noble Savage has its roots in Rousseau's philosophy and argues that people are naturally good, it's society that corrupts them. Finally, the Ghost in the Machine is the argument for some type of philosophical dualism--the mind separate from the brain or a soul separate from the brain. 

Pinker rebuts each of these thoroughly and convincingly. In the last section of the book, he spends some time talking about their implications in many hot button topics, including politics, gender, violence, art, and children. In the process, he rebuts gender feminism and differentiates it from equity feminism (this might be especially amusing for those keeping up with the Gamergate controversy). He thrashes modernism and post-modernism. And though he doesn't say it explicitly, I think he deals a blow to the just-world hypthesis too. 

Despite all the genetics in this book, it's not a book that denies the influence of culture entirely, nor is it an especially technical book. It's also not a book for eugenics or Social Darwinism--he just argues that human beings need to acknowledge our limitations in academic and political life, instead of clinging to feel-good theories of what we are that have no basis in reality. There are some propositions in this book that I'm not sure I totally agree with, but reading it has been an intellectually edifying experience. I can see why it was a Pulitzer Prize finalist. 

I'm late to the party, but I'm enthusiastic to read more of Pinker's body of work. I'm currently reading "How the Mind Works" and "The Stuff of Thought" simultaneously. I've heard particularly good things about The Better Angels of Our Nature, which received glowing endorsements from well-known industry figures like Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg. 

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Currently Reading;

Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene 

Bob Hope - Don't Shoot It's Only Me

and just started the Game Of Thrones books. (May take a while)

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Currently Reading;

Richard Dawkins - The Selfish Gene 

Bob Hope - Don't Shoot It's Only Me

and just started the Game Of Thrones books. (May take a while)

Interesting, I didn't expect to see Richard Dawkins here. I've only read one of his books, The God Delusion, but that was more about his atheist activism than his work as a scientist. Eventually, I'd like to read his work on evolutionary biology, for the dual purposes of understanding why he's considered seminal in his field, and to understand evolutionary theory better. 

I still consider myself a novice when it comes to evolution, but Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True is an excellent primer on the subject. I'd be surprised to find a better one out there. It's written in clear and clutter-free prose without being condescending, but it's not so technical that it would turn off the layman. The book is more about giving you a feel for the various types of evidence supporting the theory than being detailed about any one branch of biology (Coyne graciously provides a list for further reading at the end). 

My reading list hasn't budged much yet. I'm still reading Steven Pinker's work, but I'm also reading Robert M. Pirsig's Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance. I'm not confident that I know where Pirsig is going with this book, but I have a vague idea. 

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Interesting, I didn't expect to see Richard Dawkins here. I've only read one of his books, The God Delusion, but that was more about his atheist activism than his work as a scientist. Eventually, I'd like to read his work on evolutionary biology, for the dual purposes of understanding why he's considered seminal in his field, and to understand evolutionary theory better. 

I still consider myself a novice when it comes to evolution, but Jerry Coyne's Why Evolution is True is an excellent primer on the subject. I'd be surprised to find a better one out there. It's written in clear and clutter-free prose without being condescending, but it's not so technical that it would turn off the layman. The book is more about giving you a feel for the various types of evidence supporting the theory than being detailed about any one branch of biology (Coyne graciously provides a list for further reading at the end).

I'm fascinated with Evolutionary Biology, I can't stop reading about it! 

Thanks for the suggestions I'm going to try and by Jerry Coyne's book later this week, I'll give you an update on what I think! Richard Dawkins is a clever guy but I've seen myself on google more reading his books trying to figure out the words he uses! I'd prefer a "layman" book that's not for scientists. 

I've also read Richard's "The Ancestor's Tale" which is way more easier to read, it breaks down evolution in different animals and it concludes with how evolution got to where we are now.

If you haven't I'd suggest going on YouTube and search for "Richard Feynman" he is an amazing guy. 

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I'm fascinated with Evolutionary Biology, I can't stop reading about it! 

Thanks for the suggestions I'm going to try and by Jerry Coyne's book later this week, I'll give you an update on what I think! Richard Dawkins is a clever guy but I've seen myself on google more reading his books trying to figure out the words he uses! I'd prefer a "layman" book that's not for scientists. 

I've also read Richard's "The Ancestor's Tale" which is way more easier to read, it breaks down evolution in different animals and it concludes with how evolution got to where we are now.

If you haven't I'd suggest going on YouTube and search for "Richard Feynman" he is an amazing guy. 

Cool, I'm glad I could help. It's indeed a popular science book that can be read by the layman, I hope you find it as interesting as I did. If you end up liking Why Evolution is True, you may like Coyne's blog of the same name which deals with science, politics, and his love for cats.

I'm the same way in regard to looking up words. I'm a very lexically curious person, maybe too curious, so I always have my electronic dictionary nearby whenever I read. Unfortunately, this breaks the pace of the book and makes me read slower, but I think it's important to understand words precisely instead of guessing all the time (I can infer accurately sometimes, depending on the context, but other times I'm clueless, so the e-dictionary helps). I don't think my vocabulary is lacking, but naturally I'm always discovering new words in the books I read, especially in popular science.

Thanks for your description of The Ancestor's Tale, that may be helpful. I may read all of his major works if I can find the time, but I'm thinking of giving priority to three that I've heard particular acclaim for: The Blind Watchmaker, The Selfish Gene, and The Greatest Show on Earth. 

I know the basic profile of Feynman from the occasional anecdotes I've heard of him: charismatic, super-influential physicist who won the Nobel Prize for his work on quantum electrodynamics, helped developed the atomic bomb. Other than that, I don't know much, as I'm a physics numskull. 

But Feynman once told a story that I absolutely love, about a certain rat-running experiment in psychology. I recommend the short version found here:

https://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Richard_Feynman

(press ctrl + f and type rat-running to find the story)

but there's a much longer version here:

http://calteches.library.caltech.edu/51/2/CargoCult.htm

The story perfectly captures the spirit of scientific methodology: ingenious ways to get around brick walls, extremely careful control conditions, hard-earned results, and a lack of satisfaction with easy solutions. 

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I recently finished reading Just Babies: The Origins of Good and Evil by Paul Bloom. It's a short, well-written book about how people develop a capacity for moral judgment, as examined in psychological experiments on babies and young children. There are interesting discussions on empathy and compassion, fairness, status, and punishment, in-group out-group thinking, disgust, family, and even suggestions on moral improvement. 

Bloom deserves props for being an elegant stylist. His prose goes down like a cold glass of water, whereas some non-fiction writers struggle to make their field accessible and fail with their clunky, awkwardly-worded prose. The book consistently held my interest. 

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On 9/18/2015, 8:36:03, AlucardViDracul said:

If you call manga reading then I have to keep up monthly about 40 manga/Manhwa.

i need to get started on reading toriko, what are the manga's that you're reading right now?

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12 hours ago, byeshoe said:

i need to get started on reading toriko, what are the manga's that you're reading right now?

A bunch actually. 

The Gamer, Bleach, Noblesse, Black Haze, Magic High School Volume 14, Gosu (The Master), Märchen: The Embodiment of Tales, Douluo Dalu II - Jueshui Tangmen, Soul Cartel, Panlong, Baito Saki wa "Aku no Soshiki"?! and more but they are monthly manga. 

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1 hour ago, AlucardViDracul said:

 

A bunch actually. 

The Gamer, Bleach, Noblesse, Black Haze, Magic High School Volume 14, Gosu (The Master), Märchen: The Embodiment of Tales, Douluo Dalu II - Jueshui Tangmen, Soul Cartel, Panlong, Baito Saki wa "Aku no Soshiki"?! and more but they are monthly manga. 

Damn. That's a lot of manga. 

13 hours ago, byeshoe said:

i need to get started on reading toriko, what are the manga's that you're reading right now?

I can also answer this question.

Bleach - I started reading this manga when I was teenager, now I'm in my late twenties. I think it steadily tumbled downhill after the Soul Society arc, now I'm mostly reading out of habit and a need to have closure. Luckily, Kubo Tite has announced that the Sternritter arc is the final arc, so I can get that closure relatively soon. 

I'm bored with this manga so I don't understand why some people are praising this Sternritter arc. The fights are boring and they're not very tactical anymore. Ichigo receives less screen-time  and when he fights, all he ever does is spam Getsuga Tenshou or rely on some new power-up. Why did he never learn kido? 

I don't care about the endless barrage of back-stories concerning random villains that will die within a few chapters. 

One Punch Man - It can be fairly entertaining, but the updates are too damn slow. It takes at least a month to get 8 pages. 

Attack on Titan - This is still consistently entertaining. For a while it turned into a political game, which was interesting in its own right, but now we're back to a large scale Titan battle. I'm genuinely looking forward to the developments in the next chapter. 

---

As for books, I'm only reading one right now, Moral Tribes. It's an interdisciplinary synthesis of psychology, neuroscience, and philosophy by the renowned Harvard neuroscientist/philosopher Joshua Greene. The book talks about the human tendency to divide ourselves into tribes with separate versions of morality, and how this is one of the biggest obstacles to co-operation between those tribes. So it asks: how can we overcome this? Is it possible to keep our tribal differences and still build a robust global moral philosophy?

That's a huge question so the book's definitely not short on ambition. I'm only 60 pages in and I've discovered that the book covers a lot of ground that I'm already familiar with, but Greene frames the problem in an interesting way, and I can tell that he's building up to something bigger. I'm excited to read more. 

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5 hours ago, KingBunghole said:

Damn. That's a lot of manga. 

 

There is even more but they are released bi-weekly or even Monthly. But those are the ones that are released like weekly or every other day. 

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I finished two books recently.

On Bullshit - You might expect this book to be a joke, but it's a serious, 67 page philosophical essay that was well received in some academic circles. Its aim? To make a distinction between bullshit and lying. Do we need one? Harry Frankfurt argues the case persuasively.

I'm not an anti-philosophy person, but at the start of the book, I felt like one: I thought the author was splitting hairs, engaging in mental masturbation, and all the usual pejoratives. Luckily, his case came together gradually, and after reflecting on the book a bit, I came to realize that Frankfurt was right. The distinction he makes between bullshit and lying is useful, and one that we should have made long ago (maybe not in such coarse terms, but at least we got a funny title out of it). 

The Paradox of Choice - This book diagnoses an issue that's never far from consciousness for the millenial generation: the inundation of choice in the modern world. Have you ever felt that your backlog of things-to-do never ends? Have you ever felt that there are always films and television shows to watch, games to play, books to read, music to listen to, food to try, clothing to buy, trade-offs to make, and obligations to fulfill? Have you ever felt overwhelmed by this stupefying amount of choice? Then I highly recommend this book. Try some of the advice.  

Schwartz probably pissed off some libertarians who fetishize the prime value of freedom, but even if you're a libertarian, don't let that stop you from hearing him out. Schwartz argues that just because some choice is valuable, it doesn't follow that we should always strive for more choice, all the time. He argues from mainly a social psychological perspective about the various drawbacks of this ever-expanding world of choice, which he neatly summarizes on page 74. More choice means that decisions require more effort, mistakes more likely, and the psychological consequences of mistakes more severe. 

I will admit, there were times when his argumentation felt redundant because he was repeating something he already said in a different context. But on the whole, I found myself figuratively nodding my head with most of the points he made, which he did in a highly engaging fashion. 

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I'm reading a book called The Village Effect, a social neuroscience book by Susan Pinker, the sister of the cognitive scientist I mentioned in the OP. I think we're all aware of the increasing dominance of social media and its encroachment on face-to-face contact. This book affirms scientifically that electronic communication is by no means a full replacement for face-to-face, because face-to-face comes with a variety of benefits that you can't get by typing on a keyboard. In addition to material benefits like free rides and social networking, first person contact stimulates the brain to release beneficial neurotransmitters. Some of the effects of this include better reading ability, better ability to fight off infection, and longer life spans. This is such a wonder drug, apparently, that it can slow the rate of a cancer's growth (but it doesn't prevent it in the first place). 

Pinker is careful to note that not just any social contact will do. Don't go into a cancer support group and expect results from day one, it's your close bonds that give you the aforementioned benefits. 

So to those of you glued to your seats: get up. Join more social events relevant to your interests. 

I also finally got a Kindle as a late Christmas present. I'm late to the party, but this should be convenient to stop my room from being cluttered with books. 

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Leviathan Wakes. Actually, I started reading it a few months ago, but then I sort of forgot about it. I didn't get far. Now I'm trying to get started again, although I still keep forgetting I have it. I figured I'd read it before I started watching the TV show based on it, The Expanse. At this rate, it'll probably take me all year...

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3 hours ago, hussyfan said:

I'm reading forum posts.

Good for you man.  I'm reading a graphic novel consisting of the first several issues of Spider-Man 2099.  BTW hussyfan, how are you?  It is has been a good minute since we last spoke.

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