Don’t Bring a Knife to a Book Fight

Whatever your religious affiliation, what's the first book you'd recommend to someone on the other side to open up a conversation to get them to eventually switch teams?In other words, your pick doesn't have to be a knock-out punch for your beliefs, it just has to open up a chink you plan to exploit later.  (Though if you've got a sure-fire book recommendation, for either side, by all means share).  I've certainly heard both sides cite the Bible.Back when I was dating a nice Catholic bo … [Read more...]

Beware of [YA Dystopias] Bearing Gifts?

This post contains vague spoilers for the Hunger Games trilogy.  I'm speaking in generalities about the moral development of some of the characters, but do not discuss any specific plot developments.  Consider yourselves warned.I really enjoyed the Hunger Games series (and had a great time dressing up for the movie) but I'm mainly pitched it to people in tragic terms.  Unlike many other YA dystopian hero/ines, Katniss is marked and warped by the cost of bringing down her society.  During par … [Read more...]

A Hell of a Review

I received a review copy of Tripp York's book (The Devil Wears Nada) free of charge, but I made no agreements about the substance of the review with him or anyone else.The Devil Wears Nada turned out to be a little out of my wheelhouse, since Tripp York is mainly addressing evangelical protestant conceptions of Satan, but I found it to be a mostly enjoyable read. Atheists or anyone else trying to pick fights over this aspect of theology will find this to be a useful rundown of the arguments a … [Read more...]

“What’s Hard is Simple, What’s Natural Comes Hard”

This post is part of Patheos's book club for T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. I recieved a review copy free of charge.In T.M. Luhrmann's ethnographic study of charismatic evangelical Christians, When God Talks Back, communing with God is a strenuous practice.  Cultivating a personal, two-way relationship is a choice for these Christians, and the sheer level of effort they put into changing their minds trips a lot of my e … [Read more...]

Irrational with Respect to What?

In Thinking Fast and Slow, Daniel Kahneman draws on a lot of empirical studies where subjects make clearly irrational decisions.  A choice throws an exception in an otherwise functional heuristic, and the subject takes an action that doesn't promote his or her stated goal.  But one of the studies Kahneman cites doesn't seem to fit into this model.In the experiment, subjects placed a hand into painfully cold water and had to keep it there for 60 seconds.  After a break, they put their ot … [Read more...]

Quasi-Transhumanist Charismatic Christians

This post is part of Patheos's book club for T.M. Luhrmann's When God Talks Back: Understanding the American Evangelical Relationship with God. I recieved a review copy free of charge.This was a fascinating book to read right on the heels of Thinking Fast and Slow, because both books seemed to be mostly about changing our intuitions and heuristics. Luhrmann is embedded in a charismatic sect of Christianity.  No snake-handling, but plenty of two-way dialogue with Jesus and what Luhrmann calls … [Read more...]

When Do You Reject Your Intuitions?

knee reflex

A while ago, a commenter emailed me to ask if I could recommend any books to read on human cognitive bias, and now that I've finished Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman, I can, with great enthusiasm.  When we study flaws in human reasoning, we usually start with glaring ones, and find out that they're just the most obvious examples of a broader problem (and the subtler errors are the more pernicious ones).  In the book, Kahneman has a really interesting riff on the Müller-Lyer il … [Read more...]