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Archive for December, 2011

Let’s face it – I’m not a great critic, nor a great writer, nor even a great reader these days.  And, maybe that’s ok. I like to read, and I like to write about what I read. Today, I made one of those joyous reading connections that I love, and just wanted to share it with …whomever. I have been reading, and enjoying, “36 Arguments for the Existence of God,” a smart, sweet novel featuring the “atheist with a soul” Cass Seltzer who has become famous for his book “The Varieties of Religious Illusion.” The book features a truly suspenseful debate at the end – when Cass faces off against a right-wing neo-con apologist for faith in a packed Harvard auditorium.  That’s where I am right now, and I fear Cass is going to be destroyed as being the famous intellectual was for him a rather accidental happening, one in which he can’t quite believe and a role he is having trouble really inhabiting. When we don’t really mean what we are or what we do is when life gets dangerous, I think.  Anyway, at the library, I just happened to pick up “The Angels of Our Better Natures” by Steven Pinker. It’s about the fact that violence has declined, even though it doesn’t seem that way if you watch or listen to any news stations. I’m very early into the book, but enjoying his engaging style. Surprisingly, in the preface to Pinker’s book, I came across a pair of words, new to me, that had occurred earlier in Goldstein’s book:  “endogen0us and exogenous”, meaning influenced, respectively, from the inside and the outside.  Or, in Pinker’s words:  explaining forces for change, “Social scientists distinguish between ‘endogenous’ variables — those that are inside the system, where they may be affected by the very phenomenon they are trying to explain–from ‘exogenous’ ones – those that are set inmotion by forces from the outside.” (preface, xxiii).  Then, in Goldstein’s book, she mentions her “partner, Steve Pinker.” I am just delighted to be reading both their books right now. What fun!

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