Having posted about atheism recently on the SciScoop science forum, it seems quite apt to have received for review a couple of books with a religious theme at this time of year.
The first is The Faith Instinct by Nicholas Wade. Wade is a well-known New York Times writer who presents the case for an evolutionary origin to religious faith. Religion has probably been with us in one form or another for at least the last 50,000 years yet no one, until recently, has asked whether belief might be some kind of evolutionary adaptation that helps form cohesive societies and provide our conscious minds with a metaphysical security blanket against the troublesome thoughts of our own demise.
Second up is Katherine Hayhoe and Andrew Farley’s A Climate for Change in which they offer the facts of global warming within the context of their religious faith.
The next book in the pile on my desk is Your Mind. It offers 10 apparently simple truths that will set you free. Think of it as an owner’s manual for your psyche. The book is co-authored by two leading psychologists and if at first seems like the usual psychobabble, actually is anything but, providing readers with a clear understanding of how to understand their minds, clearly.
Introducing science communication (edited by Mark L. Brake and Emma Weitkamp) is perhaps essential reading for students and practitioners learning to communicate science. It provides the key steps to help science communicators express complex scientific ideas for non-expert audiences.
Supplements Exposed by Brian Clement sets out to debunk the apparent myth that dietary supplements are necessarily a good thing. He discusses what he describes as the “truth they don’t want you to know about vitamins, minerals, and their effects on your health”. Of course, any book that talks about the mysterious “they” always agitates me even before I’ve turned the first page, but I felt even more agitated once I had turned that first page as he waxes lyrical about “synthetic” vitamins, as if the vitamin C found in oranges is somehow chemically distinct from the manufactured substance (it’s not). The cover claims this to be a “provocative” book and certainly there are issues with the whole supplements industry, but I’ve never felt happy reading books that seem to take the paranoid conspiracy theorist’s perspective even if the author is some kind of insider…
Finally, a topic I touched on at the time of the planetary realignments – The Case for Pluto – How a little planet made a big difference. It’s a pocket-sized hardback for a pocket-sized planet, or is it?
PS I also received an enormous poster in an enormous cardboard tube airmailed from Scottsville, Virginia. It’s a truly astounding poster from Chronaca.com and represents the Chronologium Academicus by Guy Cutrufo. It is to academia and time what a world map is to geography and place. I just wish I had the wallspace to hang it…