Science, Religion, and History group read thread
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The God Gene, by Dean H. Hamer
Religion Explained, by Pascal Boyer
Rats, Lice and History, by Hans Zinsser
Pascal's Wager: The Man Who Played Dice with God, by James A Connor was also mentioned by someone, though we hadn't actually discussed it as a group read.
Any of these books we don't read now, we can always read later. :)
I thought if we are going to read 4 books a year, then 3 month breaks in between books seems logical. So May seems to be a good choice for the next group read. If that's not a good time, just say so!
I'm definitely interested in Religion Explained since I've already started it and could use an excuse to pick it up again, but I'm open to other books as well.
At some point I think it would also be nice to read something about medieval Islamic science, to complement the perspective of God's Philosophers.
I decided to try creating a List for ideas.
Grrr, you're gonna drag me into the list business. :-)
I can't say I'd be sorry ;)
>5 _Zoe_: Thanks for making the list Zoe. I assume it's just for keeping track of the books suggested and that I don't have to DO anything with it? (Like vote.) I agree that voting is probably best done on the thread because that way we can keep track of who's voting.
>4 _Zoe_: Do you have a Islamic science of the middle ages book in mind? We could try Science in Medieval Islam, or The Rise of Early Modern Science. I'm not sure which one would be the better choice. My only quibble is that The Rise of Early Modern Science seems to be about the interaction between Eastern and Western science and is meant to explain why the scientific revolution took place in the West despite the fact that the original discoveries were in the East. If we're looking for the "other point of view" we might get a more Eastern-centric story with Science in Medieval Islam.
It seems the general consensus is to start with Religion Explained in May and then move on to other suggestions later in the year?
It looks like Zoe's list has grown in the last couple of months. With people adding books and voting who probably are unaware of where this thread is.... :) But since all are welcome, I'll PM those people and tell them we've got a thread for Religion Explained.
And in case people have lost track of Zoe's list in this 13-messaged thread it's here .
#23 Suz, no, but I own it (it's in the pile of Books My Husband Has Bought Me But Have Not Yet Been Read).
I'm only about a hundred pages into Religion Explained.
I've given up on the Gnostic Gospels until I'm done with RE so I can keep a bit more current on the RE group read.
I finished The Closing of the Western Mind and am slowly posting chapter summaries on my thread. I'm finding it not so much the antithesis of God's Philosophers as I was expecting.
Also need to post on Chapter 3 of Religion Explained.
To start the discussion: Rats, Lice and History sounds interesting, but I'm not sure how it ties in with the interest in religion.
That said, and given the expressed preference for non-European history, maybe we could go with one of the suggested books on Islamic science (or a similar one that's not yet on the list).
>28 aulsmith: Rats Lice and History is on there because when we originally started we weren't planning on making every book about religion. There were a few people interested in reading it. It fits two of the three categories. :)
I would be perfectly happy reading The Great Transformation...we could put it in our list if we don't read it next time. I really, really want to read Religion for Atheists, but I think we should go for a different theme next time, so I'll hang on to that nomination. :) We have three books on Islamic science on our list...therefore the nominations so far are:
The Rise of Early Modern Science (Islamic science)
Science in Medieval Islam (Islamic science)
Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (Islamic Science)
The Great Transformation
Rats Lice and History (I think aulsmith nominated this despite doubt of it not being about religion?)
Is there anyone else who wants to nominate something?
I think the list will probably be better for accumulating ideas than for doing a strict vote, because it's hard to eliminate books once they're there--they'll sink to the bottom, but not go away. If we can't manage to agree on a book by consensus and want to go with voting, it might be better to do in-thread polls instead.
Vote: Do you want to read Book X for our next discussion?
>39 MarthaJeanne: Yes, it is. And there's not really a good option for a used book. Rats Lice and History is also expensive if bought new, but it has some pretty cheap used copies for sale on Barnes and Noble (and probably Amazon).
I don't usually even look at used books, because so few of them are shipped from the UK, and receiving packages from the US is prohibitively expensive. We get charged high fees for taking them through customs. I've owned Rats, Lice and History for years, so I didn't bother looking up the price of that one. Must be about 20 years since I last read it.
Armstrong writes lively, interesting introductions. I personally am somewhat beyond the introductory stage in the areas she writes about, so I'd probably sit that one out, but it was very clear to me from the discussion of the Boyer that the people in this group are coming to this topic from many different backgrounds, so this sort of book might be an excellent one for people who have not read widely on Axial Age religious thought.
I'm also wondering, based on the reaction to the Boyer book, if a good introduction to basic anthropological thought on religion might be a good thing to read. I, unfortunately, don't know one.
I'd also prefer not to do two anthropology/religion books back to back although aulsmith is spot on in how little I know about anthropology and the book Rachel suggested looks interesting.
I have never read Rats, Lice and History so I am interested in doing that one. I have the feeling that that one might be a quick read.
I'd also like to read something to do with Arabic science or other non-western science. Besides the ones already suggested, a tagmash produced House of Wisdom: How the Arabs Transformed Western Civilization. I have no idea about it other than what it says here on LT and on Amazon but to me it looks interesting and is affordable.
On Mt TBR: Ornament of the World; How Muslims, Jews and Christians Created a Culture of Tolerance in Medieval Spain.
From the list, I especially like: Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion A bit Amero-centric but perhaps a subject of interest to the international members?
_Zoe_'s idea to vote 'yes I'd participate, no I'm not interested' on each book suggested has worked well in other groups to find the books that the largest number of people will read.
In the Shadow of the Sword: The Birth of Islam and the Rise of the Global Arab Empire by Tom Holland
at a very reasonable price.
The Rise of Early Modern Science PROHIBITIVELY EXPENSIVE?
Science in Medieval Islam
Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science
In the Shadow of the Sword (New Release)
The Great Transformation
Rats Lice and History
Summer for the Gods
Ornament of the World
House of Wisdom
ETA: Remember, for this vote you can vote "yes" for any book that you would read in August. If we have a tie, we'll have to have a second vote and maybe have people only vote for one (since, logically, if everyone voted the same way for the second vote, we'd get the same result. :))
Vote: Do you want to read The Rise of Early Modern Science?
Vote: Do you want to read Science in Medieval Islam?
Vote: Do you want to read Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science?
Vote: Do you want to read In the Shadow of the Sword?
Vote: Do you want to read The Great Transformation
Vote: Do you want to read Rats, Lice, and History
Vote: Do you want to read Summer for the Gods?
Vote: Do you want to read Ornament of the World
Vote: Do you want to read House of Wisdom
The Rise of Early Modern Science: 448 pp., 2003, rating 4.7 (amazon), 4.39 (LT); $23.97, used $1975
Science in Medieval Islam: 282 pp., 1997, rating 4.7(Amazon) 4.25 (LT), $18.49, used $6.70
Pathfinders: 400 pp., 2012, no ratings yet on Amazon, 2 ratings on LT, a 2 and a 4; $8.89, Kindle $8.31
In the Shadow of the Sword: 544 pp., 2012, rating 3.0(Amazon), 3.93 (LT); $19.36, used $13.99, Kindle $14.99
The Great Transformation: 592 pp., 2007, rating 4.1(amazon), 3.95 (LT); $11.53
Rats, Lice and History: 332 pp., 2007, rating 4.2 (amazon), 4.2 (LT); $20.00, used $14.99
Summer for the Gods: 336 pp., 2006, rating 4.5 (amazon), 3.9 (LT); $11.32, used $4.97, Kindle $9.32
Ornament of the World: 352 pp., 2003, rating 3.9 (amazon), 3.71 (LT); $10.87, used $.01, Kindle $9.99
The House of Wisdom: 272 pp., 2010, rating 3.9 (amazon), 3.93 (LT); $7.20, used $6.72, Kindle $10.08
I voted undecided on Rats, Lice, and History because it was originally published so long ago, and on Summer of the Gods because the evolution debates are already more familiar to me than some of the other topics.
I wonder if at some point in the future we might want to come up with general guidelines concerning long works and expensive works. Something like, out of our four books each year, only one should be particularly long and only one should be particularly expensive, so that we can ensure a good participation rate for at least half of the books. I know it's premature to be thinking about this, but I figured I'd mention it anyway. I don't want to exclude long or expensive books entirely (especially since more scholarly work tends to be on the more expensive side), but I do want to promote participation.
ETA: Just realized that Rats, Lice, and History bumped up to tie as well. So don't get confused, I don't think it's about Arabic Science. ;)
Vote: Do you want to read Science in Medieval Islam
Vote: Do you want to read Pathfinders: The Golden Age of Arabic Science (US Title: House of Wisdom: How Arabic Science Saved Ancient Knowledge)
Vote: Do you want to read Rats, Lice, and History
Vote: Do you want to read House of Wisdom
I know I'm equally happy reading Rats Lice and History or a book on Arabic science, but I voted for one on Arabic Science figuring my vote would count more since people seem so Arabic-science trended...so I totally see what you mean.
ETA: Though one problem may be that if a bunch of us try to buy from the 3 or 4 places in the US that sell the book they might run out of stock. ;) It looks like it's available on Kindle, though I have a Nook so that is useless to me!
So there's now no need to reject Pathfinders on the grounds of being too obscure. Which is almost too bad, because it just makes the voting even harder....
The next group read starts in August!
I didn't vote as I am happy to read any of the above titles.
ETA: Yeah, I would have read any of them too. :)
But I did check to see if I could borrow it from a library first (couldn't). I give myself points for trying, though. :-)
And....I found out I could search the library at the lab where I work through the state system. Very cool.
I wonder whether we should set up more systematic sub-threads for groups of chapters so that people can discuss more easily as they go.
Ok, well, perhaps for the next month I can set up subthreads, if you think that will generate more discussion.
Does anybody want to nominate books for our next quarter (November)?
I think Rats, Lice, and History should be automatically nominated since it stood out on our last quarter's nominations because it was the only non- Arabic Science book. :) I also thought The Social Conquest of Earth might be interesting. It's the new book by Edward O. Wilson, who wrote the classic Sociobiology. It covers science and religion, so it fits in to our theme well. :)
Re the current book, I have it in a stack for soonish, but I need to dig out of a backlog of reviews, including an ER book.
Rats, Lice, and History, by Hans Zinsser: 4.2 star rating on LT. It costs $28.44 (it's probably cheaper used).
The Social Conquest of Earth, by Edward O. Wilson: This book was released in 2012 and has a 3.93 star rating on LT. It ranges in price from $9.78 - $16.93 depending on the format.
Would anybody else like to nominate? Is November going to be good for everyone? We can shift to December, if that is better....
Both books look interesting to me. I'll second Zoe's idea that the three month period means you can start the book any time in that period and join the conversation when you have something to say.
Vote: Rats, Lice, and History
You can vote for both of these books if you're just as happy reading either.
I haven't even started House of Wisdom and have several LTER books I need to read and review.
I think I'll do a fall catch up and will have to pass on these group reads until after the first of the year.
At the library book sale this week, I picked up an audiobook of Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe. It sounds like it would fit perfectly into the interests of this group--but the reviews say it wanders. For me, that's OK. I am perfectly happy to read chapters about art and architecture as well as microbes.
OK! So I'm going to close off the vote. We've got 3 for Social Conquest of Earth and one for Rats, Lice and History. Yes, it was I who gave the token vote for Rats, Lice, and History. I would like to read it, but it probably isn't a good choice for our group reads, I guess, because it is older and more expensive. :)
Sooo...we have through October to finish House of Wisdom, and then we'll have a discussion of The Social Conquest of Earth from November - January.
I'm going to take the easy way out and listen to the audiobook because I've over-committed myself for physical reads lately. But I'll borrow a hard-copy from the library so I can separate it into sections for discussion purposes...I'll make separate threads for those discussions and leave the main thread for discussion of the book on a whole (or spoiler-free discussion). Does that sound good to everyone?
As a side advertisement, let me point out that I'm trying to organize a group read of Chinua Achebe's new memoir about the Biafra war There was a Country. My plan is for December. I don't know how many people are interested, but at least I'll be reading it. Hopefully people will join me. :)
By way of introduction, I come more from the "religion" third of this thread's title. But that's only by specialty, not a polemic side I'm taking. I'm a student of theology.
For any of you who are going to be joining in on the last month of discussion for The House of Wisdom (which I just began again today!), don't forget where the thread is!
ETA: or maybe we should get back to the religion aspect...
But in theory, I'm definitely interested in a book on Indian and Chinese scientific development, and Greece as well. The Greeks and the Irrational is one that I've been meaning to read for ages, possibly more on the religion side of things.
Sorry I dropped the ball on that one, I have been so busy the last couple of months trying to move all my stuff to MN and find a sublettor and all that jazz.