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Boston Skeptics’ Book Club #5

Posted on : Apr-03-2010 | By : Mary | In : Blog Post

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It’s a beautiful day out, my cats are sitting around melting away in the sunbeam, and I know you all have one thing on your mind: What happened at last week’s BSBC meeting?

Last Saturday, we met at the cafe in Borders to discuss Jonathan Goldstein’s Ladies and Gentlemen, The Bible!. I picked it because it was short, funny, and irreverent, and who doesn’t need a bit of a mental break every now and then? The stories of the book were all modern reinterpretations of stories from the Old Testament, and being raised a Lutheran I honestly wasn’t as familiar with the Old Testament mythology, so I enjoyed this book. Goldstein wrote most of the characters in such a way that I felt sympathy for the traditionally evil ones and got irked at the traditionally good ones. God is portrayed as a voice in one’s head, and most of the time he either asks rhetorical questions or is a tad passive-aggressive.

Next BSBC book is: Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body by Neil Shubin (credit goes to Liz for selecting it). Shubin is a paleontologist who describes how various parts of humans evolved. If you know anyone who says that there is no beauty in evolution, point them to this book. Shubin not only uses the fossil record to show readers how evolution works, but his writing style keeps the reader interested and you don’t have to be an expert to understand his concepts.

Our next meeting is at 3 p.m. at Borders on Saturday, April 24th, at 3 pm at the Borders bookstore on Boylston Ave in Boston (two blocks from the Arlington T-stop on the Green Line). The cafe section is up the escalators on the second floor and the back in the corner near the science books. Be there, or be somewhere else that isn’t nearly as fun!

In the future, since the weather is so great, we may plan a BSBC outing in the park instead. Keep your eyes open and if you have any suggestions, state them in the comments!

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Comments (2)

Unfortunately, I have a prior engagement with the South Shore Astronomy Club that day, but I do have a review!

If Richard Dawkins attacks Creationism with rhetorical broadsides, Shubin does it with a carefully-aimed silenced pistol; less dramatic, but far more effective and humane.

Unless I missed something, I don’t think Shubin uses the word “evolution” anywhere in the book. But he presumes Common Descent and — without the reader having to be consciously aware of this — causes the reader to presume it as well. He or she has to for the book to make any sense. Indeed, until the f…more If Richard Dawkins attacks Creationism with rhetorical broadsides, Shubin does it with a carefully-aimed silenced pistol; less dramatic, but far more effective and humane.

Unless I missed something, I don’t think Shubin uses the word “evolution” anywhere in the book. But he presumes Common Descent and — without the reader having to be consciously aware of this — causes the reader to presume it as well. He or she has to for the book to make any sense. Indeed, until the final chapter, I don’t think the average reader even needs to think that this book has anything in particular to do with Evolution in the politicized sense and Shubin’s such a likable guy that a mild Creationist might not even know to have his guard up.

Otherwise, the book is delightful; Shubin’s got a light touch, a gift for explanation, and an eye for finding the right examples that make for an excellent pop-bio book that’s accessible and interesting to a wide audience.

Tom, thanks for the review. I also found it interesting that the word “evolution” didn’t appear in the book, and it didn’t really occur to me until you posted it.

I liked how Shubin just assumed that the reader believed in Evolution and Common Descent and continued the dialog with facts and interesting anecdotes.

I you can make a future Book Club meeting! Maybe when I finally move to Boston I can do more neat Astronomy stuff too :)

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