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Wallenius Jaakko (Lohja, Finland)
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Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
Flat Earth News: An Award-winning Reporter Exposes Falsehood, Distortion and Propaganda in the Global Media
by Nick Davies
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

5 of 24 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars 'Churnalism' exposed, 31 Jan 2010
I started this book with high expectations, but I was sorely disappointed in the end. In the beginning of the book there was some juicy examples of how the modern mass media distorts the world and makes it look as it wants.
Book however soon degenerates into a Jeremiad of how British newspapers have been turned into money making machines and the true journalism of the old has been quite forgotten and buried under the flood of "churnalism", where the only aim is to produce as much as possible of content as cheaply as possible.

Nick Davies has some good examples of how freely media does treat facts today, but very soon he succumbs into cheap gossiping about newspapers and people that I personally do not have any interest at all.
This book is too British to be of real value to a journalist from a foreign country like me, even if of course the same problems of greedy publishers, too little time and too much work are present everywhere in modern media.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Mar 7, 2012 5:22 PM GMT


Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong
Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong
by Marc Hauser
Edition: Paperback
Price: £11.19

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Is there an inherent basic sense of morality shared by all humans?, 25 Jan 2010
One of the central claims of nearly all religions is that one cannot be moral without the aid of the religions and some even claim that religions are even the sole source of morality in societies. Evolutionary biologist Marc D. Hauser tackles head on these assumptions in his fine book called "Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right & Wrong".

Moral Minds - Marc D. Hauser

He basically answers in this book the puzzling question of if religions haven invented morality, why all societies all over the world do have so very similar basic rules on morality even if they have not been are connected.
He shows in 538 pages how dozens of recent field studies and laboratory studies and experiments all lead to a very similar conclusions. They seem to imply that we have some very basic genetically coded basic rules of morality that are observable already in very little children and are discernible in all different cultures all over the world.

Marc D. Hauser is saying that even if the practical deeds and things that are thought as moral and immoral vary greatly because of different state of cultural evolution in different cultures, there is an deep underlying moral machinery that classifies certain larger classes of actions as moral or immoral.
He calls it "the moral acquisition device" and points out that this system forms a building block on which the actual moral system of every society is in the end built.

His ideas have been to great deal influenced by the findings on Noam Chomsky on the basic common linguistic faculties of humans. Noam Chomsky has shown that there are some very basic ground rules that all languages use as building blocks that are genetically inherent in all human beings.
Even though the languages built on these basic rules differ wildly, they share some common characteristics that are universal for the whole of human kind.
In the same vein Marc D. Hauser does show that all humans share some very basic moral instincts that are the same in every culture, even the practical things that are deemed moral or immoral do vary from culture to culture and in the same culture in different times.

He shows that these moral instincts have a base in our evolutionary history, as most of the same faculties can be found also on in more advanced species in the animal kingdom. Humans have just developed these things further than any other species.
Marc D. Hauser teaches at the moment at the Psychology Department at Harvard University and this book is scientific work and as such not an easy read when he delves into the depths of the scientific data and evidence.

His style is however always fluent and one could undoubtedly could have built a much duller book of the same material. I can heartily recommend this book to anyone who is interested in why we humans are as we are.
His previous popular book called "Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think" analyzed the thought processes of animals.

I must end in a quotation that in my mind gathers together many of the basic issues in the book. This is from the Epilogue at page 456:

"Our biology and the biology of all species on earth sets up on range of possible behaviors. The range we observe is only a limited sampling of all possible behaviors. This is because our biology interacts with the environment, and environments change. But from the fact that environments change we are not licensed to assume that cultures will evolve in parallel, entirely unconstrained. If there is a universal moral grammar, the principles are fixed, but the potential range of moral systems is not."


The Mind Made Flesh: Essays from the Frontiers of Psychology and Evolution
The Mind Made Flesh: Essays from the Frontiers of Psychology and Evolution
by Nicholas Humphrey
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.38

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nicholas Humphrey and the Case of Jesus Christ, 16 Sep 2009
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Nicholas Humphrey is a scientist who has earned his greatest honors in the field of theoretical psychology. His book `Mind made flesh' is a book which every atheist should read at some point of their lives, even if the things really interesting an atheist comes only after the middle of the book.

This book is fantastic journey in the world of workings of the mind and cognition. As said, the real pearls are in the other half of the book, but they are really worth waiting.

His astounding theory of the birth of the story of Jesus is alone a good reason to get this book and read it. His theory comes in the 16. chapter of the book called `Behold the Man'. It in Nicholas Humphrey gives a fully comprehensible and logical explanation to a situation where Jesus could be a con-man and simultaneously believe is his own magical powers and story of him being a son of God.

You story must read this story, if you are at least interested in these matters. This chapter begins as quite innocent overview of the research done in the field of paranormal phenomena until Nicholas Humphrey reveals the case study he plans to use to demonstrate people using belief in paranormal phenomena to their advantage, it is naturally "The Case of Jesus Christ".

This story is however not the only pearl in this magnificent book. The 12. chapter called "Cave Art, Autism, and the Evolution of the Human Mind" gives wonderful insights to a theory how the evolution of abstract thinking may have brought about losses in other departments.

The main characters in this chapter are the magnificent cave painters of the stone age and the 3-years old Nadia, who painted just like the cave painters, but could not master the conceptual thinking at all. This is must read to everybody who is at least interested in evolution of man.

A good read it also the 18. chapter of the book, which tells about the court cases against animals that were common in the Middle Ages. The 19. chapter is also very interesting as it deals with the placebo-effect and the spontaneous self-healing.

The final chapters of the book are real gems when psychologist Nicholas Humphrey tells how the religions misuse the trust of children and mold their minds into directions they want. Th 20. chapter called "What Shall We Tell the Children" is a moving appeal for the preservation of the intellectual integrity of the children.

Nicholas Humphrey is not a self-made quack, but a real scientist whose studies on the cognition and the development of thinking are still valued highly in the scientific world.

[...]


God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
by Christopher Hitchens
Edition: Paperback
Price: £6.99

30 of 34 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Basic Curriculum of Atheism, 16 Sep 2009
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The magnificent book by Christopher Hitchens "God is Not Great - How Religion Poisons Everything" is a must read for all atheists, as Christopher Hitchens dares to say aloud all most atheist have been thinking in privacy of their own mind, but have not dared to say aloud in fear of hurting the feelings of the believers.

Christopher Hitchens does not fear anybody and anything when he thinks that he smells the truth. He fires salvo after salvo and sinks the whole flotilla of the theists in the process.

In this level there is a need for even real physical courage, as a writer living in the United States Christopher Hitchens knows very well that he will be a target for all religious fanatics out there. Islam gets the rudest battering in the hands of Christopher Hitchens as he dismisses it as a weak plagiary of the older Faiths of the Book.

Christopher Hitchens is as a writer the brightest star of the league of the New Atheism writers. His writing is at same time both hard-hitting and extremely entertaining. Christopher Hitchens fires homing missiles in the weakest points of the religions and they really hurt.

Christopher Hitchens is more of a free agent than Richard Dawkins, as he does not seek scientific analysis like Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris, but he takes advantage of his wonderful knowledge of literature, history and philosophy. He uses this ammunition to pound the religions with a barrage of ideas.

Christopher Hitchens strikes equally at all organized religions and does not spare the wonders of the Far East. Hinduism and Buddhism take their own share of Christopher Hitchens' ire and even Japanese Shinto's is not spared a few lashes.

The main focus is understandably however in the Christian religions, but Christopher Hitchens shows real passion, when he lets go at the Islam.

The argumentation in the book is often familiar to anybody steeped in atheistic thinking, but the angle of attack is new and refreshing. Christopher Hitchens is not afraid of interpreting things and events through his own persona and personal history.

Christopher Hitchens has traveled widely also in the world of Islam and has studied carefully the history of this religion and through his personal contacts he can give a vivid picture of it.

Christopher Hitchens does not hide his goals. His goal is to show how the major religions of today have long since passed their last selling day and how they are remnants from the days when there was nothing better on offer. They are remnants from the days when even crude and pointless explanation of the world was better than no explanation at all.

Christopher Hitchens is out to show the role of religions as man-made systems of thought and he confirmed at least me so easily, that I didn't even break sweat.
This book is a polemic statement, but it does not make it a bad book. Christopher Hitchens does not make any compromises and does not even try to understand the arguments of the other side. The net result is a magnificent book that should find its place in every atheist's bookshelf.

[...]
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Feb 18, 2010 3:34 PM GMT


God's Own Country: Power and Religion in the USA: Religion and Politics in the USA
God's Own Country: Power and Religion in the USA: Religion and Politics in the USA
by Stephen Bates
Edition: Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Journey to the heart of American religious right, 20 April 2009
Stephen Bates's book is an essential read for anybody trying to understand the American religious mindset. As an English alien he is looking on the issues outside enough, so also a Finn like me can also follow things and understand what it is all about.
Book is a troubling tread though, as the American fundamentalist narrow mindedness can really be dumbfounding for a European at times.
The book is also an expose of an exotic phenomena for us Europeans, but I don't think Stephen Bates is just drooling on the stupidity of the Americans, but to my mind he brings out a quite balanced view on how the Religious Right really works.
Stephen Bates is the Religious Affairs Correspondent for the venerable Guardian and this position has opened many doors for him that would be unreachable for many.
He meets many of the leading figures of the Moral Majority and many other American organizations and feels quite comfortable with them even if exposing quirks in their thinking a moment later.

Jaakko Wallenius
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