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L. Rose (Salisbury, UK)
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FROM FAITH TO REASON: Did God create mankind or did mankind create God?
FROM FAITH TO REASON: Did God create mankind or did mankind create God?
Price: £2.49

4.0 out of 5 stars A passionate deconstruction of religion, 21 Jun 2014
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Firstly, don't expect this to be a scholarly book. While it's very well researched, it's written in a personal and rather colloquial style. Its focus is on Christianity, as Baker was a fundamentalist priest, and a very successful one. It doesn't dig deeply into the origins of the Christian church, but blows apart the core beliefs as they are held today. The critique of the Bible is very similar to Dawkins', and Baker uses many of the same examples. At the end is a personal account of how Baker came to abandon his faith, and that for me was the most interesting part. For those who have read Hitchens, Dawkins, Bart Ehrman etc, there is little that's new, but it's still well worth reading.


Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)
Jesus, Interrupted: Revealing the Hidden Contradictions in the Bible (And Why We Don't Know About Them)
Price: £5.03

5.0 out of 5 stars Detailed and authoritative, 16 April 2014
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This is just what you need when the bible-thumpers come knocking at your door. My only criticism would be that the title is a bit misleading, as the book is about the New Testament not the whole Bible, as Ehrman is well known as a specialist on the former. For me the most revealing material was the explanation of why the errors and forgeries occurred. It's all totally logical and intelligible. What amazes me is that the evangelists that I have met have not the slightest clue about the most obviously untenable of the claims made on behalf of the Bible. Ehrman of course skewers all these effectively, but goes much deeper, conveying an understanding of the methods used by scholars to work out why authors were saying what they did. For example why John's gospel is so different from the others (clue - everybody Jesus spoke to had died by then).

Ehrman is at pains to point out that his transition from evangelist to agnostic was not connected to his biblical scholarship, but to scepticism that a loving god could allow so much suffering. I'm sceptical about that - I'd suggest that his eventual understanding that the Bible is not the word of any god led to a questioning attitude about suffering. But that takes nothing away from a tour de force in literature, history and religious criticism.


Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality
Quantum: Einstein, Bohr and the Great Debate About the Nature of Reality
Price: £4.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science is done by people, 1 April 2014
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This is a fascinating account of the origins and development of quantum physics, rich with personal detail. I obtained a real insight into what was driving the main players, and also came to appreciate the important contributions of many lesser-known scientists. Kumar's grasp of the great sweep of the subject is breathtaking. The writing style is masterly and compelling. At this price you really can't go wrong - a brilliant book.


The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ
The Origins of Christianity and the Quest for the Historical Jesus Christ
Price: £0.77

3.0 out of 5 stars Informative, but style is a bit too jokey, 22 Feb 2014
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I would have preferred a more scholarly style. The second part of the title is not fulfilled as well as the first.


1 Replacement Bulb Holder to fit 581 BAU15s Bulb with offset pins
1 Replacement Bulb Holder to fit 581 BAU15s Bulb with offset pins
Offered by The Digi Depot
Price: £6.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Nothing special about this, just a standard item, 22 Feb 2014
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I wanted this for a modification on a very old car so quite a lot of butchery was required, otherwise I'd give it 5 stars.


The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
The Simpsons and Their Mathematical Secrets
Price: £4.63

5.0 out of 5 stars How to make numbers fun, 22 Feb 2014
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I was never besotted with The Simpsons, but always saw the series as intelligent and informative. I wish I had watched it more after reading this book. In addition to discussions of actual mathematical concepts dropped into the episodes, there's quite a lot of digression into areas triggered by story lines, but that just adds to the book IMO.


The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
The Atheist's Guide to Christmas
Price: £0.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Good in most parts, 1 Feb 2014
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The highlight is the hilarious Jeeves and Wooster spoof by Richard Dawkins. But overall it's one of the most varied books I have read - something for everyone, as long as you don't believe fairy tales. But I did get irritated by Siān Berry's repeated plugs for organic food, which prompted me to stop reading for a while. This chapter sits rather badly with the rational and evidence-based tone of the others. I would give the book 5 stars but for that.


Rush [Blu-ray]
Rush [Blu-ray]
Dvd ~ Chris Hemsworth
Price: £10.00

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great entertainment, but the words `based on' are a clue, 19 Jan 2014
This review is from: Rush [Blu-ray] (Blu-ray)
OK, Hunt didn't drive a Lotus at Crystal Palace, it was a Brabham. In the race it was Hunt who lost out, not Lauda who wasn't even there. At the time the two were good friends and sharing a flat in London. But we have come to expect a degree of poetic licence in films, and hyping up a sporting rivalry to a state of animosity does work dramatically. The casting of these two actors was nothing short of inspired - both portrayals are uncannily convincing. The track footage is not overdone, and excellent. Always better to do simple things well instead of complex things badly. Lots of images stand out, especially the enormous sideburns of the actor pretending to be Stirling Moss as commentator. Many scenes are powerfully atmospheric; the fear at the start of the soaking Japanese GP was palpable, very much like the moment before Bilbo Baggins et al charge into the Orc army in Lord of the Rings.

Overall, highly recommended as reflecting Formula One as it was, but don't expect it to be historically flawless.


Gibbons/Wilbye/Morley: The Silver Swan; English Madrigals
Gibbons/Wilbye/Morley: The Silver Swan; English Madrigals
Price: £7.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Lots of music for the money, 4 July 2013
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Surprisingly good quality recordings for this large compilation. Nice range of artists, including my favourite Emma Kirkby. Good balance of accompanied soloists and part singers.


Tarnished Gold: The Sickness of Evidence-based Medicine
Tarnished Gold: The Sickness of Evidence-based Medicine
Price: £6.60

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars A flight of fancy, 12 May 2013
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I suppose I have to give this one star as some of the facts are correct. But most of the book displays the authors' misunderstandings of medical science and statistics.

The introduction is peppered with frank errors, for example that very large clinical trials are incapable of identifying the causes of diseases. They are not designed to do that! Then, I came across the term `orthomolecular medicine', which is megadose vitamin therapy by another name. This is the obsession which Linus Pauling developed in his later years, and is seen by most nutritionists as overt quackery. The foreword is written by perhaps the leading quack from the field. He says that evidence based medicine claims to provide certainty about treatments. If he knew the tiniest thing about it he would know that there are no certainties in science or medicine.

Hickey are Roberts are obsessed with the notion that large scale trials do not tell us anything about individual patients. Their illustration is that you can't select clothes for people by averaging their measurements. This is a frankly idiotic interpretation of science. Trials are all about estimating probabilities, which we get from deriving data from populations. Those derived statistics are then used in conjunction with specific information about a patient, to make a clinical decision. Clothes are not selected without taking measurements!

There are no plausible proposals in the book for replacing EBM. The authors make the mistake that analogies are OK for explaining an argument, but they don't necessarily prove the point. They like exposing what they think are fallacies, but fall victim to the false analogy fallacy. However I have now found out what drives their vitriolic attack. They had a spat with the US National Institutes of Health some years ago, about orthomolecular medicine (AKA megadose vitamin therapy, qv), a thoroughly discredited brand of quackery as we know. Hickey and Roberts display all the attributes of the `prophet crying in the wilderness'. This vitamins saga crops up repeatedly, so they are obviously smarting over it. I just came across a reference to Dr Devra Davis and her book The Secret History of the War on Cancer. I did a little research on Dr Davis - yes, she is another conspiracy theorist, who has been raking over the mobile phone and cancer canard.

Hickey and Roberts trot out a litany of EBM abuses, but do not realise that when people fail to follow the EBM model, they do not invalidate it. Time and again we are told that it's wrong `arbitrarily' to discard data. They do not seem to know that selection of studies for meta-analysis and systematic review (they don't appear to know the difference) is very far from arbitrary, but based on quality. As information specialists they ought to know about signal to noise ratio. There is a vast amount of noise in medical data, because humans are complex and we can't possibly know all that is going on inside them. By rejecting poor quality studies we reduce the noise and hence make the signal easier to spot.

The authors` other obsession is with Bayesian statistics. Nothing wring with that, but they describe their `ideal' very small Bayesian study, and do not realise that it is doing no more that a conventional frequentist study would do. In particular, they totally ignore the need for the prior probability in their study, which is a fundamental factor in Bayesian analysis. They seem to be certain that Bayesian methods are anathema to EBM, which is rubbish - they are just a way of analysing data (although you would normally design your study with analysis in mind).

They say that EBM ignores case reports. No, no, no. Case reports and in particular case series are useful indicators of whether there is a phenomenon that should be formally investigated. Where there is doubt however, case reports on their own are of very little value.

There is a long section on their favourite topic, megadose vitamin C. The evidence they cite goes back to Dr Fred Klenner in the 1950s, who claimed to have treated polio successfully. The authors claim that the results were replicated, but all of this evidence appears to be case reports, ie it is anecdotal. There is a lot of bleating about how expensive it would be to run the huge study that would satisfy the EBM crowd, but my question is this. Why has nobody carried out the small cheap Bayesian study that Hickey and Roberts were extolling earlier in the book? There has been no attempt by any of the megadose vitamin proponents to do any randomised comparative study on any scale, however small. The entire argument relies on anecdotal evidence. Hickey and Roberts also argue for focussing on effects that are obvious and don't require huge studies to detect small effects. They say the effects of megadose vitamin C are dramatic. So why no study designed on that basis? Do they protest too much?

The obsessive objection to large scale trials belies what actually happens in drug development. The pathway starts small, very small. After studies in healthy volunteers to get initial assessments of safety, pharmacokinetics etc, studies of typically 100 patients are carried out to test whether the drug actually has a clear effect. This is the sort of `sticks out like a sore thumb' test that Hickey and Roberts recommend. They don't appear to have noticed that it happens already, and has done for decades.

The authors include a huge number of references, but a great many are misquoted and misinterpreted, by my quick reckoning. Many references are to books and speculative review material by others, rather than to rigorous science.

There is a fuller review at [...]
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 18, 2014 12:47 PM GMT


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