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Alan Michael Forrester "I exist." (Northampton)
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Why Vote Leave
Why Vote Leave
Price: £0.99

13 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Why we should vote to leave the EU, and what will happen if we do, 7 April 2016
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This review is from: Why Vote Leave (Kindle Edition)
"Why Vote Leave" (WVL) is an excellent account of why British people should vote to leave the European Union, and what will happen if we do.

Political debates are often conducted entirely in terms of concretes. People ask "What will I get if this legal change passes?" This is a sensible question to ask. A legal reform should be judged on whether it is going to help or hurt people. But it should also be judged on whether it will make correcting political errors easier or harder. For example, you could elect somebody who will put an end to all elections. That person might happen to like you today, and might shower you with gifts. But he will make lots of mistakes that will make everyone worse off later, including you. And what if the dictator turns against you?

WVL gives many concrete examples of bad laws passed by the EU. But it also puts those laws in context by explaining how the EU works and why it gives rise to such bad laws. WVL explains that the EU is largely unaccountable to voters: you can't vote for or against the people who make laws in the EU. The laws are originated by the European Commission (EC), who are not elected, not by the elected European parliament. As such, the EU's mistakes can't be corrected. The people making the decisions don't have any information about whether people approve policies or not, and so can't correct bad policies. But the EC doesn't know everything so how does it know what laws to make? Those who have enough money and political pull lobby for the policies they want. Nor do EU officials want to reform toward more error correction. They have routinely ignored votes against treaties they favour, see in particular Chapter 3 of WVL. And we can't just ignore the EU's political mistakes as we are required by treaty to write them into UK law.

WVL also gives an account of what the UK would look like after voting to leave the EU. The UK would be free to make its own laws. We could keep any laws we want to retain from our time in the EU, and discard those that are no good. We would be free to decide who we will trade with, and on what terms. The British government wouldn't be seeing £350 million per week to the EU and voters would be able to hold those spending that money to account.

There is a lot of content in the book that I can't do justice to in a short review: you should WVL.

If you think the UK should stay in the EU, you should buy this book to learn what sort of arguments you will have to counter. I would prefer that you change your mind and I think this book might change your mind, but even if you don't reconsider you will learn about the opposition.

For those in favour of leaving the EU, this book will provide you with a lot of information and arguments that could help you win over those who want to stay.


The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels
Price: £11.39

8 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good book on why it is good to use fossil fuels, 16 Nov. 2014
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"The Moral Case for Fossil Fuels" by Alex epstein is an interesting book about why it is good to use fossil fuels.

Some good features of the book. (1) It explains that policy proposals should be judged by the standard of whether they improve human life. (2) The book contains many factual explanations about why fossil fuels are good by that standard. (3) The idea that experts should be treated as advisers on issues about which they have knowledge, not as authorities to dictate what you should do. If a person claims to be an expert and can't give you a clear explanation, his claims should be rejected.

Bad features of the book. (1) The epistemology is not as good as it could be, i.e. - it's not critical rationalism, see "Realism and the Aim of Science" by Karl Popper and "The Beginning of Infinity" by David Deutsch.(2) He doesn't explain that predicting our future is impossible as explained in "The Beginning of Infinity". Our future depends on what knowledge we will create in the future about science, politics, economics and other stuff. So people who claim we are doomed are going beyond the knowledge is it possible for them to have.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 10, 2014 10:12 AM GMT


The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA
The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA
by Richard H. Immerman
Edition: Paperback
Price: £23.50

5.0 out of 5 stars A good short history of the CIA, 3 May 2014
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"The Hidden Hand: A Brief History of the CIA" is a good short history of the CIA. It describes how the agency was created in the years after World War II and its subsequent evolution, including the decisions that led to it having a paramilitary wing. The book seems honest in describing what the CIA had done both good and bad. The author has suggestions to make for reform, such as the idea that the CIA should focus more on intelligence and dump its paramilitary activities, but these don't distract him from describing what the CIA has done and why.


An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Oxford World's Classics)
An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice (Oxford World's Classics)
by William Godwin
Edition: Paperback
Price: £12.08

0 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A brilliant book on political and moral philosophy, 24 Dec. 2013
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"An Enquiry Concerning Political Justice" by William Godwin (henceforth Enquiry) has languished in undeserved obscurity for far too long, so I am glad that Oxford University Press has issued this new edition of the book.

In Enquiry, Godwin attacks a host of political and moral institutions and upholds the importance of rationality and the just treatment of individuals. Godwin argues that these institutions often require an individual to act against his best judgement and that they are irrational as a result and many of his arguments are correct. He also states very clearly, unlike many anarchists with whom he is unfairly categorised, that revolution and violence are a bad way to reform or abolish those institutions.

Some of Godwin's arguments are either wrong: a brief sample. His arguments against property do not take account of the signalling function of prices as explained by Austrian economists such as von Mises, see also "The Machinery of Freedom" by Friedman. Godwin's arguments against free will and the way he tries to argue against punishment using them are also not on target. As with many critics of free will he does not clearly state the position he is attacking and so doesn't hit the target. And his arguments against punishment on the basis that people are unnecessary in the face of his arguments that punishment is irrational because it is not an argument and so can't change behaviour since a person can't act on an idea he doesn't understand. His uncritical acceptance of the idea that selfishness is bad is also unfortunate and on that subject you should read Ayn Rand. Godwin's idea that all knowedge is a result of observation is also wrong: see Karl Popper's Realism and the Aim of Science: From the Postscript to The Logic of Scientific Discovery (Leverhulme Primary Project Classroom Skills Series).

However, even where Godwin is wrong, he is often interesting and brings up problems to which advocates of better ideas should pay attention. In addition, there are many arguments in Enquiry you just can't find in other books, like Godwin's harsh and correct criticisms of marriage and punishment. There are not many philosophers whose work is worth reading, but Godwin is one of them.


Are Dolphins Really Smart?: The mammal behind the myth
Are Dolphins Really Smart?: The mammal behind the myth
by Justin Gregg
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £14.88

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good account of experiments on dolphins, 10 Dec. 2013
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"Are Dolphins Really Smart?" by Justin Gregg is about whether dolphins deserve their reputation as the second smartest animal in the world after humans, and whether they are peaceful and benevolent as many people claim. Gregg summarises the available experimental and observational evidence for many of these claims and concludes that they don't stand up to serious critical scrutiny: dolphins are similar to chimps in their information processing ability. He points out that many of the experiments that people cite as evidence that dolphins are super smart are often ambiguous, or indicate that dolphins are about as smart as dogs or both. This is because such experiments are difficult and it is easy to trainers to inadvertently cue animals or provide other information that dolphins might use to get the "right" answer in these experiments. Also, dolphins are not especially "nice": They kill and injure one another and animals of other species, which isn't particularly surprising in a wild animal except to those who prefer imagination to reality.

The book is not perfect. Although the author clearly states when he is making a philosophical statement that can't be settled by experiment (good), his philosophical statements are often wrong (bad). Also, he, like most people misunderstands what makes humans different from other animals: the ability to create new explanatory knowledge. However, as an account of the experimental and observational evidence the book is worth reading.


Digitized: The science of computers and how it shapes our world
Digitized: The science of computers and how it shapes our world
by Peter J. Bentley
Edition: Paperback
Price: £9.99

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Good account of basics about computers, 10 Dec. 2013
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"Digitized" is a good account of very basic computer science. It explains some basic ideas, computers, the internet and information theory and gives anecdotes about many of the people involved, such as Turing, von Neumann, Shannon and so on. If you know anything about computer science then you are unlikely to learn anything new but you might like the anecdotes. And by know anything about computer science I mean that if you know what Fortran is then you are advanced by the standards of this book. If you know nothing, you might learn enough to whet your appetite.


After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars (Emblems of Antiquity)
After Thermopylae: The Oath of Plataea and the End of the Graeco-Persian Wars (Emblems of Antiquity)
by Paul Cartledge
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £12.52

1 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting history, 1 Nov. 2013
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"After Thermopylae" is about the Oath of Plataea and what it tells us about the Greek world around the time of the battle of Plataea, which was a battle between the Persian army and the Greeks.

The book describes the circumstances in which the oath was written: it was not actually taken by Greek soldiers at the battle. Rather, the Athenians wrote it later for political reasons. The oath tells us more about the Greeks at the time it was written. It tells us about the religious, political and cultural context in the Greek world when it was written. For example, it explains what the oath tells us about the tensions between Athens and Sparta.


The Goldilocks Planet: The 4 billion year story of Earth's climate
The Goldilocks Planet: The 4 billion year story of Earth's climate
by Jan Zalasiewicz
Edition: Paperback
Price: £10.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Good history of Earth's climate, but last chapter is problematic, 1 Nov. 2013
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"The Goldilocks Planet" is about the history of climate on Earth.

Most of the chapters are about the climate in the distant past. In those chapters, the authors discuss the relevant ideas and evidence, and the problems with them. If you are interested in those ideas and arguments you should read the book.

The most problematic part of the book is the last chapter. Some parts of the book don't discuss the scientific issues involved in any detail, unlike in the previous chapters. Worse still, the authors claim that we can predict the future and that global warming will definitely make it worse and everybody agrees with this. What will happen in the future is affected by the growth of human knowledge and so can't be predicted and that includes the problem of who will be helped or hurt by global warming.


The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire
The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire
by Susan P. Mattern
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.59

5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting account of Galen, 5 Oct. 2013
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"The Prince of Medicine: Galen in the Roman Empire" is an interesting account of the life of Galen, a doctor in the Roman Empire around who lived from 130-200AD, who wrote many books on medical issues including treatment and anatomy. His work was later used dogmatically in a way that held back the advance of medicine, but Galen helped to improve medical knowledge when he was alive and helped to save people who might otherwise have died.

Galen spent a lot of time writing and arguing with other doctors and sometimes refuted bad ideas, like the idea that veins carry air rather than blood. He was also a very skilled anatomist, who wrote a lot about where organs fit into the body and that sort of thing. Galen was a skilled surgeon too. He sometimes performed surgery publicly. He would do things like cut open an animal's artery and dare other doctors to sew it back up before the animal died. When the other doctors froze he would do it himself and save the animal. some readers might find this kind of thing distasteful but it illustrates great skill and it is useful to be reminded that people in different times sometimes had very different standard from the ones we have today. The book also explains Galen's response to various problems like the plague and how to practise medicine in places where people are very poor (you have to take advantange of what is available not wish for stuff that isn't available).

The author tries to argue that Galen sometimes anticipated knowledge we have now. This is not always successful and I think the best thing to learn from Galen is that you shouldn't take for granted things that everybody thinks are true or seem obvious.

This book is worth reading as an account of the life and work of an interesting person from a period of history very different to the present.


The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings
The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse: Save the Earth, Punish Human Beings
by Pascal Bruckner
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £20.00

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Environmentalism as a religion, 29 Sept. 2013
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"The Fanaticism of the Apocalypse" by Pascal Bruckner is a polemic about how environmentalism has adopted many of the worst ideas of apocalyptic religions.

Just by being alive you hurt the planet because you do things, like using fossil fuels, that supposedly have bad environmental effects. This idea resembles original sin: you are sinner against the environment because you are alive. These bad environmental effects will lay the world waste through climate change or pollution of other kinds, like the apocalypse predicted by many religions. To ward off this apocalypse you do small things like cycling to work or turning off lights when you leave a room that will make absolutely no difference according to the models that predict catastrophic climate change and so are entirely pointless except as superstitious attempts to curry favour with mother earth. Bruckner makes these points and many more with wit. The main problem with the book is that it is so saturated with wit and irony that I sometimes found it difficult to tell when Bruckner was trying to make a serious point.

This book is worth reading because it is well written and has a very different perspective on environmentalism than the standard take propagated by the media. I think Bruckner's ideas also have the merit of being more accurate. You should read it if you want to have your ideas on environmentalism challenged.


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