Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Post-Show notes

I had a great time taping Atheist Talk at the MTN studios. What is most fun, is being able to get so much information from some really passionate people, about a wide range of subjects. I'll talk about each of the presenters, and a brief summary of the books they talked about.

Cynthia Egli, Associate President for Minnesota Atheists, reviewed Kingdom Coming: The Rise of Christian Nationalism by Michelle Goldberg, and American Theocracy: The Peril and Politics of Radical Religion, Oil, and Borrowed Money in the 21stCentury by Kevin Phillips.

The focus of Kingdom Coming is on "dominion theology," or the belief that Christians must take over every aspect of society. To highlight dominion theology, the Christian Nationalism movement, and their ties with the Republican party are mentioned, providing a wake up call for pluralists and social liberals to be aware of the impending battle with Christian Fundamentalists.

I've read part of American Theocracy, but stopped shortly after a long piece on the history of power generation. There was only so much I could take about whale oil. I should pick it up again, because it show cases societies which have failed, and examines their patterns. Cynthia noted that America is following the same path, a rise in nationalism, and patriotism, increasing dependence on other countries for basic needs, like manufacturing, and dependence on a power resource which will run out. Unless we pioneer new methods of power generation, we will not continue to be number one, and American society will suffer.

Kristine Harley, Director-at-Large for Minnesota Atheists, took on the biological, rather then social topics with her excellent reviews of two Dawkins books, no, not The God Delusion, but The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design and The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene. While you may shrink away, because these books to talk about a lot of science, Kristine assures you, even non scientists, like herself, find it easy to read, and written well enough that even a novice can grasp complex biological theories.

The Blind Watchmaker takes the position that there is no fingerprint of a creator to be found in biology. He deconstructs complex theory, and provides examples of evidence for you to explore yourself, which support the notion that just because you walk on a beach, and find a watch, you assume there is a watchmaker somewhere, which would follow for a creature, there must be a creator. If that were the case, the sorting of the rocks and sand on the beach could be considered to have been placed there by Intelligent Design.

The Extended Phenotype, Kristine explains, Dawkins considers his greatest work. It's a sequel to his other famous book, The Selfish Gene. In this book, he explains the concept that genes operate on the environment, and that the body is a link in the chain of orders passing from DNA to the external phenotype - beaver dams or host behavior that helps the parasite, or any other activity that helps the genes. You may want to read The Selfish Gene first, but if not, you'll still walk away with a better understanding of how genes cooperate and compete with each other.

NOTE: I'll add Grant Steve's reviews when I have more time.

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