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Paul R. Thomas (Myrtle Beach, SC United States)
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The Miracles Of Exodus: A Scientist's Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories
The Miracles Of Exodus: A Scientist's Discovery of the Extraordinary Natural Causes of the Biblical Stories
by Colin Humphreys
Edition: Hardcover
18 used & new from CDN$ 2.87

5.0 out of 5 stars A Serious and Entertaining Explanation of the Exodus Story, Dec 22 2003
Colin Humphreys, a Cambridge University Physicist, has produced a complete and coherent natural/scientific explanation of the 'miracles' of Exodus that deserves to be widely read and seriously considered, whether or not one agrees with 100% of his arguments or inferences. It is, in fact, the author's intention to stimulate discussion of the historicity of the written story of Exodus using scientific and rational arguments. His identification of the locations of Mt. Sinai and the 'Re(e)d Sea' crossing, and his explanation for how the crossing occurred, are by far the most interesting parts of the book and these chapters alone make the entire book worth reading.
The book is written in an entertaining style so that one is immediately caught up in the author's personal detective story concerning other Exodus mysteries such as how the plagues occurred and in the sequence they did, or the route taken by the Israelites out of Egypt, as well as more minor yet fascinating issues such as how the burning bush burned without being consumed, how Pharaoh entrapped the host, why Pharaoh didn't further pursue the host, or even really minor yet still fascintating questions such as how bitter water was made sweet, or how the feast of quails occurred and what the heck is 'mana' anyway and was does it dissolve in the sun? The book is a cornucopia of interesting information and insights.
His explanations of the events in the Exodus story draw upon a variety of scientific disciplines and historical sources. He employs sound logical inferences in making his arguments concerning the plagues, routes, events and site locations involved in the story, and even his speculations are not so wild as to be discarded out of hand. Importantly, he clearly distinguishes between the scientifc facts presented and his own interpretations and inferences, including the degree to which he feels he is 'strectching'. The book is thus a serious attempt to provide valid answers to the many perplexing issues of this most famous story.
Yes, he is a Christian, and yes he does believe in the authenticity of the Old Testament, but on the latter point he is far from being alone, even among agnostics, since more and more research (particularly archaeological) has shown that the Old Testament is a remarkably accurate 'family history' that deals mostly with actual events recorded factually.
There is neither Christian proselytizing nor alien wackiness in this book, just a serious yet entertainingly written and truly fascinating thesis that is complete, coherent (perhaps occassionally 'strechted') but extremely engaging read. I recommend it highly.

Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich
Wealth and Democracy: A Political History of the American Rich
by Kevin Phillips
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 17.32
53 used & new from CDN$ 0.28

3.0 out of 5 stars Interesting Information, Disappointing Analysis,, July 18 2003
In Wealth and Democracy, Kevin Phillips does provide a lot of interesting information culled from a range of primary and seconday sources but overall the book is disjointed and repetitious, thin on analysis and somewhat baffling as to conclusions and recommendations.
The author covers the economic history of, mostly, Holland, England and the United States, primarily (I think) to make the point that wealth concentrates into the top 1% of the population that then becomes too politically powerful and corrupt and prone to rampant speculation in the stock markets, excessive rent-seeking behavior and overseas investment, while the middle class stagnates (at best) and the bottom quintile sinks ever lower into misery. Fair enough and hardly a revelation but the actual causality i.e. wealth concentration=excessive power, corruption and speculation=suffering for everyone else=economic decline is hardly original. Okay, its not fair for so few to have so much - but what is his recommendation to change this? Income redistribution? Fine, but how and to what likely effect? Okay, rampant and manic stock speculation is stupid and certainly creates serious problems when bust follows boom and late (often middle class) investors take a beating. But what is the point and what does he recommend we do about it? Okay, tax cuts that favor the top 1% are a bad idea, but again what is the point? And, since he appears to be saying that all wealth concentration results from technology booms (canals, railroads, electricity, computers) does he mean we shouldn't have had any new technologies?
Although he doesn't explicity state it, it would appear he advocates income and wealth redistribution and strong regulation of everything but without stating how or why this would have stopped the ultimate loss of economic power by Holland and Britain or why it would stave off the same loss in the U.S. which he asserts is following suit.
And, not to be too nitpicky, but the editor should be spanked real hard for producing, or allowing the author to produce, one of the most user unfriendly books of all time. The 'notes' section is by chapter but notes are not numbered so it is difficult to follow from text to notes and a lot of the text seems to be inadequately referenced. The 'bibliography' is also by chapter but not alphabetized nor listed in any order I can divine and thus utterly incoherent. For example, a book is referenced in chapter 9 but does not appear in the chapter 9 bibliography, rather it appears in the chapter 3 bibliograpy but it is not referenced in the chapter 3 text. The only book I've seen produced this way and I hope the last. There is also an appendix of data that is never referenced so why is it included? And, the section, chapter and sub-section titles are toooo long and often confusingly repetitous as well. And why does every chapter have to open with several pages telling me what he's going to tell me and how it all fits together?
Despite the above rant, I read the entire book and learned several things from the data and information provided but can only give it a luke warm recommendation overall. It should have been only half as long.

War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning
by Chris Hedges
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.16
39 used & new from CDN$ 1.03

13 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Why not an anti-war message?, June 23 2003
This book is provacative and disturbing in that it strips away the veneer of war by relating the author's eye witness accounts of the brutatily, fear, humiliation, destruction, physchological addiction and damage (and occasional acts of humanity) that war brings to those who participate in it or are simply caught up in it and unable to escape. The book is at its strongest in this regard.
The author does not attempt an analysis of the causes of war per se but does consitently attack the tenets of racism, nationalism and various ideologies used to promote and justify it and does a good job of exposing just who these promoters often are. He also includes a fair dose of self-criticism and angst concerning his own participation in covering war as a correspondent, and includes stories of other correspondents. He also touches upon the ways in which the media use and are used by war's promoters and participants.
The book is short, more of an extended essay, and not structured as an analysis or argument. The author strays in his philosphical take on issues of love versus war or friendship within war that I think distract from his essential point in writing the book --- exposing war for what it is. But again, this is an essay style book and not an historical or scientific analysis, so opine away he does and why not.
Perhaps some of the virulent criticism he has received emanates from his daring to lump America's own often-virulent nationalism and its own war promoters and war managers into the same basket as the more unsavory types inhabiting Central America or the Balkans. In so doing he insinuates that we Americans too are part and parcel of the horrors of war and not immune to its appeal. Poor fellow, in this post 9-11 world to question anything about 'us' is to invite rabid criticism.
I for one highly recommend this book. I found it to be at times insightful, at times disturbing, and always thought provoking. Why not an anti-war book? Everyone has a right to tell their story and give their opinion. For much more indepth historical and scientific analyses of the causes and lessons of war read anything by Hanson or Keegan -- but keep this little book in mind when you do.

Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death
Global Warming and Other Eco-Myths: How the Environmental Movement Uses False Science to Scare Us to Death
by Ronald Bailey
Edition: Hardcover
23 used & new from CDN$ 1.83

4.0 out of 5 stars A Good Response from the 'Other Side', May 21 2003
I have an open mind about all the subjects dealt with in this book and therefore found reading it very worthwile. Yes, the authors are from what one could call the 'other side' as they make no bones about directly attacking what the authors call 'ideological environmentalism'. However, the book is well written given the number of authors involved and clearly presents their arguments and information.
The book covers such topics as global warming, sustainable development, biotechnology, chemicals/pollutants and the environment, population, et. al. that should be of interest to everyone.
The strength of the book is the attempt to bring scientific research and data to bear on these important and sensitive issues and the policies that exist or that have been promoted to deal with them. This approach is very much needed and the authors should be commended for their work, regardless of where you might stand on any of the issues. We need reasoned debate.
The authors do engage in some of their own political poking at those they don't agree with and do resort to the straw man approach using 40 year old books and articles as the straw man and they do also use statistics in ways ranging from acceptable to somewhat dubious that present their case in the strongest possible light. They do ignore certain issues such as biodiversity where positive data (their obvious preference) is not available to support their strong optimism that markets and science have and will benefit humanity and solve all its problems. However, this political and economic perspective is to be expected from the American Enterprise Institute and is not presented in a too polemical tone.
Overall this book is comprehensive in its coverage, informative, well referenced and thought provoking, and therefore I can highly recommend it for those seriously and dispassionately interested in understanding these issues better.
I do not agree with certain of their analyses or use of statistics or all of their underlying philosophy but I commend them again for providing a sane and reasoned book that gives me the opportunity to study, analyse, raise questions, search references and become better informed.
Lets not shoot all the messengers or we can't discuss anything serious anymore.

Storming The Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors, And Civilians In The Roman Empire
Storming The Heavens: Soldiers, Emperors, And Civilians In The Roman Empire
by Antonio Santosuosso
Edition: Hardcover
13 used & new from CDN$ 4.34

4.0 out of 5 stars Good History and Great Storytelling, May 13 2003
This is a good book to read for a perspective on Roman history that emphasises the role played in that grand drama by Rome's legions. The author discusses the changing political, social and economic effects of how the legions were recruited, commanded and paid, as well as providing significant detail on the structure, command and performance of the legions over time. The effects of the military reforms of Marius, Julius Caesar, Octavian, as well as Septimius Severus and Diocletian are given special attention as are their different offensive and defensive strategies.
The author weaves historical information and his own insights into a well written story that moves along easily over the long time period covered. His discussion of specific battles (e.g. Adrianopole) and brief character studies (e.g. Marius) add personal detail and improve the general story. The book is both educational and entertaining and strongly recommended.

Guns, Germs, and Steel
Guns, Germs, and Steel
by Jared Diamond
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.85
91 used & new from CDN$ 7.78

5.0 out of 5 stars A Truly Great Synthesis of Knowledge, April 22 2003
This review is from: Guns, Germs, and Steel (Paperback)
After 530 reviews, what else to say except that this book will change forever the way you think about human history. It richly deserves the Pulitzer Prize it received and is, as my review title states, a truly great synthesis of knowledge that is indeed profound in its implications for how we view each other and how we view the process of history itself. Diamond is a masterful writer so you will be entertained as well.

Relaxin W/T
Relaxin W/T
Offered by Vanderbilt CA
Price: CDN$ 47.76
6 used & new from CDN$ 39.37

5.0 out of 5 stars One of the Best Ever, April 22 2003
This review is from: Relaxin W/T (Audio CD)
Buy this CD! It is truly classic jazz, beautifully remastered, by one of the greatest jazz quintets of all time. Both Miles Davis and John Coltrane are featured but the sound of the quintet together is perfection. In a word, 'immortality'.

Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500
Facing the Ocean: The Atlantic and its Peoples, 8000 BC to AD 1500
by Barry Cunliffe
Edition: Hardcover
11 used & new from CDN$ 99.36

5.0 out of 5 stars Comprensive Archaeology with a New Perspective, April 22 2003
Barry Cunliffe ties together a comprehensive and detailed chronological description of the archaeological record for the Atlantic coastal areas of present day Spain, Portugal, France, England, Wales, Ireland and Scotland with a superb discussion of geography to provide a 9,500 year historical overview of these areas as an integrated cultural milieu whose evolution had more in common with each other than with inland areas or the rest of Europe.
The book is beautifully displayed with numerous and extraordinary photos, maps and illustrations that greatly aid in understanding the textual discussion. But well beyond just describing archaeological material, the author places this material in its geographical and historical context and then explains what this spatial and chronological record has to say, or may have to say, concerning the evolution of the regions' material and social cultures. Along the way, he weaves together a fascinating historical narrative and ties this to the archaeological record.
The book is beautiful to look at, well written, professionally comprehensive, and with a unique perspective on historical development. Yes, there are some editing errors and arguably some factual errors but to my knowledge they are few, insignificant and in no way detract from the quality of this book. My personal opinion is that the greatest strength of the book lies in its treatment of geography as a unifying, connecting or separating force as revealed in the archaeological record and this alone strongly recommends its reading.
If you wish, read it for its historical overview of trade, migration, development and warfare, its up to date and comprehensive discussion of the archaeological record, or simply to discover more places to visit (I have) from studying the maps and photos.

Blank Slate
Blank Slate
by Steven Pinker
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 39.99
19 used & new from CDN$ 17.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Human Nature Makes a Comeback, April 9 2003
This review is from: Blank Slate (Hardcover)
The Blank Slate deserves all the praise it has received. Steven Pinker presents an extremely eloquent, well reasoned, comprehensive and entertaining renunciation of the holy trinity of social science - the blank slate, noble savage, and ghost in the machine; ideologies that have created serious obstacles to the application of modern scientific research in genetics, biology and psychology to a better understanding of who we really are.
The more widely this book is read, the sooner we can increase the effectiveness with which we understand and tackle real personal and social problems from a fact-based and positive perspective of human nature.
The book is academically very strong and the arguments are well presented and convincing, so much so that this book will doubtless receive future credit for putting the study of human nature back onto the social science agenda. Steven Pinker may surprise you, perhaps provoke you but he will definitely educate you, entertain you and leave you thinking about human nature in a very new way.

The Dawn of Human Culture
The Dawn of Human Culture
by Richard G. Klein
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 18.87
24 used & new from CDN$ 16.55

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Synthesis and Theory, March 26 2003
The Dawn of Human Culture is an excellent summary and synthesis of archeological evidence concerning the anatomical and behavioral development of that last 5 million years that led to the emergence of fully modern homo sapiens. The authors explain the theory of punctuated equilibrium and very convincingly describe the evidence and scientific analysis behind the identification of extraordinary punctuated events such as those that lead to bi-pedalism and tool making.
The strength of the book lies in its logical presentation, clarity of writing, explanation of key issues such as dating techniques and limitations, and behavioral inferences drawn from archaeological remains. Competing theories and evidence are given and, where rebutted, done so in a scholarly and positive way.
In addition to the excellent summation of archaeological and anthropological knowledge and theory to date, the authors postulate their theory, without avoiding discussion of its limitations, that modern human behavior, dated to have begun 50,000 years ago was due to a "genetic mutation that promoted the fully modern human brain". More could have been written in the final chapter to argue the theory; this is not a criticism, however, but rather a request for more from these two very accomplished authors.
I can highly recommend this book as a comprehensive and balanced summary and synthesis on the subject of human evolution.

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