Tag Archives: Nate Silver

My 2013 Reading List – First Six Months

I started the year with another ambitious goal of 100 books (using the Goodreads site to log and track), as last year I read 119. Through June, I’ve managed 58.

I’m grouping the books as I did in last year’s recap by the month in which I finished them (and fiction/nonfiction subgroups.) As the list is already quite long, and I’ve decided to tag all of the authors and titles, I’m publishing the first half of the year as a standalone.

Some quick stats for the BLUF (Bottom Line Up Front): heavier on the nonfiction (again) for the six months so far this year:

  • 34 nonfiction
  • 24 fiction
  • 9 of the fiction were Arthur C. Clarke novels. The last of the Big Three (Asimov and Heinlein being the other two, though Heinlein doesn’t warrant the distinction…IMO), I think he did well with science fiction and not so well with things that involve people.
  • I’ve rated 10 as five-star on Goodreads
  • I gave 2 books a one-star rating (not-only-no-but-really-no)
  • I’ve linked all of my Goodreads reviews (even if only one line) to each title, in case anyone is interested in what I thought.

And, now to the books of the first half of 2013…

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Robert Anton Wilson redux

One of the persistent search terms that leads outsiders to my blog seems to be Robert Anton Wilson. For whatever reason, people still read his stuff and google him…but then, the man had quite a cult following in his day.

I wrote a piece about him back in 2011 that gets some hits, but it’s usually my critiques of his books The New Inquisition and Quantum Psychology that garner the most traffic – and the most arguments from his defenders. Poor misunderstood genius. Aren’t they all?

Quantum Psychology is a mix of quantum mechanics overview and amateur psychobabble, and Wilson lays it on pretty thick with his psychobabble. That’s a shame because he did a pretty good job summarizing the physics. Despite the author’s stated purpose, The New Inquisition is really just a rant on skeptics and a long diatribe against CSICOP – the Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal, now just called CSI, or Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Wilson lays it on pretty thick in that one, too. Logical fallacies abound throughout, but the key thread in many of his arguments is the supposed dismissal of pseudoscience (not his term) out of hand as unscientific. I was rather harsh in my detailed criticism, but in my defense, little he said made sense.

Wilson argued that mainstream science fails to consider … acknowledge… out of the norm claims as valid science; that scientists dismiss them due to some massive fraternal conspiracy to exclude people and ideas …not … like … them. He, and other fringe defenders use the same, tired arguments – that mainstream science can’t disprove the claims, mainstream science is wrong, and out to get them. But the burden of proof is on the claimant, and as popularized by Carl Sagan, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Further, as Martin Gardner said in Fads and Fallacies in the Name of Science:

…scientists cannot be expected to stop what they are working on and write detailed refutations of every theory and pseudo-theory that comes along.

No. They can’t. They’re doing real work. Work that can be predicted, tested, refuted, confirmed, refined.

Real science.

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