Book Review Quickies #1

April 22, 2009 8:58 pm Published by Leave your thoughts

I read a lot of books, and if I have the time or inclination, and if a book is good enough or relevant to this blog, I like to write reviews for them. However, my time is not infinite, and I have a big backlog of books to review. So rather than just let my mental list get longer and longer until I forget what’s on it, I decided to just do some “quickie” reviews, to urge others to check these books out.

In this edition:

  • Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine
    by Dr. Edzard Ernst & Simon Singh
  • How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science
    by Michael Shermer

Before I begin, I’ve just gotta mention my irritation at how often books like these change their covers and sub-titles. The covers are different for hardcover and paperback editions, for international editions, and for later editions. They also seem to change their subtitles almost as often. So don’t be surprised if any of these things are different from what is listed here when you try to find one of the books, because they very likely will be.

trick_or_treatment_book_cover

Trick or Treatment: The Undeniable Facts About Alternative Medicine

by Dr. Edzard Ernst and Simon Singh

This is a very informative and surprisingly entertaining examination of numerous alternative medicine techniques, focusing on acupuncture, homeopathy, chiropractic, and herbal treatments but also giving overviews of numerous other methods at the end. The authors explain the processes used in evaluating such treatments, as well as the fascinating histories behind them.

Though the book does not support most alt-med treatments (and for good reasons), it’s also not afraid to say when a treatment is actually useful, or when they don’t have enough data to say one way or the other.

All in all, this is a great book for anyone who’s confused about what works and what doesn’t in the medical world, and will even give people a better understanding of science and medicine in general.

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How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science

by Michael Shermer

This book isn’t concerned with the truth of claims made by religions, but is merely interested in examining belief from cultural, behavioral, psychological, philosophical, and scientific perspectives.

The big question here is: why does religion exist? What purpose does it serve? What aspects of religion can be explained by science, and what makes religions similar and different?

The book covers much that Daniel Dennett’s book Breaking the Spell: Religion as a Natural Phenomenon does, but Shermer’s writing style is far easier to follow (I was only able to get about 90 pages into BtS before I stopped). Dennett’s book is probably more thorough, but Shermer is more accessible.

This book taught me a great deal about the origins of religious thought, as well as how people think in general, and how our thinking behaves in ways we don’t expect it to.

Well, I’ve already got a couple more books in mind for my next edition of Book Review Quickies. Hopefully it’ll be out faster than this edition, which sat on my hard drive for at least 4 months, half-written, before I pulled it out and finished it.

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This post was written by Bevans

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