It is time to stop quivering in our boots in pointless fear of the future and just roll up our sleeves and build it.
- Ray Pierrehumbert

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

What I'm Reading

Had some time to read some books this week. I'm mostly preparing for a presentation to the Ethical Society of Austin on Sunday morning. Feel free to join us if you are in the neighborhood. My topic is "providence", by which I mean, the mechanisms by which the world provides for our sustenance.

Books I'm reading in preparation for my talk:
  • The Maze of Ingenuity (Arnold Pacey, Penguin, 1974 (US edition- MIT Press) "Ideas and Idealism in the Development of Technology"
  • The Man Who Saw Through Time (Loren Eisely, Scribner, 1961) "Francis Bacon and the Modern Dilemma"
  • Issues in Science and Religion (Ian Barbour, Prentice-Hall, 1966) "How can God act if the world is governed by scientific laws? What is God's relation to the causal processes of nature? ... Can we still accept the idea of providence, God's governance of nature and history?"
  • Deep Economy (Bill McKibben, Holt 2007) "The wealth of communities and the durable future"
  • Goodbye to a River (John Graves, 1959) "By Heaven! cried my father, springing out of his seat as he swore, - I have not one appointment belonging to me, which I set so much store by, as I do these jack-boots - they were our great-grandfather's, brother Toby - they were hereditary."
It's been nice to have some longer-attention-span reading for a change. I highly recommend all these books. I'm not sure they're all in print, but Goodbye to a River is, and on many levels it's the finest reading I've encountered in quite some time.

4 comments:

Dano said...

Loren Eiseley is a favorite of mine - The Star Thrower and The Night Country should be read. On the same shelf as Eiseley is a McPhee, Annals of the Former World and Lopez , About This Life that deserve your attention too, if you are looking for what I think you are looking for.

Best,

D

Steven said...

I was under the impression that most people were on the brink of starvation during the section of human history when we relied on "providence".

I thought taking matters into our own hands (ala' Native Americans cross-breeding grain into what we call corn, all the way up to Norman Borlaug, and into today's GMF) was a pretty good idea.

The long increasing population of the world would seem to be a data point of agreement.

(See "The Improving State of the World", Indur Goklany, for a boat load of supporting statistics)

Dano said...

I don't think Goklany has it right, as he neglects biophysical limitations to ecosystems - his approach is Cornucopian, which of course neglects basic ecosystem properties.

Best,

D

Steven said...

Dano, I don't think Goklany is cornucopian at all. I don't think it's so easy to say what bio limitations are. On the one hand, everything is limited, no doubt; but if we keep finding surprising changes to both supply (man made changes) and consumption, how to we evaluate limits?

However, I will be re-reading Goklany again soon, so I will keep your argument in mind when I go through. If you have specific considerations you think are relevant for me to keep in mind, post them.

I popped back in here actually to ask MT about that third bullet point. If you're comfortable talking about it (you posted the reading list) do you believe in god, and if so, what are your thoughts on gods relation to science?