Friday, February 11, 2005

A full reading of Darwin's Black Box did not add anything to the various summaries of Intelligent Design theory I've read in the past. One thing that particularly rubbed me the wrong way was that Behe was fine with raising doubts against the various natural designers (aliens, time travelers) that could have created the "irreducibly complex" cell mechanisms that are the core of his argument, but he only addresses the supernatural (God, immaterial spirits) in terms of a long digression on another scientist's dismissal of the supernatural from science. The book also relies heavily on using simple metaphors (mousetraps, delivery services, and so on) to stand for reasoned and developed argument. Mousetraps and cells are both complicated, yes. One being designed is not a compelling argument for the other being designed as well.

Unimpressed. Onward to The Blind Watchmaker.

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Jonathan Sefran Foer? More like Jonathan Sefran NO-SIR!

I was not a big fan of Everything is Illuminated. I don't think I'm going to be a big fan of Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. Unfortunately, there's a better than average chance that I'll be required to read a bit more than this excerpt for business reasons. Perhaps I should take Neal Pollack's example and not say anything at all.

Lordy Lord does that excerpt suck. What could be excused as precocious in his first novel gives way to obnoxiously and pointlessly quirky in this sophomore (and apparently sophomoric) effort.


Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Also, I removed the "Political Blather" section of links because I don't wanna be part o' the problem no more.

Finished Operators and Things a few days ago. This is a fascinating personal account of paranoid schizophrenia, and what really hit my spot was how the author handled the period of time when she was deep in a hallucinatory reality. Rather than framing her experiences as delusional, she captures them as reality for the bulk of the book, because as far as she was concerned at the time, they were reality. The shadowy gray figures that appear one night at the foot of her bed are actual physical beings. The strange instructions and threats from disembodied voices are real presences, and the actions taken at their direction make perfect sense. The descriptions of the nightmarish world of the Operators and of the oddly detached games they play on and with us (the Things) feel plausible and revelatory: the author has stumbled on the great secret of the universe. Only when the hallucinations recede and she becomes aware of her psychotic break are they seen for what they were. In fact, the final third of the book, dealing with recuperation and trying to understand what happened to her is comparatively weak after the eerie and compelling tale of the Operators.

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