Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You [A Review]

Wednesday August 19, 2009 3 comments


Is it possible to know what someone is like simply by looking at their stuff? I’ve learned quite a bit about that very distinct possibility after reading Dr. Sam Gosling’s book Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You . From organizational habits, to the music they listen to, to the posters and pictures they hang on the wall (and how those pictures are hung), you can learn a lot about someone’s goals, their personality, and even their hopes and dreams.

The foundation for this science of snooping is based upon the “Big 5” personality traits, commonly referred to as the “OCEAN.” These are: Openness, Conscientiousness, Extroversion, Agreeableness, and Neuroticism. Wikipedia has an excellent article laying out what exactly the “OCEAN” is all about and what the exact properties of each of the 5 traits are.


When we think of stereotypes, we think of judging people based on their appearances. Dr. Gosling teaches us in this book that we are constantly using stereotypes to judge our surroundings and that, in general, stereotypes are a good thing. If we didn’t use stereotypes, every experience we had would be brand new.

In chapter 7, “In Defense of Stereotypes,” he says…

Imagine you are walking along a path in the jungle and you hear the roar of a tiger. You turn and, behind a nearby bush, you see the tail of the tiger. Although you have yet to see the whole beast, it’s a good bet that you’re in danger of encountering a tiger, not a hitherto undiscovered species of shrew with the tail and roar of a tiger. You would be wise to make a run for it, or do whatever you are supposed to do when encountering a tiger (although, of course, if it really was a tiger-tailed shrew you might have just missed the biological find of the century). The example shows that we use stereotypes to fill in the gaps when we are unable to gather all the information. And most everyday opportunities for perception are riddled with gaps. If you didn’t use stereotypes, you would be overwhelmed, because every item, person, and experience in life would have to be treated as though it were a totally new experience, not part of a broader class.


Gosling tells us that music is also a huge part of what defines us. More specifically, there are certain types of music for which, if you notice CD from particular genres laying around someone’s apartment, will be more indicative of someone’s personality, religious or political views.

For example, Gosling says that studies have shown that Contemporary Religious, Country and Classical music are fairly accurate at determining personality as compared with Soul, Pop and Rap.

Gosling also provides some interesting data charts involving what music people listen to and the drug preferences they have, what values they hold, physical characteristics and more.


I don’t want to give away too much about Dr. Gosling’s book, so I’ll just briefly touch on some other points made throughout.

Dr. Gosling talks a lot about people’s personality traits and how these traits are reflected in their living spaces. They leave a “residue” behind. Is this person disorganized? Conscientious? An active person? Are they trying to deceive you with the appearance of their living quarters?

He talks about things such as personal webpages, email signatures, blogs, etc. These things can say a lot about a person. He also touches on the fact that in some cases, facial features can say something about the person (the “snoopee”).

A big part of people’s lives, Dr. Gosling says, are what he calls their “feeling regulators.” Objects they keep around themselves to remind themselves of past accomplishments, family or loved ones, famous people, idols, etc. These serve as motivation, calming elements or any other type of way to regulate feelings.

Homes Built To Fit Your Personality

In the final chapter of this book, Dr. Gosling talks of how an architect by the name of Chris Travis builds homes to suit the inhabitant’s personality. He calls the process of determining the layout of the new home the “Truehome Method.” A very unique idea, and ironic, because much of what Travis had been doing with architecture was right in line with the research that Dr. Gosling was discovering with his “snooping.” People with different personalities, and especially among couples, have different spacial wants and needs.

When I visited Travis and looked at some of the plans he had created for his client’s houses, I quickly saw how his understanding of the functions of a living space differs from that of a conventional architect. One plan was stretched out on a long table. Whereas a conventional architect might use labels such as family room, back porch, and master bedroom, Travis’s labels denote the feelings each space must evoke for the home’s owners.


Dr. Sam Gosling’s book, Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You is a great read. Not only does it show how you can learn a lot about others just by looking at their stuff, but you can learn a lot about yourself in the same way. You can be your own “snoopee.”

What does your workspace look like? Is your desk a mess? Does it look like no one has ever used it? Do you have pictures hanging on the walls or on the desk? Which way do they face? Toward you, or toward your vistors? Your stuff says a lot about you.

Categories: All, Books, Psychology, Science

An Atheist (Me) Reviews The Qur’an

Thursday March 12, 2009 100 comments


Ok, so I finally finished reading The Qur’an. It took entirely too long. Just a little over 3 weeks. I suppose the fact that The Qur’an is basically the same things said over and over again didn’t help matters. It was just plain boring. It may sound disrespectful, but it’s absolutely true. The Bible was at least much more interesting with the whole storyline and plot.

There’s no plot or storyline with The Qur’an. It sort of reminded me of a journal or a diary. As thoughts came to Mohammad, he would write them down, whether they dealt with things from a week ago, a year ago, or yesterday.

In fact, I have a translation of The Qur’an by J.M. Rodwell, and in the introduction, he states…

It was, in fact, at first not a book, but a strong living voice, a kind of wild authoritative proclamation, a series of admonitions, promises, threats and instructions addressed to turbulent and largely hostile assemblies of untutored Arabs…To speak of the Koran is, therefore, practically the same as speaking of Muhammad, and in trying to appraise the religious value of the book one is at the same time attempting to form an opinion of the prophet himself.

I must say, though, that if I were to throw my hat into the religious circle, I’d probably believe The Qur’an over the Bible.

The Qur’an VS The Bible

The Qur’an largely agrees with everything in the Bible. The Bible is even in some instances referred to as a “Luminous” book in The Qur’an. The main difference between The Qur’an and the Bible is that The Qur’an does not recognize Jesus as being equal with, or one with God. And this makes more sense from a monotheistic perspective.

The Qur’an denies the doctrine of The Trinity. And, I have to agree. God can’t be one and three at the same time. That’s called polytheism – in The Qur’an and to anyone with common sense.

Also, there is no “salvation” to speak of in The Qur’an. There is no mysterious rite of passage involving saying a certain set of words (being “Born Again”). As long as you are faithful, do good deeds and obey The Qur’an, you will get to Heaven. Again, I think this makes more sense.

The Qur’an On Its Own Merits

Now, I may have done a lot of “agreeing” in the previous section. But, that does not mean that, on the whole, I think The Qur’an is a good book. Quite the opposite. It’s just as bad, and in some cases worse, than the Bible.

First of all, women are treated as property. Take, for example, Sura 4, entitled “Women,” verses 35-38…

35 Thus, virtuous women are obedient, and preserve their trusts, such as God wishes them to be preserved.

36 And those you fear may rebel, admonish, and abandon them in their beds, and smack them.

37 If they obey you, seek no other way against them.

38 God is Highest and Mightiest.

And this is the attitude taken toward women throughout The Qur’an. How anyone could think that, were there a perfect and loving God, He would want His most beloved creation treated in this fashion? Hardly.

Slavery also plays a big part in The Qur’an. Go to this site and do a search for “slave.” Verse after verse of rules and regulations regarding the keeping and managing of slaves. Not really much different than the Bible, except that the Qur’an goes into more detail in these matters.

Aside from these two issues, The Qur’an is incredibly monotonous. Over and over again, you hear the same stories. Noah and the Ark, Abraham and Isaac, Lot, Pharaoh, etc. Old Testament stories. It would have been fine once or twice, but these stories are repeated over and over throughout the entire Qur’an. We are constantly reminded that these stories are a “remembrance,” and a “reminder” to those who believe.

One would be hard pressed to find a publisher today who would even take a second glance at The Qur’an, had it been initially published today. You can’t just write the same things over and over again and expect it to sell.

I also like the contrasts (contradictions?) in the verses of The Qur’an. For instance, a verse would talk about the horrible torment and torture that await the sinners, and then the verse ends with, “God is All-Compassionate, All-Forgiving.” It’s interesting, to say the least. He doesn’t see to be All-Forgiving. Maybe it should say Mostly-Forgiving, or A-Lot-Of-Forgiving. Not ALL-Forgiving, because He’s obviously not forgiving ALL.

On another note, how one could justify an All-Compassionate God would create an eternal place of torment for people who’ve only been alive for around 80 years… it’s flabbergasting. Maybe God is simply Somewhat-Compassionate, or Kinda-Compassionate, or even Not-Very-Compassionate.

Let’s put it this way. How is it at all compassionate or just to consciously torment a human being for anything they’ve ever done for a time that amounts to longer than they were alive??? Hitler could not have dreamed of such atrocity, such injustice. There is nothing you can say that will convince me otherwise. No excuse you could throw at me that would make me think that Hell is a just punishment for anything.


I know this is hardly a complete critique or review of The Qur’an. But, these are only my initial impressions after reading it through once; one translation. If you’re looking for a good, thorough critique of The Qur’an, there’s a great one here.

It is very thorough and filled with a lot of useful information.

And one final thing. Everyone always talks about how martyrs are destined to have 72 virgins and whatnot… that this is the reward for dying for the cause of God. Well, this isn’t accurate. It’s actually found in Sura 78:31-36…

31 But, for the God-fearing is a blissful abode,

32 Enclosed gardens and vineyards;

33 And damsels with swelling breasts, their peers in age,

34 And a full cup:

35 There they shall hear no vain discourse nor any falsehood:

36 A recompense from thy Lord – sufficing gift!

No mention of virgins, or even dying or killing infidels. Just those who “fear God.” They get to victimize women is the afterlife just like The Qur’an allows them to do in this life. Women, if you really accept The Qur’an, realize that this is what God has in store for you throughout eternity. You are the property of a man on Earth as well as in Heaven. It’s barbaric and sick.

Anyway, that’s about all I’ve got for now. Let me know what you think.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

“Darwin On Trial” By Phillip Johnson [More Lying For Jesus]

Saturday December 20, 2008 Leave a comment

First off, I’m not here to write an extensive review of this book; exposing all of the false, misleading or incorrect information contained in it. Eugenie Scott, of  National Center for Science Education (NCSE) fame, already wrote an excellent review doing just that.

I’m here simply to express my frustration with what I perceive as great intellectual dishonesty (lying for Jesus).

I suppose one of my main problems with Johnson’s thesis is that he doesn’t offer any alternatives to evolution in his book. Well, no alternatives other than magic (God).

He also plays a good bluff. You’d think, with his apparent extensive knowledge of evolutionary biology, that his case is quite relevant. This is not so. He merely states the same old misconceptions in a more eloquent, sophisticated manner. He is a lawyer, after all (Truth Modification Engineer?). One of my favorite quotes in Scott’s review of Johnson’s book says:

Johnson has grasped the general picture of evolutionary biology, and even some of the details, but he lacks the deep understanding that is required to make the criticisms he makes. A deep understanding of a field comes from careful study of relevant literature, including primary sources, and communication with specialists in the field.

Johnson also quotes heavily from the “big names” in evolutionary biology, such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. But, his quotes aren’t taken from the biological literature found in journals. They’re found in writings these men provide for a layperson audience. And, taken out of context, these “simpler” renditions could look suspicious to the layreader. Scott says…

…but the works Johnson cites are usually those written for laypersons, such as Gould’s Natural History columns. A casual reader would necessarily miss a great deal of the detail and nuance of the arguments, though perhaps acquiring an understanding of the broad sweep of contemporary evolutionary science.

And I think this is wherein lies Johnson’s hopes. He hopes that the average layperson will take his arguments at face value. That no one will take the time to investigate what’s been said. To take the time to really critique his arguments. And he’s got a pretty good chance of that happening, to a large degree.

It would take the average person countless hours to thoroughly research and learn all of the various nuances and details involved; the sheer depth of effort required to grasp the current state of evolutionary biology is not something you can do in an afternoon.

Johnson’s got the easy job. Make a complicated subject seem easy to understand, poke holes in his misunderstood conceptions of that subject (the Straw Man logical fallacy), and convince those who don’t understand the subject to begin with that he knows what he’s talking about.

I mean, think about it. Seriously. People in this field spend their lives studying this material. They’re out in the field analyzing, pouring over countless fossil samples, looking at all of the evidence and actually placing it in context. Not only that, but the peer-review process is grueling. Their fellow scientists are looking to poke holes in their work all along the way – contra to what Johnson claims in his book. So they’d better make sure what they claim stands up to scrutiny. They don’t need Johnson’s illegitimate criticisms along with all of that.

And yet, Johnson thinks he’s going to put all of this research to rest with a single book? How arrogant. You couldn’t possibly give a thorough, honest, accurate account of the “flaws” or “errors” in any field in a 170-page book. This whole thing wreaks of lying for Jesus. Like there aren’t enough examples of that to go around.

This is why we need more scientists to be “popularizers.” People who bring science to the public. To help people to understand what science is all about. To show the masses that science isn’t some secret ritual that takes place in a laboratory, where the priests and bishops are men in white coats privileged to esoteric information. That with a little effort, one can grasp concepts like evolution for what it is, from a scientific perspective.

Granted, you probably won’t know enough to be an evolutionary biologist, but what you will know is enough to understand the arguments and whether or not a criticism is likely or not to be valid.

On that note, although I didn’t like this book, I recommend you read it to get a feel for what the current state of Intelligent Design (Creationism) logic is. It’s quite informative.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

"The Future Of An Illusion," An Excellent Read

Friday July 11, 2008 Leave a comment

I’ve never read anything by Freud before, so this was my introduction to his work. And I have to say it was a great experience. I’d heard good things about this book and thought I’d give it a shot.

The Future Of An Illusion is basically Sigmund Freud’s take on religion. Its psychological role in human life, and I have to say that he makes a very compelling case.

Freud defines religion as an “illusion” because it is thought based on wishful thinking. Man has a desire for justice, security and happiness. Religion attempts to meet those needs – a type of placebo effect.

Thus his longing for a father is a motive identical with his need for protection against the consequences of his human weakness. The defense against childish helplessness is what lends its characteristic features to the adult’s reaction which is precisely the formation of religion.

Besides the reason for religion, Freud addresses the reasons people continue to believe. Some of the logical fallacies involved.

Firstly, these teachings deserve to be believed because they were already believed by our primal ancestors; secondly, we possess proofs which have been handed down to use from those same primeval times; and thirdly, it is forbidden to raise the question of their authentication at all. In former days anything so presumptuous was visited with the severest penalties…

Believers make the case that religion should be accepted because, basically, it was accepted by our ancestors. Therefore, it’s true. The argument from antiquity. The age of the religion gives it some type of truth value.

If that were the case, 1+1 would equal 3 if you only wait long enough.

Then there’s the idea that religion lays claim to all things which are good. That moral right and wrong come from God – and only God.

If the sole reason why you must not kill your neighbor is because God has forbidden it and will severely punish you for it in this or the next life – then, when you learn that there is no God and that you need not fear His punishment, you will certainly kill your neighbor without hesitation, and you can only be prevented from doing so by mundane force.

Obviously there are other reasons not to kill than because “God said so.” You’d be a nutcase to believe otherwise.

And this brings us to the difference between religion and reason. Reason is based on scientific proof; healthy skepticism. Religion is based on immovable faith in one book or set of ideas, regardless of the current state of the evidence.

You have to defend the religious illusion with all your might. If it becomes discredited – and indeed the threat to it is great enough – then your world collapses. There is nothing left for you but to despair of everything, of civilization and the future of mankind. From that bondage I am, we are, free. Since we are prepared to renounce a good part of our infantile wishes, we can bear it if a few of our expectations turn out to be illusions.

Now, I don’t want to give away too much of what’s in the book, so this is just a taste. I highly recommend it. The Future Of An Illusion by Sigmund Freud.

Read a book. It’s good for you.

Categories: All, Books, Religion, Science, Skepticism

Finally Finished "A Tour Of The Calculus" By David Berlinski

Wednesday July 2, 2008 19 comments

I’ll start out by referring you to a previous post where I wrote about David Berlinski and his Creationist math problems. This was my introduction to Berlinski and his philosophy of mathematics – how it should be used to calculate the odds of evolution happening; that small odds is proof that something didn’t happen. And by that logic, no one could win the lottery because the odds are so small.

I tried not to let his bad logic interfere with my reading of A Tour Of The Calculus, and I think I did a pretty good job. I actually enjoyed this book.

Overall, it’s very well written. It’s easy to follow. He is very narrative and eloquent in his writing.

My only problem with the book, and it really isn’t a problem, is that it isn’t really for someone who has no experience with calculus at all. The first half may be alright for the beginner, but when he starts talking about the integral and differentiation, I feel like he makes some grand assumptions about his reader – that they understand these concepts to begin with. I found myself struggling with the equations and ideas that he presented simply because I didn’t understand the processes involved in integration, differentiation and the like.

I also understand that you couldn’t possibly encompass the entirety of the calculus in a 300-page book. I suppose it’s more a problem of time and space than it is of incompetency of the writer.

Personally, I would absolutely recommend this book for someone who is experienced with calculus, but hasn’t touched it in a long time. It would be a great refresher course.

To conclude with, Berlinski doesn’t bring up any Creationism or Anti-Evolution rhetoric in this book, which I was somewhat surprised with. Usually Creationists love to inject their religion in everything they do. So congratulations to Berlinski on a great book.

And, as usual… read a book. It’s good for you.

Categories: All, Books, Education, Science

Halfway There

Monday January 15, 2007 Leave a comment

Well, as the title says, I’m halfway through. Halfway through with what, you ask? My New Year’s resolution. I finished reading “Endless Night” by Richard Laymon today.

I’m not usually the type of person to read fiction. At least, not contemporary fiction. And especially not like the murder/horror type of fiction. But, I got it for Christmas from Joanna’s mom. I figured I’d give it a shot. I was actually pretty impressed with it.

It wasn’t what I thought it would be like. You know, like the stereotypical, mass-market book you’d find on a grocery store shelf. It’s about this girl Jody and her soon-to-be friend Andy. Jody spends the night at her friend Evelyn’s house, and in the middle of the night, a group of maniacs break in and kill everyone in the family, including Evelyn. The action starts up right at the beginning.

Evelyn is killed right in front of Jody by a man with a spear. He hauls her away on the end of it, apparently not even seeing Jody in the room. So she sneaks out, finding Andy (Evelyn’s brother) still in his room alive – the maniacs down the hallway in the parents’ room.

This book is about their story of attempting to escape from these guys. Real sick-o’s. They’re all completely naked and hairless, except for a couple of them who’ve made clothes out of the skins of previous kills.

I don’t want to tell too much about the story, but each section of the book is about the story from both points of view. Jody and Andy’s point of view, then Simon’s – the main “bad guy,” who documents everything on a voice recorder.

The paperback is only $8 (or on the ad on the right, you can get it for like $0.40 on, so it’s definitely worth the money. It actually only took me a couple days to read. I was surprised at how quickly it went.

So next on my list is “Mathematics For The Million” by Lancelot Hogben. I’m only about 1/4 of the way through that one. It’s going to take a little longer to read, just because it’s non-fiction, and more importantly, it’s about the history of mathematics, it’s uses and applications. Everything from Arithmetic, all the way up to Calculus and Statistics. I want to try to comprehend everything.

So yeah, that’s about it.

Read a book!

Categories: All, Books, Life

A Belated New Year’s Resolution

Saturday January 6, 2007 Leave a comment

I guess I’m a little late on this. By only a few days, so I guess that’s alright. This is, after all, my first time ever making any New Year’s resolutions. I’ve never really seen any point in doing it. If I wasn’t doing it already, then I probably wasn’t going to do it anyway.

But, I guess I’m thinking as I get older that it’s never too late to better yourself as a person. Stagnation of the mind is, after all, the leading cause of dementia. And that’s why, my first resolution is to read 2 (two) books per month. Most of my reading time is spent on the internet. Not really focused reading. So I think it’ll be good for me to have an actual goal as far as reading goes.

If you look on the right side of my blog, you’ll see my “Currently Reading” list. These are the first two books I plan on reading before the end of January of 2007. “Mathematics For The Million” by Lancelot Hogben, and “Endless Night” by Richard Laymon.

I should be exercising my left and right brain hemispheres, so I will read one fiction, and one non-fiction (textbook, educational type book) each month. And with the library of books on my shelf that I haven’t read yet, I’ve got more than enough to last through this year… and probably next.

So yeah, that’s it.

Now take some good advice… read a book.

Categories: All, Books, Life