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Manny Rayner's book reviews

I love reviewing books - have been doing it at Goodreads, but considering moving here.

Currently reading

The Greatest Show On Earth: The Evidence For Evolution
Richard Dawkins
R in Action
Robert Kabacoff
Fluid Concepts and Creative Analogies
Douglas R. Hofstadter
McGee on Food and Cooking: An Encyclopedia of Kitchen Science, History and Culture
Harold McGee
Epistemic Dimensions of Personhood
Simon Evnine
Pattern Recognition and Machine Learning (Information Science and Statistics)
Christopher M. Bishop
Relativity, Thermodynamics and Cosmology
Richard C. Tolman
The Cambridge Handbook of Second Language Acquisition
Julia Herschensohn, Martha Young-Scholten
On the Origin of Species (Oxford World's Classics) - Charles Darwin, Gillian Beer Dear Carol,

Thank you for your mail, and of course I remember meeting you on the flight last month! It was a very interesting discussion and I'm still thinking about it. The semester has now started here at Creationist U and I am working hard, but I found time to read the book you recommended. And I'm glad I did, because it was really a lot better than I thought it would be.

I guess I was expecting Darwin to be like Richard Dawkins, but he was respectful of religious ideas. And it was great that he liked Paley's Natural Theology so much... he says he almost knew it by heart! We read Paley last year in History of Creation Science, and I also thought it was a terrific book. So I could see Darwin was an open-minded person who was prepared to look at both sides of the question. Richard Dawkins could learn a lot from that!

The way he sets up his argument is smart. He starts off talking about how stockbreeders can improve their breed - well, I'm a country boy, and I could see he knew his stuff. This is someone who's spent time down at the farm and understands how country people feel about livestock. And I liked that he'd done all that work raising pigeons. Not the kind of scientist who just hangs out at the lab all day.

After that, he introduces his Big Idea about the survival of the fittest and he almost made evolution sound sensible. He's a good writer. And then he was honest when he explained all the problems with the theory. He really got me - I was wondering if he was going to mention any of that stuff, and a page later he came out and said just what I was thinking! Nice work, Mr. Darwin. But I did wonder what he was doing, cutting out the ground from under his own feet. He said he could explain things like the eye and how bees could evolve to make honeycombs, but even if he was real good at making his case, I wasn't buying any.

So by the halfway mark, I figured he was done, but like ol' Dubya used to say, I misunderestimated him - he'd saved all his best stuff for last. He had some good shots! I got to admit, he made me think. Why does God put the species that look alike in the same place? Like he says, it is weird how you have a mountain range, and there's one kind of animals and plants on one side, and a different kind on the other side. God's ways are inscrutable to us, but why does He care about those mountains? And the islands, they were even worse. He says if you look at the species on a lot of islands, you don't have any mammals there, except you do have bats. Why? I could see where he was going with this one - the bats could blow in off the mainland and evolve, but other mammals couldn't do that. I admit it, I don't have an answer, except maybe God's testing our faith again. But I can see not everyone will like that. I'm still wondering about those bats! Okay Mr. Darwin, I said it already but I'll say it again, you were a smart guy.

So how's life at MIT? And I hope you read the book I recommended to you. A Canticle for Leibowitz will show you that faith and science have more in common than you might think!

Take care,