Tag Archives: philosophical

A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River – Aldo Leopold


A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River

Aldo Leopold

Genre: Nature

Price: $8.99

Publish Date: December 31, 1968

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Seller: The Chancellor, Masters and Scholars of the University of Oxford trading as Oxford University Press

First published in 1949 and praised in The New York Times Book Review as "a trenchant book, full of vigor and bite," A Sand County Almanac combines some of the finest nature writing since Thoreau with an outspoken and highly ethical regard for America's relationship to the land. Written with an unparalleled understanding of the ways of nature, the book includes a section on the monthly changes of the Wisconsin countryside; another part that gathers informal pieces written by Leopold over a forty-year period as he traveled through the woodlands of Wisconsin, Iowa, Arizona, Sonora, Oregon, Manitoba, and elsewhere; and a final section in which Leopold addresses the philosophical issues involved in wildlife conservation. As the forerunner of such important books as Annie Dillard's Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, Edward Abbey's Desert Solitaire, and Robert Finch's The Primal Place, this classic work remains as relevant today as it was forty years ago.

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A Sand County Almanac: With Other Essays on Conservation from Round River – Aldo Leopold

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The Philosophical Breakfast Club – Laura J. Snyder


The Philosophical Breakfast Club

Four Remarkable Friends Who Transformed Science and Changed the World

Laura J. Snyder

Genre: History

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: February 22, 2011

Publisher: Crown/Archetype

Seller: Penguin Random House LLC

“[A] fascinating book…about the way four geniuses at Cambridge University revolutionized modern science.“ — Newsweek The Philosophical Breakfast Club recounts the life and work of four men who met as students at Cambridge University: Charles Babbage, John Herschel, William Whewell, and Richard Jones. Recognizing that they shared a love of science (as well as good food and drink) they began to meet on Sunday mornings to talk about the state of science in Britain and the world at large. Inspired by the great 17th century scientific reformer and political figure Francis Bacon—another former student of Cambridge—the Philosophical Breakfast Club plotted to bring about a new scientific revolution. And to a remarkable extent, they succeeded, even in ways they never intended. Historian of science and philosopher Laura J. Snyder exposes the political passions, religious impulses, friendships, rivalries, and love of knowledge—and power—that drove these extraordinary men. Whewell (who not only invented the word “scientist,” but also founded the fields of crystallography, mathematical economics, and the science of tides), Babbage (a mathematical genius who invented the modern computer), Herschel (who mapped the skies of the Southern Hemisphere and contributed to the invention of photography), and Jones (a curate who shaped the science of economics) were at the vanguard of the modernization of science.   This absorbing narrative of people, science and ideas chronicles the intellectual revolution inaugurated by these men, one that continues to mold our understanding of the world around us and of our place within it. Drawing upon the voluminous correspondence between the four men over the fifty years of their work, Laura J. Snyder shows how friendship worked to spur the men on to greater accomplishments, and how it enabled them to transform science and help create the modern world. "The lives and works of these men come across as fit for Masterpiece Theatre.” — Wall Street Journal "Snyder succeeds famously in evoking the excitement, variety and wide-open sense of possibility of the scientific life in 19th-century Britain…splendidly evoked in this engaging book.” — American Scientist "This fine book is as wide-ranging and anecdotal, as excited and exciting, as those long-ago Sunday morning conversations at Cambridge.  The Philosophical Breakfast Club  forms a natural successor to Jenny Uglow’s  The Lunar Men… and Richard Holmes’s  The Age of Wonder.” — Washington Post

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The Philosophical Breakfast Club – Laura J. Snyder

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Nuclear Physics – W. Heisenberg


Nuclear Physics

W. Heisenberg

Genre: Physics

Price: $1.99

Publish Date: May 7, 2019

Publisher: Philosophical Library/Open Road

Seller: OpenRoad Integrated Media, LLC

The Nobel Prize–winning physicist offers a fascinating popular introduction to nuclear physics from early atomic theory to its transformative applications. Theoretical physicist Werner Heisenberg is famous for developing the uncertainty principle, which bears his name, and for his pioneering work in quantum mechanics. A central figure in the development of the atomic bomb and a close colleague of Albert Einstein, Heisenberg wrote Nuclear Physics “for readers who, while interested in natural sciences, have no previous training in theoretical physics.”   Compiled from a series of his lectures on the subject, Heisenberg begins with a short history of atomic physics before delving into the nature of nuclear forces and reactions, the tools of nuclear physics, and its world-changing technical and practical applications. Nuclear Physics is an ideal book for general readers interested in learning about some of the most significant scientific breakthroughs of the twentieth century.  


Nuclear Physics – W. Heisenberg

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Creationists Have Questions. I Have Answers.

Mother Jones

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Phil Plait

This article originally appeared at Slate and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

After writing yesterday about the now-famous/infamous debate between Bill Nye and Ken Ham, I don’t want to make this blog all creationism all the time, but indulge me this one more time, if you will. On BuzzFeed, there is a clever listicle that is a collection of 22 photos showing creationists holding up questions they have for people who “believe” in evolution.

These questions are fairly typically asked when evolution is questioned by creationists. Some are philosophical, and fun to think about, while others show a profound misunderstanding of how science works, and specifically what evolution is. I have found that most creationists who attack evolution have been taught about it by other creationists, so they really don’t understand what it is or how it works, instead they have a straw-man idea of it.

Because of this, it’s worth exploring and answering the questions presented. Some could be simply answered yes or no, but I’m all about going a bit deeper. With 22 questions I won’t go too deep, but if you have these questions yourself, or have been asked them, I hope this helps.

I’ll repeat the question below, and give my answers.

1) “Bill Nye, are you influencing the minds of children in a positive way?”

I’m not Bill, but I’d say yes, he is. More than just giving them facts to memorize, he is showing them how science works. Not only that, his clear love and enthusiasm for science is infectious, and that to me is his greatest gift.

2) “Are you scared of a Divine Creator?”

No. In fact, if there is a Judeo-Christian god, that would have fascinating implications for much of what we scientists study, and would be a rich vein to mine. Perhaps a more pertinent question is, “Are you scared there might not be a Divine Creator?” There is more room for a god in science than there is for no god in religious faith.

3) “Is it completely illogical that the Earth was created mature? i.e. trees created with rings … Adam created as an adult ….”

It might be internally consistent, even logical, but a bit of a stretch. After all, we can posit that God created the Universe last Thursday, looking exactly as it is, with all evidence pointing to it being old and your memories implanted such that you think you’re older than a mere few days. Consistent, sure, but plausible? Not really.

4) “Does not the second law of thermodynamics disprove evolution?”

No. The creationist argument assumes the Earth is a closed system, such that energy cannot escape or enter. But the Sun is the main source of energy for the Earth. This allows more order to be created, and for entropy to be locally lowered in some cases.

5) “How do you explain a sunset if their sic is no God?”

Angular momentum. OK, kidding aside, if you mean the beauty of a sunset, well, we have evolved to appreciate colors, shapes, and metaphors. And in my opinion understanding the science behind events like sunsets adds to their beauty.

Incidentally, some creationists are geocentrists.

6) “If the Big Bang Theory is true and taught as science along with evolution, why do the laws of thermodynamics debunk said theories?”

See No. 4. Also, as far as the Big Bang goes, we don’t know how or why the Universe came into being (though there are some interesting ideas). But “I don’t know” is an acceptable answer in science. It leads to asking more questions, which leads to more exploration, which leads to more understanding. Just being given an answer is like using the answer key to fill in a crossword puzzle. It’s no fun.

7) “What about noetics?”

Well, that depends on what you mean. There is a branch of philosophy called noetics, which deals with understanding the mind. That is also a scientific endeavor, since we know the mind is an effect of the brain—as many say, the mind is what the brain does. Scientists are studying that now, so I don’t think you can dismiss science out of hand and replace it with religion in that instance.

There is also a more New Age-y field called noetics, which posits that the mind can have an effect on matter (though there is more to it than that). I’m not sure what that had to do with God, except the idea that God gave humans mind. But for that claim to sway me I want evidence, not just a proclamation that it is so.

8) “Where do you derive objective meaning in life?”

We have evolved over millions of years to be social animals, tribal, supportive of others and willing to reach a common goal. This could explain much of the morality and meaning we see in life, without the need for it to be revealed by a divine presence. In fact, I object to the idea that humans need a supernatural parent figure to give us morals; I don’t need religion to know that murder is wrong. Note that there were laws against murder long, long before the Bible was around. I would also mention that the Bible has very conflicting morality, saying for example that it’s OK to stone people to death for all manners of minor infractions. I have no problem with the idea that people seek moral guidance or meaning in the Bible, but I do object when they ignore the parts that are clearly immoral.

Meaning in life is what you make of it. For me that’s love, beauty, art, science, and learning. For others it may be different, but those are what call to me.

9) “If God did not create everything, how did the first single-celled organism originate? By chance?”

This is an excellent question. It was partly by chance, but it wasn’t random. Chemistry shows us that atoms and molecules are like puzzle pieces, fitting together a certain way. This means some molecules can have astonishing complexity, including the ability to replicate. It’s not like taking all the pieces of a clock, throwing them in a box, shaking it, and getting a working timepiece. The pieces themselves built up over time, attaining more complexity.

And I might turn the question around. Who created God? If you say He has always been, then why not say the same about the Universe (or more properly, the multiverse)?

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Creationists Have Questions. I Have Answers.

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