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I just finished the Sam Harris' "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values". The book was excellent. Sam Harris' first book, "The End of Faith", was one of the books that made me determine that I was an atheist, not an agnostic. Mr. Harris is clear, concise, and most importantly to me, unapologetic.
What is so appealing to me about Mr. Harris' treatment of these weighty matters is his approach. He does not approach them as opinions of equal value, as most writers do. Much of the reading that I have done as pertains to matters of religion take a conciliatory tone that so waters down the argument as to make it incomprehensible and useless. Mr. Harris' approach is that of a peer review. He takes each argument presented, weighs it, and casts judgment upon it. He is no kinder to the religious than he would be to a peer who had used bad methodology in a study.
The Moral Landscape is not intended to be a book specifically disagreeing with religious tenants. It cannot avoid doing so, however, because it addresses one of the last bastions of religious unassailableness: morals. We have all, throughout our lives, been treated to the old canard that morals are explicitly and solely the grounds of the theologian. Some enlightened folks would go so far as to grant the applicability of philosophy to morals, but it is a realm that even most scientists will avoid, having been raised to believe that moral values are too "human" to be questioned or answered by the process of science.
Mr. Harris eviscerates that theory. He takes every approach that I have ever heard to making that argument, blows away the supports, and washes out the conclusion with a clear, refreshing stream of logic and knowledge.
I won't go into much detail, I've only read the book once and I have not thought enough about the arguments to make them as my own. You (and I use this "you" in the most personal sense for every person that reads this blog post) need to read the book yourself. Many, perhaps most, will disagree with much that Mr. Harris has to say. But if you care about the value of human discourse in improving our lives, in hearing new ideas and judging them, this book is an essential read. The ideas here-in are NEW. You'll find no canned old argument, based on some thousand year old premise here.
Our guiding morals and the way that we reach them, in groups, countries, or as humans, have a definitive and constant impact on our daily lives. These are important, and IMMEDIATELY so. Mr. Harris shows us how we can get away from debilitating circular discussions of relative morals and find a moral structure that fits all of us, all of humanity, and carries us forward into ever improving lives. He shows us how we can make moral choices and be able to EVALUATE them for their efficacy in improving the world around us. He argues convincingly that there are moral facts in this world and that science, not religion or guessing or ancient superstition, is the best process to discover the best way to live our lives.
So. I recommend you read it. Who wants to borrow it first?
Because of two herniated discs and sciatica, I did a thorough study of ways to have a healthy back. In the process I ordered about 15 different books from Amazon after studying the reviews left by Amazon readers. One of the books I discovered on, and ordered from, Amazon was Esther Gokhale's 8 Steps to a Pain Free Back. Of the books I studied, if I were to recommend a single book to help one recover from back injury or to avoid back injury, it would be this book. And I have recommended and loaned it to many people. After my doctor borrowed my copy and looked it over, he was impressed enough to buy his own copy and to encourage his patients to adopt some of the book's approaches.
Because of her own back problem, Esther Gokhale (pronounced "Go-Clay") studied at the L'Institut d'Aplomb in Paris, which teaches a new way of using the body. She also spent a great deal of time in third world countries which had people who often carried heavy loads on their heads, picked up items from ground level all day long, etc., yet did not have back problems. Over time she put together am amazing approach to using the body for standing, bending over, sitting, lying down and walking. This approach helps elongate (decompress) the spine and avoids straining the back.
Her book is simply marvelous. It is presents her teachings very thoroughly and contains dozens of beautiful pictures of third world people performing challenging tasks with excellent posture. Some of the procedures are very simple to apply and others take a bit of practice.
Esther has trained over 300 doctors as well as many hundreds of other people at her center in Palo Alto, CA and at other locations. Her work has helped a number of people avoid surgery and it has glowing reviews from quite a few physicians as well as others. (For example: "By using Esther Gokhale's novel techniques, many patients can avoid needless and expensive medical procedures, and quickly return to a pain-free life." - John Adler, MD - Professor of Neurosurgery, Stanford University Medical Clinic.)
If one wants to avoid back injury or further back injury, and/or heal from a back injury, I can not recommend this book enough. In addition to the book, one can order a new DVD from Esther's website, "Back Pain The Primal Posture Solution." I first saw this DVD when it was aired on my local public television station as a pledge drive program recently. I have the DVD and it is an important addition to the book because you can see the approach demonstrated with several students. Like the book, the DVD is "first class" and highly recommended. If one wants to go further, he/she can attend one of Esther's workshops. I did that recently and found it extremely valuable.