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LOGIC

As an engineering student, I took a course in philosophy called Logic because I thought it would help me think more scientifically. Well, the course proved beyond my expectations. What it did, was to make me aware of the fallacies in my perceptions and thought processes. Like other fields of study, it has its own lexis for classifying, observing and reasoning. The untrained mind looks for similarities and thinks in terms of absolutes; while the trained mind can distinguish ranges of differences and thinks in terms of relationships. It takes time and practice to learn, but the effort is worth the payoff.  We can't change our emotional biology, but at least proper logic helps to guide our emotions, rather than allow our emotions guide our logic. 

About 2300 years ago, a Greek philosopher named Aristotle formulated three laws of truth: The law of identity (A is A), the law of excluded middle (Anything is either A or non-A), and the law of non-contradiction (Something cannot be both A and non-A).  In his time, Aristotle was a genius, but his laws have limitations.

It because they are intuitive, his laws have influenced thinkers ever since, even to those who have never heard of Aristotle. It is these laws upon which the following set of books are based. They are limited because they lead to the impression that something is either true or it is not true, and don't account for degrees of truth. They are valid as far as they go and are essential to our knowledge of how we think.

The Art of Reasoning by David Kelley.  This is a college level textbook, but it is well written and covers the entire subject of logic and reason.

The Art of Deception by Nicholas Capaldi.  Explains the basic principles of critical thinking with case studies on basic logical fallacies.

The Art of Argument by Giles St Aubyn. This little book is full of wisdom. Rather than go into formal logic, it discusses irrational man and how he avoids uncomfortable truths.

How to Think Straight by Antony Flew. Teaches how to know the difference between valid and invalid, the contradictory verses the contrary, vagueness and ambiguity, contradiction and self-contradiction, truthful and fallacious arguments.

The Power of Logical Thinking by Marilyn Vos Savant. Marilyn vos Savant explains the art of reasoning with the same style she uses in her newspaper column. She covers how our minds can work against us, statistics and political exploitation. 

How to Think Straight About Psychology by Keith E. Stanovich. While he is defending his profession from its bad reputation, he does an excellent job of explaining the scientific method.

General Semantics

While Aristotelian logic teaches A is A, General Semantics starts from the premise that A is not A. This doesn't make sense at first, but it reminds us to look for differences in our observations. For example, it may be true that man is man at the lowest level of abstraction, but it is also true that on a higher level each man is individually different: man 1 is not the same as man 2. This is called the principle of non-identity.

Second, the principle of non-allness (A is not all A), teaches us to avoid absolutes in our thinking. What is abstracted on one level does not represent all that is abstracted on another level. For example, a man with a 160 IQ may think he is smart because he can grasp information quickly, but he can be stupid in the way he interprets that information.

Third, the principle of self-reflexiveness means that any statement we make is relative to something else; perceptions are relative to our observations; information we receive is relative to the source. A dictionary is one example: it uses words to describe other words. On the ground, earth looks flat; from high above we can see it is round. 

Aristotelian logic covers the many cases of truth and falsity. General Semantics teaches us to be aware of the many shades of truth and falsity.

Tyranny of Words by Stuart Chase. There is an incredible amount of disinformation in our society based on meaningless abstractions. The author breaks down the misuse of language in philosophy, law, politics, economics, science and mathematics. This guide will help you separate the meaningful from the meaningless.

People in Quandaries  by Wendall Johnson. The psychology of maladjustment goes in three stages, from idealism to frustration to demoralization. The art to avoiding these pitfalls is to become aware of when we are abstracting and when words relate to reality.

 Language in Thought and Action by S. I. Hayakawa. Words are symbols with which we use to communicate. The symbol is not the thing symbolized. The map is not the territory it stands for. The word is not the thing it represents. The right use of language guides us towards reality.

 Science and Sanity by Alfred Korzybski. This can be in intimidating book because it is 800 pages long. I recommend the other three books before starting on this one. The writer is the founder of General Semantics and the main source on the subject. It was not meant for casual reading, but it is clearly written. It has to read several times to grasp thoroughly. 

Links

Institute of General Semantics founded by Korzybski, this group is devoted to teaching the semantic is language.

Politics and the English Language by George Orwell. Orwell's name has become synonymous with language abuse. This article is critical of obscure writing styles.

Psychology

Emotional Intelligence: Why It Can Matter More Than IQ by Daniel Goleman. Academic intelligence has little to do with emotional life. 80% of success comes from ability to motivate oneself, persist in the face of frustrations, to control impulses and delay gratification, to regulate ones moods and keep distress from swamping the ability to think; to emphasize and to hope.

Toward a Psychology of Being by Abraham H. Maslow. Explains how safety oriented personalities are inhibited from growing emotionally. Growth entails risks but lead to a more secure, more creative, self-fulfilled personalities. Full of insights on why people cling to the familiar and what it takes to enter on a journey of self-discovery.

A New Guide to Rational Living by Albert Ellis and Robert A. Harper. Sees rational thinking as a means towards maximizing human happiness. It minimizes anxiety, depression, hostility and other emotional blocks to happiness.

The Six Pillars of Self-Esteem by Nathaniel Branden. From experience, he has learned that most people underestimate their power to change and grow. This book offers guidelines.

The Art of Living Consciously by Nathaniel Branden. Maps out the characteristics of what it takes to acquire a sense of reality. It's a great confidence builder for exploring unknown territory.

The Meaning of Mind: Language, Morality, and Neuroscience by Thomas Szasz. Explains that the cognitive function of speech is to enable us to talk not only to others, but to ourselves. Argues that mind is best understood as a verb describing the ability to pay attention and adapt to one's environment by language. The scientific community has usurped the proper meaning to control the patient's vocabulary.

The Immune Power Personality: 7 Traits You Can Develop to Stay Healthy by Henry Dreher. Explores the mind-body connection, how we make our selves sick and the characteristics for positive living.

The Conquest of Happiness by Betrand Russell. T and which is all the more unbearable because, having no obvious external cause, it appears inescapable. 

Mass Psychology

Demon-Haunted World by Carl Sagan. The eminent scientist debunks fallacies such as witchcraft, faith healings, demons and UFO's. He emphasizes the differences between pseudoscience and real science.

The True Believer by Eric Hoffer. Explains the appeal of mass movements.

Flim Flam by James Randi. With his magicians background, James Randi is on mission to debunk the paranormal, occult and supernatural claims that have impressed the public. He also sponsors a website.

Why People Believe Weird Things by Michael Shermer. The eternal search for meaning and spiritual fulfillment often results in our thinking being led astray by extraordinary clams and controversial ideas, particularly in the realms of superstition and the supernatural.

The Myth of Mental illness by Thomas Szasz. The importance of proper use of language extends to psychiatry. "Illness" used to mean a bodily disorder. By labeling hysteria an illness, the profession opened the gates for mistreatment and medication. Covers witch mania.

Extraordinary Popular Delusions & the Madness of Crowds by Charles Mackay. This book was first published in 1841. It's still a timeless classic. It covers witch-mania, the crusades, haunted houses, alchemists, financial debacles such as The Mississippi Bubble, Tulipmania, The South Sea Bubble and other types of manias.

The Crowd: A Study of the Popular Mind by Gustave Le Bon. He calls it the substitution of unconsciousness action of crowds for the conscious activity of individuals, and goes on to show the benefit of contrary thinking. 

The Politics of Obedience: The Discourse of Voluntary Servitude by Etenne De La Boitie. Argues tyranny must be grounded in popular acceptance. It's overthrow simply means withdrawal of that consent.

1984 by George Orwell. His timing may be off, but it is prescient in pointing out where our society is heading. It is a world of authoritarian control where words mean the opposite of their popular meaning.

Animal Farm It starts out with all animals being equal, but ends up with the pigs being more equal than others. It's a lesson on the nature of our stratified society.

The Art of Contrary Thinking by Humphrey B. Neill. Ever wonder why stock markets fall when they are the most popular? Explains the symptoms and phases of market trends.

Power: A New Social Analyses by Bertrand Russell. Every man would like to be God, he asserts. Then he goes on to describe the various forms of power, its ethics and how to tame it. Full of case studies.

Science

The Ascent of Science by Brian L. Silver. Presents an overview of Western science, from the Renaissance to the present. He translates the most important and obscure developments into readable language for the layman.

Uncertain Science: Uncertain World by Henry N. Pollack. Aimed at the ignorance of those who dismiss massive amount of scientific evidence as only a theory. Explains why "theories" allow room for improvement.

A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkins. An excellent layman's book that explains the researchers and workings of the universe and the many unknowns yet to be understood. Anything written by Hawking is a good bet. 

Chaos: Making a new Science by James Gleick. Does order come from chaos or does chaos come order? Shows that the order we see hides a facade of chaos. Explains the "butterfly effect."

At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity by Stuart Kauffman. In what he calls "spontaneous order," he argues that self-organization is a great undiscovered principle in nature. Shows that ecosystems, economic systems and even cultural systems evolve from this principle. 

Against the Gods: The Remarkable Story of Risk by Pete L. Bernstein. The development of the mathematics of risk undermined the oracles and soothsayers. Explains the impact of uncertainty on contemporary affairs.

The Left Hand of Creation: The Origins and Evolution of the Expanding Universe by John D. Barrow & Joseph Silk. Written in non-technical language how the the physics of elementary particles and the scenarios of cosmology converge in theories illuminate the beginnings and the evolution. 

Biology

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer. Starts with Darwin's research, the boiling controversies that arose after its publication and reviews the evidence that supports evolution. Well illustrated.

The Selfish Gene by Richard Dawkins. This is the book creationists love to hate. He gives a genes eye view on how genes replicate in order to survive. 

The Blind Watchmaker: Why Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design by Richard Dawkins. Explains how evolution, without long-term goals, accounts for biological complexity.

The works of Richard Dawkins can be found at this link.

Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal by Desmond Morris. Far from a book on physiology, it explains the human animal as if he was a zoologist  on the Planet of the Apes. Entertaining read.

The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation by Matt Riddley. Most philosophers accept selfish and antisocial behavior as natural. A zoologist shows that cooperative instincts have evolved as part of our nature without which complex societies could not survive.

Why We Feel: The Science of Human Emotions by Victor S. Johnston. Explains the human brain did not evolve to accurately represent the world around us; it evolved to enhance the survivability. Explains consciousness, sexual reproduction and other facets  of our emotions and senses.

Creation science

Overall, I found these books to be extremely will written and educational. Not being expert in these subjects, I found it necessary to read counter-arguments by other experts. Some creationist books contain valid critiques of evolutionary theory while they also contain straw man arguments and misrepresentations. Others tell us what we don't know about nature. That said, they do not validate other more far fetched theories. While science cannot invalidate the existence of a god with positive evidence, it has invalidated the Bible with positive evidence. Let's be clear about one thing: Faith, by definition, is in opposition to the scientific method of acquiring knowledge.

Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong by Jonathan Wells. 

Intelligent Design: The Bridge Between Science & Theology by William A. Dembski.

Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution by Michael J. Behe.

Before the Flood: The Biblical Flood as a Real Event and How it Changed the Course of Civilization by Ian Wilson.

The Privileged Planet: How Our Place in the Cosmos is Designed for Discovery by Guillermo Gonzalez & Jay W. Richards. 

The Science of God: The Convergence of Scientific and Biblical Wisdom by Gerald L. Schroeder.

Darwin's God by Cornelius G. Hunter.

Moral Darwinism: How We Became Hedonists by Benjamin Wiker.

Christianity on Trial: Arguments Against Anti-Religious Bigotry by Vincent Carroll & David Shiflett.

The God Gene: How Faith is Hardwired into our Genes by Dean Hamer.

Modern Physics and Ancient Faith by Stephen M. Barr.

Counter-Arguments

See also the sections on science and biology above.

Science and Creationism edited by Ashley Montagu. A collection of essays on different aspects of creation science. This is a good starter book.

Unintelligent Design by Mark Perakh. Refutes the assertions of some popular creation science books. It's focus is on the hard sciences.

The Impossibility of God edited by Michael Martin & Ricki Monnier. These are arguments along the philosophical verses theological level.