Intro

This is the blog and homepage of Mark R. Kelly, the founder of Locus Online in 1997 (for which I won a Hugo Award in 2002 — see the icon at right) and of an index to science fiction awards in 2000 that became sfadb.com in 2012. I’m retired from my day job of 30 years, from 1982 to 2012, as an aerospace software engineer, supporting the Space Shuttle and the International Space Station.

Posts here are mostly about my reading, of science fiction and of books about science, history, philosophy, and religion; and comments to articles in newspapers that I link to. Movie reviews and pics from travels are posted on Facebook.

More on my About page, including a photo of the Hugo Winners the year I was among them, and links to an index of my columns and other writings, and to my earliest homepage with links to some of my work.

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Nonfiction Notes: Michael Shermer’s HOW WE BELIEVE

Michael Shermer, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science. Freeman, 2000

When I was writing up a post here about Shermer’s first book, Why People Believe Weird Things (post here), I realized Shermer in that book addressed many weird things that people believe in, but didn’t touch religion. (Many people of course have faith in the religion of their community and family, and yet naively wonder why adherents to *other* religions believe *those* weird things.) Then, looking at the list of his books in chronological order, I saw that it was because his second book, discussed here, is devoted entirely to religion. (And his fourth book, The Science of Good & Evil: Why People Cheat, Gossip, Care, Share, and Follow the Golden Rule from 2004, forms the third of a trilogy about beliefs.)

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Links and Comments 19 Feb 2021

Voter suppression; extremist behavior; “people are asking”; lack of predators; just world theory; covid revisionism; QAnon and Book of Revelations; radical women politicians; lousy tippers.

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Notes and Quotes: Ray Bradbury on Good, Evil, and Knowledge

Bradbury, SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES (1962)

When I read or reread some two dozen Ray Bradbury books three years ago, in January and February 2018, I skipped this 1962 novel (despite it being one of only two genuine novels written to that date, or perhaps the only one, since the other of the two was an expansion of an earlier novella), because I was reading Bradbury for his fantastical takes on science fiction themes, and this novel is about as pure fantasy as you can get. But I finally picked it up a couple weeks ago and read it through. (Using the 1999 Avon hardcover edition shown here.)

It’s the ultimate evil circus story. It contains Bradbury’s most effusive, poetic language. And I found the thematic core of the novel, discussed over just five pages about two thirds of the way through, fascinating and compelling enough to type out several paragraphs to post here.

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Links and Comments: Reality as a Common Ground

“Common ground,” false balance, reality and science, coronavirus evolution, Heinlein on facts, Tucker C still spreading alarmist lies.

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Links and Comments: RL, as despicable as DJT

Vox: Rush Limbaugh’s toxic legacy, subtitled “Rush Limbaugh is dead at 70. The Republican Party he poisoned is very much alive.”

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Links and Comments: Republicans and Doing the Right Thing, Not; Religion as LARP

Adam Kinzinger; Pat Toomey; role playing games.

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Links and Comments: Astronomical Photos from APOD

After seeing links to the site Astronomy Picture of the Day (APOD) occasionally on my Facebook friends’ posts over the past few months, I added it to my morning regimen of sites to check every day.

Here’s today’s. Click for the site itself with a larger photo and an explanation (and click their photo for a really big photo).

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Nonfiction Notes: Matthew Hutson’s The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking

Matthew Hutson, The 7 Laws of Magical Thinking: How Irrational Beliefs Keep Us Happy, Healthy, and Sane (Penguin/Hudson Street Press, 2012)

Yet another book about irrational beliefs and cognitive illusions! After the ones by Shermer, Duffy, and Rosenberg just discussed. The difference from all the others with this one, is that it takes a counter-intuitive, playful stance. Give in to your irrational beliefs, Hutson says, at least superficially, at least in some corner of your mind. You’ll be happier! And you can retain your rational understanding that these beliefs aren’t actually true, if pretending they’re true calms your nerves.

In other words, learn to harness, not eradicate, cognitive dissonance.

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Nonfiction Notes: Alex Rosenberg’s THE ATHEIST’S GUIDE TO REALITY

Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist’s Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life Without Delusions (2001, Norton)

Here’s another book I’ve had since it was published but only got around to reading this past year.

This is a book about taking reality at face value, and not imbuing it with magical thinking or illusions.

And this is a book, I’ll mention upfront, that I don’t agree with on all its points. It seems to me that Rosenberg makes the error of reductionism that other writers, like Sean Carroll and Frank Wilczek, avoid.

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Links and Comments: Political Matters This Week: 11 Feb 2021

This is the week Trump is being impeached for inciting a riot and invasion of the Capitol, and Republicans, supposedly the party of personal responsibility, are going to let him get away with it. Nothing to see here, they say. They are showing themselves to be not a party of principle, but an authoritarian cult (perhaps because they realize they cannot win on issues). They will live in infamy.

I repeat that I compile links like these not because I am a partisan hack. It’s because I aspire to be a student of history, and of human psychology. It’s because recent events in American history are examples of patterns in history, and of inclinations in human nature, that are always present. The authoritarian tendencies of Trump and his followers, and the mob violence of recent events, are continuing patterns throughout human history, and will never go away. At best they can be marshaled through education, the lessons of history, an awareness of human psychology, an awareness of the errors in how we perceive the world. But education is work and has to be redone with every generation; the default human nature is authoritarian tribalism, which sometimes resists education (or at best, filtered “home education.”) In deference to tribalism of one sort or another, especially religious, many people in the world avoid education that would challenge it.

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