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Book reviews for "Horgan,_John" sorted by average review score:

Lamy of Santa Fe, His Life and Times
Published in Paperback by Wesleyan Univ Pr (May, 2003)
Authors: Paul Horgan and Jill Christman
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A classic biography from the American West
Apart from Paul Horgan fans, probably most people coming to this book will be doing so to learn more about the real life archbishop who inspired Willa Cather's great novel DEATH COMES FOR THE ARCHBISHOP. And just as Cather's novel concerns the friendship and work of two major characters--Archbishop Jean Latour and his vicar Father Joseph Vaillant--so Horgan's biography necessarily tells the story not only of Juan Bautista Lamy but also Joseph Machebeuf.

Horgan's biography succeeds magnificently in two ways. First, for those who will be coming to the book from reading Cather, one will find vastly greater depth and detail than was possible in that novel. So, the book is a boon for Cather fans. Second, even if one has not read Cather, the book tells a magnificent story of a truly heroic man and his closest friend. Their story is also the story of the West as a whole, and Santa Fe in particular.

There are biographies that record the rote facts about an individual, and unfortunately most fall into this category. And the there are biographies that almost manage to bring you into contact and introduce you to someone you have never met. Lamy emerges almost as someone you know, instead of someone you merely know things about.

I heartily recommend this book to anyone interested in either history of the American West or in Willa Cather's great novel. Although I am not myself Roman Catholic, it would probably also be enjoyed by those whose main interest is in Church History. It is a tragedy that this book is not currently in print. With so many much weaker and less interesting biographies available, it is unfortunate that many of the truly excellent ones are not.

An absolutely tremendous book
It would be difficult if not impossible to overpraise this book. As a narrative of what the southwestern United States was like during the nineteenth century, as a triumph of research into a multitude of different sources spread out all over the United States and western Europe, and as a biography of an undeniably great man (the first Roman Catholic Archbishop of Santa Fe, whose life this book tells from his departure from France around 1839 to serve as a missionary to the United States to his death in New Mexico the late 1880s), this book succeeds wonderfully. It's one of the best books I have ever read.

An epic work on a historical figure of the Southwest
This outstanding book on the first Archbishop of Santa Fe - the French-born Jean Baptiste Lamy , details Lamy's tireless efforts at rebuilding the Catholic church in New Mexico from the state of shocking neglect which he found it to be in. It delineates the work Lamy did to improve both the spiritual and material lives of the people under his care. It also enumerates the many hardships Lamy endured. Evidence of the tremendous devotion, unwavering faith and sterling character of this man of God can be found throughout the book. If there is one word which can best describe Lamy, that word would be - Saint!

Author Paul Horgan won a Pulitzer prize for this book and it is not difficult to see why. It was readily apparent that Horgan had done exhaustive research from the numerous details contained in the book.

All in all, a meticulously researched book on a most remarkable individual of the American Southwest written by a diligent author.

Criminal Investigation
Published in Hardcover by McGraw-Hill Humanities/Social Sciences/Languages (05 January, 1998)
Authors: Bruce L. Berg and John J. Criminal Investigation Horgan
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Exceptional Book
Bruce Berg does it again. Another exceptional book that anyone interested in the subject must have. This book features many design characteristics that make it easy and even fun to read. No matter what book you currently count on for Criminal Investigation, if you don't have this text in your library, you are lacking the finest text on the subject.

The Future of Terrorism (Political Violence Series)
Published in Hardcover by Frank Cass & Co (June, 2000)
Authors: Maxwell Taylor, John Horgan, and Max Taylor
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Terrorsim in the New Century
The Future of Terrorism Edited by Max Taylor and John Morgan

The Future of Terrorism contains essays submitted at the conference for Future Developments in Terrorism, Cork, Ireland in March 1999. The central thesis of the essays, which resonates in the individual essays and the editor's introduction is that terrorism has evolved beyond the traditional view of state sponsored organizations, who commit acts of violence as an expression of nationalism. Terrorist organizations are now more complex and their motivations can stem from a more diverse range of ideologies. Two supporting views that the essayists submit, which have significant value to military and civilian strategist, expound on terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction and the emergence of some terrorists as transnational actors. As with many nations and various legitimate organizations, the ending of the cold war caused most terrorist organizations to change their modus operandi to guarantee continued survival. The authors and editors support this argument by discussing the decline of state-sponsored terrorism, facilitated against the back-drop of the post cold war; increases in intrastate terrorist organizations; the blurring of distinctions between terrorism and organized crime; and finally the emergence of organizations with motives based on extremism and religion. In fact, law enforcement agencies have linked terrorist organizations to crimes such as extortion and bank robbery. The commitment of terrorism for monetary gain represents a significant shift from terrorism connected to ideologies. The shift away from strong ideological motivations also affects the potential use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). To use a WMD, the terrorist organization's the belief in ideology must surpass their sense of survival. The potential use of a WMD could enrage world opinion and could lead to the destruction of the organization. This runs contrary to the beliefs of many security analysts, who cite the use of a nerve agent (1995) in a Tokyo subway as a sign of future use. However, its important to note that the organization linked to the attack was a religious extremist organization, with an extremely strong ideology and not a terrorist organization. Finally, the emergence of terrorists as a transnational actor is a recent phenomenon. Transnationalism is a term used to describe organizations that operate internationally, but do so without official state sponsorship or direction. As noted earlier, the end of the cold war caused some terrorist organizations to expand their area of operations. This expansion, because of logistics and financial support, made coordination between the various organizations a necessity. A good example of a transnational terrorist is Ossama bin Ladden. Ossama bin Ladden reportedly has links to several states in the Middle East and Africa as well as ties to other terrorist organizations. The ability to move in and out of different circles, similar to guests at a garden party, makes prediction of terrorist strikes extremely difficult. In summary, this book provides valuable insights into the complexity of terrorist organizations and their evolution. It's thought provoking and I would highly recommend it to anyone with an interest in the subject.

Where Was God on September 11? (A Scientist Asks a Ground Zero Pastor)
Published in Paperback by BrownTrout Publishers (April, 2002)
Authors: John Horgan and Frank Geer
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A Moving Discussion
Both sides of the issue of God's place in the events of 9/11 and in history as a whole are handled compassionately and civilly. The agnostic point of view is somewhat overshadowed by the Christian view in terms of sheer volume of commentary; however, this makes sense, since the pastor was actually ministering to the victims in NYC and has more first-hand experience with the disaster. Clearly, the two men like and respect each other, and neither shows disdain for the other's positions. Rather, both seem to exhibit a bemused lack of understanding for how the other could hold a view that is so out of touch with reality. It's pleasant to hear opposite poles behaving respectfully -- if only our politicians showed this sort of tolerance. This is a book that's inspirational without being Pollyannish. Even the agnostic position seems uplifting -- it's spirituality without religion, a sort of secular humanism without the snottiness that so often infects that position. And the priest manages to be a Christian without being an intolerant fanatic -- also more spiritual than religious. All and all, a refreshing experience.

Understanding with Faith
This book is a conversation between two intelligent, sincere people, one who has faith, and one who has skepticism. They work together well, asking each other quesstions that are hard to answer. They both bring understanding and a desire to connect with others to the question of huge catastrophe. How could this be allowed; what possible good can be seen in the WTC disaster?

3000 people died, but 26,000 were saved, and there was great heroism. More than that, people helped each other through hard times. This book helps us see the perspective of nine months later. It is great.

Compassion and empathy
Imagine two kind, thoughtful, intelligent people sitting in your kitchen with you and trying to make sense out of a senseless event. This brief and moving book invites you, the reader, into the conversation of two such people, one of whom believes in a Christian God and one of whom does not. Science writer John Horgan says: "I can't accept the idea that there is some kind of divine intelligence underlying the way blessings and suffering are meted out in this world." And pastor Frank Geer says: "From my earliest memory to this day, I have always believed in Christianity. My faith says 'It's not luck. There is a God out there who's watching out for us.'"
These two compassionate men do not try to argue each other out of their respective beliefs, but rather try to find the comfort in the values that each holds to offer to those who have suffered in the terrorist attacks on September 11--and in other tragic events. So, readers with a range of faiths can find some words here that will evoke responses of agreement, empathy, and even comfort.
The book reads quickly and merits rereading. The format is that of an erudite conversation, and I found myself wanting to be a part of it. I found this to be a good book that also does good.

Rational Mysticism: Dispatches from the Border Between Science and Spirituality
Published in Hardcover by Houghton Mifflin Co (22 January, 2003)
Author: John Horgan
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Mystical Rationalization
There are a lot of words written about science and spirituality, and two main camps seem to emerge: The "never-the-twain-shall-meet" camp, and the "two-sides-of-the-same-coin" camp. John Horgan seems to be in the second group, seeking some breakthrough in which rational thinking (consciousness research, neurobiology) collides with shamanism to produce the God Particle (apologies to the authors of that book). He makes an earnest effort, and comes to an honest conclusion that the Mystery will remain uncracked by human minds for eternity.

Horgan's skepticism, the result of a scientific education, comes off as a thinking man's argument against his own deep yearning for spiritual meaning. Thus his skepticism seems somewhat forced. The biggest disappointment in this book was the focus on people (famous researchers or not) whose "mystical" experiences have been induced by drugs. Can anyone explain why eating a toxic mushroom should reveal the secrets of the universe? It can't be THAT banal, can it? (Well, maybe it can! Who could have guessed that DNA, with its four little nucleotides, could be the blueprint for all life?) In any case, why go back nostalgically to the 60's and 70's for enlightenment--If psychedelics had been the Answer, wouldn't we all have found nirvana/universal oneness/enlightenment, and moved on by now?

The best question the author raises here is whether meditation produces a similar altered brain state, and reflects only that--an altered state of the neurons, not a true state of perception. In this case, there's no intrinsic difference between the results of meditation and psychedelic drugs; it's all meaningless. The flip side is, it's all revelatory of Truth. Horgan seems to end up with the first conclusion.

The book fizzles in its quest to answer the ultimate questions, but it was doomed to do so--an ironic conclusion reached by the author himself.

Strange Brew
John Horgan is a good science journalist, once firmly established at Scientific American, who wrote this book as a kind of personal journey to see how the Best and the Brightest in science and the 'new age' movement account for the Ultimate Reality. Is the Universe good or bad or indifferent? And, the scientists and gurus he interviews - Huston Smith, Susan Blackmore, Terrence McKenna, Michael Persinger - naturally offer different, sometimes contradictory - answers. This is a good survey of various opinions on the matter, and Horgan skillfully interweaves interesting and entertaining character profiles along with an explanation of their thinking.

But, ultimately, there is no Answer, as there probably could not be. As humans, it is best to ask good questions and enjoy the debate they spark rather than insist on a dogmatic answer. Horgan's ecumenical book achieves that - a curious man seeking Enlightenment by interviewing people who have dedicated their careers in getting the answers, and doing this "rationally." The highpoint of this book is his interview with Susan Blackmore - she seems like the kind of earthy, real person you'd like to take out for a drink and a wide-ranging conversation.

Horgan enjoyed some psychedelics and speaks of these few experiences honestly. Many monsters, dragons, figures, etc. appear to Horgan as perhaps markers, or perhaps inhabitants, of a 'higher reality.' One line from Horgan's description of these trips sticks in my mind - his constant vomiting that "flopped in my bucket like a jellyfish." No thanks - anything that makes me vomit can't be good for me. ...

An important, challenging, and subversive work.
This is one of the best nonfiction reads I've encountered in a long time. It's compulsively readable. I love to have my assumptions challenged and this book did that and more. I laughed, cried, rolled my eyes, argued with Mr. Horgan. It's a great ride.

Rational Mysticism was especially meaningful to me because I long ago gave up on organized religion and put my faith in science. I occasionally try to return to religion, but quickly leave in exasperation. Now I understand that either path ends in mystery. We need to respect that mystery and appreciate the reality we have more.

You will meet some fascinating people in these pages, titantic egos, brilliant thinkers, crackpots. The introduction "Lena's Feather" was profoundly moving to me. Mr. Horgan's account of the ayahuasca ceremony is not to be missed. Finally the chapter "The Awe-Ful Truth" will leave you with much to think about.

Anyone who thinks on the "big questions" whether religious or rationalist should read this book.

The Undiscovered Mind : How the Human Brain Defies Replication, Medication, and Explanation
Published in Hardcover by Free Press (September, 1999)
Author: John Horgan
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Mainly Horgan critics Neorological Science, a new field for brain studies that gained attention in 90's. (IT'S NOT ABOUT BRAIN - if you want to know about mind and brain, take another book - read this one if you already have some knowledge about Neuroscience,cos this book doesn't explain - it critics the latest discoveries but doesn't explain them - mainly because Horgan believes they offer nothing.). You must have previous information about theories (like Darvin, Evolutional Psychology, Cognitive Neurosciece, Freud and others...) to understand this book. Also, please have in mind this is a CRITIC book, not a book that will reveal new things for you. It helps to understand the overall theories (together, which it's exacly what mind science doesn't have: union). In fact, the books keep telling we don't know nothing about mind. My three stars go to his effort to destroy some obsolete and new theories that claims to have all answers when they don't. Even though he doesn't have the answer himself, he destroys the fake ones, which is exacly what science progress is about.

An interesting curative for scientific hubris
Horgan does an excellent job of pointing out in specific terms how the complexities of the human mind have not yet been captured by our sciences, and leaves us wondering whether such a thing is even possible.

The strength of this book is that Horgan was very careful about going to representative sources in each science, to show each in its best light rather than simply debunking them. This results in a very good review of basic neuroscience, evolutionary psychology, psychotherapy, psychopharmaceutical effectiveness, and other research areas of importance that claim to tell us something fundamental about ourselves. We don't get the sense in this book that Horgan is simply arbitrarily skeptical of science, but that he respects what science can accomplish yet finds some aspects of reality simply beyond our ken. Seemingly reasonable, yet easy to forget when we get caught up in the excitement over the stream of promising new findings from research.

The weakness of this book is that he doesn't give any indication at all that any view of the mind is better or more useful than any other, something of profound importance when we try to make decisions on what is known, such as deciding what to do when feeling overwhelmed and unsure of our sanity. The reader might be left at the end of the book in frustration with the conclusion that we don't really know _anything_ at all about the mind and brain, which wouldn't be true, even according to the contents of Horgan's books. It does however deserve a place on the bookshelf of anyone who suspects that we don't know everything yet, and who wants to better understand where the limits of our knowledge of the mind are now. It will probably attract many skeptics of science, but its real value is to remind scientists of our own limitations and the depth of the mysteries of nature.

Humpty Dumpty
While John Horgan gained notoriety (albeit not always of the positive variety) among the scientific community from the provocative thesis contained within his 1996 book The End of Science, his latest The Undiscovered Mind qualifies his contention that science has neared its apex, insofar as the brunt of fundamental discoveries may already have been made. Instead of delving into cosmology, physics, and biology as he did previously, he focuses on dissecting the current level of progress within neuroscience, making the case that it is far less developed than its sibling fields. This had to have been one of the most infuriating books I've ever read, although I think at the same time it is one of the most valuable ones. Rather then kowtow and sing odes to the marvels of neuroscience, he looks at some of its weakest links. In the process he develops some rather colorful descriptions of the theoretical problems of consciousness and therapeutic questions of efficacy. The brain like Humpty Dumpty can be taken apart, but can't be put back together again. Irregularities and neurological diseases can demonstrably obliterate portions of cognitive abilities, thus linking areas of the brain to the capacity for such abilities, but this doesn't demonstrate how they are integrated. As Horgan surveys more than just the progress of laboratory science, though, he gives good reason to be skeptical of the pharmaceutical, psychiatric, and psychological industries, while clarifying that if he came upon another depression, he would accept treatment. He discusses the toll of psychosurgery in the first part of the 20th century, and notes the sometimes macabre treatment that ensued from the premise that psychopathology stemmed from underlying biology, while yet stating that this is a reason for caution, not for an about face. And when it comes to anti-depressants he tries to make the case that much of their effectiveness might stem from the placebo effect rather than any direct synaptic influence. When he turns to psychoanalysis and its competitors, he reveals the methodological problems inherent in assessing such an idiosyncratic treatment. And interestingly he makes a comparison of psychoanalysis with the burgeoning field of evolutionary psychology with regards to testability, falsification, and other measures of scientific precision. Although he finds fault with the fractured face of the neurosciences, his book is helpful in introducing the reader to the key players in the ongoing debate, even if one doesn't particularly agree with the Chicken Little approach. To some extent, I see his critique of neurobiological perspectives as being hyperbole, as it would not be consonant with the more well-established Darwinian paradigm to explain the brain in terms of angels dancing on pins, i.e. Horgan provides no alternative, and as such doesn't wholly overthrow the present competing hypotheses.

The End of Science
Published in Hardcover by Perseus Publishing (15 January, 1996)
Author: John Horgan
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Epistemological Eschaton of Empiricism
John Horgan deals here with the concept of a unified answer to everything. Not just a scientific answer, but "The Answer." The Holy Grail of every thinker, the meaning of it all, understanding existence it self. Would The Answer bring us satisfaction or disenchantment? My own guess is, complacency. I'm sure the ancient Egyptians thought they had it all discovered as well. While discussing the physics of a unified theory, he breaks it down into an answer to end all fields of science. Thus the book is composed very "scientifically", science being described as the systematic art of over-simplification. It is not one continuum of arbitrary chapter divisions comprising one evolving theme. Each chapter is a closed book at his view concerning the end of progress, philosophy, physics, cosmology, evolutionary biology, social science, neuroscience, chaoplexity, limitology, and machine science or Scientific Theology. I look at like this. So even if we finally trace the entire course of biological evolution to satisfaction, I can't imagine an End to something like pyschology. Not only that, but look at all the fields of science. Maybe a century ago we likewise anticipated "The Answer", but we did not think of the answer satisfying quantum mechanics and general relativity, computer sciences, or chaos and complexity. Because such ideas were not yet discovered. Who are we to say that countless new fields will not arise, however close we come to answering the sciences of today? Here's what to remember. "The Answer" is not an observed phenomena. It is a question of versimilitude correlating to observed phenomena. It is ironic, as opposed to empirical, science. Such an example is the recently popular Super-String theory. Things like this are beyond all methods of final verification or falsification, and only come to a matter of deduction to the only explanation that our finite minds can offer. If we embrace a theory like Super-Strings, or even Talbot's 'Holographic Universe', the "End of Science" no longer refers to any sort of quasi-omniscience (since even by eliminating endless horizons innumerable details are still left to fill in) but rather the end of ourselves using science, in the truest empirical sense, to find factual truths. And that my friends would be the true significance underlying the title of this book. Or instead of listening to me you can take the book's words, (pp. 103) "Even if somebody comes up with a really beautiful theory, like superstring theory, there's not any way it can be tested. So you're not really doing the scientific method, where you make predictions and then check it. There's not that experimental check going on. It's more just mathematical consistency."

If the above mentioned ten fields of science do not interest you, then the book becomes very boring at times. But overall despite a certain lack of underlying substance (which I believe is due to a certain truth that an End of science if humanly possible at all is nowhere in any near future), it is draped with loads of valuable perspectives and food for thought. In each field a leading scientist(s) is interviewed about the End of their fields. At worst for merely all the scientific philosophies this book has value.

(pp. 237) Evolution could have created other brains representing other solutions.

(pp. 210) When one understands everything, one has gone crazy.

Helpful book: whether it's correct is irrelevant
I doubt very much whether any open-mided person will be convinced after reading this book that science has reached its limits, or is even close to. For this to have been achieved, the author would have had to draw together the material from his interviews far more carefully than he even attempts to.

However, the book has 2 significant strengths.

1. It presents many prominent scientists' opinions.

2. It has a good bibliography, so one can read the scientists first-hand if one wants.

One of the main criticisms of the book is that the character portraits Horgan paints of the prominent scientists he interviews are biased and unfair. I suspect that they are indeed both. This is perhaps regrettable. However, any reader who takes Horgan's portraits as the raison d'etre of this book is - in my view - missing the point.

The point is, this book examines a number of different sciences, and also the discipline of the Philosophy of Science, with the view to addressing a particular question: whether Science is "coming to an end". Thus, there is a certain cross-disciplinary methodological focus which I - for one - found very valuable indeed.

Although this book is unlikely to provide all, or even any, of the answers to a scientist or sophisticated layman, it at least poses the questions and goes a little way down a particular path of enquiry. If you want more, as I said, the bibliography is there!

Stimulating and entertaining
I know this book irritates many scientists, but I found it the most stimulating book on science I've read in years.

The critical reviews I've read seem to be more on the order of attacks on the person of the author, than the ideas presented here. The book has a strong focus on the basic question of whether pure science has reached an apex and is now going down hill. But while this question interested me, I was more intrigued by the opinions expressed on a variety of subjects in the many interviews with the biggest names in science of the past half century.

I was mildly irritated by the author's attempt to coin a term - ironic science - and although he defined it several times in different ways, I never did feel it added anything to the book.

I love science and have nothing but respect for the disciplined approach to truth embodied in it. I think Horgan asks tough questions here and they should be honestly and dispassionately tested against reality. This doesn't mean Horgan has all the right answers - but he is an excellent interviewer and writer and he's asking the right questions, and that's more than half the battle.

The reaction of some scientists to Horgan sounds more to me like church leaders defending orthoxy - and perhaps their sources of income and power - than like individuals interested in the pursuit of objective truth. Now that's ironic science!

Connectionism and the Philosophy of Mind (Studies in Cognitive Systems, Vol. 9)
Published in Hardcover by Kluwer Academic Publishers (December, 1991)
Authors: Terence Horgan and John Tienson
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Connectionism and the Philosophy of Psychology
Published in Hardcover by MIT Press (17 May, 1996)
Authors: Terence E. Horgan and John Tienson
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El Fin de La Ciencia
Published in Paperback by Paidc"s Iberica (January, 1998)
Author: John Horgan
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