Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label book review. Show all posts

Friday, January 27, 2023

Brief Review of What Works: Gender Equality by Design

What Works: Gender Equality by Design What Works: Gender Equality by Design by Iris Bohnet
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read a lot of books and journal articles about bias and inequality. It's pretty common for those sources to offer a lot of recommendations for overcoming bias that sound like a good idea on the surface, but don't really have empirical support for their effectiveness and may actually backfire. What I appreciated about this book was that it focused more on what works empirically and frequently discussed what doesn't work or has backfired.

Another common issue in this genre is to advocate for the equality of a specific group in ways that are unfair toward other groups or possibly less beneficial for individuals, organizations, or societies. Once again, this book does a much better job than most but it's still not perfect in this area.

I would recommend this book to most people because I think it will be beneficial for overcoming bias and inequality, especially for anyone in a leadership role, and the examples or studies discussed are also pretty interesting to learn about. If you don't think you have bias, or are just curious about one of the many ways it can be measured, try taking an implicit association test (IAT) linked below.

Saturday, September 11, 2021

Review of Thriving with Stone Age Minds

Thriving with Stone Age Minds: Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing Thriving with Stone Age Minds: Evolutionary Psychology, Christian Faith, and the Quest for Human Flourishing by Justin L. Barrett and Pamela Ebstyne King
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I was really excited when I first learned about this book before it was even published. Justin Barrett's focus is on cognitive and evolutionary psychologist and Pam Ebstyne King's is on developmental and positive psychology. I have relied heavily on their work for my own education in psychology and ministry work so I was excited to see how they integrated psychology and theology at a popular level.

Overall, the book was great. I think it will be an excellent introduction to evolutionary psychology for Christians who might be skeptical of the field. While the authors do hold the view that humans and other animals are the product of evolution, that is not a necessary belief for accepting the conclusions of this book or evolutionary psychology. All the conclusions are the same if it's assumed that God specially created humans the way we are now.

In the book, the authors argue that what makes humans different from other animals is our social ability, ability to attain and use information, and our ability to exhibit self-control. Based on these traits (evolved or designed), we can make scientific predictions about what leads to human flourishing and these predictions align with what the Bible teaches about flourishing. The alignment of science and Christianity theology on this topic is a useful apologetic tool that isn't often discussed in other apologetics sources.

I went back and forth on whether to give this book 4 or 5 stars (fractions aren't possible on this platform) because I couldn't decide if my criticisms were fair based on my familiarity with the subject. The main problem I had with this book is that it is written for a broad audience. For most people, this is probably a positive thing, but I have a bit more experience in the field of psychology so I didn't learn a lot from this book.

The only other critique I have of this book is that it is too short. This relates to the depth I already talked about, but in addition to that, I think they could have explained some interesting research studies or used more stories to give practical examples of the points they were making. To be fair, they did do these things, and did them pretty well, but I think it would have made the book even more engaging if they did it more like other psychology books do (Gladwell, Cialdini, Pinker, and other psychologists).

Ultimately, the book was enjoyable to listen to, accessible, and will be informative for most people. I would recommend this book to anyone interested in theology, psychology, or human flourishing, even most psychologists because the way the authors integrate faith with science might be useful Christian psychologists who haven't thought about this integration much.

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Monday, August 3, 2020

Five Views on Psychology and Christianity

Psychology and Christianity: Five Views Psychology and Christianity: Five Views

When I tell people that I work in the field of psychology, they almost always ask how I can still be a Christian in that field or they wonder whether I really am a Christian. Many psychologists are opposed to religion, especially Christianity; however, there are many committed Christians in the field of psychology and they have differing views on the relationship between Christianity and psychology.

The book Psychology and Christianity: Five Views gives a broad overview of the different views. Unfortunately, this book was a major disappointment so rather than just reviewing the book, I'm going to explain the views a little bit more than I would in just a straight book review. I have a BS and MA in psychology and am working on a PhD. This is a fairly introductory book so I read it with that expectation, but still, I was expecting to learn more than I did and to get a clear outline of the different views.

The book is roughly organized by the most scientific to least scientific views. The levels-of-explanation view approaches science (psychology) and religion (Christianity) as mostly separate and non-overlapping disciplines that explain things in separate but complementary ways just like physics and biology can both explain the same thing in different ways. The integration view is largely the same but places additional emphasis on integrating scientific findings into Christian theology.

The Christian psychology view is the view that, well, I don't know really. The writers of this view basically just criticize psychology and call for more theology and philosophy in the field, but they're not really clear on what that looks like in a practical way. The transformational view isn't really a separate view, but argues that in order to do good science (in this case, psychology), the scientist must be increasingly transformed into a godly person. Finally, the biblical counseling view argues that everything we need to know for psychology, at least for counseling, is in the Bible and so science isn't very important for counseling.

The problem with this book is that the final three views were so watered down and abstract that I honestly have no idea how these views differ from each other or the first two views in any meaningful way. It seemed like the authors were trying to present their views in the most sanitized, least controversial way possible as if the authors didn't want to offend anti-science fundamentalists while not trying to sound anti-science.

On top of that, there was very little discussion of specific, concrete comparisons between the views. The explanations of the views were so broad and abstract that any reasonable person could probably claim to hold to all five views, at least how they are presented in this book. If you are not well-educated in psychology, the explanations in this book will just confirm what you already believe because here isn't enough clear discussion about the practical differences between the views.

From what I know about these views from outside this book, proponents of the latter three views do not seem very well-versed in the science of psychology and also seem to be viewing psychology very narrowly without considering all multitude of sub-disciplines and how they're all interconnected. Biblical counseling explicitly states they reject secular psychology and virtually nobody in the movement has a Ph.D. in psychology so it makes sense that they would be largely unaware of what psychology actually is and how it informs us. The Christian psychology movement is largely promoted by philosophers and seems to suffer from similar problems except they do have more support from psychologists.

Personally, I gravitate more towards the levels-of-explanation or the integration views because they best recognize psychology as a science and that the observations made by scientists require interpretation which will relate to a person's worldview. Ultimately though, my view is that people need to test and support their views empirically. Regardless of what view a person is coming from, if they think a therapy technique will be effective, they need to test it instead of just claiming it works based on their untested interpretation of the Bible.

I'm not sure I would recommend this book to anyone. If you are not familiar with psychology, this book will not give you enough information about psychology in order to make an informed decision about how it does or doesn't fit with Christianity. If you are well-versed in psychology, this book will be a frustrating waste of time because everything is presented in an overly simplistic, narrow, and abstract fashion. I'm not sure what other resources are out there to get a better understanding of the subject other than my article here. It uses different language than this book so it won't exactly map onto a specific view, but I still think it will be helpful

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Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Coddling of the Righteous Mind

I've been meaning to read Jonathan Haidt's books, The Righteous Mind and The Coddling of the American Mind for quite a while. In fact, I considered applying to work with him for my PhD because his research is so relevant for apologetics. Alas, I finally got around to reading both of these books and they were great. I wish I would have read them much sooner.

The Righteous Mind discusses the science of moral decision making, which relates to our political and religious views. This is extremely useful for apologetics because if we better understand how people have come to their decision on different issues, we approach the topic with arguments that the other person will value. Haidt shows that there are five different domains that are used for moral decisions. They are Care/Harm, Fairness/Cheating, Loyalty/Betrayal, Authority/Subversion, and Sanctity/Degradation. He also proposes the possibility of a sixth domain, Liberty/Oppression, which seems to be accepted now (the book was published in 2013).

The Coddling of the American Mind is a response to the political climate on many college campuses today. Haidt and Lukianoff (who's actually the first author, but is lesser known) discuss the various cultural shifts that have led to a generation that is unable to cope with diversity of thought or the challenges of life. The book discusses changes in parenting practices, the effects of social media, and the negative effects of cultural maxim's such as "trust your feelings." This book is helpful for apologetics specifically for anyone who wants to reach Gen Z and also extremely helpful for parents.

Both books discuss interesting scientific research mixed with real-life events that often make the headlines. For this reason, they were enjoyable to listen to and easy to comprehend on an audiobook. My guess is that anyone who reads or listens to them will learn quite a lot about why people are the way they are and it won't feel like a chore either. I highly recommend these books to all apologists, especially anyone who does college ministry (e.g. Ratio Christi chapter directors). Additionally, parents should read The Coddling of the American Mind. Even though it's not a parenting book, per se, it will be as helpful, if not more, than most parenting books.

Both books have websites with additional resources and information for people who want to go further. and

Friday, December 27, 2019

Review: When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World

When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World When Prophecy Fails: A Social and Psychological Study of a Modern Group that Predicted the Destruction of the World by Leon Festinger
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

In 1954, a group of social psychologists heard about a small cult group who believed aliens were coming to save them from a flood that would destroy the earth on Dec 21. The psychologists infiltrated the group to record everything they could about the events leading up to and shortly after the predicted destruction. This book is a detailed account of what happened and is somewhat of a lesser-known classic among psychologists.

Image result for cult card game
I bought this game for my wife for Christmas
and thought it was relevant to this review.
The fact that this book is a true story and an inside account of a cult-type group is amazing. Knowing this really happened is mind-boggling. To read a first-hand account of how people in the group acted and reacted during the time of events offers great insight into the lengths people will go to in order to maintain their beliefs, even when they are clearly disproven. The observations in this book are paralled on all sides of the modern political and religious spectrum.

The authors changed the names of the people involved and the cities where the events took place in order to protect their identities, presumably from further embarrassment since the events made national headlines. I understand the desire to do this, at least for the names, but changing the names of the cities was distracting and confusing because understanding the geography would have been helpful.

While the story, in theory, is extremely interesting, the book is written in a rather dry fashion, making it difficult to get through at times. Essentially. it's too detailed and there's not enough commentary on the events. It's just straight reporting of what happened during the year of the events and it becomes increasingly detailed as the date of the prophecy got closer. There is commentary by the authors before and after the narrative of events, but it's pretty minimal and doesn't help in understanding until after the fact. Even with two psychology degrees, I would have benefited from more discussion of the psychological theories at work.

Overall, the book was worth reading, at least for me because of my background in psychology and how I try to integrate it into apologetics. There were some really great takeaways in the book, they were just spaced out between a lot of irrelevant details. I'm not sure I would recommend the book to anyone else unless they're a psychologist, really interested in cults, or really want to understand biased reasoning.

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Tuesday, September 24, 2019

Talking to Strangers Review

Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know Talking to Strangers: What We Should Know about the People We Don't Know by Malcolm Gladwell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wanted to read this book because Malcolm Gladwell is such a great conversationalist and writer that I was sure what he had to say about talking to strangers would be great for evangelism and apologetics. I was expecting this book similar to How to Win Friends and Influence People, but it's not. Rather than giving simple advice on how to communicate with others, the book discusses the deeper issue of how we understand (or don't understand) other people. The book is not what I expected it to be, and thank goodness for that because it is even better.

Gladwell is an excellent storyteller and he uses those stories to make his case. His ability to do that is unmatched and all but guaranteed this book would be enjoyable to read. However, this book had an edge to it that was not present in his other books, which only made it better. I was so captivated by this book that I finished it in about 36 hours. Not only did he tell great stories about interesting topics, but he describes what happened behind the curtain of very well known true events such as the Amanda Knox, Jerry Sandusky, and Larry Nassar cases; Neville Chamberlain's meetings with Hitler; enhanced interrogation techniques; the suicide of Sylvia Plath; and more.

We live in a complicated world and our minds cannot make sense of all the data, so we simplify things. We ignore or don't pay attention to details and make assumptions about others. This book smacks that mentality in the face by revealing the complexities in our interactions with others. I loved it for that. It's reminiscent of the Freakonomics books in that way. A more apt title might have been How NOT to Talk to Strangers because primarily tells us what not to do when talking to others. The book gives a glimpse into how our minds work and it demolishes the stereotypes that cause friction when we talk to others.

While this book is interesting and informative in a broad sense, it's most direct application relates to racial relations and prejudice. Gladwell moves beyond finger-pointing and name-calling to get to the deeper issues that create tension in our society. Recently I've seen a lot of book recommendations to help people understand what is happening in our country regarding race. I can't comment on those other books, but I can say as a social scientist, that this book is excellent and I don't know of another one I would recommend before this one to understand discrimination.

I recommend this book to everyone age 15 above (although it may be a little graphic for some 15-year-olds when discussing rape trials). It's a great book to help people understand people better so that we can all be more understanding and patient with others, kinder to them, and more effective when we communicate. On top of these potential benefits, it's a very enjoyable book to read.

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Monday, September 23, 2019

12 Rules for Life Book Review

12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos 12 Rules for Life: An Antidote to Chaos by Jordan B. Peterson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Jordan Peterson came to fame rather suddenly a few years ago because of a political controversy, but he's more than just a pop-sensation. He's a legitimate clinical psychologist who understands human beings better than the typical therapist. The book was helpful for me in understanding humans, including my own kids. It was filled with good recommendations for personal well-being, parenting, marriage, and other areas of life.

The book itself is written in Peterson's trademark manner. It's direct and to the point, but also sensitive and thoughtful. At times, it is a little bit of an over-the-top brain dump of seemingly unorganized thoughts, which is ironic since the subtitle is "An Antidote to Chaos." Despite this, I was still able to follow along by listening to it on Audible at an increased speed.

Content aside, the book was simply enjoyable to listen to. Peterson is a great storyteller and he can effectively weave together many trains of thought into one. I was interested in what was being said at every moment of the book and thought about re-reading it immediately after I finished it.

The content of the book was also informative and interesting. I think many of my Christian friends might not appreciate Peterson's continual mentioning of evolution, but I don't think it hurts the case he makes in his book. When he says millions of years of evolution have shaped people to behave a certain way, the same conclusion, and perhaps even a more powerful one will be reached by assuming humans have been designed by God to behave a certain way. Similarly, he often understands the Bible or other religious texts metaphorically, which might cause some people to be dismissive, but this is unnecessary. A true historical event, especially one orchestrated by God, can also be true in a metaphorical sense, so there isn't really any conflict to be had.

The conclusions and recommendations by Peterson all seem to be supported by psychological science. Even though psychology is my field of study, I'm not necessarily an expert on all that is in the book. I did not find myself disagreeing with any of the main points of the book based on scientific evidence. Where Peterson might get into trouble, at least with some people, is his willingness to draw conclusions beyond the science. Personally, I appreciated this because he shows a deep and rigorous philosophical thought. Scientists, at least psychologists, are often unwilling to delve into philosophy for fear of drawing conclusions that are not empirical, but by doing so, they handicap themselves. Peterson's willingness to do this, and do it well, was a breath of fresh air.

As for the personal growth aspect of this book, I think it could be very helpful for some people. I think most people will think the book is enjoyable to read even if they don't get huge personal benefits from reading it. For some, however, I think this book could be life-changing for them, or at least, it could be very helpful in their lives. I would only recommend that people who want to read to book for personal growth, actually read the book instead of listening to it. If they do listen to it, don't speed it up extremely fast and pause it to reflect often, maybe at the end of each chapter. I blew through this book very quickly on audio, and it was helpful, but it would have been even more so if I stopped to reflect and understand things better. This is why I said I thought about listening a second time, which I am still considering.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and would recommend it to everyone. I think there's something in there for everyone. Even though the book is not Christian or religious, it fits with a Christian worldview and a non-Christian worldview.

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Sunday, September 22, 2019

Logic's End: An Apologetics Fiction Book Review

Logic's End Logic's End by Keith A. Robinson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book is an apologetics fiction book and I was super excited to read it, but at the same time, I didn't have very high expectations. Overall, I'm a bit torn on my thoughts about this book because there was such a range of good and not-so-good aspects of it.

To begin with the good, the attempt to even try to write a sci-fi book that attempts to make a rational case for the existence of God is wonderful. I love the fact that this book, and others like it, even exist. The book recommended other apologetics fiction books at the end, along with other apologetics resources, and I will certainly read more of these books.

Additionally, the book was pretty well written. I never stopped to admire the writing, but at the same time, it never caused me to stop and shake my head due to poor writing. Along with this, I enjoyed the story for almost the entire time. The first chapter and maybe even the second (I don't remember) was a little slow, but at the same time, that's almost a necessity and is to be expected.

What I didn't like about the book was the over-the-top attempts at making the case for God (or more specifically, against evolution) and the ending. If you're going to write a fiction book to make an argument, part of the whole point is to do it somewhat subtly and in a way that will prevent critical readers from putting up defensive barriers. I think that most intelligent skeptics who read this book would be just as defensive as reading any other Christian book.

The other part was the ending. It was very abrupt and too simplistic. Perhaps this will make more sense as being a good choice upon reading the next two books in the series, but as of now, I'm not sure I want to read the next books. It seems like the emotional turmoil I felt while reading and the connection with the characters was all for naught, and I'm not sure if I want to spend my time going through that to be equally disappointed. I may vet the next book beforehand, to see if it might redeem those feelings (the door was left open so this is possible), before I read the next one.

Overall, I'm glad I read the book. I wouldn't give this book to a skeptic and hope it will convince them. I also wouldn't give it to anyone who accepts evolution (Christian or otherwise) and has any formal college level or above training in the sciences. While the author is able to mount a decent case against evolution, I don't think it would stand up to the strict scrutiny of someone who's knowledgeable about evolution. I think the best demographic for this book would be Christians who do not accept evolution and for most high school or junior high students.

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Friday, June 7, 2019

Review: So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World

So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World So the Next Generation Will Know: Preparing Young Christians for a Challenging World by Sean McDowell
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I wasn't quite sure what to expect when I decided to read this book, but after reading it, I'm glad I did. It's a must-read book for youth pastors, teachers, parents with teens, and anyone else who interacts with teens. This book will help you understand their generation better, the challenges the face, and help you prepare them to become mature adult Christians.

The title of each chapter begins with the word "love" and discusses different ways to love Gen z. The first half of the book focuses on understanding Gen Z so that we can know who they are and relate to them better. The second half of the books gives a plethora of practical ways in which we can equip and train teens in the church to face the challenges of their generation.

I don't know of any other book like this one. I highly recommend it and if you're into apologetics or passionate about training youths, I'd suggest getting a copy for your youth pastor as well.

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Monday, May 6, 2019

Review: The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert

The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work: A Practical Guide from the Country's Foremost Relationship Expert by John M. Gottman
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The author, John Gottman, is well known for his scientific research on marriages. Because of this, I have cited and read many of his academic and popular level works. This book may just be the best one so far, and certainly is the best marriage book I have ever read.

There are a lot of good marriage books out there, many of which I still recommend, but this one trumps them all, and does so for many reasons. First of all, most other marriage books probably cite Gottman at some point and refer to him as the expert, which he is. The principles laid out in this book are the basic framework that any other good marriage advice will fit into. This is because Gottman's advice comes from rigorous scientific study rather than anecdotal evidence from a small sample size. This is not to say any other marriage advice is irrelevant or bad, but if it does not seem to mesh with what Gottman says, it should be regarded highly suspiciously.

Another thing that makes this book so great is the excellent balance of intellectual advice, real-life examples, and practical solutions. This makes the book interesting, informative, and helpful all in one. The book explains many issues people run into with marriages and offers some solutions, but it also has exercises couples can use to help discover root issues and overcome the problems. It's also a surprisingly short book, at only 265 pages, many of which can be skipped or skimmed if you're not dealing with a specific issue or not actually doing the exercises. The exercises are to help diagnose problems in marriages, to help foster solutions, or to just simply build closeness between partners. Some are simple, one-minute questionnaires, others are longer exercises that couples can use to discuss and build intimacy over months, and some are in between.

A quick note of warning though. If your marriage is failing and you read this book, it might cause more difficulty, at least in the beginning. This is probably true of any marriage book because talking about personal issues, especially if they've been growing for years, is hard and painful for just about any circumstance. This book may simply increase that because it encourages couples to work on their issues instead of merely working around them. It can be hard in the short-term, but will have better long-term benefits.

Whether your marriage is good or bad, you've been married for 50 years or just starting in a relationship, this book can be tremendously helpful, especially if both partners read through it and do the exercises together. There really is something for everyone in this book. From now on, this book is at the top of my list as a recommendation for marital advice. Other books will certainly still be helpful, especially for very practical tips, but none that I know of can compare to the combination of practical advice and intellectual information in this book.

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Thursday, January 10, 2019

Review: Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible

Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible Misreading Scripture with Western Eyes: Removing Cultural Blinders to Better Understand the Bible by E. Randolph Richards
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I know I said my next entry would be on the Enneagram, but that was before I knew I could post my GoodReads reviews directly on here. It's a great feature that I'm excited about. It will encourage me to review more books and help me get more post on here. Anyway, here's my review of the book.

I've had this book on my shelf for years, just waiting to read it. I finally had to read part of it for a class so I just went ahead and read the whole thing because it was so great.

The book essentially challenges Western interpretations of scripture and the way we put those into practice. The authors do this very well, giving real-life examples and without harsh criticism. In fact, the only thing I think would improve the book is if it were just a little more critical of Western and non-Western Christianity.

I don't agree with everything in the book, but I still think this is probably one of the most important books for American Christians to read because challenges some of our unconscious and often incorrect assumptions that we use to twist or ignore scripture. If you are a professing Christian, you should read this book and apply it to the way you read scripture. If it's not already on the top of your reading list, you should put it there.

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