Thursday, February 13, 2014

tools for thought

Gordon Dye’s “Thought in the Absence of Certainty: you Can See a Lot by Looking” (OutskirtsPress, 2014) offers much to think about.
This was not an easy review to write, so I want to be upfront about my bias. Two statements, one in the preface, and one in the introduction bothered me to the point that I had to force myself to continue reading. The first, on page ix, has to do with not including references. The reasons themselves make sense, but to tell the reader that references have been omitted because the writing is clear enough presumes a lot about both the writing, and the reader’s ability. The statement “the goal of this book is not so much reader acceptance as it is understandability” left me confused. That seems to say that the author wants the reader to understand what he has written, but it is of no importance whether or not the reader accepts any of it as valid.
The second statement, on page 2, seemed condescending. “…if you disagree with points made in the summary, you might wish to verify the reasoning behind your disagreement with the corresponding detailed text before putting such matters aside entirely.  What I took from the introduction to his chapter summaries was that the author had included the summary so it wouldn't be necessary to read portions that one might find uninteresting or non applicable to the topic at hand.  In any case, it seemed that this could be interpreted one of two ways. 1) If the summary doesn't make sense, then read the chapter that the summary is supposed to help you avoid reading, or 2) if you don’t agree with me, you must be wrong, so do some further study to see what you missed.
            Having gotten that out of the way, I have to admit that I’m glad I read the book.  Dye does something that many people forget to do: he thinks about the process. There’s a Facebook meme that says it well: “try being informed instead of just opinionated.”  There are far too many people out there who seem to certain about any number of things without having put much (if any) thought into it. “I don’t like it so it must be wrong- and if it’s wrong than I must be right.”  Dye helps put things into perspective, now if he could just make sure that this book, which encourages people to learn how to think, gets into the hands of the right people.
In the introduction we find the thrust of the book: describing insights that we can use, and providing tools for personal resolution of those major issues that cause us grief.
The chapter summaries were helpful, and could probably stand alone, but more information is provided within each chapter, so it would be foolish to read the summary and think you have it down pat. Although the “certainty notations” that Dye uses, ([C1-C5, Cx] to indicate whether information  is possible, probable, or defining, are helpful in understanding and grasping the context, I found them distracting, mainly because I kept returning to the definition of each notation.
If I were classifying this book, it would probably end up in the section labeled ‘Philosophy’ rather than religion, but it does address religious issues.  In the book of Hebrews (11:1, NIV) faith is described as ‘being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see.”  Many of the big issues that people face on a regular basis require decisions based on their faith: that certainty that comes from carefully thinking through everything involved.
Because of the issues that I mentioned at the beginning of the review, I am rating this a 4/5. Otherwise I would have rated the book a 5.

I received a copy of the book in exchange for my review. 

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