Book Completed: Quicksilver, by Neal Stephenson
Sorry to disagree with you JP, but I liked this one. I'm sure I only got about 50% of the story, but what I got, I liked. There's a whole slew of stuff about religion and politics in 17th C England, France, and Holland, most of which I'm sure I didn't totally understand, and which made me wish I'd either paid more attention in history class or had a better history class, or some combination thereof. Although this one includes plenty of geek players (Isaac Newton, Leibniz, etc.) there were actually fewer of the geek plotlines than in his other books (at least, fewer of my flavor of geekiness). Still, all around enjoyable, and definitely worth looking up the next two in the series (and by 'looking up' I mean either hunting them down at the library or just being patient enough for Dad to send them along).
Book about to begin: 1984, by George Orwell
Because it's time for a fresh reading.
In other news, I'm gearing up for a debate in my next human rights seminar. The topic is, essentially, can human rights be secular? And the argument (thus far, I've only just started the assigned reading) strikes me as similar to the argument against atheism - that a system of morals cannot exist without a belief in god. Some god, any god. Which just strikes me as completely bogus. So the paper I just finished reading says basically the same thing, that you can't believe in the (basic foundation of human rights) idea that humans are endowed with inherent dignity without also believing that some higher power did the endowing. Although I disagree with the argument set forth by Max Stackhouse, I do have to give him credit for a clever bit of phrasing:
It is not hard to show that these theological traditions are the ones to which the authors of the United Nations Universal Declaration turned after the terrors of Nazi paganism and in the face of Communist secularism. I do not deny that it has taken more than two centuries for the 'all' to revise the operative definition of 'men' as including only white, propertied males, but I deny that it was Kant's immaculate conception of human dignity that served as the root of human rights ideas, as a number of secularist advocates of human rights claim. He was not in that way Immanuel.