Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Steel, Knives, and Bibles

Once in a blue moon a book comes along that's so good, so useful, so complete, and so definitive, that we affectionately call it a "Bible." You might recall the Bible, which isn't a book so much as it is a library. But there have been other books we might call Bibles. There's The Traditional Bowyer's Bible which comes in four volumes so is also a kind of library. The editor took a risk by putting "Bible" right in the title, but it has lived up to the name, so we can forgive any presumption that might've been involved.

Now, there is a new Bible. It is called Knife Engineering: Steel, Heat Treating, and Geometry, and it's by Larrin Thomas, son of Devin Thomas, maker of Damascus and other things. Larrin Thomas isn't just the son of a famous Damascus steel maker, either. He has a PhD in Metallurgical and Materials Engineering. Having recently read this book, I've decided this is the new knife-maker's Bible. It is a must read for anybody who is interested in knife-making. It skillfully and articulately unravels the riddle of steel, its properties, the different affects of alloying elements, heat treating methods, and even blade geometry. Up until now, I've been recommending that everybody read Steel Metallurgy for the Non-Metallurgist by John Verhoeven (which I still recommend), but Knife Engineering has earned the title of the knife maker's Bible.

Maybe that's going too far, though. I think the information in that book is invaluable besides being really interesting. But it's not actually about knife making. There's no guide for how to actually make a knife. It's about one aspect of knife making--the metallurgical aspect. But heat treating is arguably the most crucial aspect of knife making, so knife steel metallurgy is pretty fundamental, so I'm still going to call it a Bible.

If you're not interested in making knives, but you are interested in buying and using knives, but you don't know anything about different kinds of steels or how to go about choosing a knife or judging between steels, you should still read this book. It will open your mind.

Larrin Thomas also has a blog called Knife Steel Nerds that is worth checking out.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

More on physicalism, idealism, dualism, and weighing the evidence

Physicalists and idealists (at least some of them) dismiss dualism because of the difficulties in solving the interaction problem. But to do so, they each have to dismiss some of the evidence from their experiences as illusory. Idealists dismiss the evidence of our sensory perceptions as illusory, and physicalists dismiss the evidence of our introspection concerning our own volition as illusory. Again, I'm speaking of some physicalists and idealists here.

But it seems to me that the best theories or models of the world are going to be theories and models that do the best job of accounting for the most evidence. If we follow one line of evidence while dismissing anything that suggests otherwise as illusory, then we aren't really following the evidence where it leads. We're being selective.

But to some degree that may be unavoidable. There are almost always anomalies that we can't explain whenever we adopt a model or view of the world. But the goal ought to be to account for as many pieces of the puzzle as you can when constructing your worldview and dismissing as few pieces of evidence as anamalies or illusions as we can.

While I fully acknowledge the difficulties with the interaction prolem in substance dualism, idealism and physicalism are both untenable for me because of the pills I'd have to swallow if I accepted them. I can't imagine an argument that would be suffient to really and honestly cause me to think the external world is all mere percpetion with nothing external. While I might be able to say the external world is an illusion, and entertain the idea in a philosophical discussion over cheese and crackers, I don't think I could bring myself to honestly believe it. Or if I could, I guess I just haven't come across an argument that's sufficient to do the trick.

I feel the same way about physicalism. While a lot of physicalists will disagree with me about this, I don't think physicalism leaves any room for real volition or moral responsibility. Given physicalism, you can't rationally praise or blame anybody for anything because nothing is anybody's fault. Nobody does anything on purpose. We are all passive objects being acted upon, like a boat riding the waves. I've probably thought more about morality than any other subject in Christian apologetics. I've seen all kinds of arguments on every side, and there hasn't been anything that has moved me to think moralty is just in our heads and that we don't really have moral obligations, and there aren't any ojectively true moral claims. I can see how that would follow from physicalism, but that is precisely part of why I reject physicalism. But even if I could bring myself to think morality is entirely subjective, it would take another monumental argument to persuade me that I don't have control over my behavior at least some of the time, that I don't act volitionally, for reasons, and out of motives and intentions, that I'm just a passive observer with the illusion of volition. But if physicalism were true, that would have to be the case, so to be consistent, I must reject physicalism.

While dualism may have its deficulties, it has the advantage of at least trying to account for all of the evidence without dismissing some of it as illusory. Dualism is a livable worldview that isn't hard to honestly believe.

Other posts on this subject:

Skepticism about theories that invoke illusion to dismiss anomalies

It's always more reasonable to affirm the obvious than to deny the obvious

Materialism, dualism, and idealism

The power of intuition

Friday, September 04, 2020

Some of my favorite books not related to religion, philosophy, apologetics, etc., at least not directly.

Bushcraft by Richard Graves

My dad gave me this book when I was around twelve years old, and it turned me into a wilderness survival/camping/primitive living fanatic. I was especially enamored with the section on trapping. I think I liked the mechanics and cleverness of the traps more than I liked the idea of actually trapping things. I used to build traps all the time, but I only caught a squirrel one time and a bird.

Leaving Cheyenne by Larry McMurtry

I read this book as a teenager and got all caught up in the love triangle because I was an emotional kid and kind of lonely.

The Motley Fool Investment Guide by Dave and Tom Gardner

I read this book in the mid-90’s or so and started investing in stocks. It became another obsession. I used to make spread sheets with various criteria and sort the various stocks so I could narrow down which stocks I’d look more closely at. I did pretty well at it, but he market as a whole was doing well at the time, so I don’t know if it was me or just the fact that it was hard to go wrong.

The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling

The only reason I picked up that first book was because I was listening to Hank Hanegraff around when the fourth book had come out. Hank kept talking about how terribly unChristian it was and how we ought to be reading The Chronicles of Narnia instead. I got the impression it was really controversial because it was popular but had anti-Christian themes. So I read it mostly out of curiosity. But I fell in love with it almost immediately. The first thing that put a hook in my heart happened on the first page when she said, “Mrs. Dursley had nearly twice the usual amount of neck.” I just loved how she wrote, and I loved the story. I became a Harry Potter nut for a while there and even got a friend into it.

Cow People by J. Frank Dobie

This is a collection of stories by Dobie that are just great to read.

The Lord of the Rings series by J.R.R. Tolkien

I completely missed out on this as a kid and didn’t even know it existed until after the first movie came out. I saw the first movie and said, “What? That’s it???” I didn’t realize it was part of a trilogy, but when I found out, I read all the books before the second movie came out, and I became a Lord of the Rings nut.

Undaunted Courage: Meriwether Lewis, Thomas Jefferson, and the Opening of the American West by Stephen E. Ambrose.

This book was mainly about the Lewis and Clark expedition, and I really got into it. What an adventure! It made me want to get a boat and take a long river trip, camping along the way. I never did, though.

Crazy Horse and Custer by Stephen E. Ambrose

Oh look! Stephen Ambrose made the list twice! This is a dual biography of Crazy Horse and George Custer, alternating chapters until they finally meet on the battle field at the battle of Little Bighorn. I ended up doing my senior project in history on the battle of Little Bighorn in college.

How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie

Being somewhat socially awkward and probably having low emotional intelligence, this book was kind of an eye-opener for me. I suspect it’s mundane stuff for a lot of people, though.

TR: The Last Romantic by H.W. Brands

This is a biography of Teddy Roosevelt. Now there’s a guy who really lived. I was captivated and inspired.

The Traditional Bowyer’s Bible series by Jim Hamm, et al

I was obsessed with making traditional bows for a while there, too. These books were invaluable.

John Adams by David McCullough

Everybody liked this book, didn’t they?

Agincourt by Juliet Barker

The story of how Henry V tried to conquer parts of northern France and won a surprising victory at Agincourt.

Steel Metallurgy for the Non-metallurgist by John D. Verhoeven

I read this because I wanted to understand the riddle of steel since I made knives. I ended up finding the metallurgical aspect of heat treating to be fascinating.

The Fabric of the Cosmos by Brian Greene

Brian Green has a gift for communicating and making things interesting. I’ve read a lot of popular level books on physics and cosmology, and this is one of the most articulate, which is why I liked it so much. But I didn’t agree with his discussion on teleportation and identity.

The Blind Watchmaker by Richard Dawkins

In spite of a mostly negative sounding review I wrote a while back, I really liked this book. Dawkins may fumble his way through religious topics, but when he’s writing within his field, it’s very good.

Empire of the Summer Moon by S.C. Gwynne

I had this book for a long time before I read it. I didn’t realize how good it was going to be. It’s a little heart wrenching, though.

Banana: The Fate of the Fruit That Changed the World by Dan Koeppel

I had no interest in this book when I picked it up. I only read it because my daughter gave it to me. But it ended up being really good, and it started me on a hunt for a Gros Michel banana. I was so wrapped up in it, I even planned out how I would try to grow a Gros Michel plant myself. I gave up on the idea when I realized how difficult it would be to keep it alive through the winter.

The Rise and Fall of the Dinosaurs: A New History of a Lost World by Steve Brusatte

This was an excellent book I read just two or three years ago. It was very interesting and well-written. Brusatte argued in the book that T-Rex almost definitely had feathers, but that has since been disproved just in recent times.