David Perry grew up in Tacoma, and earned a B.A. in religion at Pacific Lutheran U. and a Ph.D. in ethics at the U. of Chicago. He joined the EHBC staff in September 2019 after teaching practical ethics in undergrad and grad schools for 24 years. He's published a book, Partly Cloudy: Ethics in War, Espionage, Covert Action, and Interrogation (2nd ed. 2016), and over 50 articles. His eclectic musical tastes range from Debussy to Ella Fitzgerald to Fountains of Wayne, and his favorite cartoons are Invader Zim and Bob's Burgers. (The photo shows him with a distant relative at the Smithsonian in Washington DC.)
Imagine a set of cartoon characters who appear to be alien beings but who experience many of the same daily joys and frustrations that we do. Then imagine that these beings are somehow naive and curious AND wise, with complex vocabularies and gentle senses of humor. Pyle's characters make us aware of the strangeness of many of the things we take for granted on our own planet.
Oluo, a Seattle-based writer, has written an important, compelling and timely introduction to a wide range of issues concerning racism in America. Some of Oluo’s most powerful points concern racial disparities in treatment by the police. Consider the following: “My fear, as a black driver, is real. The fact that black drivers are 23 percent more likely to be pulled over than white drivers . . . and more likely to be ticketed and arrested in those stops . . . also leads to a 3.5-4 times higher probability that black people will be killed by cops. . . .” You may not agree with all of Oluo’s arguments, but you will probably feel some of your assumptions challenged, and you'll come away with many insights relevant to your daily thoughts and actions.
You don't have to be a Monty Python fan like me to enjoy this autobiography by one of its members, though it would at least prepare you for the zany humor you'll encounter here. The title of the book is from a song that first appeared in the Pythons' movie, Life of Brian. Idle explains how the wacky Python members began collaborating in the 1960s, and narrates the development of their hit TV series, their Holy Grail and Meaning of Life movies, and the musical Spamalot. He also relates some wonderful adventures that he's had with famous friends like George Harrison and Robin Williams. Eric Idle is a brilliant and frequently hilarious writer.
Although the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) has been used by many large organizations, it is a deeply flawed and unreliable source of genuine insights about individual personalities. Merve Emre provides here a fascinating narrative about the origins of MBTI through lively biographies of its primary creators.
Vanderbilt historian Jon Meacham previously published biographies of American presidents, and is often recruited to offer commentary on TV about current events. Impressed with his wisdom and eloquence, I hoped that this book would alleviate my despair about the current state of American politics. I was not disappointed. Meacham is no Pollyanna: he reminds us that popular prejudices (often fed by demagogic leaders) have impeded moral progress throughout our nation's history. But he also marshalls extensive evidence of the ability of the American "soul" to recognize and repair its flaws, and quotes Harry Truman in support, "The people have often made mistakes, but given time and the facts, they will make the corrections." Meacham urges us to be politically active and to resist tribalism, respect facts, deploy reason, find a critical balance, and keep history in mind. His book helps us to do all of those things.
Months before the revelations about Trump's attempts to extort political favors from Ukraine to embarrass his likely 2020 rival Joe Biden, this report laid out in impressive detail the shocking extent of connections between Trump and Russian interference in our 2016 election. Robert Mueller's report helps enormously to document the most corrupt presidential campaign and administration in our nation's history.
Frederick Douglass ranks as one of the most eloquent and powerful speakers and writers in American history. Born a slave, he basically taught himself to read and write, and became a key leader in the Abolitionist movement. This volume is a comprehensive but affordable collection of Douglass's most significant works, spanning a crucial period in U.S. history from 1845 to 1891. Douglass's condemnations of slavery and racism still resonate deeply with us today.
Social psychologists Travis and Aronson focus here on our all-too-human tendency to rationalize our mistakes, often due to our discomfort with the "cognitive dissonance" between our obvious faults and our inflated views of our character and intelligence. Fascinating and enlightening, with lively real-world examples.
Ariely is a professor of psychology and behavioral economics at Duke whose popular lectures have aired on TED. Here he reports the often surprising findings from a series of fascinating experiments that he designed, revealing the conditions under which we're likely to be honest or not so honest. Ariely enables us to be mindful of how we might, in practice, be less ethical than we like to believe we are.
Why has aggressive war occurred so frequently in human history? Wrangham and Peterson note disturbing similarities between patterns of violent aggression in both human and chimpanzee societies, as well as the startling lack of such violence among bonobos, who are also closely related genetically to both humans and chimps. The authors go on to offer a compelling theory of how and why those traits emerged. Hint: It’s related to a significant change in the earth’s climate during a key phase in the evolution of our respective species in Africa.