|The Time Machine, by H. G. Wells
Narrated by Greg Wagland
|Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionists Front Line
by Jason Rosenhouse, Narrated by George Orlando
|The Sixth Extinction: An Unnatural History
by Elizabeth Kolbert
Narrated by Anne Twomey
In The Blank Slate, Pinker outlines three dogmas that he says are the prevailing views of human nature in modern philosophy:
2012 Book 154: The Social Conquest of Earth
Written by Edward O. Wilson, Narrated by Jonathan Hogan
Reason for Reading: Group read in our LibraryThing “Science, Religion, History” group.
2012 Book 93: Cro-Magnon, by Brian Fagan (6/24/2012)
Reason for Reading: Interest in the evolution of humans
My Review 4/5 stars
Cro-Magnon, by Brian Fagan introduces what is currently known (and speculated) about Cro-Magnons and Neanderthals. Fagan spices up his narrative with imaginative vignettes of Neanderthals and Cro-Magnons as they may have lived. I imagine such vignettes would appeal to most everyone in the general public, including teens, though they may be a little irritating to a hard-core scientist who isn’t interested in imaginative speculation (just a guess…I loved them!). Another excellent feature of this book is that it has incorporated historic scientific discoveries about prehistoric peoples with modern science like mitochondrial DNA tracing. Again, this feature would be of interest to most of the general public, but isn’t meant for experts–there are a lot of simplifications for the sake of clarity. I think this book is an excellent introduction to prehistoric peoples that could be enjoyed by both adults and teens (even precocious pre-teens).
2012 Book 92: Religion Explained, by Pascal Boyer (6/24/2012)
Reason for Reading: Science, Religion, and History group read with the 75ers
My Review 2/5 stars
The intent of this book is to use anthropology and cognitive science to “explain” why religious beliefs developed (and are still common) in humans. I started reading this book with the expectation that it was intended as popular science; but it assumed that the reader already had a background in anthropology and cognitive science. Boyer made his explanations using terminology that was unnecessarily complex; and although the meaning could be discerned from the context, it made the narrative into very heavy reading. Furthermore, he made many bold statements without providing evidence, possibly because he figured his readers had a background in this area and knew where he was coming from. The examples he did provide often fell short for me as a scientist–I felt there were too many obvious loopholes to the experiments described, and it was unclear whether these loopholes were addressed. Overall, I think this book may be interesting to someone who has already read a lot of literature in this field, but I wouldn’t recommend it to someone with a casual interest, nor as introductory material.
2012 Book 18: Calculating God, by Robert J. Sawyer (1/29/2012)
An alien lands in Toronto with hopes of studying the ROM’s fossil collection; meanwhile she provides “scientific evidence” for the existence of God. This book had a good idea with poor execution. Sawyer completely ignored the “show-don’t-tell” rule of novel-writing. The book is a clod of sci-religious dialog decorated with a thin veneer of plot. The scientific evidence consisted of debates about: 1)What are the odds? and 2) Where did altruistic behavior come from? Neither argument is fresh, but it’s interesting to have it all thrown into the mouth of an alien (who is also using facts that only the fictional aliens know to support her pro-God arguments). The second argument falls flat since cooperative behavior (i.e. “altruism” as Sawyer was defining it) has evolved in more than just humans. Also, Sawyer adds a short punt about abortion. Although I completely agree with his point of view, I don’t read novels to get a lecture on these views. SHOW-don’t-tell!!!! On the other hand, this book won the Audie award, which means it had a fantastic performance—which I enjoyed on a long car trip I just took. That made the book worth it for me. 3/5 stars