Sorry for the no posts lately. I’m still adjusting to a new culture and new language, and writing grant/fellowship applications. For blogging, my time has been (well) spent at Bitesize Bio, but I have been reading some good books lately.
One that I just finished was Christian de Duve’s Singularities: Landmarks on the Pathways of Life. As a book, it wasn’t all that special, but it did have one very redeeming quality – presenting the major transitions in the history of life in terms of (im)probability and the mechanisms by which that improbability was likely overcome. Check out de Duve’s seven mechanisms of singularity, including:
- Deterministic Necessity
- Selective Bottleneck
- Restrictive Bottleneck
- Frozen Accident
- Fantastic Luck
- Intelligent Design
Besides de Duve’s book, I will also have the opportunity to review two books: Russell Korobkin and Stephen R. Munzer’s Stem Cell Century: Law and Policy for a Breakthrough Technology, and Michael McCullough’s Beyond Revenge: The Evolution of the Forgiveness Instinct..
The second of those sounds particularly interesting. McCullough writes that by:
Using the last couple of decades of research from psychology, evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and anthropology, I make the case in Beyond Revenge that the human propensity for revenge, as well as our ability to forgive, are adaptations that operate the way they do today because of how they helped ancestral humans to solve specific social problems they encountered as our species was evolving. I argue further that the key to making the world a more forgiving, less vengeful place is to figure out what turns those instincts on and off in human minds today, and then to work on designing social environments that put the proper conditions into place.
I’m hoping to connect these ideas to parochial altruism, but I’ll have to wait and see.