Posted by: Dan | March 5, 2008

Books, and More Books

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.

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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
  • Pseudo-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.



  1. Here’s a book I’d like to read

  2. Richard Dawkins edits a non-atheist book: The Oxford Book of Modern Science Writing
    Peter Atkins
    Per Bak
    J.D. Bernal
    Colin Blakemore
    John Tyler Bonner
    Sydney Brenner
    Jacob Bronowski
    Rachel Carson
    Subramaniam Chandrasekhar
    Francis Crick
    Helena Cronin
    Antonio R. Damasio
    D’Arcy Thompson
    Paul Davies
    Daniel C. Dennett
    David Deutsch
    Jared Diamond
    Theodosius Dobzhansky
    Freeman Dyson
    Sir Arthur Eddington
    Maitland Edey
    Albert Einstein
    Loren Eiseley
    Richard Feynman
    R. A. Fisher
    Kenneth Ford
    Richard Fortey
    George Gamow
    Martin Gardner
    S. J. Gould
    Brian Greene
    Richard Gregory
    J. B. S. Haldane
    W. D. Hamilton
    Garrett Hardin
    Alister Hardy
    G. H. Hardy
    Stephen Hawking
    Douglas R. Hofstadter
    Lancelot Hogben
    Fred Hoyle
    Nick Humphrey
    Julian Huxley
    James Jeans
    Donald Johanson
    Steve Jones
    Jonathan Kingdon
    David Lack
    Richard Leakey
    Primo Levi
    Roger Lewin
    John Maynard Smith
    Ernst Mayr
    Peter Medawar
    J. Robert Oppenheimer
    Roger Penrose
    Max Perutz
    Steve Pinker
    Martin Rees
    Mark Ridley
    Oliver Sacks
    Carl Sagan
    Erwin Schrodinger
    Claude Shannon
    G. G. Simpson
    George Gaylord Simpson
    Lee Smolin
    C. P. Snow
    Russell Stannard
    Ian Stewart
    Lewis Thomas
    Niko Tinbergen
    Robert Trivers
    Alan Turing
    James D. Watson
    Warren Weaver
    Steven Weinberg
    John Archibald Wheeler
    G. C. Williams
    Edward O. Wilson
    Lewis Wolpert

    Yowza! What an impressive list of authors!

  3. Wow – very reasonably priced too. That, I must get!


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