Biology

Press release: Richerson, Not By Genes Alone

May 26, 2006
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Press release: Richerson, Not By Genes Alone

Not by Genes Alone offers a radical interpretation of human evolution. What makes us human, renowned scholars Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd demonstrate, lies in our psychology—more specifically, our unparalleled ability to adapt. Building their case with such fascinating examples as the Amish rumspringa and the gift exchange system of the !Kung San, Not by Genes Alone throws aside the conventional nature-versus-nurture debate and convincingly argues that culture and biology are inextricably linked. Read the press release. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Hull, Infinite Nature

May 9, 2006
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Review: Hull, Infinite Nature

The New Scientist recently praised R. Bruce Hull’s Infinite Nature. From the review by Michael Bond: "In this intelligent, passionate, beautifully written book, Bruce Hull digs into the complexities and prejudices in our attitudes to the natural world. His message? What nature can teach us depends on what we want to learn from it. Environmental fundamentalists are as damaging as their religious counterparts. It is time to accept and deal with the plurality of perspectives." In this impassioned and judicious work, R. Bruce Hull argues that environmentalism will never achieve its goals unless it sheds its fundamentalist logic. The movement is too bound up in polarizing ideologies that pit humans against nature, conservation against development, and government regulation against economic growth. Only when we acknowledge the infinite perspectives on how people should relate to nature will we forge solutions that are respectful to both humanity and the environment. Read an essay by the author. . . .

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Press release: Richerson, Not By Genes Alone

May 3, 2006
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Press release: Richerson, Not By Genes Alone

Not by Genes Alone: How Culture Transformed Human Evolution offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd illustrate here that culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Drawing on work in the fields of anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics—and building their case with such fascinating examples as kayaks, corporations, clever knots, and yams that require twelve men to carry them—Richerson and Boyd convincingly demonstrate that culture and biology are inextricably linked, and they show us how to think about their interaction in a way that yields a richer understanding of human nature.… Read the press release. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Silvertown, Demons in Eden

May 2, 2006
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Review: Silvertown, Demons in Eden

Choice: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries recently praised Jonathan Silvertown’s . . .

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Oceans and Sustainability

April 21, 2006
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Oceans and Sustainability

An essay for International Earth Day by Dorrik Stow, professor of ocean and earth science at the University of Southampton, UK, and the author of Oceans: An Illustrated Reference. Sustainability is neither a fashionable trend that will go away once its media exposure has played out, nor is it an option we can lightly dismiss. Sustainability is every bit as essential to the future of human existence as are the food and water we consume and the air we breathe. April 22 has been designated International Earth Day, a time to focus across the world on planet Earth—her natural resources, environment and future. Despite being endowed with enormous richness and diversity of natural resources, the United States can only sustain itself at present rates of consumption for about six months of each year. For the remaining half year it is totally reliant on imports. Furthermore, if the global population consumed at the same rate as the American people, the world would require more than five times the total global resource base to survive. The sums simply do not add up. But we are no better here in the UK, so I am not simply pointing an accusing finger from across . . .

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The Will to Act on the Environment

April 20, 2006
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The Will to Act on the Environment

An essay for International Earth Day by R. Bruce Hull, author of Infinite Nature. As the saying goes: We live in interesting times. Globalization and fundamentalism seem locked in a death struggle to control world economies and cultures. The biosphere, the thin skin of life that blankets Earth, is now dominated by the products of human creativity. Environmental alarmists look at this domination and see biodiversity loss, a destabilized climate, eroding soils, over-fished oceans, and collapsing ecological systems. Even most skeptical environmentalists—who typically highlight the reliable and abundant supply of food, energy, and other resources—acknowledge serious challenges to meeting exponentially growing demands. Meanwhile, the traditional methods of environmental management are faltering. Rational, centralized environmental planning is an admitted failure in most professional circles, and the science wars have diminished the credibility of all expertise. Environmental issues infrequently find space on the national agenda, and critics say environmentalism’s method and focus must change. These conflicting environmental currents and eddies flow within the larger river of postmodern angst, causing us to rethink answers to our ultimate questions: What does it mean to be human? What is the essence of the natural and supernatural world we live in? How should we relate to . . .

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Review: Stow, Oceans

April 11, 2006
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Review: Stow, Oceans

Library Journal‘s new issue features a nice review of Dorrik Stow’s Oceans: An Illustrated Reference: "This authoritative reference work presents a thorough overview of the physical, geological, chemical, and biological properties of the world’s oceans.… Stow’s up-to-date and well-organized volume would make a valuable introduction to a huge field of knowledge and is therefore recommended for high school, public, and academic libraries." Although the oceans are vast, their resources are finite. Oceans clearly presents the future challenge to us all—that of ensuring that our common ocean heritage is duly respected, wisely managed, and carefully harnessed for the benefit of the whole planet. Lavishly illustrated and filled with current research, Oceans is a step in that direction: a rich, magnificent, and illuminating volume for anyone who has ever heard the siren song of the sea. . . .

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Review: Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

April 5, 2006
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Review: Rudwick, Bursting the Limits of Time

Nature features a nice review of Martin J. S. Rudwick’s Bursting the Limits of Time: The Reconstruction of Geohistory in the Age of Revolution. From the review by Stephen Moorbath: "Bursting the Limits of Time is a massive work and is quite simply a masterpiece of science history.… Rudwick’s text is beautifully written and grips the attention throughout.… The book should be obligatory for every geology and history-of-science library, and is a highly recommended companion for every civilized geologist who can carry an extra 2.4 kg in his rucksack.… Rudwick has amply fulfilled his stated aim of describing the injection of history into a science that had been primarily descriptive or causal. Indeed, thanks to Rudwick and his kind, we may rest assured that the future of the history of science is in safe hands." Bursting the Limits of Time is the culmination of a lifetime of study by Martin J. S. Rudwick, the world’s leading historian of geology and paleontology. In 1650, Archbishop James Ussher of Armagh joined the long-running theological debate on the age of the earth by famously announcing that creation had occurred on October 23, 4004 B.C. Although widely challenged during the Enlightenment, this belief in . . .

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A Brain for All Seasons receives Walter P. Kistler Book Award

April 3, 2006
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A Brain for All Seasons receives Walter P. Kistler Book Award

Walter H. Calvin has received the 2006 Walter P. Kistler Book Award for his book A Brain for All Seasons: Human Evolution and Abrupt Climate Change. The award, presented by the Foundation For the Future, recognizes authors of science-based books that contribute to society’s understanding of the factors that may impact the long-term future of humanity. Mankind has recently come to the shocking realization that our ancestors survived hundreds of abrupt and severe changes to Earth’s climate. In A Brain for All Seaons, William H. Calvin takes readers around the globe and back in time, showing how such cycles of cool, crash, and burn provided the impetus for enormous increases in the intelligence and complexity of human beings—and warning us of human activities that could trigger similarly massive shifts in the planet’s climate. On April 6, at 7:00 p.m., the University of Washington will host an award ceremony for Calvin. He will be interviewed, participate in a Q&A session, and sign books. The event is free and open to the public. Read an excerpt. . . .

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Review: Dorrik Stow, Oceans

March 28, 2006
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Review: Dorrik Stow, Oceans

The New Scientist has praised Dorrik Stow’s Oceans: An Illustrated Reference. From the review by Adrian Barnett: "From sun-drenched atolls to the ice-capped Arctic, Oceans provides a photo-packed history of the seas, their geology, geochemistry and physics, their cycles and circulations. In elegant prose, Stow examines marine life in all its glorious strangeness and extreme abundance. He covers major areas of oceanographic research, including sociology, anthropology and archaeology, revealing how much we know, and the enormous amount we don’t. Helped by lots of colour photographs and explanatory diagrams, charts and maps, this is a splendid, fact-packed read." . . .

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