Friday, November 27, 2009

Women Unbound Challenge

I am delighted to become a philogynist. If I was a smarter man, I would look that word up before I used it in such a sentence, but I'm going to live dangerously today. I'm joining the Women Unbound Challenge at the philogynist level and thus, I solemnly vow to read at least two of the following as soon as I can without unduely straining myself. I don't have a long list, but it may include:

- The tangled field: Barbara McClintock and the search for patterns of genetic control by Nathaniel Comfort
- Woman: An intimate geography by Natalie Angiers
- The secret life of bees by Sue Monk Kidd
- Social behaviour of monkeys by Thelma Rowell (wtf, you say...she is supposedly a true renegade in primatology. Read about her in "Rebels, mavericks, and heretics in biology" by Harman and Deitrich)
- The complete persepolis by Marjane Satrapi (thanks, Debi!)

Now all I need is some time to read. And some time to finish all of the other books I've gotten started. Just too many good books and too little time, don't you think?

Monday, November 09, 2009

Two Evolution Books for You

This year has seen many fine new evolution books to celebrate Darwin's 200th birthday and the 150th anniversary of the publishing of The Origin of Species. In the last month or so, I've had the distinct pleasure of reading two of these great new books. I just finished one: Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species: A graphic adaptation by Michael Keller and illustrated by Nicolle Rager Fuller. This is an awesome book that should be read by everyone, especially in my home country, The United States, where understanding of evolutionary principles is disgustingly low. There are 3 parts to the book. The first part is a general background about Darwin and evolutionary theory. The second, and largest part is the actual graphic adaptation of The Origin. This is the part I loved the most. The artwork is excellent and the words are mostly Darwin's own. Michael Keller has hit the high points of the book for those without the time or energy to read the real deal. There are updates and editor's notes about things where Darwin wasn't quite on track. The third and final part was a short update on developments on the theory since Darwin's death. I think that this book is an excellent way to get Darwin's message to the masses. As an educator, I can vouch for the great confusion and misunderstanding of Darwin and his theory that is out there. Now, people can get a brief and accurate idea of what he really said...and again, much of it in Darwin's actual words. Please read it if you have an interest in learning a bit about a fascinating theory. I may have students in my evolution course read this.
The second book I recommend is: The greatest show on Earth by Richard Dawkins. The author's motivation for this book is to illustrate the overwhelming evidence for the theory of evolution. I'm pretty well versed in the theory of evolution and I learned quite a few new and interesting things. But the main "target audience" for this book will be people who are open to the theory of evolution but don't know a whole lot about it and want to know more. As I mentioned earlier, in the U.S., where over 40% of people reject evolution outright and 32% of people think that modern humans lived side by side with dinosaurs (not the bird kind, the Velociraptor kind), we need this book. I'm afraid that most of those 40% who just reject the idea of evolution because of primarily religious grounds will be unconvinced. Not that this book doesn't provide all the evidence a logical person needs, but simply that I don' think that any amount of logic and evidence will convince these deliberately ignorant people (as Aldous Huxley said, facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored). I hope that I am wrong, however, and that this book makes a difference. I do salute Richard Dawkins, Ken Miller, Neil Shubin, and the others who keep trying to convince a skeptical public of the obvious.
I've got to admit that I really like all of Richard Dawkins' books and that I'm a big fan. Maybe that is biasing my opinion, but my opinion nonetheless is that this is a great and important book that you should be reading.