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marnixR
Post  Post subject: books i've read  |  Posted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 7:22 pm
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i thought i'd create this thread to discuss books that people have read recently

i'll start with "The Serpent's promise" by Steve Jones, an attempt to view some of the topics from the bible in terms of today's scientific knowledge

it's a ploy he's been using quite successfully on many of Darwin's books, including one of my favourites, "Almost like a whale" which is rewrite of Darwin's "Origin of species"
however, this time i feel Steve Jones has lost his way, and piles so many anecdotal evidence one on top of the other that the overall argument gets completely lost - it's happened many a time that i thought "i've had enough of this" and skipped the last few pages of a chapter to the next where at least at the beginning there's some clarity in the argument/contents until quite often a runs into the quicksand of data overload without bringing any light to the information he wants to convey

a pity - but it doesn't mean i'm not going to his talk next january in Cardiff university on "Wallace and the limits to evolution", since he's quite an entertaining speaker

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Thu Nov 07, 2013 9:12 pm
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I recently read Lawrence in Arabia by Scott Anderson, a detailed account that fills in many blanks left in the film Lawrence of Arabia.

I watched the film for a direct comparison. Among many issues glossed over in the film are Zionism and the Balfour Declaration, and the competing ambitions of Britain and France for the spoils of war - assuming Germany and Turkey would be defeated. These are major factors in the book, influencing what Lawrence did and what his superiors in the British military and the politicians also did.

The Americans were looking for oil but did not want to become embroiled in the war, and played both sides for a while. Woodrow Wilson's fourteen points talked bravely about nations being freed from imperialism and becoming independent, but in the end he didn't do much in practical terms, leaving the Brits and the French to carve up the middle east with lasting repercussions.

A good read for history buffs.


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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Fri Nov 08, 2013 1:07 am
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Right now I'm reading Isasc Asimov's Foundation before going to bed. I'm honestly surprised I never began it years ago given my social circles.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Sun Nov 17, 2013 8:56 pm
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just finished reading Don Prothero's "Evolution: What the Fossils Say And Why It Matters", one of the best explanation of science and specifically showing why creationists are so dead wrong whenever they attack evolution or any other part of science that seems to suggest that the earth is older than 10,000 years

his detailed analysis of what real geology is like and how flood geology can never explain the complexity of real geology (versus the cartoon version given in creaitionist books) is a classic, and whilst he then goes on the various aspects of present-day evolutionary thinking, a dig a creationists is never far away, such as debating Duane Gish where he shows how doing your homework by going to listen to earlier presentations makes it dead easy to win the debate, even in the eyes of a very partial audience

basically the only reason creationists can still oppose evolution is that their knowledge of it is so woefully inadequate and outdated that whatever they oppose must be a strawman of whatever modern science stands for

a taster of his style is described in the following article : Don Prothero guts Stephen Meyer’s new creationist book

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Sun Nov 24, 2013 4:49 am
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Now I'm on to another classic, The Time Machine by H.G. Wells.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Sun Nov 24, 2013 1:17 pm
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just finished reading "The Eerie Silence: Renewing Our Search for Alien Intelligence" by Paul Davies, who has been involved with SETI in some shape or form for the past decades - it covers various aspects, like trying to re-evaluate the Drake equation, the possibility that advanced civilisations may no longer be traceable using the type of communication that we're looking for, and also attempting to address the Fermi paradox

it must take a certain type of person searching for a black cat in a very big dark room, and not being sure that the cat is there, or that you would recognise it as such if you saw it

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Sun Nov 24, 2013 2:51 pm
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Still reading The Greatest Show on Earth by Dawkins. Good stuff but largely a reiteration of what we mostly know already, with lots of detailed descriptions of why evolution is true. Plenty of jabs at creationists, but they're not going to read this book anyway, so in that sense it does get a bit tiresome for the more rational reader.

I'll be looking for some lighter sci fi next.


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Moontanman
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Mon Nov 25, 2013 10:39 pm
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WWZ is the latest book I am reading, much better than the movie...


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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 10:39 am
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WWZ ? what's WWZ ?

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Tue Nov 26, 2013 2:31 pm
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"World War Zed," I believe is what you folks on the other side of the pond might call it. We just call it Zee here in 'Murica. :)

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Wed Dec 04, 2013 8:08 pm
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just recently finished reading "The Neanderthals Rediscovered: How Modern Science Is Rewriting Their Story" by Dimitra Papagianni and Michael A. Morse, and together with "How To Think Like a Neandertal" by Thomas Wynn and Frederick L. Coolidge, which i finished a few months ago, a really good update on current knowledge

strange really how not just new finds but a more precise dating of older ones can bring such new insights
also the advent of DNA analysis which places the whole on a more secure footing than mere speculation on external characteristics

news to me was the likelihood that Homo antecessor was more likely to have been a dead end rather than the ancestor of later european hominids - also the heavy reliance on meat, although not totally a surprise, is good to see confirmed from isotope analysis

then there's the brute force hunting which caused many injuries, presumably leading to the care for crippled relatives later in life
some debate on whether burials were comparable between neanderthals and modern humans, and the one clear difference being symbolic thought as expressed in cave art

one last surprise, that the chatelperronian could after all have been made by H.sapiens, since there is now doubt over whether the neanderthal skeleton really was contemporaneous with the chatelperronian tools

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iNow
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Thu Dec 05, 2013 12:22 am
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Recently, I read This Side of Paradise and also Tales of the Jazz Age, and have just started The Beautiful and Damned by F.Scott Fitzgerald.

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marnixR
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Sun Dec 22, 2013 3:39 pm
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just finished reading "Paleofantasy" by Marlene Zuk, about how it's silly to proclaim that we should do or not do something just because our ancestors (who are supposed to have been in synch with nature) are supposed to have lived that way

obviously the major flaw is that there was never such a happy situation where humans or their ancestors were totally adapted to their environment for the simple fact that both human and the environment are changing all the time

here's a few extracts that clearly show that the concept of perfection is meaningless when it comes to evolution

the first one shows that traits which are advantageous against one type of disease can be detrimental for other diseases :

Quote:
Because of the immunity to AIDS that CRR5-delta offers, medical researchers have attempted to mimic the effect of the gene variant in devising treatments for AIDS. ... But in 2006, Philip Murphy and his colleagues from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases discovered a snag. Mice that were genetically engineered to have CRR5-delta were unusually susceptible to West Nile virus.


and here's an extract commenting on long-term population studies amongst humans where some became taller over time and others became shorter, and here's the conclusion :

Quote:
The review authors suggest that women in preindustrial populations are under selection to become taller, while those in more industrialized places, such as Massachusetts, have more children if they are shorter. We do not know the reason for this difference; ... More generally, this variation underscores the point that there is no single optimum state for humanity - being tall can be better than being short, or vice versa, for different individuals under different circumstances.


and then there's also the issue of pleiotropy :

Quote:
Pleiotropy means that a gene will often have multiple effects, acting at different times during the life span and on different organ systems. As a hypothetical example, the same gene that speeds growth might also strengthen bones or weaken arteries. Any genes that enhance reproduction early in life but are detrimental at later stages, once reproduction is over, will still be favored by natural selection.


a must-read for anyone who wants to have ammunition to counter anyone who dares to claim that human evolution has stopped with the arrival of civilisation

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bunbury
Post  Post subject: Re: books i've read  |  Posted: Sat Jan 25, 2014 8:16 pm
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Which provides a slightly forced segue to the book I just finished: America Aflame, by David Goldfield, or how the Civil War Created a Nation.

After the American Civil War Darwin was all the rage, and his theory of evolution neatly explained why blacks in the South did not immediately rise to become entrepreneurs, engineers and scholars once the shackles of slavery were cut off. Americans, both North and South found that the failure of negroes to achieve success was due to their being an inferior race. It had nothing to do with the intimidation, obstructionism, threats and murder committed by politicians and white southerners wearing sheets or to their starting point of abject poverty with no possessions, or their desire to find missing family members that resulted in their wandering the roads and being therefore labeled as worthless tramps.

The poor blacks should have pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, and the fact that they didn't just shows that they are not equal to the industrious whites, and Darwin's theory was clearly at play. The full title of Darwin's book is: On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

The Republican Party, founded to prevent slavery from expanding westward and on a rather tenuous feeling that the constitutional requirement of equality possibly should extend to black men (but not women yet), freed the slaves, but then after a failed attempt at Reconstruction, essentially left the South to its own devices. Nothing much changed until LBJ and MLK came along a hundred years later.


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