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You can click to view my favorites for anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

Biology


William H. Calvin, The River That Flows Uphill: A Journey from the Big Bang to the Big Brain (Sierra Club Books 1987)
It's my river diary of a two-week whitewater trip through the bottom of the Grand Canyon, discussing everything from cosmology to anthropology to brain mechanisms. It became a bestseller in German translation in 1995 but is out of print in English. For Grand Canyon photographs and sound files to match, see Leonard Thurman’s Grand Canyon River Running web pages.
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Paul Colinvaux, Why Big Fierce Animals Are Rare (Princeton University Press 1982).
        "An annual plant spends all its coin on making seeds. A perennial spends some coin on its own food reserves as well and we suspect that it spends some more coin on holding off the competition. An equilibrium species plans for babies in the future rather than babies now."
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Helena Cronin, The Ant and the Peacock (Cambridge University Press 1992).
"Imagine a world without Darwin. Imagine a world in which Charles Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace had not transformed our understanding of living things. What... would become baffling and puzzling..., in urgent need of explanation? The answer is: practically everything about living things...."
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anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Richard Dawkins, Climbing Mount Improbable (Norton, 1996).
        "Darwinism is not a theory of random chance. It is a theory of random mutation plus non-random cumulative natural selection. Why, I wonder, is it so hard for even sophisticated scientists to grasp this simple point?" [p.75]
        "Evolution is an enchanted loom of shuttling DNA codes, whose evanescent patterns, as they dance their partners through geological deep time, weave a massive database of ancestral wisdom, a digitally coded description of ancestral worlds and what it took to survive in them." [p.326]
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Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden (Science Masters, BasicBooks, 1995).
        "Never say, and never take seriously anybody who says, `I cannot believe that so-and-so could have evolved by gradual selection.' I have dubbed this kind of fallacy `the Argument from Personal Incredulity.' Time and again, it has proved the prelude to an intellectual banana-skin experience."
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Richard Dawkins, The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design (Norton, 1986).
        "I want to inspire the reader with a vision of our own existence as, on the face of it, a spine-chilling mystery; and simultaneously to convey the full excitement of the fact that it is a mystery with an elegant solution which is within our grasp... A good case can be made that Darwinism is true, not just on this planet but all over the universe wherever life may be found."
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Richard Dawkins, The Extended Phenotype: The Long Reach of the Gene (Oxford UP, 1982).
        "Any suggestion that the child's mathematical ineptitude might have a genetic origin is likely to be greeted with something approaching despair: if it is in the genes "it is written", it is "determined" and nothing can be done about it; you might as well give up attempting to teach the child mathematics. This is pernicious rubbish on an almost astrological scale. Genetic causes and environmental causes are in principle no different from each other. Some influences of both types may be hard to reverse, others may be easy."
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Richard Dawkins, The Selfish Gene (Oxford UP, 1976).
        "Our genes may be immortal but the collection of genes which is any one of us is bound to crumble away. Elizabeth II is a direct descendant of William the Conqueror. Yet it is quite probable that she bears not a single one of the old king's genes. We should not seek immortality in reproduction. But if you contribute to the world's culture, if you have a good idea, compose a tune, invent a sparking plug, write a poem, it may live on, intact, long after your genes have dissolved in the common pool. Socrates may or may not have a gene or two alive in the world today... but who cares? The [cultural contributions] of Socrates, Leonardo, Copernicus, and Marconi are still going strong."
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Adrian Desmond, Huxley: From Devil's Disciple to Evolution's High Priest (Addison-Wesley, 1997).
James R. Kincaid, in the New York Times Book Review, said: "One thing will probably strike American readers, even in the midst of their delight: Desmond will seem vastly to overstate the fullness of Huxley's victory, the triumph of secular agnosticism and scientific rationalism. Is our modern world Huxley's? I don't know how it is in Desmond's England, but the contemporary United States seems to me about as skeptical, scientific and agnostic as a 10th-century tribe of frog-worshipers. We need Huxley back again, debating Pat Robertson, the head of the Promise Keepers and a worthy representative of the Church of Scientology, say John Travolta."
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anthropology, biology, cognitive sciences, ethology, climate, evolution, brains, language, the future -- not to mention Patrick O'Brian novels and the Science Masters series.

You can click on the topics to see a collection of favorite books on the subject.

Ernst Mayr, This is Biology: The Science of the Living World (Harvard University Press, March 1997).
From p.189:
    "From the Greeks to the nineteenth century there was a great controversy over the question whether changes in the world are due to chance or necessity. It was Darwin who found a brilliant solution to this old conundrum: they are due to both. In the production of variation chance dominates, while selection itself operates largely by necessity. Yet Darwin's choice of the term "selection" was unfortunate, because it suggests that there is some agent in nature who deliberately selects. Actually the "selected" individuals are simply those who remain alive after all the less well adapted or less fortunate individuals have been removed from the population."
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Ernst Mayr, One Long Argument: Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought (Harvard University Press, 1992).
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Ernst Mayr, Toward a New Philosophy of Biology (Harvard University Press, 1988).
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E. O. Wilson, Consilience: Unity of Knowledge (Knopf 1998).
Wilson's argument for what he calls consilience-- that everything in our world is organized by a small number of fundamental natural laws that comprise the principles governing every branch of learning. There is a long excerpt in both the March and April 1998 issues of The Atlantic Monthly.
...let us begin by simply walking away from Foucault, and existentialist despair. Consider this rule of thumb: to the extent that philosophical positions both confuse us and close doors to further inquiry, they are likely to be wrong....
     Most of the issues that vex humanity daily -- ethnic conflict, arms escalation, overpopulation, abortion, environmental destruction, and endemic poverty, to cite several of the most persistent -- can be solved only by integrating knowledge from the natural sciences with that from the social sciences and the humanities. Only fluency across the boundaries will provide a clear view of the world as it really is, not as it appears through the lens of ideology and religious dogma, or as a myopic response solely to immediate need. Yet the vast majority of our political leaders are trained primarily or exclusively in the social sciences and the humanities, and have little or no knowledge of the natural sciences. The same is true of public intellectuals, columnists, media interrogators, and think-tank gurus. The best of their analyses are careful and responsible, and sometimes correct, but the substantive base of their wisdom is fragmented and lopsided.
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