Amundson, R. (2005) The Changing Role of the Embryo in Evolutionary Thought: Roots of Evo-Devo. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
Barber EW, Barber PT. (2004) When They Severed Earth From Sky: How the Human Mind Shapes Myth. Princeton University Press: Princeton NJ
Barham, P. (2001) The Science of Cooking. Springer: New York.
Bowler PJ, Morus IR (2005) Making of Modern Science: A Historical Survey. University of Chicago Press: Chicago .
Crosby AW (2004) Ecological Imperialism: The Biological Expansion of Europe, 900-1900. Cambridge University Press: Cambridge
Diamond, J. (2005) Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking: New York.
Eberhart, ME.(2003) Why Things Break, Understanding the World by the Way it Comes Apart. Harmony Books: New York.
Fara, P. (2004) Pandora's Breeches: Women, Science and Power in the Enlightenment. Pimlico: London.
Fara, P. (2005) Fatal Attraction: Magnetic Mysteries of the Enlightenment. Icon Books Ltd.: Cambridge, UK.
Freedberg, D. (2002) The Eye of the Lynx: Galileo, His Friends, and the Beginnings of Modern Natural Science. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
Galison, P. (2003) Einstein's Clocks, Poincare's Maps: Empires of Time. Norton and Co.: New York.
Hawking, S. (2001) The Universe in a Nutshell. Bantam Books: New York.
Jacobson, M. (2006) Six Arguments for a Greener Diet. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Washington DC
Le Couteur P, Burreson J. (2003) Napoleon’s Buttons: 17 Molecules that Changed History. Penguin Group Inc: New York
Lourie, R. (2002) Sakharov: A Biography. University Press of New England: Hanover NH.
Macfarlane, A., Martin, G. (2002) Glass: A World History. The University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
Mithen, S.(2003) After The Ice: A Global Human HIstory 20,000-5000 BC. Phoenix Orion Books Ltd.: London.
Molotch, H. (2003) Where Stuff Comes From. Routledge: New York.
Pesic P. (2005) Sky in a Bottle. MIT Press: Cambridge MA
Smith, PH. (2004) The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
Sykes, B. (2006) Saxons, Vikings and Celts: The Genetic Roots of Britain and Ireland. WW Norton & Co: New York.
Weisman, A (2007) The World Without Us. Harper-Collins Publishers Ltd., Toronto.
Williams, M. (2003) Deforesting the Earth: From Prehistory to Global Crisis. University of Chicago Press: Chicago.
Recurring questions in the book are: What constitutes a revolution? Was there a revolution in various fields of science? The authors’ position on this is nicely summarized in the following:
“The older historiography was based on a tendency to manufacture heroes and villains according to a superficial estimation of how closely their theories approximated to what scientists accept today. And when apparently “bad” science was identified, external forces such as religious beliefs were called in to explain why those involved were deflected from the true path of scientific objectivity. The influence of the heroes was greatly exaggerated, giving the impression that they were able to precipitate a sudden revolution establishing the modern theoretical paradigm. We now see that the whole process was far more protracted and that the emergence of the modern view of earth history required the synthesis of different theoretical and methodological perspective once thought to be mutually hostile to one another.” (pp. 104-105)
Quite a parade of eminent scientists goes by as you read through this volume. Copernicus (1473-1543), of course, and his heliocentric solar system is prominent. One of the things that this advance did was show that astronomers who previously provided descriptions of the sky could begin to compete with natural philosophers for intellectual authority. This reminded me of the rise of artisans form the role of manufacturer to that of intellectual authority as their skill in their art led to an accumulation of knowledge that made them experts (see Smith PH, 2004, The Body of the Artisan: Art and Experience in the Scientific Revolution. University of Chicago Press: Chicago). It was interesting to read about the opposition experienced by Descartes (1596-1650) from those who believed in magic. They resisted mechanical natural philosophers and their clockwork explanation of the tides, for example, preferring instead to cling to notions of the occult qualities of natural objects and phenomena. I wondered if these debates have changed very much to this day!
The players in the Darwinian revolution included Georges Cuvier (1769-1832) who, through his study of fossils, concluded that the present order of nature is merely the last in a long series as geological cascades wiped out whole populations of species. Thomas Robert Malthus’ (1766-1834) work on population growth and economics contained the idea of a “struggle for existence”. These and many others contributed to the XVIII century debate between vitalists and mechanists that was further stoked by Darwin’s (1809-1882) theory of evolution. The debate reminded me of the mechanical versus the occult debate and the more contemporary and ongoing evolution versus creation debate. It seems that at every step along the way towards better understanding the origins and workings of humans and the environment we live in there is a cadre of people ready to defend remaining ignorant about this area of knowledge.
Alfred Wegener (1880-1930) is credited with originating the idea of continental drift in 1912 but the idea was not accepted until decades later. He based his ideas on his study of fossils from different continents combined with a consideration of land features and climate. Coalfields in Europe and North America lined up, for example. What Wegener lacked was a mechanism for continental drift and one was not forthcoming for several more decades. In the 1960s information about the pattern of magnetism on the seabed provided convincing evidence for the development of new seafloor along the mid-ocean ridges (p. 248). This finding and a consideration of constraints on the shape of the plates defined by the mid-ocean ridges and associated subduction zones provided the final clues needed to produce the theory of plate tectonics.
I particularly enjoyed the discussion of the emergence of psychology, sociology and anthropology in the early years of the XX century. They became independent enterprises as a reaction against the strong reductionism that had come to dominate science in the XIX century. “The rejection of biology played a key role in the institutionalization of psychology in the academic system. At the same time, anthropologists and sociologists also staged a revolt against biology, insisting that evolutionary models offered no relevant insights into the functioning of human cultures and societies” (p. 300). In the latter half of the XX century, psychology welcomed biology back as evolutionary psychology was born and neuroscience began its meteoric rise. It is ironic that now, one hundred years after the birth of these social sciences, the very survival of sociology and anthropology seems to depend upon their adopting an evolutionary perspective. How times change! (Jan. 9, 2009)
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