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 Evolution and Christian Faith: Reflections of an Evolutionary Biologist by Joan RoughgardenEdition: Hardcover Price: CDN$18.20  22 used & new from CDN$ 3.00

5.0 out of 5 stars By my faith, Concord by discord can never be taken, June 17 2009
Joan Roughgarden is an immensely talented and creative Stanford University evolutionary biologist who, like millions of other people, is a practicing Christian. Like many scientists of all faiths, Roughgarden finds God in nature, and rejoices in the diversity, beauty, and charm of the natural world. "We can rejoice as Christians in the ethical meaning behind what evolutionary biologists are increasingly finding. I've be exhilarated by this personal realization, and I hope you will be, too." (p. 5) Roughgarden is most critical of the fundamentalist Christians who see evolution as the enemy of faith, and the "selfish-gene" biologists, who view evolutionary biology as proving the non-existence of God. "I believe scientists need more sympathy and willingness to accommodate people of faith," says Roughgarden, "to offer space for seeing a Christian vision of the world within evolutionary biology and not force people to accept a doctrine of universal selfishness as though established scientific fact." (p. 12)

I am neither a Christian nor an evolutionary biologist. But, perhaps my reactions to this book will nevertheless be worthwhile to someone.

Roughgarden describes evolution as saying (a) all life belongs to one huge family tree; (b) species change over generations; and (c) animal behavior is more about cooperation helping than competition and conflict. She stresses the harmony of this view with the Christian Bible, including St. Paul's stress on the sacred significance of the material unity of all life, the absence of anything in the scriptures that denies the mutability of species, and the Christian ethic of community. She closes the book with a passage from Matthew 22: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind... That shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets."

One of Roughgarden's aims in this short book is to develop evolutionary theory in a more detailed way than is usually done by those who address the science vs. faith issue. She identifies the central evolutionary dynamic in the phrase "natural breeding leads to an improvement of the stock" (p. 50) She uses the term "natural breeding" rather than Darwin's term "natural selection," because she wants to stress that the process of transmitting genes from one generation to the next is a product of the care of the parents as much as the competition among offspring. Roughgarden explains Fisher's Fundamental Theorem, which she interprets as expressing the basically progressive nature of evolution, as expressing a natural tendency for the improvement of populations over time. Roughgarden does mention the critiques of Fisher's theorem, which she attributes to "biologists skeptical of the idea that evolution has a direction." (p. 51) I find this attribution of philosophical "ulterior motive" to the critics to be an excess of proselytizing zeal that compromises her commitment to science. I do not know if Moran's classic 1964 paper criticizing Fisher was motivated by skepticism or not, but I am sure that Moran was correct and the subsequent efforts of brilliant population biologists in qualifying Fisher's Theorem and setting it right was not motivated by philosophical concerns surrounding the "progressive" nature of evolutionary dynamics. Roughgarden expresses the belief that the exceptions highlighted by the critics rarely occur in nature. I believe she is incorrect in this assessment because of the ubiquity of non-additive genetic interactions. Nevertheless, I would not deny that there is a progressive thrust to natural selection.

Roughgarden is duly critical of the intelligent design movement, on the grounds that intelligent design and evolution are compatible theories: both could be right, both could be wrong, or either one could be right and the other wrong. Because intelligent design does not present any evidence in favor of its theory, and because even if its critique of evolution were correct this would not increase the probability that intelligent design is correct, Roughgarden rejects intelligent design. I find this a very ingenious and attractive treatment of the intelligent design movement.

Of course, Roughgarden does not believe there is any truth to the intelligent design movement's critique of evolution whatsoever, but she presents her own laundry list of critiques of contemporary evolutionary theory, all of which are interesting and possibly valid. Her general problem (see Chapter 9) is that Darwinian evolution overemphasizes the "individual" and "competition" and underemphasizes the "community" and "cooperation." This critique does not ring true to me. I learned evolutionary theory when I was already a seasoned social scientist, and saw immediately that it provided the tools for understanding both human cooperation and competition. I do not feel that I have ever been misled into a Social Darwinist direction by the careful study of evolutionary biology at all. Of course, my work has been bitterly criticized by the "selfish gene" and "anti-multilevel-selection" school that is the object Roughgarden most serious barbs, but I do not find that evolutionary theory lends any particular support to the position of these critics. I suspect that their criticisms of me, when untrue, are a desperate and almost comical attempt to defend an indefensible biological tradition in which altruism was a dirty word.

Roughgarden also criticizes the standard depiction in evolutionary theory of females as "coy" and highly concerned with the quality of their sexual partners and males as "promiscuous" and concerned only with maximizing their total number of inseminations. Her argument is quite worth reading and she may be correct. But I think she has it mostly wrong.

For most sexually reproducing species in which anisogamy holds (i.e., the female gamete--the egg---is many orders of magnitude larger than the male gamete---the sperm) the cost of gamete production is much lower for males than females, so it is likely that the former will value the number of copulations more than the quality of each mate's gamete contribution. Moreover, in mammals, the extent of female contribution to the offspring is generally much higher than that of the male, so this asymmetry is even more pronounced than in other sexually reproducing classes. Of course, there are several species where the males care for offspring rather than females, but these are almost exclusively in fish, and less often in birds.

As a result of their greater investment in gamete production and offspring care, females look for males with high quality genes, and males attempt to pass themselves off has having high quality genes by hook or by crook. This is an inevitably competitive interaction among males for access to females, and involves a conflict of interest between males and females: the female wants the highest quality sperm, and the male (rare cases excepted) is willing to impregnate females independent of the quality of their genes. Roughgarden stresses the cooperative nature of the breeding relationship between male and female once they have mated: they then have a common interest in having their offspring live to reproductive age. However, she undervalues the conflictual character of mate choice. In addition, except is certain species, after impregnation, males do better by abandoning their mates in favor of seeking new mating opportunities rather than participating in raising offspring.

Roughgarden directs her criticism of mating behavior to what is known as "sexual selection" theory, which attempts to account for that fact that males of a species are often highly decorated (Darwin's peacock' tail) by a theory of "runaway selection" of the following form (elaborated upon analytically by Fisher): females come to prefer males with decoration for no fitness-relevant reason, but once this preference exists, it is better to mate with a colorful male because the male offspring will be more colorful and hence have enhanced mating chances, even if the cost of decoration to males is fitness reducing. I have done a fairly thorough study of this phenomenon and as far as I can tell, it does not exist, either in a plausible theory or in empirical observation. Moreover, most population biologists do not believe in runaway sexual selection at all, but rather believe that male decoration is a costly signal of possessing high quality genes. Thus, I do not thing there is much to Roughgarden's critique of sexual selection that we do not already know.

I should add that the general public finds runaway sexual selection extremely attractive, and there are numerous authors who have asserted that humans have this or that characteristic (e.g., musicality and intelligence for males, big breasts and wide hips for females) because of sexual selection. There is little support for such notions in the serious professional literature, and Roughgarden is rightly exasperated with such arguments.

I should also add that the fact that in many species the "coy" female and the "promiscuous" male stereotype is fairly accurate does not mean that it holds for all species. It certainly does not. There has been some attempt to claim that it holds in humans, and to use this difference between human masculinity and femininity to account for the sex differences in human society (especially the fact that women prefer rich and powerful men and men prefer young and nubile women). I do not find this argument at all persuasive. The problem is that there is an equally plausible explanation in terms of patriarchal culture and the remnants thereof. There may of course be differential innate predisposition in men and women concerning nurturance, family values, and the like, but observed difference are most likely do to acculturation and male/female status differences rather than genes. I would not be surprised if it turns out that most male-female behavioral differences in human society are highly attenuated or eliminated in the context of a gender-neutral culture. However, if differences remain, I suspect they will be in conformance with the relative investment in gamete theory which, although of doubtful relevance in today's world, was of prime importance in our evolutionary history.

I think the most valuable aspect of this book is Roughgarden's demonstration, through a sort of low-tech biblical exegesis, that a belief in the teachings of Jesus, as laid out in the New Testament, is not in conflict with evolutionary theory. She throws in for good measure (though limited relevance) that homosexuality, bisexuality, trans/ambiguous gender, and other aspects of modern life that liberate us from gender stereotypes are neither modern, nor prohibited by the Bible, nor absent from the non-human animal world. All that for only $15.00. Pretty hard to beat.  Coevolution: Genes, Culture, and Human Diversity by William DurhamEdition: Paperback Price: CDN$ 45.56
 15 used & new from CDN$6.99 5.0 out of 5 stars This is a classic, but still completely up to date, June 24 2004 In humans, both genes and culture are containers of information passed from one generation to the next. Both genes and culture affect the phenotype, and therefore individual behavior. It follows that both genes are culture are subject to Darwinian selection. In addition, genes are part of the environment in which culture evolves, and culture is part of the environment in which genes evolve. Of course, the physical representation of genes and culture are very different. Genetic information is coded in DNA, while cultural information is coded in the synaptical structure of the brain. Moreover, Fisher's fundamental theorem, which says fitness tends to increase, is true for a single genetic locus, but not for a single culture locus, since agents can sustain an increase in a fitness-decreasing meme. Durham uses the term 'meme' for a unit of cultural inheritance. I think his defense of this is one of the strongest points in this great book. He shows that culture cannot be identified with phenotype or behavior. It follows that we must drop the term 'geno-phenotype'. In its place we can use the term 'geno-memotype.' Variants at a cultural locus are called allomemes by Durham. Good choice. We have learned much about brain functioning, the role of emotions, autism and sociopathy, and human altruism since this book was published (1991), and Durham uses no math, which I always thought a necessary part of gene-culture coevolutionary theory. Neither of these is a drawback, and indeed the fact that he produces a brilliant model of coevolution without the usual mathematical tools is a true tour de force! Durham provides extended analyses of Tibetian marriage patterns, lactose tolerance, sickle-cell anemia, and disease transmitted by cannibalism. These are standards of the trade now, but Durham's analysis are absolute gems, even if you know the literature on the topic.  The Emergence of Everything: How the World Became Complex by Harold J. MorowitzEdition: Hardcover  16 used & new from CDN$ 14.61

5.0 out of 5 stars A Reply to Scientific Atheism, April 9 2004
Morowitz the scientist makes a single point, which he drives home again, and again, ceaseless, incessantly, until finally it begins to sink in. It is, in this respect, perhaps the intellectual equivalent of Ravel's Bolero, or the yogi's infinitely repeated "Om". The point is that reductivism is the only tool we have for analyzing the world, it is an amazingly powerful tool, and yet at every level of complexity, emergent phenomena arise that could not have been predicted by the levels that preceded them, and can barely, if at all, be modeled an understood using reductivist analytical and experimental techiques.

This is a message that will be rejected by one particular group: the self-styled "scientific atheists" who claim that scientific methodology ineluctably implies that God does not exist, or at least that there is no more reason to believe in God than it is to believe in the Tooth Fairy. Morowitz, by contrast, follows Spinoza in identifying the world of science as dealing with the product of the "immanent God" whose transcendance we attempt to capture spiritually.

Scientific atheism's error is its inability to appreciate the notion of emergence. Just as consciousness emerges from a material and chemical substrate the scinetific understanding of which tell us virtually nothing about the nature of its emergent properties, so the physical universe may give rise to an emergent spirituality that simply escapes the scientific imagination. Morovitz' interesting book makes this point extremely clearly.

I believe Amazon is due major kudos for providing a forum in which readers can compare and contrast their ideas. I really enjoyed the previous nine reviews of this provocative book.

 Theory and Reality: An Introduction to the Philosophy of Science by Peter Godfrey-SmithEdition: Paperback Price: CDN$30.86  31 used & new from CDN$ 12.48

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Model of Balance and Clarity, March 21 2004
I studied a lot of philosophy of science when I was in college and graduate school, just for fun. But that was many years ago, and I needed a dispassionate overview of the field and a guide to the various philosophical problems confronting scientific explanation. This was the perfect book.

Godfrey-Smith saves his own position for the last few chapters of the book, and tries to present a variety of views in the body of the book with great tolerance for imperfections, rough edges, and infelicities. Yet, he has no qualms about proclaiming that a certain view is no longer treated seriously in the field (e.g., logical positivism, covering law theory, analytic/synthetic division).

The book covers the whole of the Twentieth Century, from logical positivism, through Quine, Goodman, and Popper, to Kuhn, Lakatos, Feyerabend, Science Studies, feminism, and post-modernism. He is more balanced than I, I must say, since I really hate post-modernism and all of its fellow-travellers, whereas the author tries to find some pearls of wisdom scattered across the dross.

Godfrey-Smith comes out for versions of empiricism, naturalism, and scientific realism. I like his mix, but I am a scientist, not a philosopher, so my opinions carry no weight.

I would have liked the book to deal with creationism and intelligent design, which are burning issues in the US, though not (yet) in Europe. I would also have like the book to deal with forms of knowledge other scientific (e.g., aesthetic, street smarts, spiritual). Finally, the book doesn't deal with ethics at all. One could defend this by saying that this has nothing to do with science, but I think that is a conclusion and not a premise, and one which is in fact incorrect.

 The Imitation Factor: Evolution Beyond The Gene by Lee Alan DugatkinEdition: Hardcover
 18 used & new from CDN$0.01 4.0 out of 5 stars Imitation and Beyond, March 9 2004 Lee Alan Dugatkin is a first-rate animal behavior experimentalist whose specialty is the guppy, as well as a game-theoretic modeler. Most welcome is Dugatkin's talent for popular exposition of animal behavior research. This book is a very general exposition of animal behavior theory for the general public, with a special emphasis on epigenetic transmission of information, which Dugatkin equates with cultural transmission. He does quite a good job, and I would recommend this book to curious newcomers to the field. Dugatkin is especially good at weaving general themes (e.g., the various explanations of mate choice) with the specifics of particular experiments. My concern here will be as an animal behaviorist whose specialty is human beings. Humans come into the picture in the first sentence of Dugatkin's book: "We desperately want to think of ourselves as somehow distinct from other life forms on our planet...Currently there is the sense that we are unique because "culture" is found only in humans...As we shall see, culture is not humanity's gift to the universe." (p. ix). There is no doubt but that Dugatkin is correct, and indeed, it is impossible to understand human culture as divorced from the broad sweep of cultural phenomena across species. The attempt to do so is a major flaw in sociological and anthropological approaches to human culture--but that is another story to tell. While Dugatkin's assertion is correct, and his efforts to motivate his position are quite successful, it is curious that he does not place his argument in intellectual context. John Tyler Bonner's pathbreaking The Evolution of Culture in Animals (Princeton University Press 1984) is not mentioned, nor is Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb's ambitious Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution (Oxford University Press 1995) are not mentioned. Nor is the Baldwin effect, which is a major causal link from culture to genes (Baldwin, "A New Factor in Evolution", American Naturalist 30 1896). Dugatkin is quite orthodox in taking the gene-culture coevolution definition of culture as "information", a definition anchored in the two great contributions of Cavalli-Sforza and Feldman, Cultural Transmission and Evolution (Princeton University Press, 1981), and Boyd and Richerson, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (University of Chicago Press, 1985). In brief, this view holds that culture is information concerning the organism's physical and biological environment. While the basic biological information transmission mechanism is genetic inheritance, epigenetic transmission may also be fitness enhancing, and when it is, we can expect cultural transmission in animals. I do not dispute the fact that culture includes epigenetic information transmission. For instance, as Dugatkin stresses the tendency for previously mated male guppies to be desirable to unmated females may be due to the fact that older female guppies "teach" younger females who the desirable males are (although there are other plausible explanations of this phenomenon). I do believe, however, that (a) imitation in animals is categorically distinct from the "teaching" and "learning" that typically occurs in human cultural transmission; and (b) the culture-as-information definition of culture is considerably too narrow to embrace all of human culture, and misses what is particularly unique about human culture. On the first point, most animal behaviorists have come to accept the idea that, pace bird imitations of vocalizations, animals do not imitate complex learned behavior directly. Rather, the contiguity of an individual to a conspecific carrying out a particular learned behavior increases the probability that the individual will stumble upon the same behavior. For instance, if a chimp discovers how to use a stone to smash open a food item, her child will be frequently in situations where stones and the food item are contiguous, and hence is more likely to discover the complex behavior. But the behavior is neither "learned" from the parent, or "taught" by the parent to the child. For more on this topic, the reader might refer to Tomasello and Call, Primate Cognition (Oxford University Press 1997), Daniel Povinelli, Folk Physics for Apes: The Chimpanzee's Theory of How the World Works (Oxford 2000), and Marc Hauser, Wild Minds: What Animals Really Think (Henry Holt, 2000). The most distinctive characteristic of human culture, however, is the existence of ethical norms and values. A value such as "dress modestly," "work hard and do not succumb to temptations that yield only short-run pleasures," and "forgive those who transgress upon you," are deeply cultural forms, but they do not involve objective information about the world. Unlike a technique, such as how to fashion a tool, where to look for prey, or what types of things are edible, an ethical value has no scientific truth value. Of course, one might assert that if one follows a certain norm, certain material results will obtain (e.g., long life, good after-life, high fitness, happiness), but humans follow norms for their own sake, and even when these good results are not expected. In sociology this is called the internalization of norms (see, for instance, Grusec and Kuczynski, Parenting and Children's Internalization of Values: A Handbook of Contemporary Theory, John Wily & Sons 1997). The human capacity to internalize norms is thus akin to the programmability of human goals, since the key factor in an internalized value is that people \emph{conform to the prescribed behavior for its own sake, and as a goal of action, rather than a means towards the realization of other goals. As I argue in "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Altruism: Genes, Culture, and the Internalization of Norms", Journal of Theoretical Biology 220,4 (2003):407-418, the programmability of the preference function is key to human prosocial behavior, quite on par with the accumulation and transmission of the types of cultural techniques associated with improving the ability to exploit the physical and natural environment. I would have preferred that Dugatkin include in his analysis both the factors leading to a commonality of culture across species, and the factors involved in the special cultural position of humans, but just dealing with the first of these makes for a quite informative and interesting contribution.  Why Men Won't Ask for Directions: The Seductions of Sociobiology by Richard C. FrancisEdition: Hardcover  20 used & new from CDN$ 2.08

2.0 out of 5 stars An Intemperate and Unbalanced Critique, March 7 2004
This book is a testimonial to the fact that Sociobiology continues to go against the grain of many behavioral scientists, long after the ideological debates of the previous century have subsided, and at a time when a more measured approach to the contribution of this strain of biological and social theory is plainly available. The novelty of this book is that it counterposes sociobiology to developmental biology rather than its traditional foe, anti-biological approaches to human sociality. This counterposition is particularly curious, since many developmental biologists consider this the age of "evo-devo", where the synergistic interaction of evolutionary and developmental modeling are increasingly recognized. Despite Francis' concerted and repeated attempt to portray sociobiology and behavioral developmental biology as alternative approaches to understanding social behavior, I remain completely unconvinced.

Francis writing style and mode of reasoning are profoundly distasteful to me, though others might enjoy it. Francis relishes in contrasting ideas that are in principle mutually consistent and even reinforcing. He draws the intellectual landscape in stark black and white/good and evil, where I generally see the textured grays of creatively contrasting and equally plausible ideas just waiting for some insightful researcher to draw them together into a satisfying explanatory framework. For instance, he depicts the search for the evolutionary origins of social behavior as the "paranoic" search for "teleological explanations." Metaphors relating to psychological illness when speaking of "adaptationist theory" recur incessantly throughout this distinctly intemperate book. Evolutionary psychology, for instance, is flippantly referred to as "evo-psycho."

Even substantively, Francis' method of dealing approaches alternative to his own is, to my mind, shallow and distasteful. I was taught that when disagreeing with a theory, one must first present the theory in as strong and coherent manner as possible, and critique only the most shining and forceful of the theory's ostensible successes. Francis, by contrast, is a bottom-feeder who will launch his missiles against any random representative of the opposing school. Indeed, despite that fact that more than one-third of this book is devoted to notes, index, and bibliography, Francis rarely deigns to cite directly his opponent, rather being content to provide an broad description of the field in question. Typical is the argument relating to the title of book. I don't know of a serious sociobiological argument as to why men don't ask for directions. I don't even know if it's a true fact in search of an explanation. Francis, nevertheless, treats the issue as though it had some intrinsic scientific value.

Francis is smart enough, however, to recognize that he is no match for the greats of the field, so when George Williams, Ronald Fisher, John Maynard Smith, Edward Wilson, or Niko Tinbergen is mentioned, Francis abandons the derogatory bravado and accurately describes the eminently reasonable positions they have taken on the issue of the relationship between evolution and development, adaptation and developmental constraints, and the other topics treated in this book.

The stance taken by Francis is a shame, because there are
super-adaptationists that tend to consider just-so story as adequate explanations, and are loathe to deploy any non-adapationist argument.

Francis' chapter on the mimicking capacity, perhaps the best in the book, is a case in point. Francis defends the sensory exploitation hypothesis ably against the classical runaway selection and costly signaling approaches to modeling mate choice, and effectively defends the theory that the mockingbird's mimicking capacity is simply a by-product of their song-learning versatility. This versatility may itself have adaptive value, but the fact that many bird species that occupy ecological niches similar to that of the mockingbird lack its versatility calls this into question. Indeed, Francis presents a welcome argument to the effect that exotic animal characteristics are unlikely to be adaptation, or they would be more widely share among species share the exotic species' life style and ecological niche. The female hyena's hypertrophied clitoris, the elephant's trunk, hermaphroditism fish, the giraffe's neck, and the human brain may all be examples of characteristics that occurred despite, rather than because of, adaptationist dynamics.

Francis is insistent that sociobiology can only countenance causal forces from physiology and genetic constitution to social constitution, and not vice versa. He contrasts this view, which he calls "misguided materialism" with the developmental view that social organization can affect brain physiology in the short run and genetic structure in the long run. Presumably he never heard of the Baldwin Effect (the term does not appear in his index), despite its centarian age, or the gene-culture coevolutionary models of Cavalli-sforza and Feldman, Boyd and Richerson, and a host of related analyses that have populated the biology, anthropology, and even economics journals for the past quarter century.

Perhaps the most egregious chapter in the book is "Sex without SEX," in which he critiques the adaptationist theory of sexual reproduction. Sexual reproduction is not an adaptation in vertebrates. Rather, he argues, there is a developmental constraint against hermaphrodism, and adaptationists are too blind to see this shining truth. Francis' argument is shabby and incorrect. First, sexual reproduction is extremely costly and could not persist if it did not provide offsetting advantages. Second, as he notes, there are many hermaphrodite fish species, and lizard species as well, but they appear to be evolutionary dead ends. This could be because there are development constraints in vertebrates (there certainly are, in the form of gene imprinting, in mammals), but this remains to be determined. Third, there is no general non-adaptationist theory of sexual reproduction, to my knowledge. He certainly presents none.

Historically, developmentalists have been indifferent or hostile to evolutionary modeling because the do not see how such dynamic historical modelshelp them develop the structural and developmental mechanisms characteristic of living organisms. This stance is no longer fruitful. We now understand that evolutionary models do not prove anything. Rather, they suggest hypotheses to be explored and substantiated. Adaptationist arguments are essential because they suggest the function of homologous and analogous physiological structures. Charting the development of behaviorally-relevant characteristics, such as brain size and social organization, the structure of brains and vocal apparati, using the paleographic evidence, sheds critical light on the path to successfully modeling biological development from the level of cell to that of the complex animal or human society. We increasingly need researchers to explore the synergy between development and evolution. This ill-tempered book could have been written in that spirit, but it was not.

 Trust and Reciprocity: Interdisciplinary Lessons from Experimental Research by Elinor OstromEdition: Hardcover
 5 used & new from CDN$54.85 5.0 out of 5 stars A Major Contribution to Understanding Altruism, April 11 2003 Trust and Reciprocity is an exciting compilation of cutting-edge experimental research into the bases of social cooperation. The editors and contributors are prominent and distinguished contributors to experimental and interdisciplinary approaches to modeling cooperation. The editors quickly identify the central problem of cooperation: while all gain from cooperating, each individual has an incentive to free-ride on the good will of the others. No cooperation takes place unless the free rider problem is successfully addressed. Ch. 2 presents compelling evidence that face-to-face communication alone is capable of sustaining cooperation in small groups, especially when the task is repeated several times. Moreover, if experimental subjects are allowed to fine shirkers, at a cost to themselves, they do so, despite that fact that purely self-interested subjects would never engage in such activity. There is a fine computer simulation (Ch. 7) that beautifully illustrates the capacity of agent-based modeling to generate interesting hypotheses concerning human behavior--in this case, the synergistic relationship between cooperation and conflict. The experimental chapters of of uniformly high quality, and quite illuminating, including a chapter on the development of trust and reciprocity in children. The theory side of the book is less successful. Several authors say that the experimental results "contradict game theory." This is simply incorrect. Like mathematics, game theory can be more or less useful in modeling a phenomenon, but it cannot be "wrong." Indeed, all of the experimental results are based squarely on game theory as a tool of experimental design. More important, despite ample evidence that trust and reciprocity cannot be explained assuming selfish individuals, the theorists in the book attempt repeatedly to assert just that. According to the authors, altruistic behavior is caused by mistakes in reasoning! The major theoretical chapter in the book (Ch. 4), for instance, is an exposition of Robert Trivers' concept of "reciprocal altruism," which is just long-term self-interest. The experimental results on reciprocity are incompatible with this concept, unless one assumes that subjects simply are ignorant and mistake-prone in their behavior. Numerous experiments show that this is decidedly not the case. In Chapter 6, we are told that subjects are only altruistic because they are afraid that the conditions of anonymity in the experiment are highly imperfect--despite the fact that the evidence for this is extremely weak (one study done in 1994, which has not been replicated, using a dictator game, which is not a social interaction or a social dilemma), and the evidence against which is virtually overwhelming. Later in the chapter we are told (p. 162) that people cooperate in one-shot games because they confuse them with repeated games, with which they are more familiar. This argument is specious, however, because many experiments reveal that people are quite capable of distinguishing between one-shots and repeated games, and cooperate much more in the latter than in the former. So this book will not win any awards for social theory, but it is deep and rich with highly insightful descriptions and analysis of human behavior under conditions where trust and reciprocity increase well being. The Russell Sage foundation, which underwrote the research and preparation of the volume, is to be commended for a job well done.  Passions Within Reasons by Robert H. FrankEdition: Paperback Price: CDN$ 24.55
 17 used & new from CDN$18.05 5.0 out of 5 stars A Pathbreaking Contribution, April 11 2003 Passions within Reason is a remarkably prescient and insightful book, drawing upon behavioral research of the decade leading to its publication (1988). It is also a rather subtle book. Even though I used in in a college course I taught in 1989, I do not believe I really understood it until I reread it very recently. Frank asks: why to people help others, and retaliate against others who harm them, even when they can expect no future personal, material gain from so doing? His answer is that there are emotional rewards to helping those who deserve our aid and hurting others who deserve our ire. Our behavior towards others is regulated by the passions: empathy, spite, shame, remorse, guilt, compassion, and the other social emotions. He then asks: why are those who behave in this emotional way not displaced (e.g., by having more offspring, or by acquiring more earthly possessions) by others who are purely selfish, and who help and hurt only when a dispassionate calculation indicates that it is in their material interest to do so? He answers this by noting that our emotions "precommit" us to keeping our promises and carrying out our threats, so that we gain in the long run by not being able (or willing) to make the dispassionate calculation. We gain because others will trust our promises and respect our threats. Frank calls the the "commitment model." This idea that it is "rational" to be "emotional" is, of course, a commonplace today, and has been popularized by neuroscientist Alberto Damasio's fine book, Descartes' Error, and more recently, philosopher Martha Nussbaum's UPheavals of Thought. Experiments using behavioral game theory more than amply confirm the centrality of emotions in decision-making even in the company of strangers (see papers on prosocial emotions on my web site: [...] A thornier question is: why can a purely selfish type (otherwise known as a sociopath) not simply mimic the behavior of a committed altruist when it suits his purposes, and not otherwise? If this were possible, and there were no other counteracting tendencies, sociopaths would surely drive out committed altruists. Here Frank is less convincing. He says simply that it is very hard to fake the emotions, just as it is difficult for a small bullfrog to fake his size by mimicking the deep-throated croaks of his larger bretheren. This is true, but some people do this very successfully. Why do they not prosper? Moreover, there is no obvious developmental constraint in humans opposing the evolution of excellent emotional cheats. Perhaps the payoffs to faking commitment are not that high. Surely this would explain why it is "difficult to fake emotions": they payoff to doing is low or negative, so the capacity for faking has not evolved to a high level in humans. More recent research, using models of gene-culture coevolution, indicate that this may well be the case. See, for instance, Herbert Gintis, "The Hitchhiker's Guide to Altruism: Genes, Culture, and the Internalization of Norms", Journal of Theoretical Biology 220,4 (2003):407-418, and Robert Boyd, Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles and Peter J. Richerson, "Evolution of Altruistic Punishment", Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 100,6 [mar] (2003):3531-3535.  Eurekas and Euphorias: The Oxford Book of Scientific Anecdotes by Walter GratzerEdition: Hardcover Price: CDN$ 50.37
 20 used & new from CDN$0.01 5.0 out of 5 stars [] Tales for Scientists, March 9 2003 If you love science, you love humor, and you are a student of human behavior, this is a book for you. I enjoyed virtually every one of these nine score vignettes. But these are not just stories. Most are [] tales, in which good tends to triumph over [bad]. Some are about brilliant female scientists who overcome male chauvinism, and other about the numerous afflictions beset upon Jewish scientists in the Nazi era. Several illustrate the intrinsic carnality of science--scientists who experiment on themselves and who revel in human bodily fluids. The stories are also often quite instructive, in case you are not totally up to snuff in chemistry or physics, and could use a non-technical refresher.  The Hidden Connections: Integrating the Biological, Cognitive, and Social Dimensions of Life Into a Science of Substainability by Fritjof CapraEdition: Hardcover  18 used & new from CDN$ 13.36

2.0 out of 5 stars The New Age Philosophy of Life and Behavior Falls Short, Dec 6 2002
Capra is a physicist but his writing is geared towards instructing non-science types in the implications of science for the meaning of our lives. This is a very admirable goal, and more physicists should become engaged in this critically important task. The problem is that Capra's analysis and interpretations make very little contact with the physical reality he is trying to describe. Rather, he couches pedestrian descriptions of the natural world in complex new age terminology that might lull the unknowledgeable reader that something is being said, when in fact, nothing is being said.

For instance, we are informed that life is characterized by cellular constitution, and cells are autopoietic, dissipative structures. When you find out what these arcane terms mean, you are no closer to understanding life, or even cells. Capra doesn't bother talking about what cella are really like, or why life consists of cells. He simply describes them in complicated terms, drawing on the philosophers Maturana and Varela, who impress non-scientists with their verbal facility, but cut no ice with those who really study life. He flirts with Prigogine's quirky (and completely unuseful for practicing scientists) interpretation of thermodynamics, and since Prigogine is a Nobelist, we are supposed to be duly impressed. I am not. Prigogine did excellent work in the early 1950's, but then seemed to don some sort of intellectual toga and gave up interacting with the real world.

I am not prone to an excess of emotion in evaluating scientific projects, which probably saves Capra from a good deal of invective in this review. But, I purchased the book, and I am allowed my say. This book is a hoax, as are all new age interpretations of physical and biology that I have come across. The only readers who will be impressed are the scientifically naive and the scientifically informed who have dropped into the sixth dimension to do a little soul-repairing.

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