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What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes
What It Means to Be 98% Chimpanzee: Apes, People, and Their Genes
by Jonathan Marks
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 37.00
20 used & new from CDN$ 25.51

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Politicized Science, Jan. 2 2004
Marks book is not about science in any real sense. It is about politics. Over the course of his examination of biological incursions into anthropology, ranging from sociobiology to genetic testing of ancient skeletons, the only unifying theme to the book is that any conclusion that does not support progressive causes must be wrong and that any research that might hurt someone's feelings should not be attempted. Marks states both tenets explicitly several times.
That is not to say that all of his discussions are bad. If you leave out the irrational political diatribes, his accounts of some of the conclusions of sociobiology, for example, are spot on. His discussion of sociobiology in general, however, is based wholly on his beliefs about the political motivations of sociobiologists.
He does not provide logical arguments against most of his targets, but rather uses examples that seem to be chosen for their ability to offend a modern audience without regard to their relevance. Nazi Germany is invoked continuously, for example, although modern work is not derived from 1930's and 40's continental scholarship. He also misrepresents not only the motivations but also the results and theses of other researchers with the express intent of comparing them to the Nazis. The reader is often left with the impression that Marks bases his discussion on hearsay instead of studying the work of the scientists whose work he examines.
This is why the tone of this book often makes it difficult to finish a section.
Marks inadvertently makes a good case for not listing anthropology among the sciences. Although he has great pretensions for the field--it is supposed to be both a link between the modern and the pre-modern worlds and a link between the sciences and the humanities, while remaining itself a science--, he defines anthropology politically. Its purpose is to help the oppressed, foreign and domestic, deal with their exploiters. Thus, anthropologist's conclusions must face a political test to be considered correct (or, "convincing," as he likes to put it). Any field so construed is not science; any anthropologist following his advice would not be a scientist.
Marks believes, and restates often, that science should be Hippocratic. All science should look at what possible harm, including psychic harm, a discovery could do before the inception of an experimental program. Some knowledge is bad knowledge.
Marks justifies his politicized stance childishly. To paraphrase, "they (e.g., the Nazis) politicized anthropology first, so I can, too."
He has similarly irrational restrictive requirements on experiments. Experiments that wouldn't yield enough data to be conclusive should begin. For experimental sciences physics, perhaps, this might be a good rule, but for forensic sciences like astronomy and biology this would be devastating. Data needs to be added as it comes in.
If you would like a good discussion of the issues Marks addresses, such as human intelligence, crime, and paleoanthropology, you should go elsewhere. If you would like some debating points that occasionally reference scientific work, then you should read this book.

Explaining Human Origins: Myth, Imagination and Conjecture
Explaining Human Origins: Myth, Imagination and Conjecture
by Wiktor Stoczkowski
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 33.12
21 used & new from CDN$ 21.84

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Critical Overview, Aug. 19 2003
Explaining Human Origins is quite a find. Stoczkowski shows both an encyclopedic acquaintance with the available facts and the modern theories concerning anthropogenesis. He also applies a penetrating, logical insight into the interaction between them. This relationship is, in his opinion, all too often none at all.
He subjects twenty-four hominization scenarios offered over the past two centuries to critical scrutiny, and none of them stand up. Much of the book is taken up with rewriting accounts of bipedalism, brain formation and growth, tool use, etc., in the form of syllogisms, each of which is evaluated with reference to their consistency with the archeological record, their plausibility from other sciences, and their possibility of verification or falsification. Historical, cultural, and political biases are rampant in the analyses, leading researchers not only to hypothesize beyond the facts, but also ignore them and invent others. Many accounts are found to have their origin in classical times, and almost all contain biases from thinkers who speculated before the Additionally, the accounts by scientists of the evolution of human beings are almost always at odds with Darwinism, and even Darwin is found to resort to Lamarckianism in the explanation of bipedalism in humans. More recent scientists are shown try to rephrase pre-Darwinian explanations in terms of natural selection without success.
Beyond its value as a critical work, this book also makes a fine reference text. It has a broad scope, good footnoting, and a twenty-five-page bibliography.

The Evolution of Reason: Logic as a Branch of Biology
The Evolution of Reason: Logic as a Branch of Biology
by William S. Cooper
Edition: Hardcover
Price: CDN$ 108.76
17 used & new from CDN$ 24.54

2.0 out of 5 stars Of Very Little Use, June 25 2003
In _The Evolution of Reason_, William S. Cooper shows that, using a simple decision theoretical model of evolution and another of the environment you can find the seeds of classical analytical thought. He does this by "reduction," showing that "evolution" requires decision theory, which in turn requires probability theory, and so on down to basic propositional logic. Although this is precisely the opposite of what is usually meant by reduction in mathematics, Cooper is trying to give a "scientific" or empirical underpinning to the rules of rational thought rather than to begin with a priori assumptions about truth, such as the law of the excluded middle, or the most elegant -- that is to say, smallest -- batch of primitive assumptions. It should be clear that every step except the first is valid.
This is only half of the book, however. In later chapters, he examines complications to his model to see how they affect his derivation, and upon this basis makes some suggestions about how logic as a discipline should be practiced. Although a simplification, I think it is fair to say that he would like further reasoning about logic to be descriptive, to show how we should think in light of biology instead of some
The major annoyances from this book come are in its tone: the author constantly compares himself with Copernicus, Newton, and Einstein and calls his thesis "scientific," even though it is based in no way upon empirical data, or even "evolutionary theory," as he claims. Like many theorists with radical conjectures, he chides (unnamed) people for trying to think of situations in the world that could actually test the hypothesis, and the empirical arguments he does refute are obviously straw men.
The least satisfactory part of the book is the identification of an ill-defined concept of fitness (which the author himself says he doubts) with subjective utilities. In particular, he postulates intelligence to be evolution by other means by imposing on human judgment that the limit of subjective probability assessment be objective probabilities and the limit of utility (happiness) assessment be evolutionary fitness (more or less, fertility rates).
Were this book less expensive, I would think about using it in a freshman or sophomore-level logic class in conjunction with Flew's _Thinking About Thinking_. Its earlier sections are a good introduction to the connections between differently levels of mathematics, its various discussions of plausible inference and subjective probability are accessible, and its later interpretations show logic to be alive in a way that could encourage students.
Usually, I wouldn't recommend it to the general reader, however I think that because of currently fashionable academic trends, it is likely that Cooper's theory or one very much like it will become very popular in the coming decades, and it might behoove an interested party to be familiar with it beforehand.

Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts
Early Chinese Work in Natural Science: A Re-examination of the Physics of Motion, Acoustics, Astronomy and Scientific Thoughts
by Joseph Chen
Edition: Hardcover
12 used & new from CDN$ 27.60

4.0 out of 5 stars Nice Overview; Conceptually Flawed, July 2 2002
The interesting part of this work is its meat. The middle chapters deal with early Chinese thought in the areas of mechanics, acoustics, and astronomy; and although the overview of motion is rather unconvincing, the much longer chapters on sound and celestial motions, etc., are quite satisfying. There are also some quite strange discussions dealing with powers of binomials and the Tao, but unlike many works, these are plausible.
The real weakness in the work comes from the discussions in the introduction and the epilogue, wherein it is explicitly assumed that all thoughts about nature are, in fact, scientific. This colors much of the commentary and is probably the cause of the rather strange method of juxtaposing parables and paradoxes, as in the case sayings by Hui Shi and Zeno.
Thus, we end up comparing what is believed by two different groups of people, without regard for why they believe it. This text is then limited when used in conjunction with Lloyd's /Early Greek Science: Thales to Aristotle/ or Popper's essays in /The World of Parmenides/: we learn nothing of the way in which these beliefs were selected, and cannot compare whether or not there was science in China.
This is academic, of course. The book in itself is well written and contains more than enough information to be of use in itself. Additionally, it is well footnoted and has an excellent bibliography, making it as useful a tool as it is an interesting read.
You should buy this book if you come across it or it comes back into print.

Schaum's Outline of Lagrangian Dynamics
Schaum's Outline of Lagrangian Dynamics
by Dare Wells
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 15.29
33 used & new from CDN$ 7.43

5.0 out of 5 stars The Very Best, July 2 2002
This is the best of Schaum's Outlines. Not only is the treatment of variational mechanics complete, with exposition on every major aspect of the derivation and solution dynamical equations, it does so while exceeding all junior-level texts on analytical mechanics. Its treatment of dissipation functions in chapter six, moreover, is better than the available graduate textbooks on the subject. This is the one workbook in the series that you must own for learning and for future reference.

Capitalism and Justice: Envisioning Social and Economic Fairness
Capitalism and Justice: Envisioning Social and Economic Fairness
by John Isbister
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 31.98
21 used & new from CDN$ 5.84

1.0 out of 5 stars Banal, March 17 2002
I would like to say that this book is as bad as it gets, but I've learned that such optimism is rarely justified. I can say no more, then, than that Capitalism and Justice is the most flagrant example of economic casuistry that I've run across to date.
The general, and supportable, thesis is that moral considerations require a certain amount of intervention in the economy and our personal lives in order to correct the amoral influence of free markets. Nothing that you won't find in cocktail party conversations anywhere within fifty miles of an ocean. This book does not do a very good job of the demonstration.
A synopsis of Isbister's discussion of equality should do to show exactly how vapid his arguments are. After examining some justifications for equality as a moral postulate (including Rawls), he denies that any are viable. Since he wants to base his analysis of justice (particularly income inequality) on equality, freedom, and efficiency, obviously he needs to give us a reason why we should. Citing the Declaration of Independence, he decides that he can simply assume equality is good, and go on from there.
Now, he has to decide which sort of equality to use, and so sets up a false dichotomy: should it be equality of opportunity or equality of outcome? The most obvious third choice (equality under the law) is discussed later in a different context (freedom), but what he does with these two is hilarious. He looks at what he wants to call fair, and stipulates that someone who works harder should receive more; therefore he eschews the later equality and prefers the former, which are obviously contradictory in this context. However, he notes, that if outcomes are different for one generation, then opportunities are different for the next; therefore the one implies the other. Rather than note that this is a real problem to which a real solution is needed (such as only using equality of outcomes), he just calls this an "indeterminacy" and decides to apply both principles to income distributions.
How does he do this? He decides that having a 1:1, or equal, distribution of incomes is neither possible nor good, so there must be a larger one. What is it? 8:1; specifically, $20,000 to $160,000. Why? "This is the roughest and most intuitive of conclusions." He guessed. The distribution should also be Gaussian, he says, even though he admits that supervisors should usually be paid more than their subordinates, which would normally imply something closer to a gamma distribution.
About seventy percent of us already fall into the category given (including children under eighteen, college students and retired people and not including all redistributive programs). Why we should put any effort into modifying the income distribution is not given.
His account of freedom is similarly insipid (using the kind of analysis of liberty that the Soviets used as a rationalization), and his criticisms of Nozick are inept. He tells us that it is not just for us to willingly give a quarter to Wilt Chamberlain to see him play, or at least for him to keep the money, because part of the reason he was so good is that he's so much taller than we.
Isbister also looks at the nature of capitalism, globalization, and the environment with just as much insight.
I wonder whom this book was meant for. It is certainly not a scholarly tome, nor is it introductory. Nowhere does it look like a book meant for history. It's really just the sort of thing that Isbister probably talks about once the vodka martinis start flowing out of the mouths of fountains camouflaged as busts of Marx at the college library; it's a book meant to show his friends how dedicated he is to the cause.
If you're considering this book, I'd suggest leafing through it at the library before buying it to make sure it's your cup of tea.

The Idea of Capitalism before the Industrial Revolution
The Idea of Capitalism before the Industrial Revolution
by Richard Grassby
Edition: Textbook Binding
Price: CDN$ 31.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 20.32

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Introduction I've Seen, March 4 2002
Grassby's little book is an excellent introduction to the concept of capitalism. It admonishes us at the beginning to discard our preconceived notions: the idea is neither theoretical nor is it empirical. It is merely socialism's Demiurge. (Indeed, the term comes into the English language in translation from a French socialist, according to the OED.) Just as there are many inconsistent versions of socialism, its straw man, pretending to be a description of the status quo, varies at least as much. The author then goes on to describe briefly (that is, the rest of the book, which is only seventy-three pages) how the concept is used in the study of history and how any given effect that has been blamed on or (less often) credited to free markets pre-dates the industrial revolution, and can only rarely can be attributed to mutually beneficial exchange. The analysis in, and above all the skepticism of, this account make this a very fine place to begin any inquiry into the nature of the thing called capitalism.
The problems with the book are that it is too short, it lacks footnotes, and its bibliographical essay includes only relatively new sources, requiring the reader to take notes or shuffle through the book to find the authors and titles actually discussed in text.

The Idea of Capitalism before the Industrial Revolution
The Idea of Capitalism before the Industrial Revolution
by Richard Grassby
Edition: Textbook Binding
Price: CDN$ 31.95
19 used & new from CDN$ 20.32

5.0 out of 5 stars The Best Introduction I've Seen, March 4 2002
Grassby's little book is an excellent introduction to the concept of capitalism. It admonishes us at the beginning to discard our preconceived notions: the idea is neither theoretical nor is it empirical. It is merely socialism's Demiurge. (Indeed, the term comes into the English language in translation from a French socialist, according to the OED.) Just as there are many inconsistent versions of socialism, its straw man, pretending to be a description of the status quo, varies at least as much. The author then goes on to describe briefly (that is, the rest of the book, which is only seventy-three pages) how the concept is used in the study of history and how any given effect that has been blamed on or (less often) credited to free markets pre-dates the industrial revolution, and can only rarely can be attributed to mutually beneficial exchange. The analysis in, and above all the skepticism of, this account make this a very fine place to begin any inquiry into the nature of the thing called capitalism.
The problems with the book are that it is too short, it lacks footnotes, and its bibliographical essay includes only relatively new sources, requiring the reader to take notes or shuffle through the book to find the authors and titles actually discussed in text.

Inimitable Jeeves
Inimitable Jeeves
by P. G. Wodehouse
Edition: Paperback
33 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Fun, Nov. 3 2000
This review is from: Inimitable Jeeves (Paperback)
This book isn't quite a novel, but rather a series of related short stories that approximate one. Each works quite well in this context and contains the usual Wodehouse verbal charm, but with the added bonus of allowing you to absorb the whole scene without need to reference much of the rest.
What you miss out on is the author's (unique, at least in the past century) ability to weave an intricate and unblemished plot over two hundred and fifty pages, but it can be fun to examine a thread in detail from time to time.

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