Word Up #2

Formerly Fun's Second Installment of the Word Up Book Awards
Like I said in the first installment, other people get to give away made up awards so I want in. This is a trio, the last of the science series and then I'll move on to some fiction. No one, not even scientists, can know everything about science. There is too much breadth and too much depth. Still, as a citizen of the world and in consideration of the marvels of our time, we owe it to ourselves to at least be literate with regards to science. Many people don't read 'science' (no hubs, World War Z is not a science book) enough because they think it's too dry or boring. To them I say phooey, you just haven't picked up the right book. These three books were easy reads and made the stuff not just palatable but exciting. You want your Aha moment? Shut off Oprah and open one of these.

Best Trio of Books on Human Evolution and Evolutionary Biology, which may sound boring but its really about weird mating rituals, hot animal sex and guns and killin'.

Guns, Germs & Steel: The Fates of Human Societies-Jared Diamond
Diamond explores the forces which have shaped thousands of years of human history. Want to know why Smallpox was more effective than weapons in virtually emptying in just a few generations the continents of the Americas of their native inhabitants? Diamond asserts that the cultures that domesticated plants and animals early got a head start on developing writing, government, technology, weapons of war, and immunity to deadly germs.

The Red Queen: Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature-Matt Ridley
This is my favorite of the three because it's mostly about sex. Why exactly do we have sex? Using Lewis Carroll's Red Queen (who runs as fast as she can to stay in the same place) as a metaphor for evolution, Ridley explains why sex was the result of an evolutionary arms race between hosts and their disease-causing parasites. Constantly combining and recombining genes every generation, people "keep their genes one step ahead of their parasites," strengthening resistance to bacteria and viruses that cause deadly diseases or epidemics. Isn't that sexy? If you are a creation scientist(snickering, sorry) or a intelligent design proponent(sorry again snickering, unlike politics this is one area I just can't allow for a broad swath of opinions given the facts), you will not like this book. If you want to know why he thinks women as the gender that has to spend the most time and energy creating and rearing offspring tend to avoid extra mating and why John Edwards wants to be polygamous(he's only trying to help us become more disease resistant people) you will enjoy this book.

The Lucifer Principle-A scientific expedition into the forces of history.-Howard Bloom
Bloom unites genetics, animal biology, cultural history, anthropology and philosophy to explain why violence, destructiveness and war is woven into our biological fabric. He uses concepts like pecking order, memes (self-replicating clusters of ideas)no they are not just blog surveys, the "neural net" or group mind of the social "superorganism" to try to explain the often violent history of humankind. Read this book and you'll be equipped with loads of anecdotes to debut at the next cocktail party you attend because don't we all go to cocktail parties constantly?

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Captain Steve said... August 22, 2008 at 2:19 PM  

This is where my girl crush on you begins. Bugs and history. I now declare my undying love.

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