Category Archives: book reviews

New York Times’s “Ten best books of 2016”. . . and what do you recommend?

Below is the list of the best books of this year selected by the New York Times; one of them was recommended by Nigel Warburton in his Five Books post about the best popular philosophy books.) If you’ve read any of these, weigh in below. I provide the Times‘s brief synopsis and a link to their reviews. […]

Nigel Warburton: Best philosophy books of 2016

Sophie Roell of Five Books interviewed freelance philosopher Nigel Warburton  (bio here) on his choices for the best popular philosophy books of 2016. The choices are interesting, and I’ll read at least two of them—probably the first two. I’ll show the books and then summarize a few of Warburton’s comments (indented) An intro: Over the […]

The best review yet of Tom Wolfe’s book on language

I don’t think my WaPo review of Tom Wolfe’s new book The Kingdom of Speech was half bad, but there’s a better one out, which is very long and ergo can cover a lot more ground. It’s at 3:AM Magazine, is by “E. J. Spode” (probably a pseudonym), and, when printed out, is 19 pages long. But […]

More Egnorance about Darwin and language in the Washington Post

Well, given the number of comments on my review in the Washington Post of Tom Wolfe’s abysmal new book on Darwin, Chomsky, and the evolutionary basis of language (Wolfe says there is no such basis), I shouldn’t have been surprised that there would be pushback from readers. But what I didn’t expect was that one of the […]

NPR’s Barbara King dismisses Tom Wolfe’s knowledge of evolution, but still recommends reading his new book

Barbara King, a retired anthropology professor at William and Mary (my alma mater), has a regular column at National Public Radio’s (NPR’s), Cosmos & Culture site.  The column this week, “Evolution uproar: What to do when a famous author dismisses Darwin, ” is devoted to Tom Wolfe’s new book The Kingdom Of Speech, which I reviewed […]

The masses comment on the Wolfe review

Nick Cohen’s advice to authors includes this gem: “Never read the comments.” And I nearly always follow that dictum, except for the comments on this site.  I also made an exception for my review of Tom Wolfe’s book in the Washington Post. I wanted to see how people reacted to my defense of evolution, realizing that […]

I’m #3

This is gratifying, despite the numerous creationists infesting the comments—people who don’t know squat about biology and nevertheless feel compelled to pronounce on it. Several people said, “We know nothing about speciation,” apparently unaware that I wrote a 450-page book telling biologists what we know (and want to know) about that very field! Even worse […]

Two morning tw**ts

Although I don’t follow anyone on Twi**er, as I’d never get anything done if I did, I do count on the kindness of stranger (and readers) to call interesting tw**ts to my attention. Here’s one that Grania sent me. I must admit, this solution to the trolley problem had escaped me… https://t.co/qBpTilAwT9 — Sam Harris (@SamHarrisOrg) […]

NYT’s pathetic summary of Tom Wolfe’s book misses the boat on evolution and linguistics

What would a major newspaper do if they were discussing the views of a famous scientist who went off the rails about something unrelated to their profession? Take Lynn Margulis, for example, rightly renowned for promulgating (but not inventing) the idea that mitochondria within cells are actually the remnants of bacteria, showing an ancient event in […]

USA today gives Tom Wolfe’s book three stars out of four

This is what happens when a book reviewer is assigned a book in which he has no expertise whatsoever. Over at USA Today, Don Oldenburg reviews Tom Wolfe’s new book, The Kingdom of Speech. I’ve read the book, and its thesis is that human language is not in any way a product of biological evolution. […]