Category Archives: books

E. O. Wilson: Science, not religion or philosophy, will tell us the meaning of human existence

Reader Rick called my attention to this 2014 video from E. O. Wilson on “The Big Think” site. The nine-minute talk is apparently based on his then-recent book, The Meaning of Human Existence—the one book of Wilson’s I haven’t read. When you’ll watch the video, you’ll see that Wilson appears firmly in the camp of what […]

The science books that inspired eight science writers (and me)

Yesterday’s Guardian has nice survey of eight science writers (many of them working scientists): “‘I was hooked for life’: Science writers on the books that inspired them.” They don’t make it clear that they’re really asking about popular books, as some of the books that “fired my imagination”, as the article notes, weren’t science trade […]

A great Radiolab show: Robert Sapolsky on why we don’t have free will

As I always say, it’s easier to convince a diehard creationist of the truth of evolution than to convince a diehard atheist of the fact that our behaviors are determined, and that we can’t make alternative choices at a given moment. Yet there are some enlightened folk who not only accept determinism but deny that […]

Matthew reviews three books on gene editing

Here’s a nice tweet: My NYRB review of Doudna's CRISPR book (and others) now online. https://t.co/YY45B7LILP — Matthew Cobb (@matthewcobb) July 1, 2017 New York Review of Books pieces aren’t often free, so it’s nice that this one, which has Matthew reviewing three books on biotechnology and genetics (list below), is available gratis at the […]

My WaPo review of a new book on gene editing

I’ve reviewed the new book by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg, A Crack in Creation: Gene Editing and The Unthinkable Power to Control Evolution; my piece is online at today’s Washington Post and will be on the first page of the “Outlook” section in the Sunday paper. The review is free to access, and is called “New […]

Kenan Malik: more on cultural appropriation

Yesterday I highlighted Kenan Malik’s take on cultural appropriation (he dislikes those who police it) as well as some of the pushback he got from Culture Warriors. Grania pointed out that Maliks has issued a series of tw**ts asking critics of c.a. some pointed questions. Those who are quick to deny others the right to […]

Spy novel author advised by an editor not to create black characters because he is white

This story  was reported in the BBC,  but verified by the Guardian and the Torygraph. It’s another example of so-called cultural appropriation, and an example that is risible. It involves Anthony Horowitz, an author of spy and mystery novels and a screenwriter who is well regarded, at least in some quarters, for he has an OBE. I […]

Fact of the day: Moby Dick was based on a real whale

I just found this out while writing a talk. The whale “Moby Dick” in Melville’s eponymous novel was in fact based on a genuine white whale, one called “Mocha Dick.” (You never know where new talks will lead.) The cetacean has its own Wikipedia entry which includes, among other things, these facts: Mocha Dick was […]

An evolutionary biologist misrepresents sexual selection in The New York Times

Friday’s New York Times contained an article on sexual selection in birds (link and title in the picture below) by Richard O. Prum, the William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at Yale’s Peabody Museum of Natural History. Prum has a new book out, The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin’s Forgotten Theory of Mate […]

A new book on CRISPR, gene editing, and their ethical implications

Word on the street is that the book shown below, by Jennifer Doudna and Samuel Sternberg, is very good (it’s out on June 13; click on screenshot to go to Amazon link). You may have heard of Berkeley professor Jennifer Doudna, one of the pioneers in using the new CRISPR technique to genetically edit cells—”genome editing”; […]