Category Archives: books

Freud the fraud: a new book

I’m about halfway through the 600-page book (with over 100 additional pages of notes) by my friend Fred Crews, Freud: The Making of an Illusion, which will be formally released on Tuesday. It’s an excellent read: Fred was formerly chair of the English Department at the University of California at Berkeley, and writes clearly and […]

Robert Sapolsky and Sam Harris on neurobiology, free will, and baboons

I’ve recently been introduced to neurobiologist and science writer Robert Sapolsky (see my post here), and am looking forward to reading his new book Behave: The Biology of Humans at Our Best and Worst. Apparently a lot of the book is devoted to the topic of free will, which was a big part of the […]

The New Yorker admits atheism

I’ve been critical before about the New Yorker‘s implicit dissing of science as well as its softness toward religion (see here, here and here, for instance).  After all, the clientele of the magazine is liberal, wealthy, and though they’re probably not religious, they like a gentlemanly, well-fed detente between science and religion. The magazine also has […]

Did Hitler have free will?

Ron Rosenbaum’s 1998 book, Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil, got a lot of critical approbation, much of it apparently for the author’s argument that many “Hitler studies” arrived at conclusions that were simply a projection of the authors’ preconceived biases onto the Hitler story. Here’s a bit of the original New […]

What I’m reading (and you?)

I usually read only one book at a time, but for some reason I’m now engaged with four. That makes it hard, because I have to choose, of an evening, which one to continue; and unless I alternate them frequently, I forget what I’ve read a week ago. Here are the four, one of which […]

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. — 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 […]