The award-winning journalist Lisa Margonelli, national bestselling author of Oil on the Brain: Petroleum's Long, Strange Trip to Your Tank, investigates the environmental and economic impact termites inflict on human societies in this fascinating examination of one of nature's most misunderstood insects.
Are we more like termites than we ever imagined? In Underbug, the award-winning journalist Lisa Margonelli introduces us to the enigmatic creatures that collectively outweigh human beings ten to one and consume $40 billion worth of valuable stuff annually--and yet, in Margonelli's telling, seem weirdly familiar. Over the course of a decade-long obsession with the little bugs, Margonelli pokes around termite mounds and high-tech research facilities, closely watching biologists, roboticists, and geneticists. Her globe-trotting journey veers into uncharted territory, from evolutionary theory to Edwardian science literature to the military industrial complex. What begins as a natural history of the termite becomes a personal exploration of the unnatural future we're building, with darker observations on power, technology, historical trauma, and the limits of human cognition.
Whether in Namibia or Cambridge, Arizona or Australia, Margonelli turns up astounding facts and raises provocative questions. Is a termite an individual or a unit of a superorganism? Can we harness the termite's properties to change the world? If we build termite-like swarming robots, will they inevitably destroy us? Is it possible to think without having a mind? Underbug burrows into these questions and many others--unearthing disquieting answers about the world's most underrated insect and what it means to be human.
This study provides a stimulating critique of contemporary evolutionary thought, analyzing the Modern Synthesis first developed by Theodosius Dobzhansky, Ernst Mayr, and George Gaylord Simpson. The author argues that although only genes and organisms are taken as historic "individuals" in conventional theory, species, higher taxa, and ecological entities such as populations and communities should also be construed as individuals--an approach that yields the ecological and genealogical hierarchies that interact to produce evolution. This clearly stated, controversial work will provoke much debate among evolutionary biologists, systematists, paleontologists, and ecologists, as well as a wide range of educated lay readers.
Unifying Biology offers a historical reconstruction of one of the most important yet elusive episodes in the history of modern science: the evolutionary synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s. For more than seventy years after Darwin proposed his theory of evolution, it was hotly debated by biological scientists. It was not until the 1930s that opposing theories were finally refuted and a unified Darwinian evolutionary theory came to be widely accepted by biologists. Using methods gleaned from a variety of disciplines, Vassiliki Betty Smocovitis argues that the evolutionary synthesis was part of the larger process of unifying the biological sciences.
At the same time that scientists were working toward a synthesis between Darwinian selection theory and modern genetics, they were, according to the author, also working together to establish an autonomous community of evolutionists. Smocovitis suggests that the drive to unify the sciences of evolution and biology was part of a global philosophical movement toward unifying knowledge. In developing her argument, she pays close attention to the problems inherent in writing the history of evolutionary science by offering historiographical reflections on the practice of history and the practice of science. Drawing from some of the most exciting recent approaches in science studies and cultural studies, she argues that science is a culture, complete with language, rituals, texts, and practices. Unifying Biology offers not only its own new synthesis of the history of modern evolution, but also a new way of doing history.
To those struggling on the frontlines to save endangered plants and animals, the crucial challenge is to confront the biological causes of those species' decline. But just as threatening to their survival are obstacles erected by human politics, greed, corruption, folly, and hypocrisy. In this mesmerizing book, Beverly and Stephen Stearns tell the stories of people who have worked directly with disappearing species in Europe, Africa, North America, and Oceania. They are stories of passion and commitment, of competence and selflessness. They are also stories that alarm, for even as unheralded heroes are working to reverse what often seems to be a species' inevitable march toward extinction, incompetent or self-interested parties are often working against them.The authors interviewed people who work with endangered species as diverse as Mediterranean monk seals, large blue butterflies, African wild dogs, native Hawaiian crows, Texas salamanders, and rare plants on Mauritius. These dedicated individuals, in discussing how they view their work, the problems they encounter, and their thoughts on the broader significance of extinction, reveal that the causes of extinction are unique to each species--sometimes subtle and complex, at other times obvious and simple. Yet an extinction always represents an irretrievable loss of evolutionary potential and a diminishing of the beauty, diversity, and value in our own lives. The dramatic lessons of this book shed new light on the problems of endangered species and offer hope that we may yet change the fate of those species that totter on the edge of extinction.
Endorsed by William Dembski, Ph.D., the scientist at the forefront of the intelligent-design movement. Darwin might have thought twice about publishing his theories if he had had access to today's medical and microbiological discoveries. Drawing on years of research, Dr. Simmons demonstrates that the almost infinite complexity of the human anatomy simply could not have developed by chance. For example: the body runs on "battery power"...from the hundreds of mitochondria in each cell the two sexes-evolutionary theory cannot explain why they exist every cell is its own pharmacist, chemist, and metallurgist Accessible, clearly presented, and utterly fascinating, What Darwin Didn't Know shows the human body to be a marvelous system constructed by an infinitely wise Designer.
With a New Afterword
What Darwin Got Wrong is a remarkable book, one that dares to challenge the theory of natural selection as an explanation for how evolution works--a devastating critique not in the name of religion but in the name of good science. Combining the results of cutting-edge work in experimental biology with crystal-clear philosophical arguments, Fodor and Piattelli-Palmarini mount a reasoned and convincing assault on the central tenets of Darwin's account of the origin of species. This is a concise argument that will transform the debate about evolution and move us beyond the false dilemma of being either for natural selection or against science.
From the moment it first began to contemplate the world, three questions have occupied the human mind: Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going? Artists (notably Paul Gauguin), religious thinkers, philosophers, and most recently scientists have all searched for answers. Here, the authors describe how scientists decipher human origin from the record encrypted in the DNA and protein molecules. After explaining the nature of descent and the methods available for studying genealogical relationships, they summarize the information revealed by the molecular archives about the Tree of Life and our location on one of its branches. The knowledge thus gleaned allows them to draw conclusions about our identity, our place in the living world, our future, and the ethical implications of the changed perspective.
Only in fairly recent years has History and Philosophy of Science been recognized - though not always under that name - as a distinct field of scholarly endeavour. Previously, in the Australasian region as elsewhere, those few individuals working within this broad area of inquiry found their base, both intellectually and socially, where they could. In fact, the institutionalization of History and Philosophy of Science began compara- tively early in Australia. An initial lecturing appointment was made at the University of Melbourne immediately after the Second World War, in 1946, and other appointments followed as the subject underwent an expansion during the 1950s and '60s similar to that which took place in other parts of the world. Today there are major Departments at the University of Melbourne, the University of New South Wales and the University of Wollongong, and smaller groups active in many other parts of Australia, and in New Zealand. "Australasian Studies in History and Philosophy of Science" aims to provide a distinctive publication outlet for Australian and New Zealand scholars working in the general area of history, philosophy and social studies of science. Each volume will comprise a group of essays on a connected theme, edited by an Australian or a New Zealander with special expertise in that particular area. The series should, however, prove of more than merely local interest. Papers will address general issues; parochial topics will be avoided.