SelectScience: Books


NON ZERO: THE LOGIC OF HUMAN DESTINY by Robert Wright,2000. "...a marvelous summary and interpretation of what is now known and surmised about biological and human history on our planet."--W.H.McNeill, U. of Chicago.

ACQUIRING GENOMES: A THEORY OF THE ORIGINS OF SPECIES by Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan, 2002. "An ambitious work that casts an intriguing light on how the planet's myraid life forms came to be."--Washington Post.

DARWIN'S BLIND SPOT: EVOLUTION BEYOND NATURAL SELECTION by Frank Ryan, 2002. "The evolutionary method of symbiosis, or interaction between species," with narrative on scientific controversies within Darwinian evolution.

EVOLUTION IN FOUR DIMENSIONS Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

WAR ON SCIENCE CHRIS MOONEY -- "the full story of how science became a political football in modern American life" By Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb,with illustrations by Anna Zeligowski(2005)

BEFORE DARWIN Reconciling God and Nature, by Keith Thomson (2005)


THE LIVES OF A CELL:NOTES OF A BIOLOGY WATCHER by Lewis Thomas, 1974. A revolutionary intimate view of the micro and macro in evolution and life, still notable for its beautiful writing and point of view.

THE ONLY WORLD WE'VE GOT by Paul Shepard (1996)"Paul Shepard's work represents one of the most important syntheses available today on the subject of the human condition."--Morris Berman. This is a selection of Shepard's work from some of his phenomenal books, a decent starting point and an education in itself. Shepard synthesizes information from evolutionary biology and other sciences, including social sciences---all relevant areas of knowledge. For my money there wasn't a more important thinker in the 20th century, nor one whose thoughts could be more important to the 21st.

Other Paul Shepard books of particular note: NATURE AND MADNESS (1982,1998),COMING HOME TO THE PLEISTOCENE (1998), TRACES OF AN OMNIVORE (1996).


THE END OF CERTAINTY: TIME, CHAOS, AND THE NEW LAWS OF NATURE by Ilya Prigogine, 1996. "A pioneer of chaos and self-organization theory, and his vision is as revolutionary and fundamental as Darwin's."--Oliver Sacks.

CHAOS: MAKING A NEW SCIENCE by James Gleick,1987. The definitive work on the development of chaos theory, and one of the best science stories of all time.

COMPLEXITY: The Emerging Science at the Edge of Ordr and Chaos by M. Mitchell Waldrop (1992)Pretty much the foundation text of the new field of complexity, with many more theoretical books following. This one is also an adventure story.

GENIUS: THE LIFE AND SCIENCE OF RICHARD FEYNMAN by James Gleick, 1992. Biography of the enigmatic genius physicist, and "The clearest statement I have seen of the true spirit of science."--Freeman Dyson.

EINSTEIN IN BERLIN by Thomas Levenson, 2003. Cultural and scientific story of Einstein's early and most productive years. Fascinating read.

EINSTEIN IN AMERICA by Jamie Sayen, 1985. Einstein and "The Scientist's Conscience in the Age of Hitler and Hiroshima," also fascinating read.


THE MIND'S NEW SCIENCE:A HISTORY OF THE COGNITIVE REVOLUTION by Howard Gardner, 1985. A "lucid and comprehensive" history of the subject from the Greeks to 1985.

THE ORIGIN OF CONSCIOUSNESS IN THE BREAKDOWN OF THE BICAMERAL MIND by Julian Jaynes, 1976. An influential theory about how human consciousness developed.

DESCARTE'S ERROR: EMOTION, REASON AND THE HUMAN BRAIN, 1994; THE FEELING OF WHAT HAPPENS:BODY AND EMOTION IN THE MAKING OF CONSCIOUSNESS, 1999; LOOKING FOR SPINOZA: JOY, SORROW AND THE FEELING BRAIN, 2003, all by Antonio Damasio. A trilogy that describes the author's ongoing brain research in philosophical contexts, emphasizing the role of feeling and emotion in consciousness, adding up to the beginning of a new theory of the human soul.


JUNG'S MAP OF THE SOUL by Murray Stein (1998). There are many good guides to the psychology of Carl Jung; this is just one of them. Jung's psychology is important because it provides a toolkit of concepts, such as the conscious and unconscious, the shadow, projection, persona, the psychological types and other concepts (some shared with other psychological schools)that are useful, perhaps even vital, to gain some control over our actions, as well as deepen our understanding.

THE THOUGHT OF THE HEART AND THE SOUL OF THE WORLD by James Hillman(1995). Of James Hillman's many books, this short one (comprised of two essays or talks from the early 1980s) continues to be the one that has the most powerful emotional effect on me. In the shorter essay, "Anima Mundi" (Soul of the World), Hillman reflects that as a practicing therapist as well as a theorist in psychology, he finds that past therapies have reached their limits by treating pathologies as individual matters, and interpersonal matters, when some pathologies are located in the objective world. It is an approach that ultimately links psychology with political action and with what some would describe as spirituality. To some, "progressive" means a moving forward in a linear sense. To me, it also means moving deeper. I believe Hillman is onto something here, and that no progressive movement is going to be effective without deepening our sense of our personal psychologies and their relationship to others but also to the soul of the world.


THE WEB OF LIFE: A NEW SCIENTIFIC UNDERSTANDING OF LIVING SYSTEMS by Fritjof Capra, 1996. " overall synthesis that integrates new discoveries [such as complexity, dynamical systems theory and self-organizations] into a single context and allows lay readers to understand them in a coherent way."

GAIA: A WAY OF KNOWING,1987; GAIA 2: EMERGENCE, two anthologies edited by William Irwin Thompson, presenting thinkers on the edge of the known.

STEPS TO AN ECOLOGY OF MIND by Gregory Bateson, 1972. Seminal work applying cybernetic thinking to biology, evolution and mind.

MIND AND NATURE; A NECESSARY UNITY by Gregory Bateson, 1979. "Bateson's major philosophical work--cosmic musings on the hidden dynamics of life..."

ANGELS FEAR:TOWARD AN EPISTEMOLOGY OF THE SACRED by Gregory Bateson and Mary Catherine Bateson, 1987. Gregory Bateson's final work, a dialogue with his daughter.

THE ORIGINS OF NATURAL SCIENCE by Rudolf Steiner, 1985. Two lectures from 1922 and 1923 by eccentric thinker whose holistic approach is being profitably revisited today.

OPERATING MANUAL FOR SPACESHIP EARTH by R. Buckminster Fuller, 1969. Though not the easiest writer to read, Fuller has cogent arguments and key concepts to offer a progressive view of the future, like "anticipatory design science," and in this book his summary of systems theory, and what spaceship earth really means: Fuller is a sailor and the analogy is revelatory. He doesn't have all the answers, but his work is definitely part of the necessary synthesis.

IMAGINARY LANDSCAPES: Making Worlds of Myth and Science by William Irwin Thompson(1989)Any book by WI Thompson is likely to be provocative and stimulating,and at the edge of current thinking. Since this was published,others have made its premise part of the ongoing exploration: "Our sense of the world around us,particularly as constructed by science, has been weakened by our failure to take advantage of the densely textured knowledge contained in folk lore and lived culture."

THE THIRD CULTURE edited by John Brockman (1995)CP Snow's famous Two Cultures (arts and science) needs a third way, a synthesis: that's part of the premise here. The other is that the writers collected in this book are it, but they aren't really a Third Culture: they're dissident scientists, and some exhibit the philistine attitudes that help support this false dichotomy, along with the egotism and supercilious insecurity of some in the arts. But the essays are certainly worthwhile: Dawkins and Nile Eldredge, Lynn Margulis, Martin Rees and Murray Gell-Man being the better known names here. Also the late Francisco Varela, who might be the one in this group who came closest to a Third Culture.

THE NEW PHYSICS AND COSMOLOGY: DIALOGUES WITH THE DALAI LAMA Edited by Arthur Zajonc(2004) This is one of a half dozen excellent books derived from the Mind and Life series of conversations between western scientists and the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan Buddhists, begun in 1997. (Click on the title for a list of the others.) Most were on "mind" sciences and psychology, but this book is great if for no other reason than the Dalai Lama, trained in logic, asks terrific questions that help to tease out the essence of quantum mechanics and other new physics findings and speculations. But there's much more, and these scientists wouldn't be showing up year after year if these sessions weren't very helpful to them as scientists. This is really the meeting of two different ways of doing science, finding common ground on the frontiers of human knowledge.


THE STRUCTURE OF SCIENTIFIC REVOLUTIONS: Second Edition, by Thomas S. Kuhn, 1962. The book that proposed the "paradigm shift" theory of science theory, still the most important contemporary work in the philosophy of science.

THE MISSING MOMENT: How the Unconscious Shapes Modern Science by Robert Pollack, 2004. This is a controversial book, especially in it execution but it asks a good question: how do the unconscious fears and dreams, etc. of scientists affect the science they do? That it can and does still offends many scientists who consider themselves 100% rational if not 100% objective, and Pollack may take his argument way too far, but if it shakes both scientists and those who believe their protestations, it will be worth it. It will really be worth it if it gets scientists and the rest of us to examine how our unconscious works.

SCIENCE, TRUTH AND DEMOCRACY by Philip Kitcher, 2002. Kitcher is a philosopher. "Kitcher's central thesis can be put in a sentence: democracy should guide science in its search for truth." (NYTimes Book Review). What is the goal of scientific inquiry in a democracy? Just seriously asking this question, and getting the reader to think about it, is a worthwhile achievement.

SELLING SCIENCE: How the Press Covers Science and Technology by Dorothy Nelkin, 1987. Though a little outdated in particulars, this is still a very useful book for framing the issues, and showing all the ways that science and technology are misreported, reported badly and used to advance political and other agendas.

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