mostly nonfiction listener
Shubin connects our deep evolutionary history with our current anatomy and structure. I really enjoyed learning about paleontology, how fossil research works (and why it is so important) and the emerging integration of genetic with fossil research.
In his next book I hope Shubin spends more time drawing larger connections between his field and the larger project of evolutionary biology and evolutionary psychology. It would be great to bring his deep evolution story about our earliest development into the world of behavior.
Shubin is a good writer and an accomplished scientist. Highly recommended.
Reason 1: You loved Kurlansky's Cod: A Biography of the Fish That Changed the World, Standage's An Edible History of Humanity and everything by Michael Pollan.
Reason 2: You are fascinated by the fact that the majority of the fish we eat is farmed, and that aquaculture is the fastest growing food production system on the planet.
Reason 3: You are torn about eating seafood. You have heard that seafood populations are collapsing, and that many of the fish we enjoy today will not be available to our children due to overfishing. However, you also hear that we need to eat more seafood for our health, and you think it is a good idea to move away from corn fed beef and towards a more sustainable and health diet that contains more fish.
Reason 4: You like learning about the economics of food, the sociology of food producers, and the psychology of food buyers. You have read Paul Greenberg in the NYTimes magazine and other places, and know that his writing is smart and funny.
Temple Grandin is a national treasure. I have this fantasy that President Obama will invite her to the White House and give her some big award for helping all of us to understand animals. He will then direct his Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsak to follow Grandin's guidelines for the ethical treatment of farm animals. President Obama will talk about how Grandin is an inspiration on how we can all play to our strengths, as Grandin has turned her autism into an asset in understanding animals.
Grandin's thesis is that animals are primarily driven by their (our emotions). Proper care of animals means attending to their emotional needs. Understanding how animals perceive the world can help us set up environments where they feel safe, and where their seeking and companion needs are met. Of course I loved the chapter about dogs - and I've been very nice to my dog after Grandin got in my head. Where I was surprised was how much I enjoyed the chapters on cows, pigs, and chickens. It is good to have some idea how our industrial food system works. An excellent complement to Pollan's writing. A truly original work.
This book was written in 1994, and its underlying philosophy holds true today, even if a few other theories on evolutionary psychology have eclipsed what Wright has written here. (Just as what Charles Darwin has written is still powerful despite the work that has been done after his death, interestingly.) For those of us who are atheists, a book like the Moral Animal becomes extremely important because it shows that morality does not need to come from a deity, and instead likely comes out of our own interest in passing our genes to the next generation. Although I personally feel that at least some morality need not come out of clinical self-interest. Nor does it always need to be explained. The Moral Animal along with Wright's latest book, The Evolution of God, have, inadvertently or tangentially, done more for the cause of atheists than any works before, during or since.