eye-opening mesmerizing bravo
In a class of its own; a master and beloved teacher who is well known for his searing intellect and scorn for those who discount the collective intelligence of evidential science in favor of subjective and ancient woo, disarms himself in order to speak with gentle, unblinking clarity. Ostensibly he does this to honor his own commitment to spare youth from propaganda and unfair use of rhetorical flourish. But that technique is tremendously alluring for us grown-ups too. Here Richard Dawkins plays the wise uncle, mentoring our species to grow up and see the real world for what it really is: amazing
Their narration is more professional and alluring than that of most of the professionally narrated books I have listened to via Audible. I also loved the refreshing pattern of male and female voices taking turns.
If any book could give me hope that our species might actually make it through the necessary transitions, it is this one -- provided it is widely read and listened to. I first read the hardcover, gorgeously illustrated, but was surprised I loved it far more as an author-read audiobook by which I create the pictures in my own mind while dear Uncle Richard and Aunt Lalla are reading to me!
The storytelling and site-specific descriptions make this scientifically rigorous book unusually memorable and meaningful.
Marris extracts from the polarized advocates (human manipulation v. hands-off of nature) direct quotes that vividly show the deep emotions and uncertainties in this unusual time of worldviews in collision.
Anyone concerned about climate change will find the science stories in this book deeply disturbing, in that humans will have to get extensively involved in helping plants move north faster than they are capable of doing on their own.
Most "readers" will appreciate the superb delivery of the audio version. Those of us (myself included) who discover that his worldview and ideas reshape our own will either want to listen to the audio twice or also purchase the print version -- to enable note taking and marking up of the most important pages.
Because the ideas are so unsettling for social and political liberals (like myself!), the author's tone and personal story vignettes are absolutely vital to keep me from becoming defensive (and thus no longer really listening). Yet, by the time he concludes, I feel fully affirmed -- as the need today is not for liberals to go conservative, but for liberals to become morally fuller by maintaining our existing commitments while opening to searching for solutions that are no longer win-lose but win-win. In fact, I recall watching online a spring 2012 interview that Bill Moyers conducted with the author, and Bill's curiosity and open delight in this larger worldview are a treasure to watch. Morality becomes all encompassing.
The author is the audio narrator -- and he is superb! Personal stories he tells are especially powerful this way, and his best stories are those that reveal the pivotal experiences in his own life that led him from social/political liberal to a wider embrace of the full spectrum of moral and ethical appreciation.
It is way too long to listen to in one setting -- but very compelling to use as bedtime listening on consecutive nights or for a very long road trip.
I learn so much these days online via short videos, newsclips, blogs, op-ed pieces, etc. that I tend to become stingy about my time reading a traditional book. Books are often not time-efficient enough for me anymore. But The Righteous Mind exemplifies deep respect for the reader/listener's time via its organization, writing, storytelling, and editing. It actually restores my faith in learning via books. As I reflect on my experience, I see that what took the author a lifetime to achieve in worldview expansion, I actually got in a week of evening listening.
I highly recommend this book in audio format, as its presentation is engaging and the ideas are embedded in stories at a leisurely pace. Worldview shifting as well as entertaining.
What this book helped me realize was that the most rational stance for humanists and freethinkers is not to work towards eliminating magical thinking in themselves and their children, but to knowingly harness these powerful instincts -- instincts that well served our ancestors! Magical thinking will not be eliminated, so let's use it playfully, pragmatically, and in ways that enhance our lives and relationships.
animals are us
have a competent editor cut it in half; have more of his scholarly experience appear near the front, which now reads like an adventure tale of youthful avocational interest and passion, with no assurance that it will actually lead somewhere important (which it eventually does, in fact, do)
The narrator reads every sentence as if it was the climax of the paragraph, so it was exhausting to listen to.
"This book is a twin biography of our species and our planet. At its heart lies an investigation of sustainability -- not how we achieve it, but what it is. I've written it at a time when hope that humanity might save itself from a climatic catastrophe seems to be draining away. Yet I'm not without hope. For I believe that as we come to know ourselves and our planet, we'll be moved to act."
Flannery fulfills brilliantly (and poignantly) on his promise. Surely, he is the next Jared Diamond -- but with far more literary flair. My only criticism of the audiobook format is that Flannery (who ably narrates the story himself) keeps a brisk pace that is unmodulated by the kinds of pauses (following climactic ideas or exceptionally artistic passages) that I would enforce were I reading the book in hand.
As with Jared Diamond, Tim Flannery brings to his interdisciplinary, big-picture thinking a full scientific understanding of Earth history. In so doing, he helps the reader see through (what I like to call) "deep-time eyes" -- and what songwriter Peter Mayer calls a "million year mind."
Highlights of the book include: (1) a riveting half-hour walk through the peopling of Earth and the extinction catastrophe that first-wave humans caused when naive megafauna were confronted by spear-and-fire wielders; (2) how indigenous cultures evolved lifeways balanced with the creatures that survived the frontier onslaught; (3) why a big-picture, deep-time understanding is vital for entering the future with realistic hope; and (4) how and why some life forms now depend on continuing human intervention in their behalf -- and would likely perish if our species suddenly vanished from Earth.
Overall, a splendid and transformative listen!
I knew the author, Paul Martin, for many years. He died September 13, 2010. He is a colleague who gave me, what I like to call, "deep-time eyes." Thankfully, he wrote this book at a time when his career had already fully flourished. His detailed reflections of bringing a deep-time, evolutionary understanding to ecology over the course of 50 years of professional work are superbly presented. I was delighted to discover it on Audible right around the time he died, just by searching the new biology books list here. For nonprofessionals, you may want to leap to chapter 5 ("Grand Canyon Suite: Mountain Goats, Condors, Equids, and Mammoths") and onward to first get a sense of the enormous practical significance of Paul's contributions to the fields of Pleistocene ecology and evolutionary ecology. The final chapter, "Kill Sites, Sacred Sites," invests the practical ecological management consequences of Paul's "Pleistocene Rewilding" proposal with the kind of spiritual significance that compels atheists like him and me to declare ourselves among the religious. Listen, and begin to see not only North America but the other continents and major islands of the world re-animated with magnificent megafaunal ghosts of the very recent past -- and weep for our species role in bringing their demise.
My husband and I have listened to this twice thus far. We had already read and thought a lot about evolutionary psychology and evolutionary brain science (we teach it in church and public contexts, and for some, this understanding is "salvific"), but this audiobook is a superb -- and entertaining -- overview. Our only disappointment was that Part 2 was not immediately available.
I am a professional science writer; I love science and have learned a great deal about evolutionary biology and the history of that field. But Sean Carroll's "Remarkable Creatures" brought me back to the first-taste delight and gratitude I felt 25 years ago when I began reading the classic books in this subject. Bravo!
Anyone who loves science will fall in love with this book. Anyone who loves biographies will love this book. Anyone who loves great storytelling and adventure tales will love this book. More, I can think of no more pleasant and powerful way for anyone to truly grasp the power and beauty of the scientific endeavor as the most trustworthy way of knowing. In these stories of the great discoveries that birthed and honed an understanding of evolution and the deep-time frame that it requires, one comes to viscerally understand why the openness of science to new ideas (the liberal side of science) is necessarily tempered by the skepticism of those who have a stake in then-current understandings (the conservative side of science). Both are essential. This book gives the listener a profound appreciation of both.
Finally, the author's choice of precisely what biographical elements to convey is masterful. Of note was his choice of including a vignette from each discoverer's childhood that would play out during the course of the narrative as pivotal for shaping his or her character, persistence, or field of interest. The importance of mentors was also very clear in these stories. How crucial to offer up such opportunities to questing youth in every generation!
Overall, I give this book my highest recommendation.
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