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Lee Alan Dugatkin

Extended Book Review

Even Darwin was plagued by doubts. For a decade he pondered and tweaked his theory until he heard Wallace was preparing a manuscript. Moved at last to polish his notes, he published his pioneering “Origins of the Species.” One of Darwin’s reservations was the simple question, "If natural selection and survival of the fittest is the true state of affairs in nature, why are there so many examples of goodness in so many species." In the fifteen decades that have elapsed since Darwin pondered the question, not that much has changed in the public mind. Dugatkin explains that while that may be so, it is not the true state-of-the-art for evolutionary theory. In fact, Dugatkin relates vividly how Darwin’s legacy has evolved to the point where not only does goodness arise through Darwinian selection, it can be reduced to a simple cost / benefit equation from economic theory that contains a factor derived directly from the degree of relatedness between individuals. In each case, mystery upon mystery suddenly found a common explanation. This occurred mostly under the public radar over the last half century or so. Dugatkin relates how seven British, Russian, and American scientists played prominent roles.
The Hedgehog and the Fox Isaiah Berlin

Extended Book Review

”The fox knows many things, but the hedgehog knows one big thing.”

This metaphor for creative and conventional applies in our time, just as it did in the eras of Tolstoy and Berlin. In employing this metaphor, Berlin pays brilliant homage to Tolstoy’s greatness in this little book of just 81 pages of text. Berlin’s little book became a classic in its own time; it is a masterful presentation of Tolstoy’s views on history. Tolstoy was ahead of his times, yet we wonder what he would think today--faced with the huge advances in physics, bioscience, and psychology. What would he think of a world that is probabilistic at its core, where biochemists are on the verge of creating life from inert matter, and where the psyche has been deciphered,
Killer Instincts.
What Can Evolution Say About Why Humans Kill--And Why Do We Do So Less Than We Used To.

Dan Jones; NATURE; 31 Jan 2008; Vol 451; Issue 7178; Pg 512.

Article Review - Harry Rosenberg

Editors of the world's foremost science periodical are not usually given to hyperbole. This article is no exception for it makes a solid case for a genetic origin of our murderous instinct. That murder was common in human prehistory there can be no doubt. So also in certain primitive societies in recent history. Aggression is equally common, and can lead to murder.
William Pfaff
Extended Book Review with commentary
By: Harry Rosenberg

Pfaff brings the currents of history to life, not by listing a series of events on timelines, but by illustrating their underlying currents: struggles for dominance and control. He does this--in ways unique for his time--in the retrospective style of a historian. He views current events in their proper and often surprising historical context. Nationhood and nationalism go hand in hand. In his view, nationalism will pass in due course as something better comes along. He does not dwell on what that might be. But we surely agree. Nationalism is too much akin to jungle warfare to bring peace to humanity.
"l'équilibre entre les bouches et la nourriture
sera maintenu à l'avenir, comme dans le passé,
par la famine, la peste, et la guerre."
Thomas Malthus

“l'homme, pas la terre, fait la civilisation." "la perspective totale est une illusion optique." “La nature aime la différence comme matériel nécessaire de choix et d'évolution."
Will Et Ariel Durant
Posted 4 June 2007.

Zimbardo metaphors abound in this arena. For example:

"It's not the bad apples, it is the bad barrels."

The barrels of course is the social system we all live in. Most of us take it for granted. It takes an unusual mind to see the damage we do to ourselves, by just going along with and perpetuating a system.
Myths may start out life as proverbs and truisms, obvious or at least soothing to the human psyche. Like hang-ups, they may become dysfunctional as technology and society evolve. This is especially true when the former runs ahead of the latter as it is in our times.
Modernization is change and change is feared by many. For better or worse, the US has led the modernization drive for most of a century now.
Why We Must Tame Our Instincts to Save Our World
Arthur Blech
Book Review with commentary

Blech could not be more in tune with the primary challenge of the 21st Century.
Modernism has its roots in the golden Age of Greece. The fourth century BCE was a distinct forerunner of modern science.
A Chapter of History Revisited in View of Modern Terrorism.

When nations come into being they often have a national sense of purpose.
Updated 05 July 2008

The biosphere we share with all other species is some 20 miles thick and spans the girth of the globe. It is not so vast that it cannot be disturbed; it can even be destroyed. Not since a bolide (mini asteroid) ended the reign of the dinosaurs, has the biosphere been presented a challenge like that of civilization.
Update: 23 Sept 2007

"The balance between mouths and food will be
maintained in the future, as in the past,
by famine, pestilence, and war."
Thomas Malthus