archive: SETI Book reviews from American Scientist

SETI Book reviews from American Scientist

Larry Klaes ( lklaes@bbn.com )
Tue, 25 May 1999 15:05:08 -0400

American Scientist, May-June, 1999

http://www.amsci.org/amsci/issues/TOC99/TOC99-05/m-jbookshelflist.html

Rocks of Ages: Science and Religion in the Fullness of Life
by Stephan Jay Gould
Reviewed by Ursula Goodenough

Gould's vision of the project before us is equally rich.

To anyone who feels cosmically discouraged at the prospect of
life as a detail in a vast universe not evidently designed for our
presence ... consider the much greater fascination and intellectual
challenge of such a mysterious but knowable universe, compared
with a "friendlier" and more familiar cosmos that only mirrors our
hopes and needs.

And then, the eloquent passage that first appeared in
Wonderful Life (1989):

We are the offspring of history, and must establish our own paths
in this most diverse and interesting of conceivable universes --
one indifferent to our suffering, and therefore offering us maximal
freedom to thrive, or to fail, in our own chosen way.

Tower of Babel: The Evidence against the New Creationism
by Robert T. Pennock
Reviewed by Peter J. Bowler

For the creationists, however, the aim is to defend the
values of the religious right. They believe that evolutionism
is evil because it undermines the moral authority of the
Bible -- and has thus opened the way for a breakdown of
traditional values.

Since they have no philosophical arguments with which to
sustain those values, the Bible remains the only foundation,
and its authority must not be challenged even in areas related
more to science than to ethics.

Pennock exposes the emotional insecurity on which this
position is based. He also warns against continued efforts
to get creationism into the public schools, pointing out
that an attempt is now being made to bypass the constitutional prohibition
against the teaching of religion.

If these efforts succeed, America will end up with Fundamentalist
Protestant schools -- but presumably all other faiths will then
be in a position to demand the same privilege.

As a resident of Northern Ireland, where separate Protestant
and Catholic schools have helped to sustain a sectarian divide
with disastrous consequences, I offer heartfelt support for
Pennock's warning against the dangers of going down this road.

Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees: The Nature of Cooperation in
Animals and Humans
by Lee Dugatkin
Review by Valerie M. Chase

What do humans have to learn from animals about morality?
Not much, it would seem, if, like biologist Lee Dugatkin,
one believes moral sensibility to be uniquely human. But in
Cheating Monkeys and Citizen Bees, Dugatkin argues that the
social behavior of even the lowest animals may teach us
about fostering cooperation and moral behavior among humans.