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Science Books

April 13, 2007

Galileo's Gout: Science In An Age Of Endarkenment
Gerald Weissmann (2007)
ISBN: 1934137006

While the Enlightenment has imbued society with untold knowledge, there is now a noticeable political interest in devoting equal time to the wooly thinking of religion and superstition. According to Gerald Weissmann, a research professor of medicine, and editor in chief of The FASEB Journal, this shift is sucking up valuable resources formerly reserved for experimental science. Alarmingly, Weissmann adds that the more science is forced to share the limelight with creationism, Intelligent Design, and all manner of alternative quack medical practices, the more likely it is that Enlightenment's evil twin "Endarkenment" will be invoked. But political interests don't stop at sinking time and money into divining the value of arcane practices in modern society. Weissmann argues that never before has so much important scientific research - climate change, medicine, and energy - so in need of immediate and undivided attention, been so politically entangled. Galileo's Gout is a historical treatise packed full of ideas, reflections on past mistakes, and powerful arguments regarding the potential detrimental effects associated with the political tampering of science. Is there any way of avoiding a darkened future? Only one, according to Weissmann; "Experimental science is our defense - perhaps our best defense - against humbug and the Endarkenment."

The Sixth Extinction: Journeys Among The Lost And Left Behind
Terry Glavin (2007)
ISBN: 0312362315

Researchers have identified five extinction periods during Earth's history, which were, needless to say, not particularly ideal times in which to live. But before breathing a sigh of relief, you may want to consider Terry Glavin's observation that we are currently in the middle of an unprecedented extinction event: the Sixth Great Extinction. Glavin, former reporter, editor, and columnist for the Vancouver Sun, delivers a powerful and poignant account of the great unraveling of not only ecosystems, but also human culture, knowledge, and language occurring with each successive generation. Glavin claims that unless we concede that these problems are all interrelated, we too may go the way of the dinosaur, and take a great many other species with us. Citing statistics that show how a species becomes extinct every 10 minutes, a unique vegetable every 6 hours, and a language every 2 weeks, Glavin, with depressing regularity, graphically demonstrates how relentless and immediate our problem has become. But amidst all the doom and gloom, Glavin also stumbles upon many of the Earth's natural wonders that are yet to succumb to the ongoing cataclysm. Strange fruit, man-sized salmon, a Sino-Tibetan song language, and the last of the Malayan tigers are just some of the marvels found in Glavin's multi-disciplined approach to environmentalism. The positive spin on Glavin's story is that there are already a dedicated few out there working to save endangered species on protected lands, with the aim of maintaining biological diversity. But is the awe inspired by such curious beauty and environmental altruism enough to raise awareness of the precariousness of our situation?

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