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Science Books

May 11, 2006

The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas
Michael S. Gazzaniga (2006)
ISBN: 0060884738

Neuroscience has come a long way in recent years. In fact, the discipline has come so far that neuroscientists are now delving into areas of the human mind that were once solely the domain of philosophical ponderings. In this particular instance, Michael S. Gazzaniga, director of the SAGE Center for the Study of the Mind at the University of California, discusses whether our most basic morals and ethics will be reappraised alongside advances in brain science. This latest installment from Gazzaniga is an engaging continuation from his previous book on ethics, The Ethical Brain, where he posed numerous challenging questions about developments in brain science. Will the fact that our brains apparently make decisions before we are fully aware of them become problematic for our justice system? He also pondered brain imaging techniques, personal privacy, genetically engineered babies, and the moral maze we may have to negotiate given the opportunity to enhance our brains genetically. The Ethical Brain: The Science of Our Moral Dilemmas has the same unrelenting urgency to second-guess the moral dilemmas humanity will face in the future. Big questions - such as discovering where human life begins and ends - present themselves as possible catalysts for numerous moral and ethical dilemmas. Gazzaniga seems to leave no stone unturned in this, by definition, confrontational and challenging book. But we should really expect no less from a man dubbed the father of cognitive science.

The First Human: The Race to Discover Our Earliest Ancestors
Ann Gibbons (2006)
ISBN: 0385512260

We've all heard the argument posited by creationists that goes along the lines of, "If we evolved from apes, then how come apes still exist today?" Of course, the answer to that question is that we all share a common ancestor with apes (not just with creationists). We may know this with certainty, but it has not been an easy task tracking down the "missing links" that connect us with our earliest ancestors. Now, in The First Human, Ann Gibbons, primary writer on human evolution for Science for over a decade, offers us front-row seats to witness first-hand what's involved in digging for our ancestors. Gibbons tracks the progress of four international teams totally fixated and passionate about solving the mystery of human evolution. The tale that unfolds is not only scientifically absorbing, but we are also treated to a candid, fly-on-the-wall look at the relationships and intense rivalries that form between colleagues and rival teams during such expeditions. The teams' ultimate challenge is to locate from where our earliest human ancestors first emerged. But it seems that almost as soon one brilliant scientist claims that they have uncovered the oldest known human fossil, another will come forward with an older one still. Digging around in locations such as Chad and Ethiopia, renowned scientists such as Tim White, Michel Brunet, zoologist Meave Leakey, geologist Martin Pickford and paleontologist Brigitte Senut all believe they are on the right track in this grand race. But ultimately, there is only likely to be one group that will reap the kudos.

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