Science7

Bones              Dr. Douglas Ubelaker & Henry Scammell           June 2007
The Dancing Wu Li Masters       Gary Zukav                              June 2007
Fantastic Voyage    Ray Kurzweil & Terry Grossman, M.D.       Sept 2007
Liberation Biology                       Ronald Bailey                          Sept 2007
Reversing Dry Eye Syndrome     Steven L. Maskin, M.D.           Oct 2007
Emergence                                   John H. Holland                       Oct 2007
Spirit Bear                                    Charles Russell                        Nov 2007
Moral Imagination                        Mark Johnson                          Dec 2007
From Molecule to Metaphor         Jerome A. Feldman                 Dec 2007
Terra                                             Michael Novacek                    Feb 2007



Bones         Dr. Douglas Ubelaker & Henry Scammell           June 2007

A somewhat old book, copyright 1992.  One might call it a "How I Done It".  Ubelaker, at the time the book was written, was a forensic anthropologist.  He was a consultant in forensic anthropology and was often called on by the FBI to consult on cases.  The book covers many of his colleagues, many of the cases that he and they investigated and a certain amount of detail regarding how the analysis was done.  The book is sort of a cross between an elemetary textbook and a book by Patricia Cornwell or Kathy Reichs.  Interesting reading, not much of a plot and nobody really tries to get into the killers head.

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The Dancing Wu Li Masters     Gary Zukav                                June 2007
            Subtitled:  An Overview of the New Physics

The previous book was an old book, this one is really old.  It was copyrighted in 1979.  Zukav is a journalist who was invited to a meeting with a number of physicists and a T'ai Ci Master at the Esalen Institute in 1976.  It is a fairly long paperback, 314 pages not counting notes and index.  He attempts to cover the "new physics", relativity and quantum mechanics without math (I did find 2 or 3 equations in a footnote) and he doesn't do that bad of a job.  It is now of course over 30 years old, he is fascinated with certain parts of Eastern Philosophy, he caught the standard physicist hubris, and he unknowingly accepts several philosophical points as gospel that were called into question in the 1980's, and 1990's.  

I learned some stuff, I got thoroughly bored by some of the Eastern Philosophy, and the book could have been condensed to less than 100 pages.  Update it to 2007, drop the philosophy, and the extra 200 pages and I might read the next edition.  

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Fantastic Voyage    Ray Kurzweil & Terry Grossman, M.D.      Sept 2007
            Subtitled: Live Long Enough to Live Forever

They have done such a fantastic job in their web site that my comments would be superfluous.  Their web site is www.fantastic-voyage.net .  They have a complete table of contents with a description of each chapter (under Book Excepts - Table of Contents), a summary of their recommendations (under Resources - Short Guide to a Long Life), and many more resources from the book as well as new developments.  I would expect them to maintain this web site for longer than I maintain mine.  If it goes away it is probably because one or both of them has died which would suggest that the whole book is a bunch of hokum anyway.

In terms of my feelings on the book, I am sure that most of the specific details will be changed over the next 10-20-30 years but most of these will be evolutionary or new developments changes, not major errors in their thinking or conclusions.  

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Liberation Biology             Ronald Bailey                                Sept 2007
Subtitle:  The Scientific and Moral Case for the Biotech Revolution

Preface  Brave New World Reconsidered
 Huxley's Brave New World and Orwell's 1984 formed the basis of much thinking about the world in the last half of the 20th century.  With the collapse of Russia and the fall of much of Communism the threats of 1984 have been pretty much forgotten.  However the beliefs about the evils described in Brave New World have been internalized by many who characterize themselves as bioethicists.  There is one major difference between the society portrayed in Brave New World and the biology that we are developing at the current time.  Huxley's biological advances were imposed on people by the government, our current biological advances are offered to people and desired by people but the "bioconservatives" want to forbid their use because they "know better".  It seems to me to be a "freedom" issue.  The freedom of individuals to choose their own destinies or the freedom of self-described experts to choose a destiny for you.  

Introduction  Biopolitics: Fight of the Century
 How will we celebrate the end of the twenty-first century?  Will we end it by celebrating birthdays of people 150 years old and in perfect health or will we celebrate the birthdays of people who have survived into their 60's and 70's.  Will we continue to make progress in biological and medical technology or will we stop medical and biological research and regress as intelligent and ambitious young people decide to go into other fields.  There are many groups who oppose biological research.  They come from both the conservative and liberal ends of the political spectrum.  If we delay medical treatments to people who need them, we are literally killing them.  Is it worth the lives or our friends, neighbors, and family to maintain a bioconservatives view of biological purity?

C1  Forever Young: The Biology and Politics of Immortality  Throughout the years, starting with King Gilamesh 5,000 years ago in the written record, humans have desired extended life spans.  Progress has been slow but it seems to be speeding up.  An article in the April 29, 2002 issue of Science pointed out that for the last 160 years life expectancy has been rising about 2 1/2 years every decade.  Researchers using fast maturing species like fruit flies and nematode worms have achieved dramatic results, doubling or tripling their life spans.  

However numerous people such as Leon Kass, Daniel Callahan, Jay Olshansky, Bill McKibben, Francis Fukuyama and others are opposed to life extension for various reasons.  

Bailey lists a number of factors that seem to be related to aging and dying, sexual maturity, mitochondria, inflammatory response, food restrictions, free radicals, a number of specific genes, telomere production, vitamins and hormones.  He ends the chapter with a discussion of the reasons why some people are opposed to life extension.

C2  Final Victory over Disease:  Building Humanity's Extended Immune System
 The chapter starts with some true stories of people who suffered from life threatening genetic diseases, some of the treatments that have kept them from dying at very young ages, and some of the problems faced as these treatments are perfected.  Some of the possibilities for treatment include repairing defects in specific genes.  A point to be considered is the potential abuse of such gene therapy - primarily in athletes.  A lot of progress has been made in determining the causal factors in many cancers and in using RNA interference to stop the expression of harmful genes.  A specific problem is using gene sequencing to determine the probability of specific genetic diseases.  Test results have been used improperly by insurance companies to deny coverage and there is the problem that you may be pre-disposed to a particular disease but there is no treatment yet, should the person be told?

Through gene sequencing we can now produce treatments and vaccines much faster.  It is also easier to create new disease organisms.  Bailey recommends that the best defense from this is to insure that ethical researchers are ahead of those with criminal intent by supporting ethical open research.  In closing he notes early therapies are dangerous and there will be deaths however this must be balanced with the realization that without the research and therapies these people are guaranteed to die.  We must not be too cautious.

C3  Are Stem Cells Babies?  The Ethics of Making Perfect Transplants
 Stem cells may have the potential to aid in the cure for many ailments.  However the idea of using embryonic stem cells has been met with severe criticism since the very beginning, primarily from the religious right.  There are many approaches to using stem cells and each has its own advantages and disadvantages.  The battle over stem cells has three main aspects, religious, political, and scientific.  They all come down to the definition of life, living, and soul.  Bailey's main point can be narrowed down to the definition of the soul and when does human life generate the soul (if at all).  Bailey holds that political arguments are just religious arguments dressed up in politicians suits instead of priests robes.  Most of these arguments are not relevant from a biological point of view and they all revolve around who gets to make the decision, and it is almost never the concerned individuals.  It is almost always the priests or the politicians.

C4  Who's Afraid of Human Cloning?  A short chapter discussing the many people and groups that oppose human cloning.  A brief comment - an identical twin is technically a clone, if they are so bad should we not dispose of one so as to be ethically pure?  Maybe both because which is the original and which is the clone, are they not both ethically tainted?

C5  Hooray for Designer Babies!
 What is a designer baby?  Broadly speaking it could be any thing other than (for a man) having sex with a virgin, keep her from having sex with any other males, keep having sex with her until she has a baby.  Any medical intervention into this scenario would result in a designer baby.  Obligatory disclaimer - I have two grand children and two grand (nephew and niece)'s who could be labeled designer children.  I am biased.  The techniques range from a very simple intervention to very sophisticated genetic testing and manipulation.  

Some of the options are in vitro fertilization, inserting the fathers sperm directly into the egg, replacement of mitochondria in an egg, replacement of DNA sequences (for muscular dystrophy), other germline DNA replacement therapies (both natural and artificial), testing of fertilized eggs for genetic diseases and selecting only those that do not have the disease and sex selection.  He discusses some of the opponents to "designer babies" and some of their objections.  Again it boils down to who makes the decisions, a self appointed elite who believe that they alone are qualified to make these types of ethical decisions or leaving them up to the people directly involved.  He does stress that the technology should proceed slowly and carefully but with the realization that failure to use the best and newest technology very well may mean that someone will die from genetic disease or abnormality.

C6  Biotech Cornucopia:  Improving Nature for Humanity's Benefit  In Oct. 1999 a storm killed over 10,000 in India and created massive food shortages, in the summer and fall of 2002 failure of crops in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi also created massive food shortages.  In both cases the US offered genetically modified corn and soybeans.  The local and national governments refused the assistance.  They didn't want to offer starving people "poisonous" corn that the people of the Americas have been eating for years.  In Zambia hungry villagers stormed the warehouses and simply took the corn.

The chapter goes on to describe some of the groups who oppose GM (genetically modified) plants and animals and many of the ways foods are modified and their benefits.  The author is obviously in favor of GM foods and explains much of the objections to it as simple superstition.  My feeling is that in an ideal world there would be no need for GM foods and all people would have plenty to eat.  Until we have an ideal world many people simply need something to eat.  I don't particularly trust all of the companies involved, many are performing modifications strictly for their own economic benefit.  However until we can reduce the worlds population down to a sustainable level - given the problems with fossil fuels and global warming - we are going to need all the help we can get.  We do need to be vary careful of unintended side effects.  In the US alone we have hundreds of species of "weed" plants and animals that have been introduced and have caused severe economic and environmental damage.  We need to be very careful to make sure that our genetic modifications do no cause unintended harmful side effects.  I doubt that many of the corporate GM producers take sufficient care.

C7  Changing Your Own Mind:  The Neuroethics of Psychopharmacology  We are making tremendous strides in our effort to ameliorate chemically caused brain malfunction, and it seems that progress is very likely.  However it would seem that for every therapy discovered, there is a person or group that seemingly want to stop the use of the therapy.  It is true that any technology can be used to create harm but do we want to ban all stone tools (or the rocks from which they are made) or clothes because a rock can be used to smash a head in and a pair of pants could be used to strangle a person?  The author lists a number of reasons why some people want to limit the use of psychopharmacology.
  1. Neurological Enhancements Permanently Change the Brain.  Is the brain a constant?  Do I have the same brain I did as a 6 year old?  Lots of things change the brain - we want to optimize our performance.
  2. Neurological Enhancements are Antiegalitarian.  Perhaps, but so are lots of things that go along with having rich parents.  And a pill is easier to give (and cheaper) that making sure that everyone is wealthy.
  3. Neurological Enhancements are Self-Defeating.  If every child's IQ was raised 30 points then no one would gain a competative advantage.  True, but everyone would be a lot smarter, is that bad?
  4. Neurological Enhancements are Difficult to Refuse.  True, but it is also hard to refuse to breath oxygen - so what?
  5. Neurological Enhancements Undermine Good Character.  Character here is defined as the struggle to achieve.  It might be easier to solve the little problems but there are still the bigger problems.  If every kid could take a pill and get A's in geometry and trig the teachers just would have to teach differential equations and sperical trig.
  6. Neurological Enhancements Undermine Personal Responsibility.  Are we personally responsible for flaws in our genetic makeup?  Isn't it irresponsible for someone with bipolar or ADHD NOT to take medicine?
  7. Neurological Enhancements Enforce Dubious Norms.  The arguments for this point seem to be aimed at cosmetic changes.  Who cares.  It seems that the more capability we have for cosmetic surgery and other personal enhancements people use it to become more individualistic.  
  8. Neurological Enhancements Make us Inauthentic.  What is authentic?  Is being bipolar or depressed the "authentic" personality?  
Authenticity lies at the heart of the neuroethical argument.  What is the authentic or real personality?  Is it "real" to be hyper as in ADHD or the manic phase of bipolar or perhaps or perhaps the personality of a late stage Alzheimer patient?  Or perhaps the "drugged" state of someone taking the appropriate "drugs" (unfortunately we do not have "good drugs" for Alzheimers yet).  And who gets to make the decisions about taking the drugs.  A related question is what is a "personality"?  Is it constant - static or perhaps it changes as we go through life - growing up, being educated, getting married, having children, etc.?  What about crime?  If someone has a chemical or hormonal deficiency that causes violence is it right to call them a criminal when we have medications to relieve the deficiency?

The author points out that many of the self-styled bioethicists or "drug tzars" seem convinced that they alone have the knowledge and ability to make these decisions.  What is wrong with giving individuals the power to make these decisions for themselves.  There may need to be limits as with extremely addictive drugs that are deadly but in all other cases the individual should make these decisions for himself.

Conclusion  The Age of Liberation Biology  Arguments on why or why not we should restrict research or therapy.  Early maps had vast regions around Europe and Africa that were labeled, "Here be dragons."  Maybe so, maybe not, but we definitely now know that the Americas are there.  If Columbus would have truly believed this he never would have sailed to the Americas.  We don't know where we are going, and the only way we will get there is to try it.  We should be cautious, people will get hurt and die, but we will never learn anything if we don't try.  We have always had nay-sayers and we always will but if we don't ignore them sometimes we would still be stuck in Spain and someone else would have made the first discoveries.

The book is extremely well documented.  There are 35 pages of notes, 29 pages of bibliography, and 22 pages of index.  

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Reversing Dry Eye Syndrome     Steven L. Maskin, M.D.           Oct 2007
        Subtitled: Practical Ways to Improve Your Comfort, Vision, and Appearance

C1  What Is Dry Eye Syndrome, and Who Gets It?  Myth: Dry eye syndrome is not a serious disease.  Fact:  If dry eys syndrome is not treated properly, it can lead to severe eye problems, including blindness.  It is medically known as keratoconjunctivitis sicca.  It could also be called dysfunctional tear syndrome.  There are two basic causes, either a lack of tear production or an abnormality in the tear production causing the tears them to evaporate too fast.  It is often made worse by wearing contacts.

The common symptoms of dry eye may be some of the following: eye pain, redness or inflammation, scratchiness, feeling of a foreign body in the eye, burning or stinging, constant or frequent itching, contact lens discomfort, nighttime dryness, difficulty opening your eyes in the morning, blurred vision, heavy or tired eyes, excessively watery eyes, excessive mucus discharge, and sensitivity to light.

Dry eye may effect around 10% of people.  It is more common in women and increases with age, becoming more common after age 50.  It is exacerbated by exposure to wind or dryness, concentrated use of the eyes (computer, TV, driving), exposure to smoke or chemicals in the air, eye surgery, contact lenses, and some diseases.

C2  An Overview of the Eye  Discusses the anatomy and common eye problems.

C3  The Dry Eye  Proper tear production is essential for vision.  Dry eye typically occurs when something goes wrong with tear production.  A more detailed look at the anatomy and physiology of tear production and a look at the results when one or more of these systems fail.

C4  The Causes  Typically dry eye has one or more of four causes.  These are behavioral (what we do to our eyes), environmental (outside influences on our eyes), aging, and diseases.  Much of the chapter is concerned with the diseases of the eye and how these are effected by our behavior, our environment, and our age.

C5  Aging and Gender  Dry eye is more common in women than in men and especially so after menopause.  Contrary to what one might expect, it is more related to androgen deficiency than to estrogen deficiency.  Dry eye is often associated with illnesses due to aging such as Parkinsons, arthritis, and the medications taken by older people.

C6  Allergies, Toxicities, and Other Sensitivities  Allergies and dry eye are very different but they can overlap and one can cause the other.  One thing to be on the lookout for is preservatives in eye drops.  They can often cause an allergic reaction.  He discusses common allergies of the eyes.  Another thing to look our for.  Eye drops that promise to "Get the Red Out" contain vasoconstrictors to reduce the size of blood vessels in the eye, they also slow down tear production.

C7  Contact Lenses  Contact lenses are used by many people for both aesthetic and convenience purposes.  However they may cause damage to the tear production locations in the  eyes.  Their use needs to be carefully monitored so that use does not damage the eye.

C8  LASIC and Other Refractive Surgerie
s  Eye surgery may be a wonderful solution to vision problems however sometimes it may cause or exacerbate dry eye.  If you have eye surgery you should closely monitor your eyes.  It can sometimes damage the tear production of the eye.

C9  The Diagnosis  A description of the medical professionals involved in eye care.  What they can and cannot do.  Who you should go to for what types of problems.  It includes a check list of things you need to know before you visit an opthamologist and some of the tests that he or she may want to perform.

C10  Treatment  In 2004 an international panel agreed on 4 levels of dry eye with some recommendations for treatment.  The levels are mile, moderate, severe, and extremely severe.  The first step as a patient is to eliminate or reduce all potential causes that you have control over, environmental, behavioral, and allergies.  In terms of diet an adequate consumption of Omega-3 fatty acids seem very helpful - wild fish, fish oil, or flaxseed are good.  Increase water intake, reduce caffeine, and take vitamin supplements including BioTears, TheraTears, and HydroEye.  

Over the counter eyedrops (artificial tears) containing polysaccharides such as hydrolxypropyl methlcellulose (HPMC) and carboxymethylcellulose (CMC) are good.  Some of these are the Refresh line by Allergan.  Some are Refresh Tears, Plus Tears, Liquigel, and Celluvisc.  Another line is Genteal by Novartis and TheraTears line by Advanced Vision Research.  Two new products are Systane by Alcon an Nature's Tears EyeMist - a spray.

For more severe cases a prescription is necessary for Lotemax, a cortisteroid or Cyclosporin A which is sold under the name of Restasis.  He discusses other medications and surgical interventions.  Refer to the book and an opthalmologist.

C11  Remedies for Home and Work  He discusses a lot of specific home remedies for specific environments.   I won't discuss them in detail other than to use eyedrops, blink often, and take eye breaks (just close your eyes for a minute or two).

C12  Twenty Frequently Asked Questions
 Like it says, twenty questions with answers.  The careful reader will know all the answers.  He concludes with an 18 page glossary, 21 pages of resource information citations, and a 10 page index.

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Emergence                                   John H. Holland                       Oct 2007
        Subtitled: From Chaos to Order

This book was a big disappointment to me.  First of all the book was in the "New Books" section of the library (my local library is very small but has access to all of the books in a much larger library system) but when I got it home I discovered that it was copyright 1998.  The second problem was that the first 10 chapters seemed to be a description of cutting edge thinking from computer science in the 1940's, 1950's, and to a limited extent into the 1960's.  As a college student I found it really exciting in the 1960's.  

The eleventh chapter, on metaphor and innovation, looked a little better but then he uses metaphor in strictly a literary manner, not in any sort of explanatory manner like Lakoff uses it.  Holland talks around the subject but he never seems to get anywhere.

The twelfth and final chapter finally starts to get somewhere.  He lists a number of basic concepts and the points that he has attempted to make.  However then he again waxes literary and begins to talk about talking about the problem of emergence.  In my opinion there is no question that emergence is real.  I have seen others discuss the observation that new laws are required every time you get beyond a three-magnitude difference.  For example, when you discuss falling a 1 gram object falls, makes impact, and survives a fall in a very different manner from a 1,000 gram object or a .001 gram object.  This same observation seems to work in many other areas.  Relationship with 1 person (dog, cat) compared with 1,000, traveling 1 foot per second vs. 1,000 fps or .001 fps, or the capabilities of a "computer" with one logic element (or neuron) vs. 1,000 logic elements (neurons).  

In summary it is a very erudite book, it has the ability to string many big words together is a reasonably pleasing manner, however the sum total of the message is much less than the total of the words.  A specific example is his use of the phrase, "gedanken experiments in physics", most authors would use thought experiments.  What is the purpose of using the German word other than to prove that he passed German 101.  I did, fine.  But if I would have taken Spanish 101 or Russian 101 I just would have been irritated.  

The book contains a bibliography of 2 1/2 pages and an index of 7 pages.  My disappointment with the book shows up in the bibliography.  Many of the references are very old, 1940's, 1950's, and 1960's.  One of his major topics is a discussion of Conway's Game of Life.  The Game of Life is truly an excellent example of emergence however nowhere in the bibliography is Conway mentioned.  It almost seems as though the contents of the bibliography were selected for the impression value, not their relevance to the topic of the book.
 
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Spirit Bear                               Charles Russell                    Nov 2007
        Subtitle: Encounters with the White Bear of the Western Rainforest

C1  Early Years  Russell was born and raised on a ranch in SW Alberta, Canada.  His grandfather homesteaded there in 1904.  His father married into the family and spent much of his time leading tourist pack trips.  Russell started going on pack trips at the age of six.  Soon after his first trip, and riding the same horse, he had his first close encounter with a non-threatening grizzly with cubs, one of which was white.  Later a young grizzly choose the area around their home for his summer residence.

In 1961, when he was 20, he and his brothers got a contract to film grizzlys.  Over the next few years he had a number of positive encounters with grizzlys and one negative one.

C2  The Quest  In 1991, after a 20 year hiatus, Russell joined a team with a contract to film the Spirit Bear, a white variant, not albino, of the bears on the coast of British Columbia.  They had a very difficult time with the weather and the terrain.  They found several white bears but did not get all or the pictures they wanted.

C3  Eden  Using the pictures taken in the summer of 1991 they got a follow-up contract from the BBC.  Since the contract called for more pictures and more time they decided to build a relatively permanent wooden camp site. Following the construction but before the main shooting the author left to film grizzlys farther north.  The rest of the team, including a baby, moved in.  A long description of his encounters and "discussions" with ravens.

C4  Spirits Meet  After finishing in the north the author came back to the Spirit Bear camp.  The weather had been dry and not many bears had been seen.  Shortly after he returned the weather improved and they got opportunities to film a white bear.  They soon found that the bears were tolerant of people, were not aggressive (except towards other bears) and would even "hide" behind humans to avoid conflicts with other bears.  The only times they felt threatened by the bears was when one grabbed a boot thinking it was a salmon - quickly releasing it when the bear discovered that it wasn't a salmon.  The other time was when two bears wanted the same salmon, and a photographer was in the middle.  They got into a fight under and around his feet.  Nobody got hurt but they did get a little nervous.  They "hung out" with this white bear the rest of the summer, following him everywhere.

C5  Final Thoughts  In an effort to provide more visual documentation of the area the author built an ultralight aircraft to use a photographic platform in the following winter.  The next summer he used to take pictures from the air and to allow access to small lakes on the islands.  They took more pictures of white bears.  He discusses the problems of excessive clearcut logging.

The book ends with the names and addresses of two conservation organizations specializing in bears and a two page index.  The book is somewhat old, published in 1994 but the pictures are great.  It is also a bit dated, it was written before the conservation ethic encompassed a "whole earth" point of view centering around global warming.  His observations and descriptions of the relationship between humans and bears are very interesting and very well documented.  The book has wonderful pictures.

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Moral Imagination                        Mark Johnson                          Dec 2007
            Subtitle:  Implication of Cognitive Science for Ethics

Preface  Many people feel that we need go get back to ultimate moral principles or laws.  Some say that these derive from God, some say that they derive from the power of reason.  Johnson feels that we need to apply moral imagination (his term) to the problem.  This term comes from the studies of cognitive science and is based on the ability of the human brain to learn from metaphor.  He calls this imagination.  The book is somewhat old, published in 1993, and I am sure that some of his terminology would change, but not the basis of his argument.

He sees the need for three stages in this project.  
  1. Identify and analyze the imaginative character of our traditional folk theories of morality.
  2. Determine how our culturally inherited view of morality is inconsistent with our knowledge of cognitive science.
  3. Sketch the outline of an alternative, constructive view of imaginative moral reasoning that is consistent with our current knowledge of cognitive science.
Introduction  Central thesis:  Humans are fundamentally imaginative moral animals.  The traditional view of morality as rule-following is false.  This results in tension between all sets of rules and the way the way humans experience moral dilemmas.  Through the use of moral imagination (cognitive science, metaphor) we can evaluate traditional morality, learn where it is right and wrong, and learn to apply a morality, which although it can never be finally completed, will be useful and capable of change depending on our current environment.  

Moral absolutism (there exists a universally binding, absolute moral law which tells us which acts are right or wrong) and moral relativism (there are no absolute moral laws, all morality is relative to specific group and culture at a given time) are both incomplete.  The both assume false views of reason and imagination and lead to false expectation about what is possible or not possible in moral reasoning.  

He discusses some of the terms of cognitive science, theory of prototypes, frame semantics, metaphorical understanding, basic-level experience, and narrative.  He shows how these can be used to evaluate moral or ethical dilemmas and come up with working hypotheses for our moral problems.

C1  Reason as Force:  The Moral Law Folk Theory  

C2  Metaphoric Morality  In 1978 three young women were driving to volleyball practice in a 1973 Ford Pinto, they were rear-ended by a 1972 Chevy van.  The Pinto's gas tank ruptured, the car burst into flames, and all three died.  A lawsuit was brought against Ford.  Ford executives had discussed the possibility if this type of event and decided that a $6.65 part to help prevent this type of gas tank failure was too expensive.  A jury found Ford not liable - possibly for any number of reasons.  The question is how do we compare the moral arithmetic to the financial and legal arithmetic to determine what is the right (moral) thing to do.  A description of how reason is based on metaphor.

C3  The Metaphoric Basis of Moral Theory  A description if Kantian ethics.

C4  Beyond Rules  Moral absolutism and what these rules miss.

C5  The Impoverishment of Reason:  Our Enlightenment Legacy
 

C6  What's Wrong with the Objectivist Self  

C7  The Narrative Context of Self and Action  Building an approach to morality by observing life  narratives and imagining alternatives.

C8  Moral Imagination  Art (stories, plays, movies, etc.) are often better guides to morality than learned or religious writings.  We need to imagine possible alternatives to our actions and reading how others have responded to similar problems can provide guidance.

C9  Living without Absolutes:  Objectivity and the Conditions for Criticism  The key to cognitive morality is not by having a "God's-eye point of view" towards moral questions but by having numerous examples of behavior which can be evaluated in terms or their outcomes, and then evaluating the potential outcomes of your behavior.  

An example of moral absolutes in action:  classic argument prohibiting abortion.
  1. Killing an innocent person is morally prohibited because it fails to respect his humanity (or his status as made in God's image, or as an end-in-himself).
  2. A fetus is an innocent person.
  3. Abortion is an intentional killing of a fetus.
  4. Therefore, abortion is an intentional killing of an innocent person.
  5. Abortion is morally impermissible (as failing to respect the humanity or personhood of the fetus).
Problems: 1) Define person, define innocent person, 2) is a fetus a person (innocent or not), how about a fertilized egg, implanted fertilized egg, blastocyst, etc.  there are many steps between fertilization and the birth of a baby, 3) intentional? again - steps in reproduction.

A different view of objectivity is now possible -- based on aspects of human experience:
  1. Biological purposes - all humans (primates, mammals, life) share bodily nourishment, sexuality, procreation, shelter, etc.  Any successful group must make provision for these factors.
  2. Cognitive structure - much has been learned by cognitive science.  Much more is being learned.  Any theory of morality that is not consistent with this body of knowledge is highly suspect.  
  3. Social relations - any society that supports social relations and organization that does not satisfy the needs of humans cannot exist for long periods of time without external force.  Examples include force and repression, lying or distrust of others, and shunning social interaction.
  4. Ecological concerns - any group that fouls its own next for too long will collapse.  Easter Island, European settlement of Greenland, and many of the early city-states of the Middle East are examples of this.  Successful long term survival requires moral theories that take environmental concerns into account.
C10  Preserving our Best Enlightenment Moral Ideals  A short list of the main problematic assumptions which lie at the heart of the Moral Law folk theory:
  1. The split self - the Judeo-Christian concept of the body vs. the soul, this was a major point of the Enlightenment philosophers and reason was associated with the soul but bodily processes were associated with the body.  
  2. Faculty Psychology - breaking mental capacities into specific faculties like perception, imagination, feelings, understanding, reason, and will.  
  3. Universal, essential, disembodied reason - Universal Reason is what separates humans from animals.  
  4. Radical freedom - complete freedom of the will to act independent of our bodily nature.  
  5. Absolute moral laws - there is a specific set of Moral Laws, derivable from Universal Reason, and capable of guiding our actions in any conceivable situation.  
  6. The scope of morality - morality is reduced to a restrictive set of rules and leaves out much of the reality of life.
How can this new morality allow us to live our lives in a moral or ethical manner?  How can our moral ideas be rephrased?
  1. Universal moral personality - all humans and all creatures must be assumed to have value in and of themselves.  We must grant this equal status to all humans and creatures unless we have specific empirical results that show there is a significant difference.  
  2. Respect - all people (animals?) deserve a right to full moral agency such as freedom from slavery, bodily harm, and psychological coercion.  We must not use other people as a means to an end and we must not use ourselves in a morally degrading manner.  
  3. Moral principles - there are moral principles but they are not universal and unvarying.  They are related to our intellect and our biological nature and our cultural condition.  They are not absolute rules but central or prototypical cases which may be applied to our condition.
  4. Autonomy - we are autonomous beings and acting in moral ways preserves out autonomy.  We have the final say but we are accountable for our actions.
  5. Rational criticism - we and all others must continually submit our actions to the collective wisdom of our culture to determine if our actions are moral.  We (and others) will make errors and may disagree but we must continue to submit to this scrutiny.
We are left in a world that requires much more of us than simple unquestioned belief in authority.  We stand to gain much more than we loose.

The book has 22 pages of notes and a 5 page index.  It doesn't have a bibliography as such, the book, etc. references are carried within the notes so you have to backtrack to find specific references - I would prefer a specific bibliography.  

Many of the chapters have no notes.  Most of the early part of the book was devoted to discussions of the philosophic principles of ethics from the 1500's to the current time.  Much of this was centered around the positions of Immanuel Kant.  While this is probably essential for philosophical completeness I found it no more interesting than when I took a philosophy of ethics course as an undergraduate.  I thought it was mostly irrelevant then and after reading Johnson's book I have more articulated reasons for finding it irrelevant.  The main relevancy is the position of Descartes and his concept of splitting the mind and the brain or body and this he is never mentioned.  My main interest is how to counter people who have this view.  How can they be prodded into seeing the light?  I understand the problem better now but how do I convince others that my position, if not right, is at least not threatening.  Many fundamentalists, both Christian and Muslim, seem more convinced of their position now than they were in 1993.  In this sense we are going backwards, how can we turn this around?  Is theirs the last gasp of a dying mode of thought or is it a preview of things to come?  

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From Molecule to Metaphor         Jerome A. Feldman                  Dec 2007
            Subtitle:  A Neural Theory of Language

I  Embodied Information Processing
C1  The Mystery of Embodied Language  This book is based on two simple related principles:  1) Thought is structured neural activity and 2) Language is inextricable from thought and experience.

Language and culture are carried by family and culture (and based in our genetic endowment and experience) and each child has to rebuilt it all in her own mind.  All mental activity is based on a neuron receiving a signal, transmitting it to a synapse, the synapse enervates another neuron or some effector cell such as a muscle cell.  The brain is constantly active - the Necker Cube - a wire frame "cube" that can be imagined as switching back and forth between which vertex is closest.  The same works with language.  Josh threw a ball.  Josh through a ball for charity.  Josh threw a ball for charity but it missed the clown's nose.  

The mind is embodied within the physical body.  Thought and language are neural systems, they work by neural computation - not formal symbol manipulation.  The phrase, spinning your wheels, invokes metaphors from many areas.  The phrase, waltzing into recession, again, many metaphors.  The bridge linking neural structure and meaningful language rests on three pillars, 1) neural computation, 2) the embodied nature of thought and language, and 3) the integrated organization of language.  

C2  The Information Processing Perspective  Amoebas as information processors.  Amoebas can be conceptualized in three ways, 1) as a chemical factory, 2) as a creature with needs, desires, and goals, and 3) as information processors.  Each way is useful and productive.  However, not reproducing sexually they don't need to communicate.  Yeast cells do so we can also study communications using them as models.  For most cells, information is carried in chemical signals and even for neurons, which use electrical signals - this is based on chemical reactions.  Abstract information processing models, decimal vs. binary notation.  Touring machines, programs as data.

C3  Computational Models  Simulation, the Chinese Room and its relation to the Touring Test.  A comparison of neural information processing - brains and digital computers.  Mental structure parallels active neural structure.  Digital computers were designed to compute general functions - brains evolved to control animal bodies.  Brains have no separate program, their processing is embedded throughout their structure.

II  How the Brain Computes  
C4  Neurons and Other Cells  The boundary between chemistry and biology.  The chemical basis of sensing the environment.  The anatomy and physiology of the neuron (nerve cell) and the synapse.

C5  The Society of Neurons  Groups of neurons - networks or circuits.  The knee-jerk reflex which is a small circuit of four neurons that only extends from the knee to the spinal cord and then back.  This is the model for much neural computing, especially in "lower" animals such as the frog.  More advanced neural networks.  The relationship between motor circuits and sensory circuits, "empathy" - the activation of both motor and sensory circuits then we observe actions taking place.

C6  Nature and Nurture
 The either/or argument is now pretty much over except for some linguists and philosophers.  The answer is almost always both.  The SEA (Structure, Experience, Adaptation) cycle.  This cycle seems to be the rule of life for all phases after the first few divisions of a fertilized egg.  Brief discussion of the growth of the nervous system.  Hebbs Rule: each time a synaptic connection is active, if the receiving cell becomes active then the connection is strengthened, if not the connection is weakened.  This seems to work for both short-term and long-term memory.  There are many more problems to be addressed in this area.

III How the Mind Computes  
C7  Connections in the Mind  The Stroop effect - it is harder to recognize a word if other signals about the word do not match the "real" meaning of the word.  For example it is easier to recognize the word bold if it is viewed as bold instead of bold.  Next question, how fast can the brain compute?  For higher level involvement - driving a car, see an object on the road, decide to stop - this seems to take about 500 ms or 1/2 a minute.  After discussing several experiments the core idea is simple - mental connections are active neural connections.  Thought, memory, emotions are partially localized in the brain but beyond the first localization there are links to many other areas of the brain.  Brain function is neither localized to a single neuron (group of neurons) or spread holographically across the entire brain.

C8  Embodied Concepts and Their Words
 The first seven chapters discussed neural functioning that is present in all animals.  Now Feldman turns to specific language behaviors.  The basis for all concepts is categorization.  Conceptual categories: All or none, classical definitions as in scientific naming conventions, typical or prototype categories (typical case prototypes vs. ideal case prototypes), radial categories.  The finding that the first learned categories are at the "genus" level - dog, cat, horse, bear - and not at the species or individual level and not at higher levels (animal, primate, etc.  Similarly furniture (no), chair (yes), and rocking chair (no).  Concepts create semantic spaces and different cultures break them out differently although they all have similar concepts (color is an example).  

C9  The Computational Bridge  What are the "laws of thought?"  The attempt to specify exact grammatical rules go back to the Greeks and to Sanskrit scholars.  For this purpose the brain can be viewed as an information processing system.  Any theory of neural information processing has to account for three crucial information processing functions:
  1. How are words and concepts represented in the brain?
  2. How do these representations cooperate in mental activity?
  3. How does the brain learn language?
No one knows the answer yet, these questions form a structure upon which to build.  Freud and William James started this quest in psychological thinking.  Frank Rosenblatt constructed neural models in the 1950's but the first models were not to satisfactory.  The new connectionist models began in the 1980's and continue.  They postulate large arrays of processors contain facts with links to each other.  Each connection has a weight and if a connection is correct it is rewarded by raising its weight.  The recruitment mechanism adds more techniques for building links.  These models are hinted at but not explained well enough to duplicate without further information.

IV  Learning Concrete Words  
C10  First Words  Very young children imitate behavior that they see parents and caregivers emit.  Babbling is an effort by children to imitate spoken behavior.  When these are reinforced they are gradually shaped into words.  Current thinking seems to be that children learn "chunks" of behavior and then when a new word or action is presented they "fast-map" or recruit several of these "chunks" of behavior into the new word (action) and learn it in one try (one trial learning).  Another method is the mutual-exclusion principle.  Children assume that there is only one name for a thing, thus a new word must be a part or a feature of the thing - a paw must be a part of a dog.  Another aspect to be learned is causality.  All of these features of learning are probabilistic, errors will be made and corrected.

C11  Conceptual Schemas and Cultural Frames
 The basic structure of the chapter is that the real world has specific relationships but each culture (language) may put them together in any way.  One of the problems with (second) language translation and learning is that a simple table lookup often doesn't say how a specific relationship is mapped onto the manner in which the language uses it.  

He uses four levels of description, 1) language and thought, 2) computational, 3) connectionist networks, and 4) neural systems.  Neural systems are the structure of the brain.  Connectionist networks are our best guess representations of how the neural systems link together.  Computational is our best hypothesis of neural structures link to provide relationships to other neural features.  Language and thought take these linked relationships and convert them into language.  Question, unconscious learning and behavior, similarities and differences.  A problem, computational model sometimes fail to maintain a link to neural systems.  

Conceptual schemas are representations of data at the computational and connectionist level.  Cultural frames are representations of data at the language and thought level.  They should show relationships to conceptual schemas.

C12  Learning Spatial Relation Words  All languages respond to all features of the natural world, however they commonly break these features up in different ways.  He discusses (briefly) a computer model that learns simple relationships (above, below, right, in, on, etc) and learns to display the correct relationship (the ball is above the square) in each of the several languages used.  Other models can perform better but only within the confines of one or two very similar languages.  It is therefore a better model of human learning than individual Spanish (or German, etc.) language learning programs.

V  Learning Words for Actions  
C13  Embodied Knowledge of Actions  Two facts: children are very good at doing things before they learn the words for them, an action unfolds through time, so the child has some unconscious neural plan for the actions she performs.  Computational models of a cat walking at a trot and a pace.  Languages label (have words for) on the action properties of which we are aware.  The simulated android Jack which is commercially used to examine how the human body reacts in work or dangerous situations (car crashes).  The best way to recognize activities is to predict future behavior and compare the predictions with later actions.  The evidence shows that people use the same neural circuitry when imagining behavior as when actual performing it.

C14  Learning Action Words  Brief description of a computer model of learning words which pertain to specific actions using several languages.  The model was restricted actions that could be performed by on hand using objects on a table.  The hand performed and action and then a word was applied to the action.  

VI  Abstract and Metaphorical Words  
C15  Conceptual Systems  Levels of categorization: basic level (ex. bird), superordinate level (ex. flying animals), subordinate level (ex. Robin).  All learning of categories starts at the basic level.  The other levels involve additional learning.  The basic level is the highest level at which shared mental imagery, motor schemas, and gestalt perception characterize the entire category.  When children learn a new word they usually assume that it is not a synonym for a word they already know.  As children learn the language they learn super- and sub-categories and how they relate.

Languages tend to split categories in ways that have meaning to them but not necessarily to other languages.  The Wharf-Sapir Hypothesis.  Metaphor as a basic mechanism for thought.

C16  Metaphors and Meaning  Hypothesis: essentially all of our cultural, abstract, and theoretical concepts derive their meaning by mapping, through metaphor, to the embodied experimental concepts.  We start with basic abilities and builds on these through experience.  A list of "primary metaphors", Affection is warmth, etc.  The chapter is based on metaphor theory, much taken from Metaphors We Live By by Lakoff and Johnson.

C17  Understanding as Simulation  He presents 7 sentences and evaluates what you can know and/or guess about the situation: Harry {walked, came, waltzed, stumbled, escorted}{(to, into} the café {wall}.  Each option presents a different scenario.  In understanding it seems that we put ourselves in place of [Harry] and view ourself as participating in the sentence, we simulate the event in our brain and body.  A number of studies have suggested that this is the case.  Considerable discussion of the grammar involved.  He adds a word or two to the sentences mentioned above and discusses the grammatical changes.  "George Bush was born on third base and thinks he hit a triple." from Ann Richards as a very complex set of metaphors.  

VII  Understanding Stories  
C18  The Structure of Action and Events  To the 7 sentences above, add the word "was" after "Harry" and change the "-ed" to "-ing".  How can both groups of sentences be simulated?  Both in the computational and connectionist senses.    

C19  Belief and Interference  Discussion of condition dependence - probability of an object having a property; multiple properties - the probability of property a given the value of property b.  A short trip down the fuzzy logic road.  He discusses the probability of an apple being sweet or sour, then sweet or sour depending on the color of the apple {red, green}, and then adding the variety of apple.  He presents a method diagramming conditional dependence and how it can be used over time.  I still prefer fuzzy math and fuzzy logic.

C20  Understanding News Stories  He presents a number of statements taken from the news and explains how they were analyzed by a computer program.

VIII  Combining Form and Meaning  
C21  Combining Forms--Grammar  Language is a set of tool with which we attempt to guide another mind to evoke a mental representation that approximates one we have.  There are only three mechanisms within language for conveying a semantic relation, a word that contains a meaning, word order, and some change in a base word such as "-ed" as an ending denoting past tense.  He uses the term Context Free Grammar (CFG) where I (45 years ago) would have used Phrase Structure or Backus-Naur (Backus-Normal) grammar.  He discusses some of the problems in trying to use the same model of language over several different languages. Why grammar does not convey the entire amount of information that is present in the utterance.

C22  The Language Wars  Brief discussion of The Linguistics Wars (Harris 1983) about the controversy between Noam Chomsky and George Lakoff).  All normal human children can achieve competency in their mother language.  With minor exceptions this is the only group that can.  Are all languages relatively similar because of the nature of language or of the nature of brains?  Will be able to "speak" dolphin or will we need a new brain (or perhaps fins/flukes whatever)?

Core questions about grammar:
The language wars are between those who answer "Yes" to these questions vs. those who answer  "No".  Is there any middle ground?  Does this hinder or help the study of language?  How much of this is academic tradition?  

There are many serious questions surrounding these issues.  Do the genes carry enough information to generate some a priori structures for grammar, how many types of grammars are possible, are they inherent within all people and as children we "select" the one that matches our external environment, etc. etc.  These questions will not be solved soon but productive work continues to get done.  Maybe the questions are relevant, maybe not.  

C23  Combining Meanings--Embodied Construction Grammar  Feldman postulates a four step language understanding process:
  1. Analysis:  An utterance embedded within a situation acts as input.  The analysis uses conceptual knowledge (schemas) and linguistic knowledge (constructions).  The output of the analysis is -
  2. Semantic Specification
  3. Simulation:  The semantic specification is evaluated using situational knowledge which resultes in one or more -
  4. Inferences
After a discussion of these steps he proposes a method of computational modeling.  This is taken from a design called embodied construction grammar or ECG (Bergen & Chang 2005).  This is described in considerable detail using the sentence, "Harry strolled to Berkeley."

IX  Embodied Language
 
C24  Embodied Language Understanding  A major goal of ECG development has been to provide a formal notation for cognitive linguistics.  It seems that only four basic formal structures are needed.  Schemas and Constructions have been discussed earlier.  Metaphors provide an example of the third, Maps.  The fourth is the Mental Space.  

More discussion of ECG.  The additional problems of spoken vs. written language.  How are ambiguous utterances analyzed, the problem of missing words and implications which turn out to be erroneous or misleading (probability of being correct is low).  

C25  Learning Constructions  A brief summary of Nancy Chang's model of children's language learning.  She uses a variant of the language process in Ch. 23 and ECG.  It is obviously a first model but it seems to show promise.  

C26  Remaining Mysteries  There are two remaining mysteries of language, how did human language originate and what is the nature of personal experience?

Language was first used long, long ago.  Since there was no physical evidence before writing we cannot date it that way.  There are no "simple" languages, all human languages are equally complex and capable of describing the natural world.  At present there is no good evidence of proto-languages in animals (the higher apes).  Early hominids did not have some of the anatomical structures that are necessary for speech but this does not rule out sign language.  The best evidence suggests somewhere between 100,000 and 1 million years ago but this is very iffy.

Personal experience is even more iffy.  The debate is still on between the religious, philosophers, psychologists, and neurologists.  His recommendation as to the best source is Looking for Spinoza by Antonio Damasio (2003).  

C27  All Together Now  A brief overview of the entire book.  Any embodied theory of language rests on two fundamental principles and a related scientific stance:
A discussion of some of the literature in this area.  The problem of building a robot.  How can we talk to it?  If robots cannot share our subjective experience will we ever be able to communicate naturally with them?  (Define natural - how about augmented humans who would presumably understand much more about human - electronic interfaces.)

Progress in this will be difficult in part because of the many disciplines involved and the difficulty of knowing about promising results in other areas.

There are 7 pages of references and further reading and 5 pages of index.

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Terra                                             Michael Novacek                    Feb 2007
        Subtitled: Our 100-Million-Year-Old Ecosystem--and the Threats That Now Put It at Risk

Prologue: The Hyena  It was a summer morning in the Sahara, Novacek was walking on an ancient (60 million years) shoreline.  He had an ancient turtle shell in his hand.  He was thinking of the history of the area, both ancient and recent.  He smelled decaying flesh and saw a few bones, he walked a little closer.  Then he heard a footfall, something four-footed and large.  From behind a boulder about eight feet away a big hyena walked out.  It was the largest hyena he had ever seen.  It wasn't hungry. They parted company.  Later he would contemplate the meeting, our ancestors 7 mya had these encounters often, they too survived.  But can we survive much longer?  Without a miracle of politics and resolve our world will loose a large percentage of its species in the next 1 to 2 hundred years, will this particular ape be one of them?  

This book is about the last 100 million years, from the birth of the grasses until the present, the modern world.  He describes how the book will cover the story and why he wrote it.

Part One: The Way of the World  
C1  A Creature in the Forest
 The saola, Pseudoryx nghetinhensis, about 220 lbs, looking like a cross between a deer and an antelope, but not really.  They were first discovered in 1992 in the mountains between Laos and Vietnam.  There may be up to 200 of them still alive.  In 2002 he was able to travel to Vietnam to discuss museums.  There he was able to see a stuffed saola, sample the cuisine, and observe the country.  Of particular interest was the number of wild animals eaten.  The devastation of animals in that area of the world and throughout the rest of the world.  65 mya a rock the size of Mount Everest hit the earth and wiped out almost all large animals.  Are we going to be more destructive?  We already have a good start.

C2  Lush Life  Spiders have been found living just below the tip of Everest, at 29,000 feet.  Life becomes common between 20,000 and 17,000 feet.  Birds fly at over 25,000 feet, spiders have been found at over 30,000 feet on airplane wings.  No one knows how high bacteria and other micro-organisms can float.  Life thrives in ocean vents and on the bottom of deeps.  Bacteria live in deep-sea vents and boiling cauldrons in Yellowstone.  In between there are millions of different species.

A brief foray into his academic career, Darwin, Linnaeus, the definition of a species, DNA, taking a census of life, and the number of species going extinct in a year.

C3  Ephemeral Life  How long does a species last before it is replaced by something else?  Some as much as 20 my, perhaps an average of between 1 and 2 my, some only a very short time.  Twice there have been major die-offs  of huge numbers of species, about 250 mya and on 65 mya.  A useful concept is the background extinction rate - how many species go extinct in a given period of time, per year, decade, or century.  How have humans influenced this rate?  Recent data shows that the extinction rate is thousands of times greater than the long term extinction rate.  Some have estimated that as many as 30% to 50% of all species will be lost by 2100.  

C4  Elephants, Dung Beetles, and Ecosystems  Elephants eat a lot of food, they are messy eaters, and they produce a lot of waste.  They mess up forests, fields, and anything else that has food.  Luckily we have an efficient cleanup crew, dung beetles.  Humans and elephants don't co-exist very well and there is competition.  The food chain (web), the nitrogen cycle, the carbon cycle, and the increase in atmospheric CO2.  How are we going to coexist with all of the other life on the planet?  So far this question doesn't have any answers, just questions.

C5  Evolution--Life Through a New Lens  Science and religion are in separate realms (Lakoff might disagree), just like government in the United States and religion.  They do not intersect but when people try to make them do so, there are problems.

Evolution, which was finally codified by Darwin and Wallace in 1858, had many precursors in the 18th and 19th century.  Early approaches to "The Tree of Life", cladistics, and DNA.  A phylogeny for mammals for the last 140 my.  Creationism and intelligent design.

Part Two:  The World Becomes Modern  
C6  Ancient Ground
 History, naming, dates, flips in the magnetic poles, plate tectonics, fossil formation, discussion of some some early life forms - before the dinosaurs, the concept of a "missing link".  

C7  Imperial Collapse  The modern coal era.  The rise of plants - gymnosperms and angiosperms.  The climate during the Carboniferous Period (354 - 290 mya).  Average temperature went up to 72°F (now it is 54°F), at times CO2 levels went up to 1,500 ppm (now it is 380 ppm and rising), and O2 levels went up to 35% (now it is 21%).  CO2 levels were very high at the beginning, O2 was about 15%,  CO2 slowly dropped until it reached about 400 ppm at the Permian extinction.  O2 levels had slowly risen until a maximum just before the Permian extinction.  It then dropped down to about 12% and has slowly risen until our current 21%.  

High O2 concentration and high air pressure may have allowed giant insects (dragonflies with 2.5 ft. wingspans).  The predecessors of modern mammals probably originated during this time.  

C8  The Dinosaurs of Middle Earth  Early trees, the ginkgos and cycads, the rise of modern conifers, new insects and insect-plant dependence.  The rise and proliferation of dinosaurs.

C9  A Flower in the Forest  The origin and rise of flowering plants about 140 to 130 mya.  A discussion of the sex life of plants.  Sex in insects and mammals.  In several species of praying mantids the male cannot release the spermatophore with its sperm until the female eats his head.  The head of the male contains a gland whose secretions inhibit copulation.  The male can continue to copulate and ejaculate because these functions are controlled by a nerve ganglion in the abdominal region.  He raises the question as to what type of an intelligent designer would come up with this type of life plan.  Other strange sexual practices and apparatus.

C10  The Garden of Delights  Bees and flowers - a small amount of detail about the many ways in which bees and other insects (as well as a very few others) interact with flowers.  The incredible diversity of evolution.

C11  Toward a New Ecosystem  More on early flowers and insects.  The Raritan Formation in New Jersey.  The rise of the monocots which include grasses.  

C12  Dinosaur Camelot  The Cretaceous dinosaurs of Mongolia.  Roy Chapman Andrews and the Flaming Cliffs.  The puzzling relationship between dinosaurs and plants.

Part Three:  Death and Resurrection  
C 13  A Puzzling Catastrophe
 The town of Gubbio in the Ubrian hills of Italy and the Scaglia Rossa Limestone.  In the early 1970's Walter Alvarez and Bill Lowrie were studying the limestone deposits.  They noticed that there was a great difference between the fossils above and below a thin dark line in the limestone.  To help answer some questions, Alvarez talked to his father who had a Nobel Prize in physics.  The discussion continued for a while and as it happened, Novacek, the author, was working on his PhD in the same building.  He had no way of knowing that two floors above his office that both geology and paleontology were about to be completely upset.  

He goes on in considerable detail describing the assumed physical events and the scientific discussions which led to the theory that the K/T extinction event was caused by a large meteorite that hit the earth at the north end of the Yucatán Peninsula of Mexico.  There are still questions about the effect of a meteorite strike of this size would have on plants and animals.  As an interesting aside. after viewing the K/T line in the limestone he came back down the mountain, had dinner, and checked into a hotel.  There, after contemplating the vast catastrophe that killed all of the dinosaurs and many other species, he watched the towers burning on 9/11.

C14  The Era After  The aftermath of the K/T extinctions.  All life was devastated but it started coming back very quickly.  Many species came back very quickly, ferns and some others came back fully within 10,000 years.  A full recovery of the terrestrial carbon cycle occurred within 130,000 years.  Some marine species were fully recovered within 2 to 3 my.  Conifers and angiosperms took perhaps 1.5 my.  Animal species recovered from only about 15 species to about 60 species within perhaps 1 my.  The size of the largest animals went from mouse sized to squirrel size in perhaps 2 my but it took 15 my for the first badger sized animal to appear.  By 20 my the first large animals appeared and it wasn't until 30 my that the first true giant mammals appeared.  Most researchers think that it takes between 10 and 20 my for a completely functioning ecosystem to arrive.

He then describes some of the many life forms that have evolved since the K/T event including the line of primates that originated some 5 to 7 mya in Africa.  

Part Four: Terra Humana  
C15  Who They Were
 Olduvai Gorge.  The spot where the story of Homo was first written.  The story of the Leakey's and Olduvai.  Other areas in Africa where ancient human remains have been found.  Some of the questions surrounding the neanderthal and Homo florensiensis.  

C16  The Exterminators  Everywhere that humans have gone, large prey species have gone also.  The trouble is gone for humans means arrived and the gone for prey species means extinct.  There are a few exceptions to this, many of the animals in Africa were doing fine until guns and steel and a few like several in North America who bred in large numbers or were large herd animals or perhaps were more likely to see humans as food resources like the grizzly and polar bear.  By far the vast majority became extinct within several thousand years of humans arriving in their territory.

The hypothesis that humans killed them is the most generally accepted although a few disagree.  Of course in the last several hundred years no animal has a chance if they are not protected.

C17  The Cultivators  The life of a hunter-gatherer can be very rich and full.  In fact in many if not most cases, their remains show that they were taller and in better health than the farmers that replaced them.  Why then give it up?  By cultivating crops you can support more people on the land than it will support using a hunter-gatherer economy.

Plant and animal domestication came to  the "old world" between 11,500 years ago and 9,000 years ago.  It came to the Americas between 5,500 and 4,500 years ago.  Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel is an excellent discussion of this.  The author disagrees with a few details but not many.

C18  Land Rush  He starts out by describing the three years he spent in northern Wisconsin as a boy.  This leads into a discussion of the glaciers of the most recent Ice Age, and how the ice sculpted the surface of Canada and northern US.  Then into farms, some working, some abandoned.  Then into cultivation over all the earth following the last ice age.  Then to the water that farmers and all humans need to live.  Then to the massive changes that we are causing to the ecosystems using the honey bee as an example.  It's not a pretty picture.

C19  Dark Forces  Humans have caused extinction for thousands of species.  Recently laws have begun to prevent killing of a number of species.  Some of these are working, some are not.  A fairly new problem is the destruction of sea life.  Our most recent is invasive species.  His major example is the zebra mussel. The first zebra mussel was spotted in Lake St. Clair, a small lake between Lake Erie and Lake Huron in 1988, it probably came in ballast water from a ship from Europe.  

Invasive species are not a new problem,  about 3 mya the land bridge between North and South America was created.  Many species in South America were killed by competitors from the north.  Invasive species share a number of qualities:
  1. They tend to be highly opportunistic.
  2. They tend to reproduce at very high levels.
  3. They tend to be extraordinarily destructive very quickly.  
Two examples, on Christmas Island the yellow crazy any killed 3 million red land crabs in 18 months,  the Nile perch promoted the extinction of 200 native fish species in Lake Victoria since 1954.

Many feel that when a species evolves in concert with other species they all evolve to survive the existence of others and predator species keep all species in check.  However when invasive species arrive they often damage native species and there are no predators to keep them in control.  Biological controls may be risky and they require extensive testing to be sure that the control does no provide a greater risk than the species they are controlling.

C20  The Waste of a World  Pollution.  He tells a story of growing up in Mar Vista, on the outskirts of Los Angeles.  The kids in the neighborhood would have contests on the smoggiest days.  They would breath the air extremely deeply and try not to cough.  This was almost impossible.  The smog in LA has gotten better, but not a lot.

60,000 years ago humans were burning large tracts of forestland and generating smoke.  By 3,000 BC smelting of copper began.  Galen wrote about the health hazards in 200 BC.  Rome was the largest and dirtiest city in the world.  The Cloaca Maxima was built in 500 BC.  Pliny (AD 23-79) wrote about workers in zinc smelters.  In 1361 King Edward I of England banned coal burning in London.  In 1858 the stench from the Thames River (the Great Stink) became so bad that London's sewer system was built.  

There is scientific evidence of this from the Greenland ice layers.  Copper deposits began about 3,000 BC. and gradually rose until about 500 BC.  They remained fairly constant until Rome fell about 500 AD.  There was a rise about 1100 AD due to copper smelting in China.  Lead shows a similar pattern, rising levels until 300 AD, then a drop off.  By 1700 it was again high and continued rising until the 1990's with the use of unleaded gasoline.  

He then discusses water and land pollution including the Exxon Valdez and others, Bhopal, etc.  We are making and living in a sewer.

C21  Heat Wave  A long chapter covering many aspects of global temperature.  The evidence for recent global warming.  The global temperature record.  Temperature was relatively constant from 1860 to 1910, then a rise until 1940, constant until 1975, and then a rapid rise since.  Much discussion about the various factors involved.  Global temperatures over the last 500 my.  A graph of the last 70 my.  A slow rise from 70 mya to a high at 50 mya.  Then a slow fall until just before the present day with an abrupt drop at about 34 mya and a rapid rise at 28 mya.

A graph of global sea level and CO2 concentration over the last 450,000 years.  They match quite well.  A discussion of projected sea level both with and without human CO2.  We should be getting colder, we are not.  The effects that global warming will have on weather.  The effect of climate change on living species.  What will be the end result when we add the human effect of species with the climate warming?  Coral bleaching, the effect of CO2 on marine species.  Acidification of oceans and the drop in carbonate ions used by many species.  What will the effect be on humans?  

We can do something about this, but we need to do it fast to avoid the potential extremes. 

C22  Future World  What will we do?  He first went to China in 1990 and he has been back at least 20 times.  At first Beijing still showed signs of the "old country" with construction.  Most of the old is gone and the smog and other pollution are the most eye-catching sight and smell.  Is this our future?  Three premises underscore our certainty about this.
  1. The changes we are witnessing today are in may ways unparalleled not only in the entire length of human history but in many millions of years preceding that history
  2. Facets of the current events were nonetheless foreshadowed by certain events in the past, from which we can learn something.
  3. Our environmental and evolutionary future will be altered and redefined by any major change occurring in the vital services already provided--nutrient recycling, productivity, CO2 sequestering--by the present ecosystems and their diverse species.  What has occurred, is occurring, and will occur over the next few decades has the power to transform a 100-million-year old ecosystem.
We have 6 billion people now, in 2050 we will have 8.9 billion.  Put these in what remains of our natural habitats and you have a serious problem.  We are well into creating the sixth great extinction event.  There are six important facts that we must consider.
  1. We are not just experiencing the "normal" or background rate of extinction, it is ten thousand times faster than the background rate.  It is projected that we will lose 30 to 50% of our species by 2050, this is not as high as the Permian 250 mya when we lost 90%, but it is close to the K/T extinction when we lost the dinosaurs.  It may be the second highest in 500 million years, and we are doing it all ourselves.
  2. We have been modifying the ecosystems of the earth for more than 40 million years, but there is no guarantee that we will be able to continue this in the future.  There is evidence that we are approaching a threshold, and what is at stake is a 100 million year old ecosystem.
  3. Extinction is irreversible.  As Michael Soule has said, "Death is one thing, and end to birth is something else."
  4. The irreversibility of species extinction and its cascading effects impede ecosystem recovery.  The "speedy" recovery after the K/T event took hundreds of thousands of years.  The recovery of large vertebrates took tens of millions of years.
  5. The loss of a species is not an event unto itself; it is one event that inevitably leads to others that can threaten ecosystem collapse.  
  6. The diversity of species is directly related to the sustenance of human life, not to mention our health, our pleasure, and our happiness.
These are all first order effects, what happens when the second order effects start?  We may have an Earth dominated by pest and weed ecology.  The species that are invasive will probably be the least effected, mice, cockroaches, etc.  Another problem is the interaction of humans, climate, and ecosystems.  Humans have fought wars over health, wealth, resources, trade, government, ans societal prerogatives.  When these changes become worse it is likely that armed conflicts will arise.  

In some areas we are making progress, but they are usually in terms of specific species, and these are large and "attractive", what about the smaller and less noticeable species?  He suggests that there are three options for a global strategy of land use:
  1. Preserve natural ecosystems to maximize the benefits we expect from them - which does not provide for food crops.
  2. Develop intensive croplands - which fails to provide ecosystem services.
  3. Develop croplands mixing agriculture with natural components.  This provide some, but not all of the foodstuffs of option 2 and provides many of the ecosystem services.
There are a number of different options for reducing CO2 levels, we must use most if not all of them.  The leading polluter countries have yet to take many positive steps to solve the problems, this must end.  There is reason for hope, but there is reason for pessimism also.

There are 69 pages of notes and references by chapter, 20 pages of index, and 3 pages of illustration credits.  

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