Library

 

A work in progress.

Nick is currently reading: Descartes’ Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio

Here are some of the most interesting works I’ve encountered in my research, sorted by topic.

A Scientific Worldview

General Science and History

  • What On Earth Happened?: The Complete History of the Planet, Life, and People from the Big Bang to Present Day (2008) by Christopher Lloyd — A thorough chronological treatment of the history of the cosmos, life, and humanity from the Big Bang to present day.
  • The Universe Story: From the Primordial Flaring Forth to Ecozoic Era: A Celebration of the Unfolding of the Cosmos (1992) by Brian Swimme and Thomas Berry — An inspirational tale about the origin of the cosmos, life, and humanity which distills the specifics of the universe story down to its essential patterns, and weaves a compelling scientific narrative for our past and future.
  • A Short History of Nearly Everything (2003) by Bill Bryson — A fascinating history of the scientific discoveries which have progressively led us to our current understanding of the deep history of the cosmos, life, and humanity.
  • The Complete Works of Carl Sagan, including:
    • Cosmos: A Personal Voyage (1980 Television Series) — Sagan’s acclaimed documentary takes us on an unforgettable journey through the cosmos, telling an inspirational tale of the evolution of the cosmos, life, and humanity.
    • Cosmos (1980 Book) — A perfect complement to the documentary, it covers slightly different aspects of the same topics as the documentary.
    • Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors: A Search for Who We Are (1993) with Ann Druyan — Sagan and Druyan present a deep and broad analysis of the most important episodes in the history of the cosmos, shedding valuable light on who we are.
    • The Dragons of Eden: Speculations on the Evolution of Human Intelligence (1977) — Sagan presents his ideas on the evolution of the brain and of the evolutionary advantages of various psychological adaptations.
  • Science for All Americans (1990) by F. James Rutherford and Andrew Ahlgren — An eminently readable introduction to the scientific worldview from the cosmic to the personal, the old to the new.
  • The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science (2007) by Natalie Angier — A marvelous introduction to the core foundations of a modern scientific worldview.
  • Science Matters: Achieving Science Literacy – Second Edition (2009) by Robert Hazen and James Trefil — A jargon-free introduction to the most important ideas in the basic fields of scientific thought.

Cosmic History

  • Big Bang: The Origin of the Universe (2005) by Simon Singh —  A comprehensive treatment of historical views about the origin of the cosmos.
  • The Life of the Cosmos (1997) by Lee Smolin — Smolin presents his multiverse hypothesis, in which he proposes that universes, like organisms, evolve by natural selection.
  • In the Beginning: The Birth of the Living Universe (1993) by John Gribbin — Gribbin explains the evolution of the cosmos in terms of evolutionary processes of self-organization and natural selection.
  • You Are Here: A Portable History of the Universe (2009) by Christopher Potter — Potter explores the complexity and mystery of the universe on a wide variety of scales from many different aspects.
  • How It Ends: From You to the Universe (2010) by Chris Impey — Impey takes us on a compelling journey into the future to see how we expect humanity, life, and the cosmos to end.

Life History

  • Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (2008) by David Sloan Wilson — In this evolutionary page-turner, Wilson lays out the basic of evolution and shows the many ways that it directly applies to our everyday life.
  • The Complete Works of Charles Darwin, including:
    • Journal and Remarks (Voyage of the Beagle) (1839) — The journal of the world’s most renowned naturalist from the famous voyage around the world on which he discovered many of the facts that would later influence his theory of natural selection.
    • On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life (1859) — A book that continues to rock the world with its implications. In it, Darwin clearly lays out his theory of descent with modification as a primary mechanism leading to the origin of species. Still eminently relevant and readable today.
    • The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871) — Even more controversial, Darwin’s theory applied to humanity. Even then, Darwin realized that all life had evolved from a common ancestor, and that humans were one branch of many on the evolutionary tree of life.
  • The Complete Works of Richard Dawkins:
    • The Selfish Gene (1976) — A thorough defense of a gene-centered view of evolution.
    • The Extended Phenotype (1982) — A more technical work demonstrating that the effects of genes (their observable impacts) can extend beyond the body of the carrying organism to the organism’s environment.
    • The Blind Watchmaker (1986) — A modern rebuttal to William Paley’s watchmaker argument in natural theology, which proposed that complexity was best explained by invoking a Creator.
    • River Out of Eden (1995) — An explanation of evolution and natural selection by analogy with an ever-branching river of genes flowing through time.
    • Climbing Mount Improbable (1996) — A sequel to the arguments of Blind Watchmaker in which Dawkins explicitly lays out the smooth gradient of mutations that could lead to the evolution of eyes and wings, among other complex features of life.
    • Unweaving the Rainbow (1998) — An rousing rebuttal to John Keats’ accusation that Isaac Newton’s naturalistic explanation of the rainbow destroyed its beauty.
    • A Devil’s Chaplain: Reflections on Hope, Lies, Science, and Love (2003) — A collection of essays on science, Darwinism, and religion.
    • The Ancestor’s Tale (2004) — A journey back in time to meet the common ancestors (concestors) that we share with all life on Earth, traveling all the way back to the origin of life.
    • The God Delusion (2006) — A crushing critique of the God hypothesis, including a naturalistic explanation of the roots of moral sentiments.
    • The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution (2009) — A modern Origin of Species which explains why evolution by natural selection is not only a well-developed theory, but a demonstrated fact of life on Earth.
  • The Complete Works of Stephen Jay Gould, including:
    • Ontogeny and Phylogeny (1977), Ever Since Darwin (1977), The Panda’s Thumb (1980), The Mismeasure of Man (1981), Hen’s Teeth and Horse’s Toes (1983), The Flamingo’s Smile (1985), Time’s Arrow, Time’s Cycle (1987), An Urchin in the Storm (1987), Wonderful Life (1989), Bully for Brontosaurus (1991), Eight Little Piggies (1993), Dinosaur in a Haystack (1995), Full House (1996), Questioning the Millennium (1997), Leonardo’s Mountain of Clams and the Diet of Worms (1998), The Lying Stones of Marrakech (2000), I Have Landed (2002) — In thousands of engaging pages, the acclaimed Harvard paleontologist expands on Darwin’s view of life, presenting myriad aspects of the historical and modern scientific worldview.
  • The Complete Works of E.O. Wilson, including:
    • Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (25th Anniversary Edition) (2000) — Wilson’s extremely controversial treatise on animal and human social science from an evolutionary perspective.
    • Biophilia (1984) — Presents Wilson’s hypothesis that there is an instinctive bond between human beings and the living systems to which they are kin.
    • The Diversity of Life (1992) — Traces the history of life through the continuous flourishing of the diversity of life, punctuated by six catastrophic mass extinctions.
    • The Creation: An Appeal to Save Life on Earth (2006) — An appeal, particularly to people of faith, to come together and save life from the sixth, anthropogenic mass extinction.

Human History

  • The Complete Works of Jared Diamond, including:
    • The Third Chimpanzee (1992) — In a history of the evolution of humanity, Diamond explains how one species came to dominate the world, and how one culture came to dominate the species.
    • Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fate of Human Societies (1997) — In a history of human success, Diamond explains how the power in the world came to be distributed as it is today, namely a process by which some societies came to possess guns, germs, and steel, and used them to conquer the world.
    • Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (2005) — In a history of human failure, Diamond explains how human societies can collapse to extinction, namely, through conflicts with their environment and neighbors.
  • A New Green History of the World: The Environment and the Collapse of Great Civilizations (2007) by Clive Ponting — In a history of how many cultures collapsed, and how one culture came to dominate the world using the methods that led to collapses, Ponting tells a cautionary tale for civilization.
  • The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature (2002) by Steven Pinker — Pinker explores the universal genetic and cultural nature of humans which has been widely denied.
  • A Short History of Progress (2004) — A short history of the dangerous idea that growth, rather than sustainability, should be humanity’s main goal in life
  • The Sacred Balance: Rediscovering Our Place in Nature (2007) — An exploration of science and humanity from an ecological perspective.

Valuescience

I’ve found at least eight different approaches to valuescience in the literature. It has been called by its various proponents “moral science” (Dewey), “a science of human values” (Maslow), “valuescience” (Schrom), “ethicology” (Carrier), “eudaimonics” (Flanagan), and “a science of morality” (Wikipedia). I like “valuescience.”