Scientifically inclined dog lovers will find this a trove of information and provocation.

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ONCE A WOLF

THE SCIENCE BEHIND OUR DOGS' ASTONISHING GENETIC EVOLUTION

How did wolves evolve into dogs? Sykes (Genetics/Oxford Univ.; The Nature of the Beast, 2015, etc.) reviews the state of the art on matters canine and lupine.

Past studies of canine evolution have relied on osteological and archaeological evidence, but since 2005, the fully sequenced dog genome has been available, allowing, among other things, for “re-drawing the evolutionary tree of dog breeds constructed with mitochondrial DNA over twenty years previously.” Five years later, writes the author, a new family tree was published, with all 64 breeds—even the Chihuahua—pointing back to the wolf. Some of those breeds are “ancient,” such as the Basenji and Samoyed; others are quite recent. Making those breeds required domestication, for which Sykes finds no evidence before about 50,000 years ago—still far earlier than previous studies have projected. Like other scholars, the author locates that origin in shared hunting, a process that may have altered humans as much as dogs in “the unstoppable current of natural selection.” Scholarly argument persists over whether the original raw materials of the dog were really wolves and not coyotes, jackals, hyenas, and other canids. Sykes charts the development of the Carnivora before settling, persuasively, on the scenario of Paleolithic hunters working in concert with wolves to bring down large game such as bison. The author goes on to examine some of the mutations that subsequently allowed human breeders to select for certain characteristics, whether the ridge of the ridgeback or the pigmentation of the bull terrier (with a passing nod to the heterochromia exhibited by David Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust). Melanism, hyperuremia, progressive rod-cone retinal degeneration: The author’s discussion can be densely technical at times but never enough to render the text inaccessible to those without a background in genetics and population dynamics. Moreover, he closes by looking outside of nature to find the nurture connected to our love of dogs, that “amazing psychic symbiosis."

Scientifically inclined dog lovers will find this a trove of information and provocation.

Pub Date: March 5, 2019

ISBN: 978-1-63149-379-9

Page Count: 320

Publisher: Liveright/Norton

Review Posted Online: Dec. 9, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2019

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If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

THE 48 LAWS OF POWER

The authors have created a sort of anti-Book of Virtues in this encyclopedic compendium of the ways and means of power.

Everyone wants power and everyone is in a constant duplicitous game to gain more power at the expense of others, according to Greene, a screenwriter and former editor at Esquire (Elffers, a book packager, designed the volume, with its attractive marginalia). We live today as courtiers once did in royal courts: we must appear civil while attempting to crush all those around us. This power game can be played well or poorly, and in these 48 laws culled from the history and wisdom of the world’s greatest power players are the rules that must be followed to win. These laws boil down to being as ruthless, selfish, manipulative, and deceitful as possible. Each law, however, gets its own chapter: “Conceal Your Intentions,” “Always Say Less Than Necessary,” “Pose as a Friend, Work as a Spy,” and so on. Each chapter is conveniently broken down into sections on what happened to those who transgressed or observed the particular law, the key elements in this law, and ways to defensively reverse this law when it’s used against you. Quotations in the margins amplify the lesson being taught. While compelling in the way an auto accident might be, the book is simply nonsense. Rules often contradict each other. We are told, for instance, to “be conspicuous at all cost,” then told to “behave like others.” More seriously, Greene never really defines “power,” and he merely asserts, rather than offers evidence for, the Hobbesian world of all against all in which he insists we live. The world may be like this at times, but often it isn’t. To ask why this is so would be a far more useful project.

If the authors are serious, this is a silly, distasteful book. If they are not, it’s a brilliant satire.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 1998

ISBN: 0-670-88146-5

Page Count: 430

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our...

THINKING, FAST AND SLOW

A psychologist and Nobel Prize winner summarizes and synthesizes the recent decades of research on intuition and systematic thinking.

The author of several scholarly texts, Kahneman (Emeritus Psychology and Public Affairs/Princeton Univ.) now offers general readers not just the findings of psychological research but also a better understanding of how research questions arise and how scholars systematically frame and answer them. He begins with the distinction between System 1 and System 2 mental operations, the former referring to quick, automatic thought, the latter to more effortful, overt thinking. We rely heavily, writes, on System 1, resorting to the higher-energy System 2 only when we need or want to. Kahneman continually refers to System 2 as “lazy”: We don’t want to think rigorously about something. The author then explores the nuances of our two-system minds, showing how they perform in various situations. Psychological experiments have repeatedly revealed that our intuitions are generally wrong, that our assessments are based on biases and that our System 1 hates doubt and despises ambiguity. Kahneman largely avoids jargon; when he does use some (“heuristics,” for example), he argues that such terms really ought to join our everyday vocabulary. He reviews many fundamental concepts in psychology and statistics (regression to the mean, the narrative fallacy, the optimistic bias), showing how they relate to his overall concerns about how we think and why we make the decisions that we do. Some of the later chapters (dealing with risk-taking and statistics and probabilities) are denser than others (some readers may resent such demands on System 2!), but the passages that deal with the economic and political implications of the research are gripping.

Striking research showing the immense complexity of ordinary thought and revealing the identities of the gatekeepers in our minds.

Pub Date: Nov. 1, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-374-27563-1

Page Count: 512

Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux

Review Posted Online: Sept. 4, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 15, 2011

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