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An unsettling but highly thought-provoking book.

An exploration of how “there is something presently wrong with how…scientists think about life, its existence, its origins, and its evolution.”

The discipline of biology is in crisis, writes Turner (Biology/SUNY Coll. of Environmental Science and Forestry; The Tinkerer’s Accomplice: How Design Emerges from Life Itself, 2009, etc.) in this ingenious mixture of science and philosophy that points out major defects in Darwinism and then delivers heterodox but provocative solutions. That biology is in crisis may be news to readers, but the author points out that no Darwinian explanation exists for the origin of life or the origin of the cornerstone of modern biology, the gene. Darwinism also has a “hard time explaining what an organism is, or why…living things are actually (not apparently) well-designed.” Aware that alarm bells will sound, Turner denies proposing intelligent design but adds that the obstacle is philosophical: biologists must accept that Darwinian evolution is a “phenomenon rife with purpose, intentionality, and striving.” This is vitalism—not the mystical 19th-century life force but the obvious ability of living organisms to maintain internal consistency in the face of environmental perturbation. Mostly, the book is a virtuosic, if revisionist, history of evolutionary thought that rehabilitates traditionally scorned figures (Jean-Baptiste Lamarck, Georges Cuvier), reinterprets celebrated 19th-century French physiologist Claude Bernard’s ideas on homeostasis, and delivers admiring portraits of the geniuses of modern evolutionary ideas (Lewis Henry Morgan, Ronald Fisher, Sewall Wright, J.B.S. Haldane) without backing down from Turner’s insistence that they missed something. Creationists happily trumpet any criticism of Darwinism as proof that it’s false, but Turner is only proposing that the strictly materialist approach to studying life could use some help. That organisms strive is not magic but an emergent property.

An unsettling but highly thought-provoking book.

Pub Date: Sept. 12, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-06-265156-3

Page Count: 336

Publisher: HarperOne

Review Posted Online: July 2, 2017

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2017

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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 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 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 1998

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This a book of earlier, philosophical essays concerned with the essential "absurdity" of life and the concept that- to overcome the strong tendency to suicide in every thoughtful man-one must accept life on its own terms with its values of revolt, liberty and passion. A dreary thesis- derived from and distorting the beliefs of the founders of existentialism, Jaspers, Heldegger and Kierkegaard, etc., the point of view seems peculiarly outmoded. It is based on the experience of war and the resistance, liberally laced with Andre Gide's excessive intellectualism. The younger existentialists such as Sartre and Camus, with their gift for the terse novel or intense drama, seem to have omitted from their philosophy all the deep religiosity which permeates the work of the great existentialist thinkers. This contributes to a basic lack of vitality in themselves, in these essays, and ten years after the war Camus seems unaware that the life force has healed old wounds... Largely for avant garde aesthetes and his special coterie.

Pub Date: Sept. 26, 1955

ISBN: 0679733736

Page Count: 228

Publisher: Knopf

Review Posted Online: Sept. 19, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1, 1955

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