An admirably innovative reflection on the evolution of human consciousness.

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RETHINKING WHAT IT MEANS WE EVOLVED

NEW FRAMEWORK FOR UNIVERSAL MORAL VALUES

A reconsideration of evolution proposes an alternative to both Darwinism and creationism. 

Johnston (Alternative to Darwinism and Creationism Based on Free Will, 2011, etc.) was fascinated by science as a young child, and the theory of evolution in particular after he read Darwin’s The Origin of the Species in his teens. But he eventually became dissatisfied with its limitations, especially its inability to fully account for human consciousness, creativity, and free will. In order to communicate the crux of his consternation—and eventual conversion from enthusiastic Darwinian—the author conjures three possible worlds. The first is an irreducibly physical one filled with bodies but bereft of mind or free will—he calls this the “PhysicsCosmos.” Another is a realm that permits the existence of the supernatural, including angels, demons, and God, called “SpiritCosmos.” Finally, there is “MindCosmos,” which makes a place for consciousness and its effects, but without recourse to a religious metaphysics. This is the world Johnston finds most consistent with human experience, and seeks a new evolutionary theory that explains the emergence of intelligent creativity. The fulcrum of that account is the genome, so marvelously packed with complex information that it essentially thinks into existence a new species endowed with volition: “That colossal capacity for information, plus its evident ability to manage all that information, taken together persuade me that the genome could function as a brain.” The author explores the superiority of his model to competing candidates and also discusses its implications for fields like economics and education. While there’s no shortage of recent monographs, scholarly and popular, on the shortcomings of both evolutionary theory and creationism, Johnston’s contribution to the field is an astonishingly original one. In a way, his version is deeply Cartesian, haunted by the interaction between mind and matter, but also grounded in the ordinary experience of human action. He thoughtfully understands that the quest for an origin story is not merely a matter of genetic mechanics, but also tied to the existence of the human self and the values and purposes that propel that self through a finite life. The commentary is supplemented by short stories, quirkily constructed around the nature of human consciousness and agency; for example, one centers on the famous Turing test. Problematically, the work’s brevity is both a boon and a burden. While the author’s concision, as well as lucid writing style, makes for accessibility, it also necessitates arguments so condensed they raise as many questions as they aim to answer. For example, it’s never clear whether the self is autonomously constructed—the product of willful choice—or the sum result of historical forces; he seems to suggest both. In addition, much of the discussion regarding the genome as the seat of intelligence is unspecific and metaphorical, and so seems like a prelude to a much more detailed examination. Nonetheless, this is a valuably fresh take on an important debate, and an excellent introduction to some of Darwinism’s philosophical flaws (an appendix is dedicated to cataloging them).

An admirably innovative reflection on the evolution of human consciousness. 

Pub Date: March 1, 2017

ISBN: 978-0-9779470-8-9

Page Count: 177

Publisher: Evolved Self Publishing

Review Posted Online: Aug. 2, 2017

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WHAT A WONDERFUL WORLD

A LIFETIME OF RECORDINGS

Noted jazz and pop record producer Thiele offers a chatty autobiography. Aided by record-business colleague Golden, Thiele traces his career from his start as a ``pubescent, novice jazz record producer'' in the 1940s through the '50s, when he headed Coral, Dot, and Roulette Records, and the '60s, when he worked for ABC and ran the famous Impulse! jazz label. At Coral, Thiele championed the work of ``hillbilly'' singer Buddy Holly, although the only sessions he produced with Holly were marred by saccharine strings. The producer specialized in more mainstream popsters like the irrepressibly perky Teresa Brewer (who later became his fourth wife) and the bubble-machine muzak-meister Lawrence Welk. At Dot, Thiele was instrumental in recording Jack Kerouac's famous beat- generation ramblings to jazz accompaniment (recordings that Dot's president found ``pornographic''), while also overseeing a steady stream of pop hits. He then moved to the Mafia-controlled Roulette label, where he observed the ``silk-suited, pinky-ringed'' entourage who frequented the label's offices. Incredibly, however, Thiele remembers the famously hard-nosed Morris Levy, who ran the label and was eventually convicted of extortion, as ``one of the kindest, most warm-hearted, and classiest music men I have ever known.'' At ABC/Impulse!, Thiele oversaw the classic recordings of John Coltrane, although he is the first to admit that Coltrane essentially produced his own sessions. Like many producers of the day, Thiele participated in the ownership of publishing rights to some of the songs he recorded; he makes no apology for this practice, which he calls ``entirely appropriate and without any ethical conflicts.'' A pleasant, if not exactly riveting, memoir that will be of most interest to those with a thirst for cocktail-hour stories of the record biz. (25 halftones, not seen)

Pub Date: May 1, 1995

ISBN: 0-19-508629-4

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Oxford Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: March 1, 1995

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MOMOFUKU MILK BAR

With this detailed, versatile cookbook, readers can finally make Momofuku Milk Bar’s inventive, decadent desserts at home, or see what they’ve been missing.

In this successor to the Momofuku cookbook, Momofuku Milk Bar’s pastry chef hands over the keys to the restaurant group’s snack-food–based treats, which have had people lining up outside the door of the Manhattan bakery since it opened. The James Beard Award–nominated Tosi spares no detail, providing origin stories for her popular cookies, pies and ice-cream flavors. The recipes are meticulously outlined, with added tips on how to experiment with their format. After “understanding how we laid out this cookbook…you will be one of us,” writes the author. Still, it’s a bit more sophisticated than the typical Betty Crocker fare. In addition to a healthy stock of pretzels, cornflakes and, of course, milk powder, some recipes require readers to have feuilletine and citric acid handy, to perfect the art of quenelling. Acolytes should invest in a scale, thanks to Tosi’s preference of grams (“freedom measurements,” as the friendlier cups and spoons are called, are provided, but heavily frowned upon)—though it’s hard to be too pretentious when one of your main ingredients is Fruity Pebbles. A refreshing, youthful cookbook that will have readers happily indulging in a rising pastry-chef star’s widely appealing treats.    

 

Pub Date: Oct. 25, 2011

ISBN: 978-0-307-72049-8

Page Count: 256

Publisher: Clarkson Potter

Review Posted Online: Jan. 13, 2012

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15, 2011

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