Radical monkeyshines ruin this well-intentioned treatise. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

RATTLING THE CAGE

TOWARD LEGAL RIGHTS FOR ANIMALS

A potentially historic work on the legal case for animal rights that shoots itself in the paw with shrill terms and tactics.

Wise, who teaches animal-rights law at Harvard Law School and elsewhere, is a prominent legal defender and activist for animals. His specialty is the highly intelligent and endangered chimpanzee species favored by biomedical researchers, zookeepers, and African chefs. Wise takes us to academic facilities where scientists convincingly demonstrate the chimp's ability to understand cause and effect, use tools, and even perform basic mathematical calculations. The evidence is clear that these mistreated creatures are more "human" than young or brain-damaged Homo sapiens. Their neurology and genetic structure warrant reclassifying them within the genus Homo. Therefore, argues Wise, chimpanzees deserve at least the same legal rights and protections awarded to children and other people unable to speak for themselves. Unfortunately, Wise switches at this point from cogent attorney and law professor to agitated activist and polemicist. He not only demands legal "personhood" for his simian clients, but often refers to their destruction as "genocide." Reviewing the history of law and religion, he blames their insistence on the sanctity of human life for "the legal thinghood of nonhuman animals." Wise celebrates 19th-century atheism and scientism which, he believes, proved "that the universe was not designed at all, much less designed for humans." In his narrow metal cage of a worldview, anyone who believes that evolution was divinely directed, that beings who understand ethics (not just basic syntax) may be supreme, or that some humans feel biblically forbidden even from yoking two unequal beasts together (in the name of divine animal rights) is a worse enemy of animals than the enlightened scientists who routinely torture and maim them for knowledge and profit.

Radical monkeyshines ruin this well-intentioned treatise. (Author tour; radio satellite tour)

Pub Date: Feb. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-7382-0065-4

Page Count: 332

Publisher: Perseus

Review Posted Online: May 20, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2000

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A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

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NO ONE IS TOO SMALL TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE

A collection of articulate, forceful speeches made from September 2018 to September 2019 by the Swedish climate activist who was nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize.

Speaking in such venues as the European and British Parliaments, the French National Assembly, the Austrian World Summit, and the U.N. General Assembly, Thunberg has always been refreshingly—and necessarily—blunt in her demands for action from world leaders who refuse to address climate change. With clarity and unbridled passion, she presents her message that climate change is an emergency that must be addressed immediately, and she fills her speeches with punchy sound bites delivered in her characteristic pull-no-punches style: “I don’t want you to be hopeful. I want you to panic. I want you to feel the fear I feel every day. And then I want you to act.” In speech after speech, to persuade her listeners, she cites uncomfortable, even alarming statistics about global temperature rise and carbon dioxide emissions. Although this inevitably makes the text rather repetitive, the repetition itself has an impact, driving home her point so that no one can fail to understand its importance. Thunberg varies her style for different audiences. Sometimes it is the rousing “our house is on fire” approach; other times she speaks more quietly about herself and her hopes and her dreams. When addressing the U.S. Congress, she knowingly calls to mind the words and deeds of Martin Luther King Jr. and John F. Kennedy. The last speech in the book ends on a note that is both challenging and upbeat: “We are the change and change is coming.” The edition published in Britain earlier this year contained 11 speeches; this updated edition has 16, all worth reading.

A tiny book, not much bigger than a pamphlet, with huge potential impact.

Pub Date: Nov. 26, 2019

ISBN: 978-0-14-313356-8

Page Count: 112

Publisher: Penguin

Review Posted Online: Nov. 3, 2019

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A quirky wonder of a book.

WHY FISH DON'T EXIST

A STORY OF LOSS, LOVE, AND THE HIDDEN ORDER OF LIFE

A Peabody Award–winning NPR science reporter chronicles the life of a turn-of-the-century scientist and how her quest led to significant revelations about the meaning of order, chaos, and her own existence.

Miller began doing research on David Starr Jordan (1851-1931) to understand how he had managed to carry on after the 1906 San Francisco earthquake destroyed his work. A taxonomist who is credited with discovering “a full fifth of fish known to man in his day,” Jordan had amassed an unparalleled collection of ichthyological specimens. Gathering up all the fish he could save, Jordan sewed the nameplates that had been on the destroyed jars directly onto the fish. His perseverance intrigued the author, who also discusses the struggles she underwent after her affair with a woman ended a heterosexual relationship. Born into an upstate New York farm family, Jordan attended Cornell and then became an itinerant scholar and field researcher until he landed at Indiana University, where his first ichthyological collection was destroyed by lightning. In between this catastrophe and others involving family members’ deaths, he reconstructed his collection. Later, he was appointed as the founding president of Stanford, where he evolved into a Machiavellian figure who trampled on colleagues and sang the praises of eugenics. Miller concludes that Jordan displayed the characteristics of someone who relied on “positive illusions” to rebound from disaster and that his stand on eugenics came from a belief in “a divine hierarchy from bacteria to humans that point[ed]…toward better.” Considering recent research that negates biological hierarchies, the author then suggests that Jordan’s beloved taxonomic category—fish—does not exist. Part biography, part science report, and part meditation on how the chaos that caused Miller’s existential misery could also bring self-acceptance and a loving wife, this unique book is an ingenious celebration of diversity and the mysterious order that underlies all existence.

A quirky wonder of a book.

Pub Date: April 14, 2020

ISBN: 978-1-5011-6027-1

Page Count: 224

Publisher: Simon & Schuster

Review Posted Online: Jan. 2, 2020

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 2020

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