"Men work more than their needs require only when forced to. And it is just that kind of force which is absent from the primitive world; the absence of that external force even defines the nature of primitive society" (195). BACK
Charles Darwin (1809-1882)
In his autobiography, Darwin wrote that in October 1838, "I happened to read for amusement Malthus on Population, and being well prepared to appreciate the struggle for existence which everywhere goes on, from long-continued observation of the habits of animals and plants, it at once struck me that under these circumstances favourable variations would tend to be preserved, and unfavourable ones would be destroyed. The result of this would be the formation of a new species. Here, then, I had at last got a theory by which to work."
Taking the broad view of history, Diamond takes us from our primate heritage to the present ecological crisis, linking the two through entertaining and thoughtful discussions of numerous dimensions of human evolution in the context of a wide-ranging knowledge of birds and a great sensitivity to the natural world. He is particularly interested in the vagaries of sexual selection, arguing for Zahavi's handicap principle, a theory of honest signals in sexual advertizing. For a more recent popular presentation of the same topic, see his "The Best Ways to Sell Sex", Discover 17, 12 (December 1996), pp. 78-85. BACK
An illuminating series of interviews about formulating
which questions to ask. Introduction by Gazzaniga. Chapter headings: Neurochemical:
Floyd E. Bloom, Brain Imaging: Marcus E. Raichle, Attention:
Michael I. Posner, Perceptual Processes: William T. Newsome,
Neurons and Memory: Randy Gallistel, Human
Memory: Endel Tulving, Evolutionary Perspectives on Language:
Steven Pinker, Brain and Language: Alfonso Caramazza, Mental
Imagery: Stephen M. Kosslyn, Qualia: Daniel C. Dennett.
A detailed and systematic examination of autism from the subjective point of view, providing a rare opportunity to see the world with a weakened theory of mind.
"Temple Grandin does not romanticize autism. If Temple is profoundly different from most of us, she is no less human for being so, but, rather, human in another way. Thinking in Pictures is a deeply moving and fascinating book because it provides a bridge between our world and hers, and allows us a glimpse into a quite other sort of mind." From Oliver Sachs' preface.BACK
Jacobs, a biologist at UC Santa Barbara, has worked on mammalian color vision
for twenty years, specializing in primates. Here he presents evidence that identifies
the spectral properties of the cone photopigments in the retina of primates
and discusses the relationship between cone opsin genes and their photopigment
products, building a tight case for the genetic control of color vision. Old
World monkeys, apes and humans have trichromatic color vision, New World monkeys
are highly polymorphic, diurnal prosimians have dichromatic color vision, and
some nocturnal primates may lack color vision. Because of the placement of one
set of opsin genes on the X-chromosome, females of the Old World have superior
color vision to males. BACK
The 1855 work (full text from Erin) links evidence of geological change to the distribution of species, concluding that "the present condition of the organic world is clearly derived by a natural process of gradual extinction and creation of species from that of the latest geological periods". This notion, Wallace points out, "connects together and renders intelligible a vast number of independent and hitherto unexplained facts."
The 1858 publication (full text from Erin) spells out the essential elements of the theory of evolution, as witnessed in a selection of the headings:
The story of evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant's painstaking
documentation over a twenty-year period of real-time evolutionary fluctuations
among finches on the Galapagos Islands, detectable in both phenotypic and
genotypic changes. The book is engagingly written and conveys the excitement
of seeing the processes of evolution in operation in the flesh rather than
inferred from fossil remains. BACK