Several interesting book reviews arrived in my feed this morning, of books I have not read.
Jerry Coyne reviews FAPP’s What Darwin Got Wrong alongside Dawkins’ The Greatest Show on Earth. I cannot help but think that he is on the one hand very easy on Dawkins and fails to engage with FAPP’s argument all that well (which may be because he comes out of a distinct tradition to FAPP; for a start, the decisive point about recent philosophy of biology here is that Elliot Sober made the relevant distinction in 1984 of selection “for” and selection “of”, which Coyne fails to mention but is crucial). I think that when scientists critique philosophers, even those who are as he notes arrogantly ignorant of the science they address, they often miss the crucial point being made. Likewise, there is a tendency among scientists to laud those they agree with on philosophical points, as Coyne does Dawkins.
Popmatters has an excellent review of a point that comes out of a recent book on Stephen Jay Gould’s politics: did it influence his science or not, and if so should it have? Incidentally, I found this by the increasingly indispensable 80beats, to which you should all subscribe.
Also from 80beats, this essay review in The Statesman, by Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen, on the other famous book by Adam Smith, The Theory of the Moral Sentiments is worth reading. He points out that Smith thought that inequalities were more often socially made than natural. This theme is continued in this review by Vivian Gornick on the Golden Rule (of Hillel, not that other Jewish rabbi) and justice, in the book Right by Others by Michael Sandel.
Like I said, I haven’t read any of these, although I will eventually read Dawkins and FAPP, but it is nice to see ideas being discussed in the public sphere.