Genesis: On The Deep Origin Of Societies by Edward O Wilson

The Blurb On The Back:

Of all species that have ever existed on earth, only one has reached human levels of intelligence and social organisation: us.  Why?  In Genesis, celebrated biologist Edward O. Wilson traces the great transitions of evolution, from the origin of life to the invention of sexual reproduction to the development of language itself. 

The only way for us to fully understand human behaviour, Wilson argues, is to study the evolutionary histories of nonhuman species.  Of these, he demonstrates that at least seventeen – from the African naked mole rate and the sponge-dwelling shrimp to one of the oldest species on earth, the termite – have been found to have advanced societies based on altruism, cooperation and the division of labour.

Whether writing about midges who dance about like acrobats, schools of anchovies who protectively huddle to appear like a gigantic fish or well-organised flocks becoming potentially immortal, Genesis is a pathbreaking work of evolutionary theory filled with lyrical observations.  It will make us rethink how we became who we are. 

You can buy GENESIS: ON THE DEEP ORIGIN OF SOCIETIES by Edward O. Wilson from Amazon USA, Amazon UKWaterstone’s or Bookshop.org UK.  I earn commission on any purchases made through these links.

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Bioinformation by Bronwyn Parry and Beth Greenhough

The Blurb On The Back:

From DNA sequences stored on computer databases to archived forensic samples and biomedical records, bioinformation comes in many forms.  Its unique provenance – the fact that it is ‘mined’ from the very fabric of the human body – makes it a mercurial resource; one that no one seemingly owns, but in which many have deeply vested interests.

In this groundbreaking book, authors Bronwyn Parry and Beth Greenhough explore the complex economic, social and political questions arising from the creation and use of bioinformation.  Drawing on a range of highly topical cases – including the commercialisation of human sequence data, the forensic use of retained bioinformation, biobanking and genealogical research – they show how dramatically demand for this resource has grown, driving a burgeoning but often highly controversial global economy in bioinformation.  But, they argue, change is afoot as new models emerge that challenge the ethos of privatisation by creating instead a dynamic open source ‘bioinformation commons’ available for all future generations.  

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Loos Save Lives: How Sanitation And Clean Water Help Prevent Poverty, Disease And Death by Seren Boyd

The Blurb On The Back:

The humble loo is a lifesaver.  Over two billion people in the world don’t have access to a proper toilet or clean water to drink or to wash their hands – and that stinks!  Access to sanitation and clean water literally saves lives.  Loos also help schools.  When children have access to a safe, clean loo at school, they are more likely to stay in education, get better jobs and escape poverty.

Toilet Twinning is a charity that empowers people in low-income countries to build proper toilets and help make their communities healthier, safer and more prosperous.  This book visits some of the places Toilet Twinning have worked in, across Africa, Asia and Central America, and reveals the stories of the people they have helped.  It’s packed with stats, facts and lots of information all about water and waste.  

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Is Science Racist? by Jonathan Marks

The Blurb On The Back:

Every arena of science has its own flash-point issues – chemistry and poison gas, physics and the atom bomb – and genetics has had a troubled history with race.  As Jonathan Marks reveals, this dangerous relationship rumbles on to this day, still leaving plenty of leeway for a belief in the basic natural inequality of races.

The eugenic science of the early twentieth century and the commodified genomic science of today are unified by the mistaken belief that human races are naturalistic categories.  Yet their boundaries are founded neither in biology nor in genetics and, not being a formal scientific concept, race is largely not accessible to the scientist.  As Marks argues, race can only be grasped through the humanities: historically, experientially, politically.

This wise, witty essay explores the persistence and legacy of scientific racism, which misappropriates the authority of science and undermines it by converting it into a social weapon. 

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