Top Books/Videos for SHANANNAREEFERS

(updated October 31, 2009)


Seekers Humanists Atheists Naturalists
Agnostics Nonreligionists Nontheists Antireligionists
Realists Educationalists Experimentalists Freethinkers
nlightened Rationalists Secularists

- - - Books Added on October 31, 2009 - - -

033. The Greatest Show on Earth : The Evidence for Evolution,
by Richard Dawkins
"... The Greatest Show on Earth ... succeeds as an
encyclopedic summary of evolutionary biology. If
Charles Darwin walked into a 21st-century book-
store and wanted to know how his theory had fared,
this is the book he should pick up.

Dawkins remains a superb translator of complex
scientific concepts. It doesn't matter if he's spinning
metaphors for the fossil record (like a spy camera
in a murder trial) or deftly explaining the method by
which scientists measure the genetic difference be-
tween distinct species: he has a way of making the
drollest details feel like a revelation.

... there is something thrilling about learning that the
hoof of a horse is homologous to the fingernail of
the human middle finger, or that some dinosaurs
had a second brain of ganglion cells in their pelvis,
which helped compensate for the tiny brain in their
head. As Darwin famously noted, 'There is grandeur
in this view of life.' What Dawkins demonstrates is
that this view of life isn't just grand: it's also undeni-
ably true. ...

'The Greatest Show on Earth is a celebration of one
of the best ideas humans have ever produced. It is
hard not to marvel at Richard Dawkins' luminous
telling of the story of evolution and the way that it
has shaped our world. In reading Dawkins, one is
left awed at the beauty of the theory and humbled
by the power of science to understand some of the
greatest mysteries of life.' -- Neil Shubin, author of
Your Inner Fish ..."

032. Your Inner Fish : A Journey into the
3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body,
by Neil Shubin
"... Fish paleontologist Shubin illuminates the subject
of evolution with humor and clarity in this compelling
look at how the human body evolved into its present

Parsing the millennia-old genetic history of the human
form is a natural project for Shubin, who chairs the
department of organismal biology and anatomy at
the University of Chicago and was co-discoverer of
Tiktaalik, a 375-million-year-old fossil fish whose
flat skull and limbs, and finger, toe, ankle and wrist
bones, provide a link between fish and the earliest
land-dwelling creatures.

Shubin moves smoothly through the anatomical spec-
trum, finding ancient precursors to human teeth in a
200-million-year-old fossil of the mouse-size part
animal, part reptile tritheledont; he also notes cellular
similarities between humans and sponges.

Other fossils reveal the origins of our senses, from
the eye to that wonderful Rube Goldberg contraption
the ear. Shubin excels at explaining the science ...

'I can imagine few things more beautiful or intellectu-
ally profound than finding the basis for our humanity
... nestled inside some of the most humble creatures
that ever lived,' he writes ..."

Nature the tinkerer

031. Endless Forms Most Beautiful,
by Sean B. Carroll
"... 'Every animal form is the product of two proces-
ses -- development from an egg and evolution from
its ancestors,' writes Sean B. Carroll in his introduc-
tion to Endless Forms Most Beautiful.

The new science of 'evo devo' -- or evolutionary
developmental biology -- examines the relationships
between those two processes, embryonic develop-
ment and evolutionary changes, despite their radic-
ally different time scales.

Carroll first offers a recap of how genes express
themselves in a growing embryo, then peers into
the life histories of real-life examples to explain how
those genes have changed (or not changed) over
millions of years of evolution.

Paraphrasing Thomas Huxley, he asks us to con-
sider evolution and development as two sides of
the same coin.

     'We may marvel at the process of an egg
     becoming an adult, but we accept it as an
     everyday fact. It is merely then a lack of
     imagination to fail to grasp how changes in
     this process that assimilated over long periods
     of time, far longer than the span of human
     experience, shape life's diversity.'

The book's second half is where Carroll really gets
at the meat of evo devo, explaining how regulatory
genes control such mysteries as individual and
population changes in butterfly's spots, jaguar fur,
and hominid skulls. Evo devo is one of the hottest
areas of study in 21st-century biology, and Car-
roll's outline of the field is a great place to start
understanding it.  ..."

Sean Carroll at PBS

030. The Making of the Fittest : DNA and the
Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution,
by Sean B. Carroll
"... Carroll, a professor of genetics at the University
of Wisconsin–Madison (Endless Forms Most Beau-
tiful: The New Science of Evo-Devo), has written
a fast-paced look at how DNA demonstrates the
evolutionary process.

Natural selection eliminates harmful changes and
embraces beneficial ones, and each change leaves
its signature on a species' DNA codes. For example,
the Antarctic ice fish today has no red blood cells;
yet a fossilized gene for hemoglobin remains in its
DNA, showing that the fish has adapted over 55
million years by losing the red blood cells that
thicken blood and make it harder to pump in ex-
treme cold. The fish has developed other features
that allow it to absorb and circulate blood without

... He also uses dolphins, colobus monkeys and
microbes to demonstrate how deeply evolution is
etched in DNA. ... Carroll explains how the DNA
code of the gene responsible for the trait is inferred
to be the result of natural selection working on
mutations, which occur at a steady rate. Here is
evolution clearly explained and stoutly defended.  ..."

Nature the tinkerer

029. Why Evolution is True,
by Jerry A. Coyne
"... With great care, attention to the scientific evidence
and a wonderfully accessible style, Coyne, an evolu-
tionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, pre-
sents an overwhelming case for evolution.

Ranging from biogeography to geology, from anatomy
to genetics, and from molecular biology to physiology,
he demonstrates that evolutionary theory makes pre-
dictions that are consistently borne out by the data
— basic requirements for a scientific theory to be

Additionally ... he uses the data at his disposal to
demolish any thought that creationism is supported
by the evidence while also explaining why those ideas
fall outside the bounds of science. ... Readers looking
to understand the case for evolution and searching for
a response to many of the most common creationist
claims should find everything they need in this power-
ful book ..."

Intelligent Design versus Evolution

028. Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails),
by Matt Young, Paul K. Strode
"... 'delivers the promise of its title. Deploying a host
of fascinating examples, [the authors] provide a lucid
and lively introduction to the successes of evolution
and the failures of creationism.' ...

From the back cover: '... an impassioned argument in
favor of science -- primarily the theory of evolution --
and against creationism.

Focusing on what other books omit, how science
works and how pseudoscience works, [the authors]
demonstrate the futility of 'scientific' creationism,
debunking the notion of intelligent design' ..."

027. The 10,000 Year Explosion : How Civilization
Accelerated Human Evolution, by Gregory Cochran,
Henry Harpending
"... Resistance to malaria. Blue eyes. Lactose toler-
ance. What do all of these traits have in common?
Every one of them has emerged in the last 10,000

Scientists have long believed that the 'great leap for-
ward' that occurred some 40,000 to 50,000 years
ago in Europe marked the end of significant biolog-
ical evolution in humans. In this stunningly original
account of our evolutionary history, top scholars
Gregory Cochran and Henry Harpending reject this
conventional wisdom and reveal that the human spe-
cies has undergone a storm of genetic change much
more recently.

Human evolution in fact accelerated after civilization
arose, they contend, and these ongoing changes
have played a pivotal role in human history.

They argue that biology explains the expansion of
the Indo-Europeans, the European conquest of the
Americas, and European Jews' rise to intellectual
prominence. In each of these cases, the key was
recent genetic change: adult milk tolerance in the
early Indo-Europeans that allowed for a new way
of life, increased disease resistance among the Euro-
peans settling America, and new versions of neuro-
logical genes among European Jews.

... Cochran and Harpending's analysis demonstrates
convincingly that human genetics have changed and
can continue to change much more rapidly than sci-
entists have previously believed. ...

New Scientist -- 'The evidence the authors present
builds an overwhelming case that natural selection
has recently acted strongly on us and may be con-
tinuing unabated.' ..."

Evolution? 'It's not only a theory. It is a historical
fact, evident and provable.' (1 of 2)

026. The Music of Life : Biology Beyond Genes,
by Denis Noble
"... The gene's eye view of life, proposed in Richard
Dawkins acclaimed bestseller The Selfish Gene, sees
living bodies as mere vehicles for the replication of
genetic codes.

But in The Music of Life, world renowned physiolo-
gist Denis Noble argues that, to truly understand life,
we must look beyond the 'selfish gene' to consider
life on a much wider variety of levels. Life, Noble
asserts, is a kind of music, a symphonic interplay
between genes, cells, organs, body, and environ-

He weaves this musical metaphor throughout this
personal and deeply lyrical work, illuminating ideas
that might otherwise be daunting to non-scientists.
In elegant prose, Noble sets out a cutting-edge
alternative to the gene's eye view, offering a radical
switch of perception in which genes are seen as
prisoners and the organism itself is a complex sys-
tem of many interacting levels.

In his more expansive view, life emerges as a pro-
cess, the ebb and flow of activity in an intricate web
of connections. ... Drawing on his experiences in his
research on the heartbeat, and on evolutionary biol-
ogy, development, medicine, philosophy, linguistics,
and Chinese culture, Noble presents us with a pro-
found and very modern reflection on the nature of
life. ..."

025. Molecular Biology of The Cell,  
by Bruce Alberts,  Alexander Johnson, Julian Lewis,
Martin Raff, Keith Roberts, Peter Walter
"... Molecular Biology of the Cell ... Fifth Edition ...
has been completely revised and updated to des-
cribe our current, rapidly advancing understanding
of cell biology.

To list but a few examples, a large amount of new
material is presented on epigenetics; stem cells;
RNAi; comparative genomics; the latest cancer
therapies; apoptosis (now its own separate chap-
ter); and cell cycle control and the mechanics of
M phase (now integrated into one chapter).

... Chapters 1-20 are printed and Chapters 21-25,
covering multicellular systems, are provided as pdf
files on the free Media DVD-ROM which accom-
panies the book. ...

The Media DVD-ROM, which is packaged with
every copy of the book, contains PowerPoint®
presentations with all of the figures, tables and
micrographs from the text (available as JPEGs
too).  Also included is the Media Player, which
plays over 125 movies — animations, videos, and
molecular models — all with voiceover narration. ..."

024. The Biology of Religious Behavior : The Evolutionary 
Origins of Faith and Religion, 
by Jay R. Feierman (editor)
"... Religious conflict and divisiveness have been
important themes in human history, and their effects
are no less evident today. The scientific study of
religion cannot by itself mend these divisions, but
by enhancing our understanding of behavior, it can
make an important contribution towards that end.

... There has been much recent interest in the study
of religion from the perspective of Darwinian evolu-
tion. The Biology of Religious Behavior: The Evolu-
tionary Origins of Faith and Religion offers a broad
overview of the topic, written by internationally
recognized experts. In addition to its primary focus
on religious behavior, the book addresses other
important aspects of religion, such as values, beliefs,
and emotions as they affect behavior. ..."

023. Heredity (Science Foundations), by Kristi Lew
"... In the 19th century, a monk named Gregor
Mendel studied how different types of pea plants
passed their characteristics to the next generation.
His studies in heredity led to science's current under-
standing of genetic inheritance and how traits are
passed down from parents to children.

In Heredity, travel through the history of genetics
from the early ideas of heredity to Watson and
Crick's discovery of the structure of DNA to the
future of genetic research. Through these discov-
eries, scientists can now decipher the 'code of life',
see how cells divide, and study how certain traits
are passed from parent to child.

Experiments with heredity have also created promis-
ing results for tests for genetic disorders, the Human
Genome Project, cloning, and future cures for many
common diseases ..."

022. Consciousness : A Very Short Introduction,
by Susan Blackmore
"... The last great mystery for science, consciousness
has become a controversial topic. Consciousness:
A Very Short Introduction challenges readers to
reconsider key concepts such as personality, free
will, and the soul.

How can a physical brain create our experience of
the world? What creates our identity? Do we really
have free will? Could consciousness itself be an illu-
sion? Exciting new developments in brain science
are opening up these debates, and the field has now
expanded to include biologists, neuroscientists, psy-
chologists, and philosophers.

This book clarifies the potentially confusing arguments
and clearly describes the major theories, with illustra-
tions and lively cartoons to help explain the experi-
ments. ..."

021. Wikipedia (The Free Encyclopedia)
Biology Portal, by User Contributions
"... Biology, from the Greek words bios (life) and
the suffix -ology, meaning study of, is a branch of
science. It is concerned with the characteristics
and behaviors of organisms, how species and indi-
viduals come into existence, and the interactions
they have with each other and with their environ-

Biology encompasses a broad spectrum of aca-
demic fields that are often viewed as independent
disciplines. Together, they study life over a wide
range of scales. ..."

- - - Videos Added on October 31, 2009 - - -

020. DVD : Greatest Discoveries
With Bill Nye : Genetics
A video clip is unavailable. 

019. DVD : Greatest Discoveries
With Bill Nye : Biology
A video clip is unavailable. 

018. Pro-Humanist FREELOVER Posts which
include videos pertaining to Science/Biology-Genetics
(as of October 31, 2009)

041709 Richard Dawkins -- Growing Up
in the Universe 

- - - Books from the 1999 & 2000 Versions of this post - - -

017. The Selfish Gene, by Richard Dawkins
"... Are genes our slaves or our masters? In the
first 10 chapters of "The Selfish Gene", Richard
Dawkins discusses the nature of gene replication
and the theory that individual entities (such as
humans) are 'survival machines' built for the sur-
vival of the genes. 

In Chapter 11, -Memes: the new replicators-,
Richard's ideas diverge form the central physical
replication discussion and enter into the fascinating
area of the replication of culture and ideas (basic-
ally addressing many issues central to the concepts
of theism and Atheism)...."

016. The Extended Phenotype : The Long
Reach of the Gene, by Richard Dawkins
"... Dawkins furthers his fascinating look at the
evolution of life and natural selection. ...a revised
edition with a new afterword by Daniel Dennett.

The Extended Phenotype carries on from where
The Selfish Gene takes off. It is a fascinating look
at the evolution of life and natural selection.

Dawkins' theory is that individual organisms are
replicators that have extended phenotypic effects
on society and the world at large, thus our genes
have the ability to manipulate other individuals.
A worldwide bestseller, this book has become
a classic in popular science writing. ..."

015. Genome, by Matt Ridley
"... The human genome, the complete set of genes
housed in twenty-three pairs of chromosomes, is
nothing less than an autobiography of our species.
Spelled out in a billion three-letter words using the
four-letter alphabet of DNA, the genome has been
edited, abridged, altered and added to as it has
been handed down, generation to generation, over
more than three billion years. ...

By picking one newly discovered gene from each
of the twenty-three human chromosomes and
telling its story, Matt Ridley recounts the history
of our species and its ancestors from the dawn
of life to the brink of future medicine. ..."

014. The Cartoon Guide to Genetics,
by Larry Gonick, Mark Wheelis (Contributor)
"...This book is a very insightful peek into the world
of genetics and microbiology. It's a great place to
start understanding the science. It's also a great
'view from 50,000 feet' for someone who just
wants an overview of the mechanics of genetics. ..."

013. Are We Hardwired : The Role of Genes
in Human Behavior,
by William R. Clark, Michael Grunstein
"... Using eye-opening examples of genetically
identical twins who, though raised in different
families, have had remarkably parallel lives, the
authors show that indeed roughly half of human
behavior can be accounted for by DNA. But
the picture is quite complicated.

Clark and Grunstein take us on a tour of modern
genetics and behavioral science, revealing that few
elements of behavior depend upon a single gene;
complexes of genes, often across chromosomes,
drive most of our heredity-based actions. ...

Perhaps most interesting, the book suggests that
the source of our ability to choose, to act unex-
pectedly, may lie in the chaos principle: the most
minute differences during activation of a single
neuron may lead to utterly unpredictable actions. ...."

012. Living With Our Genes : Why
They Matter More Than You Think,
by Dean H. Hamer, Peter Copeland
"... How many of our faults are in our genetic stars,
and how many in ourselves? Human geneticist Dean
Hamer, whose research team found the popularly
termed gay gene, surveys what is currently known
about the inheritance of human behavior and per-

Hamer and science writer Peter Copeland take a
calm, broad-minded look at hot-button topics such
as sex, drugs (especially tobacco and alcohol), and
violence, as well as anxiety, intelligence, and eating
habits. ..."

011. The Meme Machine, by Susan J. Blackmore
"... A must-read for anyone seriously interested in
who we are. Incredible. Life really is possible with-
out hope. The message is more shocking than Dar-
win's discovery that there is no designer. More
shocking than Dawkins' 'selfish genes' who we are
here to serve. The message is: 'To live honestly,
I must just get out of the way and allow decisions
to make themselves.' ..."

010. Human Natures : Genes, Cultures, and
the Human Prospect, by Paul R. Ehrlich
"... This intelligent, well-written discourse on human
evolution gives a balanced view of our species, dis-
pelling myths and explaining complexities, daring to
explore controversial subjects. The  topics covered
- from the origins of language to racial equality to
ethics, to name only a few - are well researched
and comprehensive. ..."

009. The Century of the Gene,
by Evelyn Fox Keller
"... Not just a chronicle of biology's progress from
gene to genome in one hundred years, The Century
of the Gene also calls our attention to the surprising
ways these advances challenge the familiar picture
of the gene most of us still entertain. Keller shows
us that the very successes that have stirred our
imagination have also radically undermined the
primacy of the gene ... as the core explanatory
concept of heredity and development. ..."

008. The Touchstone of Life : Molecular
Information, Cell Communication, and the
Foundations of Life, by Werner R. Loewenstein
"... Loewenstein is renowned for his discoveries
in cell communication and biological information
transfer. He applies information theory to recent
findings in molecular biology and reveals the com-
munication network inside and between our cells,
offering a view of a hidden world where molecular
information turns the wheels of life. He tracks this
process backwards some 3 billion years to usher
in a ground-breaking principle of evolution. ..."

007. The Triple Helix : Gene, Organism, and
Environment, by Richard C. Lewontin
"... The central message ... is that life is complex.
Eschewing simple answers, Lewontin ... demon-
strates how all organisms, including humans, are
the product of intricate interactions between their
genes and the environment in which they live.

Neither genes nor environment are static, how-
ever, and their interplay dramatically changes
both. ... the three in the triple helix metaphor
refers to the interactive nature of a gene, an org-
anism and an environment, it is also a reference
to the notion that the human DNA (double helix)
nucleotide-sequencing project is less than the be
all and end all of genetics research. ..."

006. The Beak of the Finch : A Story of
Evolution in Our Time, by Jonathan Weiner
"... 'Darwin did not know the strength of his own
theory. He vastly underestimated the power of
natural selection. Its action is neither rare nor
slow. It leads to evolution daily and hourly, all
around us, and we can watch.'

An engaging account of a seminal study that intro-
duces the reader to Darwin and to the dedicated,
tireless biologists who have proved him right. ..."

005. Time, Love, Memory : A Great Biologist
and His Quest for the Origins of Behavior,
by Jonathan Weiner
"... It is the best book I read so far in 1999. It takes
you on a journey together with the founders of
genetics, their research, their discoveries, and
it changes your thoughts on free will and nurture.
This is a must read for anyone interested in biology,
psychology, and of course the nature-nurture de-
bate. After this book, nature is far ahead. ...."

004. Intimate Universe: The Human Body (TLC
Adventures for Your Mind), by Anthony Smith
"... The story of the human body is perhaps the
greatest story ever told -- spelled out over mil-
lions of years of evolution and repeated by each
of us in our own lifetime.

We live it, and yet remain largely unaware of the
intricate processes that play out within ourselves
and those around us. ... the extraordinary story
of human life from birth to death, which explores,
at each stage, the incredible physical workings of
our bodies.... includes over 150 full-color illustra-
tions, computer-generated images, and state-of-
the-art microphotography ..."

003. The Human Body (An Illustrated Guide
to Its Structure, Function, and Disorders),
by Charles Clayman (Editor)
"...  It's big, it's colorful, and it's got everything from
your gallbladder and heart to your muscles, bones,
blood and brain. Clear and helpful diagrams detail
conditions from acne to malignant melanoma. This
is a reassuring, easily understood text on our bodies
as they exist in their ideal state, as well as common
disorders and treatments. It's nice to brush up on
anatomy without tests to sweat, but it's also great
to have a doctor on your shelf to dispel those 3 a.m.
certainties of imminent disease and doom. ..."

002. Human Body : Atlas of the Human Body
"... Combining clear, concise text with more than
500 full-color, meticulously executed anatomical
illustrations, this detailed atlas provides a  com-
prehensive look at the human body.

Includes separate sections for each organ as well
as the nervous and circulatory systems and muscle
and bone structures and functions. 4-color illustra-
tions throughout. ..."

001. DK Pockets: Body Facts, by Sarah Brewer
"... Gives information about human anatomy and
physiology by describing body structures, the brain
and nervous system, circulatory systems, metabolism,
and reproduction.

Body Facts, a pocket of knowledge, a new genera-
tion of illustrated pocket books, systematically organ-
ized for easy access in information. Contains tables,
charts, diagrams, glossary, and index...."