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Ch. 1: Finding Your Inner Fish 
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Post Ch. 1: Finding Your Inner Fish
Please use this thread for discussing Ch. 1: Finding Your Inner Fish.


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Post your inner fish Chapter one
I really appreciate the schema about Palentology, the Dovonian period and the testing of toughness to be a hands on researcher in Chapter One. His writing style is clear, crisp, and easily transports a novice like me to an understanding Dr. Shubin has of his subject matter. This is a great read for me. :smile:



Sat May 10, 2008 3:13 pm
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Yes, the writing style is definitely something I'd like to talk about, as well as the material covered, the style of the book, and its cost.

Who was this book written for? It was written for people like us that would like to learn something new but really haven't had any formal training in geology or paleontology.

It starts out with what kind of rocks are best to find fossils in, gives a map of where Ellesmere is, and the delivery is suitable for any laymen (without the text sounding like the author is talking down to you).

This book may be presenting a style of non-fiction literature that will become ever more prevalent in the future as the different fields of science get more diverse and increasingly specialized.

I was also wondering about the pressure to publish. The saying is "publish or perish." Does this have to do with ground-breaking work or with 'anything' that is published, so long as it is published?

The cover on this book as well as the pictures/cartoons throughout the book are entertaining...info-tainment.

The cost of the book is also something to consider. If someone really wanted a book about the perils of exploration, they would buy a book about Shackleton's ordeal through the Antarctic. If someone wanted a book about paleontology expeditions, they'd buy a how-to book. I assume that most paleontologists are privy to the information contained in this book for free (maybe the cost of tuition).

Is it that no one is interested in paleontology that this book needs to be written the way it is (so entertaining)? Is it the author's writing style? Or is it that the whole style of writing non-fiction science books is changing to meet the demands of the 21st century reader?

My opinion is that this style of informal scientific literature will be seen more and more.

The price really tells you what demographic this book was aimed at, too.



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I haven't gotten the official word from Chris yet, but it looks like I will be the discussion leader for Your Inner Fish. So far there have been several comments on Shubin's writing style. It is very conversational and congenial. As soon as I started reading it hit me that it was like taking a 101 Paleontology class; informative and accessible. I'd say the most important point made in chapter 1 is the the way Shubin sets up his main thesis for the book with lumping all animals and fish into one category, the "Everythings."


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Sat May 10, 2008 5:48 pm
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President Camacho wrote:

This book may be presenting a style of non-fiction literature that will become ever more prevalent in the future as the different fields of science get more diverse and increasingly specialized........Is it that no one is interested in paleontology that this book needs to be written the way it is (so entertaining)? Is it the author's writing style? Or is it that the whole style of writing non-fiction science books is changing to meet the demands of the 21st century reader?.........My opinion is that this style of informal scientific literature will be seen more and more.


Over the past 20 years or so, a multitude of entertaining and accessible books, written on a variety of scientific topics, have been published. To name a few:
Flamingo's Smile by Stephen J. Gould (one of the early writers in this style of science book. He writes about evolution).
Turbulent Mirror by John Briggs & F. David Peat (chaos theory)
The Elegant Universe by Brian Greene
Guns, Germs & Steel by Jared Diamond (a Pulitzer winner)

If your interested in more:
http://www.amazon.com/tag/science/forum?_encoding=UTF8&cdForum=FxZ58KVEERYS5E&cdThread=Tx2X892EYBERR5H


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I'm definitely the target audience for this book. My knowledge in geology and paleontology is limited to a foggy memory of the basics, if that.

I could already tell after reading Chapter One I was going to enjoy Your Inner Fish. Like some people have already pointed out, Neil Shubin writes succinctly and passionately about a subject I think some people find intimidating or dull. I needed a book like this when I was younger.

I read a review of the book online and one of the things the review emphasized on was the fact Neil Shubin refused to get into it with creationists in his book. I'm not sure why it matters. Even starting from the first page, he already addresses a question many creationists have about the fossil record and why there are "gaps" in it. I think he did a brilliant job explaining the conditions needed for fossilization, why fossils are rare, how they plan their expeditions to find fossils and how some of the time it's luck that steers them in the right direction. Everything is so simple. I will suggest this chapter (and probably the entire book) to any creationist I talk to in the future.

I chuckled near the end of the chapter when the pre-schoolers were trying to determine what Tiktaalik was. It makes me wonder why the message isn't so straightforward for my parents or anyone I know offline. :laugh:



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Post Neil Shubin
I've begun to collect information on Neil Shubin. Follow the first link for some basic info. At the bottom of the page is a link to an article Shubin wrote entitled, "The 'Great' Transition."

http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/shubin.html


Here is a radio spot Professor Shubin did on NPR's [i]Science Out of the Box:

http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18847862


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Saffron

I did reply to one of your posts announcing you and thanking you for volunteering as discussion leader. Also, look over in the left sidebar. It says under your name: Book Discussion Leader. Now look under the forum title. It lists you as the discussion leader. And finally, look at the thread in this forum entitled "WANTED: discussion leader." I edited that thread in 2 places announcing you as the discussion leader.

So you're it! :smile:


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Thanks Chris! I think there is a delay sometimes. I have noticed that sometimes it will happen that I reply to someone about a post, only to find later there is a post I somehow had not seen. Curious.

Saff


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Post U of Chicago website for Tiktaalik
Tiktaalik has its own webpage.


http://tiktaalik.uchicago.edu/meetTik.html


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For me, the primo guy for taking technical topics and making them not just accessible but nearly always fascinating was John McPhee. I haven't heard much about him lately, though. I'm glad, too, that Shubin doesn't get into an argument about creationism. This tells us that creationism is beneath him and the readers he wants to reach. It would be utterly pointless to go over that ground again.

When I was much younger, I wanted to be an archeologist because I'd read about Heinrich Schliemann's excavation of Troy and I liked to dig up old bottles and artifacts everywhere I went. Shubin communicates to us some of this boyish joy in his vocation. It's good to see portrayed not just the science but the feeling for doing science.
DWill


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You're absolutely right. I get the same feeling.

The depth of science that Shubin immerses his readers in gets deeper and deeper throughout the book. It begins by, as you mention, bypassing creationism and then bursts right through evolution to in your face "slice and dice" type experiments on animal embryos of different species.

This book shows how human knowledge about our/the past (not our own subjective history, but rather knowledge based on empirical research) is realized. Some eggs are literally broken in the name of science. I think that is great! No one can figure out an engine by looking at the cases.

Personally, not having done any scientific experiments and having been constantly bombarded with animal rights activist stories, PC this and that, and yada yada yada... I'm glad to see that serious research like this is allowed to be published and is accepted by a great many people.

I now have some great ammo for those who want to stop this kind of research. The benefits far outweigh the very unfortunate costs.



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Saffron wrote:
I've begun to collect information on Neil Shubin. Follow the first link for some basic info. At the bottom of the page is a link to an article Shubin wrote entitled, "The 'Great' Transition." http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/bios/shubin.html Here is a radio spot Professor Shubin did on NPR's [i]Science Out of the Box: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=18847862


Hi Saffron, The Great Transition article is a great intro. It is interesting to see it in The Edge collection of great minds refuting 'intelligent design' by intelligent thought. The thing that comes through to me in all of this, having read much of Dawkins and Gould, is that given large amounts of time, DNA is able to emerge into new niches and exploit the opportunities they present. So the "fishapod" question - whether fish evolved hands before or after they left the water - is extremely interesting, in that it shows that perhaps, and correct me if I am wrong here, hands had an adaptive function for some fish which then helped those fish to evolve onto land. It seems the gill-lung problem is small, given the common mudskipper type solution whereby it seems breath systems could evolve rapidly if there was opportunity. For example, if a mudskipper lived at a time of ecological change when there was suddenly a lot more food available by spending time on land, the DNA that is adaptive for land-based activity would strongly outcompete the older code, and mutations would proceed at a faster rate because more of them would be successful until a new (lung-based?) equilibrium established. I think it was Richard Dawkins who postulated a silicone based complexity as the basis for the evolution of organic carbon based life. On this model, looking for fishapods that developed hands at sea and then used them on land is an intriguing novel solution to the problem.



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DWill wrote:
For me, the primo guy for taking technical topics and making them not just accessible but nearly always fascinating was John McPhee. I haven't heard much about him lately, though.


Thanks for bringing him up! I was suggested to read Annals of the Former World awhile back and I almost forgot about it. Any other books I should check out by him?



Wed May 14, 2008 2:04 am
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The interesting thing to me is how this scientific material helps us to improve philosophy. Seeing how fish evolved into tetrapods gives us an exciting example of the overall mechanism of cumulative adaptation. The point, contra transcendentalist magical religion, is that evidence gives us a sufficient basis to prepare a narrative explanation of life. This work emerges strongly from the foundations laid by Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene, where zoology is presented as the foundation of philosophy.

The chapter from The Selfish Gene where Dawkins invented the concept of the meme can be read at http://www.rubinghscience.org/memetics/ ... memes.html I think this is a key text informing Schubin's perspective for which a key insight is that paleontology provides data to understand the dynamic mechanism of evolution on our planet. Implications today for this perspective include that human cultural evolution can be understood on the model of the slow change of DNA over time. Perhaps we are evolving 'fish hands' which will form a structure that can enable a next stage of planetary evolution. I discussed related issues in a review of The Matrix at http://www.ascm.org.au/jgOnline/2004Sum ... .htm#Part8



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