OFFICIAL POLL: June & July 2009 Non-Fiction
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Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:21 pm ]
Post subject:  OFFICIAL POLL: June & July 2009 Non-Fiction

[align=center]OFFICIAL POLL
June & July ( and possibly August) 2009
Non-Fiction Book Selection[/align]


Poll Starts: Saturday, April 18, 2009
Poll Ends: Thursday, April 30, 2009

• You MUST have 25 or more total posts to vote

• You can cast 3 votes and distribute your 3 votes however you like. If you don't assign all 3 votes it will be clear you didn't read these rules and you will be publicly flogged and humiliated. :tease: It will be assumed that you wished to assign all 3 of your votes to the one book you selected.


2 votes for Book #1
1 vote for Book #2

• You can try to convince other people to vote for your book choice by explaining why you're voting the way you're voting. You are doing a huge service by explaining a little about why you picked whatever book you picked, although this extra step is not required. People do read comments and you do stand to influence them if you make a passionate plea for your book, and the whole goal of our book selection process is to find a book that will stimulate discussion. Don't be shy about attempting to sell us on your book choice.

• Vote today! Please don't wait till you see other people voting because they're waiting for YOU to vote.

As a reward for the voters that read all of these rules and followed them completely I will be awarding free books from our Books Available for Awards thread. How exactly? I'm not sure. But vote early, follow the simple rules and you'll have a chance at winning a free book.

Now, on to our book choices...

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:26 pm ]
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At the request of multiple people Good Natured has been "upgraded" to Primates and Philosophers.


Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved by Frans B. M. de Waal

From Publishers Weekly
Celebrated primatologist de Waal expands on his earlier work in Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals to argue that human traits of fairness, reciprocity and altruism develop through natural selection. Based on his 2004 Tanner Lectures at Princeton, this book argues that our morality grows out of the social instincts we share with bonobos, chimpanzees and apes. De Waal criticizes what he calls the "veneer theory," which holds that human ethics is simply an overlay masking our "selfish and brutish nature." De Waal draws on his own work with primates to illustrate the evolution of morality. For example, chimpanzees are more favorably disposed to others who have performed a service for them (such as grooming) and more likely to share their food with these individuals. In three appendixes, de Waal ranges briefly over anthropomorphism, apes and a theory of mind, and animal rights. The volume also includes responses to de Waal by Robert Wright, Christine M. Korsgaard, Philip Kitcher and Peter Singer. Although E.O. Wilson and Robert Wright have long contended that altruism is a product of evolution, de Waal demonstrates through his empirical work with primates the evolutionary basis for ethics.

From Booklist
Primatologist de Waal's career has been devoted to demonstrating that nature isn't utterly red in tooth and claw. His Tanner Lectures in Human Values argue that for the great apes and humans, in particular, morality isn't a veneer masking self-interest. It is intrinsic, the evolutionary outcome of the fact that altruism is conducive to species survival. Darwin, who saw no "conflict between the harshness of the evolutionary process and the gentleness of some of its products" and who affirmed the developmental similarity of species, including humans, essentially held the same position, de Waal says, being influenced toward it by Scottish moral philosopher Adam Smith. There is more to de Waal's exceptionally rich but always lucid paper, notably including an appendix, one of three, on animal rights. Four philosophers--one the controversial ethicist and advocate for animals Peter Singer--critique aspects of de Waal's argument, and in conclusion, de Waal responds to them. Intellectual soul food for biology-minded ethicists, in particular.

Product Description
"It's the animal in us," we often hear when we've been bad. But why not when we're good? Primates and Philosophers tackles this question by exploring the biological foundations of one of humanity's most valued traits: morality.

In this provocative book, primatologist Frans de Waal argues that modern-day evolutionary biology takes far too dim a view of the natural world, emphasizing our "selfish" genes. Science has thus exacerbated our reciprocal habits of blaming nature when we act badly and labeling the good things we do as "humane." Seeking the origin of human morality not in evolution but in human culture, science insists that we are moral by choice, not by nature.

Citing remarkable evidence based on his extensive research of primate behavior, de Waal attacks "Veneer Theory," which posits morality as a thin overlay on an otherwise nasty nature. He explains how we evolved from a long line of animals that care for the weak and build cooperation with reciprocal transactions. Drawing on both Darwin and recent scientific advances, de Waal demonstrates a strong continuity between human and animal behavior. In the process, he also probes issues such as anthropomorphism and human responsibilities toward animals.

Based on the Tanner Lectures de Waal delivered at Princeton University's Center for Human Values in 2004, Primates and Philosophers includes responses by the philosophers Peter Singer, Christine M. Korsgaard, and Philip Kitcher and the science writer Robert Wright. They press de Waal to clarify the differences between humans and other animals, yielding a lively debate that will fascinate all those who wonder about the origins and reach of human goodness.

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:32 pm ]
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Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson

From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. Grandin (Animals in Translation), famed for her decades-long commitment to treating livestock as humanely as possible on its way to slaughter, considers how humans and animals can best interact. Working from the premise that an animal is a conscious being that has feelings, the autistic author assesses dogs, cats, horses, cows, pigs, poultry, wildlife and zoo animals based on a core emotion system she believes animals and humans share, including a need to seek; a sense of rage, fear, and panic; feelings of lust; an urge to nurture; and an ability to play. Among observations at odds with conventional wisdom: dogs need human parents, not alpha pack leaders, and cats respond to training. Discussions of why horses are skittish and why pigs are arguably the most intelligent of beasts—raccoons run them a close second—illuminate the intersection of people and more domesticated animals; chapters on cows and chickens focus more generally on animal welfare, particularly the horrific conditions in which they are usually raised and slaughtered. Packed with fascinating insights, unexpected observations and a wealth of how-to tips, Grandin's peppy work ably challenges assumptions about what makes animals happy.

Reviews of Animals Make Us Human

"Provocative...We’re lucky to have Temple Grandin." -New York Times"

"Part owner's manual and part business proposal, Animals Make Us Human argues that we can treat animals better if we consider the emotions that motivate them...For pet owners, her perspective is invaluable...Grade: A-" - Entertainment Weekly

"A well-written, down-to-earth look into the lives of lots of animals, including animals that make up part of our food chain. Grade: A" -- Rocky Mountain News

"Packed with fascinating insights, unexpected observations and a wealth of how-to tips, Grandin's peppy work ably challenges assumptions about what makes animals happy." -- STARRED Publishers Weekly

"The text provides thought-provoking scenarios and references several animal studies...readers will be able to glean new perspectives about animal welfare." -- Library Journal

“Inspiring . . . Crammed with facts and anecdotes about Temple Grandin’s favorite subject: the senses, brains, emotions, and amazing talents of animals.” —New York Times Book Review

“A master intermediary between humans and our fellow beasts . . . At once hilarious, fascinating, and just plain weird, Animals is one of those rare books that elicits a ‘wow’ on almost every page. A.” —Entertainment Weekly

“At times, it is difficult to work out whether this is a book about animal behavior with insight from autism, or a book about autism that uses animal behavior to explain what it is like to be autistic. A major achievement of the book is that it is both.” —Nature

Product Description
The best-selling animal advocate Temple Grandin offers the most exciting exploration of how animals feel since The Hidden Life of Dogs.

In her groundbreaking and best-selling book Animals in Translation, Temple Grandin drew on her own experience with autism as well as her distinguished career as an animal scientist to deliver extraordinary insights into how animals think, act, and feel. Now she builds on those insights to show us how to give our animals the best and happiest life—on their terms, not ours.

It’s usually easy to pinpoint the cause of physical pain in animals, but to know what is causing them emotional distress is much harder. Drawing on the latest research and her own work, Grandin identifies the core emotional needs of animals. Then she explains how to fulfill them for dogs and cats, horses, farm animals, and zoo animals. Whether it’s how to make the healthiest environment for the dog you must leave alone most of the day, how to keep pigs from being bored, or how to know if the lion pacing in the zoo is miserable or just exercising, Grandin teaches us to challenge our assumptions about animal contentment and honor our bond with our fellow creatures.

Animals Make Us Human is the culmination of almost thirty years of research, experimentation, and experience.

This is essential reading for anyone who’s ever owned, cared for, or simply cared about an animal.

About the Author

TEMPLE GRANDIN earned her Ph.D. in animal science from the University of Illinois and went on to become an associate professor at Colorado State University. She is the author of four previous books, including the national bestsellers Thinking in Pictures and Animals in Translation. Grandin spearheaded reform of the quality of life and humaneness of death for the world’s farm animals. Through her company, Grandin Livestock Systems, she works with the country’s fast-food purveyors to monitor the conditions of animal facilities worldwide. She lectures widely on both animal science and autism.

CATHERINE JOHNSON, Ph.D., is a writer specializing in neuropsychiatry and the brain. She cowrote Animals in Translation and served as a trustee of the National Alliance for Autism Research for seven years. She lives with her husband and three sons—two of whom have autism—in New York.

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 12:38 pm ]
Post subject: 

Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain by Antonio Damasio

From Publishers Weekly
Neurologist Damasio's refutation of the Cartesian idea of the human mind as separate from bodily processes draws on neurochemistry to support his claim that emotions play a central role in human decision making.

From Library Journal
The idea that the mind exists as a distinct entity from the body has profoundly influenced Western culture since Descartes proclaimed, "I think, therefore I am." Damasio, head of neurology at the University of Iowa and a prominent researcher on human brain function, challenges this premise in a fascinating and well-reasoned argument on the central role that emotion and feelings play in human rationality. According to Damasio, the same brain structures regulate both human biology and behavior and are indispensable to normal cognitive processes. Damasio demonstrates how patients (his own as well as the 19th-century railroad worker Nicholas Gage) with prefrontal cortical damage can no longer generate the emotions necessary for effective decision-making. A gifted scientist and writer, Damasio combines an Oliver Sack-like reportage with the presentation of complex, theoretical issues in neurobiology.

From Booklist
Pioneering scientist Damasio's international reputation is based on his explorations into the neurology of vision, memory, and language. His influence will extend far beyond the parameters of the scientific community with this marvelously lucid and engaging presentation of his innovative ideas about the interconnectedness of mind and body. Damasio begins with some dramatic case histories of people who have survived brain damage without severe physical impairment only to experience bizarre degradations of personality and thought processes. He explains these puzzling maladies by analyzing the various systems at work in the brain, from those associated with life support to the highest echelon of cognition. After discussing how emotions and feelings are expressed by the bodypounding heart, trembling hands, blushingDamasio launches into one of his main themes: how essential emotions are to our ability to reason and make decisions. As he illuminates numerous ways the body and the mind work together to process stimuli, draw upon memory, and fuel thought and judgment, Damasio convinces us that the self is a perpetually recreated neurobiological state. Descartes' error, then, was his belief that the mind and body are separate entities. On the contrary, Damasio tells us, their continual collaboration is the key to consciousness and individuality.

From Kirkus Reviews
Few neuroscientists today would defend Cartesian dualism--the idea that mind and body are separate--but Damasio takes one more leap: Not only are philosophers wrong to separate brain and body, but psychology's separation of reason from emotion is also wrong. Most neuroscientists agree that what we call the mind reflects the functions of the nervous system--in short, crudely speaking, the body. Modern science, however, has transferred the old mind- body split into a brain-body dichotomy in which the brain occupies a hierarchically privileged place. But Damasio (Neurology/Univ. of Iowa College of Medicine) democratizes the relationship between brain and body; he posits a powerful interdependence in which our physical experience of the world around us is central to the creation of our sense of self, and colors our behavior. His persuasive argument begins with Phineas Gage, a 19th-century railway worker who suffered brain damage when an iron rod shot through his head like a missile, destroying his left eye and parts of his frontal lobes. The result was not a loss of speech or memory but profound personality and emotional changes and an inability to make rational judgments about the present and future. Damasio and his wife, Hanna, have studied patients with similar frontal-lobe damage and similar effects: IQ, memory, and language are intact, but there is a lack of feeling and an inability to put current events in context and make future judgments. These points are eloquently expressed, along with the anatomical/physiological evidence linking the frontal cortices with sensory-motor areas and emotional networks that feed forward and backward from the body surface and internal organs. Damasio is the first to admit that he cannot prove all he says. In the meantime, one can read with pleasure and share the excitement of a neuroscientist who sees that in the union of the many parts of the human brain lies its strength.

Product Description
Since Descartes famously proclaimed, "I think, therefore I am," science has often overlooked emotions as the source of a person’s true being. Even modern neuroscience has tended, until recently, to concentrate on the cognitive aspects of brain function, disregarding emotions. This attitude began to change with the publication of Descartes’ Error in 1995. Antonio Damasio—"one of the world’s leading neurologists" (The New York Times)—challenged traditional ideas about the connection between emotions and rationality. In this wondrously engaging book, Damasio takes the reader on a journey of scientific discovery through a series of case studies, demonstrating what many of us have long suspected: emotions are not a luxury, they are essential to rational thinking and to normal social behavior.

About the Author
Antonio Damasio, a neurologist and neuroscientist, is at the University of Southern California, where he directs a new brain research institute dedicated to the study of emotion and creativity. He is also an adjunct professor at the Salk Institute. The recipient of numerous awards (several shared with his wife Hanna Damasio, also a neurologist and neuroscientist), he is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He is the author of two other widely acclaimed books, The Feeling of What Happens and Looking for Spinoza.

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:07 pm ]
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I'm casting 3 votes for BOOK #2, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals by Temple Grandin & Catherine Johnson.

My reason for voting for this book is because I'm an animal lover and I care deeply about the issues addressed in this book. We need to treat the animals we eat more humanely during their lives and in the process of slaughter. Most people don't have a clue about how horrific conditions are for these animals, but tuning it out doesn't make it go away.

The book also appears to be about how best to make your domestic pets happy and satisfied and this is important to me too. All my life animals have been some of my best friends. I actually have dog treats and a leash in my trunk for when I find stray dogs wandering in the streets. And I have a huge bag of cat food in my drunk and feed a stray cat every few days. I put his food in a big dish that keeps him full for a few days at a time, but soon I will get him to the vet to be neutered. It is hard to find a home for some of these strays as people insist on having kittens - as if an older cat won't give them love and attention just as well. It pisses me off to be brutally honest.

Author:  Penelope [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:16 pm ]
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Chris said:

We need to treat the animals we eat more humanely during their lives and in the process of slaughter.

I wholeheartedly agree!!! Well said Chris!!

I vote to read this book too. I don't suppose the UK is any more humane than the US. :(

We are careful in choosing a butcher who sources his meat supplies. Ours used to have photographs and addresses of the farms where the animals are reared. We are about to challenge him as to why the pictures have disappeared from his walls. I think it is only because his shop has recently been refitted, but one should always check these things.

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:22 pm ]
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"You can cast 3 votes and distribute your 3 votes however you like. If you don't assign all 3 votes it will be clear you didn't read these rules and you will be publicly flogged and humiliated. It will be assumed that you wished to assign all 3 of your votes to the one book you selected."

Prepare for the flogging, Penelope. :laugh:

So 3 votes for BOOK #2, Animals Make Us Human: Creating the Best Life for Animals?

I actually read a really nice article about Temple Grandin, the author of this book, a few weeks ago in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper.

Author:  Penelope [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:25 pm ]
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Chris said:

Prepare for the flogging, Penelope.

We used to have a sign on our office wall:-



Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 1:30 pm ]
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Author:  Saffron [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 5:40 pm ]
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Chris OConnor wrote:

I actually read a really nice article about Temple Grandin, the author of this book, a few weeks ago in the St. Petersburg Times newspaper.

I heard an interview with Temple Grandin on NPR a few weeks back. I found her very interesting.

I went to NPR site to see if I could find the interview and I found several through the years. The one I am posting a link to was done January 2009 and might be the one I heard.

NPR: Temple Grandin

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 6:06 pm ]
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Thanks for the link, Saffron. I'm listening to Temple Grandin right now. :smile:

So, are you going to vote early in this poll? Or were you just popping your head in to say hello? :hmm:

Author:  Saffron [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 6:09 pm ]
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I am still thinking about how to vote - at least one vote will got to the Temple Grandin book.

Author:  Chris OConnor [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 6:26 pm ]
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Ahhhh we have a thinker in the community. :shock:

Author:  MaryLupin [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 9:30 pm ]
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I am going to put my 3 votes toward de Waal’s book Good Natured.

Here’s the reason: All three books seem to me to address a similar issue but they do it in different ways. The books work toward breaking the hold the notion of human “special creation” has on the way we think about the world and the way in which (more importantly) we act in the world. The idea that humans were specially created has allowed us to think of ourselves as having a part of ourselves (often thought of as eternal) that is fundamentally distinct from the earth and its limits. We have used the idea of our special status as beings with “souls” to justify some pretty awful things. Temple Grandin’s book addresses those behaviors (amongst other things) and provides us ways to act differently.

The legacy of the idea of “special creation” can be seen in many parts of our human history. Slavery, for example, is always accompanied by some sort of special creation story to explain why the slavers are entitled to (and often obligated to) provide for the needs of what they perceive as an infantile or otherwise needy group of people. US history gives plenty of examples: the early idea that African slaves had no souls, for example. Telling ourselves these stories about why we are more important than, better than, etc. someone else enables the kinds of behaviours that Grandin works to stop when it comes to domesticated animals. So I see the value of the book.

However, I think what needs to happen is that we need to examine something closer to the root of the problem than Grandin’s book seems to address. This is why I had suggested Descartes’ Error and Good Natured. I have just ordered both books since, even if we decide to go with Grandin’s book (which I will also buy), I want to have a pretty close look at the evidence for the origins of our moral capacity (something often touted as proof of our “special” origin.) I have gone with Good Natured instead of Descartes’ Error because 1) other booktalk members have expressed an interest in reading it and 2) that seems to me to provide some anecdotal evidence that Good Natured might be more accessible than Descartes’ Error because Good Natured does talk about animal behaviour and Descartes’ Error is a more strictly philosophical argument.

So I think all three books address the same basic idea – that humans need to unlearn our “place” and get real about what and who we are with respect to the planetary system that sustains our being. In addition, all three books suggest that one way to do that is to really pay attention to how we humans as well as other species actually behave without preconceived ideas of our special status. I just think that directly addressing the belief system that supports the idea of our specialness is, potentially, a more productive way to do that.

Author:  Grim [ Sat Apr 18, 2009 9:45 pm ]
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Question: why are we voting on Good Natured when the author has written a much newer and "expanded" version about the same topic???? ... n_edpp_url

Mary "Descartes’ Error is a more strictly philosophical argument."

Well it's really more of a neurological answer to a philosophical mistake that is already pretty much recognized as such.


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