Science in a Democratic Society by Philip Kitcher Philip Kitcher revisits the topic explored in his previous work—namely, the challenges of integrating science, the most successful knowledge-generating system of all time, with the problems of democracy. But in this new work, Kitcher goes far beyond that earlier book in studying places at which the practice of science fails to answer social needs. Kitcher considers a variety of examples of pressing concern, ranging from climate change to religiously inspired constraints on biomedical research to the neglect of diseases that kill millions of children annually, analyzing the sources of trouble. He shows the fallacies of thinking that democracy always requires public debate of issues most people cannot comprehend, and argues that properly constituted expertise is essential to genuine democracy. No previous book has treated the place of science in democratic society so comprehensively and systematically, with attention to different aspects of science and to pressing problems of our times. Eaarth: Making a Life on a Tough New Planet by Bill McKibben Amazon Best Books of the Month, April 2010: Since he first heralded our era of environmental collapse in 1989's The End of Nature, Bill McKibben has raised a series of eloquent alarms. In Eaarth, he leads readers to the devastatingly comprehensive conclusion that we no longer inhabit the world in which we've flourished for most of human history: we've passed the tipping point for dramatic climate change, and even if we could stop emissions yesterday, our world will keep warming, triggering more extreme storms, droughts, and other erratic catastrophes, for centuries to come. This is not just our grandchildren's problem, or our children's--we're living through the effects of climate change now, and it's time for us to get creative about our survival. McKibben pulls no punches, and swaths of this book can feel bleak, but his dry wit and pragmatic optimism refuse to yield to despair. Focusing our attention on inspiring communities of "functional independence" arising around the world, he offers galvanizing possibilities for keeping our humanity intact as the world we've known breaks down. Where Good Ideas Come From: The Natural History of Innovation by Steven Johnson Johnson--writer, Web guru, and bestselling author of Everything Bad Is Good for You--delivers a sweeping look at innovation spanning nearly the whole of human history. What sparks our great ideas? Johnson breaks down the cultural, biological, and environmental fuel into seven broad "patterns," each packed with diverse, at times almost disjointed anecdotes that Johnson synthesizes into a recipe for success. A section on "slow hunches" captivates, taking readers from the FBI's work on 9/11 to Google's development of Google News. A section on error takes us through a litany of accidental innovations, including the one that eventually led to the invention of the computer. "Being right keeps you in place," Johnson reminds us. "eing wrong forces us to explore." It's eyeopening stuff--although it does require an investment from the reader. But as fans of the author's previous work know, an investment in Johnson pays off, and those who stick with the author as he meanders through an occasional intellectual digression will come away enlightened and entertained, and with something perhaps even more useful--how to recognize the conditions that could spark their own creativity and innovation. Another mind-opening work from the author of Mind Wide Open. The Ecology of Commerce Revised Edition: A Declaration of Sustainability by Paul Hawken Hawken ( Growing a Business ) touches on a raw nerve here. How might millions of people live and work in a complex business environment while causing "as little suffering as possible to all and everything around us?" Hawken, no Luddite, believes that "we need a design for business that will ensure that the industrial world as it is presently constituted ceases and is replaced with humancentered enterprises that are sustainable producers." Avoiding stormy rhetoric, Hawken thoughtfully reviews ecological theories and disasters and insists that "ecology offers a way to examine all present economic and resource activities from a biological rather than a monetary point of view." Calling for a restorative economy, he proposes rational, achievable goals: stop "accelerating the rate that we draw down capacity"; refrain from "buying or degrading other people's environment"; and avoid displacing "other species by taking over their habitats." This noteworthy study should kindle debates within the business community. The End of Growth: Adapting to Our New Economic Reality by Richard Heinberg Economists insist that recovery is at hand, yet unemployment remains high, real estate values continue to sink, and governments stagger under record deficits. The End of Growth proposes a startling diagnosis: humanity has reached a fundamental turning point in its economic history. The expansionary trajectory of industrial civilization is colliding with non-negotiable natural limits. Richard Heinberg’s latest landmark work goes to the heart of the ongoing financial crisis, explaining how and why it occurred, and what we must do to avert the worst potential outcomes. Written in an engaging, highly readable style, it shows why growth is being blocked by three factors: Resource depletion, Environmental impacts, Crushing levels of debt. These converging limits will force us to reevaluate cherished economic theories and to reinvent money and commerce. The End of Growth describes what policy makers, communities, and families can do to build a new economy that operates within Earth’s budget of energy and resources. We can thrive during the transition if we set goals that promote human and environmental well-being, rather than continuing to pursue the nowunattainable prize of ever-expanding GDP. The Master and His Emissary: The Divided Brain and the Making of the Western World by Iain McGilchrist A U.K. mental health consultant and clinical director with a background in literature, McGilchrist attempts to synthesize his two areas of expertise, arguing that the "divided and asymmetrical nature" of the human brain is reflected in the history of Western culture. Part I, The Divided Brain, lays the groundwork for his thesis, examining two lobes' significantly different features (structure, sensitivity to hormones, etc.) and separate functions (the left hemisphere is concerned with "what," the right with "how"). He suggests that music, "ultimately... the communication of emotion," is the "ancestor of language," arising largely in the right hemisphere while "the culture of the written word tends inevitably toward the predominantly left hemisphere." More controversially, McGilchrist argues that "there is no such thing as the brain" as such, only the brain as we perceive it; this leads him to conclude that different periods of Western civilization (from the Homeric epoch to the present), one or the other hemisphere has predominated, defining "consistent ways of being that persist" through time. This densely argued book is aimed at an academic crowd, is notable for its sweep but a stretch in terms of a uniting thesis. The Swerve: How the World Became Modern by Stephen Greenblatt Winner of the 2011 National Book Award for Non-Fiction. One of the world's most celebrated scholars, Stephen Greenblatt has crafted both an innovative work of history and a thrilling story of discovery, in which one manuscript, plucked from a thousand years of neglect, changed the course of human thought and made possible the world as we know it. Nearly six hundred years ago, a short, genial, cannily alert man in his late thirties took a very old manuscript off a library shelf, saw with excitement what he had discovered, and ordered that it be copied. That book was the last surviving manuscript of an ancient Roman philosophical epic, On the Nature of Things, by Lucretius—a beautiful poem of the most dangerous ideas: that the universe functioned without the aid of gods, that religious fear was damaging to human life, and that matter was made up of very small particles in eternal motion, colliding and swerving in new directions. The copying and translation of this ancient book-the greatest discovery of the greatest book-hunter of his age-fueled the Renaissance, inspiring artists such as Botticelli and thinkers such as Giordano Bruno; shaped the thought of Galileo and Freud, Darwin and Einstein; and had a revolutionary influence on writers such as Montaigne and Shakespeare and even Thomas Jefferson. The Social Animal: The Hidden Sources of Love, Character, and Achievement by David Brooks With unequaled insight and brio, David Brooks has long explored and explained the way we live. Now, with the intellectual curiosity and emotional wisdom that make his columns among the most read in the nation, Brooks turns to the building blocks of human flourishing in a multilayered, profoundly illuminating work grounded in everyday life. This is the story of how success happens. It is told through the lives of one composite American couple, Harold and Erica—how they grow, push forward, are pulled back, fail, and succeed. Distilling a vast array of information into these two vividly realized characters, Brooks illustrates a fundamental new understanding of human nature. A scientific revolution has occurred—we have learned more about the human brain in the last thirty years than we had in the previous three thousand. The unconscious mind, it turns out, is most of the mind—not a dark, vestigial place but a creative and enchanted one, where most of the brain’s work gets done. This is the realm of emotions, intuitions, biases, longings, genetic predispositions, personality traits, and social norms: the realm where character is formed and where our most important life decisions are made. 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created by Charles C. Mann With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of The Columbian Exchange by Alfred Crosby, Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity. Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question. Coming Apart: The State of White America, 1960-2010 by Charles Murray In Coming Apart, Charles Murray explores the formation of American classes that are different in kind from anything we have ever known, focusing on whites as a way of driving home the fact that the trends he describes do not break along lines of race or ethnicity. Drawing on five decades of statistics and research, Coming Apart demonstrates that a new upper class and a new lower class have diverged so far in core behaviors and values that they barely recognize their underlying American kinship—divergence that has nothing to do with income inequality and that has grown during good economic times and bad. The top and bottom of white America increasingly live in different cultures, Murray argues, with the powerful upper class living in enclaves surrounded by their own kind, ignorant about life in mainstream America, and the lower class suffering from erosions of family and community life that strike at the heart of the pursuit of happiness. That divergence puts the success of the American project at risk. The evidence in Coming Apart is about white America. Its message is about all of America.