Tapping the very latest findings in evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and molecular biology, Rob DeSalle and Ian Tattersall explain how the cognitive gulf that separates us from all other living creatures could have occurred. They discuss the development and uniqueness of human consciousness, how human and nonhuman brains work, the roles of different nerve cells, the importance of memory and language in brain functions, and much more. Our brains, they conclude, are the product of a lengthy and supremely untidy history—an evolutionary process of many zigs and zags—that has accidentally resulted in a splendidly eccentric and creative product.
DeSalle and Tattersall argue that taxonomy, the scientific classification of organisms, provides an antidote to the myth of race’s biological basis. They explain how taxonomists do their science—how to identify a species and to understand the relationships among different species and the variants within them. DeSalle and Tattersall also detail the use of genetic data to trace human origins and look at how scientists have attempted to recognize discrete populations within Homo sapiens. Troublesome Science demonstrates conclusively that modern genetic tools, when applied correctly to the study of human variety, fail to find genuine differences. While the diversity that exists within our species is a real phenomenon, it nevertheless defeats any systematic attempt to recognize discrete units within it. The stark lines that humans insist on drawing between their own groups and others are nothing but a mixture of imagination and ideology. Troublesome Science is an important call for researchers, journalists, and citizens to cast aside the belief that race has a biological meaning, for the sake of social justice and sound science alike.
By introducing a new paradigm for studying and preserving life at a variety of levels, genomics offers solutions to previously intractable problems in understanding the biology of complex organisms and creates new tools for preserving the patterns and processes of life on this planet. Featuring a number of high-profile researchers, this volume introduces the use of molecular genetics in conservation biology and provides a historical perspective on the opportunities and challenges presented by new technologies. It discusses zoo-, museum-, and herbarium-based biological collections, which have expanded over the past decade, and covers the promises and problems of genomic and reproductive technology. The collection concludes with the philosophical and legal issues of conservation genetics and their potential effects on public policy.