Whose Fault is it Anyway?

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

The case against free will is easily stated. Actions, we remind ourselves, are material events. All such events seem subject to the laws of nature, wired into causally connected sequences that emerged long before we were born or even thought of. Besides, we rely on a stitched-up physical reality to perform actions and to be […]

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The Soliloquies of the Lambs

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

If a cow said, ‘Don’t eat me’, we wouldn’t. We seem to regard the capacity for language (by which we mean our kind of language) as evidence of moral significance. But do animals talk? Many traditions assume they do, and understanding animal talk has sometimes been thought to indicate great human wisdom. The proverbially wise […]

The DNA Supremacy

Posted on by Jonathan Beckman

Twenty years have passed since the Human Genome Project mapped nearly all twenty thousand genes encoded within the three billion molecules of DNA strung out along the two intertwining strands of the double helix. ‘We face a time of dramatic change,’ commented the project’s director, Francis Collins, anticipating ‘unprecedented opportunities’ for medicine and science in […]

Bird’s-Eye Viewing

Posted on by David Gelber

James Cheshire and Oliver Uberti’s enchanting and exhilarating annotated atlas of animal movements – tracked across countries and continents by tag and collar, radar and satellite – is a product of ‘big data’ methodology. Although obtained at a considerable remove, the perspectives the data provide often bring us closer to each individual creature than we […]

A Rough Ride

Posted on by David Gelber

Horses, says Susanna Forrest, have more in common genetically with humans than with man’s supposed best friend, the dog. She quotes a trainer’s argument that horses are a fine model for society: they don’t want to hoard things, they don’t want to own bits of territory, they don’t fight over air or grass and they […]

Dances with Swords

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Possessing no teeth or scales, but armed with a sharp rostrum up to four feet long, Xiphias gladius is arguably the most aggressive fish in the sea. The huge ones are always female, can weigh more than a thousand pounds and produce some thirty million eggs. A solitary pelagic speedster, the queen of the ocean […]

The Ways of All Flesh

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Hugh Aldersey-Williams previously wrote the highly acclaimed Periodic Table: The Curious Lives of the Elements, and here he proves himself just as fascinating and witty a guide around the geography of the human body. We spend our entire lives inside it yet know so little about it. The author himself confesses, at the start of his journey, ‘I have no idea how my bladder works.’ Some kind of expandable sack, no? ‘Some sort of watertight balloon’ of no particular shape? Actually

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