Aristotle to zoos : a philosophical dictionary of biology /

Intended for browsing by educated persons such as biologists, psychologists, sociologists, and other "reflective people who see in biology the science most relevant to the understanding and melioration of the human condition." Lengthy enties. Index.

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Main Author: Medawar, P. B. 1915-
Other Authors: Medawar, J. S.
Format: Book
Published: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, 1983.
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Review by Kirkus Book Review

An idiosyncratic text for the sophisticated reader/browser--with stiletto thrusts at the pious, the prejudiced, and the just plain stupid. The Medawars tell us, for example, that Aristotle's biological works are a ""rather tiresome farrago of hearsay, imperfect observation, wishful thinking, and credulity amounting to downright gullibility."" Aggressive instinct? ""People who speak of 'the aggressive instinct' (few professional biologists among them) are usually aggrieved and resentful when it is pointed out to them that there is no such thing. . . ."" Dare one turn to Sociobiology? A ""candidate"" science, the entry begins--and what follows is a well-reasoned case pointing to the reductionism and some of the weaknesses of Wilson's position, but distinguishing his ideas from those of his followers. Given the Medawars' contributions to the fields of immunology, disease, evolution, and the philosophy of science, there are generous excursions in these areas (q.v., lymphocytes, transplantation, Lamarckism, geneticism, neo-Darwinism, frauds). Since these are areas of lively interest, the book has particular freshness and currency. Zoos has both a past and a contemporary flavor: the Medawars remember ""the delight (it would be behaviorist pedantry to describe it otherwise) of elephants being hosed down with cold water on a hot day""; ""Happily,"" they conclude, ""there are signs of better things on the way, especially game parks, nature preserves. . . and room for magnanimity by US tycoons with conscience money to spend or by dotty British noblemen whose estates may as well be possessed by predators of their own choosing."" Light diversions from a distinguished source. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

Copyright (c) Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.

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