Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Andrew Reynolds

Andrew S. Reynolds is professor of philosophy at Cape Breton University. He has published in various history and philosophy of science journals and is the author of Peirce’s Scientific Metaphysics: The Philosophy of Chance, Law, and Evolution.

Reynolds's new book is The Third Lens: Metaphor and the Creation of Modern Cell Biology.

Recently I asked the author about what he was reading. His reply:
During the day I read articles and books relevant to my research and teaching, and in bed I read fiction or non-fiction for fun. A selection of my day-time reading of late includes the following books:

Sandra Harding, Science and Social Inequality: Feminist and Postcolonial Issues. Harding has been a leader in feminist science studies, providing critical perspective on the value-laden assumptions that both inform and misinform science’s historically male-dominated attempt to provide objective knowledge of the world. Here she discusses the cultural values about nature and knowledge that have shaped the development of science in the West.

Kim Tallbear. Native American DNA: Tribal Belonging and the False Promise of Genetic Science. This is a terrific discussion of the science behind various DNA testing technologies and how the use of direct-to-consumer services to answer questions about ancestry contrasts with--and can undermine--socio-cultural notions of native identity and tribal membership. Metaphors of DNA and of blood she warns do not mix all that well, for they are intended for distinct sorts of purposes and narratives.

Peter Godfrey-Smith. Other Minds: The Octopus, the Sea, and the Deep Origins of Consciousness. Philosopher of science Peter Godfrey-Smith puts his SCUBA diving pastime to good use to explore what cephalopods (octopus, squids, cuttlefish and nautiluses) have to teach us about the possibilities for alien intelligence adapted to very different environments and bodies. Worth reading just for the fascinating accounts of these amazing creatures’ behavior.

Ernst Haeckel. Die Kalkschwämme. 3 Vols. 19th century zoologist-artist-philosopher Ernst Haeckel’s extensive study of sponges of the class Calcarea—those whose ‘skeletons’ consist of needles (spiculae) of calcium carbonate. On the basis of this research into the anatomy, physiology, and embryological development of these sponges Haeckel proposed that humans and other multicellular animals (Metazoa) evolved from a primitive form of sponge. Even if you don’t read German you may still appreciate Haeckel’s drawings of sponge morphology and the amazing protozoan-like cells that build them. Available at the Biodiversity Heritage Library.

My bed-time reading of late has included:

Zadie Smith. Swing Time. The characters in Swing Time are not ones I have much in common with and so I didn’t expect to find myself much interested in this book, but Zadie Smith is such a great writer and story-teller that I enjoyed every page of this tale about two young girls of mixed race growing up in 1980s London. I also loved her first book White Teeth.

Margaret Atwood. The Penelopiad. My daughter had a role as one of the slave-girls in a local performance of Atwood’s retelling of the Ulysses story from the standpoint of Penelope and the young maids who were hung to death for disappointing the men-folk’s expectations about what was proper conduct for young women. I enjoyed the book, but I enjoyed the stage performance even more.

Madeleine Thien. Do Not Say We Have Nothing. This story about several generations of a family of Chinese musicians and artists sweeps you along like a slow-moving storm front, from Mao’s cultural revolution, through the Tiananmen Square protests, to present day. Definitely deserving of the Scotiabank Giller Prize, the Governor General’s Award, and of being short-listed for the Man Booker Prize.
Learn more about The Third Lens at the University of Chicago Press website.

The Page 99 Test: The Third Lens.

--Marshal Zeringue