Kapanalig Sa Wala - Literally, one who also have faith in nothing, is a play on words and wasn't really intended to mean something. It was made in jest to call the atheist camp when I was still actively debating god in one of the demised public forums out there. I think walang pananalig (faithless) would have proven to be more precise but I think the intended humor will be lost.

Saturday, March 08, 2008


I have just wrapped up reading Ann Gibbons' The First Human: The Race To Discover Our Earliest Ancestors. It's a short book of about 240 pages so I was able to finish it in a few days. I would have finished it even earlier if not because I haven't fully picked up the habit of using bookmarks for all the books that I read. In such cases I'd fold the page where I'm at but even that I consciously avoid because it makes the book look ugly later. I am now starting to re-read Sean Carroll's Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science Of Evo Devo And The Making Of The Animal Kingdom. I had attempted to read it before but dropped it after probably finishing the Introduction. I went to a cafe so I can have my Saturday cup of cappuccino and started reading it. I could not remember where I stopped the last time so that I had to restart from the beginning. But this time I am definitely going to use a bookmark. Another book that I have been reading which I had started even before I started reading the Gibbons book and which is almost finished is Steve Gould's Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History. I'll finish it shortly tonight. With it I used a bookmark, the kind they give away for free at some cafes here. When I do use a bookmark, I still find myself re-reading portions I have read previously because I don't stop at the end of each chapter or another suitable area like the end a well-defined section. This is often the case with me with books I read on my commute when I don't have complete control on the time I will arrive at my stop will be about enough time I'd need to finish the current section/chapter. To aid me in this case, I let the bookmark give me a hint on where I should resume my reading. If the front side of the bookmark is facing the left page, I stopped at the left page. Otherwise, I should resume on the right page. If I stopped in the upper portion of the page, I put the bookmark on the upper portion of the page; otherwise, I put it at the lower portion. It does help me save some time except when I really need to re-read the last few sentences or even paragraphs so that the train of thought will be picked up where I left off. With books I read at home and if I don't have a bookmark (sometime I am too lazy to get one even when there are many available!), I try as much as possible to stop at the end of each chapter.

By the way, the Gobbons book is a good historical sketch of how anthropologists/paleontologists
race against each other in finding hominid fossils that could shed light on our origins. Together with the book by Gould - also a historical sketch about paleontology dealing with the Burgess Shale fossils - the two books are very informative and give us an idea of how much discipline is required by serious paleontology. In the cover of the Gibbons book pictured above is the fossil nicknamed Toumai or Sahelanthropus Tchadensis.


Heathen Dan said...

I don't have Gibbons' books but I have the other two. Gould's book was a pleasure to read, and I have read it three times already. I think it deserves to be more widely read, despites it flaws and mistakes.

Evo-devo seems to be a growing field and Sean Carroll has done a good job distilling its concepts to the general reader. Carroll and other evo-devo practitioners claim that they were greatly influenced by Gould, especially through his book Ontogeny and Phylogeny. I have yet to find a local copy. :(

As for paleoanthropology, I found Richard Leakey's Origin of Humankind to be an excellent primer, while Alan Walker's The Wisdom of the Bones an engaging narrative on field work and how bones help us understand how our ancestors evolved.

BTW, paleontology and evo-devo are two fields whose general practitioners feel left out of the Modern Synthesis of Evolutionary Biology (which is still primarily population genetics). Niles Eldredge's book Reinventing Darwin shows how paleontologists in particular are trying to join and revise the synthesis. A great eye-opener, I can no longer read Dawkins and other replicator-centrists the same way ever again. :)

Talamasca said...

Interesting bookmark routine you got there. Usually, I just shove mine in between the pages OR not use one at all. I guess I'm just devil-may-care that way.

And my god, these books you're reading are... how do I put it... so scholarly and sage-y at that. I majored in Bio back in college, so I'm also big with the sciences. So I wanna check them out, too! But I doubt if I can handle such material now, seeing as the books that I've been reading as of late are mostly fiction. I'm getting rusty in the non-fiction/textbook department. Must start getting my mad skills on starting now if I wanna go to med school.

Anyhoo, thanks for blog dropping. Come back anytime ok! Buh-bye.

TonyB said...

Hi Danny, sayang di man lang ako nakapag-organize ng EB. I was so busy.

Hi Talamasca, thanks for dropping by.