Thursday, September 04, 2008

Book Review: Your Inner Fish

Just finished up Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, and I have to say that I can definitely see what all the buzz is about. The man has an absolute passion for his subject, and science in general, that is downright infectious. I will say this, though. The bulk of the book is almost a primer for reading The Ancestor's Tale by Richard Dawkins. It covers our connections to other animals great and small, from bacteria to fish to primates in a variety of ways, which is what I believe Dawkins was also trying to do.

So, why read Your Inner Fish?

Well, for the fact-o-philes out there, the trivia index on this book is pretty high. I, for one, never knew that we humans (and all other mammals) hiccup because of our sharky and froggy ancestry. The section on cranial nerves and why they trace the paths they do through our heads was also very interesting.

For anyone interested in a career in one of the "field sciences", this book gives a glimpse of the joy to be had there, as well as the cost. I don't think Shubin meant it to be there, per se, but you can tell that there's at least a little bit of conflict lurking somewhere below the surface between his desire to be in the Arctic every summer and his desire to explore the world closer to home with his family.

For anyone looking for ammunition in the evolution/creation debate, Shubin does a good job of showcasing several different areas to look. The book itself is a little light on the hardcore arguments, though. The author doesn't come across as very confrontational at all, which I believe is a good thing for the most part. By the time I was ten pages into the book, I knew that I wanted to give it to one of my crazy creationist friends and beg him to read it. Not that it would do much good, but hey, it would be fun to watch, at least.

And last but not least, anyone looking for a feel-good, pro-science book will gobble this one down. I read it in about a day. It's very accessible, and just leaves you feeling positive about science when you put it down, no matter where you stop when you do. It's just a very positive book. I'll let the author's words explain exactly what I mean.

... the unknown should not be a source of suspicion, fear, or retreat to superstition, but motivation to continue asking questions and seeking answers. -- Neil Shubin, Your Inner Fish

I couldn't have said it better myself, and for those of you who know me well, you'll know that that's quite the concession. :)

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"Loyalty to petrified opinion never broke a chain or freed a human soul..." -- Mark Twain


Fire does not wait for the sun to be hot,

Nor the wind for the moon, to be cool.

-- the Zenrin Kushu