by Dan Riskin
Premise: Mother Nature is not nice. In fact, she is inherently selfish and cruel, interested only in perpetuating her own DNA, and if there is any hope for the future of mankind, it behooves us to rise above our own hard-wired, self-serving instincts to build a better world.
The Good News: The book itself is – or should be – an example of how technology can improve the experience of reading. There are links in the text so that, for example, after you read about a wild bird in the Brazilian rainforest, you can click on a link to watch YouTube videos of that very bird in the Brazilian rainforest.
The Bad News: The links did not work on my Kindle. Amazon would not take me to the Amazon.
More Bad News: Riskin’s decision to link wildlife to humanity’s “seven deadly sins” is often a gimmicky stretch. Is an insect that eats lots of food truly indulging in “gluttony” – or is it simply acting on instinct? Is a monkey really “envious” of another monkey’s bowl of grapes – or does it simply crave the grapes? Riskin’s theories are more successful when he likens human behavior to our animal cousins, less successful when he attributes human-like motivations to animal behavior.
Despite the publisher’s best efforts to convince us that Mother Nature is a unique take on what people are and why they do what they do, this is mostly just a biology book about creepy crawlies.
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