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Old 09-12-2010, 06:54 PM   #1
leebase
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Darwin's Radio - Greg Bear

Darwin's Radio by Greg Bear is what the best of science fiction can be. He takes genuine science, imagines a few steps further, builds a terrific human story that all follows from human nature that we can all relate to. This isn't sci fi for the sci fi geeks, this book has mass market appeal like the best of Michael Crichton's.

The book explores "what if evolution isn't millions of small changes, but one big change from mother to child?" How would modern man react to find out that nature has decided it's time to replace "homo sapiens" with "homo sapiens novus"?

This book is a thriller. Perhaps not from page one, but it didn't take too long before I couldn't put the book down -- even though it's the second time I've read it. There is a terrific scientific discovery and genetics angle. A really good exploration of the politics of science. Then plain ol' power politics is brought in. All told from a story brought to us through people we come to care very deeply about.

The writing is top notch. The story is compelling. There are so many layers to this book that provoke thoughts and dreams and nightmare's even.

One of the themes that appeals so much to me is how fragile our freedoms really are. Our constitution doesn't guarantee anything -- only what people CONTINUE to value and stand up for will matter when crisis hits. So few of our population have any real understanding of the concept of "civil liberty" that our founding fathers put their lives and fortunes on the line to establish. Just look back to the internment of the Japanese during WWII.

I also thought it was interesting to see evolution presented in this light. The folks who got most upset in this book weren't religious creationists, but evolutionists who have long hardened in their convictions about gradualism. I truly think Bear has done a great job of exposing how much politics influences "science". Politics within the science community itself, and politics when science and public policy meet. He could easily have just bloodied up the religious with evolution is fact, but he largely ignores that component of the issue.

His mechanism for imagining the next step in evolution posits the notion that our society works like a "network", just like our brain is a network of cells. His characters deal with the accusation of "you are positing God" by stating that our neural network in our brain gives rise to a mind but that doesn't make us gods. A very interesting take on the concept of "gee, there seems to be a design or plan revealed in evolution" without resorting to "god did it". And yet, he doesn't try to destroy god in his book either.

It's great stuff. Highly recommended. I reread the book so that I could be reminded before I started to read the sequel "Darwin's Children".

Lee
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Old 09-12-2010, 07:28 PM   #2
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Loved both. Couldn't make much sense off all the biology talk behind the whats and whys, but still greatly enjoyed the social side (and even more in Darwin's Children) to how people could potentially react to a leap in evolution.
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Old 09-12-2010, 08:44 PM   #3
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I couldn't follow the genetics either, but it is nice when you know the author has done his own research into a subject.

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Old 09-12-2010, 10:47 PM   #4
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The genetics is smack-dab in the midst of my interests.

The books bring up the issue of indigenous viruses-- the fascinating thing is that human (and other animal) DNA consists of several times more broken viral than it does actual coding genes. And many important protein coding genes evolved from "naturalized" viral genes-- such as this one important in the function of the placenta.

But "evolutionists who have long hardened in their convictions about gradualism"? That's only about 40 years out of date.

Last edited by ardeegee; 09-12-2010 at 10:50 PM.
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Old 09-13-2010, 04:20 PM   #5
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I also loved both the books. It hits the same general theme as Micheal Chrichton's Next.
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Old 09-13-2010, 09:39 PM   #6
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It's been a while, but I remember it as an easy read and really good Science Fiction.
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Old 09-14-2010, 12:23 AM   #7
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"Scientists are just zealots for a different religion" sounds good, but it's not true. For every scientist who likes seeing the data come out the way he expects, there are a hundred who live for the moment when they can say "now that's interesting!" If nothing else, nobody ever won a prize for finding what he expected.
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Old 09-14-2010, 01:56 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Worldwalker View Post
"Scientists are just zealots for a different religion" sounds good, but it's not true. For every scientist who likes seeing the data come out the way he expects, there are a hundred who live for the moment when they can say "now that's interesting!" If nothing else, nobody ever won a prize for finding what he expected.
Umm, that is actually not true. John Mather won a Nobel for designing experiments to find variations in the microwave background radiation that is the let over heat of the Universe. He found such variations with COBE satellite and won a Nobel Prize for it.

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