* The Watchman’s Rattle by Rebecca Costa

Beyond the evocative title, I did not find much to like in The Watchman’s Rattle: Thinking Our Way Out of Extinction and I’m still a little puzzled that the venerable E.O. Wilson lent his name and credibility to the foreword. To me, the book read as a long rant, replete with way too many italicized sentences for emphasis, in case we are a little thick, and a rant about what? That we are about to expire as a civilization because, get this, we humans are evolving more slowly than the rate of societal change. I will let you ponder the silliness of the concern. If we humans are creating the changes in our society, then shouldn’t we also be able to untangle the mess we are supposedly creating? I do agree with the author that the political process makes it difficult to effect change. I do agree that the citizenry could think issues through a little more than it does. And I do agree that the preponderance of lawyers in the legislative body of the United States makes it difficult to manage technical and scientific issues. But surely she could find a better example of mayhem-to-come than a lone experiment of introducing chimps to tokens (leading to prostitution and, horror, hoarding — remove money and all our problems go away?) And her prescription for optimism: eat blueberries, to be able to think better (to be fair, she also advocates flax seeds and papayas — and sleeping enough).

Excuse me while I rustle up some flax seeds.

1 Comment

Filed under Non fiction

One response to “* The Watchman’s Rattle by Rebecca Costa

  1. I believe you may have missed the point of the book. I am Rebecca Costa, the author of The Watchman’s Rattle. If evolution moves in increments of hundreds of thousands and millions of years, and human progress moves in picoseconds – eventually our biological capacity to understand and navigate overwhelming levels of complexity causes gridlock and irrational behavior (including public policy) to occur. I do not suggest flax seeds as a solution to this dilemma as you claim. I simply point out that there is mounting evidence that what we put into our body can have a postitive effect in how the neurotransmitters in our brains function (pretty obvious). And since we are presently overloaded with content and complexity we have to consider everything as a solution. In the words of Edward Wilson: “We live in a time when we have Paleolithic emotions, Medieval institutions, and God-like technolgy, and this is a dangerous condition.” That is what the book is about. Not flax seeds – as so often reductionist reviews cleverly imply. If you are going to do a book review – don’t go for the cheap sensationalism. Address the premise and the 65 pages of foortnotes devoted to finding fact.

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