Book reviews / Non fiction

Book review: Population wars

I very much enjoy reading (and listening) to anything written by Greg Graffin, so I guess I’m the perfect audience for his most recent book, Population Wars: a new perspective on competition and coexistence.

It’s a tour through biology, zoology and anthropology to argue the points of environmental stewardship, that population wars rarely read to the complete eradication of one of the contestants and that there’s co-operation and symbiosis in nature (not just competition).

It was interesting the argument about that the competition narrative in evolutionary biology has never really been questioned (and Graffin argues that it should). He emphasises the idea of symbiosis and the whole of the ecological system being potentially more important.

I think my favourite chapters was about immune response. I had no idea how it all worked and reading about your various immune responses and exactly what the cells and such do was unbelievably cool. Also, the explanation of how vaccination works to a degree that I didn’t appreciate before. It makes anti-vaccination groups seem even more bizarre.

I think that is what I enjoyed most – the tiny one liners that just demonstrated rationality in the face of irrationality. Whether climate change deniers, anti-vaxxers, monsanto conspiracy theorists or anything else – one line at the end of an argument to point out his rationalist perspective on them was delightful.

Also his love of tractors. So adorable.

I think I’d love to see Graffin do a talk on science, as I’ve already seen him many times with Bad Religion.

I think Graffin’s book is great, I found out new things and makes me question some assumptions. It would be interesting to read some of the people he used in support of his arguments. It makes me think that doing as much as I do, is the normal path for a rationalist. Not as glamorous as being front man of Bad Religion or professor but working, PhDing and being a trustee makes me think I’m at least doing as much as I can in my life.

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