Keith Douglas' Web Page

About me Find out who I am and what I do.
My resumé A copy of my resumé and other documentation about my education and work experience for employers and the curious.
Reviews, theses, articles, presentations A collection of papers from my work, categorized and annotated.
Current research projects What I am currently working on, including some non-research material.
Interesting people People professionally "connected" to me in some way.
Interesting organizations Organizations I am "connected" to. (Some rather loosely.)
Intellectual/professional influences Influences on my work, including an organization chart. Here you can also buy many good books on philosophy and other subjects via I have included brief reviews of hundreds of books.
Professional resources Research sources, associates programs, etc.
What is the philosophy of computing? A brief introduction to my primary professional interest.
My intellectual heroes A partial list of important people. Limited to the dead.
My educational philosophy As a sometime teacher I've developed one. Includes book resources.

Book Influences - Biology

Purchase / Enjoy Cover
A Survey of Medical Neuroscience Beckstead As a very part-time neurophilosopher, having access to some good neuroscience books is vital. This one is so-so, but has some decent discussions.
A Year on the Wing: Four Seasons in a Life with Birds Dee Metaphorical birds have been very important to me for over a decade now. I have recently (written Feb 2010) decided to slowly learn more about real birds for its own sake and to better appreciate those wonderful metaphorical birds, especially the one the two have helped create and discover within me. This book is good for furthering these aims, though I think the author could stand to be a bit less irrationalist. It is true that our grasp of anything is imperfect, but that doesn't make trying undesirable - a lesson that extends to both science and poetry.
Anatomy and Physiology the Easy Way Alcamo Probably too basic for the purpose I bought it for, it is still a good high school level book.
Billions and Billions Sagan Carl Sagan's last book. (Published posthumously.)
Biology Campbell A general introduction to everything biological. This book is huge and colourful - as a general introduction to biology should be.
Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA Lewontin Lewontin has important things to say in this book that should be heeded. Unfortunately, they are buried within a mount of pomo-pronouncements that do not help his case. I also note that his claim that there are no known behavioural effects of genetic conditions is simply false, as Lewontin's own textbook of genetics will tell you.
The Brain Restak A no doubt slightly dated neuroscience popularization.
The Computational Brain Churchland and Sejnowski Why is the brain computational? One of several books on why; most detractors of the computationalism hypothesis do not even cite the arguments in this book. Even without adopting this thesis, the reader will learn a lot of neuroscience and a fair bit of important philosophy, psychology and philosophically important material, too.
Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and Machine Wiener This is the second edition of a classic book in what is now largely a forgotten field, at least in some sense. Control and communication theory exist in their own right, and physiology has included some cybernetic notions in some schools (barely) but the joining and cross fertilization has not proved as fruitful as Wiener seems to have hoped. What has been adopted is another cross-cutting approach specifically to computation and in the case of nervous systems alone. This approach Wiener hardly foresaw and he (though it has misleading consequences for nervous system study) also did not seem to grasp the great revolution that is the computer program. Also included in this work are many comments about philosophy, society (no doubt Wiener was branded as a communist) and even mathematics for its own sake. A book of historical interest but also one with a sprinkling of still interesting suggestions. Disclaimer: I do not know enough to evaluate the specifically medical uses of the field discussed.
Eckert Animal Physiology: Mechanisms and Adaptations (4e) Randall, Burggren, French Discusses methods for physiology, cellular physiology, neurophysiology, basic physiology of glands, hormones, muscles, circulation, gas exhange, biochemical balance and digestion. Throughout physics and chemistry are used to support biological principles. Most interesting of the book's features are the comparitive remarks between different members of the animal kingdom. It is also very clear and has many useful illustrations. Unfortunately, there are several errors of fact (one concerns nucleosynthesis in stars, which although off topic should have been checked) and the authors do not seem to have been able to keep to a consistent level of mathematics, physics and chemistry background required. These weaknesses make for a simply good, rather than great, book. Hopefully, these oversights are corrected in newer editions.
Encyclopedia of Ignorance Duncan As this book is now decades old, an interesting project would be to go through it and see which areas in it are no longer areas of ignorance as well as to produce a new edition with new topics. This might illustrate how ignorance in a sense increases or at least does not decrease simply with the process of inquiry. (It is good to know we shall not run out of work!) I bought it used because the title seemed fascinating and the contents scientifically respectable.
Endless Forms Most Beautiful Carroll Popularization of the "new" science connecting evolutionary biology with developmental biology. While this volume focuses on animals only, the principles apply to any multicellular organism. Carroll's coveyed passion for his subject and his patient explanations are a joy to read. I only wish there would have been a bit more detail about how the "geography" of the embryo he discusses works: what are the mechanisms for diffusion and initial "setup": here of course embryology meets biochemistry and things get messy. Nevertheless, the secondary purpose of the book, to illustrate the merits of evolution as an explanation for the diversity of life is done absolutely perfectly.
Functional Neuroanatomy Afifi See my review.
How Your Body Works Hindley Elementary school level biology textbook. Very deliberately cartoony.
Human Behaviour and the Brain Petrides   Course pack for a course I did in neuropsychology/cognitive neuroscience.
Human Zoo Morris Pop sociobiology.
Intelligent Life in the Universe Shklofskii (annotated by Sagan) Although this book is no doubt very dated, it serves as an introduction to cosmology, exobiology and other subjects. I received my copy from my paternal grandfather who had apparently enjoyed it greatly as well.
Mind of the Raven: Investigations and Adventures with Wolf-Birds Heinrich I bought this book on a lark (if one can pardon the expression) because someone very close to me is named for the intelligent and social creatures the book is about. I had wondered if it would give me insight into her own character, as she claims to sometimes live up to her name. It does put some of what she does into new light, but also, like good science, raises more questions than it answers. The author is a professor of biology and not prone to the squishiness that one might expect from this topic, which is all to the good. Written in a breezy yet fairly detailed style, the author does go into detail why he believes certain explainations of behaviour and not others, etc. One area of research which seems to require much further investigation is indicated by the book's subtitle: the apparently symbiotic relationship between ravens and wolves (and other predatory species, including humans). The book discusses it briefly, but even the author points out, much is not clear here. Over all, this is a challenging but clear book in the popular science genre, but one of a very unusual sort.
Modular Brain Restak More by Restak.
Mystery of the Mind Penfield Penfield's book is unfortunately embarassing, as his espousal of mind-body dualism is poorly argued - and he should have known better anyway!
Naked Ape Morris Perhaps the original pop sociobiology book.
Origin of Species Darwin The first book on evolutionary biology - the one that convinced people scientifically. (Don't forget that the zeroth book on evolutionary biology was Empedocles' poem.)
Panda's Thumb Gould A collection of Gould's essays.
Perception Sekuler and Blake Psychology textbook; philosophically aware if unsophisticated in parts.
Physiology of Behavior Carlson Anatomy, physiology, endocrinology, etc. as it affects behaviour in humans and other animals.
Sex At Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality Ryan and Jethá This breezy but detailed book defends the hypothesis that humans have (to some extent) been shoehorned into monogamy by the introduction of agriculture. We are more like bonobos than chimpanzees, it seems. The authors are careful to note that does not have as immediate consequence of "free love for everyone" but does predict (or rather confirm) why marriage is in such a sorry state. They also stress that for a society to (re)develop sexual openness and fluidity of relationships will also require communal raising of children and social responsibility for them, rather than the extreme focus on the biological parents as is common in agricultural based social groups. Another key feature of the book is pointing out the great disservice (some) anthropologists have done by using terms like "wife", "husband" and "marriage" where really these are inapplicable. Finally, as a matter of personal interest, I am pleased that the authors mention the Inuit.
The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview Fry This book is aptly named. It surveys historical views and those of contemporary authors. It also has the merit of emphasizing the philosophical decisions and views which shaped the scientific ones. These aspects should be carefully heeded by those that think that metaphysics has no role to play in science and that science is itself metaphysically neutral.
The Nesting Season: Cuckoos, Cuckolds, and the Invention of Monogamy Heinrich The title covers some of the subject: bird sexual and mating behaviour. However, many birds are not monogamous in any useful sense so it is unclear why the subtitle emphasizes that. Also discussed are migration patterns, egg appearance and structure and nesting. Like Heinrich's earlier book (above) on ravens, this is a dense but fairly easy read. My greatest difficulty is keeping all the different birds straight ...
Van Norstrand's Scientific Encyclopedia Aroiam (editor)   I bought a used, ancient (1958) version of this because it contains many articles that are still useful. Still discusses computers that were humans!
What Evolution Is Mayr A very clear introduction to evolution for the layman. It includes discussions of the evidence for evolution, hypotheses concerning human evolution in specific, origins of biological diversity and of life, and others. Unfortunately, it is also marred by some redundancies (e.g. hox genes are introduced as if the notion were new in several places) and minor errors concerning some philosophers. (For example, Mayr seems completely unaware of Empedocles, who postulated a form of evolution by natural selection c.2500 years ago.)


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