Sunday, July 19, 2009


Although I read a lot I don't usually post about the books I read but I have just finished a book which I feel is worthy of mention. Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin, a journey into the 3.5 billion year history of the human body. For those of us who view evolution as scientific fact this is a truly fascinating read, but what is so important about this book is it's readability. Although the subject matter could by definition be very dense the author has a style that both educates and amuses in a way that is bound to captivate readers, regardless of whether or not they have a scientific background. His slightly irreverent sense of humour shines through, when you get to the piece about the evolution of the position of gonads in different species and the Pledge of Allegiance you will see what I mean! From beginning to end this book overflows with fascinating snippets, for example our relationship to tadpoles and it's link to why we get hiccups!

This is a gem of a book that not only sheds fresh light on an age old study but also, in my mind does something far more important. It breaks down the ever growing wall between 'scientists and science' and the general population. There are so many offenders in this particular issue that it is hard to know where to begin to resolve an issue that really does need attention. For generations the entertainment industry has cast a very unfavorable slant on scientists, often portraying them as evil, manipulative and usually slightly wacky. The press seems to view science with a mixture of suspicion and boredom and many scientists themselves do nothing to make science more 'approachable.' There is a definite sense of snobbery in the scientific world where if you don't have the right letters after your name you are obviously inferior in some way and also that age old, and frankly rather tiresome and overdone tactic, of using unnecessarily over complex vocabulary in order to make yourself appear smart! I can't help feeling that if we want science to be more interesting and engaging to the population we need to stop building walls of Latin and Greek and start taking a leaf out of Neil Shubin's book. Science is cool, science is fun and science is approachable and those of us who are working in the numerous scientific fields need to stop striving to sound like brainiacs and start captivating people in the way that Neil Shubin has done with this book.


Louise said...

I've always liked scientists, but I've always liked science. My daughters seem drawn to it, too. But I will attempt to curb their know-it-all attitude because they know more than the next guy/girl. (It's an everyday battle when a kid knows ANYTHING.) I've heard of this book, but not read it.

Laughing Orca Ranch said...

Sounds like a fascinating read....interesting reading humor and science together, too.
I've always found science to be dry and boring. Except for one teacher I once had in private school. He always made science fun, had a wacky sense of humor (encouraging his student to play soccer with frog eyeballs during dissection. lol!) and I loved being in his class.

It's nice when a book reads to the general population and not just to other scientists.


Rambling Woods said...

I am adding this one to my list Celeste...