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Selected Books by Edmund Blair Bolles

  • Galileo's Commandment: 2500 Years of Great Science Writing
  • The Ice Finders: How a Poet, a Professor, and a Politician Discovered the Ice Age
  • Einstein Defiant: Genius vs Genius in the Quantum Revolution

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Comments

Forrest Croce

My Spanish is about as bad as yours, but I have a few comments and questions.

(1) Can you tell me where the mighty Columbia River starts? Officially it's Triple Divide Peak in Montana, but, of course, rain and snow melt from plenty of mountains winds up in the Columbia.

(2) I don't really understand why 150 genes (loci?) that are present in people with language impairments, would be the same thing as 150 genes responsible for language in (normal) humans? The null hypothesis might be that these genes normally have nothing to do with language, but a mutated version of them codes for some kind of toxin that destroys parts of our brain needed for language. Has anybody tried to distinguish between these possibilities?

(3) While there's insight to the idea that “a gene initiates a sequence of events only if one chooses to begin analysis at that point,” it's also true that if you remove a particular gene from the genetic soup, you'll get a particular phenotypic effect. Remove ( or disable ) a different gene, and you'll see a different effect. Genes are the mechanism of heredity; you can't simply say they have no effect because their interaction is very complicated.

(3b) I think it's useful to view the environment of a gene as mostly being made up of other genes. Any gene variant that pushes a bit toward language and appears in the body of a social creature with a theory of mind, is more likely to be passed on than such a gene finding itself in a frog. Just like sharp teeth don't really help an herbivore.


(4) This is simply out of curiosity, but have you ever written or debugged a computer program? I have the misfortune of doing this for a living. Modern computer programs are massive collections of "If X Then Attempt Y; Failing that, Do Z." Tens of thousands of these structures come together to produce an epi-phenomenon that seems like a complex, adaptive entity. I don't think the gene-as-program metaphor is all that evil, so long as people consider a modern program.

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