Read Recently — July 2016 — Nonfiction

Paleofantasy: what evolution really tells us about sex, diet and how we live by Marlene Zuk

You might have heard of the “Paleodiet”, which comes accompanied by claims that if we eat the way our earliest ancestors did we will be happier and healthier. It was accompanied by a variety of other “evolution-based” claims about exercise , medicine, etc. Based on the title of the book, you can probably guess what Zuk (a professor of ecology, evolution and behaviour at the University of Minnesota, according to her author blurb) thinks of these claims. Unlike some of those who argue in favour, Zuk brings science and research to the table, as well as the willingness to admit, where necessary, that she just doesn’t know the answer.

Zuk writes well and communicates her points clearly, using humour sparingly but effectively (and dryly). And it is nice to read a book about evolution (which is a big part of the story) that doesn’t have to spend time replying to creationists.

Recommended.

Wyatt Earp: a vigilante life by Andrew C. Isenberg

I first encountered wyatt Earp and the Matter of Tombstone in an episode of the original Star Trek series (“The Specter of the Gun”) in which the Enterprise is ordered to make contact with a reclusive species of advanced aliens, who test and punish our heroes by zapping some members of the bridge crew into a shared hallucination of Tombstone, Arizona, in 1881 CE, where they were to play Clantons to a set of hallucinatory Earps (plus Doc Holliday, who was fairly friendly to Dr. McCoy, one medical man to the other). This did tend to prejudice me against the Earps, perhaps unfairly.

Then again, perhaps not. Wyatt lived until 1929, long enough to spend the last years of his life in Hollywood, telling his story and making sure he looked good. The facts have emerged over time, though: the Earps were lawmen in Tombstone, they were not always so and were not so everywhere. Wyatt lived a life on both sides of the law, sometimes later arresting people for the same sort of acts he himself had recently done to earn a living. Earp was a fascinating man, always loyal to his family and loyal to his friends as long as it was convenient (Doc Holliday quarreled with him in 1882 and died about 5 years later, having seen Wyatt only one more time after the quarrel), and probably as good a man as he could afford to be, but not the paragon he set himself up to be. The result is a fascinating read, well-documented, and recommended.

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