Ecology and the Environment: The Mechanisms, Marring, and Maintenance of Nature is the ninth title published in the Templeton Science and Religion Series, in which scientists from a wide range of fields distill their experience and knowledge into brief tours of their respective specialties. In this volume, R. J. Berry, a well-known leader in the field of ecology, describes the basic concepts in ecology and seeks to put them into a general context for a reader who lacks any scientific background.
Berry explores the implications of these basic concepts and how they affect human life and the decisions we have to make, both as individuals and as members of a species which has colonized and influenced every part of the globe. He points out that we are a part of the animal world, but at the same time we are apart from it, and he makes it clear that how we relate to our environment affects the quality of our life—indeed it may affect our very survival. Going well beyond a simple introduction of concepts, the book goes on to explore wider questions about the nature of humanity and how human ecology relates to humanness. Berry proposes that we are more than machines or even advanced apes—we are Homo divinus, transformed from an organism descended from the same stock as the apes but qualitatively different and able to relate to a creator God. The book argues that those who conclude otherwise are neglecting relevant data.
Berry offers the perfect introduction to these philosophical and theological issues, but his work never loses sight of the practical issues either—the kind that are increasingly being addressed by national and international environmental agencies. In order to grasp the full scope of these issues and to more fully understand the ubiquitous news headlines concerning environmental matters, a reader would do well to start with Ecology and the Environment.
Despite the momentous social and economic change of recent decades, patterns of social stratification have proven to be remarkably stable. In From Origin to Destination, an expert team analyzes the current state of social stratification research from a comparative, international perspective. This volume presents theoretical knowledge as well as empirical evidence on questions such as intergenerational social mobility; inequalities of educational opportunity, gender and ethnicity; and the role of education in the labor market.
Neuroscientists investigate the mechanisms of spatial memory. Molecular biologists study the mechanisms of protein synthesis and the myriad mechanisms of gene regulation. Ecologists study nutrient cycling mechanisms and their devastating imbalances in estuaries such as the Chesapeake Bay. In fact, much of biology and its history involves biologists constructing, evaluating, and revising their understanding of mechanisms.
With In Search of Mechanisms, Carl F. Craver and Lindley Darden offer both a descriptive and an instructional account of how biologists discover mechanisms. Drawing on examples from across the life sciences and through the centuries, Craver and Darden compile an impressive toolbox of strategies that biologists have used and will use again to reveal the mechanisms that produce, underlie, or maintain the phenomena characteristic of living things. They discuss the questions that figure in the search for mechanisms, characterizing the experimental, observational, and conceptual considerations used to answer them, all the while providing examples from the history of biology to highlight the kinds of evidence and reasoning strategies employed to assess mechanisms. At a deeper level, Craver and Darden pose a systematic view of what biology is, of how biology makes progress, of how biological discoveries are and might be made, and of why knowledge of biological mechanisms is important for the future of the human species.