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Signs of Affection

J.Z. Young, 1 October 1981

The Oxford Companion to Animal Behaviour 
edited by David McFarland.
Oxford, 657 pp., £17.50, July 1981, 0 19 866120 7
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... This is a sort of encyclopedia for people interested in watching animals. The naturalist who wants further information about the habits of his subjects will find much of it here. There are fine articles on things such as flight, homing, nest-building, song, courtship, migration and many other avian activities. Unfortunately, the book will not be so much use to anyone who wants details about particular species ...

Towards the Stars

J.Z. Young, 22 November 1979

Broca’s Brain 
by Carl Sagan.
Hodder, 347 pp., £6.95
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... When I saw the title of Carl Sagan’s new book, I was troubled. I was afraid he might have followed the path of other scientists who turn to study the brain because they are disillusioned by the inhumanity of physical science. I need not have worried. He remains an enthusiastic astronomer. The title refers to the sprightly opening piece in which he describes a visit to the backstage storerooms of the Musée de l’Homme in Paris ...

The Teaching Gene

J.Z. Young, 4 September 1980

The Evolution of Culture in Animals 
by John Tyler Bonner.
Princeton, 216 pp., £8.10, May 1980, 0 691 08250 2
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... animal learning by imitation. There is an excellent drawing from Jane Goodall’s photograph of a young chimpanzee learning to dig for ants. Young oystercatchers learn how to open mussels and of course British blue tits have learned to open milk bottles. Perhaps closer to his purpose is the striking picture of a day-care ...

People as Actors

J.Z. Young, 24 January 1980

Social Being 
by Rom Harré.
Blackwell, 438 pp., £15, November 1980, 9780631106913
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... We often read attacks on linguistic philosophy as an arid, inhumane and unproductive academicism. It is refreshing to find a sustained and ingenious attempt to build a whole theory of human action on ‘the extremely subtle analysis of ordinary language developed by the Oxford School of Philosophers’ – especially, one may add, by John Austin. Unfortunately Dr Harré finds it necessary to develop his thesis by the use of language that is very far from ordinary ...

The Hadar Hominids

J.Z. Young, 21 May 1981

The Making of Mankind 
by Richard Leakey.
Joseph, 256 pp., £9.95, April 1981, 0 7181 1931 2
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Lucy: The Beginning of Humankind: The Dramatic Discovery Of Our Oldest Human Ancestor 
by Donald Johanson and Maitland Edey.
Granada, 409 pp., £9.95, April 1981, 0 246 11362 6
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... member of the genus Homo, living 1.8 million years ago. And then along comes Donald Johanson, a young American, finding, near Hadar in Ethiopia, a whole set of hominid fossils dating back nearly twice as far, to 3.5 million years. But the work of the two groups has been by no means separate. Johanson’s chief collaborator, Tim White, was earlier engaged ...

An Emotional Subject

J.Z. Young, 21 April 1983

The Myths of Human Evolution 
by Niles Eldredge and Ian Tattersall.
Columbia, 197 pp., $22.50, November 1981, 0 231 05144 1
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... A great many new facts about human evolution have been found in recent years, all of them strengthening the belief that our ancestors were rather like apes. Indeed it becomes more and more likely that there were no fully human creatures on earth until as recently as forty thousand years ago. It is a great pity that these new discoveries have been written up in a sensational manner by some anthropologists ...

Is that you, James?

Thomas Nagel, 1 October 1987

Philosophy and the Brain 
by J.Z. Young.
Oxford, 241 pp., £12.95, January 1987, 0 19 219215 9
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Freedom and Belief 
by Galen Strawson.
Oxford, 353 pp., £27.50, January 1987, 0 19 824938 1
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The Oxford Companion to the Mind 
edited by Richard Gregory.
Oxford, 874 pp., £25, September 1987, 9780198661245
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... Here is a typical passage from Philosophy and the Brain by the eminent neurophysiologist J.Z. Young: The pressure waves falling upon the ear from the sound of ‘Hullo’ are first transferred by the eardrum, then by the chain of three ossicles, next by fluid in the cochlear chamber and so into a travelling wave on the basilar membrane. From here they ...

Unmaking mysteries

Mark Ridley, 1 September 1983

Pluto’s Republic 
by Peter Medawar.
Oxford, 351 pp., £12.50, October 1982, 1 921777 26 5
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... ability – much more brilliant, inventive, articulate and dialectically skilful than most young scientists; right up in the Watson class. But Watson had one towering advantage over all of them: in addition to being extremely clever he had something important to be clever about.’ What is the historical context of Medawar’s science and ...

Diary

R.W. Johnson: Alan Taylor, Oxford Don, 8 May 1986

... Oxford college is likely to leave its mark on any man – and on any college. There was, for a new young fellow like myself, no shortage of AJP stories, by no means all apocryphal. How, at one college meeting, Alan had proposed that the chapel be turned into a swimming-pool. How Alan had loathed the loathsome Dylan Thomas. How Alan had crossed swords with ...

China’s Crisis

Mark Elvin, 5 November 1992

The Dragon’s Brood: Conversations with Young Chinese 
by David Rice.
HarperCollins, 294 pp., £16.99, April 1992, 0 246 13809 2
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Time for telling truth is running out 
by Vera Schwarcz.
Yale, 256 pp., £20, April 1992, 0 300 05009 7
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The Tyranny of History: The Roots of China’s Crisis 
by W.F.J. Jenner.
Allen Lane, 255 pp., £18.99, March 1992, 0 7139 9060 0
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Beyond the Chinese Face: Insights from Psychology 
by Michael Harris Bond.
Oxford, 125 pp., £8.95, February 1992, 0 19 585116 1
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Chinese Communism 
by Dick Wilson and Matthew Grenier.
Paladin, 190 pp., £5.99, May 1992, 9780586090244
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... the purposes of life now reigns in the thinking stratum of Chinese society, especially among the young. David Rice’s Dragon’s Brood is a marvellously fresh and immediate evocation of this confusion at what one might call the first level of perception – that of the serious visit. Rice is innocent of any real knowledge of Chinese culture or Chinese ...

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