After decades of animal research and social theories predicated on notions of competition and “survival of the fittest,” the primatologist Frans de Waal is part of a growing tide of biologists turning attention to the aspects of behavior in humans and animals that strengthen bonds between individuals. It’s now The Age Of Empathy (Harmony Books, $25.99) and time to study not aggression, but social mechanisms like the herd instinct and conflict resolution that keep it in check. In looking beyond the selfish gene to the equally ancient instinct for altruism, de Waal presents dozens of case studies and anecdotes of chimps, apes, elephants, ravens, dolphins, and people who have demonstrated trust in others or helped each other regardless of whether they themselves stood to benefit. De Waal strongly believes in community and his observations demonstrate that the successful evolution of any species depends to a high degree on cooperation.

The Age of Empathy: Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307407771
Availability: Backordered
Published: Broadway Books - September 7th, 2010

Religion today often seems caught between the literalism of fundamentalists and the atheism of materialists. Arguing against both sides of this all-or-nothing debate, Karen Armstrong, the great scholar and historian of religion, looks back to the roots of Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, and other traditions to make The Case For God (Knopf, $27.95). Originally, belief rested in symbol, myth, and mystery. Not orthodox propositions, but behavior specifically delineated as outside everyday concerns was the hallmark of spirituality, and religious practices were designed to reinforce community bonds, teach compassion, and help contain potentially overwhelming emotions like fear, grief, or guilt. The emphasis was on what was unknown and probably unknowable about a deity, and this is in sharp contrast to today’s dogmas and truth claims. Where modern religions have gone wrong, Armstrong argues, is in treating religion like science and expecting the same sorts of certainty from a sacred text that we would from a scientific textbook.

The Case for God Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307389800
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Anchor - September 7th, 2010

A bee-eater consumes some 200 bees a day to survive. The tailorbird uses its beak and spider webs to sew leaves together for its nest. In owls, one ear is higher and bigger than the other to sharpen hearing. Collectively, a bird’s feathers weigh more than all its bones. And in the next few decades, one of every nine species of bird may go extinct. These are just some of the facts Colin Tudge has gathered in his capacious, enthusiastic study, The Bird (Crown, $30). He shows how birds nest and mate and he explains the difference between calls and songs. He includes lessons in taxonomy and surveys the 31 orders into which the world’s 10,500 species of birds are organized. He explains what little we understand about migration, and describes scientific debates over the relationship between birds and dinosaurs and how birds think. He lays out the arguments for seeing birds in a spirit of Darwinian competitiveness as opposed to one of mutually beneficial cooperation. As he did in The Tree, Tudge assembles a huge amount of information into a compelling narrative.

The Bird: A Natural History of Who Birds Are, Where They Came From, and How They Live Cover Image
ISBN: 9780307342058
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Broadway Books - September 7th, 2010