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Good Enough Audio CD – Unabridged, June 18, 2019
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"Devoted" by Dean Koontz
For the first time in paperback, from Dean Koontz, the master of suspense, comes an epic thriller about a terrifying killer and the singular compassion it will take to defeat him. | Learn more
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About the Author
Qarie Marshall has narrated over thirty series for the Discovery Channel and the BBC. He has also been a guest voice on Comedy Central's Drawn Together and has recorded BBC radio plays, the in-flight programming for Virgin Atlantic Airlines, over eighty video games for the PlayStation and Xbox, and numerous audiobooks. In 2007, he was made an Associate Artist of The Purple Rose Theatre.
- Item Weight : 6.4 ounces
- ISBN-10 : 197495949X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1974959495
- Product Dimensions : 6.04 x 1.13 x 5.04 inches
- Publisher : Dreamscape Media; Unabridged Edition (June 18, 2019)
- Language: : English
- Reading level : 18 and up
- Best Sellers Rank: #8,271,557 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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To begin with, it’s important to understand exactly what Milo is attacking and what he’s not. Milo is not denying evolution in the sense of “descent with modification,” or that all species are related and descended from a common ancestor. That much is beyond doubt, in case any creationists out there are thinking of using this book as support for their cause. (In fact, as Milo notes, his theory does more damage to the creationist view, in that it brings into sharper relief the paradox of a perfect being creating life that is, in many regards, wasteful and mediocre, compared to the view of natural selection that says every species is perfectly adapted to their environment.)
Further, Milo is not denying that natural selection exists, in that some traits are selected by the environment based on their fitness (adaptation) relative to other traits in a continual struggle for survival.
What Milo is arguing is that natural selection is not the only mechanism, and not even the most common one, in evolution, and that other mechanisms that have nothing to do with optimality or the “struggle for survival” play a larger role. Life is filled with useless, neutral traits, and with excesses, waste, and mediocrity due to the non-selective forces of genetic drift (random genetic mutation), geographical isolation, and the founder effect (when a species establishes a niche and survives, not because it is optimally adapted but because it is good enough to not die.)
Milo begins by questioning the analogy between artificial selection and natural selection, an analogy that represents the cornerstone of Darwinian thinking.
Artificial selection is best demonstrated by the diversity of dog breeds, and by the relative ease in which plant and animal breeders can select for desired traits in a relatively short period of time. Many biologists hold that natural selection is analogous to artificial selection, but that it simply operates over longer periods of time.
But, as Milo points out, this is precisely not how nature works. Unlike artificial selection, nature does not have an agent or force guiding life toward a predetermined goal or collection of traits. Nature, as a subject, agent, or force, doesn’t consciously do anything at all. Further, nature “prefers” stasis, not in terms of “desire,” but in terms of the tendency of genes to copy themselves with high degrees of accuracy. The mutations that do occur are infrequent and random and create variation and diversity that nature then (sometimes) selects for. But natural selection is not constantly in operation concerning every trait because, among other reasons, if it were, the incipient stages of eventually useful traits would be eliminated.
Milo marshalls several lines of evidence and argument in support of the idea that nature tolerates more mediocrity than natural selection can account for, from functionless genes to the giraffe’s unnecessarily long neck to vestigial organs to wide-ranges in organ function.
For example, 80 percent of human DNA is useless, nonfunctional “junk,” and there is no correlation between the size of an organism's genome and its complexity (the genome of a Japanese flower named Paris japonica is 50 times larger than a human genome).
Another example is the insects known as treehoppers. Treehoppers don elaborate and energy-consuming “helmets” that serve no discernable biological function. However, despite the uselessness and disadvantage of the “helmets,” treehoppers survive because of other traits that, while not optimal, function within an acceptable range conducive to survival.
Further, where natural selection is clearly demonstrated, it is not representative. The famous beak shapes of Darwin’s finches exemplify natural selection, but the conditions under which they evolved were not representative of even the other animals on the Galapagos Islands, let alone the rest of the world, as detailed in the book.
Faced with an overwhelming number of examples of useless or excessive traits, the Darwinian must either invent unproven “just-so” adaptation stories or else propose that apparently useless traits are useful in a way we have yet to discover. But this type of thinking is, as must be admitted, not very scientific. Science must begin with the null hypothesis, or the presumption of chance, and must prove significance, not demand that others prove insignificance.
The argument is, as far as I can tell, quite persuasive, and Milo dives deeper into the science and provides several fascinating examples throughout the book. I was left with the impression that the burden of proof has been shifted inappropriately and that Darwinians that rely on natural selection to explain all traits are overstretching the usefulness of their own theory. It’s far more likely that natural selection has produced the foundations of life common to all species (DNA, cells, metabolism, bilateral body plans, etc.), but that the diversity and variation among and within species is suboptimal, and allowed by nature to remain so, so long as the mediocrity is not so disadvatageous as to result in death or infertility (natural elimination versus natural selection).
Milo is ultimately advocating for a view that assumes the neutrality of biological traits except in cases where natural selection is clearly demonstrated. This leaves room for the mediocrity we encounter all throughout nature, and doesn’t require that we bend over backwards to explain the adaptive utility of clearly useless or excessive traits. This, to me, seems like the more reasonable (and scientific) approach.
Milo ends the book by discussing the political ramifications of adopting natural selection versus the theory of the good enough. It must be admitted, however, that, regardless of how nature operates biologically speaking, it can never fully justify human behavior. Even if natural selection is responsible for all biological traits, this doesn’t mean we should organize society according to the principle of the survival of the fittest. To do so would be to commit the fallacy of assuming that everything that is found within nature is good or worth emulating.
Nevertheless, natural selection has in fact influenced political thinking, and according to Milo, is largely responsible for the capitalist ethics and “excellence conspiracy” we currently embrace. The argument is essentially that, for humans, natural selection has nothing left to do. Survival is easy and reproduction all but ensured. Against the boredom of this safety net we invent conflict (hot dog eating contests) and pursue excellence for excellence's sake, all to stimulate our “fight or flight” neurons that would otherwise lay idle.
Some readers may find this part of the book a bit pessimistic. While there’s much truth to the argument, it can be argued that the pursuit of excellence is the reason we have a robust safety net in the first place, and our escape from the struggle for basic survival has produced the great works in science, literature, and art—the things that make life worth living. Further, the pursuit of excellence for the purpose of achieving worthwhile goals is itself a source of great satisfaction for many people, even if excellence is never truly attained.
While capitalist excess is hard to argue against, the case can be made that capitalism is responsible for the safety net we all enjoy in the first place. And the diversity of goods and experiences it produces gives people the opportunity to pursue a range of passions and experiences in a context of unprecedented safety and security. If there is more to life than survival and reproduction, then the “excellence conspiracy” is actually preferable (notwithstanding the impending ecological disasters we must confront).
That said, Milo is correct that the pursuit of excellence and excess in the capitalist framework should be tempered. As Milo wrote, “The pursuit of excellence is an admirable calling for some, but it is just one among many, including truth, faith, work, family, serenity, love, peace, pleasure, health, thrill, and fun.” It remains the case that excellence for its own sake for all people all of the time, based on misconceptions about how natural selection operates, is the primary social and political delusion of our times.
Great reading for anyone who likes to explore nature, natural philosophy, and the nature of scientists :)
Top reviews from other countries
The stated objective is philosophically and religiously at least 2000 years old. A balanced life with no fanatically pursued single objective, “excellence” included, is being recommended by philosophers and religious leaders for millennia.
The fallacy of deriving ethical norms from so called “nature “ has been recognised many centuries ago. Hear Dante’s Ulysses words “ Fatti non foste per viver come bruti ma per seguir virtute e canoscenza” which can be translated “ you ( the humans) were not made to live as animals ( ie follow natural instincts and, by extension, adhere slavishly to nature commands) but to follow virtue ( ie exclusively human imperatives) and knowledge ( your ability to elaborate information.) The author refuses to discuss this foundational issue in the introduction but at page 142 implicitly uses “natural laws” to justify ethical consequences “the implication of biological ranges for our understanding of nature AND THEREFORE of society “ (the graphics are mine).
He proposes a scientific theory but, in his own words, he has no scientific proof to give for it. It looks like this theory is there only to buttress his last ethical and slightly anti capitalist last chapter.
I do not have the necessary biological knowledge to verify his statements regarding biology but when it comes to economics, history and neuroscience his statements have only a passing relationship with truth. Some examples:
- he negates that no” free lunch” exists and in pages 244-45 gives internet as an example. He seems not to understand that his own surfing the web for free implies the existence of enormous investments and costs made by somebody else and that his free lunch is simply being paid by someone else and, indirectly, also by himself.
- he states that in economy small is always good. What about economies of scale or capital buffers for banks?
- he states that raising children put, in prehistoric times, an enormous burden on our species. He seems to forget that, in preindustrial times, a three four year old child already contributed to its own survival helping mothers in foraging and household chores and at six seven they were already productive members of society.
- in order to substantiate his claim that human brain was an unjustified waste of resources, he uses brain volume as the only measure of brain functionality as if, for a computer, only size mattered. What about the software? we have no way to know how the connections in our brain( ie the software) evolved. The great energy expenditure of our brain is also linked to how and how much it works, as any who has undergone times of intense intellectual activity can state.
- he states that”to get fat ( in order to feed the enormous and useless brain) humans need to be predators”. I wonder what vegetarians and vegans will think of that.
His tirades against the ideal of excellence and its pursuit greatly exaggerate its costs. I don’t recognise his model of school, it was not so in my school or in my children schools. There are some very competitive educational environments but they are not the norm. Moreover pursuit of excellence is part, only a part, of the human soul, as was recognised again a couple of thousands years ago.
And thanks God that it is so. Otherwise what the author calls “ the human safety net” would neither exist or, even less, be improving.
In conclusion I advise anybody to read “Globalia” a very interesting dystopia written by Jean-Cristophe Rufin where a “good enough “ ethos is the norm.