Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Books Read - Q2 2020

Read 15 books this quarter versus 16 in Q1 2020.

  • A Naturalist in Costa Rica (3.5/5) Before Bernd Heinrich, there was Alexander Skutch. A botanist and naturalist born in 1904, he moved to Central America in the 1930s to collect specimens before settling on a farm in Costa Rica in 1941, where he lived for the rest of his life. "The home-seeking wanderer hopes to find a spot which unites the advantages of all the most delightful places he knows, while excluding the disadvantages of each. Vain endeavor! The attractions of different localities are often mutually exclusive. We cannot have the salubrious atmosphere of the mountains along with the deeper and richer soil of the lowlands, a score of miles away. We cannot [have] a good road and proximity to shops and a post office along with unspoiled wilderness. We cannot have magnificent rain forests along with a dry climate. And everywhere there are plagues and annoyances, whether from the government, neighbors, rodents, snakes, insects, fungous parasites, or the weather." The valley where he settled was so isolated (then) by high mountains and forests that the inhabitants referred to all the rest of the world as "afuera" (outside). His farm was at 2,500' and over the decades he identified 277 species of birds on his property. He earned a living mailing specimens of plants to his "subscribers". More highlights: "Grazing animals possess marvelous powers of gustatory discrimination; when given the choice, they instinctively prefer those areas where the soil is richer and supports herbage better supplied with the nutritive elements essential to them." "One hummingbird to one tree is the rule, to enforce which sharp clashes sometimes occur between competing nectar seekers." We know this already from Colinvaux: "Predators commonly display an easy mastery over their habitual prey, rarely jeopardizing life or limb to secure it. A little reflection will convince us that this is how it must be. A hawk that subsists mainly upon snakes, including venomous kinds, seems to live dangerously... Yet to nourish itself and its young, such a raptor must kill hundreds of serpents in the course of a year; if as much as one per cent of the encounters proved fatal to the hawks, these birds, with their slow rate of reproduction, would soon become extinct. The hawk must learn to restrict its attacks to snakes that it is certain to overpower. Such is the case with all other predators. [...] With social animals that are rather evenly matched, the situation is different. A hive of bees may sacrifice many of its members to capture the stores of another hive, yet obtain this honey more cheaply than by independent foraging... In a world pervaded by strife, the fiercest conflicts, the only warfare properly so-called, occurs among social animals..." He felt great ecological concern and had no children, while his thoughtless neighbors have bred teeming hordes over the ensuing decades. He was also an atheist: "The very religions that insist that [God] revealed himself in definite places at certain historical moments tacitly admit that he has made no universal revelation of himself; he neglected whole epochs and races that doubtless needed him as much and were as worth of illumination by him as any people now alive."
  • Spillover: Animal Infections and the Next Human Pandemic (4.5/5) By David Quammen, author of The Tangled Tree which we read last year. Written in 2012, this essentially predicted the wuflu epidemic. "Infectious disease is all around us. Infectious disease is a kind of natural mortar binding one creature to another, one species to another, within the elaborate biophysical edifices we call ecosystems. It's one of the basic processes that ecologists study, including also predation, competition, decomposition, and photosynthesis. Predators are relatively big beasts that eat prey from outside. Pathogens (disease-causing agents, such as viruses) are relatively small beasts that eat their prey from within." Because the world's life forms are pretty closely related (tetrapods are less than 400MYO and mammals are less than 200MYO), pathogens, and viruses in particular, are often able to cross from one species to another. He goes to "wet markets," in Asia and Africa, and notes that Gunagdong is "a province of ravenous, unsqueamish carnivores, where the list of animals considered delectable could be mistaken for the inventory of a pet store or a zoo." Quammen notes that China in particular is "a culture where an infectious consignment of bats might arrive at a meat market as a matter of course." In the book he has conversations with the pandemic experts about the Next Big One. That will be a disease with "high infectivity preceding notable symptoms [which] will help it to move through cities and airports like an angel of death." The wuflu isn't the NBO, but what is surprising is how bad the secondary effects have been considering the low CFR. A respiratory virus with a CFR of 5%, which we were initially worried that wuflu might've had, would have been the end of the world. That's the most important realization from this pandemic: it's not going to take a 25% or 50% or 75% CFR to literally end the world as we know it if it has an R0 above 2. Something much, much smaller would do it. He mentions a paper called "Bats: Important Reservoir Hosts of Emerging Viruses". As the WSJ noted about wuflu, "Bats supplied most dangerous new diseases of the past two decades. The natural reservoir of rabies is in bats. Ebola, Marburg and other highly dangerous viruses come from bats. And most coronaviruses seem to originate in bats, including SARS and MERS." It's unclear why this would be. One theory would be that bats are a surprising one-quarter of all mammal species but actually, it seems like it might have bat immune systems might have more to do with it. High body temperature generated from flying leads to bat DNA damage leads to an immune system evolved to "fight but tolerate" viruses leads to bats are a ubiquitous viral reservoir. Here's some dimensional analysis of infectious disease: "The basic reproduction number, R0, is defined as the expected number of secondary cases produced by a single (typical) infection in a completely susceptible population. It is important to note that R0 is a dimensionless number and not a rate, which would have units of time−1. Some authors incorrectly call R0 the basic reproductive rate." Something in the book that was really shocking was about AIDS. There's reason to believe that HIV crossed over to humans between 1900 and 1910. Haitian medical workers were in the Congo after the Belgians left in June 1960 and brought it back to Haiti no later than 1966. A fellow named Joseph Gorinstein, based in Miami, created a plasmapheresis center called Hemo Caribbean to extract plasma from Haitians and bring it back to the U.S. The plasma extraction not only spread HIV among the Haitians but also brought it back to the U.S. By 1981, physicians in the U.S. notice homosexuals dying of normally harmless fungal infections (causing pneumonia). So HIV was in Africa for 70 years and in Haiti for around 20 years and no one noticed anything wrong! It is a good example of how cheap life is in r-selected, short life history places. Quammen's overall thought is that there is an outbreak of humans, combined with unprecedented expansion of human activity into biomes that are teeming with pathogens, which will lead to pandemics of zoonotic spillover diseases. At CBS, we have a rule that "anything parabolic is a short". Considering Quammen's twitter feed, I doubt he would be able to entertain the hypothesis that this particular pandemic was the result of a Chinese bioweapon. Also, even if the wuflu was an innocent spillover virus, Quammen would never go so far as to propose a cordon sanitaire around countries with bushmeat wet markets. Just like his fellow Bozeman writer, I am sure he thinks we should continue constant daily flights between all the world's viral sewers, and the intelligent readers of books like his should soberly decide not to have any children. (He's 72 and has "a family of large white dogs and a cat".)
  • How to Know the Birds: The Art and Adventure of Birding (3.5/5) Short essays about becoming a better birder over the course of a year, each essay paired with a common species: "200 birds, 200 lessons". Great drawings of birds, like the mother avocet and her babies. He mentions a term - one's "spark bird," "the species that triggers a lifelong passion, bordering on obsession, with birds." On microhabitats: "the slightly smaller and shorter-billed Least Sandpiper is less suited for foraging in standing water [than the Western], so it retreats to sandbars and mudflats where food is more readily procured." He really likes the ebird app for birding. Now, there are different schools of thought on birding. I don't personally want to do a bird census - counting and recording species - when I go birding. But the type of person who tries to "see" as many species as possible does, and they have all started using ebird to keep score. The result is that the neurotic birders are gathering intel and populating this database with bird sightings and locations. Where are green herons right now? You can search by species and time and find the hotspots. Or, you can check out a hotspot and see all the species that are being sighted by other birders right now. See bar charts for locations, print out checklists. It is the best thing I have ever seen for going birding in a new location and finding where exactly the species you want to see are right now. Author Ted Floyd also wrote a field guide and guides to Colorado and Nevada. There are different ways of measuring bird diversity, but the sky islands of southern Arizona are very exciting and the Gulf Coast and eastern seaboard are very good as well. Although (from Matt Boone): "The northern plains and Mississippi remain underbirded and contain the highest discrepancy between actual birds seen and likely birds in the area." Underbirded is a great concept. No counties in California, Oregon, Arizona, or New England have fewer than 1,000 ebird checklists submitted, but almost no counties in Mississippi have more.
  • Pale Rider: The Spanish Flu of 1918 and How It Changed the World (3/5) Three noteworthy things: (1) the reanimation of live 1918 virus, (2) "heterogeneity" in who suffered most from it, (3) the idea of a heritable influenza vulnerability. Fragments of the 1981 virus were recovered decades later: "Frozen and fixed lung tissue from five fall-wave 1918 influenza victims has been used to examine directly the genetic structure of the 1918 influenza virus. Two of the cases analyzed were U.S. Army soldiers who died in September 1918, one in Camp Upton, New York, and the other in Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The available material consists of formalin-fixed, paraffin-embedded (FFPE) autopsy tissue, hematoxylin- and eosin-stained microscopic sections, and the clinical histories of these patients. A third sample was obtained from an Alaskan Inuit woman who had been interred in permafrost in Brevig Mission, Alaska, since her death from influenza in November 1918." So, the heterogeneity of the coronavirus effects is nothing new. "In the Norwegian capital Kristiania (Oslo), for example, death rates rose as apartment sizes shrank." "The Italian race stock contributed nearly double its normal proportion to the state death toll during the epidemic period." Does the favorable Mediterranean climate mean resistance to colds and flu withers due to lower selection pressure? Regarding the heritable vulnerability - and this is a potential source of heterogeneity as well - there is an example of a young girl who suffered from ARDS from seasonal flu. She turned out to have "a genetic defect that meant she was unable to produce interferon, that all-important first-line defense against viruses." One researcher estimated that one in 10,000 people are unable to make interferon. The subject is "human genetic determinism".
  • Savage Spear of the Unicorn: Stories by Delicious Tacos (2/5) Collection of short stories from twitter Delicious Tacos. Writing is stream-of consciousness like the BAP book, and so it is pretty forgettable. (Here is an example of a coherent short story though.) Tacos has 13K followers versus 34K for BAP. What these guys should do instead of writing mediocre books is publish collections of their tweets. People with five-digit follower counts are artists, but their medium is the tweet. The Tacos book was very nicely printed with good cover stock. It would be very satisfying to read tweets that way. Tacos is an LA guy; he seems to live in Highland Park.
  • Virology (2/5) Not as useful as I had hoped, this is really more of an encyclopedia of some common plant, animal, and bacterial viruses. Three theories for the origin of viruses: regressive evolution (degenerate life forms), cellular origin (escaped from inside cells), and independent entities that evolved on a parallel course to cellular organisms. When the 1918 influenza virus hit, people did not really know what a virus was.
  • Among the Thugs (3/5) By Bill Buford, author of Heat and the upcoming Dirt - both culinary books yet this first book was about football hooligans while he was living in Britain. In order to write Heat, he worked for free in the kitchen of Babbo. In order to write about football hooligans, he became a football hooligan. (He doesn't mention committing any violence or vandalism, but he was present at enough matches and riots that the hooligans thought he was a hooligan, and the Italian police gave him a thorough beating at one riot.) One of the things that makes a good writing career is cultivating interesting life experiences to write about. After studying writing with John McPhee, Peter Hessler lived in China teaching English and then lived in Egypt during their revolution (and riots). He moved back to China - just in time to be writing about the epidemic and living in quarantine. So these three (McPhee included) have a similar ability to cultivate life experiences that are worth writing about. A few things that I think Buford missed regarding the hooligans, or failed to explore. First, there is something really wrong with underclass whites in Britain - read Theodore Dalyrmple for this. Perhaps it is no coincidence that they could not maintain a manufacturing sector? Second, why were the young men so angry and violent? Was it genetic or environmental? My theory about the violence being localized at football matches is: organized sporting events are used to channel young male group spirit and desire for violence and dissipate it relatively harmlessly. If different groups of hooligans, or hooligans and cops, are cracking each others' skulls then no one is doing anything about the elite looting the country and offshoring of jobs. Sportsball works amazingly well for this, and the low-IQ fans think that they are rebelling by maiming each other over feuds regarding which entertainment business franchise they "support". Watching British football matches in person exposes one not just to riots but to a "fatal human crush," as happened at Hillsborough Stadium in Sheffield, South Yorkshire, England, on 15 April 1989.
  • Hoover: An Extraordinary Life in Extraordinary Times (3.5/5) Bought this after reading the review by Slate Star Codex. Hoover lived from 1874 to 1964. He was the first student at the new Stanford University. He studied geology and went into mining, working first in the harsh Australian outback and then in China, where he survived the Boxer Rebellion. He worked for presidents Wilson, Harding, and Coolidge before serving his one term. HL Mencken said that Hoover was "the sort of man who, if he had to recite the Twenty-Third Psalm, would make it sound like a search warrant issued under the Volstead Act." Trump might join Hoover as a one-term president felled by the collapse of a gigantic bubble that began before his term. Hoover was far more intelligent than Trump, though. I wonder whether his mining textbook is worth reading? (Imagine Trump writing an engineering textbook!) Actually, Hoover might have managed a second term but he clung to prohibition, already almost 13 years old and a complete failure by the time of the 1932 election. Hoover had a much more interesting life than any millennial I can think of. He spent the decade starting age 47 as secretary of commerce. The current occupant of that office is 82 years old! I like Steve Sailer's theory that "#MeToo  appears to be younger women trying to push out of the really good jobs old guys who were aging better than" earlier generations. Federal judges who are in their 90s. Ever increasing presidential age to the point of dementia. Woodrow Wilson died three years after leaving office, at age 67. Harding died in office at age 57. Coolidge died four years after at age 60. Taft lived (as Chief Justice) for 17 years after leaving office, but died at age 72.
  • The Two-Income Trap: Why Middle-Class Parents Are (Still) Going Broke (2/5) Based on the title, I thought that Pocahontas understood the two income trap. Unfortunately, her book does not discuss positional goods or the way that oligarchs profit by flooding the country with cheap labor, driving up rents and land values and driving down wages. She recognizes that there is a bidding war - now recruiting two parents' incomes - for houses in "good" neighborhoods with "good" schools, but she is either lying or ignorant about what makes them "good." Everything she talks about is better understood by Steve Sailer or LoTB.
  • The Pilot's Manual: Access to Flight (4/5) This is an "Integrated Private and Instrument Curriculum. The most efficient way to train for your personal transportation solution!" Written by the Klapmeier brothers who founded Cirrus Aircraft, and the illustrations and examples are all of the Cirrus SR20. (Which is what PhilG flies.) A couple funny controversies in aviation: how do wings work, and what do the throttle and elevator controls do? Wolfgang Langewiesche (father of William Langewiesche) who wrote Stick and Rudder in 1944 was adamant that you use the throttle to change altitude (counter-intuitive) and the stick/elevators to control airspeed (by changing angle of attack).
  • Dirt: Adventures in Lyon as a Chef in Training, Father, and Sleuth Looking for the Secret of French Cooking (3/5) Brand new, by Bill Buford, author of Among the Thugs (a few books ago). In the April 12th Links, I had a New Yorker excerpt from Dirt that is the best part of the book, where he is baking bread at a small shop in Lyon. In Buford's cooking books, he has a tendency to go too far into the weeds on obscure European culinary history. With Heat, it was when and why cooks starting adding eggs to their pasta dough, and in Dirt it is whether French cooking derived from Italian (beginning in the 16th century). A friend says, "French cooking is the art of maximizing the highest tolerance in a dish for consumption of butter," and it certainly seems accurate from Buford's account. Rod Dreher wrote a good essay about the food and ingredients in southeastern France. Something else that made Heat inevitably better than Dirt is that Italian food is better than French. The best cooking tip I've gotten from these two books of his was from Heat, about how to reduce sauces. Although I have been cooking more with shallots recently (primarily in a skirt steak marinade for the grill), which is very French. One other noteworthy thing here - impressive how young his French cooking contacts died, of various kinds of cardiovascular disease: heart attacks, strokes, aneurysms. From smoking? Obesity? Restaurant drugs and drinking lifestyles? Wasn't clear. But many of the chefs that Buford met in the two books have been "morbidly obese". Sadly, they probably think it's the butter when it's almost certainly something else.
  • Strong Enough? Thoughts from Thirty Years of Barbell Training (3/5) Last quarter I read Congruent Exercise and I mentioned two concerns about Rippetoe's program: joint/ligament health and also "powerlifter belly" / insulin resistance from the high calorie diets. He gets pretty heated when the subject of "six packs" (people with low bf%) comes up and this attitude (and complete ignorance of diet and insulin resistance) makes me wonder how careful he is about joints. I thought it would be interesting to see what Coach Rip has to say about his thirty years of lifting. He mentions that he has "numerous back injuries" and can't squat more than 185 without a belt. He has "no ACL in [his] right knee" and "some work done on [his] left patellar tendon." He says, "accumulating injuries are the price we pay for the thrill of not having sat around on our asses." Coach Rip has had "motorcycle wrecks, horse wrecks, barbell wrecks, and overuse injuries." Regarding the deadlift: "If the muscles that keep the spine rigid are not contracted properly or are overcome by the load and pulled into a position where the spine is rounded, three problems result. First, the intervertebral discs are not designed to bear weight effectively anyway. This bipedal stance we occupy is rather poorly thought out, and discs are better at just separating bones than forming a weight-bearing surface between them. They only bear weight well when they are in the correct position, where the surfaces of the vertebrae they separate are oriented in the way the disc is shaped for them." I do agree with his position that "long slow distance training is not only a poor way to lose bodyfat and gain cardiovascular fitness; it may be the single best way (especially when combined with the FDA's dietary recommendations) to lose muscle mass ever devised." He mentions that a fellow at his weight club died at age 45 from complications resulting from surgery on an ascending aortic aneurysm. (And a few years before that the same fellow had "completely ruptured" his patellar tendon!) Two books in a row with people who have far-out lifestyles that cause aneurysms. I do appreciate Coach Rip's high agency approach. He believes in personal responsibility and self improvement. But it seems like he is a "short life history" guy. Intellectual stimulation is more congruent with long life history than physical stimulation.
  • Two Cheers for Anarchism: Six Easy Pieces on Autonomy, Dignity, and Meaningful Work and Play (2/5) James C Scott is best known for Seeing Like a State and Against the Grain (and, also) and his work on the history of states has made him somewhat anti-statist or anarchist. By "somewhat," I refer to his statement, "unlike many anarchist thinkers, I do not believe that the state is everywhere and always the enemy of freedom." The only example he gives is the U.S. Army integrating the Little Rock schools at bayonet-point. (You have to remember that Scott was "mezmerized" by Ho Chi Minh and Mao Zedong in the 60s.) He observes "virtually every major successful revolution ended by creating a state more powerful than the one it overthrew." Another observation: elites find resistance movements with leaders easy to deal with (bribe), it's the ones with no leaders that they find threatening. In the 1930s and 1960s, the resistance that the U.S. state was facing had "no one to bargain with, no one to credibly offer peace in return for policy changes. The menace was directly proportional to its lack of institutionalization." And, "so far as system-threatening protests are concerned, formal organizations are more an impediment than a facilitator." Which means that "organized interests [like unions or parties] are parasitic on the spontaneous defiance of those whose interests they presume to represent." He talks about how FDR and MLK used speeches (whistle stops) to develop political platforms. The listeners wrote the speeches and platforms for them with their feedback: "the themes that resonated grew; those that elicited little response were dropped." Trump did this too - he never wanted to build a southern border wall but it was a huge applause line at rallies, so he was eventually promising a fantastical 40 or 50 foot tall wall. Speaking of elite overproduction: "thwarted petty bourgeois dreams are the standard tinder of revolutionary ferment"!
  • Concepts and Case Analysis in the Law of Contracts, 7th Edition (3.5/5) We have quoted or mentioned contracts professor Marvin Chirelstein on the blog several times. Thanks to heavy smoking, he was intellectually productive into his late 80s. "The Contracts course should be the occasion for a loss of innocence. The cases are full of self-serving stories, some funny, some sad. Many of these stories, however, perhaps most, are either partly false or (more often) true as far as they go but not the whole story by any means. Students should learn skepticism from this, call it healthy skepticism if you like, and while that is rather a sour habit of mind to go about the world with, I think it is a necessary component of the professional outlook." "Students are sometimes troubled by the rather stark fact that the law does not actually require a promisor to keep his promise, but instead treats the payment of money damages as a wholly adequate remedy for breach." "The injured party may recover from the party in breach a dollar sum sufficient to put him in as good a position as he would have occupied had the contract been performed in full. This principle - easily the most important single idea in the whole contracts field - is referred to by convention as the 'expectation damage' rule..." That rule "operates to deprive the [breaching party] of any benefit from indulging in non-cooperative conduct." "A promise to hold an offer open... is not binding... and can always be withdrawn on notice to the offeree." (Otherwise it would be an option contract - requires consideration.) "The doctrine of promissory estoppel has long engaged, sometimes inflamed, the imagination of contract theorists... at least one influential commentator predicted that the traditional idea of contract based on bargained-for consideration and mutual assent was on its way to extinction, and would be replaced by the less restrictive and more dynamic concept of reliance." "It followed, or seemed to follow, that if contract enforcement was seen to be the righting of a wrong and essentially compensatory, then what had once been regarded as a distinct field of law called 'Contracts' would blur and fade and then reappear in a new guise as a branch of the law of Torts." "Lay people sometimes imagine that the law favors literal construction and strict formalism in the interpretation of contract terms. Lawyers know (or soon learn) better, and the requirement of good faith, which can be gravely cited to one's client as a well-established legal principle, makes it easier to counsel decent conduct on occasion and insist on caution and restraint." Something interesting regarding unilateral mistake, where a seller "simply doesn't know as much about his property as the well-informed buyer to whom he sells it:" "We cannot allow contract rules - and certainly not the modest doctrine of mistake - to reduce or eliminate the rewards claimed by those who invest in information gathering."
  • A Naturalist on a Tropical Farm (4/5) Another Skutch in Costa Rica book, written after the one we started the quarter with. This one has excellent illustrations by Dana Gardner. (He met Skutch in Panama and they worked together for the next 28 years. See his prints.) Skutch's farm was in the valley of El General, at the head of the Rio Terraba on the Pacific slope of southern Costa Rica. Skutch was a vegetarian (he had a profound, almost Ahiṃsā respect for living beings) and he grew all the food he ate on his own farm, in addition to being a professional naturalist. His staples were things like corn, rice, sugarcane, bananas, milk, chicken eggs. He said that "varieties [of rice] used in Central America thrive on well-drained ground. Indeed, rice, a thrifty plant, yields fairly well on poor soil where maize, which much feed gluttonously in rich earth to form is heavy ears, is hardly worth planting." He lived to be a week short of 100 years old despite not eating any meat! On the other hand, he never ate any pesticides and breathed clean air, never had a boss and was enthralled with his work. Skutch discovered “helpers at the nest” or what is now called “cooperative brooding”. He wrote his final book at age 96. Skutch and his wife never had children; I wonder whether it was because they were anti-human. He wouldn't have agreed with Bill Gates: "to undertake general measures to reduce infant mortality in a greatly overpopulated country with a stubbornly high birthrate is misapplied charity, which will ultimately produce much more misery than it alleviates; the resulting increase in population will intensify poverty and crime and perhaps bring on ever more disastrous famines." He mentioned, "the scientist is sometimes overcome by paralyzing doubts about the value of the facts he toils to discover; the artist knows intervals of surfeit or disgust with his art; the philosopher may become entangled in bewildering mazes of speculation. I had known something of this devastating state of mind." He mentions that "again and again, when I tried to substitute scientifically approved procedures for seemingly wasteful and inefficient local practices, I ran into trouble and reverted to the local methods." See James C Scott! He says, "to give a child or an animal a name suggestive of a quality that one hopes the newborn creature will eventually possess is to invite disillusion." Talking about how to balance human needs versus other organisms, among five approaches he writes, "we might adopt a more Stoic interpretation and favor the animals whose behavior appears noblest or most admirable. We see many birds and mammals cooperating together, toiling to nourish and protect their young, at times risking or even sacrificing their lives to protect their progeny; and these activities suggest moral or quasi-moral attributes that set the warm-blooded animals above the majority of reptiles, amphibians, and fishes, for in these classes of vertebrates true cooperation and the nurture of offspring are exceptional." Similarly: "Many mammals and birds are likewise inveterate predators; but, by attachment to their mates, devotion to their young, a more or less developed social life, and often, too, certain indications of playfulness and joy in living, they may stir our sympathy. The serpent is stark predation, the predatory existence in its baldest, least mitigated form. It might be characterized as an elongated, distensible stomach, with the minimum of accessories needed to fill and propagate this maw - not even teeth that can tear its food. It crams itself with animal life that is often warm and vibrant, to prolong an existence in which we can detect no joy and no emotion. It reveals the depths to which evolution can sink when it takes the downward path and strips animals to the irreducible minimum able to perpetuate a predatory life in its naked horror. The contemplation of such an existence has a horrid fascination for the human mind and distresses a sensitive spirit." Skutch wanted to live on a planet with only primary photosynthetic producers and herbivores, no predators, e.g. "Birds eat the juicy berries and spread far and wide the small, indigestible seeds, from which more trees and shrubs grow to provide more pollen for industrious bees. This benign cycle, in which every participant is benefited and none is harmed, is one of evolution's finest accomplishments, proof that a blind, undirected process, which depends on random variations and produces much that we abhor, and much that we regard with mixed feelings, can also create much that we unreservedly applaud."

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