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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
Whatever editor though up that dumb subtitle should be sent back to the mail room for reeducation. There is no clash in this book between science and instinct. Instinct is not even mentioned. What there is, is an interesting discussion of the way that esoteric systems of classifying the plants and animals of the world, used in the in he academic pursuit of biology, have become far removed from the way we, regular people, recognize them. Yoon, a biology graduate student turned science journalist, calls this ordinary view of the natural world the "umwelt" (oom-velt) which is a German word for the way we, or the different ways other creatures, perceive the world. A creature's umvelt depends on what kind of senses that creature has, where it lives in the world, what it looks for to eat and what eats it. A dog's unwelt, for instance, has a lot to do with how things smell and prominently features squirrels and the postman. In our case, how we think about the world is another major factor. Naming Nature contains an entertaining history of the study of taxonomy, starting with Carolus Linnaeus, known to his friends as Carl. Linnaeus devised the system, familiar from high school, of dividing life into domain, kingdom, phylum, class, order, family, genus and species. He established the tradition of naming species with two Latin names, the binomial system. Linnaeus' system is an artificial construct which helps us to comprehend the relationships between different plants and animals. Yoon makes the mistake of equating Linnaeus' taxonomy with the taxonomies of any and all cultures, saying that we all organize nature in our minds in the same way, even though she, herself, gives several examples of cultures that classify animals in bizarrely different ways. Her argument for the universality of Linnaeus is weak. It's also beside the point. As she proceeds with the history of taxonomy Yoons point becomes clear. Just as physics has wandered far from the common sense of Isaac Newton into the far out realms of relativity and quantum mechanics, taxonomy has found, through statistical analysis, DNA matching and cladistics, all of which Yoon talks about in some detail without any MEGLO (My Eyes Glaze Over) effect, that some of the common sense relationships we believe in, among plants and animals, don't really exits. She quite proudly announces the demise of fish as a teaser at the beginning of the book. Her later explanation of this, having to do with the lungfish having characteristics similar to a cow, seems a bit off the wall, but no matter. That salmon I had for dinner was not a fish. I believe her. Yoon calls for a revival of the umwelt in our daily lives. Don't let those snooty scientists tell you that nature is a strange place inaccessible to ordinary mortals. Go out there with your Peterson's Field Guides and revel in it before it's too late. Good advice. I think I'll shut off my computer now and go outside.
Naming nature: the clash between instinct and scienceUser Review - Book Verdict
Yoon, a New York Times science journalist, writes about the human need to name and classify living things in our perceived world-she uses the term umwelt (from the German Umwelt, enivronment) to describe our environment. Anthropologists have found that similar taxonomies are created no matter what culture, language, or age group is studied. This suggests that there is a part of the brain devoted to naming things, and Yoon describes studies showing that the part of the brain that names living things is different from the part of the brain that names inanimate or human-made objects. Yoon argues that as we move away from traditional taxonomies toward more scientific evolution or gene-based taxonomies, we begin to lose part of who we are. VERDICT Rob R. Dunn's Every Living Thing also covers taxonomy, but as well as addressing Carl Linnaeus, it discusses new species and the people who classify and name them, rather than the human instinct to name species. Given the specialty of the topic, Yoon's work may attract educated lay readers interested in cognitive science, the origin of words, and natural history.-Margaret Henderson, Tompkins-McCaw Lib., Virginia Commonwealth Univ., Richmond
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
they mention in the book that umwelt is an individual's innate classification system.....wouldn't that be considered instinct? ps: fantastic book
Review: Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and ScienceUser Review - Goodreads
Off this review: Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and Science By Carol Kaesuk Yoon (Norton) New York Times science journalist Yoon set out to write a story about taxonomy and classification ...
Review: Naming Nature: The Clash Between Instinct and ScienceUser Review - Heather - Goodreads
What are we saying about ourselves when we name nature? I was fascinated with Mark Twain's playful treatment of this subject, now I wonder what Yoon has to say about it. Read full review