Summer Reading

I just finished Roger Crowley’s Conquerors: How Portugal seized the Indian Ocean and forged the First Global Empire.

I really like his books, but they can be a bit disturbing because of the brutality and inhumanity of many of the “heroes” in the books.  In this one, the Portuguese do many horrible things in India as they accidentally start the age of European imperialism.  They seem most intent on stealing stuff and killing people, but they end up with an empire.

Go here for information about some of his other books: 

Books on the Origin of Life

I recently picked up a couple of books about the origin of life on Earth at the New Hanover County Library.  This topic is relevant to some arguments for God’s existence from design, particularly those that focus on the complexity of living organisms.

I read and skimmed A New History of Life by Peter Ward and Joe Kirschvink.  This book is an attempt to tell the history of life from its beginnings on Earth to the present day.  Some of the central themes focused on mass extinctions, their causes, and the correlations between mass extinctions and dramatic changes in the composition of Earth’s atmosphere.  In particular, the authors are very interested tin the relationships between mass extinctions and oxygen levels in both the atmosphere and the oceans.

I learned that many reptiles can’t breathe while they run.  That’s why the run in short bursts.  I also learned that birds have more efficient lungs than mammals.  Lots of stuff about oxygen and the evolution of lungs.

The second book was A Brief History of Creation by Bill Mesler and H. James Cleaves II.  This book focused on the history of theories of how life began, including spontaneous generation, and the scientists who debated these theories.  The first chapter mentions some ancient philosophers, but the second chapter has already moved to the 17th century.  The book shows that 20th and 21st century work in biology has made great strides in developing scenarios for how life began on Earth.

I learned that bacteria frequently evolve by borrowing genes from other bacteria, and that this fact helps explain while all life uses the same genetic code. Bacteria that experiment with a different genetic code won’t have access to these genes that could be borrowed from other organisms.  As such, they will survive and replicate at much lower rates.