The Anunnaki Chronicles
By Zecharia Sitchin
Published in September 2015
Thibault’s Score: 2/5
Zecharia Sitchin was an Israeli ancient aliens theorist. He was an expert in ancient languages, and could translate various early languages competently, from where he draws many of his ideas. This book is a compilation of his various writings by his grand niece.
Having read a large number of primary sources, mostly from the middle ages and antiquity, I have been shocked by the number of seeming anachronisms - there are all sorts of details which, to me, seem like they possibly could be alien. For this reason, I was attracted to this book.
What I was hoping to find was an unbiased catalog of all of the anachronisms, along with a variety of explanations for them - explanations that both favor and disfavor extraterrestrial or anachronistic explanations.
Instead, Sitchin has wild theories that go far beyond what can be borne out by the evidence. You can easily point to a Sumerian tablet and ask “how the hell did they know that there were at least 10 planets, when Pluto, Uranus, and Neptune were only discovered in the last 200 years thanks to telescopes?” and offer a wide variety of theories and explanations (aliens being one of them). Instead, Sitchin has very detailed timelines explaining that XYZ had a moon base, with clones, etc… His theories seem unsubstantiated and outlandish.
I also wish that he included his complete translations of primary sources, not just quotes out of context. Then I wish I could compare his translations of primary sources with those of other academics who do not believe in aliens.
This book makes for mediocre science fiction, but bad history. I am looking for a good ancient aliens book - but this is not it.
The Selfish Gene
By Richard Dawkins
Published in 1976 (updated in 1988 and 2006)
Thibault’s Score: 4/5
The Selfish Gene is an evolutionary biology book by Richard Dawkins where he argues that the gene, rather than the individual, is the basic unit upon which evolution occurs.
Dawkins is, sadly, most well known for his atheist activism. This book has nothing to do with atheism - he doesn’t even mention his religious beliefs. You can completely ignore Dawkins' atheism and appreciate this book nevertheless.
The idea that genes, rather than individuals or groups of individuals, are selected for is now uncontroversial. The implications are fascinating.
For example, Dawkins’ theory allows him to predict under what circumstances altruism will arise - notably when it benefits the transmission of one’s genes. The reason behind this is simple: genetic algorithms that did not embrace this specific kind of altruism died out.
Many non-breeding altruistic organisms - like ants that act as giant refrigerators for their peers - have genetic clones of themselves who breed. Others, such as the naked mole rats who live in colonies, need highly specialized roles. Some act as the specialized breeders, while most act as feeders for their breeding relatives.
Here, Dawkins points out that there are many non-genetic types of replicators. For example, ideas can replicate much like genes, and the same rules apply. This is the book where he coins the term “meme” to describe ideas which replicate pseudo genetically.
I recommend this book to anyone interested in dipping their toes into evolutionary biology. It may be old - but has stood the test of time. The updates provide more information on details but do not detract from the core. Its age is all the more proof of its incredible value.
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