Dawkins (A Devil's Chaplain), the Cambridge University evolutionary biologist, has selected 29 pieces from a broad array of sources to demonstrate the health and vitality of American science writing. His introduction, presenting his defense of science as a way of knowing what is true about the world, is as engaging as any essay in the collection. Given his long-standing defense of evolutionary theory against attack by creationists, it's not surprising that many of the articles he has opted to include have strong political overtones. Explaining his most controversial selection, an essay by space scientists Clark Chapman and Alan Harris, which uses statistics to argue that our reaction to September 11 was out of proportion to the actual loss, Dawkins argues that their piece is "an example of how the scientific way of thinking might influence our lives for the better." Among his fine choices, a number stand out, such as Gary Taubes's much-talked-about article (originally in the New York Times Magazine) calling into question all we have been told about diet and nutrition; one by Daniel Lazare, reprinted from Harper's, asks readers to reconsider what we know about the origins of Judeo-Christian culture; and a column by Audubon's Ted Williams reassesses the logic offered for killing coyotes in Maine. The anthology is provocative and thoroughly enjoyable from start to finish. (Oct. 10)
Forecast:This will be marketed by Houghton along with other titles in the Best American series, but will also compete with Ecco's Best American Science Writing 2003, edited by Oliver Sacks (Forecasts, June 30).