Population Wars

I'm not going to make a habit of writing book reviews here as, frankly, I'm not very good at them. If you want good book reviews, just follow Warren Ellis in all of his myriad online forms, and you'll get some of the best. 

I do, however, want to share my thoughts on Greg Graffin's new book Population Wars. It's an odd piece of non-fiction in that it's difficult to say exactly what it's about. There are dense chapters concerning viruses and bacteria, the theories of evolution, military and colonial history, the history of mass-extinctions, and personal stories about living on a farm in upstate New York. 

The overarching theme of the book, as you might have guessed from the title, is a response to the question "What happens when differing populations come in to contact?" Graffin draws parallels between the conflicts that arise when microbes come together and when human populations come together. It's not the most obvious extended metaphor, and it creaks a little under the strain, but overall, it holds up.

Even with all of the science and history tucked into this book, I would probably classify it as a philosophy book more than anything else. Graffin's goal is to derive a worldview from science and history. It's an atheist worldview with a strong sense of morality based on the interconnection of populations and the desire to see our species beat the odds and avoid extinction. 

This book is a huge step forward for Graffin. His previous work, Anarchy Evolution, was solid but far less ambitious in scope. Population Wars is much more fully developed, more informational, and written in a more assured voice. This is not the work of a musician dabbling in writing. This is the work of a serious scientist and educator.

That's not to say I agree with all of Graffin's conclusions. Some of his philosophical conclusions are less than convincing to me, and I'm not comfortable with how detached he can be from certain events and actions. Graffin's a good academic and he shows his work, explaining how and why he reaches the conclusions he does, but I did scratch my head several times and think "I'm not sure that follows."

That didn't stop me from giving Population Wars are 5 star review on Goodreads. It's a book that both teaches and invites you to learn, and Graffin proposes positive solutions to problems rather than just complaining. There are times I think his reach exceeds his grasp, but it's such an ambitious reach that I'm very confident in my rating.