Shelf Life: New Books

Books Penned by Faculty and Staff

By Claire L. Burgess

Great Debates

2009_books1Every Thing Must Go: Metaphysics Naturalized
By James Ladyman and Don Ross, with David Spurrett and John Collier
(2007: Oxford University Press)

Even before the days of Aristotle, philosophers argued over metaphysics: its purpose, usefulness, precise field of study, and even whether such a philosophy is possible. Although metaphysics is generally understood as the study of being and existence, even this simple definition is a subject of contentious debate. In Every Thing Must Go, Bristol University’s Ladyman and UAB’s Ross (Philosophy and Economics) argue that most contemporary metaphysics makes no contribution to human knowledge because it has become disconnected from science and because it takes the value of non-empirical insight far more seriously than psychological evidence warrants. They suggest a new model of naturalistic metaphysics that unifies physics and the other sciences—a controversial thesis that opens exciting avenues of research both for professional philosophers and serious students.

2009_books2Value-Free Science? Ideals and Illusions
Edited by Harold Kincaid, John Dupré, and Alison Wylie
(2007: Oxford University Press)

Scientists are taught to be unfailingly objective, leaving abstract concepts such as values out of their research. But is value-free science always possible or desirable? According to the essays in this collection, co-edited by Kincaid (Philosophy), the answer is no. Contributors examine the role of values in science and their effect on objectivity, using examples and case studies in disciplines ranging from economics to neurophysiology. While the particulars differ, the authors agree on an approach that incorporates values while preserving the independence of scientific investigation. The papers in the volume were commissioned by UAB’s Center for Ethics and Values in the Sciences and presented at a 2005 conference at the university.

Walks in the Woods

2009_books360 Hikes Within 60 Miles: Birmingham, 2nd edition
By Russell Helms
(2007: Menasha Ridge Press)

With three major parks being completed and a host of wilderness areas just beyond its borders, Birmingham is one of the greenest cities in America. Helms, an instructor in UAB’s University Honors Program, hiked throughout central Alabama to winnow the options down to these 60 trails, all within an hour’s drive of downtown. In addition to rural favorites such as Noccalula Falls, Helms has included several urban hikes, including the Civil Rights Trail and Sloss Furnaces Trail in the heart of Birmingham. This thorough guide includes detailed maps; data on length, difficulty, and elevation changes; and recommendations for additional activities near each trail.

Media Matters

2009_books4The African Press, Civic Cynicism, and Democracy
By Minabere Ibelema
(2008: Palgrave Macmillan)

Democratic consolidation is the process by which a new democracy matures and becomes secure. Recent world history provides plenty of proof that this process does not always go smoothly, and the culprits are familiar: grasping politicians, power-hungry military figures, greedy businesspeople. But in his new book, Ibelema (Communications Studies) demonstrates that common citizens also play a role in the success of new democracies, especially when culturally ingrained values and beliefs make them averse to the democratic form of government. While conceding that administrative and structural reforms are essential, Ibelema argues that the only way to make sure higher reforms are fully accepted is to reorient the civic values of the populace. Using Nigeria as a prime example, he examines the political role of the African press and its power to affect change in civic values, clearing the way for democracy to take hold.

LEARNING BY DOING

2009_books5Moving Toward Transformation: Teaching and Learning in Inclusive Classrooms
Edited by Jerry Aldridge and Renitta Goldman
(2007: Seacoast Publishing)

Of the three main models of teaching—transmission, transaction, and transformation—transformative teaching is least common and regarded as the most difficult to implement. But Aldridge and Goldman (Education) argue that transformation is the most effective model for encouraging students to not just learn material, but become better people in the process. Transformation emphasizes critical thinking and problem-solving, promotes an interactive learning environment, and involves students in projects that reach outside the classroom to benefit their communities. Students learning about energy conservation, for example, may develop a plan for conserving energy in their school. Aldridge and Goldman clearly explain the strengths and weaknesses of each teaching model and include essays exploring practical ways for teachers to implement transformation in their own classrooms.

AWARD WINNER

2009_books6PMS poemmemoirstory, an all-women’s literary magazine published by UAB’s Department of English, has attracted a great deal of attention since its first edition in 2001. Work from six of the magazine’s eight issues has been selected for coveted spots in national anthologies. Most recently, Patricia Brieschke’s memoir “Cracking Open” was published in the 2008 Best American Essays series and appeared in Best Creative Nonfiction, Vol. 2 in July.

“Cracking Open,”which appeared in PMS no. 7 in 2007, is the third essay from the journal to be published in Best American Essays in four years, joining pieces from magazines such as The New YorkerAtlantic Monthly, and Harper’s Magazine. Selections from PMS have also been published in the Best American Poetryseries, New Stories from the South, and Best Creative Nonfiction.

As the name implies, PMS features poetry, memoirs, and short stories written by women. The journal solicits one memoir in each issue from a woman who has been a part of a historically important event. The 2008 edition was written entirely by African-American authors and is guest-edited by award-winning poet Honorée Fanonne Jeffers. It includes an interview with Pulitzer Prize-winner Natasha Tretheway.

Tina Harris, an instructor in the English department whose writings have appeared in the journal and who has worked with the publication for years, recently stepped into the editor’s chair, filling the role of founder Linda Frost.

BIRMINGHAM … AND BEYOND!

BookA major Antarctic discovery by the UAB Polar Expedition team launches a dangerous mission to a black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy . . . in the 23rd century. This is the plot of T. Lee Baumann’s first novel, The Seagu11 Project, in which UAB is featured as the home university of the history-making Polar Expedition group.

Baumann, a resident of Birmingham, used to practice internal medicine and geriatrics but now spends most of his time writing and lecturing, with the occasional medical consultation on the side. He is the author of three nonfiction books on physics and spirituality, including God at the Speed of Light, one of the books that inspired the CBS TV series Joan of Arcadia. Baumann says his interest in melding science and spirituality began when he was reading Einstein’s work on relativity. “I found something supernatural in the concepts,” he explains, “especially the fact that time was proven to stop if you could travel at light speed.”

Baumann continued his exploration of faith and science in The Seagu11 Project. “I really wanted to spread my wings and see if I might be able to introduce my concepts to fiction, especially the science-fiction market,” he says. Despite the novel’s futuristic setting, Baumann consulted UAB’s Endowed Professor of Polar and Marine Biology, Jim McClintock, Ph.D., to verify facts and build descriptions of Antarctica. McClintock’s help and experience prompted Baumann to use UAB as the home of his fictional polar research team.

But McClintock is not Baumann’s only UAB connection. His wife, Brenda, is an associate professor of family and community medicine at the university, as well as the team physician for the Blazers. Baumann has also sponsored an endowed scholarship for the School of Natural Sciences and Mathematics named after his book God at the Speed of Light.

As to what exactly the UAB Polar Expedition group uncovers in The Seagu11 Project, Baumann won’t say. “You’ll have to read the book.”