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Among the offspring of humans and other animals are occasional individuals that are malformed in whole or in part. The most grossly abnormal of these have been referred to from ancient times as monsters, because their birth was thought to foretell doom; the less severely affected are usually known as anomalies. This volume digs deeply into the cellular and molecular processes of embryonic development that go awry in such exceptional situations. It focuses on the physical mechanisms of how genes instruct cells to build anatomy, as well as the underlying forces of evolution that shaped these mechanisms over eons of geologic time. The narrative is framed in a historical perspective that should help students trying to make sense of these complex subjects. Each chapter is written in the style of a Sherlock Holmes story, starting with the clues and ending with a solution to the mystery.
I began to think seriously about environmental ethics in the aftermath of the explosion of the oil rig Deepwater Horizon in 2010. The disaster inspired my first fieldwork trip to Franklin County, Florida. As the oil gushed from the uncapped well for months, I – like everyone else who cares about the Gulf coast – felt a surge of sadness and anxiety: What if everything we loved was gone? I became obsessed, in the early days of the oil gush, with reading the news. As “solution” after “solution” for closing the so-called leak failed, as the estimates of the rate of flow climbed ever upward, from leak, to gush, to rip-roaring unstoppable tide, my heart fell. I couldn’t sleep.
At the end of Chapter 2, I suggested that Thoreau’s rhetorical posture in Walden – especially the long, narrative, descriptive, middle of the book – was guided by his conviction that persuasion requires a seduction to the good. This may have been a conviction he acquired early, in his dissatisfaction with the philosophy of education in which he was tutored at Harvard and which he was encouraged to pursue in his short, ten-day career as a school teacher at Concord’s Center Grammar School. He had good reason to think that the political and economic views he was advancing would fail to persuade if they were presented merely as a logical argument.
This book is primarily an interpretation of Walden. Focusing on Walden as I have, however, ignores some of the most interesting scholarship on Thoreau of the past few decades. Sharon Cameron and William Howarth have both argued for the centrality of Thoreau’s Journal in any assessment of his life and work as a whole.1 For both, the Journal is Thoreau’s great work, both by external literary criteria and in his own view. This argument rests on the way in which the ongoingness of the Journal suits Thoreau’s sense that thinking itself is ongoing, that it can never rest, that it always happens in place, as I suggested in the Introduction.
In the previous chapter, I argued that Thoreau’s time in the woods was more socially committed than common caricatures of it tend to allow, and that the society it cultivated was one that aimed to recenter itself around figures otherwise seen as marginal. If I am right about this, then that argument should also transform our understanding of Thoreau’s politics. Showing that this is so is what this chapter sets out to do.
Thoreau’s perspective on time and its utility was contrarian in the context of New England society. Poking fun at forms of economic thinking in which work could not be sacrificed for leisure, Thoreau wrote, about his life at Walden: “There were times when I could not afford to sacrifice the bloom of the present moment to any work, whether of the head or hands” (IV, 2). In this, he reversed a piece of economic wisdom common in the work ethic of the culture in which he lived – that work should always be the first priority, and that other ways of using time were only available if they could be “afforded.” As I discussed at the end of Chapter 2, the long, descriptive middle of the book puts forward another hypothesis.
Chapters 3 and 4 will argue that Thoreau’s sociality and politics, as described in Chapters 1 and 2, are part of something broader, a tradition of thinking and doing and living – a religion you might say – that Thoreau received through diverse sources and that, through Thoreau, had diverse impacts after him.
Henry David Thoreau’s Walden, published in 1854, is still so regularly taught in US high schools that US Americans usually know it by instinct. Whether or not they actually read Walden, they understand its basic plot: Thoreau went to the woods near Concord, Massachusetts “to live deliberately,” as he famously wrote. He built a tiny house by the shores of Walden Pond, in a friend’s forest. He grew beans and read books and went on walks. He laid on his belly to peer through the ice of the pond when it was frozen over during the winter. And he recorded his experiences in journals that he developed over nearly ten years into Walden. This has made Thoreau into a saint of the environmental movement, sometimes.
One of the most popularly salient images of Thoreau taken from Walden is Thoreau as an asocial hermit, whether an honest one or a hypocrite. The Honest Hermit view sees his time in the woods as a praiseworthy retreat from other people in pursuit of higher values among nature. The Hypocrite Hermit view takes his forays into town – and the assumption that his mother did his laundry especially – as a sign that while he aimed to look holy out there in his hermitage, and would have been holy if he had achieved what he claimed, he did not live up to his own standard.
Thoreau's Religion presents a ground-breaking interpretation of Henry David Thoreau's most famous book, Walden. Rather than treating Walden Woods as a lonely wilderness, Balthrop-Lewis demonstrates that Thoreau's ascetic life was a form of religious practice dedicated to cultivating a just, multispecies community. The book makes an important contribution to scholarship in religious studies, political theory, English, environmental studies, and critical theory by offering the first sustained reading of Thoreau's religiously motivated politics. In Balthrop-Lewis's vision, practices of renunciation like Thoreau's can contribute to the reformation of social and political life. In this, the book transforms Thoreau's image, making him a vital source for a world beset by inequality and climate change. Balthrop-Lewis argues for an environmental politics in which ecological flourishing is impossible without economic and social justice.
According to the cognitive neuropsychological model, antidepressants reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety by increasing positive relative to negative information processing. Most studies of whether antidepressants alter emotional processing use small samples of healthy individuals, which lead to low statistical power and selection bias and are difficult to generalise to clinical practice. We tested whether the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI) sertraline altered recall of positive and negative information in a large randomised controlled trial (RCT) of patients with depressive symptoms recruited from primary care.
The PANDA trial was a pragmatic multicentre double-blind RCT comparing sertraline with placebo. Memory for personality descriptors was tested at baseline and 2 and 6 weeks after randomisation using a computerised emotional categorisation task followed by a free recall. We measured the number of positive and negative words correctly recalled (hits). Poisson mixed models were used to analyse longitudinal associations between treatment allocation and hits.
A total of 576 participants (88% of those randomised) completed the recall task at 2 and 6 weeks. We found no evidence that positive or negative hits differed according to treatment allocation at 2 or 6 weeks (adjusted positive hits ratio = 0.97, 95% CI 0.90–1.05, p = 0.52; adjusted negative hits ratio = 0.99, 95% CI 0.90–1.08, p = 0.76).
In the largest individual placebo-controlled trial of an antidepressant not funded by the pharmaceutical industry, we found no evidence that sertraline altered positive or negative recall early in treatment. These findings challenge some assumptions of the cognitive neuropsychological model of antidepressant action.