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Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions about Evolution [Hardcover]

by Francisco J. Ayala
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 1, 2010 0801897548 978-0801897542 1

Despite the ongoing cultural controversy in America, evolution remains a cornerstone of science. In this book, Francisco J. Ayala—an evolutionary biologist, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize—cuts to the chase in a daring attempt to address, in nontechnical language, six perennial questions about evolution:

• Am I a Monkey?• Why Is Evolution a Theory?• What Is DNA?• Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?• How Did Life Begin?• Can One Believe in Evolution and God?

This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with force. Ayala's occasionally biting essays refuse to lend credence to disingenuous ideas and arguments. He lays out the basic science that underlies evolutionary theory, explains how the process works, and soundly makes the case for why evolution is not a threat to religion.

Brief, incisive, topical, authoritative, Am I a Monkey? will take you a day to read and a lifetime to ponder.


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Ayala, past president of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and winner of the 2010 Templeton Prize, is well positioned to write another book (after Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion) about the relationship between religion and science and the importance of evolution. He's done just that, but in surprisingly abbreviated form. The title's six questions are: am I a monkey?; why is evolution a theory?; what is DNA?; do all scientists accept evolution?; how did life begin?; and can one believe in evolution and God? Another question is, who is this book written for? Presumably for religious believers who reject evolution and are perplexed by Ayala's six questions. But beginning an answer to the title question by saying humans are more closely related to apes than to monkeys won't gain that reader's trust. Ayala also assumes a basic familiarity with biological terms and processes. The large point Ayala makes, repeatedly and clearly, is that science and religion are not contradictory, but rather complementary, as different ways of knowing the world. Ayala's passion is obvious, but it's not clear that evolution heretics will become believers after reading this book. 3 halftones, 5 line drawings.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

Am I a Monkey? is a strongly recommended read for science collections with plenty of food for thought.

(Bookwatch)

Ayala presents an accessible introduction to Darwin's theory.

(Book News, Inc.)

Professor Ayala has written an important book—a lucid account of evolutionary theory and related topics, which reviews the overwhelming evidence that establishes evolution as an incontrovertible fact, and which then goes on to offer some convincing reasons why people of faith need not regard the theory of evolution as an enemy or an obstacle to their religious beliefs.

(Harry Frankfurt, author of On Bullshit and On Truth)

Clear, concise, and written in an engaging style.

(Choice)

The book is well-written, accurate, and concise. It is accessible and easy to digest. I suspect that it will, in the long run, play a larger role in promoting the acceptance of evolution.

(Joel W. Martin Reports of the National Center for Science Education)

This book will be widely welcomed and frequently recommended.

(Ian Lancaster Biology of Reproduction)

This book is useful for anyone interested in evolution. It is a handy pocket-sized explanation of a theory, useful for evolutionary scholars to explain the fundamentals and not get lost in their particular areas of interest, useful for college (possibly even high school) teachers to provide a foundation of evolutionary theory, and is topical enough to pull in readers of all disciplines.

(Haley Moss Dillon Evolutionary Education Outreach)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 104 pages
  • Publisher: Johns Hopkins University Press; 1 edition (September 1, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0801897548
  • ISBN-13: 978-0801897542
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.3 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #468,554 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
11 of 13 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Evolution has been a hot button issue ever since Darwin presented it. "Am I a Monkey?: Six Big Questions About Evolution" looks to explain six concepts about evolution and popular misconceptions about the whole bigger picture according to evolution, and offers reasonable ideas to support the theory and states that evolution and God are not enemies. "Am I a Monkey?" is a strongly recommended read for science collections with plenty of food for thought.
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1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolution 101 August 30, 2013
Format:Kindle Edition
Did human beings live during the age of dinosaurs? They did according to Ken Ham's $27 million Creation Museum, which opened in 2007 in Boone County, Kentucky. In this book, one of the nation's most prominent biologists, Professor Francisco J. Ayala, seeks to assure conservative Christians that faith is compatible with science. He also explains in layman's terms why "the theory of biological evolution is the central organizing concept of modern biology."

His explanation is succinct, comprehensible, and clears up misconceptions about evolution. His assurances to those who believe the earth is 10,000 years old will no doubt fall on deaf ears. For an explanation of why human beings simply cling tighter to their opinions when challenged instead of adjusting their views in light of the evidence, see my Amazon review of Mistakes Were Made, (But Not By Me) by Tavris and Aronson.

This is a useful book for those of us who haven't studied the subject in many decades, and who have questions about it. The main questions Ayala answers are these:

* Am I a monkey?
* Why is Evolution a Theory?
* Is there fossil evidence of transitional organisms?
* Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?
* How did life begin?
* Can One Believe in Evolution and God?

This review won't repeat Ayala's answer to those questions, but will recap the essence of Darwinism.

* The theory of evolution asserts facts about three related issues:
1. That organisms are related by common descent, which is the one established with "utmost certainty."
2. Evolutionary history
3.
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5 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
This is the best book I ever read on introducing "The Evolution Theory" and solving the "Evolutionist vs Creationist" conflict. I am not saying the question had been answered. However, I am obliged to praise the author for his excellent writting and organization skill of teaching effectively that much in just 83 pages. Neverthless, I must warn potential readers of lower than High School level of scientific knowledge that they will find it hard to go through the first five jargon filled chapters (already 5/6 of the book). I suggest you to go to a book store to read the first few pages of each chapter before you buy it. In short, recommended!

p.s. To encourage those people of faith with strong avoidance of "Evolution Theory" to pick this book up, let me give you the stance of the author by quoting a passage in the last chapter/question for your reference.

David Hume set the problem succintly with brutal directness: "Is he (God) willing to prevent evil, but not able? then he is impotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Whence then evil?" Evolution came to the rescue. pg77
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0 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Preaching to the choir June 7, 2011
Format:Hardcover
Good information in a nutshell. An informative book in its own right, but with misconceptions so entrenched, I wouldn't expect any converts.
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7 of 54 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Customary clichés December 22, 2010
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Introduction begins with: "Darwin completed the scientific revolution by extending to the living world the notion that the workings of the universe can be explained through natural laws", proceeding shortly afterward with, "More important yet [than evolution] is that Darwin discovered natural selection, the process that explains the 'design' of organisms".

By "natural laws" the author, as prevalent, means the undirected (contrasted with goal-directed) laws of physics and chemistry by which "the workings of the universe" are generally explained, and he credits Darwin with, having "discovered" natural selection, explaining by those laws "the 'design' of organisms". One question can be: If organisms are instead found subject to goal-directed laws, are those laws not "natural"? Another question can be: Has Darwin really "discovered" natural selection?

Or did he contrive it? It happens that the latter is the case, for a simple reason that has escaped researchers by "not seeing the forest for the trees". The concentration has been on the "design" (put inside quotes by Dr. Ayala) of organisms, inasmuch as organisms are evidently so formed as to serve the purpose, the goal, of their survival. And the well-known Darwinian contention is that this functional form results not from goal-directed forces but from undirected ones represented by "natural selection". But consider the mentioned function of survival. Organisms are not only formed to serve that function, but they also act in that direction. Like our bodies, live organisms are actively striving toward their preservation, survival. This is goal-directed and applies to all "the living world" mentioned at the start.
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