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Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of the Species Updated Hardcover – April 11, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; 1 edition (April 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0375501037
  • ISBN-13: 978-0375501036
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.4 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (30 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #329,226 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Biologists have a dirty little secret: while practically everyone knows of The Origin of Species (and owes much to it), almost nobody has read it. British geneticist Steve Jones wants to make the arguments contained in that great text accessible to modern audiences, and succeeds with the delightful Darwin's Ghost. Approximating the structure of Darwin's opus, Jones uses the original chapter headings and summaries as a scaffolding to build an up-to-date demonstration of the power of a few simple ideas. Heredity, variation, and natural selection are all you need to infer evolution over time, and now that Jones can fill in the gaps in Darwin's pre-Mendelian understanding of genetics, the case becomes airtight.

More than a polemic, though, Darwin's Ghost is nearly as pleasurable a read as its ancestor is--one suspects that part of Jones's mission is to inspire today's readers to turn back to the grand but humble Origin of Species. While he may not be able to quite match Darwin's vast erudition or hawk's eye for detail, he still makes the theory of evolution shudder and breathe on the page. Dog breeding, mass extinctions, and weird fossils of tiny elephants all march to his drumbeat and--just when you least expect it--return to the main point that all living things share a common ancestor. Whether you're one of the elite who's had the pleasure of Darwin's literary company or you'd like a taste of what you're missing, Darwin's Ghost will bring the spirit of the great man back into your world of ideas. --Rob Lightner

From Library Journal

Using recent empirical evidence, Jones (genetics, Univ. Coll., London) has updated Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species (l859) so that the fact of organic evolution is both understandable and relevant to today's general reader. He focuses on dogs, whales, snails, insects, bacteria, and, particularly, the AIDS retrovirus in order to illustrate the struggle for existence and descent with modification through genetic variation and natural selection. Special attention is given to social instincts, biogeography, biodiversity, and the evolutionary affinities among similar species through a common descent. The author stresses that all species and their environments are continuously changing (sometimes rapidly, sometimes slowly), e.g., the organisms and their habitats on the Galapagos and Hawaiian Islands. Furthermore, since Darwin's writings, serious problems with the theory of evolution are being solved in light of ongoing scientific discoveries in population genetics, geopaleontology, and radiometric dating techniques. Very informative and cogently argued, this book is an important addition to the natural history literature. Recommended for all science collections.
-H. James Birx, Canisius Coll., Buffalo
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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Customer Reviews

This book completely rekindled my scientific interest in evolution.
Mark Evans
This is not a book you read in one evening, I found it a very tedious read, but at the same time very rewarding as Jones really knows his science.
Kevin Spoering
Steve Jones writes with a wonderful style, similar to dearly departed Stephen Jay Gould, merging science with popular culture and limitless trivia.
Jedidiah Palosaari

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

37 of 37 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on May 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Regardless of your interest in or knowledge of science, Jones' work is captivating. Equally important, for the general reader, it is not hard work. Using modern scientific advances including work on diseases (such as AIDS and sickle cell anemia), primate research and genetics, Jones sets out to prove Darwin's theory of "descent by modification" all over again. He succeeds both in supporting Darwin's theory and holding the reader's interest with a sharp writing style and a gift for applying useful analogies and metaphors that make his subject accessible. Some of Jones' sidebar comments will make you laugh out loud and some of his more profound conclusions will have you thinking about and recommending this book long after you have finished it.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on April 24, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I picked this up because of the great NY Times Book Review review--I'm not a science buff in particular, but it just sounded like a good, intelligent read. Just want to say how glad I am I took the plunge, because this book is so wide-ranging, it's about everything. It's fantastic--I've never read anything quite like it. Animals, life, AIDS, history, geography, God--you name it, Jones talks about it, and he weaves it all together into an incredibly readable book. So here's from one satisfied reader--I couldn't recommend this book more.
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Mark Evans on February 13, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The last serious book I read on evolution was Darwin's Origin of Species, which I read as a requirement for a History of Science course in college. I wish had first read Darwin's Ghost. This book completely rekindled my scientific interest in evolution. Jones follows the structure of the original, but updates it with more than a century's worth of scientific progress. For example, the question of why we can't actually observe evolution in progress is answered through modern examples such as HIV. But more importantly, Jones has made The Origin of Species readable for the common man. Darwin's Ghost is enjoyable, relative easy to comprehend, and most importantly, after you have read it you actually understand and retain much of the current evidence that supports modern evolutionary theory. I would recommend this book for those who consider themselves either "evolutionists" or "creationists", because without understanding the scientific evidence for evolution it is impossible to either defend or attack evolution. Far too much of the popular press coverage of evolution occurs in a vacuum of understanding (on both sides). For the diehard evolutionist, this book will certainly pale in comparison to the original. But for the vast majority of people, who will never read The Origin of Species, I would highly recommend this book. You may even find your intellectual curiosity piqued sufficiently to delve further into the field.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Eric Breitenstein on July 28, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Darwin's Ghost" by Steve Jones, a professor of Genetics at Univesity College London, is the best statement of the theory of evolution I've read. Jones reweaves Darwin's "One Long Arguement" into a format that's easy to understand for non-biologists and lay people. He uses the new science of genetics and examples from DNA evidence to demonstrate the proof of evolution: It's in the genes!
From the evolution of HIV into a species that attacks humans, to that virus splitting off into two species, HIV-1 and HIV-2, each species genetically modified to different human populations, to the constant evolutionary change of HIV-1 and -2 as we fight back with anti-viral drugs. Natural Selection never stops. Thanks to the drugs we use against HIV (and bacteriological infections), we can see evolution in action, which creationists used to get away with claiming was impossible. Jones makes us aware of that simple proof: Once again, it's in the genes.
Professor Jones has written a modern version of "The Origin of Species," and Jones' work is easier to understand (for most people) than Darwin's texts. This book is a must for people who want to understand evolution, which is nothing more than descent with modification due to Natural Selection.
Simple, eloquent proof: "Darwin's Ghost." Thank you Steve Jones.
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31 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Robert Wormley on September 21, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is the simply the most readable and convincing, modern argument for evolution. Steve Jones comes down to the level of laity and explains genetics, descent with modification, Darwin's development of his theory, paleobotany and transitional forms in language that is enjoyable to read. If like me, you are intimidated by trying to understand the latest research in these highly specialized fields yet you yearn to understand the implications of their findings for your worldview, then this is the best book that I could recommend. I came into it highly skeptical of evolution as a verifiable theory and came out of it wondering how I can accomidate it into my Christian faith. A word of caution to any creationists who read this book with an open mind. Like me it will transform you into a very uncomfortable agreement with it.
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19 of 21 people found the following review helpful By Brockvond on June 23, 2000
Format: Hardcover
This is a retelling, in modern dress of Charles Darwin's "one long argument," "On the Origin of Species." Where Darwin's Exhibit A was Galapagos finches, Jones shows us the AIDS virus complex. Where Darwin had the known phylogenies of pigeon varieties, Jones has similarities and differences among base-pair sequences in the DNA molecule. Maintaining the basic structure and flow of the "Origin," Jones brings in the many findings of genetics, anthropology, paleontology, and organismal biology since Darwin's day, which build the edifice of evolution ever higher. The result is a seamless tale, borne on the unifying fact of evolution. It is a tribute to Darwin's brilliance that his original chapter and sub-chapter headings remain completely relevant. In fact, the closing chapter, "Recapitulation and Conclusion," is verbatim from the "Origin;" and 140 years after the words were first written, there's not a false note among them.
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