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Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives [Paperback]

by David Sloan Wilson
4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)

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Book Description

December 26, 2007 0385340923 978-0385340922 Reprint
What is the biological reason for gossip?
For laughter? For the creation of art?
Why do dogs have curly tails?
What can microbes tell us about morality?


These and many other questions are tackled by renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson in this witty and groundbreaking new book. With stories that entertain as much as they inform, Wilson outlines the basic principles of evolution and shows how, properly understood, they can illuminate the length and breadth of creation, from the origin of life to the nature of religion. Now everyone can move beyond the sterile debates about creationism and intelligent design to share Darwin’s panoramic view of animal and human life, seamlessly connected to each other.

Evolution, as Wilson explains, is not just about dinosaurs and human origins, but about why all species behave as they do—from beetles that devour their own young, to bees that function as a collective brain, to dogs that are smarter in some respects than our closest ape relatives. And basic evolutionary principles are also the foundation for humanity’s capacity for symbolic thought, culture, and morality.

In example after example, Wilson sheds new light on Darwin’s grand theory and how it can be applied to daily life. By turns thoughtful, provocative, and daringly funny, Evolution for Everyone addresses some of the deepest philosophical and social issues of this or any age. In helping us come to a deeper understanding of human beings and our place in the world, it might also help us to improve that world.


From the Hardcover edition.

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Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives + Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society + The Neighborhood Project: Using Evolution to Improve My City, One Block at a Time
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Evolution is far more than just dinosaurs and fossils, Wilson says, and he enthusiastically explains, with a clear and pleasing style, how it affects our everyday lives. This is Wilson's fourth book on evolution (Darwin's Cathedral, etc.) and is by far the most accessible account of evolution for a general audience, as well as the farthest ranging. Building on diverse examples, Wilson demonstrates that evolution is completely relevant to modern human affairs, including how we use language, create culture and define morality. The discussion is as entertaining as it is easy to follow, covering topics as seemingly unrelated as why the burying beetle commits infanticide and why so many domestic animals have floppy ears. For readers seeking a more technical presentation, Wilson offers both a complete bibliography and list of Web sites for reference. Readers who've grown weary of the usual treatment of evolution as a deadly foe to religion will find Wilson's book a cheerful antidote, breaking new ground in its sweeping breadth and offering much to think about. (Apr. 3)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Evolution for Everyone is David Sloan Wilson's fifth book on the subject (including Darwin's Cathedral and The Literary Animal) and the most reader-friendly. Critics favorably compare the effort to Steven J. Levitt's and Stephen J. Dubner's runaway best seller Freakonomics. They claim that Wilson, professor of biology and anthropology at Britain's Binghamton University, does for evolution what those two authors did for economics—that is, draw interesting and unexpected connections between musty theory and its practical applications in our everyday lives. Although most of his observations are right on the mark, Wilson's desire to connect evolution and religion may strike some as overreaching or preachy.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Product Details

  • Paperback: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Delta; Reprint edition (December 26, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0385340923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0385340922
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (44 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #267,320 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
107 of 116 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Useful and Refreshing View of a Vital Subject April 27, 2007
Format:Hardcover
There are religious objections to the theory of evolution, but not scientific ones. There may be a few rogue scientists, seldom biologists, who object to evolution, but they are not the cause for 54% of Americans (latest Harris poll) rejecting the idea that humans developed from earlier species. The theory of evolution (and it is perhaps essential to re-state that "theory" in science does not mean "hypothesis" or "guess") is as soundly based as any scientific theory, and the odds that it will be overturned by future evidence are about the same as the odds that, say, atomic theory will be. Scientists have tried to make headway against fundamentalists who believe in a literal Bible (or Koran), in creationism, or in the Intelligent Design which is creationism in new clothes. Scientists have the bulk of the evidence, and fundamentalists have the faith. The two world views won't come to an agreement, but David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University, does not involve himself in the religion versus science debate. He is, admittedly, an academic biologist, which just about guarantees that he is an evolutionist, and furthermore, he is not a religious man, at least in the way ordinary believers would like to define religion. The approach he describes in his book, -Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives- (Delacorte Press) is not a salvo into the argument between science and religion. It is instead a highly original and refreshing approach which grew out of a course Wilson teaches, with the same name as the book, and the course is indeed for everyone, not just science majors and not just undergraduates. The course, and the book, is not a denunciation of the detractors of evolution, nor a in-depth study of evolutionary details. Read more ›
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46 of 49 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Book Really Is for Everyone April 21, 2007
Format:Hardcover
As an avid reader of evolutionary biology books, I almost didn't get past the basic-sounding title. But then I saw that it was written by David Sloan Wilson, an eminent evolutionary theorist, and I found a real gem. In this very readable book, Wilson opens with a discussion of how simple and productive evolutionary thinking can be. He shows how he leads undergraduates from all disciplines to use an evolutionary viewpoint (asking "why" questions) to get a new perspective on life. Much of the book consists of examples taken from his career of asking and answering the right questions in various areas of biology as well as in the social sciences. The book really does have something (a lot) for everyone. For the lay reader, it opens up new perspectives on the world. For students, he provides a role model for a successful academic career. For teachers, he shows how evolutionary thinking can make biology exciting and add new dimensions to the humanities. For those already knowledgeable, he provides new leads, interpretations, and inspiration. While the overwhelming majority of biologists are comfortable with the basics of evolution through natural selection, most still are unfamiliar with the power of asking "why?" questions. Too many biologists dismiss it as "just-so stories" or hand waving. Let Wilson show you why evolutionary thinking is for everyone.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Evolution of Everything October 17, 2007
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
It is distressing to see yet more unnecessary arguments revolving around evolution: misunderstandings on the one hand and dogmatic insistence on the other. And it may surprise you to discover where we find the scientists and the people of religious faith.

A key point, and one that it developed exceptionally well in this terrific book, is that evolution is not just about human origins, dinosaurs and fossils. The model can be usefully applied to almost every facet of existence. Living systems have a natural tendency to evolve toward ever-greater order and complexity, while "inorganic" matter tends toward increasing entropy.

David Sloan Wilson has written some excellent scholarly works on evolution and this is his first book for a general audience. He is a man on a mission. Five years ago he attracted considerable praise, but also some controversy for his book Darwin's Cathedral: Evolution, Religion, and the Nature of Society in which he attempted to bridge the gap between evolutionary theory and religion.

Wilson is distinguished professor of biological sciences with a joint appointment in anthropology at Binghamton University. He has become convinced that evolution can be more widely accepted once people understand its consequences for human welfare and he now directs a campus-wide evolutionary studies program called EvoS that is being adopted by other universities.

He is on record as saying that, "When evolution is presented as unthreatening, explanatory, and useful, it can be easily grasped and appreciated by most people, regardless of their religious or political beliefs.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Evolutionary Biology Brought to Life June 28, 2007
Format:Hardcover
David Sloan Wilson is an eminent evolutionary biologist whose major claim to fame is his steadfast and highly creative support for group selection theory and the importance of altruism in a period, roughly the years 1965 to 2000, when the notion was considered beyond the pale by most biologists. While there is still a sizeable minority who reject these notions, both theory and evidence have quite strongly supported DS Wilson's position.

There are many books upholding evolutionary theory, but Wilson's contribution is distinctive in its thorough-going humanity. Rather than tediously dissect the absurd arguments of Intelligent Design critics, he showers the reader with page after page of delightful science stories. Like Einstein and many other scientists, Wilson does not believe in a personal God, but rather that God is revealed in the wonder of the natural world and the capacity of humans to love and care for one another.

Many opponents of evolutionary biology have never actually met a working scientist and do not know how science operates. They believe a scientific discipline is like a religious cult, deeply protective of its dogmas and viciously ostracizing dissenters and innovators. While this is somewhat true, especially in the short run, for the social sciences, it is not at all true for the natural sciences, including biology. Biology journals frequently publish critiques of natural selection (e.g., the great Stephen J. Gould's) and frankly, I am a bit bored with their openness. There is not a single cogent critique in the whole literature. Wilson gives the flavor of openness and delight in discovery that characterizes many, perhaps most, evolutionary biologists.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Profound, interesting, loved it
One of few books that profoundly changed the way i see the world. I recommend it to any and all open-minded folks, amazing insights. Well written too.
Published 4 months ago by birchen
5.0 out of 5 stars Educational and interesting
The book was clear and concise. I learned a lot that I didn't know before about evolution and man's path.
Published 4 months ago by Barbara T. Klein
5.0 out of 5 stars Great book
Great book, easily accessible for everyone-- you don't need to be a scientist or theologian to read this book and thoroughly enjoy it!
Published 7 months ago by L Gilgore
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting
This was an interesting read but it doesn't quite deliver on its stated goal of namely chaning the way we think about our lives. Themes needed to be more fleshed-out.
Published 8 months ago by Sabian
4.0 out of 5 stars Different approach to evolution
The author claims to explain how evolution and religion can coexist. As someone who is not religious, I felt that he was condescending in his treatment of religion, although I... Read more
Published 10 months ago by Katelyn J.
5.0 out of 5 stars great book!
You get to look at life from a different perspective other than an anthropomorphic viewpoint. Author makes his point quickly and clearly.
Published 10 months ago by Kathia Johnson
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my faves.
I love this book so much that I gave it to my brother and will buy a new one for myself. I feel that everyone should read this book - it's that important!
Published 17 months ago by emjay
5.0 out of 5 stars A Different Kind of Book on Evolution
I liked this book very much even though Chapter One was obviously a preface. Aside from that small error, the author makes his presentation well. I enjoyed reading it. Read more
Published 22 months ago by Alexander
5.0 out of 5 stars Understanding Evolution in Three Easy Steps
Religious folk pretend to know what evolution is without ever studying it. There are many books that could introduce them to the topic. Read more
Published on October 29, 2011 by Michael
5.0 out of 5 stars Improving the ivory tower with evolutionary thought
Picking up David Sloan Wilson's Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives on the advice of a friend, I expected a strident,... Read more
Published on June 26, 2010 by L. Bravim
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