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on February 10, 2009
There's a lot here in this book's almost 1000 pages. The first 400 pages are 16 chapters (about 25 pages each) by a variety of authors. You'll see chapters on "The History of Evolutionary Thought", "Molecular Evolution", "American Antievolutionism: Retrospect and Prospect", for example. The quality and style varies somewhat: some chapters are more technical than others. You will get some overlap. It's not quite as effective as if it were all written by the same person or pair of people, but it does cover, as it needs to, a broad ground, and does so very well.

Following these 16 chapters you get a 500+ page Alphabetical Guide. This covers ideas, people, nature, etc. So you get about a page and a half on Richard Dawkins, 3 1/2 pages on Stephen Jay Gould, a page on Thomas Malthus, two pages on Bishop Wilberforce, etc. Nothing, curiously, on Lysenko, although he is mentioned at a number of points in the book. There are entries on Crustacea, Insects, Homology, Natural Theology, Piltdown Man, etc. This is a fine book both for detailed reading and also for browsing as well: a good and worthy book for you library shelves!
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VINE VOICEon February 8, 2009
I came across this book recently by accident in the bookstore and was both surprised and very impressed at its coverage. Not only is this book a wonderful encyclopedia of both historical and current thinking in evolutionary biology, but it accomplishes this great depth and breadth in a single large but inexpensive volume. If you can only afford a small handful of books on life science, I suggest this should be one of them. Intended for the science educated but not neccessarily biological specialist reader. There are essays on concepts, controversies, applications, implications, links to other fields of science, links with the humanities and culture, just about everything that makes evolution such a dynamic and interesting field of study.
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on February 4, 2009
A compendium of fascinating essays on evolution followed by an alphabetical guide through the subject. An education in science, second only, in my view, to Christian de Duve's wonderful explanation of the subject in his book entitled "Life Evolving", published by Oxford a few years ago--not many years ago--it's worth reading today.
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on March 11, 2014
Why they gave as much space to Creationist thinking or Intelligent Design thought is beyond comprehension. These people--Creationists and Intelligent Design people--are lunatics, crackpots, and quite possibly psychotic. There is more of substance in Judeo-Christian Scripture than the question of whether God created the Earth in 6 days.(The "Binding of Isaac", JOB, the Passion Narrative".) In fact, at this point--many Bibles discuss Hebrew cosmogony within a context of Akkadian, Greek, Hittite, Aztec, Norse cosmogony. But the review is helpful to those who wonder about the orginis of the Creatioist or Intelligent Design debate. And while they are downright psychotic, they remind us that there is a concerted effort from them to take evolution out of the High School curriculum because such discussion dismisses/diminishes the relationship between a Deity and Humanity.

This book consists of a seriies of sixteen essays by different authors. And then follow almost 500 pages of encylopaedic entries about various topics on evolution and pivotal people in the development of evolutionary thought.

The topic of human evolution is far more complex than man is related to chimpanzees--however true that might be. There is sense that evolution occurs as response to environmental changes. And that these evolutionary adaptations can occur in a relativley short period of time--months in the instance of finches needing to adapt beak size to help in the search for food in dry spells...

There is a discussion of "Molecular Evolution" by Francisco J. Ayala, and the reader has to suspect that this is the core of the debate. This essay is followed by "Evolution of the Genome" by Brian Charlseworth and Deborah Charlseworth. And here again, the reader suspects the core of the debate.

But no matter what these scholars, scientists write--and they all write with amazing clarity of expression--they cannot resolve the question of 'why' an adaptation occurs--much less the 'how' of adaptation. We know what the practical effect of transformation from Protostome to Deuterstome--but no one has stepped forward and said this is 'how' it was done--much less this is 'why' it was done. What were the steps that went from chimpanzee like creature to Ardipithecus ramidas...some 6 million years ago? Of the 'how' and 'why' of the steps from Ardipithecus ramidas to Australopithecus amamensis? And the reader suspects, that just as there is no relationship between Neanderthal and Homo sapiens--the reader also questions any relationship between chimpanzee and Ardipithecus ramidas, despite what the scientists say. And while the chromosomes / genes might be similar--and suggestive of a relationship--the 'how' and 'why' remains elusive. And we are left without recourse to a deus ex machina to explain the occurence of any creature or any physiological adaptation...but we are not left without a sense of the miraculous. That somehow, the similarities of eyes, nose, ears, teeth, gut, lungs, respiration, cellular ATP etc--all work in similar fashion from creature to creature throughout the aeons. So what we are left wtih is a sense of the miraculous. The lack of 'how' and 'why' leaves us with an appreciation for the miraculous.

We do not attend worhsip services for science, or 'proof' of God. We attend to 'praise God from whom all blessings flow." We attend to re-affirm that act of Faith, we attend to thank a Deity for what we have received or are about to receive, we attend to bewail our manifold sins, we attend to re-assert existential control over our existence so that we end up somewhere between God and the Angels and not to descend to animal existence. A descent seen all too readily as in the case of Nazi atrocities that reduced humans to subhuman in order to justify cold-blooded, gruesome, purposeful extermination in the millions. So need for that sense of the Divine is not easily or readily dismissed. And anyone who thought about science, recognizes the role, the place of the miraculous where the 'how' and 'why' are unananswered yet respected.

So the reader studies these essays for the science revealed, for the scientific processes the various authors write of. The topic is incredibly complex and demanding intellectually. This should be one of several readily availble to the homeowner. While the topics are arcane, and challenging, the book is readable in small doses.
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on May 18, 2009
Comprehensive and readable. This book is a great resource for those who, like me, find that evolution makes sense of the world without in any way diminishing its grandeur.
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on December 7, 2014
Item as described. Fast shipping.
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on December 22, 2010
I love all the topics and authors, but many of them don't write well. Essays like these prove why a guy like Dawkins is so great -- most people can't write to save their lives. Glad I have it on my shelf because I love the title, subject, and spotted dinosaur tail on the spine, but it's mostly unread.
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on May 18, 2009
Got through the first half of the book, the long essays and I have to say that I am pleased with the material. I haven't gotten to the part on evolution and religion yet, but due to the 'political correctness' in the book, the two chapters covering that topic will most-likely not be too good. I'm a hard core scientist, evolution by natural selection, PERIOD! There is NO acceptable middle ground. I am so hard core that to be called a 'scientist' (the real kind), you MUST believe in evolution by natural selection, if you are a person of faith, YOU ARE NOT A SCIENTIST, you are a creationist, PERIOD! No middle ground here. I even go as far as stating that if you are persons of faith, you have NO BUSINESS CALLING YOURSELF SCIENTISTS and taking jobs away from us who are the real deal. That is not to say that there have not been successful creations doing science, there were, Einstein was a perfect example. However, DO NOT call yourself scientists, you are creationists and it is VERY offensive when you folk marginalize and usurp 'TRUE' scientists belief systems as your own. Religious folk and your war mongering beliefs, GO AWAY!

Dr. Thomas Parker
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on July 14, 2009
Let me start by affirming that I would be regarded as what one author in this book, Eugenie C. Scott, persistently calls antievolutionist (p.370, ff). That label, however, covers the entire spectrum of opponents of Darwinism, who differ in various ways, especially in that only some reject evolution as a whole, while many reject its purported mechanism.

This mechanism is set down firmly in the Foreword by Edward O. Wilson (p.vii): "So solidly have the fields of biology built upon the Darwinian conception of evolution that it makes sense today to recognize it as one of the two laws...that govern our understanding of life. The first law is that all the elements and processes that define living organisms are ultimately obedient to the laws of physics and chemistry... The second law...is that all elements and processes defining living organisms have been generated by evolution through natural selection."

The questioning of natural selection is the most common objection of opponents. Less common is questioning that all is governed by the laws of physics and chemistry, a questioning that comprises virtual heresy. The known argument against natural selection is that organisms are not the implied result of "blind" natural forces, but are the product of "intelligent design". It is not a clear part of this argument that if natural forces alone are not held adequate for the formation of organisms, then an additional creative force should be posited.

This reviewer has consistently tried to call attention to another factor concerning "our understanding of life" (see 2nd paragraph above): that among the "elements and processes defining living organisms" are their live activities, directed at self-preservation. The cause of this goal-directed, purposive, process can justifiably be regarded as a force distinct from the undirected natural forces solely responsible for lifeless events, in agreement somewhat with Henri Bergson's vital force ("élan vital", pp.446-7 of the book now reviewed), to which "[t]oday, few would openly subscribe".

It should accordingly be reiterated that the foremost law "that govern[s] our understanding of life" is the great property distinguishing it from the lifeless: the purpose of self-preservation. Yet it is sad to say that the index of this massive tome on life includes neither self-preservation nor purpose. I marked the volume for two stars because of its rich scholarship regardless, aided by many illustrations.
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on April 28, 2015
Good
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