Larson, a Pulitzer-winning historian (Summer for the Gods: The Scopes Trial and America's Continuing Debate over Science and Religion
), traces the history of the contentious concept of evolution from Darwin's predecessors, like Cuvier and Lyell, to his early advocates, like Asa Gray (who tried to keep God in the mix) and Thomas Huxley, and "postmodern" advocates such as Stephen Jay Gould and Richard Dawkins. Larson reminds readers that Darwin hasn't always been held in as high esteem as he is today, even among scientists: at the beginning of the 1900s, the concept of evolution was widely accepted, but natural selection was not. Larson demonstrates that only through advances by mid-century population geneticists like Haldane, Fisher and Wright and sociobiologists like the late William Hamilton have most scientists come to accept all of Darwin's theories. Larson devotes chapters to dark episodes in evolution's history like the early 20th-century eugenics movement and the Scopes trial, where, Larson proposes, Clarence Darrow's theatrics may have done the cause more harm than good. This latest entry in Modern Library's Chronicles series isn't "evolution for dummies"â"it requires concentration and some effortâ"but Larson's survey should make valuable reading for young people going into the sciences and other science buffs. Illus. not seen by PW
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"Infectious good reading. The prose is limpid, the chapters are luminous."
—James Moore, co-author of Darwin
“The history of evolutionary science from the 18th-century to the present is a history of controversies and seemingly incompatible views. It takes an author like Ed Larson to provide an account of this crucial history. . . .The reader will be rewarded by an intellectual delight.”
"Larson masterfully takes us from the 18th century French enlightenment to the 21st century evolution wars. From Buffon and Cuvier, through Darwin and Wallace, to Dawkins, Gould, and Wilson, he provides a scholarly, readable history of the ups and downs of the theory of evolution. Larson shows us how firmly this theory is established, as firmly as Einstein's theory of relativity."
—Duncan M. Porter, Director of the Darwin Correspondence Project
"Larson has written a brilliant introduction to the history of evolution, equally sensitive to scientific, religious, and social factors. It is, hands down, the most readable and reliable account available."
—Ronald L. Numbers, Hilldale and William Coleman Professor of the History of Science and Medicine. Department of Medical History and Bioethics, University of Wisconsin
"Ed Larson is both a historian and a writer who knows how to bring his subject alive. In Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory
he combines the latest historical scholarship with an understanding of recent issues in science, religion and social debate. This powerful book will help everyone understand the foundations of modern evolutionary ideas and the origins of the latest controversies."
—Peter J. Bowler, Queens University Belfast
"An indispensable guide to the sometimes weird, but always wonderful, world of Evolution. Every species inhabiting this contested territory is here: Darwinian materialists, Lamarckian progressivists, hopeful-monster mutationists, theistic evolutionists, neo-vitalists, six-day creationists, mathematical geneticists, intelligent designers, molecular reductionists and on and on. Yet this is no monochrome chronicle of disengaged scientific ideas. It is a rich and compelling narrative portrayed in glorious technicolour, as grand and sweeping in scope as the theory of evolution itself. In the struggle for shelf-life among publications on evolution, Edward Larson?s book is superbly fitted for long-term survival."
—David N. Livingstone, author of Darwin's Forgotten Defenders: The Encounter Between Evangelical Theology and Evolutionary Thought
“Larson’s acclaimed gifts as a writer who can make the history of science exciting to a wide audience are visible again. The story, which takes seriously the cultural meanings of new science, has many twists and turns and is told with humor and vivacity.”
—JOHN HEDLEY BROOKE, Andreas Idreos Professor of Science and Religion, University of Oxford