From Publishers Weekly
Knoll, a paleontologist at Harvard, has spent most of his life examining and making sense of microscopic Precambrian fossils from around the world. In a book so well written that nonspecialists and specialists alike will find much to savor, he captures both the excitement of scientific discovery and the intricacies of scientific interpretation. He addresses two of the biggest questions of biology and paleontology-how did life begin and why was there an explosion of life forms at the start of the Cambrian Era. His evenhanded explanations draw heavily from the work he, his graduate students and his collaborators from around the world have performed. Unlike other recent offerings (e.g., Snowball Earth by Gabrielle Walker and In the Blink of an Eye by Andrew Parker), Knoll is not uncomfortable with taking a middle ground, claiming that conclusive answers are not yet within our grasp. He constructs a case for the importance of "permissive ecology," a situation in which "life and environment evolved together, each influencing the other in building the biosphere we inhabit today." Recognizing that his view is neither as flashy nor as controversial as others, he says, "The absence of a definitive punch line may disappoint some readers, but as a paleontologist, it is why I get up in the morning. For scientists, unanswered questions are like Everest unclimbed, an irresistible lure for restless minds." Readers interested in substance will certainly not be disappointed. 33 color illus., 25 b&w photos, 47 line illus. FYI: Knoll has been chosen by CNN and Time magazine as "America's Best" paleontologist.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.
--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Winner of the 2003 Book Award in Science, Phi Beta Kappa
"In a book so well written that nonspecialists and specialists alike will find much to savor, [Knoll] captures both the excitement of scientific discovery and the intricacies of scientific interpretation. . . . Readers interested in substance will certainly not be disappointed."--Publishers Weekly
"Knoll is well placed to tell this amazing story, and he does so with verve."--Douglas Palmer, New Scientist
"Andrew Knoll is an ideal guide through this early phase of life's history on the Earth. . . . [O]ne of the strengths of Knoll's book is that it presents science as the open-ended endeavor that it is.... Life on a Young Planet
. .. expresses better than most the bumptious vitality and sheer fun of open-minded research."--Stefan Bengtson, Nature
"A fascinating book. . . . The catastrophic surface narrative of this impressive and intriguing book would surely have pleased Stephen Jay Gould; but I think its deterministic subtext would have pleased Charles Darwin still more."--Matt Cartmill, Times Literary Supplement
"Life on a Young Planet
stands apart from it predecessors in two fundamental respects. First, Knoll is perhaps the most qualified person to write such an epic: a renaissance man whose text is filled with insightful quotes from authors ranging from Darwin to Dickins to Dyson. . . . Second . . . this book describes the coevolution of life on Earth as an integrated biochemical system that has profoundly and irrevocably changed over time."--Guy M. Narbonne, Science
"A balanced, excellent account of current theories and discussions of the origin and early evolution of life. . . . Knoll is able to convey difficult scientific issues with a minimum of jargon, using a brisk and witty prose. . . He is a gifted storyteller with a knack for choosing the right anecdote. . . . A browse through Knoll's book will enlighten both the cognoscenti and those unfamiliar with the complexities of reading a fossil record. . . . Knoll manages to present a multidisciplinary field in an interdisciplinary volume."--Antonio Lazcano, American Scientist
"The author weaves a beautifully written, fascinating story of life's origin and development based on his extensive field studies and research in the most remote corners of the globe. . . . This volume . . . is a most valuable asset that should be read by scientists active in the field, by teachers and students who are interested in the most recent thoughts on the subject, and, in fact, by anyone who is interested in how life might have originated and evolved on this planet or on other similar planets in our Universe."--Nathan Dubowsky, Science Books & Films
"This is not a textbook but rather a story, giving one person's view of how the jigsaw pieces fit together. It is written in flowing prose with many asides, personal anecdotes and explanations of what evidence there is and how it is used. . . . [F]or ecologists the book has much to offer in putting the early evolution of life into perspective."--Bulletin of the British Ecological Society
"[Knoll's] words have a poetic flavor and his deep interest in the study of life on earth flows out of them, carrying readers along whole maintaining a rigorous discourse. Knoll's book will appeal to anyone interested in the evolution of life on Earth."--Choice
"In this wonderful book . . . Knoll's extensive field experience and eagerness to share data and ideas with colleagues enable him to reconstruct responsibly the broad evolutionary scenario yet to remain close to the evidence."--Lynn Margulis, Times Higher Education Supplement
"A detective story to match the best crime fiction. It is told with verve."--Paul Nettleton, The Guardian