"...a must for undergraduate science students and graduate students of liberal arts." -- Plant Science Bulletin Vol.49, No.4, Winter 2003
"...a sweeping, fascinating look at the history of life on what might be the rarest of planetary jewels." -- Savannah Morning News, January 26, 2003
"...an excellent reference to the high school biology teacher...an enjoyable read for the evolutionary biologist..." -- Science Books & Films, August 2003
"...highly readable..." -- Quarterly Review of Biology, March 2004
"...interesting read...well documented..." -- Perspectives on Science and Christian Faith, March 2004
"...intriguing story of how humans evolved to rule the Earth, noting the remarkable coincidences that permitted this to occur." -- Bookviews.com, March 2003
"Burger writes with the clarity and humor of one who has had experience communicating complicated ideas to the lay public." -- Boston Globe
From the Inside Flap
Burger--examining the critical episodes in our planet's early history and the peculiar trajectory of life on our world--shows that the long odyssey of planet Earth may be utterly unique in our galaxy. He describes features of the Sun that are far from average. By some estimates, 80 percent of the other stars in the Milky Way galaxy are smaller, and it is unlikely that any of them could supply the energy requirements for a life-sustaining planet such as our own. Earth, as the third planet from the Sun, sits within the "Goldilocks" orbit: It is in the perfect position to receive not too much heat, like Mercury and Venus, and not too little, like more distant planets of the solar system, but just the right amount to foster the development of life on our diverse planet.
Turning to the evolution of life itself, Burger points out a host of amazing accidents (for example, the extinction of the dinosaurs and the proliferation of flowering plants) that makes the steps along the way to Homo sapiens seem like very rare events indeed. He also calls attention to the curious fact that the early hominid brain tripled in size over the relatively short time period leading to the appearance of modern human beings. Finally, he notes aspects of humanity's cultural evolution that seem unlikely to have been duplicated anywhere else.
Burger's enlightening evaluation of evolutionary and cosmic history, full of fascinating details, makes for a compelling case of human achievement's place in our universe.