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A Reason for Everything: Natural Selection and the British Imagination Hardcover – September 2, 2004

5 out of 5 stars 1 customer review

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Editorial Reviews


"'Marek Kohn has written yet another brilliant book about great debates in science.' Neal Ascherson, Observer 'An educative and fascinating tale... Kohn is a wonderful writer.' A. C. Grayling, Literary Review 'A marvellous book.' New Scientist 'A real triumph.' Guardian" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

Marek Kohn is the author of The Race Gallery, A Reason for Everything, Dope Girls, Trust and Turned Out Nice. He lives in Sussex. 'Kohn is a wonderful writer', said A. C. Grayling, and Andrew Brown called him 'one of the best of our science writers'. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Faber & Faber (September 2, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571223923
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571223923
  • Product Dimensions: 6.4 x 1.3 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,649,307 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
It may seem anomalous that science, that international enterprise, should be intruded upon by any level of national identity. Yet, the record demonstrates that Darwin's Britain, after sprouting the two men, Darwin and Albert Russel Wallace, who spawned the idea, continued to produce the greatest thinkers on issues of evolution by natural selection. Kohn isn't the first to note this fact. Instead of binding Darwin's idea to "Victorian capitalism" or "imperialism" or other forms of "cultural relativism" as others have done, Kohn presents straightforward biographical accounts, enhanced by summaries of the ideas of each. He explains how a string of scholars enhanced and explained how natural selection works and why the focus remained in England. No other single nation came close to matching this record. It would be unreal to contend that national jealousies were not aroused by the British dominance of evolutionary thinking. Kohn slips over this issue lightly, keeping focus on his subjects.

Kohn selects six figures who made major contributions in expounding how adaptation provides the design framework for evolution. The men, and they are necessarily men, as Kohn notes carefully, were "profoundly impressed with the power of natural selection". Kohn's title is derived from their uniformity in seeing organisms as perfectly suited to their current environment. If a trait could be identified, it must be a successful adaptation. They understood better than anybody how nature selected organisms to survive without any interference from "divine intelligence" or any other supernatural force. This, in the face of several of them continuing to profess faith in Christianity. Kohn doesn't attempt to rationalise this dichotomy.
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