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Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA Paperback – March 23, 2010

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Genetics professor Fairbanks, author of several science books for laymen (Genetics: The Continuity of Life), presents the details of evolution as gleaned from a close study of genetics, but marshals his evidence in a conversational style readily comprehensible to general readers. Fairbanks excels at explaining the momentous discoveries in genetics in the past 20 years in clear, concise language, helpfully defining relatively new terms (introns, telomeres, transposable elements) as well as older terms (mutation, natural selection). Using comparative genomics, in which the human genome is compared to those of other primates, mammals, vertebrates, insects and bacteria, Fairbanks shows how the human genome can only be explained as the evolutionary product of numerous pre-existing species, placing humans in a family tree that ties together all life on Earth and maps its genetic changes over time. From there, he engages in a familiar critique of the "intelligent design" theory of creation ("When Faith and Reason Clash"); himself a Mormon, Fairbanks makes some interesting points regarding the canard that the sciences in general, and evolution in particular, are at odds with religion. Notes, references and extensive appendices go into greater technical detail; general readers looking for an overview of current genetics and evolution science will find this a great place to start.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.


"Brilliantly conceived, this excellent book shows how DNA sequences confirm the fact of human evolution. Wide ranging though not superficial, detailed though not technical, filled with fresh examples and engaging vignettes, the book is respectful of dissenting opinions but leaves literal creationists with no place to hide." —Daniel Hartl, Higgins Professor of Biology, Harvard University

"What an exciting surprise! Instead of the usual embryos and fossils, Fairbanks uses new molecular evidence. And he zeros in on a major controversy, the origin of humans and our relation to other primates. The arguments are presented with unusual clarity and they are overwhelmingly convincing."
—James F. Crow, emeritus professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and author of Genetics Notes

"As Fairbanks sensibly reminds us, there is a time and place for science and for religion, both of which enrich the human experience. Anyone who is troubled by the seeming dichotomy between the two modes of inquiry may gain perspective and comfort from this fine book, which should be supplemental reading in every biology classroom." —Cecie Starr, author of Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 289 pages
  • Publisher: Prometheus Books (March 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1616141603
  • ISBN-13: 978-1616141608
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,127,897 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Daniel Fairbanks is an accomplished scientist, artist, author, and teacher. He is a geneticist with a wide breadth of expertise in evolutionary genetics, international scientific development, science education, and the history of science. His most recent book is Everyone is African: How Science Explodes the Myth of Race, published by Prometheus Books and available beginning April 2015. Other books include Evolving: The Human Effect and Why It Matters, Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA, Ending the Mendel-Fisher Controversy (with A. Franklin, A.W.F. Edwards, D.L. Hartl, and T. Seidenfeld), and Genetics: The Continuity of Life (with W.R. Andersen). He is a prolific research scientist whose articles are published in a wide range of prestigious scientific journals.

Having been raised in a family of four generations of artists, Daniel is also a professional artist with commissioned work in sculpture, painting, and drawing on permanent exhibit in museum, public, and private collections, and published book illustrations. His diverse talents in art and science merge through artistic human anatomy, scientific illustration, and forensic sculpture. Daniel uses his skills as an artist to promote scientific awareness and education through live sculpture demonstrations.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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This book is very easy to read.
Benaiah Edwards
In terms of reading level, I think anyone who understands high school biology or can read at the college level will enjoy and learn from this book.
Michael Heath
All the scientific evidence in this book "overwhelmingly" confirms the reality of evolution.
Stephen Pletko

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

93 of 95 people found the following review helpful By David W. Straight on February 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Shubin's excellent work Your Inner Fish looks at human evolution from the perspective of paleontology and anatomy: how structures such as hearing and vision developed. Shubin shows how genetic material is such that implanting a mouse gene that triggers the growth of an eye into a fruitfly can trigger the growth of an eye--a fruitfly eye. So the basic building blocks help establish evolution. Fairbanks comes at human evolution from a different angle--genes and DNA. Where Shubin was out in the Canadian Arctic searching for fossil evidence, Fairbanks could work in a lab.

Fairbanks' interests lie in the DNA evidence: comparing human DNA with that of chimpanzees, orangutangs, and other animals. You'll gain a good understanding of transpons, retroelements, and pseudogenes, and how these can be used to analyze evolutionary processes: the evidence is as solid as fingerprints. The DNA makeup of the immediate common ancestor of both humans and chimpanzees, for example, can be deduced. Another interesting point that Fairbanks talks about is the using the diversity of current human DNA to determine human origins. The greatest diversity in the DNA of any species is at the point of origin. As people brought seeds, for example, to a new part of the world, they were bring mostly one strain--little diversity in the DNA. The greatest human diversity is in Africa: you can gather DNA and do not have to be in the field in Olduvai Gorge (the DNA work backs up Leakey's discoveries and work). Native American DNA matches most closely with Asians: this is further evidence for the land bridge and migration from Asia.

There are lots of diagrams of genes, DNA, and chromosomes to supplement a very well-written text. Fairbanks' work is a fine scientific complement to the field work of the Shubins, Leakeys, and others, and he makes a very compelling case.
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164 of 175 people found the following review helpful By Carl Flygare on January 17, 2008
Format: Hardcover
The debate over evolution in revanchist religious circles has been rabid and ribald ever since Darwin published "On the Origin of Species" in 1859. Currently, bibliolatrous neocreationists and Intelligent Design ideologues have contrived superficially plausible - to scientific illiterates at least - and generously funded PR campaigns (not science), that sophistically portray evolution as little more than moribund malarkey, desperately maintained by a vast and shadowy scientific omerta. Nothing could be further from the truth.

In "Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Human Evolution in DNA" author Daniel J. Fairbanks unleashes an avalanche of data from the Human Genome Project, and other studies, that leave biblical creationists and c-design-proponentsists (of Dover vs. Kitzmiller infamy) without a fig leaf to cower behind.

"Relics" exclusively utilizes molecular evidence in lieu of fossils and fearlessly addresses the major controversy raging on the origins front of the talibanesque culture war - human evolution and our relationship to other primates - as expressed in the DNA of every person on earth. These relics are millions of non-coding segments of DNA, snippets of our genome that eloquently document common descent with uncommon clarity and incontrovertible evidence.

From chromosomal fusion and pseudogenes to retroelements and transposons the scientific reality of evolution is discussed in articulate, accurate and engaging prose alongside carefully designed illustrations that emphasize and illuminate key points.
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57 of 60 people found the following review helpful By Clifford R. Martin on February 2, 2008
Format: Hardcover
Whether Bible-believing Christians are comfortable with it or not, biological evolution is an issue that is not going away anytime soon. As the very strong case for common descent settles down upon conservative and fundamental Christianity in the coming years, many will be deeply troubled by it's implications. To dismiss the issue as inconsequential ignores the impact it will have on the faith of many. The head-in-the-sand approach of many believers who refuse to study the question, choosing to hold on to their long-held beliefs strikes me as dangerous. For this reason, I am suggesting to my friends who wish to be informed on this subject this book, Relics of Eden by Daniel J. Fairbanks.

Fairbanks, writing from his perspective as a research geneticist, lays out in layman's language some of the basic building blocks for reconstructing the history of life on our planet from DNA. He proceeds to give the reader an overview of what DNA tells us about the interrelatedness of species. I found the book easy to read, and informative. Some of the early chapters (as he develops the building blocks of genetic understanding) are somewhat technical. But the payoff comes as he demonstrates how these bits of information are used to paint a remarkably consistent picture of our past.

The principle of common descent is no longer deniable in the face of DNA evidence. Either humans share a common ancestry with all living things, or the Creator went to a great deal of trouble to make it look that way, right down to the tiniest details of our DNA. If evolution did not happen, then the Creator is a trickster and a deceiver, and all science is rendered meaningless. Relics of Eden powerfully confirms this understanding (Fairbanks describes the mounting evidence as "spectacular").
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