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The Descent of Man: The Concise Edition

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The Descent of Man: The Concise Edition [Paperback]

Charles Darwin , Carl Zimmer , Frans DeWaal
3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 27, 2007 0452288886 978-0452288881 Reprint
The most accessible edition ever published of Darwin?s incendiary classic, edited by ?as fine a science essayist as we have? (New York Times)

The Descent of Man, Darwin?s second landmark work on evolutionary theory (following The Origin of the Species), marked a turning point in the history of science with its modern vision of human nature as the product of evolution. Darwin argued that the noblest features of humans, such as language and morality, were the result of the same natural processes that produced iris petals and scorpion tails.

To convey the revolutionary importance of this groundbreaking book, renowned evolutionary science writer Carl Zimmer edited this special abridged edition?made up of nine excerpts, each one representing one of Darwin?s major themes?and wrote illuminating introductions to each section, as well as an overall introduction. Zimmer brilliantly places Darwin?s basic ideas in the context of the current understanding of human nature and twenty-first-century DNA research. By accessibly presenting Darwin?s thinking to a modern readership, Zimmer eloquently demonstrates Darwin?s ever-increasing relevance and amazing scientific insight.

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Editorial Reviews


One of the ten most significant books. (Sigmund Freud)"

About the Author

Charles Darwin, a Victorian scientist and naturalist, has become one of the most famous figures of science to date. Born in 1809 to an upper-middle-class medical family, he was destined for a career in either medicine or the Anglican Church. However, he never completed his medical education and his future changed entirely in 1831 when he joined HMS Beagle as a self-financing, independent naturalist. On returning to England in 1836 he began to write up his theories and observations which culminated in a series of books, most famously On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection in 1859, where he challenged and contradicted contemporary biological and religious beliefs with two decades worth of scientific investigation and theory. Darwin's theory of natural selection is now the most widely accepted scientific model of how species evolve. He died in 1882 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Damien Hirst is an internationally renowned English artist, who has dominated the art scene in England since the 1990s. Known in particular for his series of works on death, Hirst here provides a contemporary, visual take on Darwin's theory of evolution - the struggle between life and death in nature.

William Bynum is Professor Emeritus of the History of Medicine at University College, London, and was for many years Head of the Academic Unit of the Wellcome Institute for the History of Medicine. He edited the scholarly journal Medical History from 1980 to 2001, and his previous publications include Science and the Practice of Medicine in the Nineteenth Century; The Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine (co-edited with Roy Porter); The Oxford Dictionary of Scientific Quotations (with Roy Porter), The Dictionary of Medical Biography (with Helen Bynum), and History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Suffolk.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: Plume; Reprint edition (November 27, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0452288886
  • ISBN-13: 978-0452288881
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.9 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,429,721 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars
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By Heidar
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Typical Darwin writing and scholarship, brilliant. The co-author introduces each chapter of the Descent of Man with a short synopsis, but not long enough though to make a difference in the quality of the book.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Five Stars November 7, 2014
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Good version of the book. Not to mention the great commentaries.
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2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Aptly titled: the decent of man September 3, 2013
By Bert
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This volume pulls together a great deal of information about a man who has been responsible for popularizing ideas that have powerfully contributed to the decent of western society. If one believes in knowing one's enemy, this book is a must.
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12 of 22 people found the following review helpful
Through Darwin's, "The Descent of Man" and his earlier "The Origin of Species" the reader is introduced to the power of the observations and the conclusions of this remarkable man. In what might have been the greatest "a ha" moments in the history of man, Charles Darwin gave us biological science and quite, literally, changed the way we understand the evolution of life on earth. He overcame the fear of rejection he knew his seminal work would cause by challenging all prevailing creationist theology. By doing so he freed man to think freely, and the world has not been the same since.
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6 of 88 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Descent of Logic June 15, 2009
By reading this book, you can develop an eye for illogic (Historians' Fallacies : Toward a Logic of Historical Thought, Black Swan: The Twelve Lessons of Abandonment Recovery). This book is riddled with errors such as:

* Cum hoc ergo propter hoc. (Fetal correlation, homology)
* Circular reasoning ("In order that primeval man, or the ape-like progenitor of man, should become social, they must have acquired the same instinctive feelings" 203)
* Anecdotal evidence (Muleteer story, 127)
* Hasty generalization ("A baboon ... as I have been informed", 121)
* Ad populum ("Everyone must have noticed ... Every sportsman knows" 160)

All of these informal fallacies could be spotted by a Philosophy 101 student, yet they make the wrap and woof of the book.

My favorite nonsensical sentence was part of Carl Zimmer's commentary:

"In some ways, we truly are unique, but underneath that uniqueness lies a common bond with other species." (108)

Spot the weasel words: "uniqueness," "in some ways unique," and "common bonds" are three contradictory concepts. Apparently, Darwin 's illogic infects his apologists.

Indeed, Zimmer's commentary updates The Descent of Man: The Concise Edition, but also spins the more racist and ethnocentric statements. This gets into the question of whether we can separate evolution (a broad theory) from Darwinism (a narrow interpretation of evolution, and a personal philosophy).

I don't think we can, given the lapses in logic.
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