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The Evolution of Everything: How Selection Shapes Culture, Commerce, and Nature Paperback – May 15, 2010

6 customer reviews

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From Publishers Weekly

Despite its impressive title, Sumner's book is merely assorted musings linked to a review of Darwin's theory of evolution. The strange project that science fiction writer (Devil's Tower) and Daily Kos contributing editor Sumner sets for himself is to take evolution out of the box and see what it can do. Hasn't plenty been done with it already? Not for Sumner, who says it applies to everything around us, from our cars and computers to our phones and food. He surveys Herbert Spencer's economic application in Social Darwinism, Haeckel's Aryanism, and Francis Galton's eugenics, and finds them misbegotten and dangerous. Nothing new there. But Sumner's own applications of the evolutionary concept of selection to economics and culture are amateurish and not well argued. He says that phyletic gradualism can explain how a local Sears evolved to survive against a new Wal-Mart; similarly, he says gadget designers match form to function just like nature does, and genetic diversity in crops like bananas and corn is as important as genetic diversity in humans. But Sumner's main purpose appears to be a defense of Darwin from those who misinterpret him—a project carried out many times by far more qualified writers. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


“On this bicentenary of Darwin’s birth, Mark Sumner takes his readers on a fascinating journey through the developments that have led to our modern understanding of evolution. In the process, he reveals the profound ways in which this fundamental concept intersects so many seemingly unrelated strands of our culture, from
the origins of conflict between science and religion, to the seamy history behind eugenics, to the reason our grandparents enjoyed better-tasting bananas.”
—Professor Michael E. Mann, Director of the Earth System Science Center at Penn State University

“Mark Sumner is the sort of gifted storyteller that the world of science so desperately needs. With The Evolution of Everything, he demonstrates his ability to find a good evolution story in just about everything. From Happy Day Headache Powders to the girl who originally sold seashells by the seashore, he masterfully connects the details of evolutionary science with just about everything we see in our daily lives.”

—Randy Olson, author, Don’t Be Such a Scientist: Talking Substance in an Age of Style, and writer/director, Flock of Dodos: The Evolution-Intelligent Design Circus


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 232 pages
  • Publisher: Polipoint Press (May 15, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0982417160
  • ISBN-13: 978-0982417164
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #241,244 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mark Sumner is the author of numerous novels, including Devil's Tower which was nominated for the World Fantasy Award. His News from the Edge series (including The Monster of Minnesota and Vampires of Vermont) was the basis for the television series The Chronicle which appeared on the SyFy network.

His latest book, The Evolution of Everything, is his first non-fiction work. In it, he looks at how Darwin's ideas have been misunderstood, and how selection affects not just the natural world, but everything around us.

He worked for two decades as a field geologist, discovering miles of cave beneath western Kentucky, uncovering dinosaurs in South Dakota, and exploring for minerals across many western states. He now works in an office -- which is not nearly as scenic or exciting, though it does tend to stay warm and dry.

He is a contributing editor at the political web site Daily Kos, where he frequently writes on issues of science, the environment, and the economy. He holds a Masters Degree from Washington University, and lives with his wife and son in a drafty log cabin near St. Louis, Missouri. He still owns a rather rickety ultralight plane for use on those occasions when the world seems a little too safe.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

26 of 27 people found the following review helpful By Lalalalaura on April 27, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
How to describe The Evolution of Everything? Think of the entertaining biography-inflected history of science Bill Bryson did in A Short History of Nearly Everything, focus in on Charles Darwin and his theory of natural selection, and then apply that to bananas, the stock market, cars, nursery rhymes, and Mars landers...among other things. It ranges all over the place, leaving you always wondering what's around the corner, but it's consistently focused and coherent.

Beware, though: If you have a favorite urban myth, this book might puncture it. On the other hand, the book will offer you at least one true story as entertaining as the myth as a replacement.
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Michael Thome on July 26, 2010
Format: Paperback
The Evolution of Everything isn't so much about evolution as about the _context_ of Darwin's work and how the principles Darwin described apply outside biological evolution. It is thoroughly enjoyable and approachable, filled with the (never trivial) facts that add both texture and depth to what could be a dry topic. In the process, Sumner explains what Darwin actually said (and what has been falsely attributed to him), why it is so important to science, and why it sometimes upsets people. A nice summer reading book for science- and history-minded individuals.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Charles Reid on July 22, 2010
Format: Paperback
The author in this very well written book tries to open our eyes to the evolutionary process around us. From a business changing over time due to the forces surrounding it to a rock tumbling down a stream, everything in the universe adapts to its surroundings. Even evolutionary scientists miss Mr. Summers observations in their study of biological evolution.

If you want to truely understand where evolutionary science is going. Even get a better grasp on what this "evolution thing" really is without the boring, and often outdated and incorrect explanations the typical teacher or professor offers these days buy this book!
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