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The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life Hardcover – May 31, 2006

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In the heated landscape of public discourse about evolution, books are weapons, lobbed by each side at the other. While creationists tend to directly attack the credibility of evolution, scientists have generally been loath to engage in direct comparison of evolutionary and creationist theories, preferring instead to simply focus on laying out the facts of evolution. Evolutionary biologist Mindell's contribution to the fray breaks little new ground. Couched as a general and accessible overview of how evolutionary reasoning pervades our lives, from the selective breeding of animals to understanding disease-causing pathogens, this book does have a few daggers tucked into its belt; the book opens with an examination of three "unpopular discoveries" (heliocentrism, the germ theory of disease and evolution) and ends with a coda that cursorily nods toward tolerance of religious and moral qualms but has little patience for them. What lies between is a perfectly reasonable survey of the ways that evolution explains biology, medicine, culture and religion. Written for a general audience, the book is solid but unremarkable, another salvo in the roar of the larger cultural war. B&w illus. (May)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.


This wonderful book should be put in the hands of every student, every teacher, every person in America today. David Mindell is passionate about the science of evolution and about the ways in which it impinges on our daily lives. It is the perfect antidote to all of those sterile alternatives forwarded by the Christian Right and their fellow travelers. The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life does more than show that science is important. It shows that it can be tremendous fun. (Michael Ruse, author of The Evolution-Creation Struggle)

Mindell has written a welcome...account of the ways in which concepts of evolutionary biology are used in ways that influence our daily lives. (Walter Cressler Library Journal 2006-05-15)

[The Evolving World> succeeds admirably in defining the numerous ways that "applied evolution" affects our everyday lives. (Greg Gibson Evolution 2006-11-01)

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press (May 1, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674021916
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674021914
  • Product Dimensions: 8.6 x 6.1 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,184,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Hardcover
This book provides a much-needed calm and thoughtful survey of the ways in which evolution impacts our everyday lives. It is not meant to be a weapon in the culture wars, but rather is just a sane perspective that is full of interesting and original thoughts. It would make a terrific introduction to evolutionary biology for a non-scientist freshman seminar, precisely because it is neither preachy nor vitriolic.
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Format: Hardcover
For anyone who has ever wondered why there is a new flu vaccine each year, why dogs and wolves look similar, or how to know if the meat you purchased at the store is from the right animal, this book will be a enlightening read. It shows how evolutionary thinking is a powerful way to understand and integrate much of what we can observe. Mindell finds interesting (sometimes spellbinding) examples from throughout science, medicine, history and daily life that illustrate how evolution is useful and what the study of evolution really is about. It is both an interesting read and a great introduction to modern evolutionary biology. While some areas are understandably a bit dry (e.g. a thorough accounting of historical changes in church doctrine regarding science), this is made up for by an abundance of riveting accounts -- like the use of phylogenetics in the trial of a gastroenterologist accused of injecting HIV into a nurse with whom he was having an affair -- a case in which Mindell served as an expert witness.
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Format: Hardcover
Of the many flaws in Intelligent Design, or its earlier version Creationism, one that stands out prominently is that all of us (including those who dismiss evolution) use the results of evolutionary biology every day. From the pets and domestic livestock we raise, through our garden and crop plants, innovations in public health and our understanding of ecology, we utilize evolutionary principles. Indeed, biological sciences could not function well without them. Removing evolution from biology is like the attempt to remove Mendelian genetics from biology in the Soviet Union under Stalin.

David P. Mindall's new book "The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life" is a great antidote to the creationist jag we are current undergoing. Many will undoubtedly ignore it, as they have other very articulate written explanations of evolution, but I would hope that a large number of the non-committed will read it. Otherwise it will be preaching to the choir to some extent. Still I learned some interesting things while reading it even though I am a professional biologist. New and previously known discoveries on the origin of the dog, horse, cow, cabbage, etc. are well described (I do wish he would have included Indian corn, but you can't have everything!) Disease organisms and their evolutionary significance are presented, including the very evolutionary development of resistance to drugs used against them. Mindell then goes on to evolution and ecosystems, biodiversity, bioprospecting, forensics, and finally its significance to world religions and current culture.

Read this book - it just might help you make informed decisions about modern science, especially biology.
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Format: Paperback
There isn't enough of this kind of work. We need more telling us how very practical evolution is- how it has influenced every area of our lives, and how very valuable it is. One of the principle objections to evolution by Literal Creationists and Intelligent Designers is that it doesn't result in anything tangible. Though scientists have often pointed out how false this assertion is, Mindell here reveals for everyone how all-encompassing evolution was, and is, in our lives. While it is obvious that we couldn't live without evolution, we also can not have a productive life without the study of it.

This is not a book for someone who has no background in biology, for Mindell assumes the reader is well-versed in the basics. Mindell is also at his best when discussing evolution and biology, and at his worst when discussing religion. He recapitulates the history of religion and science in Europe, and ignores the contributions of men of religion to science. Mindell has the concept that Galileo was attacked for heresy, whereas Gould conclusively showed that his issue was a mixture of science and poor politics. (It's not a good idea to write a book about the most powerful man in Europe, the Pope, and name him Simple. It's a worse idea if he's your friend.) Mindell speaks of the evolution of religious sects, and picks the Copts as the Christian outlier, when the Copts had a large amount of cross-fertilization with other sects, and are not all that different in theology or practice from other Non-Chalcedonian Orthodox Churches. The true Christian outlier, the Nestorians, are only mentioned in passing by Mindell. Basically Mindell is not aware enough of religious history.
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Format: Hardcover
I thought the first chapter of this book, placing evolution in the context of previous scientific theories that were slow to gain acceptance against religious backlash, was very strong and very insightful. Had that chapter been expanded to book length, I would have given this book five stars.

Alas, succeeding chapters weren't as strong. I kept returning to the same question: has the author told me how the theory of evolution per se, as distinct from biological science, informs something from everyday life? Not in all cases, I had to admit.

The discussion of biology-informed forensics was extremely interesting but to the point: Mindell describes how timelines of murders can be pieced together based on entomological evidence, essentially coming down to which sorts of bugs have begun feeding and how far they've gotten. Fair enough, but couldn't such a timeline be formed just as well without reference to evolution? I believe it could.

Please don't misread me -- Darwinian evolution is the central unifying theory of biology, and no longer a matter of legitimate scientific dispute. But not every practical insight from biology touches on evolution or ultimately derives from it.

The book is clearly-written, interesting, and informative, just not always on target.
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