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Succeeds from several perspectives,
This review is from: Remarkable Creatures: Epic Adventures in the Search for the Origin of Species (Hardcover)
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Remarkable Creatures "tells the stories of some of the most dramatic adventures and important discoveries in two centuries" constrained to some but not all of the people who've made the discoveries that developed and fleshed out the theory of evolution. Given the celebration this year that it's been one hundred and fifty years since Darwin and Wallace formally presented their findings, this is perfect timing.
As a romantic adventure Carroll's protagonists match and exceed Indiana Jones in terms of both adventure and accomplishments while Carroll's talent as a writer makes this as good a yarn as I've ever read (though Carroll swaps Spielberg's Nazis with Thomas Jefferson's contributions to starting this journey, a pleasant and unexpected twist). As a history book, Carroll deftly provides the framework that provided me with the perspective on how astonishingly fast science has been able to develop the theory of evolution with physical evidence supportive of their initial ideas and helping to refine our understanding and explanation in a manner that's led to breakthroughs in agriculture and medicine. As a concise reader of how scientific methodology yields an aggregate understanding where one discovery helps provide future discoveries and superior understandings; Carroll's experience as a practicing and publishing scientist helps educate his readers on how the scientific process produces an understanding that far surpasses any other approach by way of example rather than dry commentary.
While I'm cognizant of the number and breadth of transitional fossil discoveries made over the course of the years, I was astonished in the sheer volume of what we've discovered. Some of the fossil hunters yielded tons of fossil evidence in a single expedition. This helped me better appreciate the efforts of people like the Leakeys.
Carroll also covered an area of evolutionary theory I hadn't heard about though its been around since the time of Darwin and Wallace, which covered Wallace's discovery that some Asian islands currently close to each other had completely different fauna in similar ecological conditions, providing evidence a substantial amount of evolution in each island's fauna occurred when these islands were separated prior to being brought closer together by continental drift.
I also appreciated Carroll's Afterword, which presented a hypothesis on how one might go about predicting the number of other planets conducive to life using mathematical inferences.
The book is also an easy enough read for high school students and a great extra credit project for teachers to promote in hopes of encouraging promising students to consider a career in science. It can be read all the way through or by randomly picking a chapter or chapters given that each chapter serves as a mini-history on some of the giants in science and what they discovered.