While its opponents may sneer that "it's just a theory," evolution has transcended that label to take its place as one of the most important ideas in human history. Science journalist Carl Zimmer explores its history and future in Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
, a companion piece to the epic PBS series of the same name. The book, lavishly illustrated with photos of our distant cousins, anatomical diagrams, and timelines, is as beautiful as it is enlightening. While those closely following the field will find little more here than a well-written summation of the state of the art in 2001, readers who have watched the evolutionary debates from a distance will quickly catch up with the details of the principal arguments.
Zimmer's text is fresh and expansive, explaining both the minutiae of comparative anatomy and the grand scale of geological time with verve and clarity. Following the trend of turn-of-the-century evolution writers, he treats the religious beliefs of creationists with respect, while firmly insisting that the scientific evidence against their position is too compelling to ignore. Touching on biology, philosophy, theology, politics, and nearly every other field of human thought, Evolution will inspire its readers with the elegance and importance of Darwin's simple theory. --Rob Lightner
From Publishers Weekly
This volume is the companion piece for an eight-hour PBS documentary of the same name, scheduled to be aired in September. Science writer Zimmer (At the Water's Edge) does a superb job of providing a sweeping overview of most of the topics critical to understanding evolution, presenting his material from both a historical and a topical perspective. He summarizes the changing scientific views of geology and genetics, for example, while discussing the implications modern evolutionary theory might have for agriculture and medicine. With chapters dealing with difficult and often controversial subjects including Charles Darwin's life and his struggle to bring his concept of evolution before the public; the evolution of sex; patterns of human evolution and the importance of language in the rise of humans; the role humans have played and continue to play in the extinction of species; and the fallacies of "creation science" it is not surprising that a great deal of information is either glossed over or omitted entirely. Yet the writing is clear and concise, the text is carefully presented (with b&w and color illustrations throughout) and a respectably substantial Stephen Jay Gould introduction starts things off nicely. (Oct.)Forecast: The series should certainly move units on its own, particularly via the PBS Web site. But a seven-city author tour, 25-city radio campaign, display easels and other promotional gambits will help the book and the series considerably. Though it may not be a breakout title, very respectable sales can be expected among PBS regulars.
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