- Paperback: 528 pages
- Publisher: Harper Perennial (September 5, 2006)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0061138401
- ISBN-13: 978-0061138409
- Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.8 x 8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars See all reviews (108 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #481,668 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea
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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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Top customer reviews
To me at least, this is a big difference with other authors. Here, you won't find ideology but science in state of purity. I mean, facts, order, tests, proofs, predictions, and so on and on.
The best indication that of what I'm saying is true is the last chapter, "What about God?" Here, Zimmer deploys his skill as a writer and as a science divulgator, by giving you a lesson about how to talk about hot topics without being burnt, which means without offending and, at the same time, without betraying the wonderful lessons of the book.
In sum, 400-odd pages full of data, insight and delicated equilibrium.
Zimmer made the biographical section of the book on Charles Darwin interesting because we see him as a human being, like us, full of flaws and doubts. A young person searching for a career that fulfills him. His medical career was short-lived because he hated the sight of blood. His career as a minister was even shorter lived. His real calling was as a natural scientist and he may be the greatest of them all. His lifelong contribution to the field is both highly important and huge. Biological science today is fundamentally based on his teachings.
Zimmer certainly drives home the concept that life is a never-ending struggle for survival. If you are a newcomer to evolutionary theory, you will be well-schooled in it by the time you finish this book. I cannot imagine a topic more fascinating to learn. The fundamental theme of Darwinian evolution is that traits that help you survive get passed on to your offspring and traits that shorten your time on Earth become irrelevant. Over many, many generations, your species gets better at what it does to survive. However, like the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, you have to run just to stay in one place. Those who would do you harm are also getting better at what they do too. We may develop an effective pesticide to keep the insects from eating our crops, but in a few generations those insects will have evolved a species resistant to that pesticide. Similarly with antibiotics: Diseases that we thought we had eradicated, like tuberculosis and gonorrhea, are back stronger than ever. If you have trouble understanding how that can be possible, read this book.
Another section of the book recounts the decades long battle between creationists and evolutionists. Recall the Scopes Monkey Trial in the 1920's where some states forbid the teaching of evolution in public schools. The battle continues to this day, now under the so-called science of intelligent design. It is not a science but is merely creationism by another name. These advocates work feverishly to undermine the teaching of true biological science in the schools.
Ralph D. Hermansen, August 3, 2014
A thorough, well researched book that is broken out into four parts: Part One - Slow Victory: Darwin and the Rise of Darwinism, Part Two - Creation and Destruction, Part Three -Evolution's Dance, and Part Four - Humanity's Place in Evolution and: Evolution's Place In Humanity.
1. Accessible, well written book with an extensive bibliography.
2. Provides a lot more historical references than any other book I have read on the topic. It includes an excellent biography on the life of Darwin and how he came about the theory of evolution and his personal struggles to disclose his findings to the public.
3. Interesting history on the physics of how we determined the antiquity of Earth. Not to mention the order in which new life-forms appeared on Earth, and their actual dates in history.
4. A lot of interesting information regarding evolution: "A population of birds can evolve into its own species if it gets cut off from its neighbors". You will find out why.
5. The historical impact of germs...Napoleon found out the hard way.
6. Nothing like mutations to get evolution going. The genetic tool kit is explained in detail.
7. The origin of whales is one of the most interesting examples of evolution. And BTW a whale is no more a fish than a bat is a bird.
8. Everything you wanted to know about extinction and then some.
9. Interesting topics of the arms race between man versus bug, disease (great stuff on AIDS) and the evolution of sex.
10. My favorite chapters have to do with human evolution. Fascinating stuff and worth the price of the book (Kindle). Plenty of monkey business. It's the kind of stuff I go ape over.
1. Less technical than other books on this topic.
2. The advancements of science is such that it is outdated in certain parts: genetics, and major recent findings (Tiktaalik comes to mind). That's what I get for waiting for the Kindle version.
3. It's an investment of time, a lot is covered.
4. Too politically correct if you ask me. Let loose a little Mr. Zimmer.
In summary, a solid book on evolution that focuses on the history of the idea and how it succeeds to this day. I'm in awe of Darwin, science owes so much to his theory. Entire scientific fields are only possible with the understanding of evolution.
Recommendations: Why Evolution is True" by Jerry Coyne, "The Greatest Show On Earth" by Richard Dawkins, "Your Inner Fish" by Neil B. Shubin, "What Evolution Is" by Ernst Mayr and "The Making of the Fittest" by Sean B. Carroll.
Most recent customer reviews
-Well laid out
-Easy to read for those with limited biology knowledge
-Offers insight greater than just listing facts
-Gave me, a...Read more