Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

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9780060958503: Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

This dazzling companion volume to one the most important series in PBS history tells the compelling story of the theory of evolution -- from Darwin to twenty-first-century science.

Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species was breathtaking, beautifully written, staunchly defended, defiantly radical. Yet it emerged long before paleontologists and geologists worked out the chronology of life on Earth, long before biologists uncovered the molecules that underlie heredity and natural selection. Not until the late twentieth century was the true scope of its power revealed.

This remarkable new book, featuring more than 150 color illustrations, presents a rich and up-to-date view of evolution that explores the far-reaching implications of Darwin's theory and emphasizes the power, significance, and relevance of evolution to our lives today. After all, we ourselves are the product of evolution, and we can tackle many of our gravest challenges -- from the lethal resurgence of antibiotic-resistant diseases to the wave of extinctions that looms before us -- with a sound understanding of the science. It can help us see our lives in connection to everything that has come before and to every form of life on Earth today.

Filled with rich narrative, award-winning science writing, and the most up-to-date information on topics ranging from Darwinian medicine and sexual selection to the origins of language, evolutionary psychology, and the controversies surrounding creationism, Evolution tells in riveting detail the story of a remarkable scientific journey, from the emergence to the triumph of an idea.

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Review:

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

About the Author:

Carl Zimmer is the author of At the Water's Edge and Parasite Rex. A former senior editor at Discover magazine, his column on evolution appears regularly in Natural History. He also contributes articles to magazines such as National Geographic, Audubon, and Science. He lives in New York City.

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