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Evolution: The First Four Billion Years
Spanning evolutionary science from its inception to its latest findings, from discoveries and data to philosophy and history, this book is the most complete, authoritative, and inviting one-volume introduction to evolutionary biology available. Clear, informative, and comprehensive in scope, Evolution opens with a series of major essays dealing with the history and philosophy of evolutionary biology, with major empirical and theoretical questions in the science, from speciation to adaptation, from paleontology to evolutionary development (evo devo), and concluding with essays on the social and political significance of evolutionary biology today.
A second encyclopedic section travels the spectrum of topics in evolution with concise, informative, and accessible entries on individuals from Aristotle and Linneaus to Louis Leakey and Jean Lamarck; from T. H. Huxley and E. O. Wilson to Joseph Felsenstein and Motoo Kimura; and on subjects from altruism and amphibians to evolutionary psychology and Piltdown Man to the Scopes trial and social Darwinism. Readers will find the latest word on the history and philosophy of evolution, the nuances of the science itself, and the intricate interplay among evolutionary study, religion, philosophy, and society.
Appearing at the beginning of the Darwin Year of 2009—the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Darwin and the 150th anniversary of the publication of the Origin of Species—this volume is a fitting tribute to the science Darwin set in motion.
||Belknap Press of Harvard University Press|
||February 28, 2009|
|Average Customer Rating:
|| based on 10 reviews|
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84 of 86 found the following review helpful:
a fine source book!Feb 11, 2009
By David W. Straight
There's a lot here in this book's almost 1000 pages. The first 400 pages are 16 chapters (about 25 pages each) by a variety of authors. You'll see chapters on "The History of Evolutionary Thought", "Molecular Evolution", "American Antievolutionism: Retrospect and Prospect", for example. The quality and style varies somewhat: some chapters are more technical than others. You will get some overlap. It's not quite as effective as if it were all written by the same person or pair of people, but it does cover, as it needs to, a broad ground, and does so very well.
Following these 16 chapters you get a 500+ page Alphabetical Guide. This covers ideas, people, nature, etc. So you get about a page and a half on Richard Dawkins, 3 1/2 pages on Stephen Jay Gould, a page on Thomas Malthus, two pages on Bishop Wilberforce, etc. Nothing, curiously, on Lysenko, although he is mentioned at a number of points in the book. There are entries on Crustacea, Insects, Homology, Natural Theology, Piltdown Man, etc. This is a fine book both for detailed reading and also for browsing as well: a good and worthy book for you library shelves!
74 of 76 found the following review helpful:
An incredible bargain: depth and breadth in one volumeFeb 08, 2009
By Todd I. Stark
"Cellular Wetware plus Books"
I came across this book recently by accident in the bookstore and was both surprised and very impressed at its coverage. Not only is this book a wonderful encyclopedia of both historical and current thinking in evolutionary biology, but it accomplishes this great depth and breadth in a single large but inexpensive volume. If you can only afford a small handful of books on life science, I suggest this should be one of them. Intended for the science educated but not neccessarily biological specialist reader. There are essays on concepts, controversies, applications, implications, links to other fields of science, links with the humanities and culture, just about everything that makes evolution such a dynamic and interesting field of study.
49 of 57 found the following review helpful:
A grand review of EvolutionFeb 04, 2009
By WH Griesar
A compendium of fascinating essays on evolution followed by an alphabetical guide through the subject. An education in science, second only, in my view, to Christian de Duve's wonderful explanation of the subject in his book entitled "Life Evolving", published by Oxford a few years ago--not many years ago--it's worth reading today.
41 of 54 found the following review helpful:
Disappointing hodgepodgeMay 25, 2009
This book begins with a collection of essays, some of which are quite interesting, though they don't "hang together" too well. The Alphabetical Guide, which comprises about 60% of the book, is where the real disappointment begins. The Guide isn't indexed and so you must literally look at every page to see what topics are discussed. I'm not sure who wrote the essays in the Alphabetical Guide, most aren't credited to anyone, and are too general to be of much use. The book's dust jacket is misleading because it shows pictures of dinosaurs when the book contains very little information about dinosaurs and the scant four page discussion in the Alphabetical Guide portion of the book is worthless. And, of course, there is little discussion of individual dinosaur species. Similarly, the three pages about Charles Darwin is also shallow. One could mine more interesting information about Darwin after five minutes of Googling than is provided here; there are no insights--nothing special. Since the early 1990's, it has been all but unanimously accepted that the K-T extinction was caused by a boloid. This was due to the rigorous research done worldwide by many scientists verifying the hypothesis proposed by the geologist Walter Alvarez and his father Luis, the Nobel prize winning physicist. Yet, this important discovery and the fascinating story behind it gets little more than a page. An understanding of geology and global warming and cooling periods is crucial to an understanding of evolution, yet there is no focused discussion of these topics. With the bold title "The First Four Billion Years", I would expect an expansive treatment of all of the Paleozoic, Mesozoic and Cenozoic periods and the current understanding of the life forms that evolved during them. Instead, the book uses a vast number of pages giving us the condensed biographies of Goldschmidt, Goethe, Galton, Frisch, Kettlewell, Kimura and dozens of other dead geneticists, biologists, physicians, philosophers and others who, though they played some role in the evolution of our understanding of evolution, take up too much space in a book that I would have preferred to be more about science than about people. All in all, this book would make a good bathroom reader if it were published as a paperback.
If this book is ever revised then I would recommend the following changes:
* additional essays on the topics that I suggested above and others
* gut some of the filler, e.g. the biographies
* index and summarize the Alphabetical Guide after getting rid of most of it
* add appendices which would include a glossary, good geological and evolutionary timelines, trees of life, location of continental masses through the eons and perhaps other reference material not included in the essays
* index all important charts, tables, drawings
* use color, if only sparingly; I realize that this is a bargain-priced book but it should take a few steps up from the basement
1 of 2 found the following review helpful:
Wanna learn about reality? This extensive book should be taught in schools.Oct 13, 2012
Ah, Evolution, the great rift between the believers and the reality seekers. IMO, this book should be mandatory school material starting at the elementary level. And for those who really want to learn not only the basics of how life was created, you will get that and much more. Science is hard for a lot of people, and those people who don't get it, or simply refuse to try to learn, turn to the easy path - religion.
But the more you become immersed in the theory, the more, hopefully, you will understand that evolution does "NOT" come from the pits of hell. And in this book, there is sound evidence of evolution that is so precise and perfect that it will be a shame that nobody takes life/reality seriously, just because science is to hard. And year by year, the theory is more and more on point.
I would rather spend my life searching for the real answers to why we're here, not just easy ideology, in which you have a conversation with a creationist that will only say one thing, "It was in the bible." I like being challenged, and if you love evolution, this is a great volume, as well for those who want to learn more about the origins of mankind.
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