This is the book Richard Dawkins was meant to write: a brilliant assessment of what science is (and isn't), a tribute to science not because it is useful but because it is uplifting.
"Evolution 101" provides an introduction for non-scholars to this most powerful scientific theory, covering such issues as: the history of evolutionary thought, from before Darwin to the present day; the evidence for evolution, from fields as diverse as geology, molecular biology, paleontology, and more, that show how strongly supported evolution is; how evolution works, including topics ranging from behavior (e.g., sexual selection) to molecular biology (e.g., mutation); and evolution in our daily lives, including how evolution accounts for phenomena such as antibiotic resistance and pesticide resistance. This essential resource will answer the questions students and lay people have regarding evolution, and will point them on the path to further understanding.
• early theories of evolution
• the impact of Darwin’s On the Origin of Species
• the discovery of genetics and Mendel’s experiments
• molecular evolution and the discovery of DNA
• the expansion of life and the persistence of disease
• revisiting evolutionary ethics and the development of empathy.
Evolution: The Basics examines the role of evolution in current debates and discusses the possible future developments in the field. This book is invaluable reading for all students and individuals seeking to understand the wide ranging sphere of evolutionary theory.
In this lively, deeply erudite work, Pulitzer Prize–winning science historian Edward J. Larson takes us on a guided tour of Darwin’s “dangerous idea,” from its theoretical antecedents in the early nineteenth century to the brilliant breakthroughs of Darwin and Wallace, to Watson and Crick’s stunning discovery of the DNA double helix, and to the triumphant neo-Darwinian synthesis and rising sociobiology today.
Along the way, Larson expertly places the scientific upheaval of evolution in cultural perspective: the social and philosophical earthquake that was the French Revolution; the development, in England, of a laissez-faire capitalism in tune with a Darwinian ethos of “survival of the fittest”; the emergence of Social Darwinism and the dark science of eugenics against a backdrop of industrial revolution; the American Christian backlash against evolutionism that culminated in the famous Scopes trial; and on to today’s world, where religious fundamentalists litigate for the right to teach “creation science” alongside evolution in U.S. public schools, even as the theory itself continues to evolve in new and surprising directions.
Throughout, Larson trains his spotlight on the lives and careers of the scientists, explorers, and eccentrics whose collaborations and competitions have driven the theory of evolution forward. Here are portraits of Cuvier, Lamarck, Darwin, Wallace, Haeckel, Galton, Huxley, Mendel, Morgan, Fisher, Dobzhansky, Watson and Crick, W. D. Hamilton, E. O. Wilson, and many others. Celebrated as one of mankind’s crowning scientific achievements and reviled as a threat to our deepest values, the theory of evolution has utterly transformed our view of life, religion, origins, and the theory itself, and remains controversial, especially in the United States (where 90% of adults do not subscribe to the full Darwinian vision). Replete with fresh material and new insights, Evolution will educate and inform while taking readers on a fascinating journey of discovery.
From the Hardcover edition.