Archive for the 'Evolution' Category

Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea, by Carl Zimmer, introduction by Stephen Jay Gould

SEL Books: QH361 .Z48 2003

I provided a brief recommendation of this book in conjunction with Evolution vs. Creation, by Eugenie Scott, but at that time our collection did not contain this book. We have recently acquired Evolution, and it is such a fascinating and informative book that it deserves its own recommendation.

This is a great introduction to evolutionary theory, intertwining the histories of the theory and its founder with current findings and ideas. It follows the pre-Darwinian progression of the concept, Darwin’s initial antagonism towards it, the data that led him to alter his ideas, and the reasons he avoided publishing his findings for thirty years.

Other topics discussed at length include the biological “tree” of living species, coevolution, disease evolution, extinction, and the evolution of sex. Zimmer also includes a section on human evolution and the consequences of evolutionary concepts on society.

Evolution can become an explosive issue. Lots of misinformation is floating around on all sides of the issue. Read this book if you want a good, basic understanding of the scientific claims about, and the evidence for, evolutionary theory.

(Originally published in Connections, March 2006)

Evolution vs. Creationism: An Introduction, by Eugenie Carol Scott

QH367 .S395 2004

Teaching creationism alongside evolution has once again become controversial with the advent of the intelligent design movement. This book, written by National Association of Science Educators president Eugenie Scott, provides a well-rounded approach to viewing each side of the issue.

I recommend this book to people whose views fall on any side of the issue. It explains, calmly and concisely, with no inflammatory language, all or most of the facets of this controversy. The second half of the book consists of selections written by creationists or intelligent design advocates juxtaposed with selections from scientists. In each section, an issue is raised, such as the Cambrian explosion or the second law of thermodynamics, and both sides weigh in. This method allows readers to compare and contrast these ideas while reading original arguments, rather than arguments as interpreted by the other side.

Different sections tackle a different aspect of the controversy. The book looks at issues from different branches of science, from a legal perspective, from an educational perspective, and from various religious perspectives. It also contains a wealth of references to complete works, by scientists and creationists, so that readers can investigate further on their own.

I think reasonable people on either side of this issue often respond to extremists on the other, and the arguments become increasingly shrill. We need calm, rational, respectful discussions like this for people to really hear the true points of view of others. And it’s crucial that we do so. This country faces a shortage of American students entering scientific fields, which makes this issue important for the future of our country.

Note: This book does not provide a good overview of evolutionary theory, since it focuses solely on the controversy. For those wanting to dig a little deeper, I recommend Carl Zimmer’s Evolution : The Triumph of an Idea. It is not available at UTA Libraries, but the collection contains two other books by him: At the Water’s Edge : Macroevolution and the Transformation of Life (SEL: QH 371.5 .Z55 1998) or Soul Made Flesh : The Discovery of the Brain — And How It Changed the World (SEL: QP376 .Z555 2004).

(Originally published in Connections, October 2005)