Trailer Ú Evolution: The Remarkable History of a Scientific Theory PDF by Æ Edward J. Larson 3 4 Short overview of one of the most brilliant scientific theories ever formulated.
It is very readable but there wasn t anything here that I didn t already know.
I Often Said Before Starting, That I Had No Doubt I Should Frequently Repent Of The Whole UndertakingSo Wrote Charles Darwin Aboard The Beagle, Bound For The Galapagos Islands And What Would Arguably Become The Greatest And Most Controversial Discovery In Scientific History But The Theory Of Evolution Did Not Spring Full Blown From The Head Of Darwin Since The Dawn Of Humanity, Priests, Philosophers, And Scientists Have Debated The Origin And Development Of Life On Earth, And With Modern Science, That Debate Shifted Into High GearIn 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 TodayAlong 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 US Public Schools, Even As The Theory Itself Continues To Evolve In New And Surprising DirectionsThroughout, 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 % 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 A sweeping history of the development of the theory and the personalities involved, from Cuvier and his outstanding cranium to the cranky competitiveness of James Watson One of my favorite anecdotes is of the eccentric English theologian and proponent of theistic evolution, William Buckland, of whom Larson writes Buckland was a thoroughly rational Christian When encountering an alleged miracle of martyr s blood perpetually wetting the floor of a Roman Catholic cathedral, he tested the hypothesis by licking the spot with his tongue Bat urine, the Anglican cleric pronounced.
Larson presents a layman s introduction to the theory with just enough detail to require some effort, but not enough to shoo away dilettantes like myself More recent developments in genetics and the modern synthesis get a bit technical, but not excessively so The book does what all good history of science books do it inspires the reader to learn.
I had first heard of this book while reading another book, How I Changed My Mind about Evolution This book dealt with the testimonies of Christian scientists and theologians who had come to accept evolution as a theory with great explanatory power in the area of the diversity of life, all the while being demonstrably consistent with theologically orthdox interpretations of the Bible.
As one can ascertain from the subtitle of the book, it is a history dealing with the origins and development of the theory of evolution It is precisely at this level that I would share my one potential criticism of the book What I mean is that the vast majority of the book deals with the one hundred year period between the year 1859, when Darwin s book On the Origin of Species was published, and 1959, with scant references to people who espoused primitive theories of evolution prior to Darwin s book On top of this, the modern era is really only addressed in the last two chapters, with, what seemed to me, to be very little on the progress of the various mechanisms put forth under the umbrella term of evolution.
That being said, one of the first things I enjoyed about the book continues from this last point in the preceding paragraph As an Evangelical Christian I have spent much of my time being inundated with Creationist definitions of evolution After reading this book one of the big points that has been driven home to me is that there is no one single consensus on how evolution works There is, amongst scientists whether Christian or secular a consensus as to the reality of evolutions existence in nature, yet the actual mechanics which drive it are debated to this day So what I have been exposed to is the reality that the one definition of evolution I have spent much of my life being indoctrinated with is truly closer to a straw man than reality in its essence.
Even though that is the case, another thing I found interesting and informative was the philosophical dangers present in accepting the theory of evolution The promotion of various race theories, eugenics and social Darwinism as some of the resultant philosophical beliefs, and practices, of some evolutionary adherents is a sobering reality to which we must be alerted, it is also something we must be willing to apprise without bias so that we may be able to fully appreciate the potential dangers of the evolutionary worldview.
Even with that, I found the book was fair in presenting the reality that numerous scientists throughout the development of evolutionary thinking maintained faith in a Creator, with many remaining devout Christians It is precisely here that we see the real danger is not in the theory of evolution itself, but rather it is in the individuals who choose to use the theory to promote thoroughly materialistic views on origins I was pleasantly surprised to see the book speak to this reality, and express viewpoints from both sides Especially since this is a popular, rather than Christian book.
I enjoyed the brief glimpses we are given into the lives of the various individuals and events which were great turning points in the development of evolutionary theory, as it progressed from something based on rather crude interpretations based on simple observations made in nature such as Darwin s finches to the underlying biological realities mankind has discovered in his growing understanding of genetics In the last chapter we are briefly introduced to Francis Collins, author of The Language of God, head of the human genome project, and founder of the organization Biologos He is one of the scientists I mentioned who is an example of how religious and scientific thinking can be reconciled Mr Collins and the organization he founded are responsible for helping me to see that these are things which need not stand in opposition to each other, but which can harmonize and inform each other so that we have a much deeper and beautiful picture of origins I felt that, along these lines, this book likewise presented an unbiased view of the development of the theory of evolution and the individuals utilized in its development.
Thinking back on my earlier critique, I must confess that I am not well read on evolution Because of this I was looking for a book that would be a suitable introduction to this area of science, and, in this vein, I do believe that this book accomplished that, seeing as it presented what I believe is a concise, readable and easily grasped rudimentary introduction to the history of evolutionary theory With this in mind I would recommend it to others who are looking for a book that will fill that niche The author has included copious footnotes, as well as a section at the end of the book dedicated to facilitating further reading for those interested in pursuing deeper understanding in this area.
This books provides a nice overview of the history of biological science over the past 200 years, with a focus on genetic science, as it transitioned from philosophical speculation to evidence based science What I found interesting and entertaining was how various opposing theories of the mechanisms of genetic inheritance were gradually synthesized over the decades Some of those who dedicated their lives to oppose other s theories never knew that beyond their lifetimes their theories were synthesized with their opponents Everyone eventually was right in some way and sometimes wrong in other ways The book is a bit outdated already, due to rapid ongoing discoveries in this field For example findings of recent genetic studies related to gene switches show that Darwin s basic ideas about genetic changes to DNA occurring during the lifetime of an organism were not completely wrong, as they were thought to be for a long time.
As much as I enjoyed this book, due to my limited brain capacity to remember details these days, I found the following eyewitness book to be in some ways a better summary that was easier to follow and remember the key events Plus it has pictures I recommend the eyewitness as a coles notes version of the subject Many books have traced the development of evolutionary ideas from the early stirrings in the late eighteenth century through the triumphal breakthrough of Darwinism This book does that and so much It continues through the scientific skepticism generated by developments in genetics, paleontology and statistics during the following century that led eventually to the mid twentieth century Neo Darwinian synthesis that established evolution at the center of all biology Along the way, Larson sympathetically recounts the non scientific resistance to Darwinism, the pseudo scientific eugenics movement and the late twentieth century fundamentalist resistance to Godless science Brief descriptions of the major personalities add spice to the narrative, but the focus remains on the scientific discoveries and theories and the scientific and non scientific responses to these ideas.

This is a reasonably concise history of evolutionary biology that doesn t skimp on detail As a history of science for general audiences book goes it s good but not CHAOS MAKING A NEW SCIENCE great however, it s valuable in demonstrating that evolution was not dogma in the biological sciences for quite some time And far from being a black mark against evolution, this is rather evolution proving itself over and over again, as and threads of natural science are woven together.
5 stars, rounded up to 4.
Summary A history of the development of evolutionary theory, including both the antecedents to Darwin and Russell and the extension of this theory, the controversies, both past and present that it provoked, and the genetic discoveries that have further revealed the theory s mechanisms.
The theory of evolution is perhaps one of the most contested of scientific battlegrounds, both in terms of internal debates about aspects of the theory, and the conflict, particularly in the U.
, around this theory and at least some branches of Christian belief What Edward J Larson gives us here is not a scientific or theological treatise but rather a highly readable history that explains both key developments, even those preceding Darwin, and the controversies that resulted down to the time of publication 2004.
The tale begins with studies of both biological specimens and fossil finds by figures such as Cuvier and Lamarck that suggest both a great antiquity for life on earth that stretches the bounds of creation accounts in the Bible as they were understood, and also suggests both continuities and discontinuities between species in a kind of tree of life Scientists before Darwin, as well as other thinkers thought in terms of some form of evolution but could not understand how one species developed from another Were adaptive characteristics inherited, as in Lamarck s proposals How did speciation occur Larson discusses the work of Darwin and Alfred Russell Wallace who are rivals for the title of the father of evolution Each was coming to similar conclusions about natural selection and were even in touch with each other and jointly published a paper on natural selection But it was Darwin s book, On the Origin of the Species, that captured public attention and led to the primary association of his name with the theory.
The book also traces the history both of subsequent key findings, particularly in Mendelian genetics and the critical work of Watson and Crick, as well as some of the darker sides of Darwinism in social Darwinism and eugenics trials culminating in the genocide of the Holocaust While not laying these developments at the feet of the theory, one does see in this history the darker tendency of humans to help natural selection along and sometimes at any cost.
Larson also gives an even handed overview of the anti evolution controversies both of the Scopes trial era and recent efforts He profiles the principle opponents of evolution and their ideas, as well as the problematic elements in what they propose He also chronicles recent controversies within the scientific communities around sociobiology as well as punctuated equilibrium that calls into question gradualist accumulations of adaptive traits.
What Larson does is offer us a good history that seeks to be even handed and not polemical in explaining the rise of evolution as a theory as well as the objections raised as well as why they have not gained traction with the wider scientific community Without wading deep into either science or theology, he offers clear explanations of each and thus helps us understand the history of one of the most important ideas in the last two centuries A great piece of both history and science writing for a general audience