Evolution The Triumph of an Idea by Carl Zimmer A thorough, well researched book that is broken out into four parts Part One Slow Victory Darwin and the Rise of Darwinism, Part Two Creation and Destruction, Part Three Evolution s Dance, and Part Four Humanity s Place in Evolution and Evolution s Place In Humanity Positives 1 Accessible, well written book with an extensive bibliography 2 Provides a lot historical references than any other book I have read on the topic It includes an excellent biography on the life of Darwin and how he came about the theory of evolution and his personal struggles to disclose his findings to the public 3 Interesting history on the physics of how we determined the antiquity of Earth Not to mention the order in which new life forms appeared on Earth, and their actual dates in history 4 A lot of interesting information regarding evolution A population of birds can evolve into its own species if it gets cut off from its neighbors You will find out why 5 The historical impact of germsNapoleon found out the hard way 6 Nothing like mutations to get evolution going The genetic tool kit is explained in detail 7 The origin of whales is one of the most interesting examples of evolution And BTW a whale is no a fish than a bat is a bird 8 Everything you wanted to know about extinction and then some 9 Interesting topics of the arms race between man versus bug, disease great stuff on AIDS and the evolution of sex 10 My favorite chapters have to do with human evolution Fascinating stuff and worth the price of the book Kindle Plenty of monkey business It s the kind of stuff I go ape over Negatives 1 Less technical than other books on this topic 2 The advancements of science is such that it is outdated in certain parts genetics, and major recent findings Tiktaalik comes to mind That s what I get for waiting for the Kindle version 3 It s an investment of time, a lot is covered 4 Too politically correct if you ask me Let loose a little Mr Zimmer In summary, a solid book on evolution that focuses on the history of the idea and how it succeeds to this day I m in awe of Darwin, science owes so much to his theory Entire scientific fields are only possible with the understanding of evolution Recommendations Why Evolution is True by Jerry Coyne, The Greatest Show On Earth by Richard Dawkins, Your Inner Fish by Neil B Shubin, What Evolution Is by Ernst Mayr and The Making of the Fittest by Sean B Carroll. Drawing on the Beagle s journey, Carl Zimmer leads us through time and space to tell us how evolution through natural selection came to impose itself in the scientific realm.In this superb book, easy to read yet abounding in details, very well documented, biology waltzes with suitors as diverse as paleontology to geology and prehistory, showing that evolution is than a explanation for the diversity of life on Earth its understanding is crucial to our survival, from medicine to environmental issues Facts are dancing before our wondering eyes, displaying how deep, brillant but also dangerous Darwin s idea was.Indeed, Carl Zimmer deals not only with social darwinism but, also, the existence or not of God in a last chapter where, sparing deism he dares none the less brushing off creationism and intelligent design.Here s a golden mine of informations. Carl Zimmer, one of our finest science writers, has written an elegant companion to the PBS NOVA miniseries which stands on its own as an excellent introduction to evolution, covering topics which should be of interest to all, ranging from the evolution of sex to fighting disease, and of course, the search for humanity s origins as the only extant member of a once flourishing tribe of hominid species related to the great apes Each of Zimmer s chapters corresponds with the NOVA episode related to it He gives us a mesmerizing, compelling portait of Charles Darwin and his intellectual struggles with his understanding of biology, geology and faith, as he recognized that his detailed observations of biotic diversity could only be accounted for by a theory of evolution via natural selection Zimmer gives a riveting account on the history of life, highlighting such notable episodes as the evolution of multicellular organisms, the Cambrian explosion, the invasion of the land by plants, insects and tetrapods, the Permo Triasic and Cretaceous Tertiary boundary mass extinctions, to name but a few He also notes the significance of chance and constraint in the evolution of animal life, pointing out the significance of tiny changes in certain genes in creating vast differences in the structures of animal skeletons and organs He emphasizes the importance of co evolution as a constant struggle between predators and prey And he clearly shows the importance of natural selection in understanding the spread and control of such virulent diseases as tuberculosis Zimmer s account of the role of God if any with respect to evolution and the widespread appeal of so called creation science, most notably, Intelligent Design , is replete with excellent arguments and examples demonstrating why Intelligent Design and other forms of creation science are not scientific This well written, highly engrossing, popular account of evolution deserves to be read by all Reposted from my 2004 review This is an excellent introduction or review of the theory basics This covers sufficient detail to supply a solid foundation of evidence of change in species without being boring.Only towards the ends does Mr Zimmer seem to begin to present ideas with some bias I did not read the Natural History of Rape by Thornhill Palmer but I did read the original paper on the scorpion fly rape behavior This paper was given very short shrift by Zimmer despite being good research and well written Since the paper was not listed in his bibliography I assume he didn t even read it The scathing review he quotes points to a small portion of the book using a small data sample that may have been of marginal applicability but I remember reading statistic papers with very large data samples relating human behavior and rape victim ages so I know there is far work being done that is relevant but not mentioned in Mr Zimmer s critique This type of work by evolutionary biologists is slapped down by Zimmer as being based on minute samples and because their samples usually a few dozen American undergraduates mostly white, mostly affluent, can hardly be expected to represent the universal human condition This statement is implying this was all that was being done but I have read papers with a far broader data base so I know this isn t true.Zimmer is being very loaded in his method of presenting the work he is ctirisizing So while I may not be utterly familiar with all the work this type of obvious bias makes me hesitate to take other items as being fairly presented This is me nit picking on one segment of a book I enjoyed but it bothered me. A profound read I encourage everyone to pick up this one Easily digestible and beautifully written. Now I am wondering are there boring books about evolution I ve already read a few a standard set and still found this one worth reading It tells a bit about Darwin, and dinosaurs, and crazy creatures living next and inside us, and some philosophical implications The least interesting part, especially for those living outside of US, is about the long standing battle between scientists and evolution opponents who somehow manage to survive, no matter what. This Remarkable Book 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 Lethal Resurgence Of Antiobiotic Resistant Diseases To The Wave Of Extinctions That Looms Before Us With A Sound Understanding Of The Science Zimmer has once again triumphed with a work of solid erudition and admirable clarity By turns entertaining and informative, he writes with a clean style Neither as technical as Dawkins or Dennett, nor as luxurious as Gould, this book nevertheless showers the reader with the gold of understanding, should it be lacking, and new perspectives For a reader not already steeped in the technicalities of evolutionary writing or the politics of creationism, this is an excellent place to come for a first, sweeping view of the depth and grandeur of this, one of modern science s defining ideas And for those who sensibilities are sometimes blunted by too much of either, this is a lovely, light way to rekindle the flame of wonder at the fundamentals The fundamentalists probably getting on one s nerves by this point The triumph of an idea must, of course, start with the inception of an idea, and Zimmer devotes a considerable proportion of the book to its seminal figure, Charles Darwin In this year of Darwin frenzy one will have been hard put to avoid reading about this poor man, upon whom I inadvertently trampled in Westminster Abbey last Summer Don t let that put you off Zimmer wrote these passages years before the deluge of publications cashing in on the bicentenary and they are part of his narrative.Darwin s character cannot now cast light on the fact of evolution, as we would have known of it through Erasmus, Lamarck and Wallace had he never lived, and the positive flood of information garnered since his death makes this one of the surest bastions of modern science Still, it is comforting to know what a genial and fair minded cove he was, and what a thorough scientist Zimmer s passages covering the tragedies and trials of his life are moving, and one hears with sympathy how this deeply religious man, trained as a pastor, had his faith shaken and mostly beaten away not by his work but by his losses Darwin has made life easier for us atheists by eliminating the largest single Gap for Gods, but is was never his intention.I have read dozens of books of science in general and evolution in particular, but there always seems to be something new and striking to report, especially with an author of Zimmer s accomplishment The one that made me laugh out loud on a Swiss train, possibly pleasing the shade of Zwingli, is the nugget that the farmers of Berne in 1478 sued a plague of beetles in the ecclesiastical court, winning a Ban of Anathema and the beetles being bound over to keep the peace Or that the African bottleneck of 60,000 to 170,000 years ago leaves humanity with less genetic diversity that he chimpanzees of a single forest This casts perhaps less light on our evolution than that the trend towards 2.4 children is reducing selection pressure and therefore, presumably, both contributing to the accumulation of bad genes and reducing rates of progressive change.One insight that I found both striking and delightful was the observation that documented rates of change in the fossil record, such as the rather well covered evolution of whales, are several orders of magnitude lower than the rates of evolution that can be observed in the field, such as in guppy fish Part of this can probably be explained in terms of changes of frequency in existing mutations, but it turns the creationist canard about microevolution and macroevolution right on its head What we need to explain in the fossil record, based on microevolution is why so little change is seen over geological time Oh, dear I said the c word Yes, Zimmer expends a penultimate section on the sadly and tediously necessary refutation of creationist nonsense and their antics in courts and classrooms in the USA It doesn t spoil the book and is yet another litany of triumphs, but one cannot help but mourn that a triumph was ever necessary He deals with these frustrating and infuriating episodes lightly and with less vitriol than I might have mustered At the end of the Day Age, evolution is necessary understanding in a range of fields, not least agriculture, medicine and petrochemicals extraction, and is becoming an engineering field in its own right as it is applied not only in selective breeding but in creating novel software and electronics Software agents have for some time been able to defeat human fighter pilots in simulation, and it is evolution that got them there Don t leave home without it Zimmer is a wonderful science writer and his triumph, like that of Darwin himself, is complete. A decent, well written introduction to evolution I like the approach of Zimmer to start the book with two chapters on the origin and context of the ideas of evolution It s a story of Darwin s travels on the HMS Beagle and his search for evidence to back up his theory Even the controversial and personal context is treated by Zimmer Another thing I liked was the incorporation of the developments in geology especially the importance for biology and the origin and developments of genetics Zimmer could have explained some about the modern synthesis especially the discovery of DNA and molecular biology , but maybe this would make the story harder to follow for some readers.In parts 2 and 3 Zimmer treats the building blocks of evolution the tree of life, the building plan of organisms and the role of contingencies like mass extinctions and the mechanisms of evolution coevolution arms races and their impact on modern medicine and the role of sex respectively.These two parts are the main part of the book and include the basic ingredients of evolution even though I find some topics unexplained e.g Zimmer could have explained Dawkins revolutionary paradigm shift of the selfish gene extended phenotype The last part deals specifically with humanity the application of evolutionary biology to psychology, linguistics and sociology This is the most sketchy part of the book, partly because the debate on evolutionary psychology is not clearly explained and might leave the general reader with the impression that it s just a fad It s also this part that the Arrow of time shows itself in the 17 years since its publication a lot of new insights on humanity s origins came to light and the amazing discoveries in neurosciences support and build on evolutionary psychology Zimmer finishes the book with a long chapter of the continuous battle of religion against evolution From the Scopes trial in 1930 s via creationism in the 1980 s to 21st century s intelligent design and its battle to establish itself as a science and part of high school curriculum In general, this is a very accessible book on evolution, which shows the full scope and impact of the idea of evolution a triumph indeed But this scope also leads to the superficial treatment or absence of some very interesting topics, which is a minor let down, and because of the passing of time the book is a little out of date on some subjects. Are we a biological accident or a cosmic imperative 383A very interesting book on the history of evolution and the effects of evolution in our everyday lives What I appreciated about this book is that it did not just cover the biological implications of evolution it did do this by the way, and very well but it also discussed social, cultural and psychological aspects of the human species that are deeply rooted in evolution The bond of language, the role of sexuality, the origin of emotions such as jealousy or behaviors such as altruism are all discussed The history of planet earth, cellular life, parasites and animals are all shown to be meshed together Fascinating animal behaviors, grooming, infanticide, sexual activity of bonobos versus the violence of chimpanzees, ants versus virus and our pathetic use of parasites, and other mind blowing ideas are learned The connection between ecology and evolution is demonstrated time and again.Human evolution is one topic that is covered in depth, but the book also discusses many others The history of Darwin and the conditions of England at the time of his life provide a clear picture of the publication and public reaction to his theories It is amazing to see how opposition came immediately but how it was not rooted in science, but rather a result of our fear in response to the idea that we too evolved The reaction at the Oxford convention where the book was discussed publically for the first time is incredible The story of the argument and shouting match that followed is worthy of a play The struggle between religion and science persists, with the mystic attackers constantly tinkering their argument to try to drape their fear in something resembling a reasoned position However, as the book points out we never get anywhere by labeling our ignorance god, and opposing theories say much about those who develop them than they possibly could on factual issues After reading this story, I think you walk away with a deeper understanding of life, and a greater awe for our position in the web of life We are perhaps the most coevoloved species ever, a part of a web of connections and unity with life in general This book helps you understand this, presenting a very through and well written frame of reference for understanding our place in this thing we call life.