Darwin: Discovering the Tree of Life

Overview

A riveting tribute to Charles Darwin's life and ideas in celebration of his 200th birthday.
Charles Darwin's ideas resonate deeply in Western culture today, and his theory still lies at the heart of modern scientific evolutionary research. As other nineteenth-century figures fade, Darwin's theory of evolution still provokes controversy, spilling over into curriculum battles at state and local school boards in the United States and around the ...

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Overview

A riveting tribute to Charles Darwin's life and ideas in celebration of his 200th birthday.
Charles Darwin's ideas resonate deeply in Western culture today, and his theory still lies at the heart of modern scientific evolutionary research. As other nineteenth-century figures fade, Darwin's theory of evolution still provokes controversy, spilling over into curriculum battles at state and local school boards in the United States and around the world.
In exploring the everyday artifacts of Darwin's life, his notebooks, and early manuscripts, Niles Eldredge "a candid, no-punches-pulled interpreter of the core ideas of evolutionary biology" (Science News) provides a rare glimpse into the mind of this highly intuitive, creative scientist. The celebration of Charles Darwin's 200th birthday in 2009 begins in November 2005 with the opening of a major exhibition at the American Museum of Natural History in New York, curated by Eldredge, that will travel across the nation. More than a companion book to the exhibit, Darwin is a rich and inspiring reconstruction of Darwin's life through his writings and discoveries.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
The bicentennial of Darwin's birth in 2009 and the sesquicentennial of the publication of On the Origin of Species will be commemorated by a touring exhibition curated by author Eldredge (Life on Earth), of the American Museum of Natural History, that will give audiences a rare opportunity to see Darwin's personal effects, notebooks and materials that contributed to Origin. This book primarily follows Darwin's progress on his theory in the 20 years between his return from the famous voyage on the Beagle and publication of his paradigm-shattering book. Darwin dismembered some of his notebooks, but scholars have reconstructed most of them so that readers can follow his thought processes. Eldredge shows how Darwin laid aside some ideas, like the importance of stasis (which Eldredge and the late Stephen Jay Gould developed into their concept of "punctuated equilibria"), that are now accepted in evolutionary theory. He makes the interesting observation that Darwin was one of the first scientists to abandon Baconian induction in forming hypotheses, consciously turning to the hypothetico-deductive method. Eldredge addresses advances in evolutionary theory since Darwin and takes on intelligent design. The author conveys his great admiration for his subject in a straightforward manner that will enlighten dedicated science readers. 100 illus. Agent, John Michel. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
This Darwin anniversary tribute-meant to coincide with a traveling exhibition opening Nov. 19 at the American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City-is also an examination of Darwin's scientific thinking process. In analyzing Darwin's notebooks and early writings, Eldredge, a leading evolutionary theorist and a curator at the AMNH, asserts that Darwin's far-reaching influence is attributable to both his ability to observe natural patterns acutely and his capacity to see his own mental processes clearly, as he anticipated objections to his theory and accumulated thorough evidence to support it. Eldredge also points out Darwin's blind spots, such as his insistence that evolution is gradual. In a discussion of the post-Darwin history of evolutionary theory, he addresses this issue and others, including his own contribution with evolutionary biologist Stephen Jay Gould on the study of the pace of evolution, the punctuated equilibrium concept. In the last chapter, Eldredge distinguishes between scientific disagreements within the sound conceptual framework of evolutionary theory and the ongoing ideological creation-evolution dispute taking place within a larger societal context. This profusely illustrated book is a welcome addition to the copious Darwin literature. Highly recommended for university and public libraries.-Walter L. Cressler, West Chester Univ. Lib., PA Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393059663
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/14/2005
  • Pages: 288
  • Sales rank: 543,119
  • Product dimensions: 7.20 (w) x 9.60 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Niles Eldredge is a paleontologist and a curator at the American Museum of Natural History and the author of many books on evolutionary theory.

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Table of Contents

Ch. 1 Charles Darwin 7
Ch. 2 Darwin on the Sandwalk 41
Ch. 3 Darwin's evolution : issues, contexts, and the red and transmutation notebooks 69
Ch. 4 Darwin's evolution : the manuscripts and books 137
Ch. 5 Evolution after Darwin 171
Ch. 6 Darwin as anti-Christ : creationism in the twenty-first century 217
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  • Posted December 14, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    An apology or a synopsis?

    Darwin remains one of the most polarizing figures of the Victorian era. I can't be sure but I believe this book was written to accompany the wonderful Darwin exhibit which toured the U.S. several years ago.<BR/>The author is a well respected scientist. He takes the reader through much of Darwin's thinking prior to the publication of "Origins" and in doing so helps one see how the theory took shape over a period of five years. He also discusses the "Origins" and other writings. He makes pains to suggest Darwin wasn't always right but seems to search for any evidence which suggests he was almost right. It is clear to an unbiased reader today that much of 1859 Darwin has not stood the test of time. He was wrong and admitting so seems less likely to hurt his reputation than searching for ways to support his erroneous assumptions. The end of the book is an attack on Intelligent Design and seems out of place in a book of inquiry and explanation. <BR/>I am not a "Creationist" but neither do I find current evolutionary theory all that convincing. Alfred Wallace, Darwin's contemporary and co-founder of evolutionary theory, had many reservations about man being included in the gridwork of evolution. It seems just as easy to see design in the movement from possum to man as their is to call it evolution. In the end one is left to wonder where that original life form came from? All theories on that question remain faith based, even the evolutionist explanation.

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