The Theory of Evolution: What It Is, Where It Came From, and Why It Works

Overview

Everything mammals ever wanted to know about evolution—but were afraid to ask

A lightning rod for more than a century, the subject of evolution continues to be a highly volatile one. Just as Charles Darwin's remarkable announcement generated a venomous response, here in the twenty-first century the theory of evolution is still frequently greeted with alarm, ridicule, and denial. Yet, it has managed to persevere, taking on a life of its own and ...

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The Theory of Evolution: What It Is, Where It Came From, and Why It Works

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Overview

Everything mammals ever wanted to know about evolution—but were afraid to ask

A lightning rod for more than a century, the subject of evolution continues to be a highly volatile one. Just as Charles Darwin's remarkable announcement generated a venomous response, here in the twenty-first century the theory of evolution is still frequently greeted with alarm, ridicule, and denial. Yet, it has managed to persevere, taking on a life of its own and holding steadfast against attack.

This important new book by award-winning science writer Cynthia Mills clearly explains one of the most crucial-and most misunderstood-explanatory theories of modern science. She examines how the theory arose, how it "evolved," and why it is successful at explaining how life is perpetuated, in all its varied forms. Taking a historical approach, Mills begins with Enlightenment-era explanations for the origins of life, introducing the early scientists and philosophers who had the greatest influence on Darwin's thinking. She then examines Darwin's seminal work and later elaborations, answering key questions such as:

  • How successful is the theory at explaining the natural world?
  • What are some of the competing ideas and theories about the origin of the species?
  • How has the theory withstood critics in greater number and of greater passion than any other scientific concept?
  • How will the theory likely hold up over time and address new challenges as our understanding of genetics and biology grows?
  • Where does the theory fail?
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
Popular legend has it that the theory of evolution sprang fully formed from Darwin's brain, like Venus from the head of Zeus. Mills, an award-winning science writer and veterinarian, pulls back the curtain on the dozens of scientists who have contributed to our modern understanding of evolution. Even before Darwin wrote "On the Origin of Species", scientists contemplated the idea; Mills includes a poem by Darwin's grandfather that comes close to our modern understanding of the origin of life. Mills describes the evolution of evolutionary theory, along with the many pitfalls and theoretical dead ends encountered along the way. Darwin himself was not free from error, initially believing that inheritance was caused by a commingling of the parents' blood in the fetus. Any discussion of evolution must include the strong and ongoing anti-evolution movement, and Mills successfully weaves this into her narrative. In a section on eugenics and social Darwinism, Mills clears away confusion over what evolution does and doesn't claim about humanity and explores the theory's misuses and abuses at the hands of politicians. Mills's writing is concise and elegant, making a compelling story out of an avalanche of scientific papers and public debates. Even for a student of evolution, this book contains a few surprises. For the novice, Mills provides a complete glossary that demystifies scientific jargon. The discussion of the most recent debates on evolution is a little opaque, but readers will finish this book understanding what evolution is, where it came from and why it works, just as the title promises. And with a simpler style than Larson's (reviewed above), this will be accessible to a larger contingent of readers. (May)
FYI: "This is the second volume in Wiley's What It Is, Where It Came From, and Why It Works series." ("Publishers Weekly", March 22, 2004)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780471214847
  • Publisher: Turner Publishing Company
  • Publication date: 4/22/2004
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 218
  • Product dimensions: 9.00 (w) x 6.00 (h) x 0.52 (d)

Meet the Author

CYNTHIA L. MILLS is an award-winning science writer and practicing veterinarian. She has written articles for The Sciences, Health, Muse, Discovery.com, Equus, Pacific Discovery, and Earth. Her article "Breeding Discontent" (The Sciences, May/June 2000, guest-edited by E. O. Wilson) was selected for The Best American Science and Nature Writing 2001.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.

1. Making Up the Western Mind.

2. Making Up Darwin’s Mind.

3. What Darwin Said.

4. Reaction.

5. Pea Plants, Flies, and the Modern Synthesis.

6. Impact.

7. Postnormal Science.

Glossary.

Bibliography.

Index.

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