This essay is from In the Light of Evolution: Essays from the Laboratory and Field, edited by Jonathan Losos (Roberts and Company Publishers, ISBN# 9780981519494). Other contributors include: Janet Browne, James Curtsinger, Carl Zimmer, Daniel E. Lieberman, Jonathan B. Losos, Edmund D. Brodie III, Naomi E. Pierce and Andrew Berry, Luke Harmon, Douglas Emlen, Marlene Zuk and Teri J. Orr, Michael J. Ryan, David Reznick, David Queller, Axel Meyer, Hopi E. Hoekstra, Ted Daeschler and Neil Shubin, and Harry W. Greene, with a foreword by David Quammen.
This volume is the companion piece for an eight-hour PBS documentary of the same name, scheduled to be aired in September. Science writer Zimmer (At the Water's Edge) does a superb job of providing a sweeping overview of most of the topics critical to understanding evolution, presenting his material from both a historical and a topical perspective. He summarizes the changing scientific views of geology and genetics, for example, while discussing the implications modern evolutionary theory might have for agriculture and medicine. With chapters dealing with difficult and often controversial subjects including Charles Darwin's life and his struggle to bring his concept of evolution before the public; the evolution of sex; patterns of human evolution and the importance of language in the rise of humans; the role humans have played and continue to play in the extinction of species; and the fallacies of "creation science" it is not surprising that a great deal of information is either glossed over or omitted entirely. Yet the writing is clear and concise, the text is carefully presented (with b&w and color illustrations throughout) and a respectably substantial Stephen Jay Gould introduction starts things off nicely.