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Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

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4.10  ·  Rating details ·  4,852 ratings  ·  96 reviews
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 d ...more
Paperback, 528 pages
Published September 5th 2006 by Harper Perennial (first published September 4th 2001)
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Petra-Eggs Sunny Side Up
I thought I knew about Evolution, about the random mutation of genes and the success of some mutations that convey an advantage to the host in the environment and could be the beginning of a new species or variety of plant or animal. That is the base. Saying that one and one makes two is at the base of mathematics but tells you very little of the depth and breadth of numbers. And so it is with this book.

I can't review it any better except to say it filled my head with ideas and conjectures for t
...more
Book
Jun 24, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: evolution
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 Provides a lot more historical references than any other book I have read on the topic. It inc
...more
John
Jan 14, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science, books-i-own
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 t ...more
Nicole
Mar 15, 2009 rated it really liked it
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
...more
Xander
May 22, 2017 rated it it was ok
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. Zim
...more
Aurélien Thomas
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 more than a explanation for the diversity of life on Earth: its understanding is crucial to our survival, from medicine to environmenta
...more
Katja
Jul 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: kindle, ru, non-fiction
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.
Camille
Nov 04, 2017 rated it it was amazing
A profound read. I encourage everyone to pick up this one. Easily digestible and beautifully written.
Elliott Bignell
Apr 11, 2015 rated it it was amazing
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 firs ...more
SJ Loria
Apr 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
"Are we a biological accident or a cosmic imperative?" -383
A 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 emotio
...more
Karen
Feb 11, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Stacey
Oct 17, 2007 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: nerds
It's heavy but definitely good. There's something kind of humbling about reading about the way life on earth unfolding to become what it was over the course of billions of years, only to be drastically altered in only of few generations by humans. Reading the chapter about mass extinctions occurring thanks to the human race made me want to vomit. Coming across the figure that 2/3 of all living species live in tropical forests, 1/2 of which were gone by the year 2000 made me want to punch myself ...more
Smruthi
Aug 14, 2018 rated it it was amazing
I can't recommend this book enough. This is possibly the first non-fiction book that's had me at the edge of my seat, furiously flipping page after page because it's so interesting. It's helped me piece together bits of scattered understanding into a cohesive overview. It has so many cool little pieces of information that you can actually remember and hang on to because it suddenly makes more sense.
Jim Davis
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Excellent overview of evolution

Clear, provides summaries and links to detailed evidence and discusses controversies such as sociobiology, racism, social Darwinism and teaching of evolution (controversial in the USA). The discussion of convolution makes it very clear why !miss of species can trigger collapse.
Julie Czerneda
Apr 04, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Wonderfully readable synthesis. Read it once with glee and now use as a reference. Highly recommended!
Ixan
Sep 02, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
Best book of 2019. So far.
Ramon van Dam
Sep 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
I have read quite a lot of books about evolution, which proves to me more and more how difficult it is to do that in both a clear and original way. With "Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea" Carl Zimmer manages to do both. Not only does he explain the basic ideas of evolution and natural selection, he goes several steps further by explorer areas that I have not seen discussed in a lot of other works.

This includes going beyond "just" the regular animal kingdom that we often exclusively think of, wh
...more
Alia Kiwan
Sep 16, 2020 rated it it was amazing
An outstanding overview and an excellent book , especially for understanding Darwin's Theories and todays discoveries. Highly recommended.
Bill
Feb 09, 2011 rated it liked it
This is the first book I have read explaining the theory of evolution. This is a good, easy, primer.

I've always understood evolution as 'survival of the fittest' but after reading the book I now understand it in terms of 'natural selection'.
Before, I saw evolution as the development of traits enhancing prospects for survival which come by way of some sort of struggle.
Now I see it more as development of order and functionality by way of numerous random mutations, of which a very few, statistical
...more
Elliott
Jul 13, 2011 rated it liked it
Overall, this book is a very good introduction to evolutionary biology. The book does touch on Richard Dawkins' idea that memes evolve through a natural process, but the book is otherwise all about biological evolution, as should be expected. Those who produced the audiobook were wise to get Peter Thomas as the reader (you may have heard him on Cold Case Files). His tone is perfect to remind us of just how dramatic the Darwinian Revolution really was.

There was one big problem with the book, howe
...more
Ann
Feb 06, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: darwin, evolution
Another excellent and readable book by Zimmer. This book has great examples well explained and brings in much of the historical context, including the misuses of Darwin's idea and the more current Creationist/Intelligent Design response. The book has an introduction by Stephen Jay Gould, a nice section of further reading by chapter and an index.
Michel
Oct 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
I love the way Carl Zimmer writes his books, he takes you into details without making you feel bored. I would love to see a new edition of this book especially after so many new discoveries in the field of human ancestry.
Bettie
Apr 27, 2008 rated it really liked it
Shelves: sciences
This was in audio as accompianment to crafting and thoroughly engrossing it was too. I never fail to be awed about the history of whalehood.

Recommended heartily.
Iszam
Apr 03, 2015 rated it it was amazing
One of the best book to understand evolution. I stopped reading crap by Harun Yahya after reading this book.
Chris Demer
Aug 03, 2020 rated it it was amazing
This is a thorough and brilliant book that captures the essence of the theory of evolution in a way that most moderately educated people can understand.
The writing is clear and follows a historical path in the development of the concept, which is basic to the understanding of biological science.
Zimmer does a great job of describing Darwin's work and its meaning as the theory is developed and is bolstered by developments in geology, paleontology and later genetics. He discusses the time frames o
...more
Timothy Riley
Mar 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science
This is a brilliantly written book that is very accessible to the science non-expert. The best chapter is the one on Coevolution that explains the relationships that animals and plants and fungi have with each other that gave each a niche to survive. The idea is nto that every species is perfect for its environment but that they are good enough to survive all the time working slowly on their imperfections. The diverse species-genetically-is most likely to be successful and able to adapt in the l ...more
Karen
Sep 30, 2020 rated it really liked it
This book does a great job of explaining the principles of evolution for a non-professional reader. As it is the second edition, the introduction includes some additional information about newer discoveries, but it is still not quite up to date. For example, the descriptions of the fate of Neanderthal people does not include recent genetic data that show that genes from Neanderthals persist in populations that had ancestors from certain regions.
Overall, though, this is a readable and interestin
...more
Chris Leuchtenburg
Aug 24, 2018 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, science
This clear and concise overview of the development of the science of evolution covers not only the development of Darwinism, but also the subsequent scientific challenges leading eventually to the modern synthesis in the 1940s and 50s. Zimmer focuses on the discoveries and controversies in the scientific community, but also presents the early religious objections, the eugenics movement and the modern religious resistance.
Adam
Feb 08, 2020 marked it as abandoned
This seems fine and great but having already read Quammen's Tangled Tree and Zimmer's own She Has Her Mother's Laugh within the last two years (the latter of which arguably supplants this whole book) I just don't think it's worth my time rn. I only picked it up because I went looking for Planet of Viruses and found this instead.
MegaWhoppingCosmicBookwyrm
Mar 15, 2020 rated it it was amazing
The absolute best book on explaining evolution to a layman audience. As visually stunning as the best coffee table books, yet full to the brim with information. A wonderful introduction to the subject if you’ve no idea where to start, and a beautifully done review for those that know their stuff. If I could hand copies out to people on every street corner, I would.
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Carl Zimmer is a columnist for the New York Times and the author of 13 books about science. His latest book, She Has Her Mother's Laugh, will be published in May 2018. Zimmer is a frequent guest on Radiolab and has written hundreds of articles for magazines such as National Geographic, The Atlantic, and Wired. He is, to his knowledge, the only writer after whom a species of tapeworm has been named ...more

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