Bill's Reviews > Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea

Evolution by Carl Zimmer
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's review
Feb 09, 2011

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bookshelves: science-and-philosophy
Read from February 09 to 26, 2011

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, statistically, are preserved due to coincidental environmental requirements for improved survival. In other words, the individual organisms struggle to survive, or even how healthy it is, has little do with evolution. If the individual has inherited an uncommon trait that enhances its chances for survival, then its progeny which inherits that trait will eventually outnumber all competitors due to increased opportunities to reproduce.

A lot of examples of evolutionary phenomena are given in clear layman's terms.

One fascinating example of how a snapshot evolution of species can be viewed is in the 'ring of species' phenomona.

Orchid evolution is a fascinating example used. Bacterial evolution is explained. Along with many other examples.

The book also includes a short, but well done, and very interesting, biography of Charles Darwin. Both as a young man and adventurer, with intentions to be a pastor, but gradually becomes a naturalist and accepts an assignment on a ship, as a naturalist, travelling around the world in great danger, collecting many specimens and fossils. It includes, as well, a moving account of the end of his life as he, as we all do, faces human loss and death, and questions about God.

This is an excellent book. I recommend it to anyone who knows nothing or little about evolution.
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Reading Progress

02/10/2011 page 105
02/16/2011 page 241
46.0% "Most interesting thing learned so far: Fascinating evolutionary phenomena known as the "Ring of Species"."
02/23/2011 page 379
72.0% "Very interesting examples. Orchid evolution. Fungi farming Ants. Pesticide resistance. And I learned that some Northern Europeans are immune to AIDS, with the highest percentage (20%) of Swedes being immune do to gene mutations which multiplied during the black death 700 years ago." 1 comment
02/24/2011 page 463
88.0% "Sexual reproduction rather then asexual is overwhelmingly adopted by evolution across species, in spite of it being much less efficient, because it provides greater resistance to parasites! Very interesting!"
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