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Book Evolution: A Very Short Introduction

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Evolution: A Very Short Introduction

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    Available in PDF - DJVU Format | Evolution: A Very Short Introduction.pdf | Language: ENGLISH
    Brian Charlesworth(Author),Deborah Charlesworth(Author)

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This book illuminates the crucial role of evolutionary biology in transforming our view of human origins and our relation to the universe, highlighting the impact of this theory on traditional philosophy and religion. The authors introduce the general reader to some of the most important basic findings, concepts, and procedures of evolutionary biology, as it has developed since the first publications of Darwin and Wallace on the subject, over 140 years ago. They show how evolution provides a unifying set of principles for the whole of biology and sheds light on the relation of human beings to the universe and each other.

Two distinguished biologists tell you what evolution is about, in a crystal-clear fashion. It's refreshing to read a clear, non-polemic account of the truth, which you rarely get in popular science writing. * Focus * Evolution without the crap. * Focus. * Brian Charlesworth is Royal Society Research Professor at the Institute of Cell, Animal and Population Biology, University of Edinburgh, and President of the Society for the Study Evolution. His research is mainly in evolutionary genetics, applying classical and molecular genetics to the study of evolution and natural variation. He is author of Evolution in Age-Structured Populations (CUP, 2nd edn. 1994) Deborah Charlesworth is Professor in the ICABP at Edinburgh. Her research focuses on the evolution of plant breeding systems, including how they avoid inbreeding, and work on sex chromosomes and self-incompatibility.

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Review Text

  • By Corey S. on April 12, 2015

    Very informative for a pocket sized book. Lays out the basics of the process of natural selection and genetic variation. Perfect for quick reference and to lend to friends and family in case they struggle like so many with the shortcomings of their beliefs about the origins of life and man.

  • By S. Bayer on January 23, 2010

    An excellent review for the reader familiar with Evolution. Also a very good introduction for the novice.

  • By Luis on June 2, 2010

    For someone who was expecting a discussion of evolution from a "macro", "peleontological" or even "arquelogical" perspective this "introductory" book came as a surprise. My critique is not about the quality of the book, but about focus: the authors completely miss the point by focusing the discussion on genes, proteins, DNA, biochemistry etc. The fact that it was Dawkins, and not O Wilson or Gould, who gave a praise to the book should serve as a warning. Note that there is nothing wrong to use genetic explanations to supplement an argument regarding evolution, but the book appears to do the opposite: a discussion of the biochemical mechanics of inheritance with supplementary comments regarding other evolutionary pressures. Again, if you wish to understand evolution from a micro-, biochemical, genetic perspective, then this is the book for you! Otherwise, you will be waisting your money. Finally, for something along a real discussion of evolution check out Wood's "Human Evolution" from the same series (it also uses genetics, but only to support the argument!).

  • By Robin Friedman on February 22, 2014

    "Evolution: A Very Short Introduction" (2003) by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth offers a concise, detailed introduction to evolutionary biology. The Charlesworths are both Professors at the University of Edinburgh. Brian Charlesworth is former President of the Society for the Study of Evolution while Deborah Charlesworth has served as President of the European Society of Evolutionary Biology.The Charlesworths offer the following introduction to this overview of evolution."The relentless application of the scientific method of inference from experiment and observation, without reference to religious or government authority, has completely transformed our view of our origins and relation to the universe in less than 500 years. In addition to the intrinsic fascination of the view of the world opened up by science, this has had an enormous impact on philosophy and religion. The findings of science imply that humans are the product of impersonal forces, and that the habitable world forms a minute part of a universe of immense size and duration. Whatever the religious or philosophical beliefs of individual scientists, the whole programme of scientific research is founded on an assumption that the universe can be understood on such a basis."Evolutionary theory still provokes controversy. The Charlesworths do not hide their view that evolutionary theory is inconsistent with the position of supernatural, intentional creation of separate species. At several points in this introduction, they criticize supernatural creationism directly. Throughout the book, they gather the support for evolution from various strands of science and argue that it is overwhelming.The Charlesworths begins with a chapter explaining the nature of evolutionary biology drawn from Charles Darwin and Alfred Wallace. Then, in two chapters, they offer corroboration for the theory from two separate strands. In the first, the Charlesworths consider similarities and differences between organisms as showing evolution. The most interesting discussion in this chapter considers findings in cell biology and biochemistry. The study of heredity and of the nature of DNA across all forms of life corroborates and expands evolutionary biology in ways not available to Darwin and Wallace.In their second chapter setting out evidence for evolution, the Charlesworths examine "patterns in time and space", a form of evidence on which both Darwin and Wallace relied. This source of evolutionary theory is based upon the enormous scope of geological time together with the fossil record. Further studies since Darwin and Wallace, including advances in cell biology and dating techniques have served to corroborate and strengthen the early findings.In the following portions of their study, the Charlesworths discuss how evolution and natural selection explain the adaptation of species to their environment. They describe how evolution accounts for the astonishing diversity and change in living species, and they conclude with a short chapter on difficult problems in evolution, such as accounting for complex organs including, for example, the human eye.The Charlesworth's study is short but dense. It requires close, careful reading, particularly in the sections involving cell biology. The book offers as a reward for the required effort a renewed understanding for the lay reader of evolution, its basis and importance. In my own case, I studied evolution in school many years ago but found it useful to focus upon it through this book. The Charlesworths' study will also be useful to students coming to evolutionary biology early in their lives. The book includes a brief bibliography for further reading.I have found the Very Short Introduction Series of Oxford University Press highly useful in exploring a broad range of subjects. I have especially benefitted from books in the series about the sciences in that I have tended to take the sciences for granted though adult life. This study of evolution fits well with other works in the series I have read, including various books about geology, chemistry, and the relationship between science and religion. Readers wanting an informed brief account of evolutionary biology will benefit from the Charlesworth's Very Short Introduction.Robin Friedman

  • By Dr. H. A. Jones on August 13, 2012

    Two eminent professors of biology, both F.R.S., from the University of Edinburgh have collaborated to write this short monograph in the Oxford series of Short Introductions. It certainly maintains the standard of academic excellence characteristic of this series. The book is full of fascinating facts, illustrated with twenty-one figures. The degree of detail is such that the book might be more suitable as an introduction to evolution for biology students rather than for a lay readership, who might find the book on the same subject by John Maynard Smith slightly less intimidating.Maynard Smith, the dedicatee of the book, was Brian Charlesworth's mentor at the University of Sussex. Though his book was published in 1958, it has been brought up to date in a new edition for Cambridge (1993) by Richard Dawkins. The book by the Charlesworths has the advantage of being a decade more recent again and in a fast-moving field, currency is important. The short section on mutations of bacteria is particularly good and the illustration (Fig.8) of how DNA codons relate to specific amino acids in proteins is very clear; but I think taking nearly a page to illustrate evolutionary changes in the fossil foraminiferan Globorotalia and another for the phylogenic tree of Darwin's finches is too much information for all but specialist students. Figure 19, criticised by one reviewer, is quite correct in my book.This book is pure biology: there is nothing here about Intelligent Design (`human beings are the products of impersonal forces') or any other religious issues. In ths, the book follows the materialist approach of the excellent little monographs by Richard Dawkins. The book is clearly written, well illustrated and there is a very good index and therefore unhesitatingly recommended for the serious student of biology.Howard Jones is the author of The Tao of HolismThe Theory of Evolution (Canto)


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