Books like What Evolution Is

What Evolution Is

2002, Ernst W. Mayr


"WHAT EVOLUTION IS", a classic book on this topic, opens with an interesting foreword by Jared Diamond (author of Guns, Germs and Steel and The third Chimpanzee among other books), approaching the importance of how and why evolution needs to be understood not only by the scientific community but also by the general public. I have to say that now I understand the great influence Ernst Mayr I have read on Diamond's publications, specially the role that geography plays on speciation.In my opinion, this is a fascinating book that will lead you from the biogeographically, molecular and embryological evidence there is on evolution and explain the basic concepts you will need to understand how and why evolution takes place. Evolution, that opportunist process, is not an easy field of study. To fully understand it you need a broad knowledge of many fields of science in which genetics plays a major role, since mutation is the principal source of genetic variation in a population. Molecular biology has and still continues to make great and astonishing contributions to our understanding of the evolutionary process and strengthening Darwinism. In this aspect, Mayr makes a successful explanation of the principles of inheritance and genetics in a very simple manner for anyone interested to understand, from the micro all the way to macroevolution.Charles Darwin views on evolution are referred to as The Darwinian Theory, but lets remember that in the scientific community the meaning of the word theory is: "a well-substantiated explanation of some aspect of the natural world, based on knowledge that has been repeatedly confirmed through observation and experimentation ". Darwin contributed with five major theories of evolution. Two of them that make the theory of common descent, and marks the first Darwinian revolution. The other three: gradualism, speciation and the well known natural selection, make the second Darwinian revolution. So, you will definitely get familiar with the Darwinian theory throughout this book.Ernst Mayr closes beautifully with chapter on: how did mankind evolve, human uniqueness and altruism. It is a book that was published on 2001 and you will probably read parts where he writes that some things are still unknown but are now explained and well documented. To name a few examples: short and long term memory is now well explained from a molecular approach that led Eric Kandel win a Nobel prize on 2004; also, those genes that led to the development of our language such as the FOXP2gene. You will probably ask: "What about the mind and consciousness, is there an explanation for that, do animals have consciousness?" Yes, animals have consciousness and human consciousness evolved from animal consciousness! Hopefully, the reductionist molecular approach will soon give us a clear and definite answer and will finally settle that endless debate that has been for science, religion and philosophy for many, many years and explain us in detail what makes us human. I'll just paraphrase Mayr on this: "intelligence and consciousness is our most highly evolved end point of a long evolutionary history". Evolution is a fact.... but, like Mayr says on his preface: "That evolution has taken place is so well established that such a detailed presentation of the evidence is no longer needed. In any case, it would not convince those who do not want to be persuaded". If you want to want to fully grasp the meaning and the basic concepts of evolution and why it is important for you to understand it, bring out your curious human side and read What evolution is by Ernst Mayr. An essential reading on the subject!"Nothing in biology makes sense, except in the light of evolution" T. Dobzhansky

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If you like What Evolution Is, you might also like: Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature, and The Dinosaur Heresies: New Theories Unlocking the Mystery of the Dinosaurs and Their Extinction