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Evolution for Everyone

Evolution for Everyone

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Add This - Evolution for Everyone

Written by David Sloan WilsonAuthor Alerts:  Random House will alert you to new works by David Sloan Wilson

  • Format: Trade Paperback, 400 pages
  • Publisher: Delta
  • On Sale: December 26, 2007
  • Price: $16.00
  • ISBN: 978-0-385-34092-2 (0-385-34092-3)
Also available as an eBook.
about this book

2007 Outstanding Academic Title, CHOICE Magazine (American Library Association)

"This is a book of tall claims about evolution: that it can be uncontroversial; that the basic principles are easy to learn; that everyone should want to learn them, once their implications are understood; that evolution and religion...can be brought harmoniously together."--From Evolution for Everyone

Polls show that more than half of all Americans don't believe in evolution. And most people who do accept evolution don't appreciate its relevance to the world today. In lively prose, renowned evolutionist David Sloan Wilson explodes the great misconceptions that have made the theory of evolution seem daunting, irrelevant, or even dangerous. And he shows how evolutionary principles can be applied to almost every aspect of human life--from crime to laughter, from politics to pregnancy--providing a wealth of insights both intriguing and useful.

Evolution for Everyone cuts through the rhetoric to present a simply revolutionary way of thinking about human beings and their place in the world.

Praise for Evolution for Everyone...

"Evolution for Everyone is a remarkable contribution. No other author has managed to combine mastery of the subject with such a clear and interesting explanation of what it all means for human self-understanding. Aimed at the general reader, yet peppered with ideas original enough to engage scholars, it is truly a book for our time."--Edward O. Wilson, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of On Human Nature

"There tend to be two types of science books, those for professional scientists and those for the general public. Every once in awhile a book comes along that bridges this gap, and David Sloan Wilson's Evolution for Everyone is just such a book--a well written, page-turning narrative that can be enjoyed by anyone, that also contains original ideas that simply must be read by professional scientists because they push the science forward. I was amazed by how much new ground Wilson covers, how many new ideas he presents, so in this case "everyone" means just that: general readers and professional scientists alike."--Michael Shermer, Publisher of Skeptic magazine, columnist for Scientific American, and the author of Why Darwin Matters

“In this age of mounting mistrust between science and religion in American society--especially in America's classrooms--David Sloan Wilson's Evolution for Everyone comes as a breath of fresh air. Without stooping to condemn those whose religious beliefs lead them to reject evolution, Wilson clearly but gently shows how evolution is essential to understanding all aspects of our daily lives. Wilson knows the power of a good story--and most of his 36 chapters are short, riveting accounts of evolution and the scientists who have puzzled out the intricacies, and importance, of understanding evolution in human life. Evolution for Everyone fills a gap in understanding evolution, and will help in the much-needed bridge building across the divide that has threatened educational values in recent years.” --Niles Eldredge, Division of Paleontology, The American Museum of Natural History (NY, NY)

"David Sloan Wilson, an evolutionary biologist at Binghamton University, takes a different and decidedly refreshing approach. Rather than catalog its successes, denounce its detractors or in any way present evolutionary theory as the province of expert tacticians like himself, Wilson invites readers inside and shows them how Darwinism is done, and at lesson’s end urges us to go ahead, feel free to try it at home. The result is a sprightly, absorbing and charmingly earnest book that manages a minor miracle, the near-complete emulsifying of science and the “real world,” ingredients too often kept stubbornly, senselessly apart. Only when Wilson seeks to add religion to the mix, and to show what natural, happy symbionts evolutionary biology and religious faith can be, does he begin to sound like a corporate motivational speaker or a political candidate glad-handing the crowd."--New York Times Book Review

The chapters are short, with metaphors, applications, and analogies about evolution interwoven with personal anecdotes and biological facts. Wilson writes in the first person—a refreshing approach—and provides insight into his experiences and development of his way of thinking. I predict that his undergraduate evolution course will provide a novel learning experience in which students find themselves in a lively environment that connects and transcends the disciplinary boundaries of biology, psychology, anthropology, philosophy, and even the fine arts. Without doubt, students in Wilson's course are active participants rather than passive listeners."

"This is a mind-stretching and unforgettable synthesis of biology, psychology, religion, and politics. In this grand theory, David Sloan Wilson argues compellingly that we are creatures of the hive, and our most vital institutions, are shaped by natural selection of the group, rather than the kinship, variety. This engrossing story is evolutionary biology at its very best."--Martin Seligman, author of Learned Optimism and Authentic Happiness

Evolution for Everyone is tremendous fun. But don't be deceived. David Sloan Wilson is a master biologist, who just happens to be a wonderful storyteller.”--Sarah B. Hrdy, Author of Mother Nature

"...[B]y far the most accessible account of evolution for a general audience, as well as the farthest ranging. Building on diverse examples, Wilson demonstrates that evolution is a completely relevant to modern human affairs, including how we use language, create culture and define morality....Readers who've grown weary of the usual treatment of evolution as a deadly foe to religion will find Wilson's book a cheerful antidote, breaking new ground in its sweeping breath and offering much to think about." --Publishers Weekly (starred review)

“Wilson does for evolution what Steve Levitt does for economics in his book Freakonomics.... Evolution for Everyone is full of gripping stories about the natural world, related with humor and a rare flair for language.” --Chicago Sun Times

And an extended blurb from American Scientist:
"A professor of biology and anthropology at Binghamton University, Wilson often draws here on his own evolutionary research, which ranges from the provision of a sound theoretical basis for group selection, to behavioral studies of burying beetles, to the evolutionary value of cooperation and forgiveness. In the service of finding harmony between evolution and religion, he discusses some of the evidence for his evolutionary hypothesis that religions are adaptive at the group level, providing practical benefits relating to the specific conditions the group is confronted with. Throughout the book, as when he talks about bacterial morality, he conveys an infectious enthusiasm for his subject.//Given the central importance of evolution in biology, the most extraordinary thing about the public's view, Wilson points out, is not that 50 percent don't believe it, but that nearly 100 percent haven't connected it to anything of importance in their lives. One of Wilson's chief goals—one he accomplishes admirably—is to demonstrate the relevance and value of evolutionary biology not just to scientists but to ordinary people. In story after engaging story, he conveys not only the sweep and the power of evolutionary thinking but the grandeur, as Darwin put it, of this view of life. By the end of the book, the reader understands Wilson's metaphor that evolution is an artist that has helped fashion the sculpture that is the living world.//A natural teacher, Wilson also seizes every opportunity to highlight both the ordinary and the distinctive ways in which scientists gather data, test hypotheses and reach conclusions. For instance, a chapter about his research on understanding religion from an evolutionary perspective begins with an obvious concern: Might not any conclusions he draws be biased by which religions he picks to examine? Of course they might. This leads to a discussion of selection bias and how scientists use random sampling to help avoid it. He then explains how he wrote a computer program to pick page numbers at random from the 16-volume Encyclopedia of World Religions as a way to get a sample set of religions for his students to examine, rather than make the selections himself and perhaps inadvertently stack the deck. There is scarcely a page that doesn't exemplify, either explicitly or implicitly, the way a scientist works on the basis of evidential reasoning. //But Wilson's tone is never pedantic or preachy. With only a few exceptions, the writing is light, conversational and filled with apt metaphors and felicitous turns of phrase. In explaining the ubiquity of groups-as-individuals, for instance, he writes of how 'life emerged as tiny molecular fellowships.' He compares an ant colony forcing out the smaller competition as it moves into a rotten log to 'a Wal-Mart moving into your neighborhood.' The copying of DNA during cell division occurs with the care of 'a monk transcribing a holy text.' And although Wilson aims for a down-to-earth way of talking about science, to emphasize it as an approachable 'roll-up-your-sleeves' kind of activity that anyone might learn to do, at times one finds a hint of the poetic in his language and images. He describes, for instance, one scientist who studies social insects as having been originally inspired by 'the aroma of wax and honey and the spectacle of thousands of bees crisscrossing the summer sky.'//To contemplate and appreciate that not only our bodies but also our minds and our thoughts are the result of the same evolutionary sculpting action that formed hemlocks, wood turtles, burying beetles and cellular slime mold, Wilson says, is both 'awesome and humbling."'These are the same words Levine uses to express the enchantment that Darwinian evolution makes possible. But Wilson has conveyed this enchantment with the world, and with the scientific way of thinking that leads to it, so dramatically throughout his book that by the time he puts the words to page in the last paragraph, readers can't help but understand the point, for he has allowed them to get a sense of the feeling for themselves."
-American Scientist