Friday, March 6, 2009

Evolution for Everyone

Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives
© 2007 David Sloan Wilson
390 pages

It's more difficult to look for science books on an online catalouge than any other, partially because I can't access the book to see how readable it is. Consequently I don't order many online and those I do tend to fall into the same category. As it happens, books on evolution are easy to come by. The author -- who, as it turns out is not related to E.O. Wilson -- begins the book by stating three things: one, science and religion are not necessarily foes; two, that the principles of evolution are actually easy to understand; and three, that those principles can be used to understand life in far broader ways than just biology.

I agree with the author that evolutionary principles are easy to understand: I am wholly self-taught in that field, gaining my literacy by reading library books. He does a good job of explaining them, and then suceeds (I think) in justifying his assertion that evolutionary principles can be applied on a broader context. The rest of the book, save the conclusion, uses evolutionary princples to address a number of issues: just a few are beauty, cooperation, ecology, religion, and egalitarianism. One of the examples he used that sticks in my mind is that of morning sickness. While we think of morning sickness as an abberant state that should be "cured", Wilson begins with evolution: if morning sickness can exist, there must be a reason why susceptibily to it is part of the human genome. He then writes on an exploration of the subject and reveals that "morning sickness" is the body rejecting foods with elements that adult bodies can tolerate but that could kill babies. He then establishes a correlation between mothers who had morning sickness and the health of their babies and ends by pointing out that miscarriages rise when anti-morning-sickness pills are consumed in a population.

The book is very readable, quite informative, and interesting.

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