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The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution | [Sean B. Carroll]

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution

DNA is the genetic material that defines us as individuals. Over the last two decades, it has emerged as a powerful tool for solving crimes and determining guilt and innocence. But, very recently, an important new aspect of DNA has been revealed: it contains a detailed record of evolution. That is, DNA is a living chronicle of how the marvelous creatures that inhabit our planet have adapted to its many environments, from the freezing waters of the Antarctic to the lush canopy of the rain forest.
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Publisher's Summary

DNA evidence not only solves crimes; in Sean Carroll's hands, it will now end the Evolution Wars.

DNA is the genetic material that defines us as individuals. Over the last two decades, it has emerged as a powerful tool for solving crimes and determining guilt and innocence. But, very recently, an important new aspect of DNA has been revealed: it contains a detailed record of evolution. That is, DNA is a living chronicle of how the marvelous creatures that inhabit our planet have adapted to its many environments, from the freezing waters of the Antarctic to the lush canopy of the rain forest.

In this fascinating narrative, Sean Carroll guides listeners on a tour of the massive DNA record of three billion years of evolution to see how the fittest are made. And what an eye-opening tour it is - one featuring immortal genes, fossil genes, and genes that bear the scars of past battles with horrible diseases. This book clinches the case for evolution, beyond any reasonable doubt.

©2007 Sean B. Carroll; (P)2007 Tantor Media Inc.

What the Critics Say

"Carroll offers some provocative and convincing evidence." (Publishers Weekly)
"Here is evolution clearly explained and stoutly defended." (Booklist)

What Members Say

Average Customer Rating

4.0 (263 )
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4.1 (99 )
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  •  
    ShySusan 05-21-12
    ShySusan 05-21-12 Member Since 2015
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Fairly elementary"

    I debated whether to give this book 3 or 4 stars. I used to be a 7th grade science teacher, and I found it telling me a lot of things I already knew. A previous reviewer mentioned that s/he is currently a science teacher and that this book provides excellent material to be adapted to the course s/he teaches. I would agree.

    So if it's been a few years since you last studied evolution or if you didn't pay much attention in your high school biology class, this would probably be an excellent place for you to start. However, if you are an evolution enthusiast, maybe took some classes on it in college, have read other books on evolution, then this book may be too elementary for you. I also just finished reading "Before the Dawn" and I would recommend that to you as a great book with more in-depth information on human evolution.

    3 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Stephen Moroni, UT, United States 08-26-09
    Stephen Moroni, UT, United States 08-26-09 Member Since 2002
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    "Leaves you wanting more."

    I really enjoyed the book. A very good book that explains how evolution works. It shows that everything really isn't just chance and that sometimes evolution does not benefit the organism.
    Highly recommend.

    5 of 7 people found this review helpful
  •  
    rick keizer 05-16-15
    rick keizer 05-16-15
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    2
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    "Introductory Jr college class for non-biologists"

    author is erudite. well written. but textbook-like. better read than heard probably as the illustrations are critical if you don't already know how DNA and transcription work. and in a book it's easier to skip the long introduction and stuff you already know.
    If you are bright and skeptical and relatively uneducated about biology, and especially if you have heard rhetoric from anti-evolutionists, you are the target audience.
    The text is missing a couple elements. 1. How the toolbox or immortal genes came into existence not mentioned; critics may have math on their side when you consider only the piecemeal construction methods of random mutation and selection. 2. Epi-genetics is not mentioned. this is very new and I was hoping to learn about it here.
    :

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Janice M. Zappone Las Cruces, NM USA United States 03-01-14
    Janice M. Zappone Las Cruces, NM USA United States 03-01-14 Listener Since 2005

    retired to NM

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    4
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    "Very good and also a disappointment"
    Would you say that listening to this book was time well-spent? Why or why not?

    learned a lot


    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Making of the Fittest?

    The first reference to illustrations that are not available.


    Which scene was your favorite?

    no scenes


    Do you think The Making of the Fittest needs a follow-up book? Why or why not?

    don't know


    Any additional comments?

    The book makes constant references to illustrations that are nowhere to be found.

    0 of 0 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Bonnie 06-11-12
    Bonnie 06-11-12 Member Since 2011
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    "SLOW"

    Both of us tried to listen to it and it was soooooo slow that it put us to sleep. We did not even make it half way through before we gave up.

    1 of 2 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 12-20-10
    Lucas Austin, TX, United States 12-20-10 Member Since 2015
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    "A different view of evolution"

    I listened to this, The Greatest Show on Earth, and The Reluctant Mr. Darwin last year. They're all good but I found this one most interesting from a science perspective. I have a degree in zoology and know a lot about evolution but looking at things at the level of DNA was novel to me and I really learned a lot. The author makes a convincing case in the book's closing chapters that conserving the world's wildlife, specifically ocean fisheries, depends upon a wide-spread acceptance of evolution as the fundamental concept in biology. I have recommended this to friends and I'll recommend it to you, too, if the basic description of the book sounds interesting at all to you (I grant you it's not for everyone).

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Vigen 02-27-10
    Vigen 02-27-10 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Great book"

    I really enjoyed the book. A little dry and technical, since I had to replay certain parts in order to understand or sync in. A very good book that explains how evolution works based on proven facts. Very enlightening.
    If you are a realist and enjoy science, then I highly recommend this book.

    2 of 4 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Amazon Customer 06-07-12 Listener Since 2010
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    "Must read for Evolutionary Genetics!"

    The phrase "Use it or Lose it" takes on a much greater meaning in this highly detailed but extremely readable discussion of evolutionary genetics.
    Making of the Fittess compared the molecular structure of light sensitive proteins (opsins} in the retina of the eyes of animal that lived in different types of light conditions and then examine the differences in the genes that allow animals to detect a particular wave lenght or color of light illustrating how natural selection works. When there was no advantages for an animal to see a particular color, the gene responsible was not used and eventually became inactive and that type of opsin was not produced. These inactive genes bcome non-functional and Carroll term these genes "fossil genes" which remained in the geome until eventually being lost to the organism. So "used it or lose it" acutally applies to the inactive gene. The type of light environment the animal lives in determines the type of light sensitive proteins (opsins) it has illustrating how natural selection works. Knowing the type of "fossil genes" of opsin allow you determine evolutionary relationships. It been awhile since they discovered the change in the gene that lead to Sickle Cell Anemia but "Making of The Fittess" allows us to examine many new specific changes in genes and how these changes lead to making of the fittess.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    J. J. Charles 03-05-12 Member Since 2006
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    "An understandable story of genetics and evolution"
    Where does The Making of the Fittest rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

    Among the best.


    What did you like best about this story?

    Clear and understandable to a layman like me.


    Have you listened to any of Patrick Lawlor???s other performances before? How does this one compare?

    Never heard him before but his reading is exellent!


    Was this a book you wanted to listen to all in one sitting?

    No. I listen upon retiring each night and upon waking a few times. No problem; I simply use my MP3 sleep timer and repeat parts as often as necessary until I've heard it all.


    Any additional comments?

    Sean B. Carroll is an excellent biologist and geneticist with a great gift for making his subjects understood by laymen. I listen to books in order to fall asleep (repeatedly) at night. Carroll???s charts and graphs are available on line but they???re not convenient for my purpose. However, the book is fascinating nevertheless. Carroll traces certain effects back to their genetic origins and describes genes that persist through evolution in species after species. This is a very interesting and understandable story told by an expert geneticist and storyteller.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful
  •  
    Warnie Plano, TX, United States 02-16-12
    Warnie Plano, TX, United States 02-16-12 Member Since 2011
    HELPFUL VOTES
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    "Not bad, but also not great."

    Eh. 2.5 stars, but I'll round up to three because it was enjoyable enough that I made it through the whole thing without getting TOO bored or annoyed.

    But first of all, dangit! How did I get stuck with another audiobook narrated by Patrick Lawlor? I meant to avoid him from now on after his reading of Buddy Levy's Conquistador; at least he didn't have any Spanish to butcher this time. I'm sure he's a very nice man, but I have a really hard time with his accent. I just do. However, I did actually manage to make it all the way through his reading of this book, so yay me!

    As to the book itself, I found it in turns pretty interesting and pretty frustrating. I really enjoyed the parts about the evolution of the eye, but most of the other examples Carroll uses I have seen documented much more thoroughly in other books, so those parts had less appeal for me. I imagine folks that haven't read or heard about them before will enjoy them much more than I did. I also felt like at times Carroll got pretty repetetive, and his habit of ending every chapter with something like, "in the next chapter, I'll talk about so-and-so..." really got on my nerves. I don't really need you to tell me what you're going to start talking about on the next page--just move along and talk about it already! It felt kind of...I don't know. Amateurish? I didn't like it, whatever it felt like. And then the chapter about intelligent design seemed really unnecessary to me. I get the idea that he's trying to convert people from intelligent design to believing in evolution with the power of his arguments or whatever, but (a) how many people that believe in intelligent design are really reading this in the first place? And (b) it seemed kind of disrespectful, although I do at least appreciate his making the point that not ALL people who believe in God feel that the theory of evolution is antithetical to their faith. I just feel like it would have been a much better book without that entire section.

    I know I sound pretty crotchety about this one, but it's not bad. I guess I do think there are better books on this topic out there though. On the other hand, plenty of folks seem to have really liked this one a lot, so maybe that's just me.

    0 of 1 people found this review helpful

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