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.
"Carroll offers some provocative and convincing evidence." (Publishers Weekly)
"Here is evolution clearly explained and stoutly defended." (Booklist)
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.
This book was very interesting without turning into a science text book. He used good examples to express his points and I walked away with great trivia on the subject matter. I also enjoyed his arguments for evolution vs. creationism. The narrator had voice that was kind of nasally but I was able to deal with it. I would preview it before buying just in case.
A nearly convincing case for Darwinistic evolution is well presented. The story of evolution thru DNA mutation is fascinating. I have never studied this directly but knew about 1/2 from medical school in the early 90's; it seems the evidence/knowledge has at least doubled in a decade.
Problems: 1. a century ago, a theory competed with DNA mutation which has been discredited but I think is making a partial comeback (mentioned briefly near the book end with the Russian scientist). It involves traits of parents that they acquired during their life getting passed to progeny. Since this can't involve DNA changes as parent germ cell DNA is already cast, this doesn't fit with "Darwinism". EPIGENETICS is the latest concept. Vaguely, changing gene expression without changing DNA sequence can alter the phenotype of the individual and it seems that how an organism lives can change proteins in their sperm or egg and pass along "learned" traits.
2. Behe has a similar book in the Audible library where he makes a case for Intelligent Design. Most (but not all) of that is controverted well here. Both authors agree that random point mutations are mostly entropic or destructive and short-sited. Behe can't see how complex protein structures ("toolbox" genes) could possibly evolve with only this mechanism. There is not a good answer for this, Carroll implies that added opportunity for bigger changes occur with gene duplications and the complexities of promoters and complex switching. (And I would add that the 97% or so of our DNA that is non-coding for proteins or "junk" makes a great workshop for new genes to accidentally occur). But, science has not been able to work back to early evolution and describe in any way where the toolbox genes, with perhaps 5 to 15 major protein complexes interacting in a positive way, came about. Panspermia or Intelligent Design cannot yet be ruled out. Carroll's proposition that simple random DNA mutations are fully adequate to support all evolutionary changes from the beginning is not completely proven in my mind and I fully expect other mechanisms to be elucidated in the next 1-2 decades.
Evolution thru DNA mutation, "survival of the fittest", and common ancestry are about as well proven as gravity and the roundness of the earth. It hardly seems necessary to write such an elaborate book to demonstrate this. But, just as Einstein's relativistic physics updated Newtonian, I think there are important subtleties yet to be discovered.
I would love it if Carroll updated his book. A lot has been learned already in the last 4-5 years which further illuminates the mechanisms of evolution.
Another observation: If you are not familiar with genetics, the audible version of this will be very hard to follow. Diagrams help tremendously (so get the book instead or get online).
This is a propaganda piece for evolution. Since his purpose is to sell evolution rather than fact and science I would have liked him to seriously examine the basis premises of evolution: 1.chance, 2. time, 3. selection, and 4. large numbers. These premises are questionable to say the last. There just has not been enough time for things to have occurred by chance. That is mathematic fact!!!!
The author is a con man. If you believe the whoppers he tells you in the first couple of chapters, he will hook you with even bigger ones towards the end.
Don't be naive. Instead get a copy of THE PSYCHOPATH NEXT DOOR and see where this guy fits into society. As Jesus said of the psychopaths, "they strain at a gnat and swallow a camel."
Whether psychopath or sociopath, they harm the basic functioning of a society. He condemns religionists on the one hand and is as much an evangelical on the other. The only thing he really has going for him is that the new religion is science and the common man has as hard a time challenging the basic premises of this religion as our forefathers had of challenging the premise that the sun revolved around the earth.
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