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Media => Books => Topic started by: Henry on June 02, 2008, 09:41:11 PM

Title: Evolution
Post by: Henry on June 02, 2008, 09:41:11 PM
What are some good books to help me learn about evolution?

"The Selfish Gene"? Or should I start with something else first?

My background is computer science (math) and a little physics. I never learned much about biology. Should I get a basic biology book before delving into evolution? Any recommendations?
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Jim S on June 02, 2008, 11:29:34 PM
I liked The Selfish Gene a lot, it definitely stuck with me.  But parts of it do get a little tedious.  Darwin's Dangerous Idea by Dennett was also good.  There are others, like The Blind Watchmaker, but I haven't read it.

More recently I read Why Darwin Matters (http://www.amazon.com/Why-Darwin-Matters-Against-Intelligent/dp/0805081216/ref=sr_oe_3_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1212463589&sr=1-3) by Michael Shermer.  IMO, a GREAT first book to read on the subject. 

(I also found Monkey Girl (http://www.amazon.com/Monkey-Girl-Evolution-Education-Religion/dp/0060885483/ref=ed_oe_h) to be very entertaining, while covering some of the science. And it shows you where the U.S. is legally on the subject, as well.)

In any case, you can get by with out knowing a lot about biology.

I realize you specifically asked for books but I have to add these two resources:
 - First, check out this thread that started a here a few months ago:  free DVDs (http://skepchick.org/skepticsguide/index.php/topic,9566.0.html)

So far I've watched the one with Ken Miller lecturing...very good.

 - Finally, check out some great web resources, like http://www.talkorigins.org/ (http://www.talkorigins.org/).
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: whitedevilbrewing on June 03, 2008, 01:34:02 AM
I found The Ancestor's Tale by Dawkins to be the most satisfying treatment of the subject as a whole, but it wasn't my first book on it, so take that for what it's worth.  I certainly enjoyed it more than, say, What Evolution Is by Mayr, which I found rather dense and tedious.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Kevinisms on June 03, 2008, 01:52:59 AM
If you're new to evolution I'd save "The Blind Watchmaker" for your second book.  It's great.  I think that just about anyone with an interest in the subject can pick it up and read.  I just think you may appreciate it more if you had a bit more background.

Also if you can't read, why don't you listen to a podcast?  An EXCELLENT one is Evolution 101.  They are short podcast that will give you a good base to build upon.

http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=121787620 (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=121787620)
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Simma on June 03, 2008, 08:35:22 AM
One I haven't seen mentioned in these types of discussions is Full House by Stephen Jay Gould.  It does a good job of explaining how evolution doesn't naturally mean "simple becomes more complex" because of any "rule" but because there is no other direction to go.  It also explores why we don't see any more .400 batting averages.

The Truimph of Evolution and the Failure of Creationsim by Niles Eldredge is simple enough and helps counter creationist claims while giving the reader a better lay-understanding of evolution.

I third The Blind Watchmaker motion.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Henry on June 04, 2008, 10:17:34 AM
Thanks everyone, this is really helpful.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Lagnath on June 05, 2008, 12:56:57 PM
While not specifically addressing only evolution Carl Sagan's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a wonderful book. It's on my mind at the moment because I had a copy of it fall of the shelf while I was at a used book store recently. I decided to re-read it.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Jim S on June 05, 2008, 03:22:48 PM
Quote
While not specifically addressing only evolution Carl Sagan's Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors is a wonderful book. It's on my mind at the moment because I had a copy of it fall of the shelf while I was at a used book store recently. I decided to re-read it.

It just fell off the shelf?  Just like that?  Clearly, this was a sign from god, and you were wise in deciding to re-rea-...
No, wait.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Lagnath on June 05, 2008, 03:36:10 PM
Funny that you say that, I nearly made the same joke. Then I retyped it with the flying spaghetti monster. Then I just kiboshed the whole idea and gave a straight answer.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: diabhal on June 06, 2008, 10:58:45 AM
Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated
by Steve Jones

ISBN-10: 0345422775
ISBN-13: 978-0345422774

Excellent resource.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: ourpasture on June 07, 2008, 11:10:17 PM
If you have time to read a 1500 page book, check out stephen jay gould's 'the structure of evolutionary theory' :P 
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: musteion on June 07, 2008, 11:17:17 PM
I would suggest reading the Origin of Species, with Darwin's Dangerous Idea as a companion. The structure and philosophy of evolutionary theory is important, unto itself.

No popular material is a proper substitute to a few university-level biology courses, but it's a good start. From there, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory by Gould is your next step.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: kem on June 09, 2008, 04:53:55 AM
E.O. Wilson   "The Diversity of Life".  A beautifully written book written by the worlds greatest living biologist. 
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: Grimner on June 10, 2008, 06:53:35 PM
So many excellent books, so little time...
My book-shelfs are already full enough - either start a library or move soon :)

Richard Dawkins - Climbing Mount Impossible & The Blind Watchmaker
 - should be read together for a sound foundation on evolution (at least I hope it is :) ), with the Watchmaker last. Once you know your figs, you're all set.

Daniel Dennett - Darwin's Dangerous Idea
 - pure evil. Applies evolution on a larger scale than "just" biology and plants a few nifty concepts into your mind along the way.

Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: janusroad on June 17, 2008, 09:15:13 AM
a good quick read with plenty of info would be "Why Darwin Matters" its actually the book that introduced me to the skeptic community.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: 2112 on June 24, 2008, 09:14:15 PM
E.O. Wilson   "The Diversity of Life".  A beautifully written book written by the worlds greatest living biologist. 

+1

E.O. Wilson is one of my biologist heroes. The others being David Sloan Wilson and Stephen Jay Gould.
Title: Re: Evolution
Post by: stands2reason on July 10, 2008, 04:51:30 PM
If you're new to evolution I'd save "The Blind Watchmaker" for your second book.  It's great.  I think that just about anyone with an interest in the subject can pick it up and read.  I just think you may appreciate it more if you had a bit more background.

Also if you can't read, why don't you listen to a podcast?  An EXCELLENT one is Evolution 101.  They are short podcast that will give you a good base to build upon.

http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=121787620 (http://phobos.apple.com/WebObjects/MZStore.woa/wa/viewPodcast?id=121787620)

Blind watchmaker also took abiogenesis to task, covering all that messy life history before we finally got to the DNA+Protein.