Summary and book reviews of Darwin's Ghost by Steve Jones

Darwin's Ghost

The Origin of Species Updated

By Steve Jones

Darwin's Ghost
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2000,
    377 pages.
    Paperback: Apr 2001,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

Charles Darwin's masterpiece, The Origin of Species, is probably the best-known, least-read book. Unquestionably one of the most important achievements of the millennium, its publication in 1859 caused a sensation, because it forced mankind to see itself as part of the animal world--a notion that hundreds of millions still deny. Darwin's theory of common descent did for biology what Galileo did for astronomy: made it into a single science rather than a collection of unrelated facts. Those facts, however, are now a century and a half old, as are The Origin's illustrative examples and Victorian prose style. Writing as "Darwin's ghost," the well-known geneticist Steve Jones has drawn on our ever-expanding scientific knowledge and the brilliant logic set out in The Origin to restate evolution's case for the twenty-first century.

Jones has been called "the British Carl Sagan" because of his prominence as a popularizer of science. Using contemporary examples--the AIDS virus, the rules of the American Kennel Club, the sheep who never forget a face and the garbage that floats in the Pacific--he shows the power and immediacy of Darwin's great argument. Filled with anecdotes, humor and the very latest research, Darwin's Ghost is a popular, readable and comprehensive account of the science that makes life make sense.

On The Origin of Species

Introduction

According to a 1991 opinion poll, a hundred million Americans believe that "God created man pretty much in his present form at one time during the last ten thousand years." A large majority saw no reason to oppose the teaching of creationism in schools. They followed in a long tradition. A text of 1923, Hell and the High Schools, claimed that "The Germans who poisoned the wells and springs of northern France and Belgium and fed little children poisoned candy were angels compared to the text-book writers and publishers who are poisoning the books used in our schools ... Next to the fall of Adam and Eve, Evolution and the teaching of Evolution in tax-supported schools is the greatest curse that ever fell upon this earth."

Fifty pieces of legislation tried to put a stop to the subject. All failed. Undeterred, Alabama called for a note to be pasted into textbooks: "This book may discuss evolution, a controversial theory some scientists give as...

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Reviews

Media Reviews
The Independent on Sunday

This is a delightful book, infused with wit and panache, and as enthralling in its own way as was Darwin's original....[W]onderfully conceived and gloriously executed.

The Observer Review

A thumping good read. Jones succeeds in this gargantuan undertaking.

The Spectator

The echoes of the master go elegantly beyond the mere re-use of chapter and section headings...bristles with splendidly informative illustrations and crisply executed demonstrations, liberally spiced with anecdote and curiosity. [It] will rightly be hailed.

The Times (UK)

Of the 'new versions' of great books being made available to the public, the most compelling is surely Steve Jones's Darwin's Ghost.

Sunday Times (UK)

A richly readable introduction to the science that The Origin of Species invented. Jones is a star writer [who makes] the old bones throw off their dust and dance the boogie.

The Guardian (Books of the Year)(UK)

An extraordinary ride through Darwinism, yesterday and today. Jones is in the premier league of what appears to be a new breed--brilliant scientists able and eager to share their written erudition with the rest of us.

Sunday Telegraph (UK)

This is a clever book about serious ideas that can be happily read on the beach.

The Independent

Hugely enjoyable. The richness is almost overwhelming, and I am awed by Jones's reading.

Reader Reviews
srparedon

The inherently absorbing subject matter rescues this book from Jones's maddeningly poor writing style-- awkward transitions, obscure antecedents, inapt adverbs consistently detract from an otherwise compelling read.

Jairam Maharaj

Simply wonderful...makes simple reading of an intensely complex subject...used it as an intro to my studies of Biogeography...

Rose Roberto

Darwin's Ghost is well written, interesting, and educational...in a fun way. The definition of evolution is simply "change through time" and the author uses examples from what biologists know today of genetics, DNA and molecular biology to...   Read More

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