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An accessible introduction to core concepts in evolution for lay readers, which shows that random events have played a critical role in the development of life

Critical historical events--or "turning points"--have shaped evolution and continue to have a decisive effect on individual lives. This theme is explored and explained in this lucid, accessible book for lay readers. The author argues that, although evolution is the result of unpredictable events, these events have profound influences on subsequent developments. Life is thus a continuous interplay between unforeseeable events and their decisive consequences.

As one example, the author cites the fusing of two chromosomes, which differentiated the human species from our closest animal relatives about 4 to 5 million years ago. This event was not predictable, but it had a profound effect on the evolution of our species thereafter. By the same token, certain unpredictable circumstances in the past enabled only Homo sapiens to survive to the present day, though we now know that other human-like species also once existed.

The author contrasts such scientific concepts grounded in solid evidence with prevalent misconceptions about life: specifically, the religious notion that there is a plan and purpose behind life, the widespread perception that intelligent design governs the workings of nature, the persistent belief in destiny and fate, and the attribution of an overly deterministic role to genes.

This excellent introduction for laypersons to core ideas in biology goes a long way toward dispelling such misconceptions and presents current scientific research in clearly understandable, jargon-free terms.


PRAISE FOR THE WORK OF KOSTAS KAMPOURAKIS: "Provides one of the clearest, most well-reasoned sets of arguments for why evolution is and must be approached from the evidence and not from any prior religious or other position. The writing is superb, with apparently simple examples that explain essential aspects of evolution." -Choice (reviewing Understanding Evolution) "Myths die hard no matter how often they are refuted, and this splendid essay collection, edited by Numbers and Kampourakis, tackles many of the most prevalent and destructive myths about science.... The book's real value lies in the way that each author not only refutes a myth, but traces its origins and points out why it has lasted so long; each brief, well-written essay--they average eight pages--gives the historical context and explains the relevant science." - Publishers Weekly starred review (reviewing Newton's Apple and other Myths about Science) "This impressive volume - the first of its kind - explores some of the most pressing issues in the philosophy of biology from the perspective of biology education ... . [It] is intended for biology teachers, undergraduate students of biology and philosophy of biology, curriculum developers and philosophers of biology. ... each chapter offers an extensive literature review, which would be of tremendous help to anyone looking to explore further the area of focus. ... Overall, the book makes valuable contributions." - Science & Education (reviewing The Philosophy of Biology)

Formats & editions

  • Hardback


    February 15, 2018

    Prometheus Books

    384 pages

    RRP $42.99

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