This weeks question comes from Matthew, who want to know if I could recommend any books about evolution. Specifically, something for the beginner, the intermediate, the academic and a book about evolution “apologetics.” Unfortunately I don’t think I’ll be able to give much of an answer. Human evolution is such a rapidly advancing field that by the time a book has been written, edited and published it will likely be out of date. They can be good introductions to topics, but to get deeper you really need to start reading journals. Or science blogs that examine journal articles (hint hint).
- For a beginner book I would recommend Dawkin’s The Greatest Show on Earth. Although often billed as an anti-creationism book, it avoids the common trap that most of my creationist posts fall into. It doesn’t frame itself around the debate, but talks about how great and fascinating evolution can be and as a result is a great introduction to the topic
- For an intermediate book I’d go with another Dawkin’s book. The Selfish Gene. The thing about evolution is that once you get in the right mindframe everything slots into place and it all becomes so much easier to understand. Getting the gene’s view of the world is a great way to develop that mindset. I have heard some people complain it gets a bit repetitive, so if you must just read it long enough to get in the mindset of evolution. Personally though, I found it engaging enough to get through to the end
- If you’re looking for something advanced, Boyd and Silk’s How Humans Evolved is probably the best in the biz. It’s a proper textbook, but written in such a way that it builds up knowledge. Someone with only a passing familiarity with the subject could start reading and it would gently guide them through; developing their understanding until they could talk shop with the best palaeoanthropologists. And it’s a good read to boot. The book is updated every 3 years, so avoids being too out of date. The next issue is due out next year
- As for the apologetics book, it would be tempting to repeat The Greatest Show on Earth. But I feel that would be cheating somewhat, so would go for Why Evolution is True. Like Dawkin’s book, it focuses on how great evolution is rather than how silly creationism can be.
But as I said, I think blogs are a much better way to read about such a rapidly developing field. So without further ado, here are my selections of some of the top blogs in the area. This is by no means exhaustive and there are dozens of equally good blogs that could occupy any spot on this list.
- For the beginner you can’t go wrong with The Mermaid’s Tale. Brilliantly written posts on a broad range of subjects. It’s an excellent blog that can capture your interest in almost any subject.
- At the intermediate level, Live Like Dirt. Its another great human evolution blog that often branches out a bit, with posts on primatology and evolution in general. Andrew Holmes deserves a great big hat tip, with one of those great big Lincoln-like hats.
- For the advanced reader, The Theory, Evolution and Games Group. It’s a fascinating and well written way to find about game theory and how behaviour can influence evolution. A great blog, although the maths does skip a little bit over my head at time. But that’s what half a life time of deliberate innumeracy does to you.
- And if you’re looking for some anti-creationism blogs it’s hard to go wrong. There are some great ones out there and to save me the effort with digging up tonnes of links I’ll stick to 3. Eye on the ICR – which does what it says on the tin – I Love You But Your Going to Hell, which covers the culture surrounding conservatism, education and Christianity, and Playing Chess with Pigeons; which gets hardcore sciencey on stuff (although it’s a bit infrequently updated). All cover slightly different topics, all do it really well.
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