Monday, February 07, 2011

Four Books All Americans Need to Read

Penn State University recently conducted a study that found something that has me annoyed and upset this morning. The majority of biology teachers stay away from teaching evolution, to avoid controversy. Another 13% teach creationism exclusively.
My university major was evolutionary biology.Some of my fondest m emories from my time at UMass Boston are of Dr. Gibbons and his Forensic Osteology class, and Dr. Summers' Human Variation class, which was hard but sort of fun. Gibbons was my major adviser, and he often took me out to lunch to talk and gossip. I remember discussing the ovarian bursae of the tree shrew and what that means for taxonomical classification. Good times! Three times he took me to Harvard University, where he worked every Thursday. They have a lot of bones over there, yes indeed. On a side note, I met world-renowned entomologist and "ant guy" E.O. White. I swooned.

Sentimental, I am.

If you'd like to learn about evolution, here's a short list of books for those of us who find themselves wondering about evolution. If you're a "creationist" you especially need to read these. Evolution is as real as gravity. If one doesn't understand natural and artificial selection, fitness, adaptation, etc., then one simply cannot stand in judgment of evolution. So very many people criticize evolution without knowing anything about it. Among scientists, there is no debate about the existence of evolution. None. Refined details about this fossil or that gene are studied and reviewed and discussed, of course. It's an exciting, very active field. But no biologist refutes evolution.

It can be seen in the in the field, where bones are found and rigorously dated by association, location, and carbon dating. I highly recommend The Complete World of Human Evolution by Peter Edwards & Chris Stringer. It's very accessible.

New antibiotics have to be developed constantly to combat evolving germs, like MRSA. And in the creation of an updated influenza vaccine every year. An outstanding book on this subject is Evolution in Health & Disease by Koella and Stearns.

One of the greatest scientists to walk the Earth was Charles Darwin. Naturally, it would be wise to read his On the Origin of Species by Natural Selection. Most people have heard of it, but not so many have actually read it. Darwin was a careful scientist, collecting data in the field for years before spelling out his theory.

Finally, there is Science on Trial: The Case for Evolution Douglas J. Futuyma. I just read this and enjoyed it quite a bit. Futuyma covers the material well, and answers some questions posed by "creationists."


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