Evolutions: Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World

Farrar. Jun. 2018. 256p. illus. notes. ISBN 9780374150709. $26; ebk. ISBN 9780374716530. SCI
This is a science text like no other. Although Harman (history of science, Bar-Ilan Univ., Israel; The Price of Altruism) follows a standard progression, from the creation of universe and planet Earth through the emergence of life up to modern humans, he does so quickly via a series of 15 vignettes that are more poetry than pedagogy. Each short chapter covers one phase of this history with the majority of text devoted to the development of life on Earth. These personal stories, narrated in the first person by creatures long since extinct, such as a trilobite, an early ancestor of whales, offer brevity but also serve those most familiar with what to look for; a section of "Illuminations" for each chapter reveals the science and sources behind the narrative. Rarely are actual scientists mentioned in the narratives, the great men and their discoveries take a back seat to the entities who tell the story and to philosophical debates about their supposed "advancements." For example, the chapter "Jealousy: The Invention of the Eye" is narrated by a trilobite who wonders if eyes are more hindrance than asset.
VERDICT Ideal for readers who find traditional science books lacking in philosophy.

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