6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution (Hardcover)
All species' lifeforms are encoded in DNA sequences. In Humans this is 7 billion characters long. During replication, not all characters are copied correctly. For example, in humans it is estimated 125 or so are copied incorrectly. In certain cases this can mean the resultant amino acids and proteins, which the DNA encodes will be different. This is a mutation. If the mutation provides an advantage, natural selection will mean it is probable it will propagate throughout the species.
DNA provides detail of the mirco mechanisms and strong evidence when critical events happened in evolutionary history. We don't actually need a fossil record to explain evolution. This is the main theisis in this book.
For example, Old World Monkeys and Apes have trichromatic vision whereas New World monkeys are just dichromats. Why? When? How? Carroll explains all in succinct detail by locating the exact location of the relevant gene and then working through the sequence of events.
He uses simple mathematics, running through some probability examples and statistics analysis to the point that one has a full understand of the mirco details, feeling there are no "missing links". It's reductionism at its very best.
He then shows why understanding infectious diseases requires understanding evolution. We are involved in germ warfare. For example, in areas where malaria or typhoid fever is endemic, the genetic profiles of humans shows that they have evolved genes which provide resistance to some forms of these diseases. The problem of course is that these diseases are also evolving (not just to human resistance but to the antibiotics that are used to treat them). Our hole approach to combating these diseases is shaped by our understanding of evolution - right at the level of DNA. For example, it is the reason why triple antiretroviral drugs are used in treating HIV AIDS.
Carroll is superb at explaining micro details. The only criticism I would have is a quick run through speciation and the Popperian scientific method would have helped many who do not understand the big picture, how evolution explains new species being created and how the scientific method validates that explaination. Even though 20 minutes on google will give all that, it would have been helpful for those who do not have any scientific acumen.
The book concludes with some of the challenges facing Science. This may manifest in many forms from political circles to religious fundamentalists. When one factors in pertinent realities such as climate change it only becomes all too obvious how important it is we have a scientific understanding of the world and we make the best judgments from that.
I have read several books on evolution and this right up there with the best. It's just as good as anything I have read from Dawkins and doesn't have any of the caustic anti-religion undertones. He explicitly states that the Pope John Paul II publicly accepted evolution as do most Protestants Churches; Christian creationists and fundamentalists are really only a minority.
It is a book which contains superb explanations of the micro details of evolution. It is full of helpful diagrams, charts and graphs which really help understand the concepts being explained. Don't get it from the library, buy it because you'll want to keep it.