by Steve Jones
Category: Science & Nature / Science & Maths
Publisher: Transworld Publishers Ltd
Publication date: 1 September 2000
Number of pages: 544
Prizes: Winner of BP Natural World Book Prize 1999.
In his new book, Steve Jones takes on the challenge of going back to the book of the millennium, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species. Before The Origin, biology was a set of unconnected facts. Darwin made it into a science, linked by the theory of evolution, the grammar of the living world.It reveals ties between cancer and the genetics of fish, between brewing and inherited disease, between the sex lives of crocodiles and the politics of Brazil. Darwin used the biology of the nineteenth century to prove his case. Now, that science has been revolutionized and his case can be reargued using the twentieth century's astonishing advances. From AIDS to dinosaurs, from conservation to cloned sheep, bursting with anecdotes, jokes and irresistible facts, Almost Like a Whale is a popular account of the science that makes biology make sense. It will catch the millennial mood and tell all those for whom Darwin is merely a familiar name what he really meant. It exposes the Darwinian delusions which try (and fail) to explain human behaviour in evolutionary terms, and, while giving an up-to-date account of our own past, shows how humans are the first species to step beyond the constraints of biology.
Jones has set himself the task of bringing Darwin up to date by writing a new book using the same overall plan and chapter headings as The Origin of Species. As a bonus, he includes a chapter on human evolution - something Darwin himself left for a later book. The result is impressive, but rather artificial, and lacks the immediate appeal of Jones' earlier books, The Language of the Genes and In the Blood. It will have most appeal for someone who is already au fait with the idea of evolution by natural selection, but wants some ammunition with which to convince doubting friends. (Kirkus UK)
What the papers say:
"'Inspired by his modernising pen, the old bones throw off their dust and dance the boogie...a richly readable introduction to the science that The Origin of Species invented'" -- Mark Ridley The Sunday Times "'A celebration of the unarguable rightness of Darwin's case, updated to take into account our century's advances, particularly in genetics...his writing is clear, precise, declamatory, often illuminating...he allies the macro and the micro, using tales of dogs and snails and polyps and islands, to create a work of persuasion rather than polemic' " -- Euan Ferguson Observer "'To rewrite Darwin requires considerable skill, bravado, and, possibly, a touch of madness. Jones clearly has more than his fair share of all three...a barnstorming tour of modern genetics and its implications for evolutionary theory'" -- Kenan Malik Independent on Sunday "'The richness is almost overwhelming, and I am awed by Jones's reading...hugely enjoyable'" -- Steven Rose Independent "'Explains the workings of evolution, as they are now understood, with beautiful clarity and, naturally, with a lot more fun and jokes than Darwin ever allowed himself. The book is a pleasure to read'" -- Mary Midgley New Statesman
Jones is Professor of Genetics at University College London and has worked at universities in the USA, Australia and Africa. He gave the BBC Reith Lectures in 1991, and presented a successful BBC TV series on human genetics and evolution in 1996. He is a regular columnist for the Daily Telegraph and frequently appears on radio and television. His previous books include The Language of the Genes (which won the 1994 Rhone-Poulenc Science Book Prize) and In the Blood (shortlisted for the 1997 Rhone-Poulenc). He won the 1997 Royal Society Faraday Medal for the Public Understanding of Science.
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