A sharp, highly scientific book about the intersection of evolutionary biology and the meaning of life.
In this popular-science debut, author M explores modern evolutionary understanding in an accessible, detailed manner. Ranging from the origin of life to the advent of genetically modified organisms, M tackles common misconceptions about the way cells interact, the way the first nucleated cell may have arisen, and how chromosome features called telomeres could lead to longer lives. On the surface, the book reads like a basic course in evolutionary biology, but at its core, it’s a philosophical exploration of how one can ascribe deeper meaning to biological facts and scientific ideas. The book’s greatest strength rests on its solid foundation in modern science; for example, it conveys sophisticated ideas regarding stem cell research and how it’s misunderstood. M also delves into the concepts of love, empathy and free will, placing humanity squarely within the animal kingdom but never devaluing the power of emotions. He even dives headfirst into a discussion of the long-term ethical and religious ramifications of immortality and artificial life. At times, M comes close to ascribing purpose to natural selection, a process shaped by circumstance and environment; one might suspect that humans are a “goal” of evolution, but this ignores the fact that every other creature alive today has been continuously evolving. At other times, the science overwhelms the philosophical underpinnings promised in the text. That said, this is a book to be dissected chapter by chapter and digested slowly. Indeed, it’s the kind of book that should be passed from hand to hand in classrooms among students and teachers, read by senators and congressmen, and savored in graduate seminars. Anyone who can credibly convince readers of his answer to the question, “Which came first: the chicken or the egg?,” deserves attention.
A highly relatable, accessible popular-science book.