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Genetics professor Fairbanks, author of several science books for laymen (Genetics: The Continuity of Life), presents the details of evolution as gleaned from a close study of genetics, but marshals his evidence in a conversational style readily comprehensible to general readers. Fairbanks excels at explaining the momentous discoveries in genetics in the past 20 years in clear, concise language, helpfully defining relatively new terms (introns, telomeres, transposable elements) as well as older terms (mutation, natural selection). Using comparative genomics, in which the human genome is compared to those of other primates, mammals, vertebrates, insects and bacteria, Fairbanks shows how the human genome can only be explained as the evolutionary product of numerous pre-existing species, placing humans in a family tree that ties together all life on Earth and maps its genetic changes over time. From there, he engages in a familiar critique of the "intelligent design" theory of creation ("When Faith and Reason Clash"); himself a Mormon, Fairbanks makes some interesting points regarding the canard that the sciences in general, and evolution in particular, are at odds with religion. Notes, references and extensive appendices go into greater technical detail; general readers looking for an overview of current genetics and evolution science will find this a great place to start.
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"Brilliantly conceived, this excellent book shows how DNA sequences confirm the fact of human evolution. Wide ranging though not superficial, detailed though not technical, filled with fresh examples and engaging vignettes, the book is respectful of dissenting opinions but leaves literal creationists with no place to hide." —Daniel Hartl, Higgins Professor of Biology, Harvard University
"What an exciting surprise! Instead of the usual embryos and fossils, Fairbanks uses new molecular evidence. And he zeros in on a major controversy, the origin of humans and our relation to other primates. The arguments are presented with unusual clarity and they are overwhelmingly convincing."
—James F. Crow, emeritus professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin, a member of the National Academy of Sciences, and author of Genetics Notes
"As Fairbanks sensibly reminds us, there is a time and place for science and for religion, both of which enrich the human experience. Anyone who is troubled by the seeming dichotomy between the two modes of inquiry may gain perspective and comfort from this fine book, which should be supplemental reading in every biology classroom." —Cecie Starr, author of Biology: The Unity and Diversity of Life