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Relics of Eden: The Powerful Evidence of Evolution in Human DNA [Hardcover]

Daniel J. Fairbanks
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

Oct. 31 2007 1591025648 978-1591025641 First Edition
Since the publication in 1859 of Darwin’s Origin of Species, debate over the theory of evolution has been continuous and often impassioned. In recent years, opponents of "Darwin’s dangerous idea" have mounted history’s most sophisticated and generously funded attack, claiming that evolution is "a theory in crisis." Ironically, these claims are being made at a time when the explosion of information from genome projects has revealed the most compelling and overwhelming evidence of evolution ever discovered. Much of the latest evidence of human evolution comes not from our genes, but from so-called "junk DNA," leftover relics of our evolutionary history that make up the vast majority of our DNA.
Relics of Eden explores this powerful DNA-based evidence of human evolution. The "relics" are the millions of functionally useless but scientifically informative remnants of our evolutionary ancestry trapped in the DNA of every person on the planet. For example, the analysis of the chimpanzee and Rhesus monkey genomes shows indisputable evidence of the human evolutionary relationship with other primates. Over 95 percent of our genome is identical with that of chimpanzees and we also have a good deal in common with other animal species.
Author Daniel J. Fairbanks also discusses what DNA analysis reveals about where humans originated. The diversity of DNA sequences repeatedly confirms the archeological evidence that humans originated in sub-Saharan Africa (the "Eden" of the title) and from there migrated through the Middle East and Asia to Europe, Australia, and the Americas. In conclusion, Fairbanks confronts the supposed dichotomy between evolution and religion, arguing that both science and religion are complementary ways to seek truth. He appeals to the vast majority of Americans who hold religious convictions not to be fooled by the pseudoscience of Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates and to abandon the false dichotomy between religion and real science.
This concise, very readable presentation of recent genetic research is completely accessible to the nonspecialist and makes for enlightening and fascinating reading.

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From Publishers Weekly

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.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Review

"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

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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Reclaiming the reluctant Sept. 2 2008
By Stephen A. Haines HALL OF FAME TOP 500 REVIEWER
Format:Hardcover
The focus of resistance to Charles Darwin's "dangerous idea" was, and remains, the place of the human species. Even in Darwin's time, most educated people could perceive how natural selection solved many of the issues of life Nature posed. Humans, however, were excluded from the process in the minds of some. The thought of humanity emerging from the African continent millions of years ago stuck in the craw of those who wanted our species to be something special. That reluctance to accept the human heritage is shown to be false by this fine volume. Daniel Fairbanks offers us an excellent overview of how humans came to be. In doing so, he utilises the firmest and most secure tool in science's kit. If similar physiology and the fossil record wasn't sufficient, genetic research has proven beyond doubt that our heritage rests on the primate lineages beginning in Africa thirty million years ago.

Early genetic studies demonstrated that the genome of chimpanzees and humans were strikingly similar. More recent work has examined those similarities in greater detail. The evidence shows how specific areas in the human and chimp genomes are often duplicated exactly. Fairbanks, after noting how DNA's structure has some deceptive tricks up its molecular sleeve, explains how these have been used to trace the links between apes and humans. There are "transposons", segments of DNA that "Cut and Paste" themselves to new locations. We have many of these, but they seem to have settled down to become analytical tools. There are pseudogenes, retroelements, introns and other characteristics which add to the researcher's analytical tool kit in making studies across species. Just one example, locating pseudogenes, has permitted mapping of the divergence of orang utans, gorillas, chimpanzees and humans.
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