Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution, by Sean B. Carroll (author), Patrick Lawlor (narrator)

Tantor Media, ISBN 9781400153152, January 2007

Carroll starts out by talking about forensic use of DNA evidence in criminal cases, where we rely on DNA evidence to determine guilt or innocence, often in cases where the death penalty or long imprisonment is at stake. He explains, in simple terms, how this works and why it matters.

And then he explains the contradiction between the wide popular acceptance of DNA evidence by the general public, and the widespread resistance to or rejection of evolution.

Organized in three main sections, Carroll lays out, first, how DNA analysis works, why it is solid evidence of evolution, and how it enables us to decipher the evolutionary history of organisms; what it tells us about how evolution has worked, focusing on specific examples such as the evolution of vision in insects, primates, cetaceans, and fish, and why Antarctic ice fish have no hemoglobin in their blood; and finally, the major arguments against evolution and responses to them.

The book is written in clear, understandable terms. Carroll acknowledges that some of the concepts are complex, but says they're both important and within the ability of the reader to understand, and then proceeds to explain them in an accessible way without talking down to his readers. In the audio version, we don't get the benefit of seeing the figures and illustrations while listening to the text, but in the audio CD edition, they are included on the final disk. In the final section, refuting objections to evolution, Carroll is respectful and never mocks those he disagrees with, but is absolutely firm and clear about why they are wrong.

Patrick Lawlor, as the reader, is excellent, with a clear, expressive voice that captures, I think, exactly the tone that Sean Carroll intended.

Highly recommended.

I borrowed this book from a friend.