Mark Ridley - Evolution

Evolution is an excellent textbook for those seeking more than a superficial treatment of evolutionary biology. In more than 700 pages Ridley takes the reader through all the 'ins and outs' of how we have arrived at the diversity of life we currently observe. I enjoy Ridley's approach and style. Rather than draw conclusions for the reader (and omit those views he doesn't fully support), he presents the evidence for the various working theories that attempt to explain the details. Usually he states why he thinks one is more fully supported than the other(s), but he makes it clear that further evidence and research will provide additional insight.

Chapter 3 (especially p. 65-66) contains some information on Creationism which should have been omitted. Including a treatment of this issue, in an otherwise scholarly textbook, seems strange. I don't imagine that any Medical textbooks would feature a section on witchdoctors or quackery.

Several of the areas that were added or expanded from the first edition need further expansion to make the book more comprehensive and balanced. These include more human examples (including a thorough discussion of homo sapien ancestry) and much more information on the fossil record--one chapter, of under twenty pages, on the topic isn't sufficient. It is too apparent that a biologist--rather than a paleontologist--is the author. Likewise, examples from the animal kingdom are used far more than the plant kingdom. The detail provided in Part 2 may be too cumbersome and technical for most readers. College-level genetic students should find the material covered in this section useful though.

Following each chapter, Ridley includes a "Further Reading" section which is excellent. The papers and books referenced are annotated so readers can pursue just those areas that best fit their needs and reading level (technical vs. general). References include 25 pages (in double column format) of works--most from the 1980s and 1990s.

Although not aimed specifically at a general audience, much of this textbook will be appreciated by most people. Even those wishing not to read such a lengthy discourse on the subject will find it to be a valuable reference and resource.

Included with the textbook is a fairly well done CD-ROM which features virtual experiments you can try yourself using evolutionary directional selection, genetic drift, gene frequency, mutational load, and sexual reproduction. Don't like the results you receive in your virtual world? Play God and try again. The CD-ROM also includes a fairly comprehensive timeline of the history of life on earth which includes animations, examples, and pictures galore. Twenty 'classic' texts on evolution are bundled with the package too. These include works by Carson, Darwin, Ehrlich, Gould, Kimura, Wright, and others. The texts can be printed. (It would be nice if in a future edition they could be read and searched online too.) Finally, a lengthy glossary is included in the software which clearly describes the terms used in the book. This glossary, too, features images for illustration and clarification.

From Booknews:
An unusually interesting introductory (but by no means unsophisticated) textbook in modern evolutionary biology. For each topic, the account begins at an introductory level and moves on to the cutting edge of modern research.

From the Publisher:
The theory of evolution is, by far, the most important theory in biology. The first edition of Evolution represented one of the most important new texts for the undergraduate market in recent years. Readable and stimulating, yet well-balanced and in-depth, the text provided the "breath of fresh air" that was missing from other texts on the subject.

Mark Ridley's Evolution CD-ROM features all the topics covered in his best-selling textbook Evolution - significantly enhanced by video clips, animations, virtual experiments, colour photographs and more! Designed to be used for both browsing and self instruction, the CD contains a mini encyclopedia, a selection of classic papers and 23 interactive tutorials that follow the chapter headings in the book.

Table of Contents

Pt. 1. Introduction
1. The Rise of Evolutionary Biology
2. Molecular and Mendelian Genetics
3. The Evidence for Evolution
4. Natural Selection and Variation
Pt. 2. Evolutionary Genetics
5. The Theory of Natural Selection
6. Random Events in Population Genetics
7. Molecular Evolution and the Neutral Theory
8. Two-Locus and Multi-Locus Population Genetics
9. Quantitative Genetics
10. Genome Evolution
Pt. 3. Adaptation and Natural Selection
11. The Analysis of Adaptation
12. The Units of Selection
13. Adaptive Explanation
Pt. 4. Evolution and Diversity
14. Evolution and Classification
15. The Idea of a Species
16. Speciation
17. The Reconstruction of Phylogeny
18. Evolutionary Biogeography
Pt. 5. Paleobiology and Macroevolution
19. The Fossil Record
20. Rates of Evolution
21. Macroevolutionary Change
22. Coevolution
23. Extinction