Explaining Life through Evolution
280 pp., 5 x 8 in, 11 color illus., 26 b&w illus.
- Published: August 8, 2023
- Publisher: The MIT Press
- Rights: not for sale on the Indian subcontinent
A broad overview of the science of evolution, and why understanding it matters in our everyday lives.
Explaining Life through Evolution tells the origin story of life on this planet and how we arrived at the tremendous diversity among organisms that we see around us today. Prosanta Chakrabarty explains evolution in a concise, accessible, and engaging way, emphasizing the importance of understanding evolution in everyday contemporary life. Weaving his own lived experience among discussions of Darwin and the origins of evolutionary thought, Chakrabarty also covers key concepts to our understanding of our current condition, including mutation; the spectrum of race, sex, gender, and sexuality; the limitations of ancestry tests; and the evolution of viruses like SARS-CoV-2, the virus at the heart of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Offering a contemporary update to classic popular evolution books by Stephen Jay Gould, Jerry Coyne, and others, Explaining Life through Evolution is not only an illuminating read, but also an essential guide to the kind of scientific literacy that we need in order to face the challenges of our collective future.
“Prosanta Chakrabarty's Explaining Life Through Evolution is a lucid and often entertaining exploration of the living world, in all its colorful permutations. He aims not to indoctrinate, but rather to explain, even for skeptical readers, just what evolution is, and how it works. Highly recommended.”
Richard Conniff, author of Ending Epidemics and The Species Seekers
“An enlightening and entertaining climb through the tree of life. Prosanta Chakrabarty is a superb educator who wants more than anything to persuade you to think. He offers an accessible and affable guide to evolution, what it is, what it isn't, how it works and why it matters—especially right now. Essential reading for students, teachers and anyone who's ever wondered how life on earth came to be the way it is.”
Helen Scales, author of Spirals in Time and The Brilliant Abyss
“A good book for people who want straight answers to tough questions about evolution.”
Mary Jane West-Eberhard, author of Developmental Plasticity and Evolution; 2021 recipient of the Linnean Medal
“This incredibly readable and engaging primer on evolutionary principles and processes is a 'must have' for any reader's bookshelf. I enjoyed not only the elaboration of how evolution works but also the sections on misconceptions and applications. It even clarifies important timely topics like race as a social rather than genetic construct and our current COVID-19 pandemic.”
Mohamed Noor, Darwin-Wallace Medal winner; Dean of Natural Sciences, Duke University
“Chakrabarty weaves his lived experiences into this poignant discussion of evolution, covering key concepts that are vital to our understanding of current conditions like mutation and natural selection. Important for any book on evolutionary biology is discussion of how the discipline has been (too often) misused to conflate socially constructed categories like gender, and here Chakrabarty's incandescent analysis shines light on the problems with historical and present-day interpretations of evolution, while enlightening us about those who work at the cutting edges of the field. We need this book, to guide us through viral pandemics and social change, and to provide literacy so that we can work together toward a thriving future world.”
Jessica Ware, Associate Curator, American Museum of Natural History and winner of the 'Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers'
“Prosanta Chakrabarty presents one of the most accessible texts about evolution that I have ever read. Whether you are an educator, scientist, or curious reader, this presentation of the theory of evolution provides a magical balance between solid scientific research and humor that teaches, advises, and entertains. As an elementary educator, this text helps me make the theory of evolution accessible to the youngest of scientists and citizens of the world. It also makes scientific research and scientists more human, more accessible rather than reserved pieces of knowledge and beings for a select few to know and understand. I am grateful for this resource as a way to become a better prepared educator and human, charged with empowering our youngest of scientists and leaders of the world.”
Becky Schnekser, elementary educator; explorer; author of Expedition Science: Empowering Learners Through Exploration
“Chakrabarty gives a well-informed account that should refresh the knowledge of curious readers and convince those with open minds... this book is a superb gift for a teenager fascinated by science but frustrated at the careful, abbreviated approach to evolution they are likely to encounter in high school biology class.”