A Pleasant Read on Darwin Day


Janet Browne’s Darwin’s Origin of Species: A Biography will be published in the United States in March, but was released in the U.K. last June. It’s a tidy little 151 pages (plus notes and index) that would make a very nice Darwin-day gift for your evolution-loving Valentine!

The book is one title in the series “Books that Changed The World” (for some reason, in the U.K., they only “shook” the world) that also includes Christopher Hitchens on Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man, Francis Wheen on Marx’s Das Kapital, Simon Blackburn on Plato’s Republic, Bruce Lawrence on the Koran, Karen Armstrong on The Bible, Hew Strachan on Clausewitz’s On War, Alberto Manguel on The Iliad and The Odyssey, and P.J. O’Rourke on Smith’s Wealth of Nations.

Browne is Darwin’s leading biographer, and she manages somehow to encompass not only the development of Darwin’s thought, but its implications to the present—including the modern synthesis and creationist opposition—all in a book that can be easily read in a day. In some places, Browne’s writing seems inelegantly simplistic, but all told, the only real objection to this book is that it’s not possible to present Darwin’s great ideas in their full color in such a short space. Still, this book comes as close as possible. Darwin comes across as an exceedingly pleasant man, the very image of what a scientist should be: careful, precise, polite, honest, and brave enough to stand for unpopular ideas when the evidence supports them. Happy birthday, Charles Darwin, and thank you Janet Browne.


The book title seems like it’s going to lead to confusion. Have you read Darwin’s Origin of Species? Do you mean Darwin’s Origin of Species, or Darwin’s Origin of Species?

Is this book worth reading if you’ve already read Janet Browne’s biography of Darwin?

Off-topic head’s up -

There’s a Reuters story by somebody named Carey Gillam circulating on Yahoo.

It may not be intentional, but the story is badly distorted and pro-creationist. There’s no way to reply to Yahoo news items right now, but this needs to be rebutted.

It’s title alone implies that the voter-driven reversion to a normal, universally accepted science standards by the current Kansas school board is conflict between “Darwin and God”.

DI mouthpieces are quoted describing the current Kansas school board as “extreme”. Sure, that’s funny, but the quote is just offered up without critical response, and the DI is not correctly identified as a right wing political institute. This is at best a level of credulous naivete that amounts to incompetence in a journalist, or at worst, sneaky bias.

Obviously, the recent conference of pro-science clergy at Butler University is ignored.

As is the simple background fact that anti-evolution campaigns have been restricted to relatively few rural areas (compared to the number of school districts in the country), and that they have always resulted, as in Kansas, in either courtroom defeat, electoral defeat, or both, for their advocates.

Overall, it’s incredibly poorly done, and written in a way that suggests that there’s an actual scientific “controversy”, and even to imply that Kansas is unusual not for contemplating anti-evolution nonsense at a state level, but for returning to mainstream scientific consensus.

Even though creationism in schools is basically a dead duck no matter what ignoramuses in the increasingly irrelevant “mainstream media” write, it is a serious problem when a well-known news service like Reuters prints this kind of thing.


I haven’t read her biography of Darwin, but obviously it will be much, much more in depth than this little book. In fact, I thought the brief biographical survey in Carl Zimmer’s book was more in-depth. But this book is nice light reading for the layman.

I wish the posters would check how their post displayed before abandoning it to the hordes of commentators.

I can’t tell for sure if it’s Tim’s post this time that’s Too Wide, burying the indices to recent posts and comments beneath it, but SOMEBODY’S recent post is doing it.


Please, folks, doublecheck your posts to make sure they aren’t stretching the virtual denim to the point of indelicacy.

yes, I’ve noticed for several months now that whenever a contributor puts a picture in their post (if on the left instead of top center), it inevitably breaks the layter structure such that the menu layer on the right is buried underneath the edge of the primary layer, and you can only see half of the layer.

I’m glad I’m not the only one.

are you using IE?

For better or worse, yes.

But then, by default, a lot of people do. Maybe all the contributors have the luxury of something slicker, but a little pity and forethought for those of us who don’t would be ‘preciated…

Re “yes, I’ve noticed for several months now that whenever a contributor puts a picture in their post […]”

I wonder if that’s from the scripting that comes with the page - maybe somebody with the problem could try disabling scripting in their browser, and see what happens then.


well, if you disable all scripting, then the layers themselves break completely.

no, it’s very specific to areas where an image is placed on the left in any given post.

older versions of IE did not have this problem, and I doubt that the site code has changed in that fashion, so I’m guessing something has changed wrt to how IE interprets layers that has caused this.

still, a little experimentation on Reed’s part when time permits would be welcome.

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Timothy Sandefur published on February 12, 2007 11:21 AM.

Darwin Day in South Carolina was the previous entry in this blog.

Flock of Dodos – Yet Another Review. is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.



Author Archives

Powered by Movable Type 4.381

Site Meter