Friday, March 28, 2008

Book review!

I just got finished reading "Your inner fish" by Neil Shubin, and I thought I'd give it a little review, for those of you interested in reading it.

Who it's good for: People with little to no biology background who are interested in how scientists come up with ideas and test them. Great for people who may not understand evolution and want to know a bit about the evidence for it and how that evidence was tested. Simplistic descriptions of fantastically elegant experiments, and the implications of the findings. This is an easy read, so much so that advanced junior high students would have no trouble following, but engaging enough to keep any one's interest.

For those of you with a little science background (or more than a little) this book can keep your interest too. It covers fossils, embryology and development, comparative morphology (fossil and current), as well as genetics. It integrates all of these disciplines nicely to tell the story of evolution. I found myself fascinated by the development chapter, so much so that I aim to take a course in it (or do some research, or both).

This would be a great book to use in introductory biology courses, and especially for non-major's biology courses to get at how the scientific process works, and the evidences for evolution. (Something which most non-major's courses cannot get across well)

Who it's NOT for: People who will be offended by the 'dumbing down' of science. If your picky about your word choices, or very exact in how you phrase things, don't pick up this book. Even I had to cringe over the fact that he referred to Amphioxus as a worm for an entire chapter. Every time I read it, I wanted to write in worm-like! But there is a trade-off between clarity and exactness, and for the most part I felt the sacrifices in the language is made up for by the idea that this will reach a broader audience.

The only other thing I feel compelled to note, was that this book, comprehensive as it was, did not go beyond tetrapods often. As he himself mentioned, the book could have been called 'your inner fly or your inner yeast', but rarely did he point out how invertebrate research fit in with examine the origins of our structures. But he did have an excellent list of further readings broken down by topic. I guess I'll have to look into "Endless forms most beautiful" next.

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