About This Book

You may have the sense that only the super-smart can understand any branch of science. If you didn't see the point of being able to identify the parts of a cell, or you didn't like memorizing the periodic table of elements, your experience confirms that sense. And you've probably figured out that you're no Einstein, but — here's a secret — most scientists (including yours truly) aren't Einsteins either.

In fact, the smart money says that Einstein was so smart that most of the rest of us aren't smart enough even to know how smart he was. A possible exception may be someone like Stephen Hawking, but none of us is smart enough to know how smart he is, either. But I digress. The point is that you don't have to be an Einstein or a Hawking to "get" science. As I'm fond of saying to my students, evolution isn't rocket science — and for that matter, rocket science isn't rocket science either.

I wrote this book to help you overcome whatever natural reluctance you may have about reading an evolution book and to clear away the confusion caused by all the bad info out there. To that end, I've divided each chapter into sections that contain information about some component of evolution or one of the many hot topics that evolutionary biology helps people understand, such as:

^ What natural selection is and how it works ^ How to trace the evolutionary history of organisms ^ The evolutionary component of social systems ^ Where modern man came from

^ How diseases evolve, and what scientists are doing to fight them

If there's one thing I want you to take away from this book, it's this: The lion's share of science, if explained clearly, is accessible to everyone. Sure, you have to be an expert in the field to fully grasp the importance of the details. But the broad strokes should be accessible to everyone, and that is certainly the case for evolutionary biology.

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