Book 202: The Accidental Species by Henry Gee

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The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution by Henry Gee

Finished reading on February 9th, 2016

Rating: 10/10

If you’ve ever marveled about the strange and wonderful creatures that are humans, this book might be of interest to you.
In this book Henry Gee talks about some of the most common things that people believe about evolution of the human species and also separately of evolution and of humans themselves.
It was a great book where you certainly get a better idea of human evolution than you might in a high school level biology (that’s where you’d be taught about evolution, right?) class – not in a textbook style at all but as a narrative.
The book deals with such problems as the small amount of fossil finds of hominins and the in general incomplete fossil record of anything really. You get an idea of how much we still don’t know about how humans came about to evolve in the way they did and end up such strange big-brained bipedal creatures with little hair and no tail who resemble birds in several ways in their social behavior rather than great apes.

I very much enjoyed reading this book – you get a little bit of background on the fossil finds and the main point – that humans are not special compared to any other species of animal or plant in any other way except for the fact that (probably)we happen to represent the species.

The book was fun, very informative and was over way too quickly.

I’d highly recommend reading this book to anyone who feels that they also represent the same unfortunate species.

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Book 139: Out of Thin Air by Peter D. Ward

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Out of Thin Air by Peter D. Ward

Finished reading on May 7th, 2014

Rating: 10/10

What if one of the main driving forces for evolution has been the changing level of oxygen in the Earth’s atmosphere? How could we find out? That is the fascinating way forward in this book.

In the beginning of the book we get acquainted with different respiratory systems – different types of gills and lungs, that will naturally have an important part to play in this book as the author traces changes in the atmosphere’s oxygen content from about 540 million years ago to the present and even a little bit further while looking at how evolution has shaped life to be sustainable under different conditions.

Out of Thin Air comprises of chapters that trace the changes in certain lifeforms with some hypotheses how it might have a connection to atmospheric oxygen content. For example one of Ward’s hypotheses is:

“Reduced levels of oxygen stimulate higher rates of disparity (the diversity of body plans) than do high levels of oxygen” (p.47 Hypothesis 2.1)

The reasoning behind it being that it is easier for animals to survive at high levels of oxygen and they wouldn’t develop any coping mechanisms or ways of using even more oxygen than they already use, but during low levels of oxygen animals have to evolve to adapt to the conditions.

It is certainly a fascinating book (if me rating it 10/10 didn’t give a hint before), as it deals with different lifeforms that have had gills to lungs, from mollusks and fish to dinosaurs and birds.

Very interesting, I’ll be reading it again at some point, it definitely makes one look differently at what might be some of the driving forces of evolution, and maybe even think of how it might end up totally different on a far-away Goldilocks planet….

And the book has dinosaurs, what else can you want?