The Sciences

Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature

By Sheril KirshenbaumOct 26, 2010 9:20 AM

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I recently caught a clip of two women on The View discussing how they do not "believe" in evolution. Discouraging, but then I shouldn't really be surprised. After all, as Chris and I reported in Unscientific America, 46 percent of Americans agree with them--and think the Earth is less than 10,000 years old. So what can we do about this kind of anti-science sentiment?

Brian Switek's fascinating new book Written in Stone: Evolution, the Fossil Record, and Our Place in Nature is assuredly a part of the solution. I've long been a fan of Switek's writing and follow his terrific blog Laelaps on the Wired Science network. This book is not only as good as I expected--it's better.

For anyone interested in fossils, the history of science, and evolution, Written in Stone is a must read! Packed with the latest research and composed in an engaging style, it can be easily understood by scientists and laypeople alike. The book’s a unique mix of scientifically rigorous information and elegant accounts of life on our planet. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on fossil whales where Switek describes how researchers struggled to understand their ancestry. Parts of this book reads like a mystery while you also get historical tales from the field. There are many interesting characters as well and I really enjoyed the images included throughout.

Most of all, Written in Stone is important because it connects the dots on evolution. Switek provides a compelling narrative about the process of adaptation–including how we are part of the story. His prose is wonderful, and I especially love the ending–which I won’t give away here (but would like to!).

This excellent book is coming to a bookstore near you next week and should be of interest to everyone who possesses a natural curiosity about the world. So go buy it!

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