I’ve just read an excerpt from the book “The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution” by Henry Gee regarding the misunderstanding and misuse of the word “evolution” as it applies to natural selection or descent with modification, and the different way that the word is used outside of biology.
I enjoyed how Gee provided a brief history of the word “evolution” and of the people who employed that term. And this is an important explanation; I’ve always felt unease at how the media’s usage of the word is different to the biological concept but used in a way that suggests that there was no difference. For example, a new product that is “an evolutionary improvement on the previous product range”; it implies goal-oriented improvement. In biology, evolutionary change is not goal-oriented, and it does not always result in an improvement to the health of an organism but change can make the organism more likely to survive to reproduce in an altered environment; the example given in the book on sickle-cell anaemia is classic.
Based on what I’ve read so far, the book is easy to read and has a certain humour that I rather enjoyed; I am encouraged to buy the book. I also think that this book may become a good companion to the popular evolution books “Why evolution is true” by Jerry Coyne, and “The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution” by Richard Dawkins.
The excerpt is freely available as a PDF at NCSE’s website:
I’m about to purchase the eBook version of the book and will post a fuller review once finished.