Richard Dawkins

The Ancestor's Tale: a Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution

If you're looking for a one volume summary of what happened in evolution, this could serve.  Dawkins' overview has several unusual and important features. First, it traces our ancestry specifically, which is helpful when it's the origin of the human self you're interested in. Second, it begins with us and traces our ancestry backwards in time, which is helpful if you're concerned to trace signs of human nature back through the course of evolution. Third, Dawkins measures time in years, instead of in periods or aeons. And fourth, of course, it's by Dawkins and his team of research assistants, well-written and authoritative.

I recommend skipping quickly through Dawkins' initial set-up of the "ancestor's tale" metaphor and, later in the text, his tedious endorsements of Darwinism. Interspersed with coverage of creatures, though, is an otherwise painless coverage of many aspects of evolution.

Below, microdata:

Evolution for the Humanities
The Ancestor's Tale evolution

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