Turning Points (Hardcover)

How Critical Events Have Driven Human Evolution, Life, and Development

By Kostas Kampourakis

Prometheus Books, 9781633883291, 366pp.

Publication Date: February 27, 2018

List Price: 25.00*
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An accessible introduction to core concepts in evolution for lay readers, which shows that random events have played a critical role in the development of life

Critical historical events--or "turning points"--have shaped evolution and continue to have a decisive effect on individual lives. This theme is explored and explained in this lucid, accessible book for lay readers. The author argues that, although evolution is the result of unpredictable events, these events have profound influences on subsequent developments. Life is thus a continuous interplay between unforeseeable events and their decisive consequences.

As one example, the author cites the fusing of two chromosomes, which differentiated the human species from our closest animal relatives about 4 to 5 million years ago. This event was not predictable, but it had a profound effect on the evolution of our species thereafter. By the same token, certain unpredictable circumstances in the past enabled only Homo sapiens to survive to the present day, though we now know that other human-like species also once existed.

The author contrasts such scientific concepts grounded in solid evidence with prevalent misconceptions about life: specifically, the religious notion that there is a plan and purpose behind life, the widespread perception that intelligent design governs the workings of nature, the persistent belief in destiny and fate, and the attribution of an overly deterministic role to genes.

This excellent introduction for laypersons to core ideas in biology goes a long way toward dispelling such misconceptions and presents current scientific research in clearly understandable, jargon-free terms.

About the Author

Kostas Kampourakis is the author of Making Sense of Genes and Understanding Evolution, as well as the editor of The Philosophy of Biology: A Companion for Educators and (with R. L. Numbers) Newton's Apple and Other Myths about Science. He is also the editor in chief of the journal Science & Education and the book series Science: Philosophy, History and Education. Currently, he is a researcher in science education at the University of Geneva, where he teaches courses at the University Teacher Training Institute and the Section of Biology.