[LMB] The Red Queen

Martin Gill martinsgill at gmail.com
Mon Aug 20 13:19:48 BST 2007

On 19/08/07, Lois McMaster Bujold <lbujold at myinfmail.com> wrote:
> So...
>      Any biologists or biology fans on the list read this one, and what
> did you think?  Is there something newer/faster/better to be read?
>     Next up: _Sperm Wars_, by Robin Baker.
>     Ta, L.

I just finished reading Richard Dawkins' The Ancestor's Tale. I doubt
it qualifies as a quick read, as it's quite long, but it's easily
manageable as it's divided into lots of little tales.

He sets it out as a sort of Canterbury's Tales, where the pilgrims are
our ancestors and Canterbury is the beginning of life on earth. He
starts with us and moves quickly onto primates, other mammals and then
back further and further until he gets to plants and eventually

It's a fairly new books (last couple of years) and he covers loads of
topics. What I really liked about it, other than how it introduced me
to some of the most amazing creatures I never knew about, is that he
spends a fair bit of time explaining how biologists go about actually
figuring out all his information about life and evolution. He gives
quick primers on most topics of evolutionary biology that I've heard
of and many that I've not, saying both which views he favours but not
failing to mention the views he disagrees with. He also provides
suggestions for books to pick up if you want to find out more.

I'd list the ones he suggests for the evolution of sex, but I've lent
the book to a friend.

I found the book a bit heavy going at times, mostly because I gave up
biology when I was 13 and haven't touched the subject since*, but it
was extremely enjoyable even for someone as much a laymen as myself. I
learned absolutely loads and I highly recommend it to anyone even
mildly interested in the subject. I find Dawkins has a really
accessible writing style.



[*] That's about to change, the biology Dawkins talked about in the
God Delusion really fascinated me and got me reading The Selfish Gene
and his other biology books and I'm now about to start an Open
University biology degree for which I blame him entirely. Seems like
there's a couple of biology type people on the list... maybe I'll ask
about homework questions :)

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