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We're all fish - if not sponges...
I've just finished reading Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin.

Shubin led the team that discovered Tiktaalik - the fish that has fins with the bone structure of limbs. He is also a Professor of anatomy. His lab work is bound up with both fossils and genetics.

If anyone asks me about evolution, I tend to tell them to go and read Dawkins - in particular The Blind Watchmaker and The Ancestor's Tale, or, if they aren't up to that density, possibly River Out of Eden. I'd still say that, but now I'd suggest they also read Your Inner Fish because it covers those parts where Dawkins is weaker - the evidence for evolution from development, and comparative anatomy, and genetics, and the way they all come together to prove evolution. This is also a book that is wonderfully clearly written, without being at all dumbed down, full of anecdote and occasionally laugh out loud funny.

By the time you have finished it, you will know about dox genes, and why some of our organs don't work as well as they might, and why you get dizzy when you're drunk, and why Shubin uses fish to explain human anatomy to first year medical students.

This book gives you a profound feeling of the depth of time, and of the way that all life on Earth is still closely linked on anatomical and genetic levels. At its most basic, the structure of our bodies are desperately ancient, and Shubin shows us how we are closely linked to worms and sponges and bacteria. I don't think I've ever been so aware of the depth of evolutionary time as I have been when reading this book, and how little things change when they actually work. Evolution botches and makes do and takes the easiest path.

Indeed, Your Inner Fish is full of the most convincing evidence for evolution I have ever seen, and, without once mentioning Intelligent Design, Shubin wacks it not only out of court but into orbit. (There is no intelligence and no design in the way we, at least, have evolved - the evidence is laid out right on front of you, in the formation of our eyes and ears and genitals and head and limbs and our diseases.)

This is a terrific book, and one I cannot recommend highly enough. I've done a lot of reading in this field, and this book bowled me over. Some things I link and post about are at the cutting edge, and interesting, whether they are going to be proved or not. This book is about fact.

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You've just got to love a book that's titled Your Inner Fish I'll have to keep an eye out for it next time I go book-shopping, it sounds fascinating.

Yet another book to add to my growing list of stuff I want to read. lol

The sponge thing I've always suspected, given the Texas branch of my family.

I first heard about this book on Pharyngula, when PZ asked for a list of books that a bookstore with a good science section should stock. (I was also rather pleased that I own about 75% of the books that frighteningly educated bunch suggested.)

I adore your icon, by the way.

Edited at 2009-02-16 09:42 pm (UTC)

Thanks for the rec! It happened to be on the shelf of the library I was storytelling in this afternoon (it having newly arrived yesterday) so I've borrowed it.

If my friend Cimorene was still buying and cataloguing books for Bradford libraries, instead of being happily retired, I would have been advising her to buy this one - she tended to ask me what science books they ought to buy. Funnily enough, they were awful strong on Biology just before she left...

I had read before that evolution has a tendency to, as you say, botch things up, make do and take the easiest path, it was something to do with male genatalia from recollection, the way something goes all around the houses, I don't remember the details. But there is no watchmaker who fits body parts together with elaborate care and precision. Thanks, I'd like very much to read this.

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