Explaining Life Through Evolution

Prosanta Chakrabarty
MIT Press, £21.00

First, Explaining Life Through Evolution is not a textbook. Rather, it is a book designed to provide the arguments for and reasons why evolution can explain the diversity of life on Earth, rather than relying on an ethereal deity and creation. Intermingled with these arguments are factual sections – for example, on Darwin (where the author imagines a film about him through a series of comic book cartoons), and a chapter on the structure of DNA.

The author, Prosanta Chakrabarty, is a biologist who wants to provide logical, understandable and approachable explanations about evolution, something he makes clear in the prologue. This originates from his continuing struggle to have science taught as a subject of enquiry, explanation and understanding, as opposed to from a Creationism stance, which is particularly prevalent in the US.

Written in a chatty style, humour runs throughout the book. Each section and corresponding chapter talks to the reader in a friendly, reasonable manner. Quite complex topics are transmitted in an easy style that gradually produces an understanding of evolution.

As it is reader friendly, Explaining Life Through Evolution could be part of a syllabus or issued in chapters to students. A tricky topic is made accessible with the author’s style and approach. If Chakrabarty’s aim is to explain scientific facts about evolution to a broad audience, he has succeeded… as long as his readers have an open mind.

Pat Sang CBiol MRSB