How to Build a Human

How to Build a Human

Okay, this is ridiculous. I generally read e-books … I appreciate being able to highlight ideas or phrases I want to remember (I would never do this in a printed book). But so much of this book is highlighted that I’ll be reading it over and over to remember favorite passages or particular explanations.

It’s entertaining. It reads easily, and many ideas are explained in terms of current culture, making them understandable. In fact, it’s so interesting that I recommend it as a read-aloud in middle grade and high school classes and certainly at home. Perfect for a car trip.

What’s it about? Evolution. That’s right. I finally feel like I have a good grasp on the complexity of this area of science. The skill with which Pamela S. Turner leads us through millions of years of concepts and the answers she unfolds … I am in awe. If all my science classes had been taught this way, I wouldn’t have spent so many years avoiding the subject.

Examples, meaningful comparisons, and comprehensible language add up to an enjoyable read! The illustrations by paleo-artist John Gurche, photographs, and footnotes (which are often funny) had me examining every page. The back matter is handy for frequent re-checking of the timeline and definitions as well as recommendations for further exploration.

Here are a couple of my favorite passages:

“In everyday conversation ‘I have a theory’ means ‘I’m guessing.’ Maybe I have my reasons for thinking I know what will happen in the season finale of my favorite show, but I’m still guessing. In science, though, ‘theory’ has a more formal meaning. A theory is a well-tested, widely accepted explanation for a whole constellation of facts, observations, and data. The overwhelming data in support of evolution comes from fossils, observations of living populations, laboratory experiments, and genetics. The evidence in support of the theory of evolution through natural selection is as solid as the evidence supporting Newton’s and Einstein’s theories about gravity.” (pg 70, e-book)

“Even the most important innovations aren’t always greeted with enthusiasm. Not so long ago, people asked, “Why would I need a mobile phone?” (pg 72, e-book, footnote 3)

And this:

“Evolution is not about progress or perfection. Evolution has no particular goal. No end game. Just as the piece of Earth’s crust that rear-ended Asia didn’t intend to create the Himalayas, evolution didn’t intend to create us. The tree of life is a big bushy tree, not a ladder with us perched triumphantly on the top rung. Evolution produced us, but it isn’t about us. We lived and struggled and died, and we’ve been lucky. Unlike the dinosaurs, we haven’t had to cope with a planet-altering disaster.” (page 130, e-book)

Isn’t that gorgeous writing? Every word chosen for clarity and purpose. Did I mention how much I appreciate the humor? Such a good book.

up all night reading
up all night reading

Highly recommended.

How to Build a Human:
In Seven Evolutionary Steps
written by Pamela S. Turner
illustrated by John Gurche
Charlesbridge
ISBN 978-1623542504

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