The story of 4 billion years of life on Earth

Looking forward to a book that explains life? Well, here it is!

“Explaining Life Through Evolution” (Penguin) opens a window to the four billion year history of the millions of species we see on this planet. This book does not simply narrate the story of evolution: It brings to light who we are and where we came from.

As humans, we often focus on identifying our differences, no matter how small; Prosanta Chakrabarty demystifies our perceived differences and emphasises our similarities. As more and more people take ancestry tests, sending their DNA samples and money to genealogy testing centres, we need to be educated on what the results actually mean scientifically; and we all have to decide together what it means socially.

He thinks we should be celebrating the fact that our diversity comes from the same little drops of water and sunlight, each of us just shining a little differently as seen through the prism of evolution.

Chakrabarty encourages us to think of life as being like a book, one that is always in the making. What we see living around us today are just the last few pages. If we look out on to the millions of species that we share this planet with, we can trace their histories, and ours, back through nearly four billion years of evolution.

We can also think of all the living things around as the young leaves on an ancient and gigantic ‘Tree of Life’, all of us connected by invisible branches not just to each other, but to our extinct relatives and our evolutionary ancestors..

“This incredibly readable and engaging primer on evolutionary principles and processes is a ‘must have’ for any reader’s bookshelf. I enjoyed not only the elaboration of how evolution works but also the sections on misconceptions and applications. It even clarifies important timely topics like race as a social rather than genetic construct and our current COVID-19 pandemic,” says Mohamed Noor, Dean of Natural Sciences, Duke University

Prosanta Chakrabarty is an evolutionary biologist at Louisiana State University where he is a professor and curator. He is a Senior Fellow at TED, a Fulbright Distinguished Chair, and a Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

He grew up in New York City; his undergraduate degree is from McGill University in Montreal (the city where he was born) and his PhD is from the University of Michigan.

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