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Darwin's Ghost—The Origin of The Species Revisited

By Elaine Cassel

It has been said that Charles Darwin's masterpiece, The Origin of the Species, is probably the best known and least-read book in the English language. The book created a sensation when it was published in 1859, and Darwin's theory of evolution spawned religious and ideological debates reminiscent of Galileo's discovery that the earth was not the center of the universe. The Origin of The Speciesis the foundation for the evolutionary approach to psychology, the perspective that human behavior is the result of evolution through natural selection. The evolutionary approach is generating a growing body of psychological research and is influencing such diverse concerns as mental disorders, temperament, interpersonal attraction, and aggression and altruism.

So isn't it time that psychology students read The Origin of the Species? Thanks to the clever and readable prose of Steve Jones, professor of genetics at the University College of London, you can. In Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of the Species Updated (Random House, 2000), Jones uses Darwin's scaffolding to explain the theory of evolution. Keeping Darwin's chapter titles and subheadings, Jones illustrates the complex theory of evolution with modern examples that we all can relate to.

Using contemporary illustrations as varied as the mutation of the AIDS virus, genetic mutations that lead to Tay-Sachs and sickle cell diseases, the breeding rules of the American Kennel Club, and the changing demographic face of American from the seventeenth to the twenty-first centuries, Jones makes Darwin's theory available to the lay audience.

Psychology students who read Darwin's Ghost will be able to appreciate the power and immediacy of Darwin's theory for everyday life and better understand the role of evolutionary theory in explaining certain psychological processes.

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