Book Club: What Evolution Is

Finally came around to finishing a book that took me entirely too long to read. There is pretty much no excuse for the delay–not only was it super easy to read, it was also fabulous. I must admit that the last minute sprint to the finish for this book was motivated by the fact that one of my comrades also began to read the book and I couldn’t let him finish before me.


I am going to have to urge anybody interested in evolution (or even genetics/natural history) to read this book. Not only does it serve its purpose in priming one with a basic comprehension on evolution and its mechanisms, you also learn how little is still resolved and agreed upon in the field. It basically comes down to the fact that Ernst Mayr is quite the cheeky bloke and just lays it out on the line in regards to what he believes is true and certainly what he believes is not true.

Mayr can certainly have a way with words (e.g. “The use of the term mutation in biology has had a checkered history.” (p. 96)). However, I think my favorite part of the book was Jared Diamonds’ Foreword in which he blatantly admits that Mayr is quintessentially more awesome than he is (which is somewhat un-Diamond-like).

It was upon reading this forward that I realized that I am hopelessly and completely in love with 1928 Ernst Mayr. I am distressed to admit that my M&M soulmate actually was born two generations too early. SIGH….such is life.


Dr. Mayr (looking absolutely irresistible) and his Malay mantri in the field in New Guienea (1928)

It is with this that I actually insist that every person I encounter read Mayr’s A Tenderfoot Explorer in New Guinea: Reminiscences of an Expedition for Birds in the Primeval Forests of the Arfak Mountains. He describes,”…there were many rumors in circulation about the dangerous mountain people who are quiet and peaceful during the daytime but go out to kill during the night. Even in recent years several police boys had been killed during government expeditions, and I had been most earnestly warned not to go too far inland. I personally did not take much notice of these warnings, but it was a difficult task to persuade my companions to follow me.” If the words “LIKE A BOSS” don’t resound in your mind, something is seriously wrong with you.

May I also refer you to the archive of remembrances, as his lifetime of achievements pluck at my heartstrings.

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