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The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution…
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The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time (original 1994; edition 1995)

by Jonathan Weiner (Author)

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1,461349,337 (4.19)107
On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch. In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication.… (more)
Member:Sander314
Title:The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time
Authors:Jonathan Weiner (Author)
Info:Vintage (1995), Edition: Illustrated, 332 pages
Collections:Your library
Rating:***1/2
Tags:science, biology

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The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time by Jonathan Weiner (1994)

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Showing 1-5 of 34 (next | show all)
An interesting little book about real life study of evolution and the hard work and complexity of this research. It's a little dated by now, and a major downside for me was that it covers a lot of the same ground other books on evolution do. ( )
  Sander314 | May 18, 2021 |
This book was simply phenomenal. The only thing stopping me from making it five stars is that some parts of it were filler content, which is largely unavoidable. However, it was incredibly interesting.

The book follows researchers in the Galapagos who are studying Darwin's finches. The excellent writing style breaks down complex research of evolutionary biology into something a 19 year old (me) can understand. This book completely changes the perspective on nature and the idea of a species: showing evolution not as a linear change over time, but as a constant adaptation to a cruel world. Something as simple as a finch's beak can waver back and forth in size as these islands go between droughts and storms every couple of years. The progression of any given animal is not a straight line in a specific direction, but rather a wiggling line that might move a certain direction as a long term trend, but also is constantly changing.

Anybody who wants to know more about Darwin's research and how it's still being expanded upon today, this book is worthy of the Pullitzer Prize that it won. If this review was a turn-off for you, then the book wouldn't be your kind of entertainment. But overall I definitely recommend this. Any book can make you learn, but not many books can truly stimulate you to think about something you'd never considered. ( )
  MaxAndBradley | May 27, 2020 |
I enjoyed this book and it had a lot of great insights, but I think it think it could greatly benefit from either a forward or an afterward about the changes that have taken place since it was written (1994). For example, the book includes a discussion of climate change and how it may affect the rate of evolution, but back then these ideas were much more speculative. There is also a discussion of the hole in the ozone layer, and how it is affecting the mutation rate of the species of algae that passed beneath it, but in 1994 the Montreal Protocol was only seven years old and its effectiveness was yet to be known. Twenty-three years later, there is evidence the ozone layer is beginning to self-heal and the hole is becoming smaller.

The context of 2017 also makes this quote all the more poignant: "We are altering the terms of the struggle for existence: changing the conditions of life for every species that is coeval with our own. Never before was such havoc caused by the expansion of a single species. Never before was the leading actor aware of the action, concerned about the consequences, conscious of guilt. For better and for worse, this may be one of the most dramatic moments to observe evolution in action since evolution began." (page 277). ( )
  Jennifer708 | Mar 21, 2020 |
I enjoyed this book and it had a lot of great insights, but I think it think it could greatly benefit from either a forward or an afterward about the changes that have taken place since it was written (1994). For example, the book includes a discussion of climate change and how it may affect the rate of evolution, but back then these ideas were much more speculative. There is also a discussion of the hole in the ozone layer, and how it is affecting the mutation rate of the species of algae that passed beneath it, but in 1994 the Montreal Protocol was only seven years old and its effectiveness was yet to be known. Twenty-three years later, there is evidence the ozone layer is beginning to self-heal and the hole is becoming smaller.

The context of 2017 also makes this quote all the more poignant: "We are altering the terms of the struggle for existence: changing the conditions of life for every species that is coeval with our own. Never before was such havoc caused by the expansion of a single species. Never before was the leading actor aware of the action, concerned about the consequences, conscious of guilt. For better and for worse, this may be one of the most dramatic moments to observe evolution in action since evolution began." (page 277). ( )
  Jennifer708 | Mar 21, 2020 |
Read while on Floreana Island in the Galapagos. At times the book was frustrating as all get out. I nearly gave up about 100 pages from the finish line, but glad I did not. The author does bring it all together, though not terribly neatly, in those last 100 pages or so. Negative: The main issues with the book are its redundancy and the ability of the author to wander off track, or so says the average (mas o menos) reader. There is much that is of use, however, and reading the book while in the Galapagos added another dimension to watching the little finches. Overall, tasty reading, if willing to put up with a meandering author. ( )
  untraveller | Mar 22, 2019 |
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On a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow: it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch. In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin's finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself. The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication.

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