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Bookmarks Issue: 
29-July-Aug-2007
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How Darwin’s Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives

A-Evolution for EveryoneMention Charles Darwin, and responses will vary from admiration to blistering hatred for the man and his notorious theory (in fact, half of all Americans do not believe in evolution). In Evolution for Everyone, David Sloan Wilson’s "journey from the origin of life to human morality and religion," the author discusses all things Darwinian and attempts to reconcile the contentious relationship between evolution and religion. What can evolutionary theory tell us about how—and why—we practice religion? Why do we laugh and dance? How does evolution determine our use of language, or allow us to create culture? In 36 chapters encompassing "all things human," Wilson makes clear the sweeping influence of evolution on our lives.
Delacorte. 390 pages. $24. ISBN: 0385340214

Chicago Sun-Times 4 of 5 Stars
"Evolution for Everyone is built around explaining the relationships in everything from groups of molecules to groups of people, especially the balance between cooperation and individual self-interest; evolution applies to societies, not just individuals. … [The book] is full of gripping stories about the natural world, related with humor and a rare flair for language." Raymond T. Pierrehumbert

New Scientist 4 of 5 Stars
"With a clear passion for the subject, Wilson shows that understanding evolution is easy, even intuitive—it really is for everyone. If only everyone would read his book." Rowan Hooper

NY Times Book Review 3.5 of 5 Stars
"[Evolution for Everyone] is a sprightly, absorbing and charmingly earnest book that manages a minor miracle, the near-complete emulsifying of science and the ‘real world,’ ingredients too often kept stubbornly, senselessly apart. Only when Wilson seeks to add religion to the mix, and to show what natural, happy symbionts evolutionary biology and religious faith can be, does he begin to sound like a corporate motivational speaker or a political candidate glad-handing the crowd." Natalie Angier

Critical Summary

Evolution for Everyone is David Sloan Wilson’s fifth book on the subject (including Darwin’s Cathedral and The Literary Animal) and the most reader-friendly. Critics favorably compare the effort to Steven J. Levitt’s and Stephen J. Dubner’s runaway best seller Freakonomics. They claim that Wilson, professor of biology and anthropology at Britain’s Binghamton University, does for evolution what those two authors did for economics—that is, draw interesting and unexpected connections between musty theory and its practical applications in our everyday lives. Although most of his observations are right on the mark, Wilson’s desire to connect evolution and religion may strike some as overreaching or preachy.