How Evolution Shapes Our Lives: Essays on Biology and Society is an excellent collection of essays that focus on evolutionary biology as it pertains to humans and modern society. The book is “an abridged and updated follow-up to The Princeton Guide to Evolution” and focuses on just 22 of the 107 chapters from the original. The 22 chapters chosen for this volume from the more comprehensive collection were revised and selected because they “have particular relevance to humans and modern society.” In addition, a new chapter focused on evolutionary resilience to climate change was written solely for this collection.
Each of five parts tackles a different issue of the evolution of humans and society. Part I, “Biological Foundations,” focuses on the basics of evolution, including the introductory “What is Evolution?” (Ch. 2), and the foundations of human evolution (Ch. 3), including cooperation and conflict (Ch. 4), behavioral ecology (Ch. 5), and evolutionary psychology (Ch. 6). Part II, “Evolution in Health and Disease,” examines topics related to evolutionary medicine (Ch. 7), including “Aging and Menopause” (Ch. 8), parasite virulence (Ch. 9), antibiotic resistance (Ch. 10), and microbial forensics (Ch. 11). Part III, “Reshaping Our World,” focuses on aspects of evolution that affect the world today such as agriculture (Ch. 12), directed evolution of molecular and cellular systems (Ch. 13), computing (Ch. 14), conservation (Ch. 15), and climate change (Ch. 16). Part IV, “Evolution in the Public Sphere,” examines issues such as “Evolution and Religion” (Ch. 17), “Creationism and Intelligent Design” (Ch. 18), and “Evolution and the Media” (Ch. 19). And, finally, in Part V, “Nature and Nurture,” authors discuss the evolution of human language (Ch. 20), culture (Ch. 21), race (Ch. 22), and “The Future of Human Evolution” (Ch. 23).
Each chapter begins with an outline, followed by a brief introduction with a glossary of important terms, which are also italicized within the chapters. At the end of each chapter, authors have included a list of further reading on the topic. The chapters are relatively short and succinct, but are very informative. At times, it seemed that more discussion of particular topics would have been useful, but this was a reasonable trade-off for the inclusion of a wide variety of topics, and it piqued my interest to seek out more information on topics with which I was less familiar. Importantly, each chapter discusses what is currently known in the field, but also provides information on new advances and where the field is going.
Overall, I found this book to be well-written and accessible with excellent overviews of where the field of evolutionary biology stands in terms of humans and society. I would recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about human evolution and as a resource for undergraduate and graduate courses that consider human evolution and societal implications of biology and evolution.