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Am I a Monkey?

Six Big Questions about Evolution

Francisco J. Ayala

Publication Year: 2010

Despite the ongoing cultural controversy in America, evolution remains a cornerstone of science. In this book, Francisco J. Ayala—an evolutionary biologist, member of the National Academy of Sciences, and winner of the National Medal of Science and the Templeton Prize—cuts to the chase in a daring attempt to address, in nontechnical language, six perennial questions about evolution: • Am I a Monkey? • Why Is Evolution a Theory? • What Is DNA? • Do All Scientists Accept Evolution? • How Did Life Begin? • Can One Believe in Evolution and God? This to-the-point book answers each of these questions with force. Ayala's occasionally biting essays refuse to lend credence to disingenuous ideas and arguments. He lays out the basic science that underlies evolutionary theory, explains how the process works, and soundly makes the case for why evolution is not a threat to religion. Brief, incisive, topical, authoritative, Am I a Monkey? will take you a day to read and a lifetime to ponder.

Published by: The Johns Hopkins University Press

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pp. ix

I am extremely grateful to Vincent J. Burke, senior editor at the Johns Hopkins University Press. This book was conceived by him, and he invited me to write it. It has been a pleasure to work with Vince, who has consistently provided good advice, always graciously. Others at the JHU Press have also been ...

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pp. xi-xiii

Darwin completed the scientific revolution by extending to the living world the notion that the workings of the universe can be explained through natural laws. He provided compelling evidence of the evolution of organisms. More important yet is that Darwin discovered natural selection, the process that explains the “design” of organisms. The adaptations and ...

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1 Am I a Monkey?

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pp. 3-12

I am a primate. Monkeys are primates, but humans are not monkeys. Primates include monkeys, apes, and humans. Humans are more closely related by descent to apes than to monkeys. That is, the apes are our first cousins, so to speak, while the monkeys are our second or third cousins. Among apes we are most closely related to the chimps, less so to the ...

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2 Why Is Evolution a Theory?

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pp. 17-24

Evolution is a theory and also a fact. This double claim may seem surprising, so it needs to be explained. Let me explain first why evolution is a theory and then why it is a fact. When scientists talk about the “theory” of evolution, they use the word differently than people do in ordinary speech. In everyday speech, theory often means “guess” or “hunch” ...

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3 What Is DNA? [Includes Image Plates]

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pp. 29-37

DNA is short for deoxyribonucleic acid. The chemical structure of DNA is a double helix made up of two complementary strands, which are long chains of four different kinds of nucleotides: adenine (A), cytosine (C), guanine (G), and thymine (T). The genetic information embodied in DNA accounts for three fundamental aspects of life: (1) all ...

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4 Do All Scientists Accept Evolution?

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pp. 49-56

The overwhelming majority of biologists accept evolution. Those who know professionally the evidence for evolution cannot deny it. Scientists agree that the evolutionary origin of animals and plants is a scientific conclusion beyond reasonable doubt. The evidence is compelling and all-encompassing because it comes from all biological disciplines including those that did not exist in Darwin’s time. In ...

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5 How Did Life Begin?

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pp. 61-68

Almost all biologists agree that life originated spontaneously by natural processes on our planet from the same chemicals of which living organisms consist today, such as carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, and hydrogen. Scientists also agree that all organisms living on Earth derive from a single original form of life. Does that mean that we know how life ...

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6 Can One Believe in Evolution and God?

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pp. 73-83

I am convinced that evolution and religious beliefs need not be in contradiction. Indeed, if science and religion are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because they concern different matters. Science and religion are like two different windows for looking at the world. The two windows look at the same world, but they show different aspects ...


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pp. 85

E-ISBN-13: 9780801899386
E-ISBN-10: 0801899389
Print-ISBN-13: 9780801897542
Print-ISBN-10: 0801897548

Page Count: 104
Illustrations: 3 halftones, 5 line drawings
Publication Year: 2010