How can i understand The Evolution theory?

I didn’t really search enough to say that i can’t understand it, but when i read about it it feels like you had to be a Biologist to understand, is this true?

What is the best book that I can understand the whole theory from?

Posted: September 2nd 2011

Reed Braden www

Dawkins has a few good ones. The Selfish Gene is good, but if you’re looking for more of a simple (but comprehensive) primer, I’d suggest two of his other books, The Ancestor’s Tale and The Greatest Show On Earth.

A few other good ones:
Why Evolution Is True by Jerry A. Coyne
Why Darwin Matters by Michael Shermer
Your Inner Fish by Neil Shubin
Evolution: What the Fossils Say by Donald R. Prothero

My cousin recently got out of an Evangelical home schooling program and he regularly asks me questions about evolution, since his parents both drill it into him that evolution is a pernicious lie forced on children in schools. He just wants to understand it but hasn’t been able to find someone to teach him, nor can he risk sneaking books on the subject. The simplest thought experiment I had him do demonstrates the core of the theory well enough:

I’m your cousin. We’re pretty different, but we share a lot of the same attributes and we kind of look alike. We have the same grandmother, so we share some of our genes with her.

Sam is our second cousin. We share great-grandparents with him. Again, we still look very much alike—five fingers per hand, two lungs, a head on top of a vertical spinal column—and we even share the Blackmon’s eye shape with his part of the family, but you’ll notice that their side of the family has darker hair on average than ours. Still, though, we’re pretty much the same guy. There’s just a bit of difference in hair color.

The people who share our great-great-great-great-great-grandparents are our sixth cousins, and they represent a wider variety of people. They still have the same basic design as we do—fingers, lungs, body plan, etc. Some of them might have different colors of skin, different hair color, different heights…

People who share our 99-greats-grandparents are our 100th cousins. They include every person on the planet. Every variety of person on the planet is represented in this group, with all their genetic differences. Still, we all kind of look alike. Fingers, lungs, body plan… it’s all mostly the same.

If we go further back, say to our 999-greats-grandparents, their descendants are our 1000th cousins. The numbers may be off, but I would assume that this group might contain all of the great apes, including humans, and most monkeys. (I could do the math, but the numbers aren’t the important thing, so f*ck it.) We all have five fingers on each hand, we all have two lungs, and the body plan changes a little bit. Some of them hunch more, most of them use their hands in walking, but we still look pretty similar. If you don’t believe me that we look like the rest of the apes, look at Jane Goodall holding a chimp and then look at Jacques Cousteau chasing a sea turtle and tell me which pair looks more alike.

If we keep going back to further and further ancestors, we find that the groups of their descendants—our cousins—gets more and more diverse. The similarities in fingers and body plan fade away as more diverse members join the group. As the group of our cousins gets larger, as we consider further distant ancestors, even the two-lung plan starts to fade. And if you keep tracing our ancestors back, eventually you will get to a point where all life on this planet is a distant cousin of everything else; humans, monkeys, octopuses, banana trees, sea urchins, cyanobacteria… we’re all connected by an unbroken string of ancestors.

Posted: September 22nd 2011

See all questions answered by Reed Braden


“The Selfish Gene” by Dawkins is the best one to start with. You can probably find it at a library.

Posted: September 5th 2011

See all questions answered by Eric_PK


Is your atheism a problem in your religious family or school?
Talk about it at the atheist nexus forum