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Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Using Aliens to Explain Evolution -- Part 2

      A alien scientist named Bloort 183 (who looks a bit like a one-eyed starfish mounted on a stack of inner tubes) has just put the finishing touches on the Glargalian Holographic Museum of Earth Evolution and is giving a tour to King Floorsh 727 and his son, Prince Floorsh 418  and on this tour, Bloort explains how different life on Earth is than it is on Glargal where all life reproduces asexually and without variation.  The result is a remarkably interesting and remarkably in depth book,
      Evolution:  The Story of Life on Earth (2011) by Jay Hosler, Kevin Cannon, and Zander Cannon.  New York:  Hill and Wang



Hosler uses this contrivance of aliens trying to understand life on earth (as Mark Schultz, Zander Cannon, and Kevin Cannon did with the earlier book in this series, The Stuff of Life:  A Graphic Guide to Genetics and DNA) as a great way to explain complicated scientific ideas without too much jargo and in a way that offers a full explanation without insulting the readers' intelligence.  It also allow for a overarching story that we can escape to every now and then when the scientific explanations get too heavy.  Hosler and the Cannons (who are not related by the way -- they met in art school because they have the same last name and found that they collaborate rather well) also include a fair mount of humor which helps the science go down easier.   
     The images allow for the sort of visual aids that a really excellent science teacher would draw on the board (although here they are much easier to identify than the stick figures that seem to populate blackboards).  The science is extremely solid and accurate (Holser is a Ph.D. in Biology) but presented in a way that may really open science up for readers who haven't yet realized how cool it is. 



      It has always seemed to me, by the way, that the creation-evolution controversy didn't make much sense.  After all, many of the pioneers of evolutionary theory were Chrisitans, or at least theists, and saw no reason why a divine creator couldn't use natural processes to get the job done.  No matter -- that really isn't what this review is about.  Jay Hostler (writer of the amazing graphic novel on the biology of bees--Clan Apis) and Kevin Cannon and Zander Cannon (both of whom worked on the excellent graphic novel about the space race T-Minus) have created a brilliant book that explains the ideas behind genetics,  If you think evolutionary theory is a lot of hooey, read this book -- it won't necessarily convince you of anything, but it will describe the theory fully enough that you can at least understand what you disagree with.  If you have no such concerns, read this book -- you'll discover that creation is an amazingly intricate and connected thing --even more so than you thought.   

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