Life Ascending: The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution

When I saw this new book on the subject of evolution, I thought it would probably be one side or the other of the very tired evolution/creationism-"intelligent" design debate. I was delighted to find instead a very smart discussion of the status of our understanding of the origins of life, how life has changed over the millennia, and how we have learned about those things. Mr. Lane is a biochemist who has an insider's understanding and a broad perspective of the status of evolution, and I think the best parts of the book are the places where he points out the things that are not yet agreed upon, or not known at all. The chronologically-organized chapters describe how evolution led to DNA, photosynthesis, the cell, sex, and sight. This is a chemical rather than purely biological view of evolution, and I enjoyed it a great deal. It was nice to see the phrase "chance and necessity" appear in many chapters, an homage to the famous 1971 book by Jacques Monod, which was a Hal's Pick in September 2005.

Publication information
Pick Attribution: 

Nick Lane

Publication Date: 
Thursday, January 1, 2009