The evolution of life on Earth from its origins to the present day
How is it that we came to be here? Searching for answers to that question has preoccupied humans for millennia.
For science, clues have been sought in the genes of living things, in the physical environments of Earth from mountain tops to the depths of the ocean, in the chemistry of this world and those nearby, in the tiniest particles of matter, and in the deepest reaches of space.
In Islands in the Cosmos, Dale A. Russell traces a path from the dawn of the universe to speculations about our future on this planet.
He has centered his story on the physical and biological processes in evolution, which interact to favor more successful and eliminate less successful forms of life. Marvelously, these processes reveal latent possibilities in life's basic structure, and propel a major evolutionary theme: the increasing proficiency of biological function. It remains to be seen whether the human form can survive the dynamic processes that brought it into existence; yet the emergence of the ability to acquire knowledge from experience, to optimize behavior, to conceptualize, to distinguish "good" from "bad" behavior hints at an evolutionary outcome that science is only beginning to understand.
"Dale Russell is one of the great creative thinkers of all time in paleontology. This book—clearly the product of a full life considering these questions—does not disappoint." —David E. Fastovsky, author of Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs”
“[P]rofessionals, graduate students, advanced undergraduates, and geologically literate amateurs—even philosophers of science and science fiction authors . . . will find it enlightening and stimulating.30.3 May 2010”
— Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology
“Dale Russell is one of the great creative thinkers of all time in paleontology. This book—clearly the product of a full life considering these questions—does not disappoint.”
— David E. Fastovsky, author of Evolution and Extinction of the Dinosaurs