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Evolutions
Cover of Evolutions
Evolutions
Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World

A brilliant lyrical exploration of how modern science illuminates what it means to be human, from the award-winning author of The Price of Altruism

We don't think anymore, like the ancient Chinese did, that the world was hatched from an egg, or, like the Maori, that it came from the tearing apart of a love embrace. The Greeks told of a tempestuous Hera and a cunning Zeus, but we now use genes and natural selection to explain fear and desire, and physics to demystify the workings of the universe.

Science is an astounding achievement, but are we really any wiser than the ancients? Has science revealed the secrets of fate and immortality? Has it provided protection from jealousy or love? There are those who believe that science has replaced faith, but must it also be a death knell for mythology?

Evolutions brings to life the latest scientific thinking on the birth of the universe and the solar system, the journey from a single cell all the way to our human minds. Reawakening our sense of wonder and terror at the world around us and within us, Oren Harman uses modern science to create new and original mythologies. Here are the earth and the moon presenting a cosmological view of motherhood, a panicking mitochondrion introducing sex and death to the world, the loneliness of consciousness emerging from the memory of an octopus, and the birth of language in evolution summoning humankind's struggle with truth. Science may not solve our existential puzzles, but like the age-old legends, its magical discoveries can help us continue the never-ending search.

A brilliant lyrical exploration of how modern science illuminates what it means to be human, from the award-winning author of The Price of Altruism

We don't think anymore, like the ancient Chinese did, that the world was hatched from an egg, or, like the Maori, that it came from the tearing apart of a love embrace. The Greeks told of a tempestuous Hera and a cunning Zeus, but we now use genes and natural selection to explain fear and desire, and physics to demystify the workings of the universe.

Science is an astounding achievement, but are we really any wiser than the ancients? Has science revealed the secrets of fate and immortality? Has it provided protection from jealousy or love? There are those who believe that science has replaced faith, but must it also be a death knell for mythology?

Evolutions brings to life the latest scientific thinking on the birth of the universe and the solar system, the journey from a single cell all the way to our human minds. Reawakening our sense of wonder and terror at the world around us and within us, Oren Harman uses modern science to create new and original mythologies. Here are the earth and the moon presenting a cosmological view of motherhood, a panicking mitochondrion introducing sex and death to the world, the loneliness of consciousness emerging from the memory of an octopus, and the birth of language in evolution summoning humankind's struggle with truth. Science may not solve our existential puzzles, but like the age-old legends, its magical discoveries can help us continue the never-ending search.

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About the Author-
  • Oren Harman's previous book, The Price of Altruism, won the Los Angeles Times Book Prize in Science and Technology and was a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He is a renowned professor of the history of science and the Chair of the Program in Science Technology and Society at Bar Ilan University.
Reviews-
  • Library Journal

    January 1, 2018

    When Harman introduces us to an anxious mitochondrion bringing forth sex and death and consciousness springing from an octopus's memory, it sounds as if he speaks the language of the ancients. But such mythologizing reveals the beauty of scientific discoveries and how they clarify a world never completely transparent. From a Los Angeles Times Book Prize winner.

    Copyright 2018 Library Journal, LLC Used with permission.

  • Kirkus

    April 15, 2018
    A chronicle of events from the Big Bang to the origin of life to the development of human consciousness, written as folktales.In the introduction, Harman (History of Science, Science Technology and Society/Bar-Ilan Univ.; The Price of Altruism: George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness, 2010) reminds readers that all cultures rely on myths: stories, often supernatural, that explain their origins and the great deeds that followed. The rise of science has marginalized them, but are we better off? The author asks, "has the knowledge of the inflating universe gotten us closer to understanding Fate?...Have the shadows of Jealousy or Love or Sacrifice been further illuminated by the understanding that emotions must have conferred an advantage in evolution?" Having asked a big question, Harman proceeds not to answer it. Beginning at the beginning, 14 billion years ago, the author delivers a technically accurate review of cosmology, biology, evolution, anthropology, and neuroscience in flowery, dramatic prose, often with an unconventional narrator (a bacterium, a whale). Each chapter's title ("Hope," "Love," "Motherhood," "Sacrifice," "Truth") promises deep insights, but the end result is a straightforward narrative with an occasional jolt. Early on, single-cell creatures were immortal; death became inevitable only with the appearance of sex. Evidence-based explanations of cosmology and evolution remain a minority view even in the United States, so readers with traditional beliefs will miss the point. Harman assumes his audience possesses a good layman's knowledge of these topics, which may be a stretch. Ultimately, he writes, "I hope that all readers, insofar as they are still fully human, will recognize an age-old journey, an ancient and meaningful quest." Ironically, the author's final chapter is an outstanding discussion of the literature, popular and scholarly, that covers essentially all of science.An overly quirky yet amusing and well-informed history of everything.

    COPYRIGHT(2018) Kirkus Reviews, ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

  • Stephen Greenblatt, author of The Swerve: How the World Became Modern

    "In this daring, learned, and humane book, Oren Harman attempts to create for a modern scientific understanding of the universe the myths in which, for as long as we can remember, human beings have always encoded their deepest perceptions of the truth. What emerges is a revelatory restoration of wonder."

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Fifteen Myths That Explain Our World
Oren Harman
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