The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time

Jonathan Weiner / Jan 25, 2020
The Beak of the Finch A Story of Evolution in Our Time Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeWinner of the Los Angeles Times Book PrizeOn a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution
  • Title: The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time
  • Author: Jonathan Weiner
  • ISBN: 9780679733379
  • Page: 155
  • Format: Paperback
  • Winner of the Pulitzer PrizeWinner of the Los Angeles Times Book PrizeOn a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory For among the finches of Daphne Major, natuWinner of the Pulitzer PrizeWinner of the Los Angeles Times Book PrizeOn a desert island in the heart of the Galapagos archipelago, where Darwin received his first inklings of the theory of evolution, two scientists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, have spent twenty years proving that Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory For among the finches of Daphne Major, natural selection is neither rare nor slow it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch.In this dramatic story of groundbreaking scientific research, Jonathan Weiner follows these scientists as they watch Darwin s finches and come up with a new understanding of life itself The Beak of the Finch is an elegantly written and compelling masterpiece of theory and explication in the tradition of Stephen Jay Gould.With a new preface.
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      Published :2019-02-25T01:17:23+00:00

    About "Jonathan Weiner"

      • Jonathan Weiner

        Jonathan Weiner is one of the most distinguished popular science writers in the country His books have won the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize A former editor at The Sciences and a writer for The New Yorker, he is the author of The Beak of the Finch, Time, Love, Memory, His Brother s Keeper among many others He currently lives in New York with his wife, Deborah Heiligman who is the children s book author, and their two sons There he teaches science writing at Columbia University s Graduate School of Journalism.

    120 Comments

    1. Wow.When I joined a few months back, I set two rules for myself first, to review books as I read or re read them, and second, to be sparing with my ratings I ve not given any book five stars this summer This is the first.Weiner won the Pulitzer for general non fiction with this book in 1995 He utterly deserves it While it s not difficult to find an interesting non fiction book, and not too hard to find a truly gifted writer the market s competitive like that , finding someone who discusses scien [...]


    2. We are doing what the dinosaurs did before us, only faster.We bring strangers together to make strange bedfellows, and we remake the beds they lie in, all at once.


    3. I m ashamed to say that I didn t know until recently after reading Dawkins magnificent book The Ancestor s Tale that evolution can in fact be observed happening in real time and not only in as short a time as centuries, but also in decades and even years In that book, Dawkins spoke about Rosemary and Peter Grant in relation to their work on the Galapagos Islands on Darwin s finches and how they showed the role of evolution in explaining the immense diversity of life I tried to find a book on the [...]


    4. As Jonathan Weiner points out in this classic of science writing, the word evolution comes from the Latin word for unfolding, rolling out like a scroll.That s an appropriate concept for this book, which unfurls before the reader an impressive array of late 20th century scientific research into natural selection, sexual selection and speciation all of it hammering home again and again Not only was Darwin right, he was righter than he knew.As the book s title implies, Weiner focuses on Darwin s fi [...]


    5. This was a really interesting look into the constant evolution of finches in the Galapagos Parts of it were a little slow and I definitely got bogged down by the constant repetition of beak and finch, though that probably couldn t be helped, given the subject , but other parts were very interesting The writing was also very good My least favorite part was the last few chapters when the author got away from finches and switched to humans I can see why he would do it because it s interesting to th [...]


    6. The Beak of the Finch is an excellent introduction to contemporary evolutionary theory There was quite a lot of detail about studies into the Galapagos finches, which was great The finches how quickly they are evolving is super interesting I also have a new found appreciation for the lengths that ecologists go to for their field work I think that this book struck a nice balance between hard science, human interest, history and philosophy It is nice to learn a bit about the scientists lives, whil [...]


    7. This was a buddy read with my Pulitzer non fiction group, and after 10 pages, I ordered Charles Darwin s The origin of Species from the library, as I could read between the lines, that some of my fellow group members had read it The Origin and since there were many references to Darwin in Weiner s book, I decided to read Darwin first Well good thing that I did, because in The Beak of the Finch there are references to Darwin throughout the entire book You can read it anyway, but I strongly recomm [...]


    8. L y l i qua m t cu n s ch L n n y th kh ng th l i cho non fiction l kh c u ti n l qu th n ph c c p v ch ng Grant d nh h t i s ng qu n o tr danh trong thuy t tuy n h a, nh ng nh khoa h c y u ngh c r t nhi u trong s ch nh c n h n ch c nh , nh ng ch ng c nh c m y trong gi i c ng ch ng, m to n tr n ng p nh ng ngh s n a v i tr n b o V n t nh nh khoa h c ch chuy n t m c ng hi n cho s nghi p, nh ng c ng n l c gi i thi u cho m i ng i nhi u h n, c c ti n nghi v th nh t u hi n nay c c ph n nhi u l cho h.H [...]


    9. A cripplingly tedious account of cripplingly tedious field work that tends to confirm things that you thought were totally obvious For most people with a high school education, natural selection, at the level depicted in the book, is pure common sense Environmental pressures favor the survival fecundity of certain phenotypes that then tend to displace others Sexual preference, adaptive behaviors, and cross breeding affect this in several ways and, if the pressures are extreme, the changes can co [...]


    10. The single best non academic, book length riposte to doubters of natural selection Brilliant and accessible to readers without any special scientific background, patient and uncondescending toward creationists though firmly dismissing creationist claims , it made for the perfect accompaniment to my recent Galapagos island trip You will also learn about and enjoy learning about finches, and El Ni os, and the Humboldt current, and Darwinian angst than you ever thought possible.


    11. Lots of people I know rave about this book, but my feeling was Zzzzzzzz snore Unless you are an avid bird enthusiast, this book feels very repetitive, and overly complimentary to the Grants, almost as if it were an advertisement for their work They are wonderful people I met them recently when they came to my university to give a talk but if Jonathon Weiner spent so much time with them, didn t he observe anything less flattering That would have made them seem normal and less saintly and.blah Wa [...]


    12. This book is really important The study of how micro evolution happens from one year to the next to the next in the Galapagos gave me a lot of insight into how the environment shapes species Traits are constantly changing, yet the graph jitters back and forth around some or less average value It s really not average, though, because climate, rainfall, etc are all fundamentally chaotic systems Organisms tend to track generation by generation the conditions as they fall out Over geologic time tha [...]


    13. Good book I found just about every chapter interesting, but my attention would wane by the end of each chapter Once I got the gist of the chapter s content, the second and third examples were oftentimes unnecessary Well structured and well written I can see why it won a Pulitzer.


    14. This is a masterpiece of accessible science writing Oftentimes, scientific people don t understand just how dumb non scientific people are, but Jonathan Weiner does Without being condescending, he explains why evolution is accessible knowledge and important to understand Loosely following the decades long study of Galapagos finches by Peter and Rosemary Grant, this book explains evolution in real time with the help of real people I ve always been frustrated by some of the gaps in evolutionary th [...]


    15. Extraordinary This work expands upon the two biographies I read recently about Charles Darwin and evolution Weiner is a fantastic writer He takes a science subject and makes it understandable and then at the end of science sections he inserts beautiful almost poetic prose that makes you sigh The setting is a tiny island called Daphne Major in the Galapago Islands, and the work is about a 21 year finch study conducted by Rosemary and Peter Grant The Grants have proven that evolution can happen qu [...]


    16. Let s start here Someone really should invent a new word Evolution, like gravity, is fact It s far beyond theory status, as most people seem to use and understand the word And dammit it s not something you believe in that would be like saying you believe in dirt If you refuse to see that, you have an issue You are somehow invested in believing something patently untrue Why could that be Dunno is completely baffling to me.This book ranks with McCullough s John Adams and Shirer s Rise and Fall of [...]


    17. This would be on my short list of best science books Thrilling fieldwork Especially poignant this month that we commemorate the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin s birth, and the 150th anniversary of the publication of his The Origin of the Species Weiner s book details the study of Darwin s finches by Princeton evolutionary biologists Peter and Rosemary Grant The Grants monitored every single finch on the island of Daphne Major in the Gal pagos Islands over than two decades They recorded and [...]


    18. 3.5 stars Really interesting and very well narrated, but I will admit I got reeeally sick of hearing, natural selection scrutinizes daily and hourly First of all, natural selection is not a dude with a magnifying glass And second of all, soooooo repetitious He said it about seven or eight times in the first fourth or so of the book Too much Finally on the third time, he at least added metaphorically, which made me feel a little better But still It annoyed me.Other that that, it s a good book, th [...]


    19. In this book Jonathan Weiner shows us that natural selection is neither rare nor slow it is taking place by the hour, and we can watch If this notion thrills you, you will love this book It s not just about finches, either it s about all kinds of animals, and yay humans, too Weiner puts the microscope on enterobacteria in the human gut as they react to antibiotics, and he puts the lens on the Heliothis moth as it evolves to resist pesticides in the cotton fields Finally, he zooms back to show us [...]


    20. Timely for me since we were visiting Galapagos Isles while I read this A great summary of best of where evolutionary science is headingwith Darwin s Galapagos finch as stars of the show with current research that is revolutionizing how we see evolution in action Great science writerPulitzer Prize in 95 for this book.



    21. Should you read this book Absolutely, no doubt, no matter who you are and here s why It s about evolution and the scientific method both of which cannot be denied but are A brief story I once got into an argument with an Evangelical Born Again Christian about something, I don t remember what, but I do remember I invoked radio carbon dating and she came back with something of the sort That s a hoax It s simply not true they made it up Upon which I asked her if she understood what the scientific m [...]


    22. This book details a wonderful natural experiment the evolution of the thirteen species of finches found on Daphne Major, one of the Gal pagos Islands Full disclosure my fantasy football team is called Darwin s Finches One thing the book does well is explain how Peter and Rosemary Grant, the married biologist couple who did most of the research between the 1970s and 90s, collected their data, analysed it, and reached their conclusions great info on how science is done on the ground However, the p [...]


    23. I thought a book this old might feel outdated, but the detailed descriptions of direct biological data gathering felt very fresh to me.


    24. Required reading for anyone who loves science and wants to understand how things work in nature Even though it was written over 20 years ago, it is still a great read.


    25. I m not a science girl at all In fact, it was a meteorology class yes, a meteorology class of all things that messed up my 4.0 in college I m still not over that I ve hated science every sense But, when I had an opportunity to travel with a girl friend to the Galapagos Islands earlier this month I felt I needed to do a little reading on evolution since the islands would not be the attraction it is today without Darwin As a history lover I did at least have a basic understanding of Darwin and his [...]


    26. Bill McKibben s bookjacket comment promises that The Beak of the Finch will forever change your sense of the pace of nature That s a bold promise, but Beak of the Finch has some revelations that are serious enough to warrant it The book is essentially a pop sci collection of the most recent in the 90 s evolution in action experiments that had been observed Their findings significantly improve on the vision of evolution that prevails without such evidence The stories are all told within the frami [...]


    27. The book opens well with a vivid description of the life s work of the Grants in the Galapagos Islands The detail in Weiner s observations puts you right on the island with them Next, a refreshing education on natural selection starring the finches and their environment Given the remarkable detail in the data collected by the Grants and carefully explained by Weiner, there is little room to doubt or disagree with the inevitable conclusions drawn from the data and the very direct connection to Da [...]


    28. Few things are inspiring and beautiful than hearing about people who love what they re doing The Beak of the Finch a story of evolution in our time by Jonathan Weiner follows two evolutionary biologists, Peter and Rosemary Grant, and their work on Daphne Major, an island in the Galapagos On this beautiful, remote island they study 13 species of finches and record their numbers Weiner details the whole process and it s fascinating stuff Weiner also intersperses details about Charles Darwin s lif [...]


    29. I was recommended this book before I went to the Galapagos for vacation, under the assumption I would just learn about Darwin and his unusual finches on the Galapagos Islands However, I took away much much , and now have a comprehensive view of not just the nature of the Galapagos, but of the fluidity and fickleness of life itself The author primarily highlights the attentive research of Peter and Rosemary Grant, which compels the reader to recognize how dynamic the process of evolution can rea [...]


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