Synopses & Reviews
In this portrait of Planet Earth—at just about the mid point of its probable lifespan—a biologist discusses the evolution of the network of life and the crucial role played by humans in determining the future of our world. Unlike most books on earth history, which present the story of life on our planet in terms of one chronological period after another, the author discusses Earths teeming diversity in terms of pivotal evolutionary developments. Among these he stresses the importance of symbiosis, sex, and altruism as key determinants of the Earths biodiversity. Symbiosis—when single cells began working together—sparked the sudden appearance of complex animals. Much later symbiotic relationships led to flowering plants that depended on animals for pollination and seed dispersal. With the advent of sexual selection, there developed an astonishing world of complex behavior and a dizzying array of life forms. In humans, sexual selection exerted a great influence on the development of our large brains. Altruism—when species learned to work together—resulted in even greater variety and complexity. In early humans, altruism gave rise to ever-widening social circles and the spread of culture. The author also discusses the role of photosynthesis in establishing and maintaining life on earth; the evidence for ancient natural catastrophes, which caused widespread extinctions; and the importance of religion and the recent use of scientific reasoning in the development and the future of the human species. This eloquent, panoramic perspective is well designed to foster an appreciation for the scope of life on Earth and to encourage wise stewardship of the natural world on which our survival depends.
"Rice (Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive) provides a fascinating update on evolution. He integrates new research with standard Biology-class content in a condensed and tight narrative that suffers occasionally from illogical shifts in his expectations of the audience's knowledge. Yet, for half its length, this is a focused, entertaining delivery of complicated information. But in the second part of the book, Rice nose-dives into a steep exploration of theology that detracts from his previous brilliance. Religion, he writes, 'has literally inspired humans to do things that have transformed and degraded the planet - more so than perhaps any other force or adaptation.' The book continues to admonish readers, then slides into U.S. politics: 'They appear willing to place the survival of human civilization on the altar of this goddess ...they condemn liberal earth-goddess environmentalism, while at the same time acting as if they believe in it.' Rice and the book work best when teaching, not preaching. (Nov.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
In this portrait of Planet Earth--at just about the mid point of its probable lifespan--a biologist discusses the evolution of the network of life and the crucial role played by humans in determining the future of our world.
About the Author
Stanley A. Rice, PhD (Durant, OK) is the author of Green Planet: How Plants Keep the Earth Alive, The Encyclopedia of Evolution, The Encyclopedia of Science and Technology, and The Encyclopedia of Biodiversity. He is a professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at Southeastern Oklahoma State University.