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Darwin's Ghost: The Origin of Species Updated is a book by British geneticist Steve Jones, originally published in 1999. It follows the chapter structure of Charles Darwin's great work, but uses new evidence and new science to support Darwin's theories of evolution, natural selection, and divergence of character, as well as other important theories. Like Darwin, Jones does this through a number of examples and arguments, but Jones' material is a bit more accessable to a modern reader. For instance, Jones uses the example of dogs instead of Darwin's pigeons (which were a popular pet in the 19th century) in his chapter on "Variation Under Domestication", and refers extensively to HIV and AIDS in both his introduction and his conclusion.

Incidentally, this conclusion is his biggest departure from the structure of The Origin, as Jones has a chapter all his own, "Almost Like a Whale?," between his thirteenth chapter and the last chapter of the book. (Almost Like a Whale was also the title of Darwin's Ghost when originally published in England.) This last chapter, "Recapitulation and Conclusion," also departs from his general pattern, as he simply reprints Darwin's version here. "Almost Like a Whale?," however, is a completely original chapter on human evolution, a subject Darwin covered with a mere sentence in The Origin: "Light will be thrown on the origin of man and his history."

Darwin's Ghost is a great book to read for anyone interested in a broad overview of evolutionary biology: it uses the excellently compiled evidence of The Origin of Species freely, but augments it with new ideas and examples. In addition, it is a somewhat easier read than The Origin, but Jones does not dumb down his material to achieve this; rather, he crafts the book through good, clear writing.


A series of essays I've written on The Origin of Species and Darwin's Ghost is now available on E2. The essays follow the chapter structure of the books, and are noded as follows:

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