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CRITICAL BOOK TO READ:
The Making of the Fittest ­ DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution (2006) by Sean B. Carroll (who also wrote the fascinating book Endless Forms Most Beautiful).

Major strides are being made every day in the unveiling of the evolutionary history of life, by reading the "living chronicle" of DNA that serves as a collection of the molecular fossils that preceded all life forms. The author takes us from the strange icefish of the Antarctic (unique among vertebrates - with no hemoglobin and no red blood cells) to the DNA variations in color vision for various species. In this journey, we find that nearly every creature shares a set of conserved "immortal" genes that have survived relatively unchanged the hundreds of millions of years of constant mutations that should have replaced them, revealing the power of natural selection.

One of the most surprising discoveries of molecular ancestry is that evolution can and does repeat itself. Similar or identical adaptations have occurred in the same way in species as different as butterflies and humans. We see in this amazing book how evolution actually works at the molecular level, why it matters, and how it has shaped humans, other creatures, and the world we live in.

Carroll explores at length how random mutations and gene duplications, along with the functional selectivity of natural selection, can, and clearly does, repeatedly, create new structures and new lives. He effectively exposes the myth that most mutations are harmful (most are neutral, with a potential for positive future function), and the companion myth that natural selection can't produce novelty.

Furthermore, Carroll provides somewhat abbreviated, yet very clear examples of evo-devo, even more classroom-friendly than his in-depth treatment of this productive field that he presented in his earllier book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful. You will find this in his latest book mostly in Chapter 8.

There is an abundance of material here for many, many interactive activities that teachers could develop for their students to experience the many revelations shared by the author. I challenge every science teacher who reads this book to come up with at least one such activity. When you do, please share it with your colleagues by posting it on the ENSI site, so they can use it, too. As you read the book, keep a notebook handy for jotting down teaching ideas that come to mind, things your kids should really know, and (even better) experience, and things that make a compelling case for evolution.

Included are some interesting applications of our knowledge of evolution to critical issues in agriculture and climate change,