Books on Evolution, the Nature of Science, and Science Education

The following list of references represents a sampling of the vast literature available on evolution, science, and science education. Please visit our World Wide Web address,, for more extensive resource listings for these subjects. The National Academy of Sciences does not endorse all the views or perspectives expressed by the authors of the following books.

Books on Evolution

Ayala, Francisco J. 2007. Darwin’s Gift to Science and Religion. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

An evolutionary biologist with a background in theology explains the science of evolution and its compatibility with faith.

Carroll, Sean B. 2006. The Making of the Fittest: DNA and the Ultimate Forensic Record of Evolution. New York: Norton.

Links changes in DNA over time to the evolution of organisms and explores the new science of evolutionary-development biology, or “evo-devo.”

Dawkins, Richard. 1996. Climbing Mount Improbable. New York: Norton.

An authoritative and elegant account of the evolutionary origins of the “design” of organisms.

Dennett, Daniel C. 1995. Darwin’s Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life. New York: Simon and Schuster.

An exploration of Darwin’s conceptual advances and of how those advances have influenced other areas of thought.

Fortey, Richard. 1998. Life: A Natural History of the First Four Billion Years of Life on Earth. New York: Knopf.

A lively account of the history of life on Earth.

Gould, Stephen J. 1992. The Panda’s Thumb. New York: W.W. Norton.

Gould’s columns from Natural History magazine have been collected into a series of books, including Ever Since Darwin, Hen’s Teeth and Horses’ Toes, Eight Little Piggies, The Flamingo’s Smile, and Bully for Brontosaurus. All are good popular introductions to the basic ideas behind evolution, and extremely readable.

Hazen, Robert M. 2006. Genesis: The Scientific Quest for Life’s Origins. Washington, DC: Joseph Henry Press.

An engaging introduction to current ideas about the origin of life on Earth, featuring vivid descriptions of the experiments Hazen and others are doing to test possible mechanisms.

Horner, John R., and Edwin Dobb. 1997. Dinosaur Lives: Unearthing an Evolutionary Saga. New York: Harper Collins.

What it’s like to uncover fossilized bones, eggs, and more, plus Horner’s views on dinosaurs and evolution.

Kirschner, Marc W., and John C. Gerhart. 2005. The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Explains how small changes in the DNA of an organism can produce new biological structures and systems.

Mayr, Ernst. 2001. What Evolution Is. New York: Basic Books.

An authoritative and comprehensive overview of evolutionary theory.

Mindell, David P. 2006. The Evolving World: Evolution in Everyday Life. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press.

Describes the many practical applications of evolutionary knowledge in medicine, agriculture, conservation biology, and other fields.

National Academy of Sciences. 1998. Teaching About Evolution and the Nature of Science. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

A guide for educators, policy makers, parents, and others that offers guidance on teaching about evolution and the nature of science.

Weiner, Jonathan. 1994. The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time. New York: Knopf.

Discussion of basic evolutionary principles and how they are illustrated by ongoing evolution of the finches on the Galápagos Islands.

Zimmer, Carl. 2002. Evolution: The Triumph of an Idea. New York: Harper.

A broad overview of evolution — and companion to a PBS series of the same name — that examines the influence and scope of Darwin’s ideas.

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