Since the findings from the Human Genome Project and other studies linking human DNA to that of primates, there has been an enormous amount of research producing powerful evidence of evolution in DNA. Professor and research geneticist Daniel J. Fairbanks explores some of the many relics of evolution found in the DNA of every person on the planet in RELICS OF EDEN: THE POWERFUL EVIDENCE OF EVOLUTION IN HUMAN DNA (Prometheus Books, $24.95).
"This book comes at a time when the clash between those who perceive evolution as a threat to religious faith and those who view religious fervor as a threat to science is as intense as it ever has been," he says.
Since the publication in 1859 of Darwin's ORIGIN OF SPECIES, debate over the theory of evolution has been continuous and often impassioned. In recent years, opponents of "Darwin's dangerous idea" have mounted history's most sophisticated and generously funded attack, claiming that evolution is "a theory in crisis." Ironically, these claims are being made at a time when the explosion of information from genome projects has revealed the most compelling and overwhelming evidence of evolution ever discovered. Much of the latest evidence of human evolution comes not from our genes, but from so-called "junk DNA," leftover relics of our evolutionary history that make up the vast majority of our DNA.
RELICS OF EDEN explores this powerful DNA-based evidence of human evolution. The "relics" are the millions of functionally useless but scientifically informative remnants of our evolutionary ancestry trapped in the human genetic code. For example, the analysis of the chimpanzee and Rhesus monkey genomes shows indisputable evidence of the human evolutionary relationship with other primates. Over 95 percent of our genome is identical with that of chimpanzees and we also have a good deal in common with other animal species.
James F. Crow, Emeritus Professor of Genetics at the University of Wisconsin notes, "Instead of the usual embryos and fossils, Fairbanks uses new molecular evidence. And he zeros in on a major controversy, the origin of humans and our relation to other primates. The arguments are presented with unusual clarity and they are overwhelmingly convincing."
Author Daniel J. Fairbanks also discusses what DNA analysis reveals about where humans originated. The diversity of DNA sequences repeatedly confirms the archeological evidence that humans originated in sub-Saharan Africa (the "Eden" of the title) and from there migrated through the Middle East and Asia to Europe, Australia, and the Americas. In conclusion, Fairbanks confronts the supposed dichotomy between evolution and religion, arguing that both science and religion are complementary ways to seek truth. He appeals to the vast majority of Americans who hold religious convictions not to be fooled by the pseudoscience of Creationists and Intelligent Design advocates and to abandon the false dichotomy between religion and real science.
This concise, very readable presentation of recent genetic research is completely accessible to the nonspecialist and makes for enlightening and fascinating reading. PUBLISHERS WEEKLY says of the book "Genetics professor Fairbanks, author of several science books for laymen...presents the details of evolution as gleaned from a close study of genetics, but marshals his evidence in a conversational style readily comprehensible to general readers. Fairbanks excels at explaining the momentous discoveries in genetics in the past 20 years in clear, concise language...general readers looking for an overview of current genetics and evolution science will find this a great place to start."
Daniel J. Fairbanks is a distinguished university professor, research geneticist, artist, and author. He is the coauthor (with A. Franklin, A.W.F. Edwards, D.L. Hartl, and T. Seidenfeld) of THE MENDEL-FISHER CONTROVERSY, and (with W. R. Andersen) of GENETICS: THE CONTINUITY OF LIFE in addition to numerous journal articles.