Answers to the questions of how we came to be here have preoccupied humans for millennia. Scientists have sought clues in the genes of living things, in the physical environments of Earth— from mountaintops to the depths of the ocean, in the chemistry of this world and those nearby, in the tiniest particles of matter, and in the deepest reaches of space. In Islands in the Cosmos: The Evolution of Life on Land, Senior Curator of Paleontology Dale A. Russell traces a path from the dawn of the universe to speculations about our future on this planet.
Russell focuses on the physical and biological processes in evolution, which interact to favor more successful, and eliminate less successful, forms of life. Amazingly, they reveal latent possibilities in life's basic structure and propel a major evolutionary theme—the increasing proficiency of biological function. It remains to be seen whether the human form can survive the dynamic processes that brought it into existence. Yet the emergence of the ability to acquire knowledge from experience, to optimize behavior, to conceptualize, to distinguish "good" from "bad" behavior all hint at an evolutionary outcome that science is only beginning to comprehend.
Russell will discuss his new book on Tuesday, September 29 at 6:30 p.m. at the Museum of Natural Sciences— the fourth offering of the Museum’s Charles Darwin Lecture Series. [Free and open to the public.] Russell is also author of A Vanished World: The Dinosaurs of Western Canada and An Odyssey in Time: The Dinosaurs of North America. According to science author David E. Fastovsky, “Dale Russell is one of the great creative thinkers of all time in paleontology. This book— clearly the product of a full life considering these questions— does not disappoint.”
Islands in the Cosmos: The Evolution of Life on Land 
By Dale A. Russell
480 pages, 39 color photos, 2 color illus., 13 b&w illus., 4 graphs, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
Cloth ISBN 978-0-253-35273-6 $34.95
Publication Date: August 24, 2009