Think Sex Sells? Try Evolution

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While in downtown Chicago recently, I wandered into Borders glitzy, 3-story bookstore on State Street. I naturally gravitated towards the science/biology section.  Here's a snapshot of what I saw: evolution everywhere.

The books are diverse in their subject matter, yet all evolution-related. Nature - an Economic History uses basic economic principles (limited resources, scarcity, competition) to help the reader understand evolution. Neptune's Ark is a look at how evolution shaped the ocean ecosystem in the pacific northwest. Even Out of Thin Air is evolution-related, advancing the idea that atmospheric oxygen levels have been the single greatest determinant of the diversity and complexity of life on earth. The others have obvious links (e.g. The Link).

Though I didn't have time to count them all, I'd guess that 30% of the titles were related to evolution. Not that there aren't other subjects worthy of space – stem cells, genetics, and physiology all jump to mind.

Clearly, large bookstores like Borders choose their display titles carefully, catering to public interest and demand. They promote what will sell.

Yet Darwin's 150th birthday and the 100th anniversary of the Origin of Species were both last year, making the timing of this observation all the more interesting.

My favorite title?  At the far right - Dogs: Their Fossil Relatives and Evolutionary History.

Hopefully this observation means that people really are buying books about evolution. It would be a nice turnaround to the 2006 study that found that the United States ranks second to last among 34 western countries in it's public acceptance of evolution.

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