I highly recommend this book. It's an exceptionally good summation of the current (2015) thinking (both consensus and contention) on the subject of life on Earth. It is as "heavy" as any university textbook I have ever read; a tough but highly rewarding read. Given the range of topics covered (under its specific title) one cannot help but be struck by tons of new (to the reader) knowledge and understanding. I learned more about the geological history of our planet from this book, than I ever knew. The authors' underlying theme is how geography / environment / weather (and specifically changes in oxygen, carbon dioxide, methane, hydrogen sulphide etc. in the atmosphere), over time, was the driver of evolutionary change (and at least some of the extinction periods / events). Current scientific capability is allowing scientists to track such changes over geological time with extreme precision, and to relate it to the fossil record - which has also become more and more detailed, especially over the last decade or two. The current ability to date, and position a given sample / strata where it was located on the planet (movement due to plate tectonics) on that date is greatly helpful to this process. My only quibble is that I have never seen such a book / text with so many spelling and grammar errors. I mean I might find one, at most two, in any given book. But this has easily a few dozen. Whoever did the editing should find a new profession.
"Most Of These Stories Are Somewhat True"
The book gives the latest evidence on the probable cause(s) of the various mass extinctions which molded our history.
A few years are under the bridge since Peter Ward and Don Brownlee's Rare Earth and science marches on, leading me to recommend Peter Ward and Joseph Kirschvink's 2015 book, "A New History of Life," a comprehensive look at the big picture of how life evolved to fit ecosystems and how mammals finally gained advantage. Fascinating and up to date.
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