As Jerry Coyne has alerted us, there is a free evolutionary biology textbook available on Kindle — grab it while you can (if you don’t have a kindle, just put the free Kindle app on your computer).

I haven’t had a chance to look the book over myself. Eugene Koonin is a respected name, but books that claim to establish a “Fundamentally New Evolutionary Synthesis” put me off a bit. Other stuff in the summary sounds interesting, though, just downplay the grandiose claims a bit when reading it.

(Also on Sb)


  1. BicycleRepairMan says

    What?, just register on .com and download for free. Since there is no shipping on kindle, there is no need to buy it from

  2. says

    Now I have a new kindle app for my PC, a new kindle book, and a new appreciation for the phrase “they have you by the balls”.

  3. raymoscow says

    As Mat already said in comment 1, it’s still £26 on UK Kindle. You US-based guys should grab it, pronto.

    If it’s really good, maybe it’s worth the £26. Authors have to make a living.

  4. ManOutOfTime says

    Now on my Kindle for iPhone, for free! Who needs Groupon? Thanks to Pharyngula, I got a free science textbook and Lady Gaga’s Born this Way – 14 tracks for $1.99.

  5. unbound says

    “Maybe its free in the US because you guys need all the help you can get! Ouch!”

    Yes. Yes we do.

    Just grabbed it. Thanx for the heads up PZ.

  6. says

    Costs $2US for international wireless delivery costs here in the “Asia & Pacific” region. There are quite a few “free” Kindle books that get that cost from here in Thailand.

    Ah well, that’s still incredibly worth it. I’ve read several of Dr. Koonin’s papers, and have always found him incredibly thought-provoking, so I’m sure I’ll enjoy reading this book.

    If anyone wants a sample of some of his papers, here are a couple of my favorites:

    Koonin, E.V., 2009. Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics. Nucleic acids research, 37(4), p.1011-34. Available at:

    Wolf, Y.I. & Koonin, E.V., 2007. On the origin of the translation system and the genetic code in the RNA world by means of natural selection, exaptation, and subfunctionalization. Biology direct, 2, p.14. Available at:

    Both are open access and simply fascinating reads.

  7. says

    How complex eukaryotes arose: tantalizing hints about one of evolutionary biology’s key enigmas

    Life’s origin: estimating the probability of “unique events” in the context of modern cosmology

    I hope that it’s not overselling speculation. It’s hard to know much about how eukaryotes arose, and life’s origin is especially difficult, notably because of the loss of information since then.

    Interestingly, it’s already been quote-mined by IDiots, in this case Denyse O’Leary. Of course, she also thinks horizontal transfers falsify “Darwinism,” as she’s stupid enough to believe their own propaganda (which implies that we just “believe Darwin”).

    Well, the price is certainly right, and it looks good. No fault to Koonin that he’s misused by morons.

    Glen Davidson

  8. says

    What Koonin wrote about “intelligent design” in a note in his book:

    phrase “irreducible complexity” was coined by Michael Behe, one of the chief advocates of the antievolutionary intelligent design (ID) concept, in his (in)famous Darwin’s Black Box book (Behe, M. J. 2006. Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution. New York: Free Press). To Behe and other ID advocates, the “irreducibility” of complex biological structures is evidence (even proof) of the inevitability of ID. Of course, ID is malicious nonsense, but the term “irreducible complexity” is quite evocative; however, evolutionary biologists might prefer to speak of “apparent” or “purported” irreducibility of complex structures.

    Koonin, Eugene V. (2011-06-23). The Logic of Chance: The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution (FT Press Science) (Kindle Locations 8247-8252). FT Press. Kindle Edition.

    Just pointing out how far from his intention O’Leary’s dishonesty is.

    Glen Davidson

  9. says

    I just wish he left out all the postmodernism stuff, he’s using it is a loose metaphorical sense but what he really means is something like pluralism rather. Postmodernism would say that creationism and ID were equally valid as Modern Evolutionary Biology

  10. HidariMak says

    Glen Davidson said:
    “Interestingly, it’s already been quote-mined by IDiots, in this case Denyse O’Leary. Of course, she also thinks horizontal transfers falsify “Darwinism,” as she’s stupid enough to believe their own propaganda (which implies that we just “believe Darwin”).”

    Thanks. I just downloaded it, and afterwards, got the usual list of half dozen other purchases which were often made with that book. Five of them were books by Ben Stein, and the sixth was Ben Stein’s ‘Expelled’ DVD. It’s good to know that the book should be good despite that.

  11. tfkreference says

    HidariMak: Perhaps they’ll read it, and at least begin to see the quote-mining for what it is. One can always hope…

  12. Brownian says

    Following this lead, I Googled (Mercury’d?) “free kindle books amazon” and found a whole shitload of free ebooks from Amazon.

    Strangely, half were written by Jane Austen. Fortunately, sketchily comedic friends of mine created a drinking game around her works.

  13. Tony says

    Like Steve (above), I too was concerned with the author’s invocation of ‘postmodernism’, however, in Appendix A Koonin freely admits that he is “effectively an ignoramus” on the issue. Here’s what the author says about his use of the phrase ‘Postmodern Synthesis’ at the end of Ch 13:

    “The phrase Postmodern Synthesis repeatedly used in this book is not simply a manifestation of arrogance, but also an obvious oxymoron, because the philosophy of postmodernism is all about the negation of the very possibility of any synthesis (see Appendix A). However, this choice of words is quite deliberate because the complexity of the evolution of life does invoke the specter of the post-modern worldview, however disturbing this might seem. Nevertheless, an increasingly deep understanding can be expected to result from the evolving network of complementary, interacting models, theories, and generalizations. It is interesting to note that some of the leading theoretical physicists of today contemplate the future of physics in a similar light.”

    I feel somewhat more comfortable with his usage of the term, albeit unnecessary, but I do wonder what actual postmodernists will do with the idea of a “Postmodern Synthesis of Evolutionary Biology”, and how far down the post-structural rabbit hole they’ll take it. This could turn into a real philosophical mess.

  14. escarole says

    Alex Samaras – I avoid the $1-2 delivery fees for downloads outside of the geographic US by downloading to my computer and then moving the files to my Kindle using the USB cord.

  15. howdini says

    Slightly OT:

    My 16y.o. son is being home schooled now; can any Pharyngulites recommend a good bio or evo-bio book for us?

  16. stubby says

    I just bought an old text book named Evolutionary Biology by Douglas Futuyma. It seems to be well respected but I am new to this stuff. If it’s bad I hope somebody will let me know. PZ is one of the reasons I am trying to learn more about evolution at the ripe old age of thirty nine. Thanks PZ!

  17. Brownian says

    Brownian – You can get just about any classic out-of-print book (incuding Jane Austen’s), and some pretty obscure ones, in various e-book formats at

    Cool, thanks. I’ll check it out. I’ve already pilfered the Gutenberg project (Three Men & Baby sucked in book form), and I’ve spent a few hours reformatting HTML sources for conversion into .mobi format.

  18. David Utidjian says

    Thanks for the link PZ. I grabbed a copy for myself and FBed it for my friends. I even posted a link to it on under their Theology -> Science & Origins section. The whole post was deleted ::sigh:: because it was in violation of their TOS. Even though (as I recall) I only mentioned it as a reference. But no… I suppose it was too offensive.

  19. timberwoof says

    I finally took the plunge and got the Kindle app for my Mac, just to get this book. Given what one of PZM’s students wrote about learning a new subject being good for the brain, this is a good thing.

    I was put off a bit by the term “postmodern,” but the author’s admission that he’s an ignoramus on the subject makes me feel better. Has any Real Biologist reviewed this book yet?

  20. says

    I guess it will take some time for a qualified person to review it for technical accuracy, but I’ve read through most of it and can attest to the quality of writing.

    Any woo about multiverses is confined to a few pages of speculation at the end. The section on postmodernism is rather good.

    The bulk of the book is a history of evolutionary thought from the perspective of genomics. That may sound a bit odd, but that’s what it looks like to me. It’s the best single source history of evolution I’ve seen, and I grew up on Gould essays and Mayr.

    It does need vetting, though. My sense is that it will do fine. Perhaps there will be quibbles about emphasis.