Acta Biotheoretica

, Volume 63, Issue 4, pp 407–411 | Cite as

Kostas Kampourakis: Understanding Evolution

Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2014, 253 pp, ISBN: 978-1-107-61020-0
  • August W. M. Martin
Book Review


Evolutionary theory is one of the most widely misunderstood and consistently rejected concepts in the whole of science. In Understanding Evolution, Kostas Kampourakis investigates the psychological dimensions of this popular discontent with evolutionary theory. At the heart of this persisting public disenchantment with the theory lies the thoroughly counterintuitive, even alien, nature of biological evolution. Historically, people have rejected evolution on religious, ethical, and existential grounds, but there is a psychological component to our aversion to evolution. It simply does not resonate with human expectations about how the world should work. Kampourakis does an excellent job presenting evolutionary theory and summarizing the evidence for it. Ultimately, he argues that in spite of powerful emotional and instinctual forces arrayed against it, we have much to gain by allowing the evolutionary picture to enrich our understanding of the world. If we allow the full drama of the history of life on Earth to present itself to us, we can place ourselves within that drama and find ways to relate it meaningfully to our lives without psychological barriers mounted by disdain and discomfort.


Evolution Evolutionary theory Scientific theories Implications of evolution Science and society Ethics Meaning Public understanding of science 


  1. Gelman SA, Rhodes M (2012) Two-thousand years of stasis: how psychological essentialism impedes evolutionary understanding. In: Rosengren K et al (eds) Evolution challenges: integrating research and practice in teaching and learning about evolution. Oxford University Press, Oxford, pp 3–21CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Paley W (2008) Natural theology, or evidence for the existence and attributes of the deity. Oxford University Press, OxfordGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for PhilosophyLeiden UniversityLeidenThe Netherlands
  2. 2.Den HaagThe Netherlands

Personalised recommendations