Jonathan Weiner

American nonfiction writer

Jonathan Weiner (born 26th November 1953 in New York) is a Pulitzer Prize-winning author of non-fiction books on his biology observations, in particular evolution in the Galápagos Islands, genetics, and the environment.


The Beak of the Finch: A Story of Evolution in Our Time (1994)Edit

The Beak of the Finch. New York: Vintage Books. 1994. LCC QL696.P246W45. ISBN 067973337X. 
All page numbers from the trade paperback edition, June 1995
  • Taken together, these new studies suggest the Darwin did not know the strength of his own theory. He vastly underestimated the power of natural selection. Its action is neither rare nor slow. It leads to evolution daily and hourly, all around us, and we can watch.
    • Chapter 1, Daphne Major (p. 9)
  • Whether or not we choose to watch, evolution is shaping us all.
    • Chapter 1, Daphne Major (p. 16)
  • Evolution discloses a meaning in death, although the meaning is like some of the berries that Darwin tasted in the Galapagos, “acid & Austere.” There is a special providence in the fall of a sparrow. Even Drought bears fruit. Even death is a seed.
    • Chapter 5, A Special Providence (p. 82)
  • For all species, including our own, the true figure of life is a perching bird, a passerine, alert and nervous in every part, ready to dart off in an instant. Life is always poised for flight. From a distance it looks still, silhouetted against the bright sky or the dark ground; but up close it is flitting this way and that, as if displaying to the world at every moment its perpetual readiness to take off in any of a thousand directions.
    • Chapter 7, Twenty-five Thousand Darwins (p. 112)
  • Geneticists will tell you that. Evolution is always happening. What they mean is that the genes of this generation are not precisely what they were the preceding generation. Nor will they be precisely the same in the next. And evolution is that change.
    • Chapter 9, Creation by Variation (p. 126)
  • Why are there so many kinds of animals? Adaptive radiations like Darwin’s finches are the essence of the answer.
    • Chapter 14, New Beings (p. 207)
  • We are doing what the dinosaurs did before us, only faster. We bring strangers together to make strange bedfellows, and we remake the beds they lie in, all at once.
    • Chapter 17, The Stranger’s Power (p. 244)
  • “Our only real competition for domination of the planet remains the viruses,” the microbiologist Joshua Lederberg once said. “The survival of humanity,” he added, “is not preordained.”
    • Chapter 18, The Resistance Movement (p. 262)
  • What we don’t understand on either front is that the more pressure we put on our pests, the more we cause them to evolve around the pressure. The pressure is evolutionary pressure; what we fail to understand is evolution itself.
    • Chapter 18, The Resistance Movement (p. 265)
  • All times seem special to those who live in them.
    • Chapter 19, A Partner in the Process (p. 276)
  • The rapid accumulation of change is not always progress, and forward motion is not always an advance.
    • Chapter 20, The Metaphysical Crossbeak (p. 289)

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