My old friend, colleague, suaboya, and educator extraordinaire, Jay Phelan has written what many believe will be the next Campbell. The name of the book is What Is Life?. There are two versions: one regular, and one with extra physiology. And both are based firmly on and integrated thoroughly with excellent evolutionary biology.
The text is fully modernized, using inquiry based learning (called “Intriguing Questions” or “Red Q” Questions. For instance, “Why doesn’t natural selection lead to the prodution of perfect organisms?”, “Why is it easier to remember gossip than physics equations?” and “Do flowers with both male and female structures fertilize themselves?”
The art and photos in this text are outstanding and, above all, not misleading or in any way inaccurate. This is an important features. So often, the simplification of a concept to the form of a graphic removes key elements which are replaced by the human eye (or sometimes the actual graphic artist) with something that is simply wrong. Phelan has done an excellent job in making sure that this does not happen in this text. And, the visuals are simply very, very well done.
A bit of real life biology is included with every chapter, allowing students to take something out of the classroom other than a fuzzy feeling in their heads and a lot of tired brain cells. This, again, is an inquiry based approach. For example, what happens, physiologically, when you mix aspirin and alcohol? And, what would you learn (about physiology) from this?
One of the many things I like about this book is that Jay starts out with a discussion of pseudoscience and misconceptions, and shows how critical thinking and application of the scientific method are needed to cut through the crap that the students encounter all the time in their daily lives. That, of course, is one of the main reasons to make everybody take science classes. Having it explicitly stated is not a bad idea.
What is Life is written for intro College or High School AP, and anyone setting up a new course at this time should seriously consider it. Campbell is nice, but Phelan is the next textbook.