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The Structure of Evolutionary Theoryby Stephen Jay Gould
Synopses & Reviews
The world's most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers here a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time--a landmark publication, both for its historical sweep and for its scientific vision.
With characteristic attention to detail, Stephen Jay Gould first describes the content and discusses the history and origins of the three core commitments of classical Darwinism: that natural selection works on organisms, not genes or species; that it is almost exclusively the mechanism of adaptive evolutionary change; and that these changes are incremental, not drastic. Next, he examines the three critiques that currently challenge this classic Darwinian edifice: that selection operates on multiple levels, from the gene to the group; that evolution proceeds by a variety of mechanisms, not just natural selection; and that causes operating at broader scales, including catastrophes, have figured prominently in the course of evolution.
Then, in a stunning tour de force that will likely stimulate discussion and debate for decades, Gould proposes his own system for integrating these classical commitments and contemporary critiques into a new structure of evolutionary thought.
In 2001 the Library of Congress named Stephen Jay Gould one of America's eighty-three Living Legends--people who embody the "quintessentially American ideal of individual creativity, conviction, dedication, and exuberance." Each of these qualities finds full expression in this peerless work, the likes of which the scientific world has not seen--and may not see again--for well over a century.
"In his erudite discussions, there is no significant school of thought that Gould fails to analyze, interpret, and contextualize thoroughly. While indisputably the product of one of the most fertile intellects of modern science, this book is also bloated, redundant, and self-indulgent." Library Journal
At a glance, most species seem adapted to the environment in which they live. Yet species relentlessly evolve, and populations within species evolve in different ways. Evolution, as it turns out, is much more dynamic than biologists realized just a few decades ago.
In Relentless Evolution, John N. Thompson explores why adaptive evolution never ceases and why natural selection acts on species in so many different ways. Thompson presents a view of life in which ongoing evolution is essential and inevitable. Each chapter focuses on one of the major problems in adaptive evolution: How fast is evolution? How strong is natural selection? How do species co-opt the genomes of other species as they adapt? Why does adaptive evolution sometimes lead to more, rather than less, genetic variation within populations? How does the process of adaptation drive the evolution of new species? How does coevolution among species continually reshape the web of life? And, more generally, how are our views of adaptive evolution changing?
Relentless Evolution draws on studies of all the major forms of lifeandmdash;from microbes that evolve in microcosms within a few weeks to plants and animals that sometimes evolve in detectable ways within a few decades. It shows evolution not as a slow and stately process, but rather as a continual and sometimes frenetic process that favors yet more evolutionary change.
Honorable Mention, 2002 Association of American Publishers PSP Award, Biological Science Category
The world's most revered and eloquent interpreter of evolutionary ideas offers a work of explanatory force unprecedented in our time--the history and origins of the three core commitments of classical Darwinism. 88 line illustrations. 4 tables.
About the Author
Stephen Jay Gould is the Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology at Harvard University and Vincent Astor Visiting Professor of Biology at New York University. A MacArthur Prize Fellow, he has received innumerable honors and awards and has written many books, including Ontogeny and Phylogeny and Time's Arrow, Time's Cycle.
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