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
The Structure of Evolutionary Theory was, we are told, ten years in the making, and is in many ways likely to be seen as Gould's greatest achievement. Of the enjoyment that many hundreds of thousands have gained from reading Gould's essays there can be no doubt...[T]here is no doubt that this is a profound and major contribution to evolutionary theory, standing high above the smoke of battle in the Darwin Wars. Tim Flannery - New York Review of Books
[A] magisterial tome...[The Structure of Evolutionary Theory] is destined to go down in history alongside the writings of Galileo, Darwin, Huxley, Freud, Mayr and others as a work that will change its culture forever. Gould's critics (and there are plenty of them) may weep and gnash their teeth at such an assessment, but they ignore him at their--and our--peril. This man has something important to say about the preeminent origin myth of our age--evolutionary theory--and he has said it in this magnificent work. Mark Davis - Ruminator Review
[A] magisterial tome...[The Structure of Evolutionary Theory] is destined to go down in history alongside the writings of Galileo, Darwin, Huxley, Freud, Mayr and others as a workthat will change its culture forever. Gould's critics (and there are plenty of them) may weep and gnash their teeth at such an assessment, but they ignore him at their--and our--peril. This man has something important to say about thepreeminent origin myth of our age--evolutionary theory--and he has said it in this magnificent work.
The Structure of Evolutionary Theorywas, we are told, ten years in the making, and is in many ways likely to be seen as Gould's greatest achievement. Of the enjoyment that manyhundreds of thousands have gained from reading Gould's essays there can be no doubt...[T]here is no doubt that this is a profound and major contribution to evolutionary theory, standing high above the smoke of battle in the Darwin Wars.
Stephen Jay Gould's work always generates keen interest and the present volume perhaps more so given his recent death. It is a thoughtful and technical book--a statement of position and a response to critics--and it is huge...It is not a textbook as the title might suggest; instead, it is evolutionary theory as viewed through Gould's unique vision. John R. G. Turner - The Spectator
[This is] a summation of Stephen Jay Gould's life work, building on Darwinism to provide a novel synthesis of how evolution has shaped the living world...One of the joys of reading about good science is the chance not only to observe how scientific theory works, but also to participate in the workings of the mind behind the words. In Gould's...The Structure of Evolutionary Theory, the reader will find such joy in abundance. Publishers Weekly
For all its rigorous detail and painstaking historical, scientific, and philosophical explication, Gould's massive work is profoundly personal and dramatic, laced as it is with his great love for Darwin, frank intellectual autobiography, and his belief that the history of evolutionary thought "constitutes an epic tale"...[E]very scientifically inclined reader, will be affected by some aspect of Gould's passionate argument, humanistic sensibility, and sheer pleasure in the noble pursuit of knowledge and understanding. Donna Seaman
Stephen Jay Gould doesn't hold anything back in this remarkable and important book. Impressive on many levels, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory represents Gould's all-out attempt to revise and extend evolutionary theory as proposed by Darwin in 1859...Gould's respect and admiration (I would even say, love) for Darwin as a scientist and as a man have been evident throughout all his writings, and this book, which begins and ends with Darwin, is no exception. In stating his motivation for it, Gould leaves no doubt that his goal is not just to explicate evolutionary theory but to laud Darwin as well...While presenting a case that should strengthen his own place in history, Gould also makes it known that he is preserving the legacy of his mentor as well, at least for now. Booklist
Fascinating, discursive, dogmatic, intensely personal and often quite technical, The Structure of Evolutionary Theory is also in most of its sections readily accessible to lay readers--and well worth the effort...This summation of Gould's idiosyncratic life work will undoubtedly arouse tremendous enthusiasm in loyal Gouldites...Gould's detailed arguments and scholarly exegesis of the historical literature on evolution's forebears and conflicts fully justify the length of this book. But the nuggets of Gould, the literate and rambunctious scientist, give it delicious flavor on page after page...This is a brilliant, controversial, thorough and immensely readable updating of Darwin. Michael Shermer - Washington Post
The culmination of about 25 years of research and study, this book traces the history of evolutionary thought and charts a path for its future...This book presents Gould in all his incarnations: as a digressive historian, original thinker and cunning polemicist...Even Gould's opponents will recognize this as the magnum opus of one of the world's leading evolutionary thinkers. David Perlman - San Francisco Chronicle
By literary standards [The Structure of Evolutionary Theory] is unique, a combination of scientific argument, historical analysis both of this argument and of all that went before it, an apologia pro vita sua, and many entertaining diversions...It is hard to think of any one else with this combination of polymathic ability and of sheer cheek, and equally hard to imagine filling a scientific auditorium with people who have read it right through--one of several ways in which the book can fairly be likened to The Origin of Species. Steven Rose - Times Literary Supplement
Stephen Jay Gould was no lightweight, physically or intellectually. This vast book...unveils his distinctive vision of evolutionary biology--as it should be, as it is, and as it has been...A book of great power, scope and learning...It is a book that one would expect to read and reread, for Gould articulates and defends a distinctive vision of the agenda of evolutionary biology; of the mechanisms of evolutionary change; and of the relationship of evolutionary biology to its own past...There is, indeed, a certain grandeur to this view of life. Stephen Lewis - Biologist
andldquo;Thompson is an authoritative writer. . . . [H]is latest book addresses much the same major questions as its predecessors, and yet it is timely and distinctive because Thompsonandrsquo;s way of thinking, as with the subject of his analysis, evolves and diversifies rapidly through time. The book continues an unfolding story that becomes richer and more appealing as more evidence is compiled. Thompsonandrsquo;s discussions confirm previous ideas but at the same time channel them toward novel and richer directions. They will also serve to remind young scientists that this is a great time to be conducting research on evolution. Timely, authoritative, and beautifully told, Relentless Evolution is a must read for anyone interested in understanding the processes shaping life on Earth.andrdquo;
andldquo;The breadth and depth of scholarship covered in Relentless Evolution will make it especially valuable for any beginning graduate student surveying the field for a niche in which to develop a dissertation. However, the book should be of interest to anyoneandmdash;from research faculty to informed non-scientistsandmdash;looking for a survey of the current state of evolutionary ecology and the historical origins of key concepts.andrdquo;
and#8220;A valuable and accessible resource for anyone with a basic interest in evolution and ecology, including graduate students, faculty, and engaged nonscientists.and#8221;
and#8220;Thompson has been a major figure in evolutionary ecology for more than three decades and is a leading authority on the coevolution of interacting species. . . . [T]his newand#8212;and I think his bestand#8212;book is a grand synthesis with a majestic sweep, drawing on about 1800 literature references that range from population genetics and genome evolution to community and ecosystem ecology.and#8221;
and#8220;In his ambitious new book, Relentless Evolution, John Thompson painstakingly details the case that evolutionary change happens rapidly, and that evolution profoundly affects interactions between species. . . . Thompsonand#8217;s new book compiles an almost encyclopedic collection of examples where rapid evolutionary change has been observed, and presents a compelling case that these changes are important in a broad array of fields, none more so than ecology. Although the book is primarily intended for an academic audience, educators and science enthusiasts will appreciate his review of the theory of natural selection and his extensive compilation of case studies in contemporary evolution.and#8221;
and#8220;A landmark book in that it brings attention to the diversity of evolutionary processes and shows how animals, plants, and bacteria are affected and how they affect other organisms around them. . . . This book will tantalize many biologists, geneticists, and others seeking to understand how species arise and change. Highly recommended.and#8221;
is a masterful synthesis of scientific fields that are expanding at astonishing speed. Surveying research as varied as lab experiments on bacteria to millions of years of coevolution between insects and flowers, John N. Thompson provides readers with a twenty-first-century view of evolutionary change, unfolding all around us and shaping our world.and#8221;
is a classic John Thompson bookandmdash;erudite, highly readable, hugely broad in the examples it weaves together, and full of interesting perspectives. Thompson continues his thinking about evolution and coevolution, developing an overall argument for the importance of the never-ending reciprocal relationships between interacting elements as a major component responsible for the diversity of life. The book provides tremendous insights into the complexity of communities and ecosystems and the need to see them as ever-changing entities for which there is no starting point or finishing line. It will be a very valuable addition to the literature.andrdquo;
andldquo;In a world of relentless environmental change, occurring at a rate unprecedented in human history, the issue of the speed of evolutionary adaptation has taken on great significance.and#160;Which species and populations will be able to adapt and continue to deliver natural services to humanity?and#160;What rates of change will still make adaptation possible and maintain ecosystem functioning?and#160;We know that evolution is not the gradualand#160;process once imagined, and that natural selection can act very quickly, but when, where, and how will evolution be fast enough to help civilization to survive?and#160;Relentless Evolution
, written by a distinguished evolutionary biologist, brilliantly provides the scientific background against which these and related questions can be addressed.and#160;Everyone who cares about the environment will want it on their shelf.andrdquo;
Includes bibliographical references (p. 1344-1387) and index.
Honorable Mention, 2002 Association of American Publishers PSP Award, Biological Science Category
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.and#160;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?and#160;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.
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.
Table of Contents
- 1. Defining and Revising the Structure of Evolutionary Theory
- Part I: The History of Darwinian Logic and Debate
- 2. The Essence of Darwinism and the Basis of Modern Orthodoxy: An Exegesis of the Origin of Species
- 3. Seeds of Hierarchy
- 4. Internalism and Laws of Form: Pre-Darwinian Alternatives to Functionalism
- 5. The Fruitful Facets of Galton’s Polyhedron: Channels and Saltations in Post-Darwinian Formalism
- 6. Pattern and Progress on the Geological Stage
- 7. The Modern Synthesis as a Limited Consensus
- Part II: Towards a Revised and Expanded Evolutionary Theory
- 8. Species as Individuals in the Hierarchical Theory of Selection
- 9. Punctuated Equilibrium and the Validation of Macroevolutionary Theory
- 10. The Integration of Constraint and Adaptation (Structure and Function) in Ontogeny and Phylogeny: Historical Constraints and the Evolution of Development
- 11. The Integration of Constraint and Adaptation (Structure and Function) in Ontogeny and Phylogeny: Structural Constraints, Spandrels, and the Centrality of Exaptation in Macroevolution
- 12. Tiers of Time and Trials of Extrapolationism, With an Epilog on the Interaction of General Theory and Contingent History