Synopses & Reviews
and#147;Natural selection can preserve innovations, but it cannot create them. Natureand#8217;s many innovationsand#151;some uncannily perfectand#151;call for natural principles that accelerate lifeand#8217;s ability to innovate.and#8221;
Darwinand#8217;s theory of natural selection explains how useful adaptations are preserved over time. But the biggest mystery about evolution eluded him. As genetics pioneer Hugo de Vries put it, and#147;natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest.and#8221;
Can random mutations over a mere 3.8 billion years really be responsible for wings, eyeballs, knees, camouflage, lactose digestion, photosynthesis, and the rest of natureand#8217;s creative marvels? And if the answer is no, what is the mechanism that explains evolutionand#8217;s speed and efficiency?
In Arrival of the Fittest, renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner draws on over fifteen years of research to present the missing piece in Darwin's theory. Using experimental and computational technologies that were heretofore unimagined, he has found that adaptations are not just driven by chance, but by a set of laws that allow nature to discover new molecules and mechanisms in a fraction of the time that random variation would take.
Consider the Arctic cod, a fish that lives and thrives within six degrees ofand#160;the North Pole, in waters that regularly fall below 0 degrees. At that temperature, the internal fluids of most organisms turn into ice crystals. And yet, the arctic cod survives by producing proteins that lower the freezing temperature of its body fluids, much like antifreeze does for a carand#8217;s engine coolant. The invention of those proteins is an archetypal example of natureand#8217;s enormous powers of creativity.
Meticulously researched, carefully argued, evocatively written, and full of fascinating examples from the animal kingdom, Arrival of the Fittest offers up the final puzzle piece in the mystery of lifeand#8217;s rich diversity.
"[Coyne] makes an unassailable case."
-New York Times
"In nine crisp chapters...the respected evolutionary biologist lays out an airtight case that Earth is unspeakably old and that new species evolve from previous ones."
"Coyne's book is the best general explication of evolution that I know of and deserves its success as a best seller."
-R.C. Lewontin, New York Review of Books
"I recommend that Mr. Coyne's insightful and withering assessment of evolutionary studies of human psychology and behavior be taped to the bathroom mirrors of all those (perhaps especially journalists) inclined to be swept into excited announcements of What Evolution Shows About Us."
-Philip Kitcher, Wall Street Journal
"With logic and clarity, Coyne presents the vast trove of scientific evidence that supports Darwin's theory."
-Cleveland Plain Dealer
"It's always a pleasure to tell people about a wonderful book, especially when the subject of the book is of universal and critical importance. Evolutionary geneticist Jerry A. Coyne has given us such a book...A book that may change the way you look at things-if you dare."
-The Huffington Post
"In this 200th anniversary year of Darwin's birth, Why Evolution is True ranks among the best new titles flooding bookstores."
-Christian Science Monitor
and#8220;A book of startling congruencies, insightful flashes and an artful enthusiasm that delivers knowledge from the inorganic page to our organic brains.and#8221;
and#8212;Kirkus Reviews (Starred Review)
and#8220;This well-written, clear analysis of current research will be of interest to those who want a better understanding of the mechanisms of evolution.and#8221;
and#8220;Interesting results, presented clearly.and#8221;
and#8220;Arrival of the Fittest contains brand-new scientific insights told in sparkling literary prose. It is a landmark book that combines original, perhaps revolutionary ideas elegantly explained. In particular, the concept of genotype networksand#8212;that there are thousands of ways to alter a metabolic pathway without stopping it from workingand#8212;promises to solve the enduring puzzle of how natural selection can be such a force for innovation.and#8221;
and#8212;MATT RIDLEY, author of The Red Queen
and#8220;Arrival of the Fittest reveals the astonishing hidden structure of evolution, long overlooked by biologists, which makes Darwinand#8217;s grand idea viable after all. At the same time, it makes life seem even richer and more remarkable than you thought. Darwin would surely have loved this book; I think you will too.and#8221;
and#8212;PHILIP BALL, former editor at Nature; author of The Self-Made Tapestry
and#8220;Wagnerand#8217;s engaging and delightful book will open your eyes to the mysteries of innovation. His insights will entertain and astonish you and change the way you think.and#8221;
and#8212;DANIEL E. LIEBERMAN, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University; author of The Story of the Human Body
and#8220;A radical departure from the mainstream perspective on Darwinian evolution. Wagner cuts to the core of innovation in living systems. Fundamental. Entertaining. Brilliant.and#8221;
and#8212;ROLF DOBELLI, author of The Art of Thinking Clearly
and#8220;If there is one subject even more controversial than the evolution of intelligence, it is the intelligence of evolution. Andreas Wagner presents a compelling, authoritative, and up-to-date case for bottom-up intelligence in biological evolution, and it sticks.and#8221;
and#8212;GEORGE DYSON, author of Turingand#8217;s Cathedral
and#8220;Andreas Wagner is one of those rare scientists with the courage and intellect to see the real nature of evolution.and#8221;
and#8212;FRANK VERTOSICK, M.D., FACS, author of When the Air Hits Your Brain and Mind
Praise for Why Evolution is True
“Outstandingly good . . . Coynes knowledge of evolutionary biology is prodigious, his deployment of it as masterful as his touch is light.”
—Richard Dawkins, The Times Literary Supplement
“Coyne is as graceful a stylist and as clear a scientific explainer as Darwin himself (no mean feat) . . . one of the best single-volume introductions to evolutionary theory ever.”
“The joy Coyne takes in his work is evident on every page, whether hes offering a bone-by-bone analysis of how dinosaurs evolved into birds or describing how docile Japanese honeybees have come up with their particularly incendiary defense against marauding giant hornets.”
—San Francisco Chronicle
“[Coyne] makes an unassailable case.”
—New York Times
“In nine crisp chapters . . . the respected evolutionary biologist lays out an airtight case that Earth is unspeakably old and that new species evolve from previous ones.”
“Coynes book is the best general explication of evolution that I know of and deserves its success as a best seller.”
—R.C. Lewontin, New York Review of Books
“I recommend that Mr. Coynes insightful and withering assessment of evolutionary studies of human psychology and behavior be taped to the bathroom mirrors of all those (perhaps especially journalists) inclined to be swept into excited announcements of What Evolution Shows About Us.”
—Philip Kitcher, The Wall Street Journal
“With logic and clarity, Coyne presents the vast trove of scientific evidence that supports Darwin's theory.”
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
“Its always a pleasure to tell people about a wonderful book, especially when the subject of the book is of universal and critical importance. Evolutionary geneticist Jerry A. Coyne has given us such a book. . . . A book that may change the way you look at things—if you dare.”
—The Huffington Post
“In this 200th anniversary year of Darwins birth, Why Evolution is True ranks among the best new titles flooding bookstores.”
—Christian Science Monitor
“Why Evolution is True is the book I was hoping would be written someday: an engaging and accessible account of one of the most important ideas ever conceived by mankind. The book is a stunning achievement, written by one of the world's leading evolutionary biologists. Coyne has produced a classic—whether you are an expert or novice in science, a friend or foe of evolutionary biology, reading Why Evolution is True is bound to be an enlightening experience.”
—Neil Shubin, author of Your Inner Fish
“Jerry Coyne has long been one of the world's most skillful defenders of evolutionary science in the face of religious obscurantism. In Why Evolution is True, he has produced an indispensable book: the single, accessible volume that makes the case for evolution. But Coyne has delivered much more than the latest volley in our "culture war"; he has given us an utterly fascinating, lucid, and beautifully written account of our place in the natural world. If you want to better understand your kinship with the rest of life, this book is the place to start.”
—Sam Harris, founder of the Reason Project and author of the New York Times best sellers The End of Faith and Letter to a Christian Nation
“Scientists don't use the word 'true' lightly, but in this lively and engrossing book, Jerry Coyne shows why biologists are happy to use it when it comes to evolution. Evolution is 'true' not because the experts say it is, nor because some worldview demands it, but because the evidence overwhelmingly supports it. There are many superb books on evolution, but this one is superb in a new way — it explains out the latest evidence for evolution lucidly, thoroughly, and with devastating effectiveness.”
—Steven Pinker, Harvard University, and author of The Stuff of Thought: Language as a Window into Human Nature
“For anyone who wishes a clear, well-written explanation of evolution by one of the foremost scientists working on the subject, Why Evolution is True should be your choice.”
—E. O. Wilson, author of The Social Conquest of Earth and Letters to a Young Scientist
“I once wrote that anybody who didn't believe in evolution must be stupid, insane, or ignorant, and I was then careful to add that ignorance is no crime. I should now update my statement. Anybody who doesn't believe in evolution is stupid, insane, or hasn't read Jerry Coyne. I defy any reasonable person to read this marvellous book and still take seriously the "breathtaking inanity" that is intelligent design "theory" or its country cousin, young earth creationism.”
— Richard Dawkins, author of The God Delusion
"Coyne's knowledge of evolutionary biology is prodigious, his deployment of it as masterful as his touch is light." -Richard Dawkins
In the current debate about creationism and intelligent design, there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence. Yet the proof of evolution by natural selection is vast, varied, and magnificent. In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Jerry A. Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that supports this amazing process of change. Weaving together the many threads of modern work in genetics, paleontology, geology, molecular biology, and anatomy that demonstrate the "indelible stamp" of the processes first proposed by Darwin, Why Evolution Is True does not aim to prove creationism wrong. Rather, by using irrefutable evidence, it sets out to prove evolution right.
In this succinct and accessible summary of the facts supporting the theory of natural selection, Coyne dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms the scientific truth that supports this amazing process of change.
The New York Times bestselling author explains why any attempt to make religion compatible with science is doomed to fail
In his provocative new book, evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne lays out in clear, dispassionate detail why the toolkit of science, based on reason and empirical study, is reliable, while that of religionincluding faith, dogma, and revelationleads to incorrect, untestable, or conflicting conclusions.
Coyne is responding to a national climate in which over half of Americans dont believe in evolution (and congressmen deny global warming), and warns that religious prejudices and strictures in politics, education, medicine, and social policy are on the rise. Extending the bestselling works of Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens, he demolishes the claims of religion to provide verifiable truth” by subjecting those claims to the same tests we use to establish truth in science.
Coyne irrefutably demonstrates the grave harmto individuals and to our planetin mistaking faith for fact in making the most important decisions about the world we live in.
Charles Darwinand#8217;s On the Origin of Species appeared a little more than 150 years ago. Although Darwin had been developing his theory for over 20 years, and before him others had advocated evolutionary views, the book was transformative. Nonetheless, it was only the beginning of the development of evolutionary biology.
The story of evolutionary theory over the last 150 years is fascinating and conceptually rich. It involves modification, clarification, experimentation, and frustration. In the end a robust, vibrant, and deeply descriptive theory emerged. The tortuous path, from Darwinand#8217;s original brilliant formulation to todayand#8217;s model, is filled with intrigue and philosophical richness. In many respects, the story documents the maturing of biological science, a science with evolutionary theory at its centre. As evolutionary biologist Theodosius Dobzhansky stated in 1973, and#8220;nothing in biology makes sense except in the light of evolution.and#8221; The truth of this assertion is even more evident today than it was more than 40 years ago.
This book is a historical narrative of the conceptual and theoretical discoveries and debates, the experimentation and field work that became the evidential base on which the theory rests, the systematic assembling of these into an elegant and powerful science, and the elements that increasingly won over the biological and the scientific community more generally. The book will appeal to all interested in the history of science, as well as the current thought on how our species came to be.
Charles Darwin published On the Origin of Species
a little over one hundred and fifty years ago, and it changed everything. But many donand#8217;t realize that it took Darwin over twenty years to develop his theory, that others had been advocating a similar theory before him, and many others have been developing it since. In A Remarkable Journey
, R. Paul Thompson tells the story of evolutionary theory, of the empirical and theoretical discoveries and the endless heated debates that have led to our understanding of it today.
As Thompson shows, the tortuous path from Darwinand#8217;s brilliant formulation to todayand#8217;s robust and vibrant model is filled with intrigue. Evolutionary theory has become, in many respects, the center of biological science, and its maturation is an indication of a larger and more sophisticated scientific understanding more generally. But this development was not easily won, a point Thompson makes clear as he takes readers from one stage of the theoryand#8217;s maturation to the next, detailing all that went into the development of what most of us now take for granted as a basicand#151;and beautifuland#151;principle of life.and#160;
About the Author
Andreas Wagner is a professorand#160;in the Institute of Evolutionary Biologyand#160;and Environmental Studies at theand#160;University of Zurich in Switzerland,and#160;and an external professor at the Santa Feand#160;Institute. He lectures worldwide and isand#160;a fellow of the American Associationand#160;for the Advancement of Science. Heand#160;lives in Zurich, Switzerland.