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'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.