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.
"With great care, attention to the scientific evidence and a wonderfully accessible style, Coyne, an evolutionary geneticist at the University of Chicago, presents an overwhelming case for evolution. Ranging from biogeography to geology, from anatomy to genetics, and from molecular biology to physiology, he demonstrates that evolutionary theory makes predictions that are consistently borne out by the data basic requirements for a scientific theory to be valid. Additionally, although fully respectful of those who promote intelligent design and creationism, he uses the data at his disposal to demolish any thought that creationism is supported by the evidence while also explaining why those ideas fall outside the bounds of science. Coyne directly addresses the concept often advanced by religious fundamentalists that an acceptance of evolution must lead to immorality, concluding that 'evolution tells us where we came from, not where we can go.' Readers looking to understand the case for evolution and searching for a response to many of the most common creationist claims should find everything they need in this powerful book, which is clearer and more comprehensive than the many others on the subject. Illus." Publishers Weekly (Starred Review) (Copyright Reed Business Information, Inc.)
Why evolution is more than just a theory: it is a fact
In all the current highly publicized debates about creationism and its descendant "intelligent design," there is an element of the controversy that is rarely mentioned-the evidence, the empirical truth of evolution by natural selection. Even Richard Dawkins and Stephen Jay Gould, while extolling the beauty of evolution and examining case studies, have not focused on the evidence itself. Yet the proof is vast, varied, and magnificent, drawn from many different fields of science. Scientists are observing species splitting into two and are finding more and more fossils capturing change in the past-dinosaurs that have sprouted feathers, fish that have grown limbs.
Why Evolution Is True weaves 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. In crisp, lucid prose accessible to a wide audience, Why Evolution Is True dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms that this amazing process of change has been firmly established as a scientific truth.
In crisp, lucid prose accessible to a wide audience, "Why Evolution Is True" dispels common misunderstandings and fears about evolution and clearly confirms that this amazing process of change has been firmly established as a scientific truth.
"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.
The story of evolution as youand#8217;ve never heard it before
Whatand#8217;s the easiest way to tell species apart? Check their genitals. Researching private parts was long considered taboo, but scientists are now beginning to understand that the wild diversity of sex organs across species can tell us a lot about evolution.
Menno Schilthuizen invites readers to join him as he uncovers the ways the shapes and functions of genitalia have been molded by complex Darwinian struggles: penises that have lost their spines but evolved appendages to displace sperm; female orgasms that select or reject semen from males, in turn subtly modifying the femalesand#8217; genital shape. We learn why spiders masturbate into miniature webs, discover she dungflies that store sperm from attractive males in their bellies, and see how, when it comes to outlandish appendages and bizarre behaviors, humans are downright boring.
Natureand#8217;s Nether Regions joyfully demonstrates that the more we learn about the multiform private parts of animals, the more we understand our own unique place in the great diversity of life.
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.
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.
Table of Contents
Why Evolution Is True Preface
1. What Is Evolution?
2. Written in the Rocks
3. Remnants: Vestiges, Embryos, and Bad Design
4. The Geography of Life
5. The Engine of Evolution
6. How Sex Drives Evolution
7. The Origin of Species
8. What About Us?
9. Evolution Redux
Suggestions for Further Reading