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Introduction to the Evolution literature
This page lists the most accessible books on evolution and the critics of evolution in the English language. The emphasis is on affordable books for non-specialists written by specialists or science journalists. This page shortly characterizes noteworthy books and summarizes book reviews in Nature, Science, etc. (19). Furthermore, I have written detailed reviews of some hundred books which have their own pages. Those reviews are listed by category in a handy table on the index page and alphabetically ordered by author name on a separate page. For practical reasons I have subdivided the literature in categories and subcategories (see below).
The About this site page argues that there are three Evolutionary Syntheses; investigates –with the benefit of hindsight–the historical question Was Darwin Wrong? and contains information about myself.
Was Darwin Wrong?: 20 historical questions about Darwin
Philosophy of science some important books
Scientific controversies: other controversies such as HIV/AIDS, climate
books suggested by readers
Nederlandse evolutie literatuur: (Dutch evolution books)
Criticism, Extensions, Revisions, Alternative evolutionary theories
This is a category of scientific, non-religious critics of (neo-)Darwinism. Here we find books of scientists who do accept evolution (common descent), but aren't happy with the neo-Darwinist explanation (mainly the mechanism of evolution: natural selection) and do proposals for extensions.|
Against natural selection as the only explanation
Against random mutation
Against gradualism and the Tree of Life
Internal versus external selection
Miscellaneous criticisms and alternatives to Darwinism
One of the earliest critics of the sufficiency of natural selection as an explanation of form in biology was D'Arcy Thompson On Growth and Form (1917). He was not a creationist: he granted that natural selection could weed out the unfit, but doubted the power of natural selection to explain why life took one form and not another. He preferred to explain the forms of organisms by mechanical and mathematical principles (13). In his spirit are books by Philip Ball (2001), Brian Goodwin (1994) and John Tyler Bonner (2013). About the same time as D'Arcy Thompson geneticist and Nobelprize winner Thomas Hunt Morgan expressed similar doubts in Evolution and Adaptation (1903) (24). Swedish cytogeneticist Lima-de-Faria (1988) Evolution without Selection accepts that evolution has occurred, but natural selection is not the mechanism (the title says it clearly). He invokes self-assembly and is inspired by D'Arcy Thompson. The criticism of population geneticist Motoo Kimura is that all-powerful natural selection is not powerful enough to eliminate all mutations at the DNA level. He called these mutations neutral mutations, because they are not affected by selection, positive or negative. He was right.
Steven Rose (1997) attacks reductionism, determinism, ultra-Darwinism and the all-powerful natural selection in his Lifelines. Biology, Freedom and Determinism, showing affinity with D'Arcy Thompson and Brian Goodwin.
An alternative explanation for the peacock's tail turned into a new principle: The Handicap Principle. A missing piece of Darwin's puzzle by A & A Zahavi (1999); initially unanimously rejected, currently largely accepted by mainstream science. Gabriel Dover claims there is a third force in evolution.
An example of a palaeontologist who accepts evolution, but rejects the claim that palaeontology can determine missing links with certainty, is: Henry Gee, In Search of Deep Time. Although cladism is now widely accepted, I hesitate to place Gee in the category 'Orthodox Neo-Darwinism' because of his criticism of orthodox palaeontology.
The eminent but unorthodox astronomer sir Fred Hoyle wrote an attack on the fundamentals of neo-Darwinism using high level mathematics: Mathematics of Evolution. Years ago Hoyle introduced the much quoted analogy that the chance of life originating out of raw materials would be equal to the chance that a Boeing-747 resulted from a hurricane going over a junk-yard. Hoyle believes life came from space (panspermia). The immunologist Edward J. Steele wrote what could be called the textbook of 'neo-Lamarckism'. He explains in molecular terms how acquired characteristics of the immune system can be inherited in: Lamarck's Signature: How Retrogenes Are Changing Darwin's Natural Selection Paradigm. The embryologist Brian Goodwin How the Leopard Changed Its Spots has interesting ideas about scientific alternatives for Darwinism.
A critique of selectionism and the proposal of an alternative theory of emergent evolution is: Biological Emergences. Evolution by Natural Experiment by Robert G. B. Reid (2007) (info), emeritus Professor of Biology and author of 'Evolutionary Theory: The Unfinished Synthesis' (1985) (34). Palaeontologist Niles Eldredge argues against the reductionism of the 'ultra-Darwinist'. Hubert Yockey is an expert in the information content of genomes, DNA and proteins. Yockey believes that there is too much information in the simplest organisms to have originated by chance, but unlike "intelligent design theorists", he does not infer design or a designer (at least in his book). He has no alternative theory.
Palaeontologist Stephen Jay Gould is known by the public from his column in Natural History and the New York Review of Books and as a defender of evolution (that includes rejection of creationism). It is not so well known that he is also a critic of orthodox neo-Darwinism. Two criticisms are: not every adaptation is caused exclusively by natural selection, but also caused by historical and and structural constraints. Further, evolution is not gradual but punctuated. This and much, much more in his voluminous The Structure of Evolutionary Theory (2002).
In The tinkerer's accomplice: how design emerges from life itself J. Scott Turner (2007) argues that "organisms are designed not so much because natural selection of particular genes has made them that way, but because agents of homeostasis build them that way" (Review).
Evolutionary biologist John Reiss (2009) Not by Design; Retiring Darwin's Watchmaker argues that we can't infer the past action of selection from the present adaptedness (apparent design) of organisms (25), Reviews: American Scientist (John Dupré). See California Scholarship Online for a list of chapters with abstracts.
Genome biologist Eugene Koonin (2011) The Logic of Chance. The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution rejects natural selection and adaptation as the only or even the main mode of evolution. Here is my review. See also #textbooks).
Recently, Masatoshi Nei argued (2013) argued in Mutation-Driven Evolution that mutation is more important than natural selection (see below).
Larry Moran (2023) argued that "most of evolution has nothing to do with natural selection" (What's in Your Genome? see below). He is a biochemist and forgot to include: 'most of molecular evolution' (at the DNA level)!
12 Jun 2023
Sean B. Carroll (2020) 'A Series of Fortunate Events: Chance and the Making of the Planet, Life, and You', hardback Princeton University Press. Paperback 2022.
Random events are the main cause of evolution (?). Natural selection has a minor role in evolution (?).
The Introduction and part of chapter I can be read on amazon.
Stephen Rothman (2015) ' The Paradox of Evolution. The Strange Relationship between Natural Selection and Reproduction', Prometheus.
"This book examines a little-noted contradiction inherent in the two essential elements of Darwin's theory of biological evolution–natural selection and reproduction. Physiologist Stephen Rothman makes the revolutionary claim that the evolution of life's complex and diverse reproductive mechanisms is not the consequence of natural selection. In so doing, he exposes the deepest question possible about life's nature–its reason for being." Review. Review. Paperback edition 2016.
John J. Welch (2017) What's wrong with evolutionary biology? Biology & Philosophy volume 32, pages263–279 (2017).
Welch is extremely dissimissive of criticism and attempts to update the Evolutionary Synthesis. (Free access.)
Andreas Wagner (2014) 'Arrival of the Fittest: Solving Evolution's Greatest Puzzle', Penguin hb 304 pp
"Wagner 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." Andreas Wagner is the author of Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems.
Review by Mark Pagel: "two foundation stones of evolution [robustness and evolvability] exist because of an unexpected and remarkable degree of neighbourliness (not his term) that seems to characterize life. ... Offers an answer to one of the most fundamental questions of evolution: how has natural selection had time to search the almost limitless library of life? The answer, posits Wagner, is that it does not usually have to search very far" (Nature, 2 Oct 2014).
Warwick Collins (2014) 'A Silent Gene Theory of Evolution: A Genuine Rival to the theory of Evolution', University of Buckingham Press, 160 pages.
According to wikipedia Collins studied biology, John Maynard Smith was his supervisor. He proposes that mutations occur in 'silent genes' (non-coding DNA?). Above that he thinks those mutations are more important than natural selection because selection is negative, reduces variation. It seems that his theory is a version of Susumu Ohno (1970) Evolution by gene duplication.
Masatoshi Nei (2013) 'Mutation-Driven Evolution' Oxford University Press 244 pp.
Info (free chapter 1). Many illustrations including color illustrations; small print and double column pages. "The driving force behind evolution is mutation, with natural selection being of only secondary importance. In contrast to neo-Darwinism, mutation-driven evolution is capable of explaining real examples of evolution such as the evolution of olfactory receptors, sex-determination in animals, and the general scheme of hybrid sterility. In this sense the theory proposed is more realistic than its predecessors, and gives a more logical explanation of various evolutionary events."
Chapters 2 and 3 discuss the significance and and limitations of population genetics neo-Darwinism. Chapters 4 and 5 present changes in genes and genomes and the relation to phenotypes. Chapter 6: molecular basis of phenotypic evolution. In chapter 7 a new view of speciation is presented. Chapter 8 starts with 'Adaptation by mutation'. Chapter 9 presents the general concept of mutation-driven evolution.
To me, the question whether random mutation or natural selection is more important in evolution is pointless. Both are needed for adaptation and evolution. The crucial question is: what happens with the mutation after its first appearance in an individual? Will it spread to the population and become the dominant type?
Jerry Fodor, Piattelli-Palmarini (2010) "What Darwin Got Wrong", Profile Books
A philosophical critique of the theory of natural selection without doubting the reality of evolution.
Reviews: Michael Ruse; Philip Kitcher, Philip Ball, Massimo Pigliucci, Mary Midgley, interview, Nature, BioScience); Michael Ruse (about Fodor, Nagel, Plantinga).
See also: Jerry Fodor and Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini (2010) Survival of the fittest theory: Darwinism's limits, New Scientist, 3 February 2010.
14 Mar 21
1 Oct 22
Arlin Stoltzfus (2021) 'Mutation, Randomness, and Evolution', OUP. 288 pages.
"Mutational biases can and do influence the course of evolution, including adaptive evolution". "The randomness doctrine is best understood, not as a fact-based conclusion, but as the premise of a neo-Darwinian research program focused on selection". Proposes the theory of Constructive Neutral Evolution, and shows theoretically that biases in the introduction of variation may impose biases on evolution without requiring neutrality. Publishers website. The book is too expensive (hardcover $85, ebook $80). A cheaper paperback and ebook edition is needed for the general public. The book is reviewed in The Quarterly Review of Biology. The Introduction is freely available at Google books and Amazon.
Darwinism is a gradualist theory of evolution and branching Tree of Life thinking. Horizontal inheritance is the transfer of genes, sometimes genomes, across species borders. Vertical inheritance is inheritance from generation to generation. Horizontal inheritance is an extension of (some would say contradicts or is an alternative to) the branching Tree of Life, and it usually contradicts gradualism. Two advanced textbooks are: Syvanen and Kado (2002) *Horizontal Gene Transfer and Frederic Bushman (2002) *Lateral DNA Transfer. Mechanisms and consequences (review: American Scientist). An unusual form HGT (organisms captured genes from distantly related organisms) is expounded by D. Williamson The Origins of Larvae (2003) (info) and Larvae And Evolution (2009). The books are expensive, but Williamson published an overview of his theory in the American Scientist Nov-Dec 2007) and a chapter in: Syvanen and Kado (2002). Evolution through Genetic Exchange (pb: 2007) by evolutionary biologist Michael L. Arnold, also emphases horizontal genetic exchange. In 1998 appeared *The Symbiotic Planet. A New Look at Evolution by Lynn Margulis. The most recent book of Lynn Margulis (2002) *Acquiring Genomes. A Theory of the Origins of Species (review: Nature) is a fierce attack on neo-Darwinism. Margulis is an evolutionist but rejects mutation and natural selection as the mechanism for creating new species. Instead symbiosis (the incorporation of the whole genome of one species by an unrelated species), creates new species. Viruses take part in horizontal gene transfer as well, as is explained by physician-evolutionary biologist Frank Ryan in his Virolution (2009) (see: genomics). It seems that Compositional Evolution - The Impact of Sex, Symbiosis, and Modularity on the Gradualist Framework of Evolution (2006) of computational biologist Richard A. Watson is a critique of gradualism (info). Historian of the biological sciences Jan Sapp wrote about symbiosis and the web of life in: Evolution by Association and The New Foundations of Evolution: On the Treeb of Life.
David Quammen (2018) 'The Tangled Tree: A Radical New History of Life', Simon & Schuster
Nature: "But as Quammen reveals, at the molecular level, life's history is more accurately depicted as a network, a tangled web through which organisms have been exchanging genes for more than 3 billion years. This perspective is indeed radical, and he presents the science – and the scientists involved – with patience, candour and flair."
Science: "Eight percent of the human genome originated in virus genomes, including genes now essential to human life. This is just one insight gleaned from the current deluge of genome data that is providing ever more evidence for what we have long known to be true about microorganisms: The transfer of genetic material from one organism to another, or horizontal gene transfer, is an important source of variation and a factor driving evolution."
Review in National Geographic, 2018.
James A. Shapiro (2011) "Evolution: A View from the 21st Century, hb, FT Press. Pb: 2013. Second expanded edition 2022.
Shapiro Is against gradualism, against random mutations, against natural selection as a creative force, against the Central Dogma, for rapid change (HGT, symbiosis, whole genome duplication, hybridization, natural genetic engineering) and for adaptive mutation (info). Reviews: review: "Shapiro is returing to the older style of teleology that might have satisfied an Aristotelian"; NCSE reports has a devastating critique of the book; Genome Biology and Evolution; Systematic Biology; Microbe Magazine. Compare with criticsm of: Eugene Koonin (2011) (see below).
Frank Ryan (2002) "Darwin's Blind Spot: Evolution Beyond Natural Selection" Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Hardcover.
Frank Ryan is the author of Virolution. Reviewed by Mark Ridley: "Frank Ryan is a British physician and science writer. This book is written clearly, for nonspecialist readers. He has two themes. A relatively orthodox one is that symbiosis has contributed to many events in life's history – mitochondria are just one example. His controversial theme is that symbiosis is non-Darwinian, even anti-Darwinian." (The New York Times). Also reviewed by Steven Frank in Nature 6 Feb 2003.
see also: sex and evolution.
An important distinction is: natural selection and sexual selection. Theoretical biologist Mary Jane West-Eberhard (1979) proposed expanding Darwin's theory of sexual selection with 'social selection' (see Lucy Cooke, 2022). According to population geneticist Joan Roughgarden (2004) Evolution's Rainbow, Darwin's theory of natural selection is correct overall, but his theory of sexual selection has so many exceptions that it cannot be fixed. It must be discarded and replaced by a completely new theory: Social Selection Theory. This is developed further in: Roughgarden (2009) The Genial Gene. Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness (see below) Nature).
Bruce Bagemihl (1999) offers a very unusual and unexpected perspective on evolution: Biological Exuberance. Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity.
Michael J. Ryan (2019) 'A Taste for the Beautiful. The Evolution of Attraction', PUP.
Info from publisher here: "Darwin developed the theory of sexual selection to explain why the animal world abounds in stunning beauty... Ryan explains how the female brain drives the evolution of beauty in animals." "Ryan explores the key questions: Why do animals perceive certain traits as beautiful and others not? Do animals have an inherent sexual aesthetic and, if so, where is it rooted?". Michael Ryan about his book.
Marlene Zuk and Leigh W. Simmons (2018) 'Sexual Selection: A Very Short Introduction'. Paperback 160 pages.
12 Nov 21
Pierre M. Durand (2020) 'The Evolutionary Origins of Life and Death', University of Chicago Press.
This book deals with the evolution of programmed cell death in the world of single-celled organisms. When a genetic program for death in unicellular organisms was uncovered in the latter half of the twentieth century it puzzled evolutionists. Why would unicellular organisms harbor a suicide-like genetic program, for surely natural selection would not favor such an obviously lethal trait? It appears that group selection is necessary to explain programmed cell death in single-celled organisms. The book starts with the origin of life and the definition of life including the seminal contribution of Tibor Gánti.
Info from publisher. KOBO ebook.
David Sloan Wilson (2020) 'This View of Life. Completing the Darwinian Revolution', Random House.
David Sloan Wilson is the author of Evolution for Everyone and Does Altruism Exist?. He worked together with Nobelprize winner Elinor Ostrom on the evolutionary foundations (multi-level selection theory or group selection theory) of the 'Tragedy of the commons' problem in humans. He praises Dr David Yonggi Cho, Korean evangelical pastor: "Dr. Cho is a creationst, but his writing is full of biological metaphors and dovetails perfectly with an evoutionary worldview." (chapter 6).
Peter Corning (2018) 'Synergistic Selection. How Cooperation Has Shaped Evolution and the Rise of Humankind, World Scientific.
How Cooperation Trumps Competition. See description of publisher.
Mark E. Borrello (2010) 'Evolutionary Restraints. The Contentious History of Group Selection', Un. of Chicago.
Publishers info. Tracing the history of biological attempts to determine whether selection leads to the evolution of fitter groups.
Elliott Sober, David Sloan Wilson (1999) 'Unto Others. The Evolution and Psychology of Unselfish Behavior', Harvard University Press.
Group selection is still seen as heretic by many evolutionary biologists, but is defended Sober and Wilson. Reviewed by John Maynard Smith in Nature (18 June 1998): "The first half of the book discusses the role of population structure in the evolution of animal behaviour, in particular of altruistic behaviour. ... There follow two chapters concerned with the evolution of human societies. ... The final part of the book discusses human altruism and the motives that cause it."
See: Wallace Arthur (2000) The Origin of Animal Body Plans on this website.
A good example of an extension of the standard evolutionary theory is Niche Construction - The neglected process in evolution (website) by F. John Odling-Smee et al (2003). This is constructive criticism. Evolution depends not on one, but on two selective processes: natural selection and niche construction (reviews: Science, Nature, Evolution, Newscientist). Niche construction is what James Lovelock's Gaia theory is all about. Organisms construct the geosphere, hydrosphere and atmosphere of the earth: The Ages of Gaia. A biography of our Living Earth. Similar, but from a botanical point of view and without teleology, is David Beerling's (2007) excellent and concise The Emerald Planet: How Plants Changed Earth's History. Schlichting & Pigliucci (1998) argue in Phenotypic Evolution. A Reaction Norm Perspective that interactions between genotype and environment play a key, but overlooked, role in evolution (review: Science). A recent proposal for an extension of neo-Darwinism is Jablonka and Lamb (2005) Evolution in Four Dimensions. They claim that there are four inheritance systems (genetic, epigenetic, behavioural and symbolic) and consequently not all evolutionary adaptations can be attributed to the selection of blind genetic mutations. Induced and acquired changes play also a role in evolution. Marc Kirschner & John Gerhart (2005) (The Plausibility of Life) are dissatisfied with the idea that random small mutations produce evolutionary innovations and propose a new scientific theory: facilitated variation that deals with the means of producing useful variation.
A remarkable collection of essays about biological dissidents is: Rebels, Mavericks, and Heretics in Biology by Oren Harman and Michael R. Dietrich (2008). Included are: Kimura, S J Gould, Woese. However, there are Nobelprize winners in the collection and many real rebels (Stuart Kauffman, Ted Steele, Wallace Arthur), mavericks (Senapathy), heretics (Michael Denton, Christian Schwabe) are absent! (Review: Nature; info). The most recent example of an extension is: Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd B. Müller (2010) Evolution - the Extended Synthesis (info: MIT, including sample chapters, review). A courageous and ambitious work by one author, evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner (2011), The Origins of Evolutionary Innovations: A Theory of Transformative Change in Living Systems (info). The book we have been waiting for so long! Charles Darwin would have been enthralled! See also for a criticism and extension of the Modern Synthesis: Eugene Koonin (2011) below.
Telmo Pievani (2022) 'Imperfection: A Natural History', MIT Press.
"Life on earth is a catalog of accidents, alternatives, and errors that turned out to work quite well. In this book, Telmo Pievani shows that life on our planet has flourished and survived not because of its perfection but despite (and perhaps because of) its imperfection.". Telmo Pievani is a philosopher of science and biology professor at the University of Padua. A short review in Prospect.
Gene Levinson (2019) 'Rethinking Evolution. The Revolution That's Hiding in Plain Sight', World Scientific Publishing.
The Updated Evolutionary Synthesis incorporates the lasting core principles of classical 1859 Darwinian theory but offers a more complete and plausible scientific explanation than ever before. Along with the contributions of other scientists, I add an important element of my own, which I call Emergent Evolutionary Potential. See info publisher. Book website, youtube introduction: Why I Wrote "Rethinking Evolution". Complete playlist of evolution lessons on youtbe. A short review in The Biologist.
Accoding to the Linkedin account of the author: "I published an accessible, award-winning 21st-century update to Darwinian evolution. "Rethinking Evolution" is intended for the general public as well as students and professionals. Awarded "Top 5 Popular Science Books 2019" by World Scientific. Now in a beautifully narrated and affordable audiobook edition. Over 200 free short lessons (audio with slides) covering Chapters 1-16 are on YouTube."
KOBO: €44,99 (18 Apr 2023).
Kevin N. Laland (2018) 'Darwin's Unfinished Symphony', Princeton Univ. Press.
"How did the human potential for culture evolve from hominin behaviour and cognition? Evolutionary biologist Kevin Laland navigates the false leads and breakthroughs that led to his theory that culture is both a result of evolution, and a factor that has effectively shaped its progress." [please note I used the title for a review in 2002].
Niles Eldredge (Editor) (2016) 'Evolutionary Theory: A Hierarchical Perspective, Paperback.
By "hierarchy", I simply mean biological entities, be they molecules or species, are seen as parts of larger wholes—for example, populations are parts of species—and that this structural organization of biological entities is in itself germane to understanding the evolutionary process.
Luis P Villarreal (2005) 'Viruses And The Evolution Of Life, ASM Press.
How viruses affect the evolution of unicellualr organisms, eukaryotes, animals, plants and insects. This book can be viewed as an extenston to the theory of evolution, because viruses were not known to Darwin, and neo-Darwinism has long neglected the effect of viruses on their hosts.
A good example is mathematical biologist Stuart Kauffman (1995) At Home in the Universe. He argues that DNA and natural selection cannot be the only sources of order. Remarkable are his computer simulations of the origin of life. A book you will enjoy because of Kauffman's philosophical view on life and evolution, and his insights in the limitations of Darwinism, but also a book that you need to read at least twice, if you want to follow the more abstract parts. His A World Beyond Physics (see below) elaborates his metabolism-first scenario and argues against the genes-first scenario of the origin of life. Kauffman did not make it into the evolution textbooks.|
Eva Jablonka and Marian Lamb (1995) Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution is a defence of the importance of epi-genetic inheritance in evolution, and at the same time a criticism of the exclusive gene-centered and DNA-centered view of evolution. A more 'popular' version is: Evolution in Four Dimensions (2005).
Also arguing against gene-centered view of evolution is paleontologist Niles Eldredge (1995) Reinventing Darwin. The Great Evolutionary Debate (see my review on this website).
An example of Neo-Lamarckism is Transformations of Lamarckism. From Subtle Fluids to Molecular Biology edited by Snait B. Gissis and Eva Jablonka (2011) (info, review).
Mark Blumberg (2009) Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution, (info): according evolutionary biologist Jerry A. Coyne this book argues for a minor role for genetics and a major role for epigenetics, phenotypic accommodation, and genetic assimilation in development and evolution. Blumberg argues that evolution has shaped the entire system, not just the genes (Reviews:Nature, Science).
Through his emphasis on physical and biochemical determinants of evolution, Nick Lane tends to de-emphasize genetic factors in evolution. His latest (2009) book is Life Ascending. The Ten Great Inventions of Evolution (review: Nature). Jan Sapp writes the history of the biologists defending Cytoplasmic Inheritance, non-Mendelian, non-chromosomal inheritance against 'nucleo-centric' geneticists and classical neo-Darwinians in his book Beyond the Gene. Cytoplasmic Inheritance and the Struggle for Authority in Genetics (1987) (too expensive).
Carl Zimmer calls for a view that includes "culture, epigenetic marks, hitchhiking microbes, or channels we don't even know about yet" (Nature) in his book She Has Her Mother's Laugh: The Powers, Perversions, and Potential of Heredity (2018). Theoretical biologist Stuart A. Newman emphasises physical and de-emphasises genetical mechanisms in developmental biology.
Russell Bonduriansky, Troy Day (2018) 'Extended Heredity. A New Understanding of Inheritance and Evolution, Princeton. Info.
"By examining the history of the gene-centered view in modern biology and reassessing fundamental tenets of evolutionary theory, Bonduriansky and Day show that nongenetic inheritance—involving epigenetic, environmental, behavioral, and cultural factors—could play an important role in evolution."
Science (35): "A revelation in recent years, and the focus of Russell Bonduriansky and Troy Day's admirable book, Extended Heredity, is the finding that "Weismann's barrier" is remarkably porous. Indeed, a vast multitude of nongenetic factors (including symbionts, hormones, nutrients, antibodies, prions, and learned knowledge) can be passed from parents to offspring. ... Bonduriansky and Day are respected evolutionary biologists who have studied NGI for years. What makes their book the most compelling and accessible account of this topic to date is the fact that they hone their arguments to reach both the evolutionary biology community and a wider audience. ... NGI [nongenetic inheritance] can no longer be dismissed as 'limited', 'functionally unimportant', or always 'under genetic control'. ... The authors conclude that, although NGI 'supplements rather than supplants genetics', 'extended heredity clearly challenges key assumptions' of neo-Darwinism and pushes us to redefine evolution as 'changes in all heritable traits, whether genetic or nongenetic'."
Alan Bennett (2014) 'Evolution Revolution: Evolution is True. Darwin is Wrong. This Changes Everything", Lexem Publishing, paperback 414 pages.
Alan Bennett majored in psychology and the social sciences, so he is not a biologist. He is extremely unfair to Darwin, but he is not against evolution. According to Bennett, Darwin says evolution is (1) gradual, (2) competitive, (3) unpredictable, (4) driven by external forces. Bennett claims evolution is: (1) jumps, (2) cooperative, (3) predictable, (4) driven by internal forces. Of course Evolution is True and Bennett is Wrong. Bennett is a master in the art of cherry picking from the literature, quoting non-experts and non-biologists; ignoring evolution textbooks, the art of cheap, anachronistic Darwin-critique, repeating long refuted criticisms against Darwin, and presenting true but irrelevant facts as evidence against Darwinian evolution. In other words: he is misleading his readers. His 'new' theory of evolution is called self-assembly, as if that could explain the origin and extinction of species, genomes, and adaptation. It is better to read the original authors: Kauffman, Goodwin, Margulis, Gould, Jablonka and Lamb, etc.
Ernst-Michael Kranich (1999) "Thinking Beyond Darwin: The Idea of the Type As a Key to Vertebrate Evolution"
This book is based on Johann Wolfgang von Goethe. It is not anti-evolution, but probably against natural selection and gradualism. According to wikipedia Goethe is "As one of the many precursors in the history of evolutionary thought". Charles Darwin mentioned Goethe in the 'historical sketch' in the 1860 second edition of On the Origin of Species.
Brian G. Henning, Adam Scarfe, Dorion Sagan (editors) (2013) "Beyond Mechanism: Putting Life Back Into Biology", Lexington Books.
The editors are philosophers. Neo-Darwinist biology ... in which living organisms are considered machines. Introductory chapter by Stuart Kauffman. Areas of investigation include: Emergence Theory, Systems Biology, Biosemiotics, Homeostasis, Symbiogenesis, Niche Construction, the Theory of Organic Selection (also known as "the Baldwin Effect"), Self-Organization and Teleodynamics, Epigenetics. Authors: Brian K Hall, Michael Ruse, Dortion Sagan and Lynn Margulis, and others.
Johnjoe McFadden (2000) "Quantum Evolution. Life in the Universe", Flamingo paperback, 338 pp.
"McFadden puts forward a startling new theory of quantum evolution. He shows how quantum mechanics gives living organisms the ability to initiate specific actions including new mutations. Thus evolution may not be random at all but directed – cells may, in certain circumstances, be able to choose to mutate particular genes that provide an advantage in the environment in which the cell finds itself."
That cells may able to choose to mutate a specific gene in an advantageous way is certainly non-Darwinian and places McFadden firmly in the alternatives for Darwinian evolution category.
See also his: 'Life on the Edge. The Coming of Age of Quantum Biology' and 'Life Is Simple: How Occam's Razor Set Science Free and Shapes the Universe'.
Brian Leith (1982) "The Descent of Darwin. A Handbook of Doubts about Darwinism', Collins London, hb 174 pp.
Brian Leith is a producer in the Natural History Unit of the BBC. Chapters: What is neo-Darwinism?; The problems begin...; Is Darwinism a scientific theory? How strong is natural selection? How do new species originate? Why don't we see gradual transitions in the fossils? Can we separate pattern from process? Can genes learn from experience? Can genes build bodies? A loss of confidence in Darwin? Darwin in descent?. With illustrations, References and index. From the Preface: "If I have simplified or polarized the various debates in present-day Darwinian theory, it has been in order to clarify the issues for the non-biologist; I trust that this has misrepresented neither the critics, nor the defenders, of the 'faith'." Really? Leith is the producer of: 'Charles Darwin and the Tree of Life' BBC documentary (2009). Leith is not a creationist ("Creationism has no scientific merit", p. 38). The only form of creationism present at that time (1982) was Young Earth Creationism of Henry Morris. The book appeared in the same year as Niles Eldredge's The monkey business: A scientist looks at creationism; Douglas J. Futuyma's Science on Trial. The Case for Evolution, and four years before Denton's Evolution: A Theory in Crisis.
Evo-Devo has been moved from 'Extensions & alternative evolutionary theories' to: Mainstream Evolutionary Biology (11 May 2014)
Non-religious Anti-Darwinism, Anti-Evolution
21 Feb 2023
22 Jan 2023
Computer scientist/entrepreneur/biochemist Periannan Senapathy (1994) and chemist Christian Schwabe (2001) independently wrote a book length non-religious attack on the two core principles of evolution: common descent and mutation and natural selection as the mechanism of evolution. Furthermore, both propose a scientific alternative for evolution: 'independent origin'. This could be called the 'third theory' of the origin of life and species. If critics of evolution present an alternative, usually it is for parts of the theory of evolution only. It is unique among the critics to develop a 'complete' alternative for evolution. In a general overview Independent origin and the facts of life I show that independent origin of plants and animals is a technical and biological impossibility.
Michael Denton (1986) Evolution: A Theory in Crisis (my review) discusses and criticises nearly every aspect of the theory of evolution (except biogeography, a subject which was very important for Darwin) in a careful and educational way that is accessible for non-biologists. Although Denton accepts Paley's argument for design, he tries to evaluate the evidence for and problems of evolution in a fair way. This book has now been superseded by his Nature's Destiny (1998), in which he made a remarkable conversion to a specific kind of natural evolution. Stanley Salthe started with an evolution textbook (Evolutionary Biology) in 1972. In 1993 he published a non-Darwinian world view (Development and Evolution: Complexity and Change in Biology). Recently, Salthe signed the Discovery Institute's declaration of Doubts over Evolution, expressing scepticism with the central tenet of Darwin's theory (16). Lee Spetner (2014) tries to produce an alternative theory of evolution without openly using Creationism or Intelligent Design (see above).
Erich von Daniken (2022) 'Evolution is Wrong : A Radical Approach to the Origin and Transformation of Life', paperback.
Complete review on this website.
"Did humans descend only and exclusively from primates--as Charles Darwin and countless other great minds assumed--or did additional "engines" intervene in evolution? ... Everywhere there are characteristics of animals that do not want to fit into the theory of evolution anywhere. ... Some other influence that has so far escaped us is affecting evolution. It is called "Intelligent Design." Intelligent planning is suspected behind this. Anyone or anything--a spirit of the universe? Aliens?--could be behind this planning.".
Erich von Daniken is the author of Chariots of the Gods?.
There is no Literature list. In his Notes we find names such as: Michael Behe, Fred Hoyle, Wickramasinghe, Thomas Nagel, Richard Junker and Siegfried Scherer (Evolution: Ein kritisches Lehrbuch). Nearly all his sources are in German.
On 26 Jan 2023 I wrote a short blog about the book.
Creationism, Intelligent Design . . .
3 Apr 2023
Creationism / Intelligent Design |
Buddhism & Hinduism
Buddhism & Shintoism (Japan)
Young Earth Creationism (YEC) is not discussed on this website. It is so far removed from normal, mainstream science, it is a hopeless task not worth the effort.
Creationism / Intelligent Design
An early critic of Darwinism is David Foster (1993), see my review. Phillip Johnson's Darwin on Trial is the theistic answer to Dawkins. Johnson discusses and criticises nearly every aspect of evolution theory except biogeography (which was a very important subject for Darwin). He does not make a secret of being a defender of religion and his book is one big rhetorical battle against evolution and the evolutionists. He has no alternative for evolution. Also a critic of Dawkins is the physicist Lee Spetner. In his Not By Chance! he uses facts from the textbooks and his own calculations to demonstrate that new species cannot evolve by random mutations. He proposes a scientific alternative theory of evolution (23). Similar is Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome by John Sanford (2005), inventor of the 'gene gun'.
According to Walter Remine's The Biotic Message, life was intentionally created by a designer to look unlike evolution. Studying that idea gave me the most stunning and unexpected confirmation of common descent of all life I encountered so far. The biochemist and Intelligent Design proponent Michael Behe tried to refute Darwinism with 'Irreducible Complexity' in: Darwin's Black Box (1996). He focuses on the gradualness of the evolutionary process and ignores the rest of evolution theory. His second book is: The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism (June 2007). The mathematician William Dembski claims that he can detect 'designed objects' by invoking the mathematical theory of information. Information in DNA is designed and Darwinism is unable to explain the information content of life. A textbook-critic is Jonathan Wells (2000) Icons of Evolution. Science or Myth? Why much of what we teach about evolution is wrong (review: Science). Dembski, Behe and Johnson are 'Intelligent Design Theorists' (IDT). 'Young-Earth-Creationists' and other critics of the age of the earth (for example Richard Milton) are not discussed on this site. Geology (age of the earth) and cosmology (age of the universe) are background knowledge for the theory of evolution, and are not part of the biological theory of evolution per se.
Fred Hoyle was one of the greatest scientists among the Darwin-critics. His The Intelligent Universe is out of print. I classified the book in the category 'Intelligent Design Theory', but it might as well be classified as 'Non-orthodox Evolution', because Hoyle gives an alternative theory called 'Panspermia'. An early and not well-known Intelligent Design Theorist is physicist and computer scientist Mark A. Ludwig. In his Computer Viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution (1993) Ludwig applies methods and results form Artificial Life to biological evolution.
Michael Behe (2019) 'Darwin Devolves: The New Science About DNA that Challenges Evolution', HarperOne; New York, NY; 352 pp.
Important and free review in the journal Evolution (summary).
F. LaGard Smith (2018) 'Darwin's Secret Sex Problem: Exposing Evolution's Fatal Flaw –The Origin of Sex', WestBowPress
Biblical creationist LaGard Smith claims Darwin's theory of common descent of all life, and the origin of species are refuted because evolutionists don't know how meiosis and the first male and female originated. But LaGard Smith knows. God did it. God created the first male (Adam) with a penis and the first female (Eve) with a vagina. And they fit perfectly together.
Lee Spetner (2014) 'The Evolution Revolution', Judaica Press, hb. 168 pp.
Lee Spetner is the author of Not By Chance! (which I reviewed on this site). Spetner rejects Common Descent (macro-evolution), the mechanism of evolution (random mutations and natural selection), and the natural origin of life. The only thing he accepts is micro-evolution. However, he also rejects the mechanism of micro-evolution (random mutations and natural selection), which leaves him without a scientific mechanism for micro-evolution. He thinks evolution is an atheistic theory (p.137) and rejects that "humans are descended from some primitive ape-like beast" (note the language!) (p.138). Unlike other creationists Spetner does not want that Creation is taught in public schools, because "Creation is a religious, not a scientific, subject." (p.138). Unlike ID-er Michael Behe, Spetner claims that all arguments for Common Descent are flawed. Furthermore, he claims his theory explains the facts better than Common Descent. Spetner acknowledges photographer Laszlo Bencze for giving many valuable stylistic suggestions.
Jonathan Wells (2011) 'The Myth of Junk DNA', Discovery Institute Press Paperback 150 pages.
"But recent genome evidence shows that much of our non-protein-coding DNA performs essential biological function". Compare with Larry Moran (2023) and Nessa Carey (2015) on this page.
John Sanford (2005) 'Genetic Entropy & the Mystery of the Genome, Ivan Press. (4th edition 2014)
In Dedication and Acknowledgements: "I feel I could only write this little book by God's grace ... Special thanks to Walter ReMine and Michael Behe.".
Main argument: "When subjected only to natural forces, the human genome must irrevocably degenerate over time." "I invite the reader to carefully consider this very important issue: Are you really just a meaningless bag of molecules – the product of nothing more than random molecular mutations and reproductive filtering?". Chapter 11 'Summary if Major New Scientific Developments' has been added to the 4th edition of this book.
John C. Sanford published in the mainstream Journal of Mathematical Biology (2017): The fundamental theorem of natural selection with mutations (which is quite unusual for an ID). The conclusion of the article is: "Finite models clearly show that natural populations can either increase or decrease in fitness, depending on many variables. Not only do other finite mathematical population models show that fitness can decrease–they often show that only a narrow range of parameters can actually prevent fitness decline.".
Bruce Thompson (Editor) (2003) 'Evolution Fact or Fiction?', Greenhaven Press. 192 pages.
This work is quite unusual: it consists of 2 parts: Evidence in support of Creationism: 7 chapters by creationists and Part 2 Evidence in Support of evolution: with 7 pro-evolution authors. The pro- and anti-evolution authors answer the same 7 questions. See for Contents: The Internet Archive. Funny. Useful. Short.
The relevance of 'Fine Tuning' for evolution is that it is about the creation of atoms, molecules, the building blocks of life, planets, stars. Since authors in this group believe that the universe is fine-tuned for life, the natural origin of life comes as no surprise. However, since fine-tuning itself is not a natural process, I included fine-tuning in the Creationism/Intelligent Design category. Their kind of evolution comes in several flavours: guided/unguided evolution and detectable/undetectable guidance. It is not always clear what authors think. One of the classic works of Fine Tuning is The Anthropic Cosmological Principle of the physicists Barrow & Tipler. In 1997 Dean Overman published A Case Against Accident and Self-Organization in which he paradoxically combined a pro-fine tuning argument with an argument against the spontaneous origin of life. The former anti-evolutionist Michael Denton published summer 1998 his Nature's Destiny, which is a detailed defence of the Fine Tuning Argument. He argues that all the physical and chemical details of the cosmos were designed to produce life and humans. Because he also argues for 'directed evolution', one could also classify him in the category 'non-orthodox evolution'. The champion of fine-tuning is astronomer Hugh Ross (2001) 'The Creator and the Cosmos'. Ross's brand of fine tuning is an amazing mixture of Biblical literalism; belief in an old-earth/old-universe; fine tuning and the divine creation of life. The difference with Denton (1998) is that Denton never uses the Bible as evidence whereas Ross does it openly throughout his work. A recent example of fine-tuning is palaeontologist Simon Conway Morris (2003) Life's Solution. Inevitable Humans in a Lonely Universe (reviews: Nature, Science; Map of Life is about Convergent evolution). The earth has the right size and has the right distance to the sun for the existence of life. This book is directed against the idea that humans are a chance end-product of evolution. He argues that human-like creatures are inevitable by pointing to a multitude of convergences in evolution, which show that the products of evolution are constrained. He accepts evolution, and rejects 'creation science'. As a scientist he allows no explanation beyond the natural, as a Christian he believes in the supernatural. A non-theistic overview of astronomical fine-tuning is Martin Rees (2001): Our Cosmic Habitat. Astronomer Guillermo Gonzalez and philosopher-theologian Jay Richards (2004) wrote The privileged planet: how our place in the cosmos is designed for discovery: "The distance and size of the Moon is designed for perfect solar eclipses" (32). "We live in a universe with laws and initial conditions finely tuned for the existence of complex life". The book is based on the idea of intelligent design. It is mainly about the facts of the universe, not about mathematical abstractions (like Dembski) (17). "Physicist Paul Davies (2006) in the second half of The Goldilocks Enigma: Why Is the Universe Just Right for Life? (US title: 'Cosmic Jackpot: Why Our Universe Is Just Right for Life) faces head-on the question of why our universe is just right for us, and he covers all the main arguments thoroughly and shows up their shortcomings" (Review: Nature; summary, Nederlands review).
Against fine tuning: in 2011 physicist Victor Stenger published The Fallacy of Fine-Tuning: Why the Universe is Not Designed For Us (short review in Nature, 16 Jun 2011) (33). Physicist and founder of string theory Leonard Susskind (2005) explains the apparent fine-tuning of our universe for life in The Cosmic Landscape: String Theory and the Illusion of Intelligent Design (review: Nature).
For professionals: John Barrow, Simon Conway Morris, Stephen Freeland, Charles Harper (editors) (2008) Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning (see: astrobiology).
Simon Conway Morris (2015) 'The Runes of Evolution, How the Universe Became Self-Aware', Templeton Press, HB 496 pp.
Paleontologist Simon Conway Morris' latest book about convergence. Templeton is a religious organisation. Evolution is more predictable than we think. From very different starting points in the Tree of Life very much the same solution has evolved multiple times. Biology travels through history but ends up at much the same destination.
Theistic Evolution includes all points of view that advocate compatibility between christian belief and evolution.
Theologian Ted Peters & molecular biologist Martinez Hewlett published Evolution from Creation to New Creation: Conflict, Conversation, and Convergence (2003) in which they give an overview of all possible positions. An abridged version is: Can You Believe in God And Evolution?: A Guide for the Perplexed (2006). The theologian Richard Swinburne believes that the cosmos was fine-tuned to produce humans, but accepts evolution. He could be classified as 'theistic evolutionist', because he beliefs in God and in evolution. Other examples of the category theistic evolution are: the philosopher Del Ratzsch The Battle of Beginnings. Why Neither Side Is Winning the Creation-Evolution Debate, the biologist Kenneth Miller (1999) Finding Darwin's God. A Scientist's Search for Common Ground Between God and Evolution (11) and the theologian John Haught (2000) God After Darwin. A Theology of Evolution. John Haught (2003) Deeper than Darwin - The prospect for religion in the age of evolution opposes both IDT and the Dawkins-Dennett version of Darwinism, but accepts the fundamental correctness of neo-Darwinism. Arthur Peacocke (2004) Evolution. The Disguised Friend of Faith? is a collection of essays about faith and evolution. Peacocke was a biochemist and priest. One of the earlier examples of theistic evolution is the French palaeontologist Pierre Teilhard de Chardin (9). Biophysicist Harold Morowitz (10) is inspired by the new science of emergence and Teilhard. He wrote a very useful book The Emergence of Everything (2004), in which he describes in outline (in 200 pages) 28 examples of emergence, which form a sequence in time from the earliest beginnings of the universe to the future of mankind. Morowitz is a theist, has no problem with the natural origin of life and natural evolution, and does not invoke supernatural intervention. Francis Collins, director of the Human Genome Research Institute, is a Theistic Evolutionist (TE) and argues in The Language of God (2006) that one need not choose between Darwin and God. He shows new compelling evidence for common descent. Furthermore, he rejects both creationism and Intelligent Design. Fine-Tuning is part of his definition of TE. (Reviews: Nature and other). Evolutionary biologist, and Christian, Joan Roughgarden (2006) Evolution and Christian Faith can also be included in the category 'Theistic Evolution', because she accepts God and evolution. I tentatively include evolutionary biologist Francisco Ayala, trained for the Catholic priesthood, in the category theistic evolution (although he made no explicit statement about TE). He published: Darwin And Intelligent Design (2006); Darwin's Gift: To Science and Religion (2007) (21) and a short book Am I a monkey? (2010). He is an ID-critic, but also a religious person. Karl Willard Giberson (wiki) is a physicist, a Christian, vice-president of the BioLogos Foundation and the author of Saving Darwin: How to be a Christian and Believe in Evolution (2008).
John Haught (2013) 'Science and Faith: A New Introduction', Paulist Press.
Contents: Chapter 1: Is faith opposed to science? Chapter 2: Does science rule out a personal God? Chapter 3: Is faith compatible with evolution? Chapter 4: Do miracles really happen? Chapter 5: Was the universe created? Chapter 6: Can chemistry alone explain life? Chapter 7: Can science explain intelligence? Chapter 8: Can we be good without God? Chapter 9: Are we special? Chapter 10: Is there life after death? Chapter 11: Does the universe have a purpose? Chapter 12: What if extraterrestrials exist?
Reviewed by evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne.
Albert DeBenedictis (2011) 'Evolution or Creation?: A Comparison of the Arguments - Second Edition [Kindle Edition] E-Book. printed on demand.
info. Albert DeBenedictis: "It seemed apparent to me that most people have a bias towards one side without really having a full knowledge of opposing views. ... This book is not about discussing various religious views of origins. It is about comparing the theory of evolution with the concept of creation."
Michael Hawley (2010) 'Searching for Truth with a Broken Flashlight'
"takes a theistic evolution position and even allows for the belief in biblical inerrancy and a literal interpretation of Genesis" (website).
Conor Cunningham (2010) Darwin's Pious Idea: Why the Ultra-Darwinists and Creationists Both Get It Wrong
Cunningham is a Christian and a firm believer in the theory of evolution. Cunningham presented the acclaimed BBC documentary Did Darwin Kill God? (info).
Michael Dowd (2008) 'Thank God for Evolution. How the Marriage of Science and Religion Will Transform Your Life and Our World", Penguin.
Michael Dowd is an American Progressive Christian minister, author, and eco-theologian known as an advocate of Big History, Religious Naturalism, and the Epic of Evolution. He maintains a Christian perspective and accepts the theory of evolution.
Michael Anthony Corey (1994) "Back to Darwin: The Scientific Case for Deistic Evolution", University Press of America.
"Corey argues that we need to return to Darwin's original deistic worldview, because it provides the best accounting of the known facts. The primary question that is examined in this book is not whether evolution actuaally occurred or not, but whether it is coherent to believe that it could have happened in the absense of an Intelligent Designer."
C. Mackenzie Brown (2015) 'Hindu Perspectives on Evolution. Darwin, Dharma, and Design', Routledge/CRC Press, paperback.
Vimal Sehgal (2010) "Creation vs. Evolution. The Vedic Perspective" Paperback: 48 pages.
"The author has discussed evolution and then described an alternate theory namely the Vedic theory of evolution of consciousness as opposed to Darwin's theory of evolution of species. The theory of evolution of consciousness is based on creation of various species by God. ... By teaching Darwin's theory of evolution mankind is on the perilous course of a godless society ... The author is a retired systems analyst who previously worked with the Govt. of Canada after graduation in electrical engineering and computer sciences".
Albert Low (2008) 'The Origin of Human Nature. A Zen Buddhist Looks at Evolution'
A religious but non-theistic critique of neo-Darwinian evolution. (info).
Donald S. Lopez (2008) 'Buddhism and Science: A Guide for the Perplexed' University of Chicago Press. 280 pp
"In the troubled relationship between science and religion, Buddhism represents something of a singularity, in which the usual rules do not apply. Sharing quests for the big truths about the Universe and the human condition, science and Buddhism seem strangely compatible. Buddhism is a study in human development. Unencumbered by a creator deity, it embraces empirical investigation rather than blind faith." from review in Nature.
Michael A. Cremo (1994) Forbidden Archeology
Could be an example of Hindu creationism according to paleoanthropologist Colin Groves.
Jeremy England (2020) 'Every Life Is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things', Basic Books.
Jeremy England is a rabbi and believes that "the world and everything in it was created by the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, just like the Bible says". See chapter 8. See for the science below.
Joel Yehudah Rutman (2014) 'Why Evolution Matters: A Jewish View', Vallentine Mitchell, Hardcover.
"The book presents a novel interpretation of biological evolution in which convergences, self-organization, constraints, and progress are seen as components of the divinely intended world." Joel Yehudah Rutman is a paediatric neurologist.
Jonathan Sacks (2012) 'The Great Partnership: God, Science and the Search for Meaning', Schocken books, hb 370 pages.
info (excerpt). Rabbi Jonathan Sacks has been Chief Rabbi of Great Britain since 1991. Not anti-Darwin, not anti-evolution, not anti-science. "science and religion can, and should, work together".
Geoffrey Cantor, Marc Swetlitz (eds) (2006) Jewish Tradition and the Challenge of Darwinism, University of Chicago Press
"This is the first extended meditation on the Jewish engagement with this crucial and controversial theory". info.
1 Oct 22
See also: Why I teach evolution to Muslim students (free article in Nature 22 Apr 2015).
Shoaib Ahmed Malik (2021) 'Islam and Evolution. Al-Ghazãli and the Modern Evolutionary Paradigm ', Routledge.
The ebook can be downloaded for free at kobo.
Agus Mustofa (date?) "Adam Was Born", (publisher?)
Review: "attempts to reconcile Islamic faith and evolution. By re-analysing verses of the Koran as positive to science, the author, Agus Mustofa, enraged traditional clerics and polarized opinions. ... The radical Islamists of ISIS see science as an attribute of their enemies. They have denounced the great Medieval Muslim scientists Ibn Sina and Ibn al-Nafis as heretics and atheists. It is clear that such rhetoric – if influential – will hold back scientific development in Muslim countries. ... The Muslim Brotherhood, although hostile to evolution..." Nature 24 Feb 2015.
Marwa Elshakry (2013) "Reading Darwin in Arabic, 1860-1950", The University of Chicago Press
Info. "In Reading Darwin in Arabic, Marwa Elshakry questions current ideas about Islam, science, and secularism by exploring the ways in which Darwin was read in Arabic from the late 1860s to the mid-twentieth century. ... concludes by exploring Darwin's waning influence on public and intellectual life in the Arab world after World War I."
Review: "the Islamic world was not so different from Europe after all. ... Darwin's Muslim readers–like many of his global readers more generally–did not so much view his ideas as an unprecedented novelty as see them as part and parcel of more long-standing and more familiar cosmological or metaphysical arguments ... Elshakry clearly documents that they said as Francis Galton said. But did they also do as Galton did? ... Reading Elshakry's account, one wonders whether the Muslim discussions of the 19th century turned Darwin into a type of scholiast or whether scientific practices also had a role to play." Science (4 Apr 2014). Is is not clear from the review whether muslims objected to Darwinian evolution on the basis of a religieus creation story.
See Chicago Scholarship Online for chapter list with abstracts.
T. O. Shanavas (2010) 'Islamic Theory of Evolution: The Missing Link between Darwin and the Origin of Species', Brainbow Press; 2nd Revised ed.
This book was previously published under the title Evolution and/or Creation: an Islamic Perspective. " ... proponents of theory of evolution, as they ignore the important contribution of Muslim scientists and they abuse the theory by associating it with unwarranted philosophical conclusions such as atheism. We consider Darwin as one of the greatest scientists who unknowingly followed the instructions of the Quran in 29:19-20 (...) Shanavas reminds us that Darwin (1809-1882) and his grandfather Erasmus Darwin were influenced by the work of Muslim scientists who lived centuries before them ... Muslim scientists and philosophers of the medieval period had no qualms in accepting evolution as a divine system for creation. ... A frontrunner of the Sunni crusade against the theory of evolution is a Turkish cult leader who puts his brand-name on dozens of fancy books written, edited, concocted, or plagiarized by his followers ..." (source).
David Solomon Jalajel (2009) 'Islam and Biological Evolution: Exploring Classical Sources and Methodologies', University of the Western Cape, Hardcover
"...the study draws on traditional Islamic sources to apply the methods of classical Islamic Theology to the claims of Evolutionary Biology. The result is an extrapolation of what an orthodox Islamic position towards biological evolution could be."
Irfan Yilmaz (2009) "Evolution. Science or Ideology?" Tughra Books.
Anti evolution. Creation from the Islamic point of view. Author was a biology teacher (zoology) at a university in Turkey at a time when 'evolution was an ideology'. Was removed from a conference at Instanbul University because of his anti-evolution ideas. Also available as KOBO ebook.
See also website: Evolution and Islam from Hampshire College.
Maurice Bucaille (1999) 'Bible, the Qu'ran and Science: The Holy Scriptures Examined in the Light of Modern Knowledge', Islamic Book Service, Paperback.
"argues that the Quran contains no statements contradicting established scientific facts" (wiki). However, he is also the author of What is the Origin of Man? in which he states: "Darwin and Natural Selection, or a Hypothesis survives through Ideology", so he is anti-evolution.
17 Mar 21
In Japan the concept of evolution was readily accepted in the late 19th century because, lacking Christianity, there was no religious opposition. Main religions are Buddhism and Shinto. Fewer than one percent of Japanese are Christian. See article: Osamu Sakura (1998) Similarities and Varieties: A Brief Sketch on the Reception of Darwinism and Sociobiology in Japan, Biology and Philosophy, July 1998.
G. Clinton Godart (2017) 'Darwin, Dharma, and the Divine: Evolutionary Theory and Religion in Modern Japan.
Published to Hawaii Scholarship Online, gives a chapter listing with an abstract of each chapter.
"Evolutionary theory was controversial and of a major concern to Japanese Buddhist, Shintõ, Confucian, and Christian thinkers, who actively debated and contested the theory. ... Japanese state ideology became increasingly hostile to evolutionary theory. ... the religious reception of evolution in Japan was dominated by a long and continuous fear of the idea of nature and society as a cold, materialist, world, governed by a mindless 'struggle for survival'."
Mainstream Evolutionary Biology ( 'Orthodox neo-Darwinism', 26 )
Textbooks Evolutionary Biology complete overview
General mainstream evolution books selected topics
Introductions to Evolution: short introductions to evolution (100 - 200 pages)
Anti-Creationism/ID: critiques of creationism/ID
Books by Charles Darwin: annotated list
|Textbooks Evolutionary Biology [ in descending chronological order ]|
Below follows an annotated list of evolution textbooks. The typical evolution textbook tries to give a complete and up-to-date overview of mainstream evolutionary biology. For readers new to evolutionary biology a textbook of 3 – 6 years ago is still a good introduction to the subject and is more affordable. An evolution textbook mainly about the evolution of plants is: Evolutionary Biology: A Plant Perspective by Mitchell Cruzan (2018). For a general overview of biology see: Life. The Science of Biology (ninth edition 2009) or Principles of Life, which both show that 'Biology' and 'Evolution' are in principle the same: it is a matter of emphasis (30). Knowledge of molecular genetics is necessary for a good understanding of evolution. The most detailed textbook is James D. Watson et al (2013) Molecular Biology of the Gene (6th Edition) or previous editions. The human species is 'an important species', so there are textbooks dedicated exclusively to that species: 'Human Evolutionary Genetics'. Related textbooks are: Scott Gilbert's 'Developmental Biology' and: 'Evolutionary Developmental Biology' by Brian K. Hall. Recommended: Jerry A. Coyne (2009) 'Why Evolution Is True'.
I made an annotated list of the books by Charles Darwin on a separate page.
See also: § Genetics and Genomics and § Bibliographies, anthologies, encyclopedias on this page.
Carl T. Bergstrom, Lee Alan Dugatkin (2023) 'Evolution', Third edition, WWNorton.
Published 1 July 2023. Paperback (778 pages+References), web resources, E-book. Paperback includes Registration code for digital content, also valid in Europe. Chapter 1, 2, 3 are available as a free demo chapters. Norton Ebooks offer an enhanced reading experience at a fraction of the costs of a print textbook.
The first 3 chapters (1-3) give an overview of evolutionary biology, Darwin and natural selection, 2 chapters about phylogeny (4-5), 5 chapters about genetics and genomics (6-10), one chapter about the origin of life (11), evo-devo (13), fossil record (15), 3 chapters about behavior (16-18), the last two chapters about human evolution and evolutionary medicine (19-20).
There is a strong emphasis on a quantitative and statistical approach to (population)genetics. Further, there is extensive discussion of behavioral aspects of evolution. The planetary and geological context of evolution of life on earth is practically absent. The importance of oxygen and photosynthesis for life on earth is nowhere to be found. Also, I could not find a geological time scale, continental drift, snowball earth. However, some geology is discussed in the chapters about the history of evolutionary biology. A partial geological timescale illustration is present in the chapter on the origin of life. The chapter about the origin of life is 28 pages long. The asteroid impact, Chicxulub crater, iridium are discussed in the chapter about Mass Extinction (representing geology and astronomy). Readers interested in the full astronomical and planetary context of life on earth please consult Strickberg's Evolution, fourth or later editions (chapters 4 and 5).
See also my blog: Junk DNA in the evolution textbooks. Bergstrom and Dugatkin.
Douglas Futuyma, Mark Kirkpatrick (2023) 'Evolution. Fifth Edition', Oxford University Press , Hardcover, 615 pages + 83 pages Appendix, Glossary, Literature, Index.
Profusely illustrated with color diagrams and pictures. Good and up-to-date chapter about The Evolution of Genes and Genomes. Presents the modern view of genomes: "In humans 98% of the DNA does not code for any gene product. ... The vast bulk of noncoding DNA does not have an obvioius function." (p.86). The concept 'junk DNA' is not in the index, but is discussed on page 281 (not all "junk" is junk!). The structure of DNA is described in a few lines, but without illustration (p.84). James Watson and Francis Crick are mentioned in one sentence on page 19, but without Nobel Prize and without portraits. On page 18–19 portraits of nine evolutionary biologists are shown. An Appendix illustrates the Geological Time Scale as a spiral, it looks nice, but unfortunately, the relative duration of pre-Cambrian times in contrast to the Cambrian and post-Cambrian times is lost. The table suffers the same problem.
There are online learning resources available for owners of the hardback (only for USA?!). Most chapters have a 'What we don't know' section (really a good idea!). A wellcome subject is 'The evolution of novelty' (527-532). New is: 'A Statistics Primer' (12 pages). The previous edition (4th) was published together with Mark Kirkpatrik in 2017 (5 years ago). It is the longest-running series of Evolution textbooks. Futuyma published his first evolution textbook in 1979. Appropriately, the first chapter opens with an in depth treament of the SARS-CoV-2 virus pandemic.
I wrote a short blog about the book.
Douglas J. Emlen, Carl Zimmer (2019, 2020) 'Evolution. Making Sense of Life' Third edition. W. H. Freeman / Macmillan Int. Paperback 782 pages.
Updated and expanded edition. I could not find it in amazon. It is available in bol.com (15 Mar 23: €66; 20 Mar 23: €69; 25 Mar 23: out of stock).
This is a very attractive textbook well-suited for the general reader. Third edition contains 100 extra pages. Nearly every page with color illustrations. There is a free pdf booklet available about evolution, religion and creationism (not in paperback). See further comments second edition 2012/2013 below.
Michael J. Benton (Editor) (2019) 'Cowen's History of Life (Sixth Edition) Wiley-Blackwell
A newly revised and fully updated edition of the market-leading introduction to paleontology.
Is a chronology of life on earth on the basis of geological, environmental and climatological processes.
A short review in The Biologist.
Cowen's original statement: "the book is meant not just for students, but for everyone interested in the history of life on our planet."
The difference with a textbook Evolutionary Biology is that there is no DNA, molecular and population genetics.
Jon Herron, Scott Freeman (2013) "Evolutionary Analysis 5th ed.", Pearson Higher Education, hb 864 pp.
Info. Used books are avaible on the internet. The 'New To This Edition' gives an impressive list of new additions, every chapter has been modified and some completely rewritten. Published 08/12/2013. The book starts with chapter 1: 'A Case for Evolutionary Thinking: Understanding HIV'. Presenting evolutionary biology as a dynamic, ongoing research effort and organizing discussions around questions. Previous edition: 4th Edition (2006) see below.
Brian K. Hall, Benedikt Hallgrímsson (2013) 'Strickberger's Evolution', Fifth Edition, Jones & Bartlett Learning, 646 pages
Info (have a look at table of Contents!). The fifth edition has all illustrations and figures in four colors. Three chapters are available for download:
Chapter 1: Intellectual Origins of the Theory of Biological Evolution
Chapter 3: Similarity and Patterns of Evolution.
Companion Website. Please note cosmological context of evolution: Chapter 4: Universe and Earth Arise; Chapter 5: The Atmosphere, Rocks, and Continents; Chapter 6: Origin of the Molecules of Life. The cosmological context is absent in other textbooks. Although the publisher shows 2014 as date of publication, the Preface is dated January 2013 and online bookshops show publication date: 2/15/2013. It is now (Oct 2013) available on amazon.com. See also at: books.google.com. See below the fourth edition.
Jonathan B. Losos (editor) "The Princeton Guide to Evolution" (2013) Princeton University Press, 880 pages.
Info. Usually, evolution textbooks have only a few authors, but this one is unusual in having over a hundred authors (107 chapters, 139 authors). In this way, the problem can be overcome that a few authors cannot be specialists in distinct fields such as: phylogenetics, the history of life, selection, adaptation, evolutionary processes, genes, genomes, ancient DNA, phenotypes, speciation, macroevolution, behavior, society, human evolution, religion, creationism, intelligent design. The question is whether this book is more an 'Encyclopedia of Evolution' than a Guide? On average 1 illustration per 8 pages.
In 2017 a paperback and ebook edition appeared.
Richard Cowen (2013) "History of Life, 5th Edition", Wiley-Blackwell, 302 pp.
Most evolution textbooks consist of two parts: the history of life on earth, and the mechanisms of evolution. An example of emphasis on the mechanisms (that is: population genetics) is Herron & Freeman. Cowen's book is about the history of life on earth or: paleontology (or: paleobiology). In the description of the publisher 'niche construction' appears (not in the index of the book): "Changing geography, climate, atmosphere, oceanic and land environments set a stage in which organisms interact with their environments and one another, with evolutionary change an inevitable result. The organisms themselves in turn can change global environments: oxygen in our atmosphere is all produced by photosynthesis." Illustrations on every page. Student Companion Site.
My comments: Only on page 21 appears the geological timescale, it never reappears (partly or completely), it is noted that the depths of the divisions are not to scale, but no attempt is made to visualize the depth of time (see: Zimmer & Emlen for how it can be done). In contrast to other evolution textbooks, there is no discussion of the theory of evolution, population- and molecular genetics. Two exceptions: the contribution of molecular (DNA) studies to the elucidation of mammalian radiation (p.221-222); evo-devo and hox genes are shortly discussed. One does not find a portrait of Darwin, nor a discussion of his life and work. The Origin of Life has its own chapter (it is also the only chapter containing biochemistry). The last chapter discusses human caused extinctions of other life forms during the Ice Ages.
Douglas J. Futuyma (2013) 'Evolution Third Edition' Sinauer, 656 pages.
info (incl. free chapters). With chapters of Scott V. Edwards and John R. True. The third edition is a comprehensive treatment of contemporary evolutionary biology that is directed toward an undergraduate audience.
The 3 Sub edition: January 1997, hardcover 751 pages.
Carl Zimmer, Douglas J. Emlen (2012,2013) 'Evolution. Making Sense of Life', Roberts and Company. 720 pages. First edition. hardback, paperback.
Second edition (752 pages) appeared in 2015, third edition in 2019.
Info (including a free Preface and Contents, and Chapter 1). Detailed contents gives a very good overview of the book. Maybe a digital version will appear. This evolution textbook is beautifully illustrated, there is an illustration on almost every page. Includes a short but usefull section with 17 misconceptions about evolution (pp 24-28). Chapter 3 (What the rocks say) mentions biomarkers (chemical fossils). No oxygen in the index, but oxygen is present in the timescale illustration in the inside of the hardback cover. No ozone layer, no UV in the index, but photosynthesis is present. Please note chapter 16 about the evolution of brains and behavior: a subject almost ignored in other textbooks, is a wellcome addition to Evolution textbooks. And note a wellcome chapter called 'Evolutionary Medicine' (18), which includes human viruses (SARS, Ebola, Flu), and the evolution of virulence. I would have liked a little bit more cosmological context of evolution. There is a beautiful 4 page geologic timescale on the inside of the cover. However, it starts 4.5 billion years ago with the origin of 'the' solar system. But we know that the universe started 13.7 billion years ago. It would be nice to place biological evolution in the context of Big History. It could be done in chapter 3. They offer a (short) paragraph about Convergent evolution, which is mostly absent in Evolution textbooks. The concept 'Niche Construction' is absent from index, glossary. The book as been praised as "one of the best textbooks in the field" (Science, 25 May 2018).
Carl T. Bergstrom, Lee Alan Dugatkin (2012) 'Evolution', W.W. Norton & Company, first edition, hardback, paperback (Feb 2012), ebook (the Ebook version offers the full content of the print version at half the price). 2nd Revised edition: 2015/2016.
Evolution textbook. Hardback: 677 pages text + 103 pages preface, appendix, glossary, references, index. This textbook is very complete, looks very atttractive, exceptionally well illustrated. Full chapter about the origin of life (it seems that this field is now definitely included in evolution textbooks).
The book is divided into 4 parts each having 5 chapters:
Part I: Foundations of Evolutionary Biology. Part II: Evolutionary Genetics (200 pages!). Part III: History of Life. Part IV: Evolutionary Interactions. A separate chapter about Human Evolution is missing, but there is a chapter Evolution and Medicine. There is not a chapter about the fossil record and the evolution of animals and plants, but there is a chapter about 'Extinction and evolutionary trends', and a chapter about 'Inferring Phylogeny'. Behavioral (social) aspects of evolution are covered in 4 chapters. There is a welcome and excellent discussion of the problems Darwin faced in convincing his readers of the truth of his theory (from Darwin's own point of view, that is, without using modern understanding of evolution (p. 41–55). The concept 'niche construction' is present in the text, index, glossary. 'Phenotypic plasticity' is absent. Excellent chapter 10 Genome Evolution with a discussion of the paradoxes of genome size differences, C-value and G-value paradox. There is a nice explanation of the relation between error-threshold and genome size (p.390). Photosynthesis, ozone layer, UV, oxygen are not in the index. SARS coronavirus is present with schematic genome layout, and two kinds of overlapping genetic code is nicely illustrated (page 342–343).
Info + pdf of chapter 4. The StudySpace contains chapter summaries, animations, flashcards, and quizzes for each of the 20 chapters. Very helpful for exploring the book. Additional: Evolution News from Science Daily. Note: a second edition was published in 2016.
Brian K. Hall (2010) "Evolution: Principles and Processes" Jones & Bartlett, Paperback 442 pages
Info + sample chapter. Website. The book starts with a chapter about the origin of the universe, our solar system, earth/moon, followed by a chapter about the origin of molecules and the nature of life. Last chapter is about Darwin and (Intelligent) Design. Also from Brian Hall: Strickberger's Evolution, Fourth Edition (see below), and: Fins into Limbs. Evolution, Development, and Transformation.
Douglas J. Futuyma (2009) "Evolution, Second Edition" Sinauer. 633 pages, 582 illustrations
Textbook. For mysterious reasons Sinauer published in 2009 the second edition after publishing the 4th edition in 2005. "Probably the best available undergraduate text on evolutionary biology" (E.V. Koonin). Book info. Companion Website with more info about the book. (Amazon.com: $87.16. Sep 09).
Brian K. Hall and Benedikt Hallgrímsson (2008) "Strickberger's Evolution, Fourth Edition", Jones and Bartlett, 762 pages.
Textbook. Strickberger was able to produce 3 editions of Evolution (1990,1995,2000). The fourth edition has been thoroughly updated and reorganized by Hall and Hallgrímsson. Brain Hall is known for his work in the evo-devo field. Exceptional among evolution textbooks is Part 2: Origins: The Enormity of Time, which contains 'The Origin of Cosmic Structures and Chemical Elements'; 'Origin of the Earth' (pp 64–97). Very good! It seems that this textbook is more open about unresolved questions in evolutionary biology than other textbooks. There are many examples of convergent evolution throughout the book, but no separate chapter. Biodiversity gets 225 pages, more than most textbooks. 'Phenotypic plasticity' is present. 'Epigenetic' is in Glossary but not in index. Ozone layer and UV is mentioned. There is a chapter about the evolution of plants and fungi, a chapter about invertebrates and a chapter about amphibians (these subjects are often not present in other textbooks). A short interview with Lynn Margulis is presented in a box (p.170). Photosynthesis has several pages. Finally, a chapter about Religion and Evolution, including Responses to creationist arguments.
The fourth edition contains 40 pages more than the third edition of 2000. info (includes pdfs of chapter 1 and 3 ). The publishers produced a free companion website to accompany and expand the scope of the text, containing links to websites, exercises, etc. Google books has good search utility and it seems almost all pages can be previewed. Apart from the magnificent cover photo there are no full-color illustrations in the book (only bw images, and black-green illustrations, the same technique used in Mark Ridley's Evolution, third edition).
N. Barton, D. Briggs, J. Eisen, D. Goldstein, N. Patel (2007) 'Evolution', Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press hb 833 pages.
Evolution textbook. The book is accompanied by an extensive free website. Chapter 27 & 28 are available online. The idea to integrate molecular and evolutionary biology was conceived by Jim Watson (according to the preface of the book). Substantial treatment of the origin of life. No oxygen, no ozone in index, but photosynthesis is present. SARS is present (page 134, chapter 5) but is not in index; SARS epidemic was in 2003.
Further, see my review of the book on this site.
One of the most authoritative Evolution textbooks. Attractive design. If there is any Evolution textbook published long before COVID-19 that makes the importance of virusses for evolution and human society clear right from the start, it is Freeman and Herron. Chapter 1 is entitled: 'A Case for Evolutionary Thinking: Understanding HIV'. HIV is a RNA virus, just as SARS. The chapter explains the origin, evolution, transmission, treatment, natural resistance, vaccination. HIV = evolution in action. SARS-CoV-2 = evolution in action. But, there is more. Chapter 14: 'Evolution and Human Health' discusses Flu virus evolution, the evolution of antibiotic resistance, and how virulence evolves.
A strong emphasis on the mechanisms of evolution, very good and detailed chapters about mutation and population genetics (500 pages), and less space for the history of life, paleontology, ecology, and biogeography (90 pages), evo-devo (27 pages). Two chapters about humans: human evolution (45) and human health (44 pages). There are 45 pages discussing Sexual selection, including sexual selection on females, female choice and polyandry.
Some pages about the evolution – religion conflict, 'Scientific Creationism' and 'Intelligent Design Creationism'. This edition has a 3-page discussion of Michael Behe and irreducible complexity (pp.100-102). The evolution of atmospheric oxygen is briefly mentioned. Substantial treatment of the origin of life. Two pages (pp. 692–693) with 3 geological timescales with important events in the history of life and the Earth (well done), but it starts with Cambrian, so the student does not get a good view of the enormity of time before the Cambrian. Freeman and Herron are not interested in 'convergent evolution', they don't like it, because it causes problems for phylogenetic reconstructions. However, it is a very interesting subject! The concept 'niche construction' is absent from the index and Glossary. The Cambrian Explosion has its own chapter (18) and includes mass extinctions. Lynn Margulis is absent from the short section explaining endosymbiosis theory and Margulis is not the index. 'Snowball earth theory' is not present. No ozone layer, no UV, very short section about oxygen, nearly nothing about photosynthesis. The concept of meiosis is not explained nor is there a diagram of meiosis. With its more than 800 pages it is one of the largest evolution textbooks. A useful webresource: Companion Website for Evolutionary Analysis.
Stephen Stearns, Rolf Hoekstra (2005) "Evolution, an introduction", second edition, paperback, Oxford University Press, 575 pages.
Evolution textbook. Info from OUP (July 23: $189.99). Companion web site with free (!) online pdf version of chapter 6 (The importance of development in evolution) and chapter 13 (Phylogeny and systematics). Stephen Stearns is the author of Evolution in Health and Disease and The Evolution of Life Histories. Browsing through the book is enough to be impressed by the extremely wide range of research problems that are being investigated by evolutionary biologists. This is a balanced textbook, there is about equal space for micro- as for macroevolution. Answers creationist objections, discusses some unsolved problems in evolution. Margulis is not in index, but 3 publications present in Literature section, no mention when symbiosis is discussed (p.449–452). The planet has shaped life, and life has shaped the planet (chapter 16). DNA is relegated to a Genetic Appendix! The famous Double Helix is present (p. 508), but no Watson and Crick (quite unusual for an Evolution textbook). 10 page Glossary.
Douglas J. Futuyma (2005) "Evolution", hardback, Sinauer Associates, 543 pages, 508 illustrations.
The 4th edition appeared in May 2005. It is much shorter than the third edition and is exclusively directed toward undergraduate students. See for full table of contents website of the publisher. Two new chapters are Evolution of genes and genomes (reflecting the new field of genomics) and Development and Evolution (reflecting the new field evo-devo). Evo-devo has now become textbook orthodoxy? A final chapter about creationism and society. Review: Evolution.
Mark Ridley (2004) 'Evolution'. Third editon. Blackwell Publishing. paperback.
Publishers info (including Table of contents). Complete pdf.
This is the latest edition.
See also my review of: Mark Ridley (2000) 'Mendel's Demon. Gene Justice and the complexity of life'.
Douglas Futuyma (1998) "Evolutionary Biology", Third Edition. Sinauer Associates. 763 pages.
Famous standard evolution text for undergraduate and graduate biology students (see 4th edition above). Contains colorplates, the rest of illustrations are in two colors. Chapter 7 about the history of life on earth (35 pages), and chapter 8: The Geography of Evolution (biogeography) (25 pages). A remarkable chapter (25 pages) about 'Development and Evolution' (now called 'evo-devo') including Hox genes!. Appendix 'Contending with Creationism' refuting 18 creationist arguments. No oxygen in the index, but it is present in the geological time scale on page 130.
Peter Skelton (editor) (1996) "Evolution. A Biological and Palaeontological Approach" , First Edition. 1993, reprinted 1994, 1996. Paperback. Addison-Wesley in association with The Open University. 1064 pages.
Written by 11 authors. The core text for students of the Open University. Written with a student-centered approach. An undergraduate introductory course. Including a very useful chapter about the origin of life. Ozone, Oxygen, and photosynthesis (many details in text) are present in index. Contains colorplates inserted between pages 498–499. Many illustrations, diagrams and tables. Very detailed index. Glossary.
Philip Whitfield (1993) 'The Natural History of Evolution', BCA, hardback, 220 pages.
Preview. My first impression of this book was: this is a coffee table book. An oversized, hard-covered book; the pages consist mainly of color photographs, illustrations, diagrams, accompanied by captions and small blocks of text. There are no text-only pages. The illustrations are stunning and often cover two pages. However, when I started reading, I soon found out that this is an exceptionally well-illustrated textbook of evolution. It is remarkably complete. Every aspect of evolution is illustrated in just the right amount of detail. The science is not dumbed down. As in a good textbook there is a Glossary, Bibliography and Index. This book is a unique combination of a popular science book, a coffee table book and a textbook of evolution. In 1993 Dr Philip Whitfield was head of the Division of Life Sciences at King's College London.
Eli C. Minkoff (1983) "Evolutionary Biology", Addison-Wesley, hardback 627 pp. Reprinted with corrections 1984.
Evolution textbook nearly 40 years old, but the titles of the units look very familiar to modern readers. The Units are: the history of evolutionary theory (quite extensive and elaborate: 60pp); Microevolution; Macroevolution; The Course of Evolution (including the origin of life and human evolution). There is no chapter or paragraph about 'creationism' –the word is not in the index–, although there is a discussion of the reception of Darwinism in different countries. The last chapter (28: Cultural Evolution and the Future) ends with a remarkable section about human genetic engineering, cloning and eugenics. Oddly, in Box 28-E 'Possibilities for Genetic Interventiobn', Minkoff includes "B2. Negative eugenics, or decreasing the contribution to the gene pool by undesired genotypes. Among the methods available are abortion, sterilization, and various forms of murder including infanticide." (p.560). Many line drawings and black and white images.
The true history of junk DNA (31 Jul 23) investigates what he knows about 'non-coding DNA' or 'junk DNA'.
|General mainstream evolution books [ in descending chron. order ]|
7 Sep 2022
28 Oct 2021
12 Nov 2021
26 Dec 2021
The following books are popular science books. Popular science books are about a subset of topics in evolutionary biology, generally discussed from the mainstream science point of view, but often include less well established ideas or new hypotheses.
– Evolution textbooks: see above. For short introductions see: Introductions.
————————————————— 2021 —————————————————
Franklin M. Harold (2021) 'On Life. Cells, Genes, and the Evolution of Complexity', Oxford University Press.
Publisher's info. Franklin M. Harold is a biochemist interested in bio-energetics, cellbiology and the big questions in biology and evolution. "He asserts that biology stands apart from the physical sciences because life revolves around organization– that is, purposeful order." Harold is the author of The Way of the Cell (see: The Principles of Life for his definition of life) and of: The Vital Force: A Study of Bioenergetics (1986).
Henry Gee (2021) 'A (Very) Short History of Life On Earth. 4.6 Billion Years in 12 Chapters', St. Martin's Press, Hardcover 288 pages.
Nature review: "Perhaps the most amazing thing about life – apart from its existence – is how quickly it began," writes Henry Gee, Nature's senior editor specializing in palaeontology. Life appeared in the ocean depths just 100 million years after Earth's formation, and reached the sunlit surface after another 800 million. His lively, lyrical history covers 4.6 billion years, from bacteria through dinosaurs to mammals including Homo sapiens. Humans, Gee says, will eventually become a thin layer in sedimentary rock, to be eroded as dust that sinks to the ocean bottom."
See also review in Science 12 Nov 21: "A paleontologist's history of life highlights the recurring role played by geological, climatic, and atmospheric forces. (...) With beautiful exposition, Gee describes the major anatomical, physiological, and behavioral transitions in life's evolution. He largely refrains, however, from discussing the mechanisms and agents of evolution, (...) With few references to genes and genomes, the book lacks an appreciation of the mechanisms by which the genes ... both constrain morphological change and enable incredible diversifications."
————————————————— 2020 —————————————————
David Haig (2020) 'From Darwin to Derrida. Selfish Genes, Social Selves, and the Meanings of Life, Mit Press, hardback, KOBO ebook, 512 pages.
"The main task of this book is to explain how a physical world of matter in motion, of material and efficient causes, gave rise to a living world of purpose and meaning, of final form and formal causes." (Prologue).
Neil Shubin (2020) 'Some Assembly Required: Decoding Four Billion Years of Life, from Ancient Fossils to DNA, Pantheon, 2020. 288 pp.
Neil Shubin is the author of Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body and The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People. Free review: Science blogs. Short description in Nature 7 April 2020. A short review in The Biologist.
————————————————— 2018 —————————————————
George C. Williams (2018) 'Adaptation and Natural Selection. A Critique of Some Current Evolutionary Thought', Princeton, reprint.
Classic 1966 text with a new foreword by Richard Dawkins. Free introduction on publishers website. See also his book Why we get sick and Plan And Purpose In Nature.
Katrina van Grouw (2018) Unnatural Selection, Princeton.
Description of the author: "Unnatural Selection is a stunningly illustrated book about selective breeding–the ongoing transformation of animals at the hand of man. It celebrates the 150th anniversary of Charles Darwin's monumental work, The Variation of Animals and Plants under Domestication, and is intended as a tribute to what Darwin might have achieved had he possessed that elusive missing piece to the evolutionary puzzle–the knowledge of how individual traits are passed from one generation to the next. The author explains evolution by building on the analogy that Darwin himself used–comparing the selective breeding process with natural selection in the wild."
This book was reviewed in Nature 16 July 2018 ('What's bred in the bone: the dazzling traits of domesticated animals'). Her book 'The Unfeathered Bird' was reviewed in Nature 22 Nov 2012.
See her website, and her email (36).
Oné R. Pagán (2018) 'Strange Survivors: How Organisms Attack and Defend in the Game of Life', BenBella Books 240 pp.
A tour of the improbable, the ingenious, and the just plain bizarre adaptations of organisms. Reviewed in Science, Mar 2 2018. Publishers info
————————————————— 2015 —————————————————
Nick Lane (2015) 'The Vital Question: Why is Life the Way it is?', Profile.
"In this book, I will lay out a hypothesis that connects energy and evolution. I will argue that energy has constrained the evolution of life on earth; that the same forces ought to apply elsewhere in the universe; and that a synthesis of energy and evolution could be the basis for a more predictive biology, helping us understand why life is the way it is, not only on earth, but wherever it might exist in the universe." (from the Introduction).
Emily Monosson (2015) 'Unnatural Selection: How We Are Changing Life, Gene by Gene', Island Press.
" In Unnatural Selection, Emily Monosson shows how our drugs, pesticides, and pollution are exerting intense selection pressure on all manner of species. And we humans might not like the result. Emily Monosson is the author of: Blight: Fungi and the Coming Pandemic and: Evolution in a Toxic World. How Life Responds to Chemical Threats .
————————————————— 2014 —————————————————
Douglas J. Emlen (2014) 'Animal Weapons The Evolution of Battle' Henry Holt, 288 pp
Review Science: "But why is it that some animals do not have weapons, or have only modest ones, whereas others have developed massive and evolutionarily expensive weaponry? In Animal Weapons: The Evolution of Battle, evolutionary biologist Douglas Emlen investigates the specific conditions under which extreme animal weapons evolve. ... Emlen argues that three preconditions are necessary for triggering an arms race that leads to extreme animal weapons. First, there must be competition for a limited resource, such as food or access to reproductive females. Second, the limited resource must be confined to well-defined locations so that one animal can control access to it (i.e., the resource must be "defensible"). Third, males must fight one-on-one; guerillastyle warfare does not lead to the evolution of extreme weapons.". With stunning color plates. Emlen published with Carl Zimmer the beautiful 'Evolution. Making Sense of Life'.
Niles Eldredge (2014) "Extinction and Evolution: What Fossils Reveal About the History of Life", Firefly Books
Chapters: The Past as Prologue, Adaptation, Origin of Species, Human Evolution, Living Fossils, Extinction, Macroevolution. Book excerpt.
John Archibald (2014) "One Plus One Equals One: Symbiosis and the Evolution of Complex Life ", Oxford University Press: 2014.
Review: Nature (19 Jun 2014): "The origins of mitochondria and chloroplasts from bacterial ancestors are arguably the two biggest innovations in the history of life. ... mitochondria and chloroplasts each arose from a specific bacterial group and each arose from a single endosymbiotic event. Mysteries remain. A central one is the origin of eukaryotic cells."
Kostas Kampourakis (2014) "Understanding Evolution", Cambridge University Press.
Info (toc). Chapters: (...) Religious resistance to accepting evolution, Conceptual obstacles to understanding evolution, (...) Concluding remarks (The virtues of evolutionary theory, Questions not answered by evolutionary theory ). Info about the author. Review: New book on understanding evolution. Second edition: 2020. He is the author of 'Making Sense of Genes' (2017); 'Understanding Genes' (2012) and 'Philosophy of Science for Biologists' (editor) (2020).
Donald E. Canfield (2014) "Oxygen: A Four Billion Year History", Princeton University Press
Info. Reviewed by Scientific American (January 2014), 310, 78: "The earth's present atmosphere, made up of 21 percent oxygen, in eons past had very little if any of this life-giving gas, effectively making our planet a hostile, alien world for most of its existence.". See also: article in The New York Times October 3, 2013.
Review: "Canfield's research has played a major role in shaping current knowledge of geobiological interactions among the iron, sulfur, carbon, and oxygen cycles. He is particularly adept at leveraging understanding of modern processes to study the past. In the book, he effectively uses autobiographical anecdotes to drive the narrative and connect related concepts. ... Canfield's prose presents stories and concepts with a youthful enthusiasm that masks substantial wisdom. ... Concise and easily read, Oxygen provides an ideal starting block for those interested in learning about Earth's O2 history and, more broadly, the function and history of biogeochemical cycles. It requires no substantial prior knowledge of Earth science" (Science, 21 Feb 14)
————————————————— 2013 —————————————————
Carl Zimmer (2013) "The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution, Second Edition", Roberts & Company.
The second edition of The Tangled Bank has been dramatically revised. It includes an entirely new chapter focused on human evolution. First edition: 2009 (see below).
Douglas H. Erwin, James W. Valentine (2013) 'The Cambrian Explosion. The Construction of Animal Biodiversity', Roberts and Company, hardback 416 pp.
info (including free chapter). Review (Nature): "In The Cambrian Explosion, paleontologists Douglas Erwin and James Valentine make a heroic attempt to synthesize these disparate fields (including geology, ecology, developmental biology, and genomics). ... They argue convincingly that complete understandings of animal origins and the explosion's "great evolutionary puzzle" can only be achieved by considering the relative importance of three main aspects: substantial change in the environment, which differed greatly from the present day; the sequential acquisition of genetic and developmental innovations that gradually increased body plan complexity during the Ediacaran and Cambrian; and the establishment of ecological relationships among animals that ensured that new metazoans with novel body plans succeeded in their new environments."
"For instance, evidence suggests that sponges oxygenated the ocean and by doing so created opportunities for other organisms to live on the seabed", "Accumulating fossil data indicate that inherited modifications of the environment by species has repeatedly facilitated, sometimes after millions of years, the evolution of new species and ecosystems"
(Nature, 9 okt 2014)
John N. Thompson (2013) "Relentless Evolution", University of Chicago Press, 512 pp.
info. The great problem to solve about life on earth has gradually shifted over the past century and a half since Darwin's Origin of Species. We began with the problem whether species evolve. The problem has been solved so completely that we are now faced with a problem at the opposite extreme. Why is evolution so relentless, altering populations generation after generation? After all, species generally seem well adapted to the environments in which they live, yet they continue to evolve even in environments that have not undergone major major recent changes.
Review Science: "Thompson (an evolutionary ecologist at the University of California, Santa Cruz) has long argued for the crucial role the evolution of interactions among species plays in generating biodiversity. The book's contents will strike many readers as novel. ... whereas a couple of decades ago almost everyone would claim that ecological and evolutionary time scales were uncoupled, we now know that evolution can proceed very rapidly and therefore that ecology and evolution should be studied jointly. Similarly, although the focus of much earlier evolutionary research emphasized the adaptation of species to their environments, we now understand the major importance of adaptation to other free-living species in generating diversification". (12 Jul 13). See also: The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution by John N. Thompson.
Review: Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Vol 34, No 1 (2014).
John Tyler Bonner (2013) "Randomness in Evolution" Princeton University Press, hardback 133 pp. many black and white illustrations.
Info. From the Preface: "Are microorganisms affected by natural selection in the same way as large, complex ones? It is conventional to think that selection acts the same way on organisms of all sizes, and I make the case that it might not be so. (...) the smaller an organism is, the more likely it is that morphological differences will be random and selection may not be involved to any degree."
"The main point of Bonner's book is that the importance of randomness in evolution depends on size. What is new is the claim that small organisms are more likely to have selectively neutral morphological variation." (reviewer). Also from Bonner: Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales.
————————————————— 2012 —————————————————
Richard Fortey (2012) "Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms The Story of the Animals and Plants That Time Has Left Behind", Knopf, New York, 2012. 374 pp.
info. Review in Science 5 Oct 12: "In Horseshoe Crabs and Velvet Worms, Richard Fortey offers a colorful tale of extraordinary (and often unfamiliar) plants and animals that are ancient in origin and still found in present-day habitats.".
————————————————— 2011 —————————————————
Ivan R Schwab (2011) 'Evolution's Witness: How Eyes Evolved', Oxford University Press Hardcover 328 pages
info. Website of the author. See also youtube introduction to the book. Contains 400 images!
Eugene V. Koonin (2011) 'The Logic of Chance. The Nature and Origin of Biological Evolution', Financial Times/ Prentice Hall. 528 pages. hardcover, paperback, ebook.
Important, authoritative, fascinating but demanding book. Toward a postmodern synthesis of evolutionary biology on the basis of genomics and system biology. This is a semi-popular book, many concepts and data are not explained in the text. "For all its fundamental merits, Modern Synthesis is a rather dogmatic and woefuly incomplete theory. To name three of the most glaring problems, Modern Synthesis makes a huge leap of faith by extending the mechanisms and patterns established for microevolution to macroevolutionary processes; it has nothing to say about evolution of microbes, which are the most abundant and diverse life forms on Earth; and it does not even attempt to address the origin of life." (p.18,19). Koonin claims to give a new, much more detailed, complex, and realistic theory of evolution: the inadequacy of natural selection and adaptation as the only or even the main mode of evolution; the key role of horizontal gene transfer in evolution and the consequent overhaul of the Tree of Life concept; the central, underappreciated evolutionary importance of viruses. Also opposes Darwinian gradualism. Junk DNA present. This is mainstream but still a significant extension of orthodox neo-Darwinism and could therefore also be classified in the category Extensions, revisions & alternative evolutionary theories.
info (including free full text chapter 1). There are numerous black-and-white illustrations, but frequently of poor quality (too small). Each of the 13 chapters ends with annotated, recommended publications, which is very useful. Good index, references and notes. According to the author a "preview" of the present book is his 2009 article "Darwinian Evolution in the light of genomics" (free fulltext!). Search inside the book at http://books.google.com. Warning: there is a free full color pdf of the book available on the internet (Dec 2012). The expensive hardback of the book only has black-and-white illustrations. The Kindle edition also contains color illustrations.
Cameron M. Smith (2011) 'The Fact of Evolution' Prometheus, Paperback, 346 pages
He is the author of The Top Ten Myths about Evolution. A review appeared in Reports of the NCSE Vol 33, No 5 (2013).
Brett Calcott, Kim Sterelny (2011) 'The Major Transitions in Evolution Revisited', The MIT Press.
This is a revised edition of John Maynard Smith and Eörs Szathmáry (1995) The Major Transitions in Evolution, which appeared after the death of Maynard Smith in 2004.
See also: Books of John Maynard Smith.
Jean-Baptiste De Panafieu (Author), Patrick Gries (Photographer), Linda Asher (Translator) (2011) "Evolution" Seven Stories Press; Updated edition, hardcover 448 pages
"Two hundred stark black-and-white photographs produced by Patrick Gries in collaboration with the Museum of Natural History in Paris are accompanied by text from scientist and documentarian Jean-Baptiste de Panafieu.". Review: Smithsonian: A Book That Turns Science Into Art.
——————————————— 2010 ———————————————
Heinz Decker, Kensal E. van Holde (2010) 'Oxygen and the Evolution of Life', Springer, 183 pages.
The publisher has useful info about the book (Look inside, chapter summaries). Compare with Nick Lane's book Oxygen. I think chemical and physical constraints (such as the properties of oxygen) on organisms are as important as DNA to understand which life forms evolve.
Wallace Arthur (2010) 'Evolution: A Developmental Approach', Wiley-Blackwell, Paperback 416 pages, also hardback and ebook.
This is a different kind of evolution textbook. The core theme in this book is how evolution works by changing the course of embryonic and post-embryonic development ('evo-devo'). Important and interesting topics: Developmental Bias and Constraint, The Origin of Species, Novelties and Body Plans, The Evolution of Complexity. info (including very complete Table of Contents and Excerpts). See also this page for my review of 'The Origin of Animal Body Plans'.
Michael A. Bell, Douglas J. Futuyma, Walter F. Eanes, Jeffrey S. Levinton (eds) (2010) 'Evolution since Darwin: The First 150 Years', Sinauer Associates, paperback 350 pp.
info. Emerged from a symposium held in November 2009 at Stony Brook University, USA. Review: Science: In 22 chapters and 8 commentaries, they trace the history of diverse subdisciplines of evolutionary biology since Darwin, with particular focus on the past 50 years." Partly textbook, partly history of evolutionary biology. Also reviewed in Evolution (30 MAR 2011): The first (Part I) provides an overview of the biology and history of evolution since Darwin. The second section (Parts II - V) explores progress and prospects in major research areas, including genetics and genomics (II), evolution of form (III), adaptation and speciation (IV), and diversity and phylogeny (V). The third main section includes special topics, including human evolution (Part VI) and applied aspects of evolution (VII). The final section (Part VIII) Prospects for the next 150 years. "Evolution Since Darwin presents a excellent survey and synthesis of where evolutionary biology stands in the early 21st century. Most of the chapters are well written, interesting, and up-to-date.".
Lucio Vinicius (2010) "Modular Evolution: How Natural Selection Produces Biological Complexity", Cambridge University Press, 264 pages.
Info + excerpt. "Proposes a new explanation for one of the most challenging questions in evolution: why are organisms more complex now than in the past?".
Daniel W. McShea, Robert Brandon (2010) "Biology's First Law: The Tendency for Diversity and Complexity to Increase in Evolutionary Systems", University Of Chicago Press, 184 pages.
The definition: "In any evolutionary system in which there is variation and heredity, there is a tendency for diversity and complexity to increase, one that is always present but may be opposed or augmented by natural selection, other forces, or constraints acting on diversity and complexity." See Google books. Reviews: Nature, Science: "They insist that the ZFEL requires a gestalt shift in the way we think about evolutionary biology: Although we have believed that it is change that is in need of explanation, the ZFEL reveals that change is the default state. At every level of the biological hierarchy for which there is heritable variation (genes, organelles, organisms, species, etc.), it is stasis that requires explanation.".
Peter A Rosenbaum (2010) "Volpe's Understanding Evolution", McGraw-Hill Professional, paperback 304 pages.
It looks a standard, basic, unremarkable evolution textbook. There is a chapter about the origin of life. info (not much information, only toc). Previous editions by Erminio Peter Volpe, Peter Andrew Rosenbaum (2000), and: Erminio Peter Volpe and W. C. Brown (1970) 'Understanding Evolution'.
Bruce Lieberman, Roger Kaesler (2010) "Prehistoric Life", Wiley-Blackwell, Paperback, 400 pages.
Category: paleontology. This is more than a paleontology book: the interconnections between our planet, its climate system, and its varied life forms are shown. Please note chapter 8 about growth and form using 'Galileo's Principle' (based on S.J. Gould's chapter 'Size and Shape' in Ever since Darwin); and chapter 15 about Multicellularity and the vertebrate Brain. info.
Martin Brasier (2010) "Darwin's Lost World. The hidden history of animal life", Oxford University Press, paperback.
Category: paleontology. info.
Geerat J. Vermeij (2010) "The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization", Thomas Dunne Books Hardcover
————————————————— 2009 —————————————————
Peter Forbes (2009) "Dazzled and Deceived: Mimicry and Camouflage", Yale University Press: 2009. 304 pp.
Review: Nature: "The book highlights the interlinked nature of science. To understand the development of the theory of protective coloration, we must first understand how the theory of evolution progressed, as well as genetics, developmental biology and experimental science in general. In turn, Forbes illustrates how advances in protective coloration have affected evolutionary theory."
Russell Foster, Leon Kreitzman (2009) "The Seasons of Life: The Biological Rhythms that Living Things Need to Thrive and Survive", Profile Books/Yale University Press: 2009. 320 pp.
Field: chronobiology. info (+excerpts). "The authors dedicate five chapters to the adaptation of animals and plants to the seasons, and six to human seasonality. Thousands of species across the globe, including those in the tropics, use seasonality to turn off reproduction at times of year when low food supply is expected". Reviews: Nature. See also: 'Rhythms of Life. The Biological Clocks that Control the Daily Lives of Every Living Thing' (2004) of the same authors.
Peter Godfrey-Smith (2009) "Darwinian Populations and Natural Selection, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2009. 217 pp.
Godfrey-Smith is a philosopher at Harvard University. "Our standard models for understanding what evolution by natural selection is are just too simple. Godfrey-Smith's book fruitfully forces us to think in new ways about evolution and natural selection." from: Reviews: Science.
Richard Dawkins (2009) "The Greatest Show on Earth: The Evidence for Evolution", Bantam Press, hb 470 pp printed on FSC paper, and Free Press (2009).
"The evidence for evolution grows by the day, and has never been stronger". "This is a book about the positive evidence that evolution is a fact. It is not intended as an anti-religious book". Dawkins wrote about the theory of evolution, about stumbling blocks and obstacles for accepting evolution, but not a book about the evidence for evolution. This book fills the gap, but does not restrict itself to the evidence. There are anecdotes, digressions and still a lot of evolution-obstacles to overcome. Many color plates and b.w. illustrations. Compare with: Jerry A. Coyne (2009).
Great quote on the backcover: "It is no accident that we see green almost wherever we look. It is no accident that we find ourselves perched on one tiny twig in the midst of a blossoming and flourishing tree of life; ...". Review: Nature. See further my Books of Dawkins page.
Douglas Palmer, Peter Barrett (Illustrator) (2009) "Evolution: The Story of Life", University of Califonria Press.
info, info, preview. A visual guide to the history of life on earth.
Carl Zimmer (2010) "The Tangled Bank: An Introduction to Evolution", Roberts and Company Publishers, Hardcover 385 pages.
This book looks like a popular version of an Evolution textbook. It is intended for non-biologists. It describes the key concepts in evolution. Richly illustrated with over 300 illustrations and photographs. A pleasure to browse. Look and feel like a popular science magazine such as Scientific American. Glossary, References, Index.
"Carl Zimmer's approach to explaining evolution in The Tangled Bank is rather different [than Dawkins]. In a non-confrontational way, he lays out the evidence for all to see. His prose, while authoritative and easy to read, is poised rather than animated. Dense with facts, the book is billed as the first textbook on evolution for the general reader, and in that framework it excels. Zimmer doesn't counterpoint the facts of evolution with creationist assertions but biblical literalism stalks the pages like the elephant in the room" (Laurence D. Hurst, Nature, 1 Oct 2009). See: Info, blog, review. Second edition paperback (2013).
Jerry A. Coyne (2009) "Why Evolution Is True", Viking, 304 pp. / Oxford University Press, hb, 309 pp. and paperback edition 2010.
Recommended. Very useful. Unlike evolution textbooks, Why Evolution Is True is focussed on the evidence for evolution: transitional fossils, remnants, biogeography, natural selection, sexual selection, the origin of species, human evolution. Is a very complete overview, but it is not a textbook in the sense that the structure of DNA, Mendelian and molecular genetics are explained. I miss a chapter about common descent (common ancestry), altough the subject is present in the first chapter. The last chapter is about the resistance to evolution. The number of pages is between Very Short Introductions and an Evolution textbook. Contains Notes, Glossary, Suggestions for further reading, References per chapter, Index, 27 fine b&w illustrations.
Reviews: Science, Nature, PloS Biology 7(3) 2009(free), New York Review of Books May 28, 2009, TEE (Trends in Ecology & Evolution), American Scientist, Reports NCSE. info (including free Introduction). Why Evolution Is True Blog by Jerry Coyne. See also: An interview with Jerry Coyne. Coyne later wrote: Faith Versus Fact: Why Science and Religion Are Incompatible, Paperback 2016 (see: Wikipedia).
Mark Pallen (2009) 'The Rough Guide to Evolution'. Rough Guide Science/Phenomena. Paperback 352 pages
Also as ebook (2011). See also youtube: Rap Guide to Evolution. Blog of the author.
Neil Shubin (2008) "Your Inner Fish: A Journey into the 3.5-Billion-Year History of the Human Body", 229 pp. Pantheon Books.
Reviews: American Scientist (free Access review): "the multidisciplinary approach that led to them, offer unique insights into human anatomical quirks". "The three tiny bones of the mammalian middle ear are the classic case of a radical anatomical makeover: They evolved from two separate ancestral gill arches and their muscles are served by two separate cranial nerves". Excerpt; review; review (free). A short series of films called 'Your Inner Fish'is produced by Tangled Bank Studios and Windfall Films, for PBS. Also from Shubin: The Universe Within (2013).
————————————————— 2008 —————————————————
Jonathan Silvertown (2008) "Demons in Eden: The Paradox of Plant Diversity", University of Chicago Press, paperback: 2008. 192 pp
Review: Nature: "one might predict that one supremely fit plant species, capable of photosynthesis, vegetative growth, pollination and seed dispersal in a way that outperformed all other plants, might ultimately prove the victor in the evolutionary struggle and would dominate the world's primary production. But this has not happened." Why not? info + excerpt, Homesite Silvertown. Review in Annals of Botany, 2006.
Graham Bell (2008) "Selection The Mechanism of Evolution". 2nd ed. Oxford University Press, 2 edition 656 pages.
In the classical Fisherian model, weak selection acting on many genes of small effect over long periods of time is responsible for driving slow and gradual change. However, it is now clear that adaptation in laboratory populations often involves strong selection acting on a few genes of large effect, while in the wild selection is often strong and highly variable in space and time.
Peter R. Grant & B. Rosemary Grant, (2008) "How and Why Species Multiply. The Radiation of Darwin's Finches", Princeton University Press, hardback 218 pp.
Many color and line illus. Drawing on decades of research in the Galapagos (especially their own work), the Grant's offer a comprehensive introduction to Darwin's finches and to evolutionary radiations on islands. "Nothing in evolutionary biology makes sense except in the light of ecology.". Reviewed in Science. info.
————————————————— 2007 —————————————————
Kenneth V. Kardong (2007) 'An Introduction to Biological Evolution', McGraw-Hill, 352 pages. Sec edition 2008.
The text departs from the standard treatment of evolution in other textbooks, wherein the arguments are reductionist, molecular, and overwhelmingly genetic in emphasis. Kardong is the author of 'Vertebrates: Comparative Anatomy, Function, Evolution' 8th edtiion 2018; 'Comparative Vertebrate Anatomy: A Laboratory Dissection Guide' 6th Edition 2011; 'Beyond God: Evolution and the Future of Religion' (2010).
————————————————— 2006 —————————————————
James W. Valentine (2006) 'On the Origin of Phyla', University Of Chicago Press, pb 608 pages.
Textbook. An encyclopedic work discussing bodyplans of all animal phyla plus background knowledge on systematics, classification, phylogenies, development, genetic regulation, fossil record, Cambrian Explosion, evolutionary relations. James Valentine managed to write about a subject which Darwin omitted from his On the Origin of Species. See Amazon [Look Inside] for a full Table of Contents. Info. A substantial part of the book can be read online at google books.
Alan R. Templeton (2006) 'Population Genetics and Microevolutionary Theory', Wiley. Hardcover 720 pages
John C Avise (2006) 'Evolutionary Pathways in Nature: a Phylogenetic Approach', Cambridge University Press, 298 pp., paperback
"The book is aimed at a scientifically literate -but nonspecialist- reader, and despite the vast range of topics it covers, it is an amazingly easy read. It will not only appeal to the amateur naturalist but could also serve as a textbook for an undergraduate evolution course." Review: Nature Genetics
Sean B. Carroll (2006) 'The Making of the Fittest. DNA and the ultimate forensic record of evolution', W. W. Norton, hb 301 pages.
"In this book I will tell the story of how the new science of genomics - the comprehensive and, most especially, the comparative study of species DNA - is profoundly expanding our knowledge of the evolution of life." Reviews: Nature, American Scientist; info, Luskin review (Discovery Institute).
David Mindell (2006) 'The Evolving World. Evolution in Everyday Life', HUP, hb 341 pages, bw illustrations.
The goal of this book is to show how the knowledge and methods of evolution are used in agriculture, medicine, health, environment, nature conservation, culture (language, books incl. Bible, history of Abrahamic religions), legal system and classroom. Consequently, it would be unwise to drop the teaching of evolution. Religion, creationism and Intelligent Design are discussed mainly in the Conclusions chapter. Chapter 3 is devoted to 'Evolution in public healht and medicine' and discusses viral epidemics such as West Nile Virus, Marburg and Ebola Viruses, Influenza A virus, and HIV. No SARS epidemic (2003). The book is similar in goal, but broader in scope than Stephen Palumbi (2001). Review: Nature.
23 Jun 14
————————————————— 2005 —————————————————
Christian de Duve (2005) "Singularities: Landmarks On The Pathways Of Life", Cambridge University Press, hb 258 pp.
Universal features of life according to Christian de Duve, blog 1 July 2014.
Written for the scientifically literate reader. Without Big Bang, God, consciousness or fine tuning. Duve wrote the book because his previous books were misinterpreted as reflecting the pursuit of an ideological agenda. Defends deterministic view of the origin of life and the key chemical features of life based upon deterministic, universal chemistry (p.160). Throughout the book is an emphasis on the biochemical features of life. Discusses the origin of proteins, DNA and the genetic code.
A sophisticated attack on the "Gospel of contingency" (232) of S. J. Gould ('rerun the tape' argument), Jacques Monod (and nearly every other evolutionary biologist). Against Gould: evolutionary events do not have to be improbable just because they depend on chance (232). Chance does not exclude (near-)inevitability (233). De Duve is not an evolutionary biologist. He approvingly quotes Simon Conway Morris as an evolution expert (235-236). A defence of heterotrophic theory of the origin of life (p.51). Again strongly opposes Intelligent Design and creationism as an explanation (as if fine tuning of the Big Bang is not Intelligent Design! see previous book). (pdf of Singularities is free available on the internet).
Reviewed by David Penny in Nature: "Yes, the details will differ if the tape of life is rerun, but will we get the same basic metabolism and energy sources? Would we start again with RNA? Will we get proteins as the primary catalysts? ... These are the big, interesting questions. De Duve focuses on these principles, refusing to be sidetracked by contingencies." (a respectful and positive review of the book).
Also of this author: Genetics of Original Sin The Impact of Natural Selection on the Future of Humanity (2010). A recent contribution to the book 'Fitness of the Cosmos for Life' (2008), and other works see elsewhere on this page. Compare this book with Harold Morowitz (2004) The Emergence of Everything.
John N. Thompson (2005) The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution, University of Chicago Press, 443 pages.
"The Geographic Mosaic of Coevolution is far more than a review of Thomson's own work or a discussion of how spatial variation alters the evolution of interacting species. It is a review of the majority of empirical and theoretical work on almost all facets of coevolution that has appeared over the past decade." Review:American Scientist, Science. Info.
Tony Hallam (2005) 'Catastrophes and lesser calamities. The causes of mass extinctions', Oxford University Press, 226 pages.
A popular account of mass extinctions and their causes in a small paperback by geologist Hallam. The causes are not only asteroids or comets but also sea-level changes, oxygen deficiency in the oceans, climatic change and volcanic activity. Extinctions reminds us of the reasons why natural selection is not all-powerfull!
Edward O. Wilson ed. (2005) 'From So Simple a Beginning: The Four Great Books of Charles Darwin', W.W. Norton, 2005, 1504 pages.
James D. Watson (editor) (2005) 'Darwin: The Indelible Stamp', Running Press, 1260 pp.
Both books contain The Voyage of the Beagle + On The Origin of Species + The Descent of Man and Selection in Relation to Sex + The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals. Both books are reviewed by Bruce H. Weber in Nature.
Nick Lane (2005) Power, Sex, Suicide: Mitochondria and the Meaning of Life, Oxford University Press.
"Power means the rate of doing work, or expending energy; sex refers to the odd, unexplained fact of maternal inheritance; and cell suicide is apotosis. But this book delivers vastly more. The central proposals of the book are clearly and forcefully propounded, are serious, have far-reaching consequences - and may even be correct." (John Allen). Reviews: Nature, Science. Second edition in 2018. See also: Nick Lane (2002) "Oxygen".
"Handbook of Evolution: The Evolution of Human Societies and Cultures, Vol 1
Franz M. Wuketits (Editor), Christoph Antweiler (Editor) Hardcover, 352 pages, 2004
info (for professionals)
"Handbook of Evolution: The Evolution of Living Systems (Including Hominids) Vol 2
Franz M. Wuketits (Editor), Francisco J. Ayala (Editor), Hardcover, 291 pages, 2005
info (for professionals)
————————————————— 2004 —————————————————
Jerry A. Coyne and H. Allen Orr (2004) "Speciation", Paperback, Sinauer Associates, 545 pages
Up-to-date overview of the literature on the origin of new species by two experts. See publisher's information.
Reviews: A positive review has appeared in Nature by Axel Meyer: "Performing this demanding duet in masterly harmony, Coyne and Orr present an authoritative treatise on one of the most long-running debates in evolutionary biology. Speciation is an impressively up-to-date and enlightening synthesis - and an entertaining read. It deserves to join Darwin's On the Origin of Species, and Mayr's Systematics and the Origin of Species on the bookshelf of anyone who is interested in evolution"; American Scientist, Evolution.
Mark Ridley (2004) "Evolution, third edition" 751 pages.
Evolution textbook. The third edition contains new chapters on evolutionary genomics, and evo-devo. Micro- and macroevolution have about equal space. Origin of life discussed in 1 page. Noteworthy is 12.1: The existence of sex is an outstanding, unsolved problem in evolutionary biology. No Lynn Margulis in index or Literature. The associated website is still available (2014): three sample chapters, tutorials, resources, A-Z dictionary, 20 free classic texts on evolutionary biology, Video Gallery. See Google Books for preview!
Joel Cracraft, Michael J. Donoghue (2004) "Assembling the Tree of Life", Oxford University Press, 576 pp.
————————————————— 2002 —————————————————
Nick Lane (2002) *Oxygen. The Molecule that made the World, Oxford University Press
Oxygen: the molecule that made the living world. One cannot understand evolution by studying internal factors (genes) alone! Nick Lane shows how oxygen shapes life. Oxygen is more than just another environmental factor. Oxygen is a mixed blessing: we cannot live without it, but it kills us in the end. Oxygen is the elixir of life - and death. Nick Lane emphases the harmful effects of oxygen throughout his book. A new perspective on life, evolution, ageing, death, sex, longevity, and disease. Nick Lane's biophysical knowledge is a welcome ingredient of the evolutionary synthesis. The current 'free-radical theory of ageing' largely confirm Lane's views. Reviews: American Scientist, Nature. Read more about the importance of oxygen for the history of life: Peter Ward (2006) Out of Thin Air: Dinosaurs, Birds, and Earth's Ancient Atmosphere page 30/296. (free)
K. J. Willis and J. C. McElwain (2002) 'The Evolution of Plants', Oxford University Press. 392 pages
A second edition appeared in 2013. Accessible to undergraduates. Illustrations in bw, full colour illustrations on the OUP Companion website (account required). "One of the most restrictive factors associated with extremely low levels of oxygen would have been the lack of an ozone layer, and therefore no protection for terrestrial organisms from incoming solar radiation." (p.20).
Stephen J Gould (2002) "The Structure of Evolutionary Theory"", Harvard University Press, 1433 pages.
A textbook for the advanced reader by the well-known palaeontologist Gould. Displays his personal views on the Evolutionary Synthesis. Interesting historical overview (including Paley). 300 pages Punctuated Equilibrium. Remarkably Gould completely omitted 'the revolution in palaeontology': cladistics. Gould is an evolutionist but also a critic of the Evolutionary Synthesis.
Review: Science, Nature.
See my review: here.
14 Jun 14
Christian de Duve (2002) "Life Evolving. Molecules, Mind and Meaning Oxford University Press. hardback 341pp.
This is a popular and complete overview of the science of life, including the origin of life, the evolution of life, brain, mind, consciousness, God, possible fine tuning of the cosmos, possible extraterrestrial life and the future of the human species. Most of it is strictly science: "Biological evolution is a fact" (p.98); "In this book, I have defended the thesis, that life arose naturally, by the sole enactment of physical and chemical laws." (p. 288).
But he also has religious views: "I refuse to describe myself as an atheist" (p.303), and is weakly theistic, but strongly anti accident: "A major objective of this book has been to expose the fallacy of this "gospel of contingency", which is being preached in the name of science." (p. 297) among others by S. J. Gould. "Chance does not exclude inevitability" (p.276).
De Duve defends (or has sympathy for) the religious view called 'deism': "It is compatible with science in the measure that the postulated God, after flipping the universe into being, merely sits back and lets His creation unfold without interfering with its operations. Intelligent design is restricted to the Big Bang as is revealed in the remarkable set of coincidences uncovered by the anthropic principle. This explanation is intellectually satisfying to the extent that it offers an answer to the key metaphysical question raised by the existence and properties of the universe." (p. 302). He rejects Intelligent Design of Michael Behe and William Dembski (p.51-53).
De Duve believes in the inevitability of life. Life is no accident. The origin of Life on earth –from building blocks to RNA-DNA-proteins– was relatively fast, faster than most scientists believe: millenia or tens of millenia (p.82-82). At the same time: "How did life arise? We don't know; and we may not know for a long time to come" (p. 95). Consciousness is a real thing.
Reviews: Science (Just How Pregnant Is the Universe?), Nature (Eörs Szathmáry: The gospel of inevitability). See also his previous: Vital Dust (1995) (see below) and his Singularities: Landmarks on the Pathways of Life (2005) (listed on this page).
————————————————— 2001 —————————————————
John Alcock (2001) "Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach", Sinauer, Seventh edition. 543 pages.
See also: Tenth Edition, 2013, 522 pages, 453 illustrations. In the 11th edition together with Dustin R. Rubenstein the word 'evolution' has disappeared from the title and the chapters! Why? In my 7th edition there are 7 chapters starting with 'The evolution of ".
Is animal behaviour part of neo-Darwinism? One answer comes from Alcock's distinction 'proximate/ultimate' causes of behaviour. Proximate causes of behaviour are located in the brain and the immediate environment; ultimate causes are evolutionary causes. Therefore, ultimate causes of behaviour are part of evolutionary theory. Another answer comes from Darwin's Origin of Species. Darwin devoted the chapter 'Instinct' to animal behaviour. So again the answer is yes. Apart from that, 'Animal Behavior' is an attractive book in its own right with a multitude of well-illustrated full colour examples. Fascinating chapters about reproductive, mating and human behaviour; does not avoid controversial subjects.
Here are some critical reviews by professionals, but in the end they admit that students love the book. Here is information from the publisher including a full table of contents of the book.
Stephen Palumbi (2001) "The Evolution Explosion. How humans cause rapid evolutionary change", WW Norton & Co, 277 pages.
The book is an easier introduction to evolutionary biology than the standard textbooks and contains examples not present in most textbooks such as antibiotic resistance, HIV, insecticides, herbicides. 'Evolution right before your eyes'; 'the engine of evolution'. This book typically deals with the mechanisms of evolution, not with the fossil record or the tree of life. Review: Nature.
Ernst Mayr (2001) "What Evolution Is, Basic Books, 318 pages.
See: Books by Ernst Mayr.
Ernst Mayr (2001) "This is Biology. The Science of The Living World", eighth printing 2001 (paperback) 323 pages. (first printing 1997)
See: Books by Ernst Mayr.
Carl Zimmer (2001) "Evolution. The Triumph of an Idea", Harper Collins, 2001. hardback 364 pages.
I dislike its title ('triumph' suggests propaganda and fight), but the book is a good introduction to current evolutionary biology for the general public (non-biologists). It's easier to read then the textbooks. Chapter about religion. Well-illustrated, no footnotes, Further Reading, good index. Also: paperback (2006). Reviews: NewScientist, Science.
Menno Schilthuizen (2001) "Frogs, Flies and Dandelions: The making of Species", OUP, 245 pages.
I highly recommend this book. It is small and very well written, accessible, to the point. This is about the origin of species in the field and is really useful to flesh out abstract ideas about speciation. (hint for insiders: it's a defence of sympatric speciation). Menno Schilthuizen is an evolutionary ecologist, field worker and science writer. Illustrated by the author. See his home page. Review: Nature
————————————————— 2000 —————————————————
Stephen Stearns and Rolf Hoekstra (2000) "Evolution. An Introduction", Oxford University Press paperback, 381 pages.
Sex has spectacular consequences for the biology of organisms. To their embarrassment, however, evolutionary biologists have had great difficulties in finding a simple and general explanation for the widespread occurrence of sexual reproduction. Chapters 7-9 cover sex, life histories, and sexual selection in greater depth than they are dealt with in any other introductory textbook but without introducing advanced technical language. Textbook for undergraduate biology, anthropology, genetics, molecular biology, botany, zoology students. Stephen Stearns is Professor of Zoology, University of Basel, Switzerland and Rolf Hoekstra is Professor of Genetics, Wageningen Universtiy, The Netherlands. See above for second edition.
Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan (2000) "What is Life?", University of California Press paperback 288 pages.
A beautifully designed and artfully illustrated introduction into the question "What is life?" for the general reader. Lynn Margulis is well-known for her now widely accepted symbiosis theory. Scientifically accurate and a masterpiece of popular science writing. Her love for all living creatures is obvious and often results in poetic metaphors. See also my Gánti review.
Steve Jones (2000) "Almost like a whale. The Origin of Species Updated", Black Swan 499 pages, paperback.
Jones wrote the latest edition of Darwin's Origin of Species including everything biologists have learned since then. Critics of evolution will be interested in the chapter 'Difficulties on theory' in which modern problems of Darwin's theory are discussed. Reviews: Peter Bowler in NewScientist 23 Oct 1999 p60, Nature, LRB.
Monroe Strickberger (2000) "Evolution", Third Edition. Jones and Bartlett Publishers Int. 722 pages.
A basic introduction for biology students. A review.
See: my review on this website.
Mark Ridley (2000) 'Mendel's Demon. Gene Justice and the complexity of life', Weidenfeld & Nicolson. Paperback: 2001
Very important popular evolution book written by evolutionary biologist and author of textbook 'Evolution'. US title: 'The Cooperative Gene. How Mendel's Demon Explains the Evolution of Complex Beings' (2008).
See my review of this book.
——————————————— 1999 – 1993 ———————————————
Colin Patterson (1999) "Evolution", Second Edition. The Natural History Museum, London. hardback 166 pages.
See my review (updated 1 Aug 2023).
Info. Info (Cornell University Press, Comstock Book paperback edition 1999). This an overview of the theory of evolution written for a general public. Just completed before his death in 1998. Colin Patterson was a palaeontologist at The Natural History Museum, London. From the Preface to the First edition: "In writing this book I tried to produce an account of modern evolutionary theory which does not beg too many questions." From the Preface to the Second edition: "The knowledge in this second edition comes more from working things out for myself; it is that evolution is certainty. ... To learn the differences between neo-Darwinism and evolution ... but evolution is about what Darwin called 'descent with modification' ... I think that belief is now confirmed as completely as anything can be in the historical sciences. Neo-Darwinism concerns the explanation of descent with modification... I am no longer certain that natural selection is the complete explanation..."
Heredity, DNA, mutation, the neutral theory of molecular evolution and junk DNA are discussed in several chapters. Chapter 12 gives a detailed but readable account of the species and speciation on the Galapagos islands. Chapter 14 is about the philosophy of science: science versus pseudo-science, Is evolution science? alternative theories, A metaphysical research programme? Science and politics.
John Maynard Smith (1997) "The Theory of Evolution", Third edition, 354 pages.
A textbook in paperback by an authority in the field of evolutionary biology.
See short review on this site.
Roger Lewin (1997) 'Patterns in Evolution. The New Molecular View', Scientific American Library, hardback, 246 pages. With color illustratons.Ppaerback 1999.
'Junk DNA': "It is sometimes called junk DNA, despite the fact that at least some such sequences might perform yet to be discovered functions." (page 122). On page 123 there is a diagram of the structure of a gene with exons and introns in the right proportions (introns being larger than exons).
Mark Ridley (1996) "Evolution", Second Edition. Blackwell Science. 719 pages.
This textbook book is intended as an introductory text. (contents). See also third editon (2004) above.
Tijs Goldschmidt (1996) "Darwin's Dreampond. Drama in Lake Victoria",The MIT Press.
"Darwin's Dreampond tells the evolutionary story of the extraordinary "furu" and the battlefield leading to extinction. Tijs Goldschmidt skillfully blends a masterful discussion of the principles of neo-Darwinian evolution and speciation with a history of Lake Victoria's ecosystem."
George C Williams (1996) 'Plan And Purpose In Nature'. Weidenfeld, Nicolson.
Adaptionist storytelling; Functional Design and Natural selection; Design for what?; The adaptive body; What use is sex? (including: The origin of sexuality); Old age; Medical and philosophical implications.
Christian de Duve (1995) "Vital Dust. Life as a Cosmic Imperative", Basic Books, paperback, 362 pp
In 2011 de Duve summarises this book: "In that book and in others, I defended the view that life is an obligatory manifestation of matter, written into the fabric of the universe, and that there must be many sites of life, perhaps even intelligent life sometimes, in many parts of our galaxy and in others. I see no reason to change my mind on the topic, but feel that, in view of the conjectural nature of the affirmation, a question mark is in order." Life as a cosmic imperative? Phil. Trans. R. Soc 10 January 2011 (free).
Already in this book de Duve defends the inevitability of life and intelligent life in the cosmos. De Duve attacks evolutionary biologists Ernst Mayr, Stephen Jay Gould, Jared Diamond, Edward O. Wilson for their view that humans are a lucky accident (p. 292-297).
Matt Ridley (1994) "The Red Queen. Sex and the Evolution of Human Nature", Penguin paperback, 404 pages.
First published in 1993, but still a good, 'popular' introduction into evolutionary biology. There is overlap with Mark Ridley's Mendel's Demon, but it is slightly more popular. (see also: category sex & evolution).
David J. Merrell (1994) "The Adaptive Seascape: The Mechanism of Evolution", University of Minnesota Press, 259 pages.
"In this book, Merrell provides a lucid exposition and critique of the modern synthetic theory of evolution – its history, its present difficulties, and its future – from the perspectives of ecological genetics." Pluralistic approach to evolution: evolution takes place by many mechanisms. The case is made for rapid saltational evolution as well as gradual evolution. Importance of genes of major effect for evolutionary change. Special attention to criticism and controversies. David Merrell is the author of Ecological Genetics.
Alec Panchen (1993) "Evolution" 183 pages.
Panchen is interested in the question: what is the theory of evolution for? what does it explain? His answer is the natural classification of species. Natural selection explains adaptation but tells us nothing about the pattern of evolution and classification.
Susumu Ohno (1970) "Evolution by gene duplication , Springer-Verlag, 160 pp.
In 1970, geneticist Susumu Ohno proposed a simple, yet elegant, idea: New genes arise when a hiccup during cell division produces an extra copy of an existing gene, and that spare copy is free to mutate and take on new functions. This mechanism, he argued, is the single most important factor in evolution. This quickly became a classic that's still cited today, 12 years after his death. Review: Gene Duplication's Role in Evolution Gets Richer, More Complex. See: google books.
Charles Darwin (1859) "The Origin of Species"
John Murray, London, 24 Nov 1859. 477 pages.
Here is an on-line verson of the first edition of Darwin's revolutionary work. Each chapter can be downloaded separately. The on-line version makes full-text search (per chapter) possible. Here is an overview of the most popular books of Charles Darwin.
13 Dec 21
(this category has been moved from 'Extensions & alternative evolutionary theories' to 'Mainstream Evolutionary Biology', 11 May 2014).
Evo-Devo or Evolutionary Developmental Biology is a new discipline that integrates Evolution and Development. Evo-Devo shows why neo-Darwinism is incomplete. Evo-devo was not included in the neo-Darwinian Synthesis, so it is an extension (not an alternative for neo-Darwinism). No doubt Evo-Devo belongs to mainstream science, but still somebody has to construct a new Evolutionary Synthesis.
A concise introduction to evo-devo is Shaping Life. Genes, Embryos and Evolution by evolutionary biologist John Maynard Smith (1998). The 'Manifesto' of this new discipline is: Wallace Arthur (2000) The Origin of Animal Body Plans. In his Biased Embryos and Evolution (2004) (review: Science) Arthur develops into a full-blown critic of the 'neo-Darwinian Synthesis'. This paperback (233 pages) is written for a wider audience (without the technicalities but with the concepts and illustrations) and aims at a new inclusive 'Synthesis' from the point of view of evo-devo. The best-illustrated attractive accessible evo-devo introduction is written by the pioneer and leader of the evo-devo field Sean Carroll (2001, 2004) From DNA to Diversity. Molecular Genetics and the Evolution of Animal Design (review: Science), second edition: 2013. Carroll (2005) Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom (reviews: 15) is a personal account of the development and significance of the evo-devo field for the general reader (with several color plates and many bw illustrations). Carroll explains why the discovery of genes that control the development of the embryo revealed an unexpected unity in animal design. Furthermore, there is no better source for discovering the causes of evolutionary innovations in the animal kingdom. For anyone exploring evo-devo a study of modern developmental biology is recommended. The best background reading is Enrico Coen (1999) The Art of Genes (review: Nature) because it focuses on teaching the concepts of development - how an adult organism is made from an egg. For all the scientific details but still accessible, read Walter Gehring (1998) Master Control Genes in Development and Evolution - The Homeobox Story (reviews: Nature, Science). In 2006 appeared Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development by Nobel Prize winner Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard. The emphasis is on the genetics of development; short but interesting discussion of evolutionary aspects (reviews: American Scientist, Nature, Science). The most recent evo-devo is Wallace Arthur (2006) Creatures of Accident. The Rise of the Animal Kingdom, in which he argues that Natural Selection alone does not explain how complex creatures arise from simple ones. The importance of the divergence of replicated parts has been seriously underplayed in popular literature on evolution (review: Nature, Skeptic). Alessandro Minelli (2009) Forms of Becoming: The Evolutionary Biology of Development (info) the book clearly is targeted at the educated lay audience (good reading, short chapters, illustrated). Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution by Mark S. Blumberg (2008) opens an extraordinary window onto human development and evolution. Also focussing on the human body is the very accessible and attractive book Quirks of Human Anatomy: An Evo-Devo Look at the Human Body (info) by Lewis I. Held (2009).
Wallace Arthur (2021) 'Understanding Evo-Devo', Cambridge University Press, paperback 150 pages.
"One of the key questions is: Can the origins of structures such as beaks, eyes, and shells be explained within a Darwinian framework? The answer seems to be yes, but only by expanding the framework. This book discusses the required expansion, and the current state of play regarding our understanding of evolutionary and developmental origins." In the last chapter: 'Towards a More Comprehesive Evolutionary Synthesis'. Wallace Arthur is the author of many books, including Evolving Animals. The Story of our Kingdom (2014), Life through Time and Space (2017) and The Biological Universe. Life in the Milky Way and Beyond (2020).
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (2019) 'Animal Beauty. On the Evolution of Biological Aesthetics, MIT Press. 116 pp. 47 color illus.
Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is a Nobel Prize–winning biologist and author of Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development. This small book is illustrated with many watercolor drawings. Publishers info. This is a translation of Die Schönheit der Tiere: Evolution biologischer Ästhetik. The first part gives a short overview of color patterns in animals and the function of those patterns (not really about aesthetics I think). The second part is about the genetic, developmental and evolutionary causes of color patterns mainly in zebrafish. The existence of pattern formation in insects, mammals and birds is discussed, but not the mechanisms because next to nothing is known about pattern formation in those animals (according to the author).
A DVD about evo-devo: 'What Darwin Never Knew' (release date: 03/02/10).
Lewis I. Held (2017) 'Deep Homology?: Uncanny Similarities of Humans and Flies Uncovered by Evo-Devo', Cambridge University Press.
A short review in The Biologist. Also by this author: 'Quirks of Human Anatomy' (see below) and 'How the Snake Lost its Legs: Curious Tales from the Frontier of Evo-Devo'.
Jane Maienschein (2014) "Embryos Under the Microscope: The Diverging Meanings of Life", Harvard University Press.
Review Nature: "Her fascinating tour of them is a balanced combination of history and science. We track the thoughts of philosophers Aristotle and Descartes; follow the development of modern experimental embryology by scientists such as Frank Lillie; and examine the twentieth– and twenty-first-century focus on understanding the molecular and genetic contribution of the sperm, egg and embryo to the offspring. Through this, Maienschein – director of the Center for Biology and Society at Arizona State University in Tempe, and of the centre's Embryo Project – interweaves the science of embryology and the many controversies that it continues to spark." (May, 2014)
Lewis I. Held (2009) 'Quirks of Human Anatomy: An Evo-Devo Look at the Human Body', Cambridge University Press
"Anyone who thinks that our body is a marvel of mechanical engineering should get out a phone book and scan the listings of orthodontists, orthopedists, optometrists and chiropractors – to name just a few specialities. Face it: our body has many features that could work much better. The sad fact is that evolution is no engineer. It is just a tinkerer." (p.105) from chapter 6: 'Silly, Stupid, and Dangerous Quirks'. The chapter contains 29 cases of flaws of human anatomy. From the same author: How the Snake Lost its Legs: Curious Tales from the Frontier of Evo-Devo (2014).
Sean B. Carroll (2005) 'Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom, Norton, hardback, 350 pp. Illustrated with black-white and color illustrations.
A personal account of how the genes were discovered that control the formation of legs, fingers, wings and everything that sticks out of the body of an animal. The discovery of the genes that control the spots on a butterfly wing has become famous (page 211-212): "Well after the thrill of first seeing Distall-less in spots, we wrote up our results for formal publication. We quickly found out that not everyone would share our excitement. The journal Nature rejected the paper without further review. Ouch. But, if at first you don't succeed ... So, we sent the article to the journal Science. Its editors were much more receptive and decided to publish our work, and run a picture of a butterfly wing on the cover of that issue."
Sean B. Carroll et al (2001) 'From DNA to diversity. Molecular genetics and the evolution of animal design, Blackwell Science, paperback.
Very well illustrated (color images, diagrams, tables) guide to the genetic control systems that create the animal body. Although the title of the book is "From DNA to ..." there is no picture of the Watson & Crick model of DNA in the introduction. Fifty years after the discovery of DNA, it is assumed that the reader of this book knows the structure of DNA. The focus is on animals and the genetic toolkit that builds animals: butterflies, bats, rats, worms, mammals, mollucs, flies, birds, whales, fish, sponges.
|Short introductions [ in descending chronological order ]|
7 Jun 23
Here are some (very) short introductions to evolution (typically 100 - 200 pages) including some children's books.
Neil Ingram, Sylvia Hixson Andrews, Jane Still (2021) 'Evolution', Oxford University Press paperback, 176 pages.
Written primarily for 16–19 year old students. Publisher info.
Kostas Kampourakis (2020) 'Understanding Evolution', Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition, 216 pages. (First edition: 2014).
With special attention to the religious resistance to accepting evolution (chapter 2), conceptual obstacles to evolution (chapter 3), the limits of science and questions not answered by evolutionary theory (chapter 7). Ends with a Summary of Common Misunderstandings, and Further reading suggestions for each chapter. Illustrated. Kampourakis is also editor of Philosophy of Science for Biologists.
Robin Dunbar (2020) 'Evolution. What Everyone Needs to Know'. OUP paperback 160 pages.
Bernard Wood (2019) 'Human Evolution: A Very Short Introduction', Second Edition. OUP 160 pages.
Maggie Ryan Sandford (2019) 'Consider the Platypus: Evolution through Biology's Most Baffling Beasts', Black Dog & Leventhal.
Consider the Platypus explores the history and features of more than 50 animals to provide insight into our current understanding of evolution. Here is her blog.
Dorothy H. Crawford (2018) 'Viruses. A very short introduction', OUP.
A short, general introduction to viruses to help to understand the current SARS-CoV-2/covid-19 pandemic. The second edition (2018) contains a short paragraph in the introduction mentioning the covid-19 pandemic. Chapter about Epidemics and pandemics. Two main types of transmission: airborne and faecal-oral. Persistent viruses are present in the body without causing harm.
Marlene Zuk, Leigh W. Simmons (2018) 'Sexual Selection: A Very Short Introduction', Oxford University Press. 152 pages. illustrated. Info. Also available as ebook.
Edward L. Crisp (2018) 'Darwin's Theory: An Introduction to Principles of Evolution', CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 2018, Paperback, 501 pages.
Edward Crisp is a geologist, paleontologist. The books gives a rather complete overview of the theory of evolution. This is not a short introduction.
Brian Charlesworth, Deborah Charlesworth (2017) "Evolution: A Very Short Introduction", Oxford University Press, paperback
2nd Edition, small print, 146 pages, 21 black and white images. Info. Brian and Deborah Charlesworth are evolutionary biologists and also published: Elements of Evolutionary Genetics. Following Darwin, this book also contains a chapter 'Some Difficult Problems' (How can complex adaptations evolve? Why do we age? The evolution of sterile social castes. The origin of living cells and the origin of human consciousness). Notwithstanding the small size of this book, the authors did not fail to mention the effects of the ozonelayer and UV radiation on life (p.55). There is only one chapter about the history of life and geographical distrubution of species. So a good addition would be: Michael J. Benton (2008) The History of Life: A Very Short Introduction.
Sylvia A. Johnson (2013) "Shaking the Foundation. Charles Darwin and the Theory of Evolution", Twenty-First Century Books, 88 pages.
Ages: 11-18. "I cannot think that the world, as we see it, is the result of chance; & yet I cannot look at each separate thing as the result of design." English naturalist Charles Darwin wrote this in 1860, a year after publishing his theory of evolution. His words show his personal struggle.
Anne Wanjie (2013) "The Basics of Evolution (Core Concepts)" Rosen Pub Group, 112 pages
No information yet. Also by Anne Wanjie: The Basics of Biology, The Basics of Genetics, etc. (it's amazing to write and publish so many books at the same time!).
Eugene Byrne, Simon Gurr (2013) 'Darwin: A Graphic Biography', Smithsonian Books 100 pages.
Reading level: Ages 12 and up. Excerpt.
Christopher Lloyd, Andy Forshaw (2012) 'The What on Earth? Wallbook of Natural History: From the Dawn of Life to the Present Day (MINI EDITION), Natural History Museum 16 pp.
Michael Alan Park (2012) 'Exploring Evolution' Vivays Publishing, hardback 160 pages with 120 illustrations
info. Aimed at an educated reader who may know little about the topic. Michael Alan Park is an anthropologist with a specialty in evolutionary theory.
Richard Dawkins (2011) 'The Magic of Reality: How We Know What's Really True Bantam / Free Press.
"Despite some resemblance to a textbook, Dawkins's latest work reads more like a novel with science cast as the heroine. In an opening discussion that contrasts science with magic, the author notes that it is at least as thrilling. He demonstrates this through a comparison of traditional creation stories with scientific accounts for the origin and evolution of life on Earth. ... Dawkins does not simply provide the answers. Instead, he walks readers through detailed descriptions of how we know those answers. ... science for middle- and high-school students" (Melissa McCartney)
books of Richard Dawkins.
Sherrie Lyons (2011) 'Evolution: The Basics'. Routledge 200 pages.
info. Review: "This book's greatest strength is its first three chapters: a rapid and simple historical narrative recounting key events in the foundation of evolutionary theory from pre-Darwinian times through the modern synthesis of the 1940s. Readers seeking a brief summary of how evolutionary theory became the central theme of modern biology will find it here. ... Unfortunately, this book suffers from an excessive number of scientific errors mainly in chapters 4 through 6." NCSE reports Vol 32, No 3 (2012). Sherrie Lyons is the author of Thomas Henry Huxley: The Evolution of a Scientist.
Francisco J. Ayala (2011) 'Am I a Monkey? Six Big Questions about Evolution', The John Hopkins University Press, hardback 85 pp.
info. Short book with 6 chapters: Am I a Monkey? Why Is Evolution a Theory? What Is DNA? Do All Scientists Accept Evolution? How Did Life Begin? Can One Believe in Evolution and God? (8 illustrations). From the introduction: "Science and religon need not be in contradiction. Indeed, if they are properly understood, they cannot be in contradiction because they concern different matters." Compatibility of science and religion if the bible is not read literally, so Ayala disagrees with YEC.
Alan R. Rogers (2011) 'The Evidence for Evolution', The University of Chicago Press, 128 pages
info from The University of Chicago Press. A very short introduction to the evidence for evolution. Do species change? Can evolution explain design? Has there been enough time? Did humans evolve? Rogers's book focuses on the evidence that evolution happens, while saying as little as possible about how it happens (NCSE reports). Compare this book with Dawkins (2009) and Jerry A. Coyne (2009).
Jay Hosler (author), Kevin Cannon, Zander Cannon (illustrators) (2011) 'Evolution: The Story of Life on Earth', Hill and Wang, 160 pages
Graphic primer on evolution. Jay Hosler is professor of biology. For children and adults.
Daniel Loxton (2010) "Evolution. How We and All Living Beings Came To Be", Kids Can Press, 56 pages
Ages: 8 to 13, many color illustrations. See: books.google.com. Can something as complex and wondrous as the natural world be explained by a simple theory? The answer is yes.
'What Darwin Never Knew' (2010)
PBS, NOVA. Run time: 120 minutes Region: Region 1 (U.S. and Canada only).
Maybe: US Import?
Evo: Ten Questions Everyone Should Ask about Evolution (2010)
John I. Feldman (Director). Actors: Niles Eldredge, Lynn Margulis, Daniel Dennett, Peter and Rosemary Grant. Hummingbird Films, LLC
Run Time: 107 minutes. All Regions.
What is evolution? Who was Darwin? What is natural selection? How do species come about? Where do variations come from? What is a brief history of life? Is evolution random? What is the controversy? Why should anyone care about evolution? What role does cooperation play?.
John Ellis (2010) 'How Science Works: Evolution', Springer, 100 pages.
A Student Primer. A general reading book for those especially interested in Evolution and the philosophy of science: Evolution is just a theory, isn't it? What is a scientific theory anyway? Don't scientists prove things? What is the difference between a fact, a hypothesis and a theory in science? How does scientific thinking differ from religious thinking? Why are most leading scientists atheists? Darwin's theory of Evolution. The evidence for evolution. pdf (abridged version of the book). Review of the 2010 edition in Nature by Eugenie C. Scott.
See also: John Ellis (2016) 'How Science Works: Evolution. The Nature of Science and The Science of Nature', Paperback (7 chapters).
Recommended by Nick Lane (2022): "John Ellis is one of the clearest thinkers I know, and I strongly recommend his short (2016) book on evolution which is especially good on why Occam's razor (always seek the simplest explanation) is so central to scientific thinking."
Unfortunately, even the e-book version is very expensive.
Kathleen Krull, Boris Kulikov (2010) 'Charles Darwin', Penguin Viking Children's Giants of Science, 144 pages.
Age 10 and up years. info. See Customer Reviews at amazon.com.
'Darwin Darkest Hour' (2009). time: 98 min (1:38 min). Dutch subtitles / Ned. ondertiteling.
Very well done recreation of important episode in Darwin's life: when he received Wallace's letter containing his theory of evolution by natural selection. With many flashbacks to earlier periods and an important and sympathetic role for Emma Darwin who despite seriously worried by the adverse religious consequences of the theory of her husband, she always kept supporting and loving him. Even after Charles Darwin's death she keeps defending him.
Linda Gamlin (2009) "Evolution" DK Eyewitness Books, 72 pages
Age Range: 8 - 17 years. Hardback with a CD and wall chart.
John Scotney (2009) "The Theory of Evolution - Simple Guides" Publisher: Kuperard. Paperback. 168 pages.
Simple Guides Science are user-friendly introductions to the great scientific discoveries of the world written by experts in the field. info.
Jonathan Silvertown (Editor) (2009) "99% Ape: How Evolution Adds Up", University Of Chicago. Paperback 224 pages.
info. Silvertown is the author of Demons in Eden (2005), The Long and the Short of It. The Science of Life Span and Aging (2013) and the initiator of Evolution Megalab.
"The Genius of Charles Darwin", Richard Dawkins (2008).
Dvd, youtube video. info (wiki). Top Documentary films.
Michael J. Benton (2008) "The History of Life: A Very Short Introduction", OUP Oxford, 144 pages.
Together with the very short introduction of Brian Charlesworth and Deborah Charlesworth this book gives a good overview of evolution. An online version is available; abstracts of each chapter are free.
Janet Browne (2008) "Darwin's Origin of Species: A Biography.", Grove Press Paperback, 192 pages.
Janet Browne is the author of the famous Darwin biography Charles Darwin: The Power of Place. Review: New York Review of Books.
Adrian Desmond, James Moore, Janet Browne (2007) "Charles Darwin", Paperback, Oxford University Press, 136 pages
The first volume in a planned two-volume biography. info.
Hannah Bonner (2007) "When Fish Got Feet, Sharks Got Teeth, and Bugs Began to Swarm: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life Long Before Dinosaurs", National Geographic Children's Books, Hardcover, 48 pages.
Ages 9-12. Also from HB: "When Bugs Were Big, Plants Were Strange, and Tetrapods Stalked the Earth: A Cartoon Prehistory of Life before Dinosaurs".
Greg Krukonis (2007) 'Evolution For Dummies', For Dummies, Paperback: 384 pages
This is an amazing complete overview of evolutionary biology. Complicated subjects, concepts and important experiments are very well explained. I have only seen the Dutch translation. Nederlandse vertaling: 'Evolutieleer voor dummies', Pearson Addison Wesley, zie hier.
Carole Ann Camp (2006). "Darwin for Dummies" John Wiley & Sons Inc.
Mark Ridley (2006) "How to Read Darwin" Granta Books, 119 pages (W. W. Norton)
Mark Ridley presents and explains excerpts from the most important works of Darwin. He doesn't ignore politically sensitive passages in The Descent of Man. info.
Deborah Hopkinson (2005) "Who Was Charles Darwin?"
112 pages Grosset & Dunlap.
Age: 9 - 12 years. About 100 illustrations. info. Hopkinson is an American writer of children's books.
Burton Guttman (2005) "Evolution A Beginner's Guide" Oneworld Publications. 192 pages.
Burton Guttman is a Professor of Biology. info.
Paul Fleisher (2005) "Evolution" Twenty-First Century Books, 80 pages.
Series: Great Ideas of Science. Many bw and color illustrations. Google Books: preview of the book. Also: Lerner books (2006).
Dylan Evans, Howard Selina (2005) "Introducing Evolution", Icon Books.
info (Howard Selina: illustrations).
Cynthia Mills (2004) "The Theory of Evolution: What It Is, Where It Came From, and Why It Works", John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. paperback 218 pages
A short introduction, but it covers all aspects: Darwin and Wallace, the theory, reactions to the theory, the modern synthesis, impact on society (social darwinism, eugenics, creationism), modern developments (thermodynamics, game theory, sociobiology, punc eek, Kauffman). Surprisingly complete for its 200 pages! Glossary, bibliography, index. The only criticism I have is that the book could be improved by adding illustrations to help the reader's understanding of the text and make it more attractive. info.
Ellen Jackson (2004) "The Tree Of Life: The Wonders Of Evolution", Prometheus Books, Paperback.
Introduction for young children (Ages 4-8)
Charles Darwin (2004) "Penguin Great Ideas : On Natural Selection", Penguin Books Ltd; Rev Ed edition (2 Sep 2004) Paperback 128 pages.
Contains four chapters from The Origin of Species: Struggle for Existence, Natural Selection, Difficulties on Theory, Conclusion.
Kristan Lawson (2003) "Darwin and Evolution for Kids: His Life and Ideas with 21 Activities", Chicago Review Press, 160 pp.
Reading level: Ages 9-12. Google books (limited preview of the book).
Jonathan Howard (2001) "Darwin: A Very Short Introduction", Oxford University Press. 2001. 144 pages.
This provides an excellent brief survey of Darwin's life and work. info. An online version is available with free abstracts. Very useful.
Leslie Horvitz, Leslie Alan Horvitz (2001) "The Complete Idiot's Guide to Evolution", Alpha; 1st edition 336 pages (Paperback)
Patrick Tort (2001) "Discoveries: Darwin and the Science of Evolution", Harry N. Abrams; New Ed edition (2001), Paperback 159 pages.
Very well illustrated guide to Darwin and his theory.
Brian Charlesworth (2003) "Evolution: A Very Short Introduction",Oxford University Press, USA, 168 pages. info. In 2017 a 2 edition appeared (paperback, 160 pages).
Paul Strathern (1998) "Darwin And Evolution (Big Idea) [Paperback], Arrow, Paperback: 96 pages
This book is still available.
Rebecca Stefoff (1998) "Charles Darwin: And the Evolution Revolution", paperback, Oxford University Press, 128 pages
The hardback edition of 1996 is still available. Ages 12 and up.
Alvin Silverstein, Virginia B. Silverstein, Laura Silverstein Nunn (1998) "Evolution", Twenty-First Century Books, 64 pages.
"Discusses early theories of evolution including those of Plato, Aristotle, Hutton, and Malthus. Explains Darwin's research and his theory of natural selection. Considers how natural selection has been at odds with the theory of creationism. Shows how Darwin's theory, Mendelian genetics, and other genetic advances were combined to form a more complete explanation of evolution called the synthetic theory of evolution".
John Gribbin (1997) "Darwin in 90 Minutes, Constable and Robinson, 80 pages.
John Gribbin is a British science writer, see: wiki.
Jonathan Miller and Borin Van Loon (1992,1994) "Darwin for Beginners", Icon Books, 175 pages.
The cartoon guide to evolution. Have fun and learn. See also "Introducing Darwin" (UK edition, 2006). Also a Pantheon paperback edition 176 pages (2003).
Review: Darwin for Beginners is a superb introduction to a very tricky subject. It puts all the emphasis in the right place, is historically correct, scientifically impeccable, ... Anyone who reads and understands Jonathan Miller's text will know a good deal more about Darwinism than most biologists and historians..." from: Richard Lewontin (2001) 'It Ain't Necessarily So. The dream of the human genome and other illusions', second edition, paperback, The New York Review of Books, p. 65.
|Anti Creationism / ID. Pro Evolution [ in ascending chronological order ]|
There are many books responding, criticising, or refuting creationist books. One of the first is Science on Trial. The Case for Evolution by evolutionary biologist Douglas Futuyma (1982) (my review). The book is a general introduction and defence of evolution and still worth reading. In the same year appeared Niles Eldredge (1982) The monkey business: A scientist looks at creationism. Also an early one is Evolution and the Myth of Creationism: a basic guide to the facts in the evolution debate (1990) by Tim Berra. The book is still available. A response to creationists Michael Behe and Phillip Johnson is Robert Pennock's The Tower of Babel (1999). Pennock, a philosopher, criticises creationism, but remarkably is a theist himself. Pennock explains why evolution could be compatible with theism ('theistic evolution'). Also by Robert Pennock: Intelligent Design Creationism and Its Critics: Philosophical, Theological, and Scientific Perspectives (2002). It is a rich resource of articles by people of the 3 categories 'creationism', 'evolutionism', and 'theistic evolution' (pro- and anti-evolution). Authors are invited to comment on each other's papers and this results in interesting reading. It is largely philosophical, but chapter 12 ('Biology Remystified') is a good scientific critique of the critics of evolution (a demystification).
Paleontologist Niles Eldredge published in 2000 his criticism of creationism in The triumph of evolution and the failure of creationism. Evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci (2002) wrote a balanced analysis of the Creation-Evolution controversy: Denying Evolution. Creationism, Scientism, and the Nature of Science. He pays attention to both the errors (fallacies) of scientists as well as creationists. He has good knowledge of the philosophy-of-science field (better than S.J. Gould and most other scientists) and he uses this knowledge not only to criticise creationist and evolutionist claims, but also to analyse the nature of science, religion and education in order to understand the evolution-creation controversy.
Physicist Victor Stenger (2003) wrote Has Science Found God? The Latest Results in the Search for Purpose in the Universe to argue for an uncreated universe. The universe came into being without design or cause. No energy was required to "create" the universe out of an initial void of zero energy. We have a universe rather than a void because that universe is more stable than the void. Discusses also Fine Tuning and much more.
At the very beginning of 2004 three new authoritative books specifically directed against Intelligent Design Theory simultaneously appeared. Professor of Philosophy, Biology and Physics Niall Shanks wrote God, the Devil, and Darwin. Physicist Mark Perakh wrote the razor-sharp and already much discussed Unintelligent Design. A revealing analysis of the intelligent design movement is the long awaited Creationism's Trojan Horse. The Wedge of Intelligent Design by Barbara Forrest and Paul R. Gross (review: Science, info. In July 2004 Matt Young and Taner Edis (editors) published Why Intelligent Design Fails: A Scientific Critique of the New Creationism. I contributed chapter 3 to the book (now also in paperback).
In august 2004 Eugenie C. Scott (National Center for Science Education, NCSE) published Evolution vs. Creationism : An Introduction (now in paperback; info, 2nd ed), which gives an introductory overview of all aspects of the controversy (historical, scientific, religious, legal, educational, philosophical). In May 2006 a 16-author volume Intelligent Thought: Science Versus The Intelligent Design Movement was edited by John Brockman (18, info, review: Nature).
Autumn/Winter 2006 appeared Michael Shermer (2006) Why Darwin Matters. The Case Against Intelligent Design (review: American Scientist, info); and Cameron Smith & Charles Sullivan (2006) The Top 10 Myths About Evolution (info).
The first book in 2007: Mark Isaak (2007) The Counter-Creationism Handbook. (info, info). Philosopher Philip Kitcher, known from his Abusing Science (1982), published exactly 25 years later Living with Darwin: Evolution, Design, and the Future of Faith (2007) in which he debunks today's creationism and Intelligent Design. Victor J. Stenger's (2007) God: The Failed Hypothesis. How Science Shows That God Does Not Exist: "My primary concern here will be to evaluate the less familiar arguments in which science provides evidence against the existence fo God", (info, review). March 2007 appeared Scientists Confront Intelligent Design and Creationism by Andrew J. Petto (Editor), Laurie R. Godfrey (Editor). In May 2007 appeared The Panda's Black Box: Opening Up the Intelligent Design Controversy by Daniel J. Kevles (Foreword), Nathaniel C. Comfort (editor). David Sloan Wilson (2007) Evolution for Everyone: How Darwin's Theory Can Change the Way We Think About Our Lives (reviews: Nature, American Scientist; BioScience (free), excerpt) is not an anti-creationism book but a defence without attack. Undeniably, Francisco Ayala (2007) Darwin's Gift to Science and Religion rejects creationism and ID. The book is also an introduction to the theory of evolution, but the most important message of the book is: there is no contradiction between science and religion because they ask different questions. Ayala does not explicitly endorse theistic evolution, but I think he must be classified as an Theistic Evolutionist.
Geologist-palaeontologist Donald R. Prothero (2007) wrote Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters to demonstrate the wide variety of transitional forms in the animal kingdom that have been found, thereby refuting the claim that there are no 'missing links' (the book is very well illustrated including color plates) (info; review; review, review) (second edition 2017). Sahotra Sarkar (2007) wrote a philosophical critique of intelligent design and fine-tuning: Doubting Darwin: Creationist Designs on Evolution.
Kenneth Miller (2008) wrote an updated critique of intelligent design: Only a theory: Evolution and the Battle for America's Soul (review). Jill Schneiderman and Warren Allmon (2009) collected a team of earth scientists to show the flaws of intelligent design: For the Rock Record: Geologists on Intelligent Design. Matt Young, known from WIDF published in 2009 Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails). Evolutionary biologist John C. Avise (2010) examines many gross deficiencies in human DNA in his Inside the Human Genome: A Case for Non-Intelligent Design (review, see: google books).
Paleontologist Robert Asher shows why evolution and belief do not contradict each other: Evolution and Belief Confessions of a Religious Paleontologist (2012) (info).
Jason Rosenhouse (2022) 'The Failures of Mathematical Anti-Evolutionism', Cambridge University Press.
An annotated contents is available here (18 May 2022). A general review is available here (14 Jun 2022).
Jonathan Marks (2021) 'Why Are There Still Creationists?: Human Evolution and the Ancestors', WILEY 112 Pages.
Publishers info. Jonathan Marks is Professor of Anthropology. "modern anti-evolutionists reject humanistic scholarship about the Bible even more fundamentally than they reject the science of our simian ancestry".
Donald R. Prothero (2020) 'The Story of Evolution in 25 Discoveries. The Evidence and the People Who Found It', Columbia University Press.
Nathan H. Lents (2018) 'Human Errors: A Panorama of Our Glitches, from Pointless Bones to Broken Genes', HMH Books; 256 pp.
Lents is a biologist. See wikipedia. Pointless bones and other anatomical errors; Our Needy Diet; Junk in the Genome; Homo sterilis; Why God invented Doctors; A Species of Suckers.
Lents has a blog: The Human Evolution Blog. Lents is the author of Not So Different: Finding Human Nature in Animals (2017).
Donald R. Prothero (2017) 'Evolution What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters', Columbia University Press hardback.
Aron Ra (2016) 'Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism', Pitchstone Publishing. Also eBook.
Studied geoscience. Partly auto-didact. The book is based on a popular series of 17 youtube videos. There is also a critique: Debunking Aron Ra's Foundational Falsehoods of Creationism Video Series.
Bill Nye (2014) "Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation", St. Martin's Press.
"Our understanding of evolution came to us by exactly the same method of scientific discovery that led to printing presses, polio vaccines and smartphones.". Pro-evolution, anti-creationism. Bill Nye is an American science educator.
Karl S. Rosengren, Sarah K. Brem, E. Margaret Evans, Gale M. Sinatra (Editors) (2012) "Evolution Challenges: Integrating Research and Practice in Teaching and Learning about Evolution" OUP, Hardcover.
Reviewed in Reports of the NCSE Vol 33, No 5 (2013): "The first half of the volume focuses on the cognitive and perceptual constraints that influence people's understanding and acceptance of evolution. The second half of the book: proposing and evaluating strategies for teaching evolution to different kinds of learners (children, adults, and teachers) in a variety of contexts (classrooms, museums, and online). ... A final theme that runs throughout the volume concerns the goals of science education in general, and of evolution education in particular."
See Oxford Scholarschip Online for an abstract of every chapter! Important book, but too expensive.
John C. Avise (2010) 'Inside the human genome. A case for non-intelligent design', Oxford University Press, hardback.
Focus on flawed design in the human genome because perfect design points to perfect natural selection or perfect designer. So flawed design is a challenge for scientists (evolutionary biologists) and ID proponents alike. Many examples and lists of genetic diseases caused by all sorts of mutations in DNA. For example: lists of genetic disorders caused by RNA splicing errors; genetic disorders caused by faulty genomic imprinting; genetic disorders caused by mutations in mitochondrial DNA. John Avise is the author of Conceptual Breakthroughs in evolutionary genetics. A brief history of shifting paradigms (see on this page).
Jason Rosenhouse (2012) "Among the Creationists: Dispatches from the Anti-Evolutionist Front Line ", Oxford University Press, Hardcover: 272 pages.
Jason Rosenhouse is associate professor of mathematics and the author of Evolution blog.
Walter M. Fitch (2012) "The Three Failures of Creationism: Logic, Rhetoric, and Science" University of California Press, paperback 177 pp.
Info + Chapter One. Walter M. Fitch, a pioneer in the study of molecular evolution, has written this cogent overview of why creationism fails with respect to all the fundamentals of scientific inquiry.
Daniel J. Fairbanks (2007) 'Relics of Eden. The powerful evidence of evolution in human DNA'. Prometheus Books. Hardback 281 pp. Many bw illustrations. Paperback 2010.
A book on the molecular evidence of human evolution (DNA, chromosomes). DNA and chromosomal comparison of humans and chimpanzee. Pseudogenes. The last two chapters are about the clash between faith and reason (religon and science).
Christopher Mcgowan (1984) 'In the Beginning. A Scientist Shows Why the Creationists Are Wrong', Prometheus Books, 221 pages.
Chris McGowan is a vertebrate paleontologist. This book has been written before the emergence of the 'Intelligent Design' movement.
The origin of life & Astrobiology
Origin of life
Historically, the origin of life is a not part of Darwinism, simply because Darwin did not discuss the origin of life. Evolution according to Darwin is the origin of species from the first forms of life. Indeed, there is no origin of life in a modern evolution textbook such as Mark Ridley (2004) 'Evolution'. However, there is excellent coverage in the evolution textbook Strickberger (2000).
The Origin of Life research field started with Alexander Oparin (1936) The Origin of Life (reissued in 2003 by Dover Publications). In the past two decades a number of popular science books on the origin of life have been published. Two short introductions (both under 125 pages) are Seven Clues to the Origin of Life by A.G. Cairns-Smith (1995). Although he wrote the book as a scientific detective story, he did not manage to make complex matters comprehensible for me. The second is by the physicist Freeman Dyson (1999) Origins of Life (second edition). It is an accessible book about the origin of life for the non-specialist. Dyson proposes the 'double-origin hypothesis': life began twice. One kind of 'life' capable of metabolism and the other capable of replication. I prefer this book of the two. A critical but non-creationist treatment of the origin of life is: Robert Shapiro (1986) Origins. A Skeptic's Guide to the Creation of Life on Earth. Whereas most authors in this category are optimists, Shapiro typically is a pessimist. A fascinating and sometimes bewildering book that covers both the origin and evolution of life is At Home in the Universe by Stuart Kauffman. A crystal clear analysis of the problem of the origin of life, with a fine balance between details and general overview of the subject is The Fifth Miracle. The Search for the Origin and Meaning of Life (1999) (14) by the physicist and popular science writer Paul Davies. Davies has a non-dogmatic, non-intelligent-design position, which could be described as a 'bio-friendly-' and 'mind-friendly-universe'. He is very good at describing the issues of life, information and complexity. The following three books are popular science books but contain all the biological details. Nobel Prize winner Christian de Duve (2002): Life Evolving. Molecules, Mind and Meaning (review: Science). This well written book is a completely updated version of his Vital Dust (1995) (see below). It is about the origin of life, the origin of eukaryotes, our brain and religion. De Duve believes in the inevitability of life. Life is no accident. He presents original ideas about the origin of life in a very readable way (see more below). Interesting for specialists and non-specialists. Evolutionary biologists John Maynard Smith & Eörs Szathmáry (1999) wrote the influential and highly original book The Origins of Life. From the Birth of Life to the Origin of Language (see: my short review and: Gabby Dover in Nature (20 May 1999). I learned a lot of new things from Christopher Wills and Jeffrey Bada (2000) The Spark of Life. Darwin and the Primeval Soup. The title of this book is somewhat misleading, but the book is about the origin of life and is strong in education, science and the key figures in the history of biology (illustrated including colour plates). Recommended for beginners too. An admirable, very complete and academic overview of the origin of life question from Aristotle to Kauffman is The Emergence of Life on Earth: A Historical and Scientific Overview by biochemist, philosopher, historian of science Iris Fry (2000). The balance between science (many details), history and philosophy can hardly be improved. The third theory of the origin of life (Senapathy and Schwabe) is missing (see also a short discussion here). A highly original and superior (but also expensive) book about the origin of life is Tibor Gánti (2003) The Principles of Life. Hungarian chemical engineer Gánti developed an extremely useful and stimulating set of defining properties of life; produced the best theoretical model of life ever produced, applied those principles to a novel attack on the problem of the origin of life and produced a very comprehensible account of all this. Very stimulating book. My review includes a comparison with 17 other books on the origin of life. Robert Hazen's Genesis - The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin (2005) provides the best overview of the origin of life field for the non-specialist reader sofar (reviews: Nature, Science, Orig Life Evol Biosph).
All the above authors locate the origin of life on Earth. The alternative view is the panspermia theory. Life came from space and either was brought by comets to the Earth (Fred Hoyle The Intelligent Universe; Wickramasinghe: 12), or by a spaceship. This last option was defended (although not well elaborated) by the Nobel Prize winner Francis Crick (1981) in a short popular book Life Itself. Its Origin and Nature (8). An up-to-date, well argued, original, thought-provoking defence of the panspermia hypothesis is biologist Clive Trotman (2004) The Feathered Onion. Creation of Life in the Universe. Trotman uses irreducible complexity in a non-creationist way to argue for panspermia. This is a unique approach. As far as I know the only origin of life book from a biblical perspective that deals with modern scientific evidence is Fazala Rana & Hugh Ross (2004) Origins of Life. Biblical and Evolutionary models face off (review: Orig Life Evol Biosph).
6 Aug 22
Nick Lane (2022) 'Transformer: The Deep Chemistry of Life and Death.', W. W. Norton & Company.
I wrote a blog about the book: Did Nick Lane solve the origin of life? (5 Sep 2022).
"Thinking about life only in terms of information is distorting. Seeking new laws of physics to explain the origin of information is to ask the wrong question, which can't be answered precisely because it is not meaningful. A far better question goes back to the formative years of biology: what processes animate cells and set them apart from inanimate matter? ... Metabolism is what keeps us alive – it is what being alive is – the sum of the continuous transformations of small molecules". ... This book aims to show that the flow of energy and matter through cells structures biological information rather than the other way around. ... genes did not 'invent' metabolism, but the reverse." The book has been reviewed in Science 30 Jun 2022.
Carl Zimmer (2021) 'Life's Edge: The Search for What It Means to Be Alive', Dutton books.
Read an excerpt at the publishers website. Carl Zimmer is the author of several evolution textbooks. Science magazine: "Carl Zimmer's Life's Edge is a departure from his previous work in that it is a book that is as much about what scientists have so far failed to understand as what they have come to understand. As its subtitle suggests, this book is about how life is defined, how life arose, and how we tell life from nonlife.".
Jeremy England (2020) 'Every Life Is on Fire: How Thermodynamics Explains the Origins of Living Things', Basic Books.
Nature (4 Nov 2020): "Jeremy England trained as a biochemist, gained a physics PhD, is ordained as a rabbi and has been a university physicist and a director in artificial intelligence at drug firm GlaxoSmithKline. These interests feed his book about life's origins, which explores his unproven thermodynamic hypothesis of "dissipative adaptation": that random groups of molecules can self-organize to absorb and dissipate heat from the environment more efficiently. Original, intriguing and theological, the book will probably be scientifically controversial.". See also A New Physics Theory of Life in Scientific American (2014). Jeremy England believes that "the world and everything in it was created by the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob, just like the Bible says", but he is not an anti-Darwinist and rejects Intelligent Design (ID).
"Looking at evolution from the standpoint of thermodynamics does not replace the role played by natural selection in a Darwinian view of things." "Darwinian evolution through natural selection is quite clearly an instance of dissipative adaptation". (chapter 7).
Karo Michaelian (2016) 'Thermodynamic Dissipation Theory of the Origin and Evolution of Life', CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, 12th printing, March 2017
Author summary: "Salient characteristics of RNA, DNA and other fundamental molecules suggest an origin of life drive by UV-C light."; "The purpose of life is photon dissipation.". Aims also to replace Darwinian natural selection with 'thermodynamic selection' because Darwinism is incomplete and deficient. The concept "Darwinian fitness" is a tautology. Rejects the deep sea hydrotermal vent hypothesis and proposes life originated at the ocean surface. Also rejects the RNA-World Hypothesis and the dichotomy of "replication first" and "metabolism first" theories of the origin of life. Defends Lovelock's Gaia hypothesis. Home at ResearchGate and his blog. See ResearchGate page.
Eric Smith, Harold Morowitz (2016) The Origin and Nature of Life on Earth. The Emergence of the Fourth Geosphere. Cambridge University Press. 64 colour illus. 4 maps 5 tables.
Info from the publisher. Contents: The planetary scope of biogenesis; Life on Earth today; The geochemical context for the biosphere; The architecture of metabolism; Higher-level structures; Emergence of the biosphere; The phase transition paradigm for emergence; The nature of the living state. Harold Morowitz passed away March 22 2016. Book recommended by Nick Lane: "A magistral volume ... manages to present new ideas with admirable clarity, while being balanced and exhaustive".
Manfred Eigen (2013) 'From Strange Simplicity to Complex Familiarity: A Treatise on Matter, Information, Life and Thought', Oxford University Press, 704 pp.
Chapter 5 Complexity and Self-Organisation is about life and evolution: "The theory confirms formally Darwin's result. However, the interpretation is completely different from the one generally encountered. Under normal conditions there is no fittest single individual. Rather, fitness is a property of a population. (...) It also unifies the mechanisms of origin and evolutionary adaptation". This is a book for specialists. Hopefully, a popular edtion of the book will be published!
Review: "...aims to integrate current scientific knowledge from different fields to show that evolution is a physical process based on clear physical laws" ... "Life is based on physics, but its ultimate outcome is of a sophistication that transcends anything we can describe by any known physical law." "Eigen demarks a clear boundary between science and religion and joins those asking for mutual respect" (Science 4 Oct 13).
Review Philip Ball: "The best I can do to intimate its thrust is to say that it attempts to place evolutionary theory on a rigorous basis, rooted in thermodynamics, self-organisation and information theory. It claims that natural selection, rather than being something that just happens, is a physical law, specifically a phase transition in information space: an inevitable consequence of the way information is organised."
The book is too expensive!!! (even the ebook is € 216,34 !!!) But see google books for a preview.
Jacob Berkowitz (2012) 'The Stardust Revolution. The New Story of Our Origin in the Stars', Prometheus Book 310 pages
Info:"Twentieth-century astronomy was dominated by astrophysics, the search for the physical origins and structure of the universe. Now a new breed of scientists–astrobiologists and astrochemists–are taking the study of life into the space age. Astrobiologists study the origins, evolution and distribution of life, not just on Earth, but in the universe."
Addy Pross (2012) "What is Life? How chemistry becomes biology", Oxford University Press, 224 pages. Also ebook edition.
Info including free Chapter 1 and youtube interview. A short, friendly introduction to questions: What is Life? What is the essence of life? How did life originate? from the perspective of a theoretical chemist. Accessible for non-chemists due to lack of technical details. His views are summarized in: Toward a general theory of evolution: Extending Darwinian theory to inanimate matter, Journal of Systems Chemistry 2011 (Open Access), and Life's restlessness (Aeon). Review: Trends in Evolutionary Biology (Open).
I wrote a full review of the book on a separate page on this website.
Robert M. Hazen (2012) 'The Story of Earth. The First 4.5 Billion Years, from Stardust to Living Planet', Viking, New York, 2012. 318 pp.
Reviews: Nature (3 May 12). Science (28 Sep 2012): "He wants to convey a grand vision of the 'coevolution' of life and the inorganic Earth over the eons. Hazen's mineral-centered perspective is fresh. it centers on the importance of mineral surfaces for the origin and early evolution of life and the effects of an evolving biosphere on the origin and diversity of minerals. Most of the minerals on Earth today, Hazen argues, exist because life caused the pervasive oxygenation of Earth's surface environment." (a few minor errors are present in the book according to the reviewer).
David Deamer (2011) 'First Life. Discovering the Connections between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began', Univ. of California Press hb 272 pages.
info. "One of the main arguments I will make in this book is that structures resembling microscopic soap bubbles were an absolute requirement for life to begin, as essential to the process as the assembly of genes and proteins" (p.3). This is a useful book. No notes or references but useful links and websites. Frequently asked questions about Intelligent Design.
Reviews: Nature: Deamer's hypothesis depends on polymers, the reviewer, Robert Shapiro, suggests that life started without the presence of polymers; and instead, heredity and catalysis began with monomers!
Michael Yarus (2010) "Life From an RNA World: The Ancestor Within", Harvard University Press, 208 pp.
Reviews: Nature, Science, Trends in Evolutionary Biology, Info (excerpt), website. Aimed at the general reader. Well-written overview and defense of the RNA-world written by a researcher at the front of research uncovering evidence for the RNA world. About the arguments, data, experiments and discoveries that form that basis of the RNA-world hypothesis. Good chapter about the origin of the genetic code. A pleasure to read.
John Barrow, Simon Conway Morris, Stephen Freeland, Charles Harper (editors) (2008) "Fitness of the Cosmos for Life: Biochemistry and Fine-Tuning, Cambridge Astrobiology. 501 pp.
Book contains 21 chapters by 25 authors including well-known scientists: Paul Davies, Christian de Duve, Harold Horowitz, Simon Conway Morris, Michael Denton. Part I: about Henderson and fine tuning; Part II: The fitness of the cosmic environment. Part III: The fitness of the terrestrial environment; Part IV: The fitness of the chemical environment. All authors are willing to consider the possibility that there may be fine tuning of the cosmological, planetary or chemical environment for life. Among the authors there are two theologians and one Christian philosopher.
Robert Hazen (2005) "Genesis - The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin", hardback Joseph Henry Press.
Info. Includes chapters The RNA-World and The Pre-RNA-World. Very shortly the work of Albert Eschenmoser is mentioned, but a lot about the PAH world.
Manfred Eigen (1992, 1996) 'Steps towards Life. A perspective on evolution', Oxford University Press, paperback (1996), 173 pp.
"The main aim of this book is to make the principles of evolution clear and comprehensible, and to incorporate them into a unified physical world-view." Eigen won the 1967 Nobel Prize in Chemistry. Condensed writing.
28 Jan 23
To understand the origin of life one must understand its planetary and cosmological context. A very attractive introduction is: Astrobiology: A Brief Introduction by Kevin W. Plaxco & Michael Gross (2006). This is essential scientific background knowledge for those interested in 'fine-tuning' of the universe for life and the origin of life itself. A short introduction is: Life in the Universe. A Beginner's Guide by Lewis Dartnell (2007). An astrobiology book with the emphasis on 'astro' is Chris Impey (2007) The Living Cosmos: Our Search for Life in the Universe, which is reviewed in Nature (updated edition 2011). A biogeochemistry book combining chemistry, geology, astrobiology and microbiology is: Echoes of Life: What Fossil Molecules Reveal about Earth History by Susan M. Gaine et al (2008). The most recent astrobiology book is: Lucas John Mix (2009) Life in Space. Astrobiology for Everyone(info). The central theme of Joseph Gale (2009) Astrobiology of Earth: the emergence, evolution and future of life on a planet in turmoil is the fortuitous combination of numerous cosmic factors that together produced the special environment which enabled the emergence, persistence and evolution of life on our own planet. A similar work is: How to Find a Habitable Planet by James Kasting (2010) (review: Nature: "For Kasting, finding both liquid water on the surface and oxygen in the atmosphere would be enough"). Biochemist David Deamer (2011) introduces astrobiology in his First Life: Discovering the Connections Between Stars, Cells, and How Life Began (info).
Wallace Arthur (2023) 'Understanding Life in the Universe', Cambridge University Press; New edition. Paperback 150 pages.
Hardback edition: The Biological Universe. Life in the Milky Way and Beyond (2020). Wallace Arthur published several books on evolution (see this website). See information from the publisher (with chapter listing). This is a short and useful introduction to astrobiology. The author prefers a 'universal biology' or a moderate form of 'parallel life' ('Parallel basics') and rejects 'parochial biology' or 'contrasting life' view. A good introduction to Astrobiology.
Arik Kershenbaum (2021) 'The Zoologist's Guide to the Galaxy. What Animals on Earth Reveal about Aliens – and Ourselves.
Cambridge zoologist Dr Arik Kershenbaum provides readers with a tentative sketch of the nature of potential alien life on other potentially habitable planets. Kershenbaum assumes that evolution on other planets would likely play out in a manner recognizable to us earthlings because of the universality of the laws of physics, chemistry, and even biology and because there are a restricted number of behavioral imperatives to which all organisms are beholden. See: review in Science.
Dirk Schulze-Makuch, William Bains (2017) 'The Cosmic Zoo: Complex Life on Many Worlds', Springer, paperback.
Astrobiology from the viewpoint of chemistry and cellbiology.
Karel Schrijver, Iris Schrijver (2015) "Living with the Stars. How the Human Body is Connected to the Life Cycles of the Earth, the Planets, and the Stars", Oxford University Press.
Karel Schrijver is astrophysicist and his wife, Iris Schrijver, is professor of pathology. From the publisher: "Shows the many connections between the human body and the world around it, from microbes to the stars. Explains the impermanence of the human body and of the world in which we live, and how cycles of creation and destruction maintain our body." This interview helps a lot. Compare this book with: Neil Shubin (2013) The Universe Within. The book is partly Big History.
Caleb Scharf (2014) "The Copernicus Complex: The Quest for Our Cosmic (In)Significance", Allen Lane/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Review: "How reasonable is it to think that we are alone in the vast expanses of space? And how significant is life on Earth on the Universal (or multiversal) scale? These are the questions that astrobiologist Caleb Scharf addresses intelligently and comprehensively in his beautifully written The Copernicus Complex. The book offers a grand tour of important findings from astronomy to biology that are relevant to the cosmic and microscopic search for life." (Nature, 28 Aug 2014)
David C. Catling (2013) "Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction", OUP Oxford Paperback: 160 pages
Catling is one of the world's first astrobiology professors at the University of Washington. (I haven't seen this book). For a review see NCSE.
Lee Billings (2013) "Five Billion Years of Solitude: The Search for Life Among the Stars", publisher: Current
Review: "Science writer Lee Billings deftly captures both behind-the-scenes ructions and landmark discoveries in his tour of this multidisciplinary field, its history and its players. " (Nature). Review: Scientific American Oct 2013.
Athena Coustenis, Thérèse Encrenaz (2013) "Life Beyond Earth: The Search for Habitable Worlds in the Universe", Cambridge University Press
Review: "Is the biosphere that so astounds us one of thousands? In this packed primer on exoplanetary life, distinguished astrophysicists Athena Coustenis and Thérèse Encrenaz summarize the science and speculation. Kicking off with planet formation, life's origins on Earth and extreme environments, they boldly go into areas such as potential habitats in the outer Solar System and far-future ideas such as "terraforming" Mars for human habitation" (Nature 26 Sep 13).
Neil Shubin (2013) "The Universe Within: Discovering the Common History of Rocks, Planets, and People", Pantheon. 240 pp. Many b.w. illustrations.
Info. Review: Nature: "the follow-up of Shubin's masterpiece Your Inner Fish. ... Shubin is at his best when he deals with anatomy and biology, as in his discussion of the inventive geologist Michel Siffre. ... The Universe Within is a charming and enjoyable read ... ".
Chapter 2 (Blast from the past) is an excellent example of doing Big History: connecting rocks, planets, people and stars.
Kevin W. Plaxco, Michael Gross (2006) 'Astrobiology: A Brief Introduction', John Hopkins University Press., paperback 259 pp. Second edition 2011, third edition 2021.
A very attractive introduction to astrobiology. Chapters: What is life? Origins of a habitable universe and planet, Primordial soup, Origin of life, Origin of cells, Evolution of life on earth, Life in extreme environments, Search for extraterrestrial life. For a discussion of their definition of life see here. The emphasis is on the 'biology' part of astro-biology. See also my amazon review
"We have revised the entire text both to reflect scientific advancements and to eliminate weaknesses that attentive readers of the earlier editions have kindly brought to our attention." (3th edition).
Robert Shapiro (2001) 'Planetary Dreams: The Quest to Discover Life Beyond Earth', Paperback. Hardback: 1999.
"No quantity of personal accounts, photographs of objects in the sky, or sketches of humanoids can ever establish the claim that aliens are here." He continues to describe what evidence is required: "a hair or flake of skin from a humanoid would be even better." An early exploration of the search for (intelligent) life in the universe. See other books of Robert Shapiro on this page.
Peter Ward, Donald Brownlee (2000) 'Rare Earth. Why Complex Life is Uncommon in the Universe', Copernicus, hb 333 pp.
Peter Ward is a geologist and Donald Brownlee astronomist and astrobiologist. Important book; the title gives the summary! Simple life may be common in the universe, complex life requires specific environmental conditions to arise. However, after the book was published, Earh-like exoplanets have been discovered, so Earth is not rare. Also written by Peter Ward: The Medea Hypothesis. Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? (2009) (my review)
Ecology & Earth System Science
31 Dec 13
11 Apr 14
To understand the origin and evolution of life one must understand the earth and its history. James Lovelock's Gaia theory has initiated Earth Systems Science (review). A critique of Gaia is: Peter Ward (2009) The Medea Hypothesis: Is Life on Earth Ultimately Self-Destructive? (info). For the cosmological context of life jump to: astrobiology.
Alan de Queiroz (2013) "The Monkey's Voyage: How Improbable Journeys Shaped the History of Life" Basic Books Hardcover
Biologist Alan de Queiroz describes the radical new view of how fragmented distributions of plants and animals came into being. The genomic revolution has made reams of new data available.
Review: "Biogeography is undergoing a sea change, argues Alan de Queiroz. The dominant theory of global species dispersal previously centred on the break-up of the supercontinent Gondwana, starting some 160 million years ago. Now, the idea of species traversing oceans is gaining ground. Perhaps the most compelling scenario is the 'monkey transfer' from Africa to South America, envisioned as a simian troop hitching a ride on an uprooted, floating tree." (Nature 2 Jan 2014).
Excerpt: Introduction of the book (pdf) (NCSE website).
Review: Pandas Thumb.
Review: Science (11 Apr 14): "De Queiroz argues for the importance of oceans as biogeographic highways as well as barriers. ... Supporters of the vicariance paradigm hold that dispersals over great distances are so unlikely that they never actually happen and therefore condemned dispersal biogeography as "a science of the improbable, the rare, the mysterious and the miraculous" ... De Queiroz's centerpiece example is the seemingly miraculous transoceanic dispersal of monkeys. ... The central arguments of The Monkey's Voyage appear to be increasingly well recognized nowadays ..."
R. Ford Denison (2012) "Darwinian Agriculture. How Understanding Evolution Can Improve Agriculture", Princeton University Press.
Info including Chapter 1: "Chapter 4 proposes three core principles that will be developed through out the rest of the book. First, natural selection is fast enough, and has been improving plants and animals for long enough, that it has left few simple, tradeoff-free opportunities for further improvement. ... The first nine chapters mainly emphasize implications of past evolution."
Review (Science 5 Oct 12): "Denison believes that additional opportunities for "reversing" past natural selection and thereby breeding more "cooperative" plants that boost crop yields. ...
Crop breeders should take note whenever traits that favor individual fitness under natural conditions–such as aggressive root growth or horizontally positioned leaves–can be jettisoned in favor of traits that improve overall yield by enhancing the performance of the entire crop population. ...
Denison contends that using genetic engineering to enhance tradeoff-free photosynthetic efficiency or water-use efficiency may be extremely challenging because millions of years of natural selection may have already experimented with mutations that enhance plant fitness through these traits. ...
Past natural selection has already perfected many physiological traits that are relevant to agriculture. ...
The structure and function of natural ecosystems have not evolved to maximize productivity."
A profound book. See for a list of chapters with abstracts Princeton Scholarship Online.
Charles H. Langmuir & Wally Broecker (2012) "How to Build a Habitable Planet: The Story of Earth from the Big Bang to Humankind" (Revised and Expanded Edition). PUP. 752 pp.
Info (including free chapters). This book is a revised and expanded version of the popular first edition of How to Build a Habitable Planet by W. S. Broecker in 1984. We also emphasize a "systems" approach to the history and understanding of our planet, and emphasize the linkages of all parts of the Earth system, as well as the relationship of those parts to the solar system and universe. Chapters: The Big Bang and Galaxy Formation; The Raw Material: Synthesis of Elements in Stars; Preliminary Fabrication: Formation of Organic and Inorganic Molecules; The Heavy Construction: The Formation of Planets and Moons from a Solar Nebula; etc. Much geology. Accessible to the interested reader who is not a scientist. Covers much of what is taught in Big History courses: from the Big Bang to Humankind.
Tim Lenton, Andrew Watson (2011) 'Revolutions That Made the Earth', Oxford University Press. 448 pp. Reissue edition: paperback 2013
"In this book, we want to weave many strands of science together to present a narrative of Earth's history and how we came to be here. It is a 'systems view' in that it considers the evolution of life and of the non-living environment as one coupled, indivisible process." Earth-systems scientists Tim Lenton and Andrew Watson describe the shaping of our planet by life, combining evolutionary biology and geochemistry. They use Maynard Smith en Szathmáry: The Major Transitions in Evolution, but add the invention of photosynthesis. They focus on two major events that transformed Earth: the oxygen revolution and the complexity revolution (rapid rise of eukaryotic life). Important: the critical steps model (pp 73-78).
See also my blogpost in Dutch about the book.
Theunis Piersma, Jan A. van Gils (2010) 'The Flexible Phenotype. A Body-Centred Integration of Ecology, Physiology, and Behaviour', Oxford University Press, 248 pp.
With special attention to the ecology, physiology, and behaviour of migrating birds. Info and free chapter.
Dennis McCarthy (2009) 'Here Be Dragons: How the Study of Animal and Plant Distributions Revolutionized Our Views of Life and Earth', Oxford University Press, hb 214 pages, illustrated.
Info. "While, like most people, I had grasped the basic principles of evolution in middleschool biology, I never had a truly profound and complete view of how evolutionary processes operate in the real world until I also understood it biogeographically". (p.10). Recommended. A nice introduction to biogeography. Unfortunately, there is virtually no discussion of many relevant and important molecular phylogenetic investigations of biogeographical problems. Review: Science (25 Jun 2010).
John Kricher (2009) 'The Balance of Nature. Ecology's Enduring Myth', Princeton University Press hb 237 pp.
Ecologist Kricher discusses the development of ecology as a science (Before and After Darwin) and the relation between evolution and ecology. From the Preface: "Ecology is a branch of evolutionary biology. This is because any form of biology is, in reality, a branch of evolutionary biology." (p.x). "Charles Darwin got ecology launched. Ecologists then promptly forgot about him for something like a half a century. Ecologists were conspicuously absent from the grand synthesis of evolutionary theory" (p. 67).
Menno Schilthuizen (2008) "The Loom of Life: Unravelling Ecosystems"
Springer, Hardcover 220 pp. b&w illustrations.
Review: Nature: "The Loom of Life is useful. Much of the public - and even some of the professional environmental movement - knows little about the rules ecologists have posited for creating and maintaining biodiversity. They might read this slender book for a bearing on how to tackle environmental problems."
The book discusses questions like: How many species are there? Why are there so many species? How are ecosystems assembled? Does each species have its unique niche or are species interchangeable? Why are some species rare and others common? How many species are going extinct and how many are newly introduced by people? How much tempering can our ecosystems tolerate before they collapse? The border between evolution (the origin of biodiversity) and ecology (maintenance of biodiversity and its role in ecosystems).
Peter J. Mayhew (2006) "Discovering Evolutionary Ecology: Bringing Together Ecology and Evolution" Oxford University Press Paperback 232 pages.
Lynn J. Rothschild, Adrian M. Lister (2003) "Evolution on Planet Earth. The Impact of the Physical Environment". Elsevier.
Vaclav Smil (2003) "The Earth's Biosphere: Evolution, Dynamics, and Change", paperback, MIT Press.
Info. Review: Nature: "Smil conveys the thrill of exploring the unknown planet we inhabit. His enthusiasm and the broadenss of this interest are infectious." (Peter Westbroek)
R. W. Sterner, J. J. Elser (2002) "Ecological stoichiometry: the biology of elements from molecules to the biosphere", Princeton University Press pp.584.
Info (free chapter 1). There is a link between astrobiology, origin of life, and Earth System Science: the biochemical deployment of chemical elements in organisms. See also: Ecological stoichiometry. See also: Biological Stoichiometry (free).
Lynn Margulis, Clifford Matthews, Aaron Haselton (editors) (2000) 'Environmental Evolution, second edition. Effects of the Origin and Evolution of Life on Planet Earth", MIT Press.
"In this book fifteen distinguished scientists discuss the effects of life–past and present–on planet Earth. Unlike other earth science and biology books, Environmental Evolution describes the impact of life on the Earth's rocky surfaces presenting an integrated view of how our planet evolved." (publisher).
K. D. Bennett (1996) "Evolution and Ecology: The Pace of Life ", Cambridge University Press
Macroevolutionary trends are not predictable, cannot be derived from changes in climate.
Richard Levins 1968 'Evolution in Changing Environments', Princeton University Press.
Prior to Levins' work, population genetics had assumed the environment to be constant, while mathematical ecology assumed the genetic makeup of the species involved to be constant. Levins modelled the situation in which evolution is taking place while the environment changes. One of the surprising consequences of his model is that selection need not maximize adaptation, and that species can select themselves to extinction. He encapsulated his major early results in Evolution in Changing Environments, a book based on lectures he delivered in Cuba in the early 1960s. (wikipedia).
History of the theory of evolution, and Big History
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There are different views about current theories of evolution, but there are also different views about the history of Darwinism. Darwinists, the critics and historians of science tell a different story about the role of Darwin and his forerunners in the creation of the theory of evolution. The standard history has been written by biologist Ernst Mayr: The Growth of Biological Thought, historian Peter Bowler: Evolution. The History of an Idea, and philosopher Michael Ruse (The Darwinian Revolution. Science red in tooth and claw, The Evolution-Creation Struggle). Betty Smocovitis wrote a fascinating study about the persons who created the neo-Darwinian synthesis: Unifying Biology. The Evolutionary Synthesis and Evolutionary Biology. Donald Forsdyke shows that historical research can be integrated with biochemical research with profit. Peter Bowler wrote about a non-Darwinian period in the history of evolution: The Eclipse of Darwinism: Anti-Darwinian Evolution Theories in the Decades around 1900. Historians reveal an image of Darwin substantially different from the standard textbook Darwin. A recent example is John Waller's Fabulous Science. Fact and Fiction in the history of scientific discovery: Mendel never grasped the basic tenets of Mendelian genetics (!), Darwin was a Lamarckist throughout his life (!) and Pasteur suppressed unwelcome data. In his enthusiasm to debunk the myths Waller makes some mistakes himself. W.J. Dempster claims that Patrick Matthew discovered natural selection first and that Darwin and the Darwinists shamelessly ignore this fact. Embryologist Søren Løvtrup attacks the myth that Darwin invented evolution and the myth that all his critics were completely wrong. This unusual and complex book is universally ignored by the Darwinist establishment. Gertrude Himmelfarb (see here) is a historian who sees Darwin as someone who undermined relgious and moral values and views his theory as nothing but materialist philosophy. The Marxist historian Robert Young claims selection theory reflects the competitive ethos of Victorian capitalism. David Young (2007) The Discovery of Evolution (2nd Edition) "is a superbly accessible, reliable and visually appealing introduction to the history of evolutionary theory" (22).
Darwin's theory has its own history. He wrote several (unpublished) notebooks: the "Red" and "Transmutation" notebooks (1836-1839), the "Sketch" (1842), the "Essay" (1844), and "Natural Selection" (1856-1858) as a preparation for his Origin of Species (1859). Now they are freely available online at The Darwin Digital Library of Evolution and The Complete Works of Charles Darwin Online.
On this page I have selected Darwins main works.
Richard G. Delisle, James Tierney (2022) 'Rereading Darwin's Origin of Species: The Hesitations of an Evolutionist", Bloomsbury Academic, 176 pp.
Important and free review in Evolution journal. Book is aimed at reaching a larger audience. Richard G. Delisle is the author of 'Charles Darwin's Incomplete Revolution. The Origin of Species and the Static Worldview' (2019). Kobo ebook: €87,99 (3 Apr 2023). Kindle: $82,80 (3 Jun 23). I don't understand those prices :-( July 2023: KOBO: €30,99.
"A reassessment of Darwin's thinking. It begins by asking a simple and perhaps naive-sounding question: how could a mid-nineteenth-century scholar like Darwin have managed to present nearly singe-handedly, a modern evolutionary theory, while many of his contemporaries were still struggling to transition out of a conception of nature and time as essentially fixed and unchanging? ... Darwin, too, struggled to make this transition and was in fact not entirely successful in extricating himself from this older worldview. ... Unable to break free from this older outlook entirely, Darwin offered a theory that, ultimately, constituets a fascinating compromise between the old and the new." (Preface)
Mike Sutton (2022) 'Science Fraud: Darwin's Plagiarism of Patrick Matthew's Theory'. Curtis Press. paperback. Important and free review in the journal Evolution. "Sutton claims that Darwin stole the idea from the Scottish horticulturalist Patrick Matthew."
Alison Bashford (2022) 'An Intimate History of Evolution: The Story of the Huxley Family', Allen Lane.
Reviewed in Nature: "The central figures in this intergenerational study are Thomas Henry Huxley (1825–95), the naturalist and early promoter of Darwin, and his grandson Julian Huxley (1887–1975), the evolutionary biologist who in 1942 codified the modern synthesis by combining population genetics, inheritance and natural selection. (...) The quasibiographical approach, grounded in a wealth of personal correspondence, makes this history of evolution more accessible and relatable than a history of the idea itself would be.".
John Gribbin, Mary Gribbin (2022) 'On the Origin of Evolution: Tracing 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea' from Aristotle to DNA', Prometheus hardback 2022. Also paperback and ebook version.
John and Mary Gribbin wrote many popular science books including books about Darwin, Richard Feynman, Albert Einstein, James Lovelock, Faraday, Galileo, Mendel, Newton, Schrödinger.
Johnjoe McFadden (2021) 'Life Is Simple: How Occam's Razor Set Science Free and Shapes the Universe', Basic Books.
Jeremy DeSilva (editor) (2021) 'A Most Interesting Problem. What Darwin's Descent of Man Got Right and Wrong about Human Evolution', Princeton University Press.
150 years ago, in 1871, Charles Darwin published The Descent of Man, in which he attempted to explain human evolution, a topic he called "the highest and most interesting problem for the naturalist." A Most Interesting Problem brings together twelve world-class scholars and science communicators to investigate what Darwin got right–and what he got wrong–about the origin, history, and biological variation of humans. The good thing about this book is that the authors have no problem with recognising that some ideas of Darwin were wrong. The Pope is infallible, Darwin is not! See also: 'The Descent of Man', 150 years on in Science 21 May 2021. This is a critique of Darwin's Descent of Man.
Important and free review of the book in the journal Evolution.
Short review in: The Biologist.
Curtis N. Johnson (2020) 'Darwin's Historical Sketch. An Examination of the 'Preface' to the Origin of Species., OUP.
Publishers info. 472 Pages.
Richard G. Delisle (2019) 'Charles Darwin's Incomplete Revolution: The Origin of Species and the Static Worldview, Springer.
Too expensive, but for summaries of the chapters see Springer. "This book offers a thorough reanalysis of Charles Darwin's Origin of Species. Once the rhetorical varnish of Darwin's discourses is removed, one discovers a work of remarkably indecisive conclusions." See above for an 'abridged version' by Delisle (2022).
David Archibald (2017) 'Origins of Darwin's Evolution: Solving the Species Puzzle Through Time and Place', Columbia University Press. Reprint paperback edition: Dec 31, 2019.
"What, then, was the stimulus that made Darwin reject the fixity of species and the doctrine of special creation? The answer is in the first lines of his Introduction to the Origin: "When on board H.M.S. 'Beagle', as naturalist, I was much struck with certain facts in the distribution of the inhabitants of South America, and in the geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants of that continent. ... That is, "distribution of the inhabitants" (biogeography) and "geological relations of the present to the past inhabitants" (paleontology and the succession of life)." from: review by Kevin Padian in Systematic Biology.
Ken Thompson (2018) 'Darwin's Most Wonderful Plants', Profile.
"In this quietly riveting study, plant biologist Ken Thompson reveals Charles Darwin as a botanical revolutionary through works such as On the Movement and Habits of Climbing Plants (1865), which remains pertinent." (Nature).
Adrian Lister (2018) 'Darwin’s Fossils', Natural History Museum, 192 pages.
"As naturalist on the ship’s 1831–36 voyage to South America, Darwin came into his own as a geologist, illuminating the formation of coral reefs and continental uplift. And, as palaeobiologist Adrian Lister details in this deft, beautifully illustrated account, no less important were Darwin’s discoveries of gargantuan mammal fossils – including the 1.5-tonne giant sloth Mylodon darwinii." (Nature, 22 Mar 2018)
Edward Dolnick (2017) 'The Seeds of Life', Basic Books.
Evelleen Richards (2017) 'Darwin and the Making of Sexual Selection, Univ. Chicago Press.
Publisher's info. Nature: "In 1871, Charles Darwin published The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. Sexual selection solved evolutionary puzzles that natural selection could not. Generation after generation, peahens chose peacocks with the most impressive plumage, producing the peacock's uncamouflageable tail. Darwin believed that, in a similar way, sexual selection (driven by mates selecting according to culturally specific beauty standards) unlocked the mystery of human diversity's origins. It troubled Darwin, a privileged white Victorian man, to impute agency to women and aesthetic discrimination to non-Europeans. His peers rejected the theory. But biologists are revisiting it. Science historian Evelleen Richards's book vividly excavates its origins."
Rob Wesson (2017) 'Darwin's First Theory: Exploring Darwin's Quest for a Theory of Earth', Pegasus
"For this adventurous study of Charles Darwin's contribution to geology, seismologist Rob Wesson traded computer screen for trenching shovel to trace the Victorian icon's far-flung fieldwork. Wesson trekked from Wales to Patagonia and journeyed along the watery route of HMS Beagle, interweaving Darwin's observations of lava beds and erratic boulders with vivid accounts of his own research on the sites, and interpolations of science." (Nature, 13 April 2017)
Randall Fuller (2017) 'The Book That Changed America', Viking, 2017. 312 pp.
"Fuller's book offers us a vivid portrait of how On the Origin of Species debuted in America's intellectual culture during a watershed moment in the nation's history. Combined with the excellent writing, this alone makes the book easy to recommend to anyone interested in the story of evolution or Darwinism in the United States. Whether we are convinced that Darwin's book 'changed' America is another matter." (Science, 27 Jan 2017)
Hanne Strager (2016) 'A Modest Genius: The story of Darwin's Life and how his ideas changed everything', CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform, Paperback. Foreword by Sarah Darwin.
Hanne Strager is a biologist and science writer. After receiving an education from the University Aarhus, Denmark, she studied at the University of California, Santa Cruz, as a Fulbright Scholar.
Niles Eldredge (2015) 'Eternal Ephemera. Adaptation and the Origin of Species from the Nineteenth Century Through Punctuated Equilibria and Beyond', Columbia University Press.
Reviewed by Jim Endersby in Science 17 Apr 2015: "In the early 1800s, the geologist Giambattista Brocchi offered an alternative to Lamarck's, one that briefly persuaded Darwin. Eldredge recovers Brocchi's largely lost contribution and links it to much more recent ideas in evolutionary thinking. ... he uses history as a drunk uses a lamppost, for support rather than illumination. ... Eldredge ignores everything between The Origin of Species (1859) and the development of the modern evolutionary synthesis of natural selection and population genetics in the 1930s. He dismisses the early-20th-century "eclipse" of Darwinism ".
Nick Hopwood (2015) 'Haeckel's Embryos: Images, Evolution, and Fraud', University of Chicago Press
Review Nature: "Rarely have images proved so incendiary as the embryo drawings of nineteenth-century experimental zoologist Ernst Haeckel. In this lavishly illustrated volume, Nick Hopwood traces the chequered history of the sketches, which showed similarities between embryos of higher and lower vertebrates, including humans, at particular points in their development. Haeckel intended the images as support for Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory, but under attack revealed that they were schematics. Hopwood meticulously charts how, despite the controversy, the drawings took on a life of their own." [8 Jan 2015]
Curtis Johnson (2014) "Darwin's Dice. The Idea of Chance in the Thought of Charles Darwin", Oxford University Press.
Chance is not just an important concept; it is an entire way of thinking about nature. And as Curtis Johnson shows, it is also one of the key ideas that separates Charles Darwin from other systematic biologists of his time.
John C. Avise (2014) 'Conceptual Breakthroughs in Evolutionary Genetics: A Brief History of Shifting Paradigms', Academic Press paperback 186 pages.
Jan A. Pechenik (2014) 'The Readable Darwin: The Origin of Species Edited for Modern Readers', Sinauer. Second edition 2023 Oxford University Press.
Chapters 1 to 8 of the final 1872 Sixth Edition. Darwin added a new chapter: 7: 'Miscellaneous Objections to the Theory of Natural Selection' in the sixth edition (not present in the first edition). This book is the product of careful editing of Darwin's sixth and final (1872) edition into current American English, and includes 97 drawings and color photographs of the various plants and animals that Darwin writes about. It is really a pity that only the first 8 chapters are included. However, the second edition includes seven new chapters, making it a complete revision of the sixth edition of Darwin's The Origin of Species.
Noteworthy: Pechenik added footnotes to indicate where Darwin was wrong. Info. For links and videos: The Companion Website for The Readable Darwin.
See also my: Books by Charles Darwin. See also extensive customer review of Pechenik's colleague at amazon.
Martin J. S. Rudwick (2014) 'Earth's Deep History: How it Was Discovered and Why it Matters, University of Chicago Press.
Rudwick is a British geologist and historian of science. His work has been described as the "definitive histories of the pre-Darwinian earth sciences". Review Nature: "humanity's discovery of Earth's immense age is a step in science's progressive removal of humans from the centre of things. First our planet was relegated to mere third rock from the Sun; then humans were transformed from the pinnacle of God's creation into twigs on an evolutionary bush. ... account of the human appreciation of time."
Daniel Duzdevich (2014) 'Darwin's On the Origin of Species. A Modern Rendition", India University Press.
"Daniel Duzdevich offers a clear, modern English rendering of Darwin's first edition. Neither an abridgement nor a summary, this version might best be described as a 'translation' for contemporary English readers".
James T. Costa (2014) "Wallace, Darwin, and the Origin of Species", Harvard University Press.
"Most important, it demonstrates conclusively that natural selection was not some idea Wallace stumbled upon, as is sometimes assumed, but was the culmination of a decade-long quest to solve the mystery of the origin of species."
Kimberly A. Hamlin (2014) 'From Eve to Evolution: Darwin, Science, and Women's Rights in Gilded Age America', University of Chicago Press
See below Feminism and Evolution.
Robert J. Richards (2013) "Was Hitler a Darwinian? Disputed Questions in the History of Evolutionary Theory", University of Chicago.
"Richards takes a forceful stand on the timely issue of whether Darwin is to blame for Hitler's atrocities. Was Hitler a Darwinian? is intellectual history at its boldest". This is a collection of essays by Robert J. Richards, today's preeminent historian of evolutionary theory, including: Why Fodor was almost right; Darwin's moral theory; Haeckel's embryos: Fraud Not Proven; Was Hitler a Darwinian? The essays are previously published, except chapter 9 'Was Hitler a Darwinian?', the other essays are thoroughly revised. With bw and color illustrations.
Peter J. Bowler (2013) "Darwin Deleted: Imagining a World without Darwin", University Of Chicago Press, hardcover 328 pp.
Info. "My interest in exploring what happens in a world without Darwin is driven by the hope of using history to undermine the claim that the theory of natural selection inspired the various forms of social Darwinism. (...) In the world without Darwin, the horrors would still exist, but the theory of natural selection would not have the bogeyman image associated with it by its critics because it would have been developed too late to play a significant role. (...) social Darwinism would have emerged even without Darwin's theory." (from the book). From the publisher: "Bowler's unique approach enables him to clearly explain the non-Darwinian tradition."
Review in Science: "It is undeniable that Darwinism is a product of its time, with the apparent materialism of a theory based on random variation and struggle. But the simplistic identification of Darwinism with harsh social policies is mistaken, argues Bowler, as most of what is called " 'social Darwinism' could be justified equally well through rival theories of evolution." " (18 Jul 2014).
Compare with: Robert J. Richards: Was Hitler a Darwinian?
Christoph Irmscher (2013) "Louis Agassiz: Creator of American Science", Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Review: "And he consoled his audiences by assuring them that life had a purpose, a divine design, discernible to anyone who would undertake to study it assiduously and interpret it according to his teachings. Agassiz excited ordinary people about nature, and they responded with devotion. ...full of cock-and-bull about divine guidance of life. ... Despite Agassiz's prodigious knowledge, he stubbornly rejected evolution and over-insisted on the importance of glaciers in forming geological features. Darwin's view of the world succeeded because he could explain by purely scientific mechanisms, using the facts and literature available to all, the same phenomena that Agassiz (and others, such as the British naturalist Richard Owen) could not. ... The biologist today who doesn't read Agassiz misses some great treatments of glaciology, invertebrates and fishes. The biologist who doesn't read On The Origin of Species knows nothing about how evolution works." (Nature, 31 Jan 2013)
David Sepkoski (2012) "Rereading the Fossil Record The Growth of Paleobiology as an Evolutionary Discipline", University of Chicago Press, Chicago, 2012. 400 pp.
From a very good review: "The problem with paleontology, the young Stephen Jay Gould argued, was not what most people thought. What was lamentable at the time (the early 1970s) was not the fossil record and all that it allegedly lacked. What was lamentable was the lack of theory. Paleontology was too descriptive, too much like history" (Science). Also interesting from the point of view of the New Evolutionary Synthesis.
Theodore W. Pietsch (2012) "Trees of Life: A Visual History of Evolution", Johns Hopkins University Press, hardback 358 pp (paperback, 2012)
5 halftones, 226 black and white line drawings (230 illustrations according to the Preface). I expected some color illustrations, but there are none. With a fine artwork of Ray Troll on the cover.
Review with many illustrations from the book. Several unpublished trees from Darwin and many pre-Darwinian Trees of Life. This is a book one can browse for hours and hours.
Review (Science): "In Trees of Life, Pietsch demonstrates the persistence of this representational form by cataloging 230 examples of trees over 450 years of biological thought. ... In sum, Pietsch provides a comprehensive visual document of an idea, which I recommend to anyone interested in the history of science and scientific representations. It collects diagrams that, although now (or perhaps soon to become) obscure, helped shape the development of one of the most important ideas in modern science."
Review: Journal of the History of Biology, November 2013, Volume 46, Issue 4, pp 761-763
Compare with: David Archibald (2014) Aristotle's Ladder, Darwin's Tree: The Evolution of Visual Metaphors in Biological Order; and Manuel Lima (2014) The Book of Trees: Visualizing Branches of Knowledge, both reviewed in Nature 24 Jul 2014 .
Rebecca Stott (2012) "Darwin's Ghosts: In Search of the First Evolutionists", Bloomsbury/Spiegel & Grau
Review: Nature: "In Darwin's Ghosts, novelist and science historian Rebecca Stott explores the intellectual origins of the theory of natural selection through scientific biographies of Darwin's antecedents and contemporaries, from Aristotle to Wallace. ... showing that Charles Darwin stood on the shoulders of giants... Stott introduces us to a sparkling cast of characters, but the biographical approach has its limitations."
Science: "The book begins with Darwin constructing a list of possible sources that he had unwittingly failed to acknowledge (the ghosts of the title) ... Her account provides a view of Darwin and evolution quite different from the hero narratives we have become accustomed to ... Every chapter seems a travelogue in scientific history and culture, full of interesting material you didn't know or only thought you knew."
Steve Jones (2011) 'The Darwin Archipelago: The Naturalists's Career Beyond Origin of Species (published in Britain as Darwin's Island) Yale University Press. 248 pp
Review: Nature: an entertaining and thoughtful treatment of Darwin's other books.
Krishna Dronamraju (2011) 'Haldane, Mayr, and Beanbag Genetics', OUP
In the mid-twentieth century, two great biologists - J. B. S. Haldane and Ernst Mayr - clashed about the value of mathematical theories to evolution. info.
Ronald Numbers (editor) (2010) "Galileo Goes to Jail and Other Myths About Science and Religion", Harvard University Press, paperback 302 pages.
25 myths about the 'war' between science and religion debunked by experts in short essays of about 10 pages.
Myth 15. That the Theory of Organic Evolution Is Based on Circular Reasoning.
Myth 16. That Evolution Destroyed Charles Darwin's Faith in Christianity–until He Reconverted on His Deathbed
Myth 17. That Huxley Defeated Wilberforce in Their Debate over Evolution and Religion
Myth 18. That Darwin Destroyed Natural Theology
Myth 19. That Darwin and Haeckel Were Complicit in Nazi Biology
Myth 20. That the Scopes Trial Ended in Defeat for Antievolutionism
Myth 23. That 'Intelligent Design' Represents a Scientific Challenge to Evolution
Myth 24. That Creationism Is a Uniquely American Phenomenon
Review: Jason Rosenhouse.
In my opinion the book is a defense of religion and Christianity. Ronald Numbers claims that the book is not one-sided pro-religion because twelve of twenty-five authors self-identify as agnostic or atheist and the other 13 are religious. Numbers self-identifies as someone who 'lost his faith' (does this mean he is an agnostic or atheist?).
Erika Lorraine Milam (2010) 'Looking for a Few Good Males. Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology, Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, 2010. 246 pp
Review: Science: "Milam provides an invaluable synthesis for historians of biology, scientists, and those with a popular interest in animal studies."; American Scientist: "Milam's book is an accessible and important contribution to the history of an active topic of biological research today".
Charles H. Smith, George Beccaloni Eds. (2010) 'Natural Selection and Beyond. The Intellectual Legacy of Alfred Russel Wallace', Oxford University Press paperback.
David N. Reznick (2009) 'The Origin Then and Now. An Interpretive Guide to the Origin of Species, Princeton University Press, hardback 423 pages. Paperback (2011).
Info (Free 22 page Introduction by Michael Ruse). David Reznick is an evolutionary biologist. From the Preface: "... some details that were critical to Darwin's theory were not yet known. The Origin ... highlighted these gaps in our knowledge ..." (page ix). "This book is about the Origin and not about the current state of evolutionary biology" (p.383). This is the best study of The Origin I know.
Review: BioScience. Warning: the book with a similar title 'Darwin, Then and Now' by Richard William Nelson pretends to be a neutral Darwin history book, but is an creationist anti-evolution book! It explains why biological evolution contradicts the laws of physics, including the law of thermodynamics !!
Julian Huxley (2009) "Evolution, The Modern Synthesis", The MIT Press paperback
First published in 1942. Includes: Huxley's introduction to the 1963 second edition and the introduction to the 1974 third edition, written by nine experts (many of them Huxley's associates) from different areas of evolutionary biology. Foreword by Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd B. Müller.
Jonathan Hodge, Gregory Radick (Editors) (2009) 'The Cambridge Companion to Darwin', Cambridge University Press; 2nd edition
The Cambridge Companion series is dedicated to individual philosophers, and while Darwin is not a philosopher, the concerns discussed here are primarily philosophical rather than scientific. Mainly for professionals. Review.
John S. Wilkins (2009) 'Species. A History of the Idea', University of California Press, hb 320 pp.
Info. John S. Wilkins's Blog. Wilkins wrote Darwin's Precursors and Influences.
Jan Sapp (2009) 'The New Foundations of Evolution: On the Tree of Life', Oxford University Press, Paperback & hardback, 448 pages.
Publisher's info. This book is about the history of microbial evolutionary biology from the 1600s to the middle of the 20th century and the history of the discovery of the universal tree. See also google books. Reviews: American Scientist, Science.
Adrian Desmond & James Moore (2009) "Darwin's Sacred Cause: Race, Slavery and the Quest for Human Origins", Allen Lane, 485 pages.
Reviews: Nature (free), Nature editorial, New Scientist. It was common at the time to believe that the different races of men had been created separate and unequal. The ability to see that all men were united in shared ancestry, Desmond and Moore argue, was one of the things that allowed Darwin to perceive something similar in the natural world as a whole. American Scientist (very important review): "The authors, however, have laid out no explicit evidence that Darwin supposed his theory might subvert slavery.". Steven Shapin: "The causal argument leading from bred-in-the-bone abolitionism to Darwin's general evolutionary theory is a huge stretch. There are all sorts of problems with evidence and inference. Professed intentions are lacking. The timing isn't right in the notebooks: Darwin's apparent recognition of organic common descent came before any analogy between 'family likeness' in human beings and 'the classification of animals'." (London Review of Books).
Robert J. Richards (2008) "The Tragic Sense Of Life: Ernst Haeckel and the Struggle over Evolutionary Thought" University of Chicago Press, 551 pp. Paperback: 2009.
Review: American Scientist: "The Tragic Sense of Life, by Robert J. Richards, provides not only a biography of the controversial German evolutionist Ernst Haeckel (1834-1919), but also an important piece of the emerging picture of the Darwinian Revolution in its international and intergenerational dimensions. Creationists, who still love to hate Haeckel, perpetuate misinformation about him, which Richards easily corrects." Haeckel's evolutionary ethics is discussed. "This book marks a major rehabilitation of Haeckel as a mainstream Darwinian". Info. Other books.
James Schwartz (2008) "In Pursuit of the Gene: From Darwin to DNA" Harvard University Press. 384 pp.
"Many histories of genetics cover the same ground. What distinguishes Schwartz's account is his impeccable scholarship. The book's apogee is its tale of the "Mendel Wars" around the beginning of the twentieth century, the struggle to bring together Mendel's ideas on heredity and Darwin's theory of evolution.": from review in Nature. From the review in Nature Genetics: "In Pursuit of the Gene is a solidly researched, well-written book that does not shy away from explaining the science. The dispute about the significance of Mendel's work became entangled with different positions about evolution, natural selection and eugenics".
David Sedley (2008) "Creationism and its Critics in Antiquity" University of California Press: 2008. 296 pp.
Review: Nature: "David Sedley argues that, for the philosophers of ancient Greece, the central cosmological question was this: is the world, and all that it contains, the handiwork of an intelligent designer?". (good book, good review). Epicurus was opposed to creationism and advanced a non-creationist explanation of adaptation. Paley argued against this Epicurean explanation. Darwin argued against Paley and strongly improved the Epicurean argument.
Important book. Review in Dutch: hier [20 mei 08]; my review on this website.
Sandra Herbert (2005) "Charles Darwin, Geologist" Cornell University Press. 512 pages.
Timothy Shanahan (2004) 'The Evolution of Darwinism. Selection, Adaptation and Progress in Evolutionary Biology', Cambridge University Press
Abigail Lustig, Robert J. Richards, Michael Ruse (2004) 'Darwinian Heresies', Cambridge University Press
Publisher: "It is suggested that Darwin's true roots lie in Germany, not his native England, that Russian evolutionism is more significant than many are prepared to allow, and that the true influence on twentieth-century evolution biology was not Charles Darwin at all, but his often-despised contemporary, Herbert Spencer." See CUP page.
Amir D. Aczel (2003) "Pendulum. Léon Foucault and the triumph of Science", Washington Square Press paperback edition: Sep 2004, 275 pages.
Jan Sapp (2003) "Genesis. The Evolution of Biology", Oxford University Press, paperback, 364 pages.
A very up-to-date history of biology with special emphasis on non-Darwinian and non-Mendelian theories (cytoplasmic inheritance), neo-Lamarckism, mutualism (cooperation) and endosymbiosis (Lynn Margulis). Obviously, this is a history of biology especially interesting for the critics of evolution and neo-Darwinism. Sapp himself is a critic of Neo-Darwinism. The book is organised around non-historical themes: evolution, the cell, genetics, molecular biology. Many modern sources and issues. Endnotes: 72 pages. No separate bibliography. Jan Sapp is also the author of Evolution by Association: A History of Symbiosis.
Peter J. Bowler (2003) "Evolution. The History of an Idea.", University of California Press. Third edition (revised and expanded), paperback, 464 pages.
The 2009 25th Anniversary Edition has a new preface (april 2009).
About the origins, reception and development of Darwinism and the religious, moral and social implications of Darwinism. Completely rewritten edition. Contains a new chapter about "The Pre-evolutionary Worldview" and one about "The reception of Darwin's theory". Recommended. Very valuable book. Info.
John Henry (2002) "Knowledge is Power. How Magic, the Government and an Apocalyptic Vision inspired Francis Bacon to create Modern Science", Icon Books (UK), Totem Books (USA)
A lovely little 177-page booklet, which is a pleasure to read. I like the format and the size of the series.
Jonathan Howard (2001) 'Darwin: A Very Short Introduction, OUP paperback.
Andrew Gregory (2001) "Eureka! The Birth of Science", Icon Books (UK), Totem Books (USA)
Important and readable book about the origin of modern science from Greek philosophy. The birth of science begins with the awareness of the distinction between the natural and the supernatural. Science is the study of the natural world. This book is not about evolution/creationism but strongly suggests that evolutionists did not invent atheistic science. Greek philosophers lead the way in defining science. Scientists, biologists, evolutionists followed the track. Obligatory reading for evolutionists and creationists. A lovely little 177-page booklet of the Icon Books series (illustrated).
Michael Ruse (1999) "The Darwinian Revolution. Science Red in Tooth and Claw", second ed. Univ. of Chicago Press, paperback, 346 pages.
On the conversion of the British scientific community to belief in evolution in the years 1830 to 1875. With 'Afterword: Two Decades Later'. See: books by Michael Ruse.
David Depew, Bruce Weber (1995) "Darwinism evolving. Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection", MIT Press, 588 pp.
How theories in physics, probability theory and economics influenced Darwin and subsequent theories in evolutionary biology. Darwin's Darwinism embodies Newtonian models, while genetic Darwinism uses models taken from thermodynamics.
Helena Cronin (1991,1994) "The Ant and the Peacock. Altruism and sexual selection form Darwin to today", Cambridge University Press.
The 'ant' stands for the problem of altruism (6 chapters) and the 'peacock' stands for sexual selection (6 chapters): two long-standing puzzles in Darwinism. Unexpectedly, Part I (pp7-35) is a splendid and original historical-philosophical overview of pre-Darwinian thinking about adaptation and diversity in biology and in Natural Theology. Packed with insights that illuminate current Creation-Evolution debates. According to the Foreword of John Maynard Smith "She has told me much that I did not know about the ideas of Darwin and Wallace, and the disagreements between them." The book was written before the rise of 'intelligent design theory' and before Steele's Lamarck's Signature. Helena Cronin has degrees in philosophy, logic and scientific method.
Robert Chambers (1994) 'Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation and Other Evolutionary Writings', The University of Chicago Press
Originally published anonymously in 1844, it was the first attempt to connect the natural sciences to a history of creation. This book had a profound effect on British society and Darwin. Info.
Peter J. Bowler (1992) "The Non-Darwinian Revolution: Reinterpreting a Historical Myth", John Hopkins University Press
"Examining the work of such figures as Owen, Spencer, Kelvin, Huxley, Haeckel, and Freud, Bowler discovers a near-universal tendency to accept evolutionism while rejecting Darwin's central premise: natural selection. Instead, leading scientists and thinkers stubbornly clung to the Lamarckian theory of evolution as guided, purposeful development until they were forced by the twentieth century's "rediscovery" of Mendelian law to concede otherwise." Peter Bowler is the author of 'The Eclipse of Darwinism' (1992).
Ernst Mayr (1991) "One Long Argument. Charles Darwin and the Genesis of Modern Evolutionary Thought"
For a list of books by Ernst Mayr: Books by Ernst Mayr.
Alvar Ellegård (1990) 'Darwin and the General Reader. The Reception of Darwin's Theory of Evolution in the British Periodical Press, 1859-1872'
Science and Religion: A Mid-Victorian Conflict. The Argument of Design. Miracles. Mid-Victorian Philosophy of Science. The Immutable Essence of Species. Missing Links. The Battle against Natural Selection. Info.
T. F.Glick (1988) 'The Comparative Reception of Darwinism', University Of Chicago Press, Paperback: 534 pages.
See: Google books.
Barry Gale (1982) "Evolution Without Evidence", University of New Mexico Press 238 pages.
See: my review of this book.
This is not a creationist book, but a serious work of a historian of science. Gale argues that Darwin published his Origin too soon, forced by Wallace. The Origin was 'the least objectionable theory' at the moment, an interium product, an abstract of a future long work. As a consequence there was no space in the book to describe all the evidence in support of evolution. His theory went beyond available evidence. Gale focusses on Darwin's doubts in his notebooks. Gale's most extreme statement is that Darwin had "no more evidence in support of his theory than the creationists, whose view he was attempting to overthrow". This conflicts with the appendix in his own book which lists 12 kinds of evidence that makes sense in the light of Darwin's theory and does not make sense in the creationist point of view. So, Darwin had at least a better theory to explain the evidence. Furthermore, Gale also mentions that the Origin contains "brilliant argumentation" and Darwin "was able to put together a coherent, cohesive, and forceful argument".
Gertrude Himmelfarb (1959,1962) "Darwin and the Darwinian Revolution", Elephant paperbacks:1996.
"What Darwin intended his theory to mean, what his readers took it to mean, and what it has in fact meant." Noteworthy chapter 18 "Darwinism, Religion, and Morality". Himmelfarb is the author of Marriage and Morals among the Victorians and other essays (1989), which contains the essay "Social Darwinism, Sociobiology, and the Two Cultures".
Thomas Hunt Morgan (1935) "The scientific basis of evolution", W.W. Norton & company, inc; 2d ed edition (1935)
Morgan was the first to apply Mendelian genetics to Drosophyla and established the science of genetics.
Review: "Morgan starts by pointing out that the evidence for evolution is so enormous that it is not profitable to go over it. But the causes for evolution are certainly grounds worthy of debate. To some extent, that is true even today, let alone in 1932." (Jill Malter at amazon).
Thomas Hunt Morgan (1916) "A Critique of the Theory of Evolution", Princeton University Press, 197 pages, many illustr.
Reprinted by Cornell University Library in 2009. And also reprinted by Forgotten Books (2012) based on the third edition 1919 of lecture given at Princeton University 1916 (part can be read online). Also by: HardPress Publishing (2012).
"Occasionally one hears today the statement that we have come to realize that we know nothing about evolution. This point of view is a healthy reaction to the over-confident belief that we knew everything about evolution". (Preface).
Also reprinted: 'Evolution and Adaptation' (1908); What is Darwinism? (1929); Evolution and Genetics (1932).
Thomas Hunt Morgan (1903) "Evolution and Adaptation"
The 1903 edition has been reprinted as a BiblioBazaar paperback. Morgan was a Drosophila geneticist and Nobel prize winner. This is his most anti-Darwinist book. Very interesting and insightful.
10 Jun 23
10 Nov 19
7 Sep 19
Big History is the history of the universe from the beginning of the universe to today, and the future of the universe. It is a synthesis of the history of the universe, stars, planets, life and humans. Note: 'World History' or 'Global History' is only about what happened on Earth.
Related category: Astrobiology.
Robert Hazen (2019) 'Symphony in C: Carbon and the Evolution of (Almost) Everything', W. W. Norton, hardback 288 pages.
Interdisciplinary exploration of the most important element in the universe: Carbon. Puts Carbon in its astronomical, geological and evolutionary context. Hazen is the author of Genesis - The Scientific Quest for Life's Origin (2005).
Timothy C. Winegard (2019) 'The Mosquito: A Human History of Our Deadliest Predator', 2019.
(no review yet) The mosquito has killed more people than any other cause of death in human history. It could be part of a Big History course because it connects human history and biology. See excerpt. Compare with: Jared Diamond: 'Guns, germs and steel'.
Lewis Dartnell (2019) 'Origins: How Earth's History Shaped Human History' / 'Origins: How the Earth Made Us, Basic books/The Bodley Head.
Reviewed in Nature 23 Jan 2019: "Dartnell's story is beautifully written and organized. His infectious curiosity and enthusiasm tug the reader from page to page, synthesizing geology, oceanography, climatology, meteorology, geography, palaeontology, archaeology and political history in a manner that recalls Jared Diamond's classic 1997 book Guns, Germs, and Steel. Ever surprising, Dartnell juxtaposes facts as different as the sources of stone for the pyramids and the natural geographic divisions that separate Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholic and Protestant Christianity."
Website of the book.
David Christian (2018) 'Origin Story: A Big History of Everything, Little, Brown and Company.
From the cover: "From the big bang to the first stars, our solar system, life on Earth, dinosaurs, Homo Sapiens, agriculture, an ice age, empires, fossil fuels, a moon landing, and mass globalization. And what happens next." The four parts of the book: Cosmos, Biosphere, Us, The Future.
Tyler Volk (2017) 'Quarks to Culture: How We Came to Be', Columbia University Press, 280 pp.
"A recent emphasis on big history, which ranges over similar territory, is recast as grand sequence in Quarks to Culture–a term that bypasses the march of events in order to highlight the mystery of temporal change as the fundamental reality. Volk skips the usual rehearsal of geological eras, land colonization, continental drift, and dinosaur extinction, focusing instead on the big picture. In doing so, he manages to frame a complex welter of multidisciplinary information as a narrative of the universe that is creative and compelling." (Science). See: publisher's info.
Wallace Arthur (2017) 'Life through Time and Space', Harvard University Press
"All humans share three origins: the beginning of our individual lives, the appearance of life on Earth, and the formation of our planetary home." Because the book integrates humans, evolution, astrobiology, and cosmology it belongs in the category 'Big History'.
Walter Alvarez (2016) 'A Most Improbable Journey: A Big History of Our Planet and Ourselves', Norton.
"In 'A Most Improbable Journey', Walter Alvarez tells the story of the cosmos, Earth, life, and humanity using the interdisciplinary approach of Big History, which combines traditional historical scholarship with scientific insights. Alvarez aims to instill in his readers a sense of wonder that, despite enormous odds, there exists a planet (Earth) supremely suited for life. At the same time, he seeks to cultivate an expanded view of the nature of history, replete with contingency and consequent improbability, and to foster appreciation for the enormous stretches of time and space across which history has unfolded." (Science)
Carl Sagan (2013) "Cosmos" Ballantine books, paperback 396 pp.
With a foreword by Neil deGrasse Tyson and Ann Druyan. This is a re-edition of the 1980 classic bestseller. A companion to the famous Cosmos television series which was also updated in 2014 and aired by National Geographic in 13 episodes. The book and documentary inspired the Big History field.
Cynthia Stokes Brown (2012) 'Big History: From the Big Bang to the Present', New Press, Paperback (second edition).
The evolution of the universe, life and the human species. Including the future of our planet. One chapter about the evolution of the universe, one about the earth, 10 about humans and one about the future. See also: Fred Spier.
Fred Spier (2011) 'Big History and the Future of Humanity', Wiley-Blackwell, paperback.
Info (including free chapter). Fred Spier is a biochemist and cultural anthropologist. Big History is the approach to history in which the human past is placed within the framework of cosmic history, from the beginning of the universe up until life on Earth today. Big History is "a wonderful way of explaining how both my own person and everything around me have come into being". "The shortest summary of big history is that it deals with the rise and demise of complexity at all scales". The book contains two chapters covering cosmic evolution, one about the evolution of life, two about humans and one about the future of the universe and humanity. Big History by Fred Spier is a good book for those seeking to give biological evolution a context. It would be a good idea to start Evolution textbooks with a short history of the cosmos and closing with a short history of the human species. So far biological evolution is discussed in isolation from its cosmological context.
Review: Times Higher Education. Here is a Big History and the Future of Humanity lecture (Sep 2011) of Fred Spier.
Here is my review of the book in Dutch.
Peter Shaver (2011) 'Cosmic Heritage. Evolution from the Big Bang to Conscious Life', Springer, 268 pp.
The origin and evolution of the universe, matter, life, Is our universe fine-tuned for life?, the origin of life, the evolution of life, cognition, consciousness, the future of the universe, Science. This book can be rented at Springer online.
Edmund Russell (2011) 'Evolutionary History: Uniting History and Biology to Understand Life on Earth', Cambridge University Press.
This book "is structured as a series of arguments for how humanity has shaped the evolution of other species, how they have co-evolved, and how anthropogenic or human-caused evolution has engendered and fostered agricultural and industrial revolutions. ... demonstrates that big historical syntheses can be at their most compelling and distinctive in targeted case studies." (from: Nasser Zakariya, 2013)
David Christian (2011) "Maps of Time. An Introduction to Big History"
with a New Preface, University of California Press, Paperback, 672 pages
Info. Maps of Time opens with the origins of the universe, the stars and the galaxies, the sun and the solar system, including the earth. It surveys the development of human society from the Paleolithic era through the transition to agriculture, the emergence of cities and states, and the birth of the modern, industrial period right up to intimations of possible futures. Review: S. Paul Wright, 2004 (pdf) (recommended): "The author clearly sees the human impact on the environment as a major problem".
Eric J. Chaisson (2007) 'Epic of Evolution: Seven Ages of the Cosmos, Columbia University Press Paperback.
Info (free preface, prologue). The Seven Ages are: Particle Epoch, Galactic Epoch, Stellar Epoch, Planetary Epoch, Chemical Epoch, Biological Epoch, Cultural Epoch. The approach of this book seems similar to Big History books. Written for a general audience. See: Chaisson cosmic evolution website. He is the author of Cosmic Evolution: The Rise of Complexity in Nature (2001).
Bill Bryson (2003) 'A Short History of Nearly Everything, Black Swan
Covers astronomy, biology, chemistry, geology, meteorology, Oceanography, Physics, Mathematics. So it looks like a Big History book.
Eric J. Chaisson (2001) 'Cosmic evolution. The Rise of Complexity in Nature, Harvard, hardback, 274 pp.
Publisher: "a unified scenario of the cosmos, including ourselves as sentient beings". So, it can be classified as 'Big History'. Chapter 3: Life. Chapter 4: Evolution, broadly considered. "Life is an open, coherent, spacetime structure maintained far from thermodynamic equilibrium by a flow of energy through it."(p.121). How does order emerge from disorder, given that the second law of thermodynamics dictates the Universe to become increasingly randomized and unstructured? (p.5.)
Bibliographies, anthologies, encyclopedias
14 Dec 13
A bibliography is an (annotated) list of books about a particular subject. An anthology is a collection of shorter works. An encyclopedia is an alphabetically arranged reference work.
Michael Ruse (editor) (2013) "The Cambridge Encyclopedia of Darwin and Evolutionary Thought", Cambridge University Press, hardback, eBook.
Info. Abstract of each chapter (total: 63) can be found here (ebook version). Strictly speaking this is not an encyclopedia, but a collection of 63 essays in the history of evolutionary thought. Interesting chapters: The Evolution of the Testing of Evolution, Darwin and the Finches, Challenging Darwinism: Expanding, Extending, Replacing.
Sehoya H. Cotner, Randy Moore (2011) 'Arguing for Evolution: An Encyclopedia for Understanding Science", Greenwood, 318 pages.
Info. Each chapter is about a subfield of evolutionary biology (fossils, biogeography, molecular evolution, etc) and starts with Predictions. Cotner coauthored Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy with Randy Moore. Randy Moore published: More Than Darwin: An Encyclopedia of the People and Places of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy.
Randall C. Moore, Mark Decker, Sehoya H. Cotner (2009) 'Chronology of the Evolution-Creationism Controversy' Greenwood Hardcover 454 pages
The main focus of the book is on the long-standing evolution-creationist conflict in the U.S. Review.
Richard Milner (2009) "Darwin's Universe. Evolution from A to Z", University of California, hardback 488 pages.
This alphabetically arranged reference offers an overview of Charles Darwin, Darwinism, Evolution and the people who contributed to it. Well illustrated. A pleasure to browse, entertaining, and unexpected entries. info. Also from Milner: The Encyclopedia of Evolution: Humanity's Search for Its Origins.
Marston Bates (Editor), Philip S. Humphrey (Editor) (2009) "Charles Darwin: An Anthology", Transaction Publishers, U.S. Paperback
Michael Ruse (ed), Joseph Travis (ed) "Evolution. The First Four Billion Years", 2009, Harvard University Press, hardback 979 pp, paperback 2011.
Info. This is a unique combination of 16 essays discussing (almost) all aspects of evolutionary biology and an encyclopedic part of 531 pages of alphabetically ordered topics and persons. Contributions by more than 100 experts. Review: American Scientific.
Note added 30 Jul 2023: especially noteworthy is chapter 'Evolution of the Genome' (pp 152-176) by Brian and Deborah Charlesworth in which they discuss coding and noncoding DNA, genome sizes. See on this page: Moran (2023).
Stanley A. Rice (2007) 'Encyclopedia of Evolution' (Science Encyclopedia) Checkmark Books Paperback. Paperback 496 pages.
Mark Pagel (2002) "Encyclopedia of Evolution: 2 volume set", Oxford University Press, Hardcover 1326 pages
The Encyclopedia of Evolution covers the essentials of evolutionary biology in 365 articles from 330 different authors. Info. Review: Nature (27 Feb 2003)
Philip Appleman (Editor) (2001) "Darwin (Norton Critical Editions)", W. W. Norton, third Edition, Paperback, 695 pages.
Info. This is an anthology: a collection of excerpts from the most important books and articles about the Darwinian revolution. Scientific thought before Darwin, Selections from Darwin's Work, Darwin's influence on science and social thought, Darwinian Influences in Philosophy and Ethics, Evolutionary Theory and Religious Theory, Darwin and the Literary Mind.
James L. Hayward (1998) 'The Creation/Evolution Controversy. An Annotated Bibliography', The Scarecrow Press.
Tom McIver (1992) "Anti-Evolution. A Reader's Guide to Writings before and after Darwin".
My review. There is a new 2008 edition of Anti-Evolution (info).
Ronald L. Ecker (1990) 'Dictionary of Science and Creationism', Prometheus. 263 pages
info. Intended for general readers as well as educators and professionals, this authoritative volume provides all the scientific facts needed to refute the claims of creationism.
philosophy & evolution
14 Jun 2023
For works in the philosophy of science see: this page. |
John Wilkins (2023) 'Understanding Species', Cambridge University Press 180 pages.
John Wilkins is the author of 'Species. A History of the Idea' (2009) and 'Species: The Evolution of the Idea', Second Edition (2021).
Daniel S. Milo (2019) 'Good Enough. The Tolerance for Mediocrity in Nature and Society', Harvard University Press.
Philosopher of science Daniel S. Milo makes the case that, in culture as well as nature, not only the fittest survive: the world is full of the "good enough" that persist too. Publishers info.
Jeremy Sherman (2017) 'Neither Ghost nor Machine. The Emergence and Nature of Selves', Columbia University Press
Publishers info. "If the universe is aimless, how do selves and aims emerge? Why do living beings have aims when inanimate things do not? ". Seems an important and interesting book. "It offers a physics of purpose, demonstrating that there is a strictly physical explanation for the emergence and nature of selves and aims, one that shows our existence in an otherwise inanimate universe is not absurd."
Grant Ramsey and Charles H. Pence (eds) (2016) 'Chance in Evolution', University of Chicago Press.
How profoundly has chance shaped life on earth? Chance in Evolution from Darwin to Contemporary Biology. Bringing together biologists, philosophers of science, and historians of science.
Thomas Nagel (2012) "Mind and Cosmos: Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False" Oxford University Press 144 pages
Info. Philosopher Thomas Nagel is famous for his 1974 essay "What Is it Like to Be a Bat?". The standard materialist version of evolutionary biology is fundamentally incomplete because it does not explain mind. It seems to me that this is not a criticism of neo-Darwinism, but of the natural sciences in general! To explain the mind is a task of psychology, neurology and philosophy. Evolutionary biology explains brain and behaviour and the part dealing with plants, microbes, virusses and the 'lower animals' is certainly not guilty of this incompleteness. Although Nagel rejects theism, he talks and thinks like an ID-ist.
- Review: Do You Only Have a Brain? On Thomas Nagel: "his subtitle 'Why the Materialist Neo-Darwinian Conception of Nature Is Almost Certainly False' is highly misleading.".
- Review by Alvin Plantinga: Nagel's point seems to be that the physical sciences–physics, chemistry, biology, neurology–cannot explain or account for the fact that we human beings and presumably some other animals are conscious. ... Nagel thinks that it may take centuries to work out a satisfactory alternative to materialist naturalism (given that theism is not acceptable).
- Review: Science, 15 Mar 13 (A Flawed Challenge Worth Pondering): "What are the limits of the scientific method? This is the question that lies at the heart of Mind and Cosmos. ... Thomas Nagel argues that science is–in principle–unable to explain the mind. ... He contends that the irreducibility of the mental to the physical also has implications for evolutionary theory. ... Thus, we are left with "a double mystery": We can explain neither the relation between the mental and the physical nor how or why consciousness evolved. ... he holds, we should consider the possibility that life and consciousness might not just be a result of the laws of physics and chemistry in combination with natural selection. What else might there be? Nagel does not give us much detail about the alternative he envisages; his aim is "to present the problem rather than to propose a solution". (...) Overall, many aspects of Mind and Cosmos are problematic. Nonetheless, the book serves as a challenging invitation to ponder the limits of science and as a reminder of the astonishing puzzle of consciousness."
- Review: Picking Holes in the Concept of Natural Selection, BioScience (2014).
- review by H. Allen Orr Awaiting a New Darwin in The New York Review of Books, 2013. ("materialist naturalism" can't explain consciousness)
John Dupré (2012) "Processes of Life: Essays in the Philosophy of Biology", Oxford University Press.
This volume contains previously published essays about the nature of the organism, the limits of neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, the significance of genomics, the biological status of human races, and the evolutionary and developmental plasticity of human nature.
Info contains a complete chapter listing with abstracts of each essay.
Review: "Beyond doubt, Dupré emphasizes, the perpetuation of life from one generation to the next requires much more than simply the passage of DNA. He concludes that genomes do not merely store information. Because of their constant dynamic interaction with other constituents of the cell, their capacities depend not only on their sequence of base pairs. More important, those capacities are determined by the systems of which the DNA molecules are only part." Science 17 Aug 2012.
(see also my Senapathy review ).
Raymond Tallis (2011) "Aping Mankind. Neuromania, Darwinitis and the Misrepresentation of Humanity", Acumen Publishing.
Info: Chapter 4: From Darwinism to Darwinitis. "The belief that human beings can be understood essentially in biological terms is a serious obstacle, argues Tallis, to clear thinking about what human beings are and what they might become. To explain everyday behaviour in Darwinian terms and to identify human consciousness with the activity of the evolved brain denies human uniqueness, and by minimising the differences between us and our nearest animal kin, misrepresents what we are, offering a grotesquely simplified and degrading account of humanity. We are, shows Tallis, infinitely more interesting and complex than we appear in the mirror of biologism."
Reviews: Guardian, Times Higher education, etc. There is also a youtube video of Tallis. I wonder whether Tallis upgrades humans by degrading animals.
See Dutch blog post.
Daniel C. Dennett, Alvin Plantinga (2011) "Science and Religion Are They Compatible?", Oxford University Press, 96 pages.
Info. Expand upon the arguments that they presented in an exciting live debate held at the 2009 American Philosophical Association Central Division conference.
Elliott Sober (2010) "Did Darwin Write the Origin Backwards: Philosophical Essays on Darwin's Theory", Prometheus Books, Paperback 230 pp.
Info. See also: article Did Darwin write the Origin backwards?, PNAS June 16, 2009 (free available as pdf). See also Sober about unguided mutations. Review: NCSE reports. Contents and Excerpt.
Steve Stewart-Williams (2010) "Darwin, God and the Meaning of Life. How Evolutionary Theory Undermines Everything You Thought You Knew", Cambridge University Press hb, 376 pp.
Info: "Drawing on biology, psychology and philosophy, he argues that Darwinian science supports a view of a godless universe devoid of ultimate purpose or moral structure, but that we can still live a good life and a happy life within the confines of this view."
Part 1 is about Darwin and religion, Part 2 is about Human beings and their place in the universe; The status of human beings among the animals, Part 3 is about morality.
Francisco J. Ayala, Robert Arp (Editors) (2009) "Contemporary Debates in Philosophy of Biology" Wiley-Blackwell, pb 440pp.
Please note format: claim by one author, counterclaim by another author for each topic. Original choice of authors. No discussion of topic Are there natural laws in biology? Info.
Fern Elsdon-Baker (2009) "The Selfish Genius: How Richard Dawkins Rewrote Darwin's Legacy", Icon Books (Paperback) 288 pages.
Info. (history and philosophy of evolutionary theory)
Michael Ruse (Editor) (2009) "Philosophy after Darwin: Classic and Contemporary Readings", Princeton.
Info (including free introduction).
Thomas Dixon (2008) "Science and Religion: A Very Short Introduction", Oxford University Press, 168 pages.
Michael Ruse (Editor) (2008) "The Oxford Handbook of Philosophy of Biology", Oxford University Press, hb 656 pages.
Price: $150.00 . Paperback edition 2010: 656 pp. $49.95
Elliott Sober (2008) "Evidence and Evolution. The logic behind the science", Cambridge University Press, paperback, 392 pp.
This book is aimed at philosophers of science and evolutionary biologists. The goal is not to pile up facts that support evolution, rather to describe the tools that ought to be used to assess the evidence. In chapter 2 the Intelligent Design theory is analysed. New reasons are given why ID is not a scientific theory. Reviews: American Scientist, Trends in Ecology & Evolution, Volume 23, Issue 12, December 2008, Pages 662-663. Info, toc, excerpt. Home page Sober.
David N. Stamos (2008) "Evolution and the Big Questions. Sex, Race, Religion, and Other Matters",Blackwell
Examines topics of race, sex, gender, feminism, language, religion, ethics, knowledge, consciousness and the meaning of life. Info
Sahotra Sarkar (2008) "A Companion to the Philosophy of Biology", Blackwell
Chapters: Molecular Biology and Genetics, Evolution, Developmental Biology, Medicine, Ecology, Mind and Behavior, Experimentation, Theory, and Themes (including: What is Life?: Mark A. Bedau).
David L. Hull, Michael Ruse (Editors) (2008) "The Cambridge Companion to the Philosophy of Biology" (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy) (Paperback)
Info with free excerpt. Review. Too expensive.
Sahotra Sarkar (2007) "Doubting Darwin: Creationist Designs on Evolution", Wiley-Blackwell 232 pages
A philosophical critique of Intelligent desigin and fine tuning. Info. Google preview available.
William C. Wimsatt (2007) "Re-Engineering Philosophy for Limited Beings. Piecewise Approximations to Reality", Harvard University Press, 468 pp.
"Wimsatt is among the most creative, original, and empirically informed philosophers of our day." Review: Science.
Alex Rosenberg, Daniel W McShea (2007) "Philosophy of Biology: A Contemporary Introduction", Routledge, 256 pp.
Alex Rosenberg is a philosopher (author of 'Darwinian Reductionism') and Daniel W McShea is a biologist. Info. Review.
Thomas B. Fowler, Daniel Kuebler (2007) "The Evolution Controversy: A Survey of Competing Theories" Baker Academic, Paperback 384 pages.
A unique attempt by an engineer and a biologist to compare 4 schools of though about life and evolution: Neo-Darwinism, Creationism, Intelligent Design, and Meta-Darwinism in a a balanced and objective way. (Meta-Darwinism is defined as all kinds of extensions to neo-Darwinism).
James H. Fetzer (2006) "Render Unto Darwin. Philosophical Aspects of the Christian Right's Crusade against Science", Open Court, 288 pages.
Elliott Sober (ed) (2006) "Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, 3rd Edition", MIT Press, Cambridge, Paperback: 640 pp.
info. New chapters in this edition: The Two Faces of Fitness, Women in the Evolutionary Process, Evolutionary Psychology, Laws in Evolutionary Theory, Race. There is no chapter about the definition of life (the famous question What is life?). Chapter about morality: Four Ways of 'Biologicizing' Ethics.
Alex Rosenberg (2006) "Darwinian Reductionism: Or, How to Stop Worrying and Love Molecular Biology", University of Chicago Press: . 272 pp.
Reviews: Nature, American Scientist, ISIS, Info. There are (almost) no exact laws in biology, and no inexact laws either. The only laws in biology are Darwin's. Biological explanation is historical, all the way down to the molecules. Biology is history, but unlike human history, it is history for which the 'iron laws' of historical change have been found, and codified in Darwin's theory of natural selection. And natural selection is not reducible to any physical theory ...
"Rosenberg's reductionist project is that of demonstrating that ultimate explanations in biology are unavoidably inadequate. It proceeds in two stages. In the first he argues that all biological explanations, proximate and ultimate alike, reduce to molecular explanations; in the second he claims that all ultimate explanations can be supplemented by proximate molecular explanations" (ISIS).
Massimo Pigliucci and Jonathan Kaplan (2006) "Making Sense of Evolution: The Conceptual Foundations of Evolutionary Biology", The University of Chicago Press 236 pp.
A critique of the limitations of the so-called Modern Synthesis. A critical examination of the logic, consistency and applicability of some of the fundamental concepts used by evolutionary biologists. Info, info.
Michael Ruse (2006) "Darwinism and its Discontents", Cambridge University Press 2006 328 pp.
About the critics of evolution: students of literature, social scientists (sociology, cultural anthropology), physicists, computer scientists, (evolutionary) biologists, and philosphers. "All of the critics of Darwinism are deeply mistaken". Reviews: Nature, American Scientist.
Lewis Wolpert (2006) "Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief", Faber and Faber 243 pp.
"This is an admirable short guide to an immensely complex subject. It is unfortunate that this book should have come out at the same time as Daniel Dennett's Breaking The Spell on broadly the same subject. But Wolpert's book is more succinct and much better argued, and I would go for it every time": Review: Nature.
Ron Amundson, & Michael Ruse (2005) "The changing role of the embryo in evolutionary thought: Roots of Evo-Devo", Cambridge University Press, 2005. 296 pages.
This book examines the philosophical and historical aspects of the relation between mainstream evolutionary theory and developmental biology.
Moti Ben-Ari (2005) 'Just a Theory: Exploring the Nature of Science', Prometheus
info. Moti Ben-Ari is associate professor in the Department of Science Teaching at the Weizmann Institute, Israel, and the author of six textbooks on computer science.
Ernst Mayr (2004) "What makes biology unique? Considerations on the autonomy of a scientific discipline", Cambridge University Press, 2004. 232 pages.
See: Books by Ernst Mayr.
Lenny Moss (2004) "What Genes Can't Do", MIT Press, pb 228 pages.
A philosophical critique of genetic determinism. The development of the gene concept. More on this book in the future.
Michael Ruse (2003) "Darwin and Design. Does Evolution have a Purpose?", Harvard University Press. 371 pages.
This book is about design, complexity, purpose and adaptation in the biological world with special emphasis on the long history of the problem (Plato, Aristotle, Kant, Bergson, Paley). The historical treatment makes it useful for those who want to know where the problem comes from, and how it developed into the current Creation/Evolution controversy and how adaptation got its central place in evolutionary biology. Although Ruse is an evolutionist, he discusses his opponents with respect. "Organisms, produced by natural selection, have adaptations, and these give the appearance of being designed. If organisms did not seem to be designed, they would not work".
Reviews: Nature by evolutionary biologist Mark Ridley. Contrary to what Ridley says, there is a unifying theme in the book: function, design, purpose and adaptation in biology, philosophy and theology. A second review is from Robert Pennock in Science. Ruse was one of seven recipients of the Templeton Foundation award, which has resulted in this book according to Pennock. "This has to be the best of Ruse's many books, and it is hard to imagine how a better one could be written on this subject". The third review is by evolutionary biologist Massimo Pigliucci (2005) Evolution (journal).
Michael Ruse, (2001) "Can a Darwinian Be a Christian? The Relationship between Science and Religion", Cambridge University Press 242 pages.
An insightful and authoritative summary of how different people think about origins can be found in Chapter 3 (Origins). Michael Ruse is a professional philosopher, evolutionist and Darwinist. Review: London Review of Books.
Lily Kay (2000) "Who wrote the Book of Life? A History of the Genetic Code", Stanford University Press 470 pp.
A philosophical and historical analysis of the use and influence of the concepts "information" (genetic information), "code" (genetic code), "language" (genetic language) in genetic research in the 1950s and 1960s. Reviews: Science.
Kim Sterelny and Paul Griffiths (1999) "Sex and Death. An Introduction to Philosophy of Biology", University of Chicago Press.
An analysis of all fundamental concepts in biology: genes, molecules, organisms, species, reductionism, evolution, adaptation, development, genetics, sociobiology, what is life? Amazingly (!), they refuse to give a definition of life: "We do not see how a definition of 'life' is likely to help us with odd and hard-to-classify cases: prions, viruses, social insect colonies, or the much less plausible idea that the earth itself is a living system" (p.358) and in stead they try to define 'universal biology'. Gánti is not mentioned (of course), and there is nothing similar to Gánti's life criteria, which is a serious omission for a philosophy of biology textbook. Reviews: Science.
Michael Ruse (1999) "Mystery of Mysteries. Is Evolution a Social Construction?", Harvard University Press.
Using evolutionary theory as a case study, Michael Ruse, answers the question: is science objective as Karl Popper believed, or a social construction as Thomas Kuhn maintained? Reviews: Science, J . EVOL. BIOL. 13 (2000) 348-351.
Andrew Brown (1999) "The Darwin Wars: How Stupid Genes Became Selfish Gods", Simon & Schuster, London. 1999. xi + 241 pp. (hardback).
"Brown's book focuses on several recent debates in evolution: genic vs. organismic selection, punctuated equilibria, memes, and the biological bases of altruism, morality and spirituality. The book is aimed much more at the popular market": Review: J . EVOL. BIOL. 13 (2000) 348-351.
David L. Hull and Michael Ruse (eds) (1998) "Philosophy of Biology, Oxford University Press. 772 pp.
Main sections of the book: Adaptation, Development, Units of selection, Function, Species, Human Nature, Altruism, The Human Genome Project, Progress, Creationism (with contributions by Alvin Plantinga and Ernan McMullin). Most authors are philosophers (of biology), some scientsts.
Michael Ruse (editor) (1998) 'Philosophy of Biology", Prometheus Books, paperback 370 pp.
This is a collection of classic texts about subjects: What is Life? design, tautology problem, punctuated equilibrium, classification, teleology, molecular biology, recombinant DNA, sociobiology, extraterrestrials, ethics, God, cloning.
Suzanne Cunningham (1996) "Philosophy and the Darwinian Legacy", University of Rochester Press, 1996
"Professor Cunningham criticises purely cognitivist theories of perception and Machine Functionalist theories of mind, and offers proposals on how these theories should be amended to take account of the adaptive role that perception and mind play on behalf of a living organism's struggle for survival and well-being.". (publisher's info).
Daniel Dennett (1995) 'Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the meanings of Life', Simon & Schuster.
See my little 'review' of the book.
Recommended by Nick Lane: "I never appreciated what a razor-sharp philosophical mind could do to scientific arguments until I read this book, where Dan Dennett skweres some of the biggest names in biology, including Stephen Jay Gould's take on the Cambrian explosion. Revelatory."
Elliott Sober (1993) "Philosophy of Biology", Westview Press, paperback, 1993, 231 pages.
Chapters: What is Evolutionary Theory? Historical particulars and General Laws. Creationism, Fitness, The units of selection problem, Adaptionism, Systematics, Sociobiology and the extension of evolutionary theory. Review by Reilly Jones.
Michael Ruse (1973) "The Philosophy of Biology", Hutchinson University Library, paperback, 231pp.
Contains discussion of evolutionary laws (Chapter 4).
medicine & evolution [ in descending chronological order ]
28 Dec 20
28 Dec 20
Reading tip: In the evolution textbook Carl Zimmer (2013) Evolution. Making Sense of Life chapter 18 is devoted to Evolutionary Medicine (40 pages).
Kat Arney (2020) 'Rebel Cell: Cancer, Evolution, and the New Science of Life's Oldest Betrayal', BenBella Books.
"I want to show you that cancer isn't a modern human disease, but is hardwired into the fundamental processes of biology." Publishers info. Also by Kat Arney: Herding Hemingway's Cats about the human genome, epigenetics and non-DNA inheritance.
Important and free review of the book in the journal Evolution.
Athena Aktipis (2020) 'The Cheating Cell: How Evolution Helps Us Understand and Treat Cancer', Princeton University Press.
Website: "The Cheating Cell is a book about a new way of looking at cancer. It is about the fundamental evolutionary and ecological underpinnings of the disease. I also take a look at how our bodies have evolved (because of selection among organisms for better cancer suppression system) to deal with the threat of cellular cheating. I end the book by showing how new evolutionarily-informed approaches to cancer hold the promise for changing how we treat cancer and helping us to live longer and more fulfilling lives even with a diagnosis of the disease."
Important and free review of the book in the journal Evolution.
Randolph M. Nesse (2019) 'Good Reasons for Bad Feelings: Insights From the Frontier of Evolutionary Psychiatry', Dutton
Review in Nature: "Good Reasons for Bad Feelings builds on these insights. Adopting an 'engineers point of view' on mental illnesses, Nesse suggests that anxiety, although apparently undesirable, is a design component with utility in certain situations. ... Nesse argues that evolutionary theory could foster therapeutic breakthroughs by providing a robust theoretical foundation for psychiatry." See also: Randolph Nesse, George Williams (1996) Why we get sick. The reviewer did not compare this book with Nesse's 1996 book. So, we don't know what is new.
Stephen C. Stearns, Ruslan Medzhitov (2015) 'Evolutionary Medicine', Sinauer.
Info from publisher.
Robert L. Perlman (2013) 'Evolution and Medicine', Oxford University Press, Oxford, UK, 2013
"written for physicians, biomedical scientists, and both premedical and medical students". Review: here. Contents: Human demography, Evolutionary genetics, Cystic fibrosis, Life history tradeoffs, Cancer, Host-pathogen evolution, Sexualy transmitted diseases, Malaria, Gene-culture coevolution, Obsesity, diabetes, hypertension.
Daniel Davis (2013) "The Compatibility Gene" Penguin, 248 pages.
Daniel Davis is an immunologist at the University of Manchester (UK). "The Compatibility Gene , which explores the diversity of human immunity and its implications. To make it accessible to the public, he focused on the idea that the biggest genetic differences between humans are not in the genes that code for hair, eye or skin colour, but rather in the genes of our immune systems". (Nature, 5 Dec 13).
Most of the 25,000 genes we possess are the same for all of us. Compatibility genes are those that vary most from person to person and give each of us a unique molecular signature. These genes determine both the extent to which we are susceptible to a vast range of illnesses and the different ways each of us fights disease.
Stephen J. Simpson and David Raubenheimer (2012) 'The Nature of Nutrition: A Unifying Framework from Animal Adaptation to Human Obesity', Princeton University Press 260 pp.
Info. Review: "Obesity specialist Stephen J. Simpson and nutritional ecologist David Raubenheimer present a theoretical approach to understanding nutrition through the lens of ecology and evolution". (Nature) See also: The nature of nutrition: a unifying framework.
Jonathan C. K. Wells (2010) 'The Evolutionary Biology of Human Body Fatness', Cambridge University Press
About the role body fat plays in human biology. Info.
Michael L. Power, Jay Schulkin (2009) 'The Evolution of Obesity', Johns Hopkins University Press. Hardcover 408 pages.
"In an environment of abundant food, we are anatomically, physiologically, metabolically, and behaviorally programmed in a way that makes it difficult for us to avoid gaining weight". info. Review: Nature: "The ingredients in The Evolution of Obesity are somewhat unbalanced, favouring proximate over evolutionary causes. Yet the book goes far beyond anything else that is available on obesity. Power and Schulkin deserve much credit for their bold attempt to combine evolutionary and reductionist explanations, and for their unflinching acknowledgement of complexity".
Peter Gluckman et al (2009) 'Principles of Evolutionary Medicine', Oxford University Press, pb 312 pages.
Info. Review: Science: "This is the first specifically designed as a textbook appropriate for medical students and medical schools, and it succeeds brilliantly".
Sarah Elton, Paul O'Higgins (editors) (2008) 'Medicine and Evolution: Current Applications, Future Prospects', CRC Press, 320 pages
The book introduces evolutionary viewpoints on nutrition, diabetes, fertility, pediatrics, immune response, and psychiatry. info.
Greg Gibson (2008) 'It Takes a Genome: How a Clash Between Our Genes and Modern Life Is Making Us Sick', FT Press, 208 pages.
Info (with sample Chapter). Review: New York Review of Books (Richard C. Lewontin, May 28, 2009).
Tessa Pollard (2008) 'Western Diseases: An Evolutionary Perspective', Cambridge University Press.
Review: American Scientist: "Western Diseases persuades us that we can only understand health and disease in an evolutionary context."
Caleb E. Finch (2007) "The Biology of Human Longevity. Inflammation, Nutrition, and Aging in the Evolution of Life-spans", Academic (Elsevier), Amsterdam, 2007. 640 pp.
"The book provides an unparalleled synthesis of the burgeoning literature addressing the roles played by oxidative damage and inflammation in diseases of aging. ... and a short primer of evolutionary aging theory ... he summarizes an exhaustive body of clinical literature, showcasing nutritional and pharmaceutical approaches that have potential for intervening in aging disease states by curtailing inflammation-induced damage. With the coupling of his expertise in neuroscience and clinical medicine to his keen interests in demography and comparative zoology, Finch arguably remains our most potent synthesizer of biology and gerontology.". Reviews: Science, American Scientist. Info: Chapter 5, summaries.
Steven A. Frank (2007) "Dynamics of Cancer. Incidence, Inheritance, and Evolution". Princeton University Press.
Steven Frank is an evolutionary biologist. Evolutionary theory is the right framework to adopt. He is the author of Immunology and Evolution of Infectious Disease and Foundations of Social Evolution (both Princeton). Review: Science. Info, chapter 1.
Ethne Barnes (2007) "Diseases and Human Evolution" (Paperback).
Barnes, a paleopathologist, offers general overviews of specific diseases (Malaria, West Nile virus, Lyme disease, Ebola, HIV/AIDS, Influenza, Tuberculosis, Cholera, Syphilis, Smallpox, SARS, etc.) and their carriers.
Jan Vijg (2007) "Aging of the Genome: The Dual Role of DNA in Life and Death", Oxford University Press, hardback, paperback, 372 pp.
Info. Oxford Scholarship Online gives abstracts of each chapter. Jan Vijg's excellent book critically examines the case for somatic mutation as the cause of aging.
Reviews: Nature, Nature Genetics.
Sharon Moalem (2006) 'Survival of the Sickest. A Medical Maverick Discovers Why We Need Disease'
Publishers: William Morrow, and HarperCollins, 2007. Dutch: Het Nut van Ziekte.
New edition: Survival of the Sickest: The Surprising Connections Between Disease and Longevity, Harper Perennial Paperback 2008.
Info: publishers website.
Peter Gluckman, Mark Hanson (2006) 'Mismatch: Why Our World No Longer Fits Our Bodies', Oxford University Press: 2006. 304 pp.
Review: Nature: "The bodies we have now are the product of evolution. Peter Gluckman and Mark Hanson argue that they are mismatched to our needs in society today, and that this divide has increased the rate of lifestyle diseases such as diabetes and obesity."
André Klarsfeld, Frédéric Revah (2003) 'The Biology of Death: Origins of Mortality', Cornell University, 240 pages.
"The book's style and level of explanation are highly suitable for a general audience. The broad overview of gerontological fact, fiction and theory is basically sound and provides a useful introduction to the perplexities of biological ageing." (review: Nature 428, 125, 11 March 2004). info. "A rare meld of evolution and medicine" (Nick Lane).
Steven A. Frank (2002) 'Immunology and Evolution of Infectious Disease'.
Frank bridges the gap between immunology and evolutionary biology. Review: Science. The book is now free available as a pdf.
Gianni Belcaro (2001) 'Once We Were Hunters. A Study of the Evolution of Vascular Disease', World Scientific Books, 136pp.
Mel Greaves (2000) 'Cancer. The evolutionary legacy' Oxford University Press, 276 pp.
"It is my personal view that the perspective that best explains the puzzle of cancer is an evolutionary or Darwinian one." Why does cancer exist at all? Why doesn't a healthy body deal with it? Why is it so common? Why do unmarried women have a higher risk of breast cancer then married women? With a very illuminating illustration of the number of ovulatory cycles and pregnancies of early hunter-gatherer versus modern women and the relation with breast cancer.
Tom Kirkwood (1999) Time of Our Lives: The Science of Human Aging, Oxford University Press, Paperback.
"One of the best introductions to the biology of ageing by a pioneer in the field." (Nick Lane).
Wenda R. Trevathan, E. O. Smith and James McKenna (1999) "Evolutionary Medicine", Oxford University Press, $54.
Remarkably, in 1999 OUF published two textbooks on evolutionary medicine: this one and one by Stephen Stearns (see below). Evolutionary medicine is about the evolutionary origins of medical problems.
Stephen Stearns (1999) "Evolution in Health and Disease", Oxford University Press. 2e edition (2008) with Jacob C. Koella.
info. Evolutionary adaptations in humans which proved beneficial in our past may prove less so now, causing disease. This book "challenges the notion that the body is a Platonic ideal designed for health and happiness". Stephen Stearns is the author of the textbooks Evolution: An Introduction and The Evolution of Life Histories. Review: Trends in Ecology & Evolution Volume 23, Issue 8, August 2008, Pages 422-423.
Michael McGuire, Alfonso Troisi (1998) "Darwinian Psychiatry", Oxford University Press, hardcover, 360 pages.
McGuire and Troisi provide a Darwinian conceptual framework for integrating many features of prevailing models (biomedical, psychoanalytic, behavioral, and sociocultural) in psychiatry.
Randolph Nesse, George Williams (1996) "Why we get sick. The new science of Darwinian medicine", Vintage Books, paperback 290 pages. Also published as "Evolution and Healing: Darwinian Medicine: Why and How Does Disease Still Exist?" by Phoenix.
In this book physician Nesse and evolutionary biologist Williams explore the evolutionary meaning of infectious diseases, ageing, allergy, cancer, sex and mental disorders. The emphasis is on humans, contrary to Evolutionary Epidemiology (see below). The authors argue that many or most diseases have or had somehow evolutionary benefits. If not, it is the modern environment (never modern medicine itself). "We are not interested here in whether the human gene pool is getting better or worse, and we are emphatically not advocating actions to improve the species. (...) The goal of medicine has always been (...) to help the sick, not the species. (...) We are by no means advocating that medicine should assist natural selection." (p.11) "When a gene acts against the interests of the patient, the physician should act against the gene." (p.106). So, they are clearly against eugenics, but are blind to the degeneration of the human genome and the possible role of modern medicine in that process.
See also: The dawn of Darwinian medicine (1991), 'Does Medicine without Evolution Make Sense?' (PLoS Biol 5(4) April 17, 2007. Free access), Evolution & Medicine Network, Home site Randolph M. Nesse.
Paul W. Ewald (1996) "Evolution of Infectious Disease", Oxford University Press, paperback 290 pages.
This is a book about Evolutionary Epidemiology. The focus of this discipline is on the spread of disease, whereas Darwinian medicine (see above) focuses more on individual patients. Evolutionary epidemiology spans a broader spectrum of host-parasite relationships, it extends beyond medical settings to encompass parasitism in nature and agriculture involving both plant and animal hosts. The emphasis is on the parasites' point of view rather than from the hosts' point of view (humans). Ewald attacks the dominant view that 'parasites should evolve toward benign coexistence with their hosts'. Seeks to explain why different host-parasite associations have evolved different levels of virulence. Hypothesis: vectorborne (mosquito-borne) pathogens that reproduce extensively in the vertebrate host should win big: they get great fitness benefits and pay little fitness costs. Two chapters about AIDS. Included are a Glossary and 70 pages references. I miss a Contents page.
Robert E. Ricklefs, Caleb E. Finch (1995) "Aging: A Natural History", Scientific American Library, Hardcover - April 1995.
Patterns of aging, theories of aging, aging and sex, genes and aging, evolution of aging. Popular and educational account of aging in humans and animals with many scientific details and many splendid colour illustrations (as can be expected from Scientific American!).
Michael R. Rose (1994) Evolutionary Biology of Aging, (Pb - Dec 1994, $49,50).
This is the standard textbook by an expert in the field of aging. It needs a new (and cheaper!) edition. A popular account of aging is his The Long Tomorrow: How Advances in Evolutionary Biology Can Help Us Postpone Aging (OUP, Hardcover, September, 2005, 174 pages)
James Graham (1992) Cancer Selection. The new theory of evolution, (Hb 213 pages).
This work was initially ignored or dismissed, but is now referenced several times in peer-reviewed journals. Free Ebook now available. His website. His blog: Cancer Selection.
Caleb E. Finch (1990) 'Longevity, Senescence, and the Genome', The University of Chicago Press, 938 pages!
Info (See Contents on the website of the publisher). A very thorough treatment of The Comparative Biology (Phylogeny and Genetics) of Senescence.
economics & evolution
Geoffrey M. Hodgson (2012) "From Pleasure Machines to Moral Communities. An Evolutionary Economics without Homo Economicus", University of Chicago Press
Info. In line with recent research from the evolutionary and behavioural sciences, I argue that humans are generally morally motivated as well as self-interested.
Robert H. Frank (2011) "The Darwin Economy: Liberty, Competition, and the Common Good", Princeton University Press. Also paperback (2012).
Info: "Darwin's understanding of competition describes economic reality far more accurately than Adam Smith's. And the consequences of this fact are profound. Indeed, the failure to recognize that we live in Darwin's world rather than Smith's is putting us all at risk by preventing us from seeing that competition alone will not solve our problems.". Homepage Robert Frank. Youtube: 'Was Charles Darwin the Father of Economics as Well?'
Tim Harford (2011) "Adapt. Why Success Always Starts with Failure", Farrar, Straus and Giroux.
Info. Youtube. Review: Science: "Tim Harford argues that much can be gained from taking an evolutionary view of economics. (...) shows why the flexibility to fail should be a key criterion for crafting successful businesses. He argues that allowing for different competing ideas, products, and business strategies will eventually lead to those that are best able to survive in a complex world. Crucial to this claim are two fundamental requirements of biological evolution: variation and selection on that variation. (...) However, it is essential to be able to survive the failure of the ideas that don't work out."
Geoffrey M. Hodgson, Thorbjorn Knudsen (2010) "Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution", University Of Chicago Press, hardback, paperback (2012).
Info. Review: "In Darwin's Conjecture, economists Hodgson and Knudsen cogently present their argument for generalized Darwinism– namely, that the core principles of variation, selection, and inheritance (or replication) can be successfully applied to social evolution".
J. Stanley Metcalfe (ed) (2006) Evolutionary Economics and Creative Destruction, Routledge.
Paul Ormerod (2006) "Why Most Things Fail. Evolution, Extinction and Economics", Pantheon 269 pages.
"Ormerod (an economic forecaster and founder of the British consulting firm Volterra) touts the book as an explanation of failure, saying that scientists (including economists) spend too much time studying success. Failure, after all, is much more common." Review: Science. Info + Excerpt.
Herbert Gintis, Samuel Bowles, Robert Boyd & Ernst Fehr (ed) 2005 "Moral Sentiments and Material Interests: The Foundations of Cooperation in Economic Life", MIT. 404 pp.
"The most important unanswered question in evolutionary biology, and more generally in the social sciences, is how cooperative behaviour evolved and can be maintained in human or other animal groups and societies". This book is devoted to explaining 'the puzzle of cooperation' and shows it is common to evolutionary biology, anthropology, economy, sociology and psychology. Review: Nature.
Frans de Waal (2005) "How Animals Do Business" Scientific American Apr 2005, 55-61
"Human and other animals share a heritage of economic tendencies - including cooperation, repayment of favors and resentment at being shortchanged." - the discipline of behavioral economics.
Geerat J. Vermeij (2004) "Nature: An Economic History" Princeton University Press, 445 pages.
"Economic principles applicable to humans are the same as those that govern all other forms of life. (...) In spite of all unique qualities and institutions, our species and the economic and social system we have created follow all the same fundamental rules that govern other life and their economic structures. Like other living things, we too are ruled by conflicts of interest, cooperative behavior, adaptation, unequal outcomes of trade, the disproportionate influence of the rich and powerful." Vermeij is geologist, palaeontologist, evolutionary biologist. [ 10 dec 04 ]
A very detailed and positive review by paleontologist Richard Bambach has appeared in the American Scientist March-April 2005 (free): "I regard his main argument as convincing".
Arthur Gandolfi, Anna Gandolfi, David Barash (2002) "Economics As an Evolutionary Science: From Utility to Fitness", Transaction Publishers, 273 pages.
Ronald Noë, Jan van Hooff, Peter Hammerstein (Editors) (2002) "Economics in Nature: Social Dilemmas, Mate Choice and Biological Markets" (Hardcover) In this volume scientists from different disciplines combine insights from economics, evolutionary biology, and the social sciences to look at comparative aspects of economic behavior in humans and other animals. Info.
Haim Ofek (2001) "Second Nature: Economic Origins of Human Evolution".
"Ofek makes several interesting connections between economics and biology, but fails to demonstrate clearly how economic pressures might have contributed to the evolutionary process itself". Review: Nature.
Geoffrey Hodgson (1993, 1997) "Economics and Evolution: Bringing Life Back into Economics", University of Michigan Press, paperback.
Info. This book is about the application to economics of evolutionary ideas from biology.
politics, ethics, morality & evolution
12 Mar 21
See also categories: psychology
Richard Wrangham (2019) 'The Goodness Paradox. The Strange Relationship Between Virtue and Violence in Human Evolution', Vintage 400pp.
Wrangham is the author of Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human and Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence. We Homo sapiens can be the nicest of species and also the nastiest. What occurred during human evolution to account for this paradox?
Paul Johnson (2012) 'Darwin: Portrait of a Genius ' Viking Adult 176 pages.
Paul Johnson is a conservative Catholic (wiki). His website. It seems Paul Johnson is rather hostile to Darwin and Darwinism, so the title of the book does not reflect his real attitude to Darwin. The book title is a decoy, dishonest. He argues for the Darwin–Hitler link.
Review: 'Darwin, That Genius, Was Responsible for Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot' (Slate 11 Oct 12).
Review: Ludicrous biography attempts to link Darwin to Hitler (New Scientist 15 October 2012)
Review: Paul Johnson on Social Darwinism: "Critics of Darwinism should beware of Johnson's biography. Some elements of it are alluring, but it contains so much misinformation that it damages the cause of the truth. Anyone relying on it will be leaning on a broken reed." (Richard Weikart, November 24, 2012)
Review: (Dutch): BioNieuws 13 Apr 13: "In hoofdstuk 7 ontspoort Johnson echter volledig door wel erg gretig kwalijke uitwassen van sociaal-Darwinisme en eugenetica aan Darwin toe te schrijven."
Review: by John M. Lynch in Reports of the National Center for Science Education, Vol 35, No 2 (2015).
Nathaniel Comfort (2012) "The Science of Human Perfection How Genes Became the Heart of American Medicine", Yale University Press
Info. Review: "Above all, Comfort is interested in the people who shaped medical genetics, their motivations and methods. He offers vivid biographical sketches of towering figures such as internist Victor McKusick (author of the catalog Mendelian Inheritance in Man) as well as lesser-known contributors such as blood-group geneticist Laurence Snyder. Comfort does not provide a comprehensive history of human genetics. ... Given how radically its author recasts the history of American eugenics, The Science of Human Perfection is a remarkably unpolemical work. Comfort does not seek to rehabilitate eugenics, but he does compel the reader to recognize that the American impulse to improve health through science was a key ingredient of eugenics and remains a driver of medical genetics today." (Science).
Maxwell J. Mehlman (2012) "Transhumanist Dreams and Dystopian Nightmares. The Promise and Peril of Genetic Engineering", Johns Hopkins University Press
Mehlman is Professor of Law and bioethicist. Info.
Review: "Mehlman thinks that we will inevitably reengineer the human species. ... offers a deep and wide-ranging catalog of the implications of transhumanism as a philosophical doctrine and a careful analysis of potential pitfalls and concerns. ... we get a superb view of interesting case law upon which government intervention in health derives ... Mehlman cites an AAAS report as giving us a legitimate reason to pursue genetic engineering as an obligation ... he seems to be largely up to date on topics such "junk" DNA and epigenetics ... One of the strengths of Mehlman's approach is his keen attention to the evolutionary perspective ... (Science).
Edward O. Wilson (2012) "The Social Conquest of Earth", Liveright (Norton)
Info. Review Nature (26 April 2012): "Many of Wilson's ideas in this book will stand the test of time. However, he is perhaps a bit too assertive in the way he frames his theory. He is excessively critical of inclusive fitness theory, repeatedly claiming that it is 'incorrect', and saying that the literature on it has produced 'meager' results."
Review (Science 31 August 2012): "the firmly established theory of kin selection was flawed. Instead group selection is the key to solving the riddle of altruism. Humans are thus pulled toward selfishness by individual selection and toward altruism by group selection. The book certainly accomplishes one thing: it gets the reader thinking. Why do we follow religions or sports teams? Why are we racist? Why do we go to war? Why do we feel empathy and honor? Why do we prefer to live close to rivers or lakes and enjoy having a view?
Richard Dawkins review: "Wilson now rejects 'kin selection' and replaces it with a revival of 'group selection'– the poorly defined and incoherent view that evolution is driven by the differential survival of whole groups of organisms. ... In his previous books, Wilson was a supporter of Hamilton's ideas, but he has now turned against them in a way that suggests to me that he never really understood them in the first place. ... As for the book under review, the theoretical errors I have explained are important, pervasive, and integral to its thesis in a way that renders it impossible to recommend."
Christopher Boehm (2012) "Moral Origins: The Evolution of Virtue, Altruism, and Shame". Basic Books 432 pp.
Info. Reviews: "Ethologist and anthropologist Christopher Boehm exposes the roots of generosity and peer disapproval. Eschewing evolutionary game theory, he opts instead for natural selection within the social environment. Boehm posits that selection began with a "crime and punishment" scenario: thugs would have been kicked out of early hunting bands as threats to group survival, and alpha-male hogging of sexual favours would not have been tolerated. Altruism would, argues Boehm, be increasingly valued in partners and allies. Ultimately, such social control might have caused biological change" (Nature review 3 May 12).
"The book's greatest value lies in its elegant naturalistic explanation for morality, which dovetails Darwinian history with philosophy." (Science, 31 August 2012)
Peter Singer (2011) 'The Expanding Circle. Ethics, Evolution, and Moral Progress', Princeton University Press. (original title: The Expanding Circle: Ethics and Sociobiology).
Info. First edition of this now classic book: 1981. New preface and afterword in 2011 edition. Chapters include: The Origins of Altruism, The Biological Basis of Ethics, From Evolution to Ethics? He discusses altruism after having read E. O. Wilson's Sociobiology: The New Synthesis (1975). Singer introduces the idea of moral progress. There is a biological basis for ethics (altruism), but the expansion of the circle of moral concern for other beings is based on rational thinking. Peter Singer is the author of: Animal Liberation (1975).
Patricia S. Churchland (2011) "Braintrust What Neuroscience Tells Us About Morality", Princeton University Press.
Info (Chapter 1). Review: Science: "Rather than advancing a naturalistically or scientifically based moral code, she sees science as deepening our understanding of the 'nature of our sociality' and shedding light on our practices and institutions so that we think more wisely about them. She is less interested in specifying moral rules or principles." Morality does not have a supernatural basis.
Sam Harris (2010) "The Moral Landscape: How Science Can Determine Human Values ", Free Press.
Reviewed by evolutionary biologist H. Allen Orr for the New York Review of Books: "The first half of The Moral Landscape is concerned with the possibility of a science of morality" ("how science can determine human values"); "It seems clear that what really angers and animates him is moral relativism, not those who question the possibility of a scientific morality"; "I certainly share his vision of the well-being of conscious creatures as a sensible end for ethics. And I agree that science can and should help us to attain this end. And I certainly agree that religion has no monopoly on morals. The problem -and it's one that Harris never faces up to- is that one can agree with all these things and yet not think that morality should be "considered an undeveloped branch of science."
Richard Weikart (2009) "Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress", Palgrave Macmillan, 268 pages.
Bio. Expelled. Book recommended by William Dembski.
David Livingstone Smith (2009) "The Most Dangerous Animal: Human Nature and the Origins of War", St. Martin's Griffin, Paperback.
Frans de Waal (2009) 'The Age of Empathy. Nature's Lessons for a Kinder Society', Harmony Books
Reviews: Science: "The Age of Empathy is essentially a moral pamphlet –and a very eloquent and entertaining one at that"); important review in American Scientist. Interview: "There are many animals that survive through cooperation".
See my blogs:
William F. Loomis (2008) 'Life As It Is: Biology for the Public Sphere', University of California Press: 2008. 272 pp.
Review: Nature: "But if his intention is less ambitious, namely that a realistic appreciation of biology ought to inform ethical decision-making, then that is incontrovertible."
Michael J. Sandel (2007) "The Case against Perfection. Ethics in the Age of Genetic Engineering", Harvard University Press, paperback 162 pp. (with index!)
Info. Chapters include: 'Designer Children, Designing Parents', 'The Old Eugenics and the New' and 'The moral status of the embryo' (in: The Epilogue). Dutch translation: Pleidooi tegen volmaaktheid. Een ethiek voor gentechnologie (2012). Michael J. Sandel is an American political philosopher and the author of Justice: What's the Right Thing to Do?. Related webpage: William Hamilton's worries about the future of the human genome.
Frans de Waal (2006) "Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved", Princeton University Press, hb 209 pages.
Review: Biology and Philosophy; Info; Chapter 1 ( Full text )
Marc D. Hauser (2006) "Moral Minds: How Nature Designed Our Universal Sense of Right and Wrong", Ecco: 2006. 512 pp. (Also by HarperCollins paperback 2007; info and sample chapters)
"For Hauser, moral intuition is not the product of culture and education, nor is it the result of rational and deliberative thought, nor does it reduce to the workings of the emotions. Instead, it is human nature to unconsciously and automatically evaluate the moral status of human actions" from review: Nature and "Moral Minds makes a grand stab at synthesizing existing work in philosophy, psychology, neurobiology and evolutionary theory in an effort to explain our moral capacities" from: American Scientist. Review. Tinbergen lecture (20-9-2009).
Richard Joyce (2006) "The Evolution of Morality", Hardcover (2006), paperback (2007), The MIT Press.
Info. "This book attempts to accomplish two tasks. The first is to address the question 'Is human morality innate?' (chapters 1-4). We will arrive at a positive answer. Joyce carefully examines both the evolutionary "vindication of morality" and the evolutionary "debunking of morality". If we suppose that morality is innate, does this in some manner vindicate morality, staving off the threat of moral skepticism? Or, if morality is ultimately just something that helped our ancestors make babies, might the correct implication instead be that the authority of morality is undermined? (chapters 5 and 6)." (publisher's info and sample chapters). See also: Evolutionary Psychology.
Frans de Waal (2005) "Our Inner Ape. A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are", Riverhead Books paperback 285 pages (with photographs by the author).
We share more with primates than power and sex. Fellow-feeling and empathy are equally important, but they are rarely mentioned as part of our biological heritage. See also his Good Natured: The Origins of Right and Wrong in Humans and Other Animals and Primates and Philosophers: How Morality Evolved.
Larry Arnhart (2005) "Darwinian Conservatism" Imprint Academic, paperback 162 pages.
"The fear of Darwinian immorality is evident in Richard Weikart's book. A big part of my book is the attempt to dispel this fear by showing how Darwinian biology actually supports traditional morality as rooted in a natural moral sense (...) shaped by natural selection in human evolutionary history". (Arnhart) (info from author). Larry Arnhart is a professor of political science and the author of Darwinian Natural Right: The Biological Ethics of Human Nature (1998) which could be described as a very interesting attempt to show that traditional ethics is compatible with and based on natural, evolutionary desires.
Michael S. Gazzaniga (2005) "The Ethical Brain". 201 pp. Dana Press.
Review: American Scientist: "Because it is brief, compelling and free of technical jargon, the whole book can be easily read during a transcontinental flight. At a time when intellectuals may feel cowed by the heavy hand of the fervently religious, it is a relief to see that Gazzaniga neither shies away from controversial opinions nor waters them down so as to offend nobody. At the same time, he is respectful of moral convictions that do not line up with his own. His opinions are delivered not as dogma but as part of an ongoing reflection and conversation, in which seeing all sides of a moral problem is itself regarded as a moral achievement."
Richard Weikart (2004) "From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany". hardback Palgrave Macmillan.
Richard Weikart, a historian in the Dept. of History, California State University, claims that many leading Darwinian biologists and social thinkers in Germany believed that Darwinism had overturned traditional Judeo-Christian and Enlightenment ethics. Weikart claims that Darwinism played a key role not only in the rise of eugenics, but also in euthanasia, infanticide, abortion, and racial extermination, all ultimately embraced by the Nazis. The title 'From Darwin to Hitler' is rather misleading since Weikart does not claim that Darwinism does inevitably and logically lead to Nazism. The title is just as misleading as the hypothetical title 'From Einstein to Hiroshima'. A more accurate description of the book would be 'From Haeckel to Hitler'. Review, Review.
See my review God, Hitler and the Free Will Defense for Weikart and the 'Sanctity of Human Life' doctrine.
Dieter Kuntz (editor) (2004) "Deadly Medicine: Creating the Master Race", University of North Carolina Press, hardcover 226 pp.
Review: Nature Genetics.
Frans de Waal (2000) "Chimpanzee Politics : Power and Sex among Apes, The Johns Hopkins University Press; 2 edition, 256 pages.
Frans de Waal reminds us again that the roots of politics are older than humanity.
Leonard D Katz (Editor) (2000) "Evolutionary Origins of Morality : Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives", Imprint Academic
This book contains essays and critical comments by many authors. How, When and Why Did the Unique Aspects of Human Morality Arise? Are We Really Altruists? Can Fairness Evolve? Info, Introduction by Katz.
Peter Singer (2000) "A Darwinian Left: Politics, Evolution, and Cooperation", Yale University Press, Hardcover 64 pages.
Info. "Singer explains why the left originally rejected Darwinian thought and why these reasons are no longer viable".
Jane Maienschein, Michael Ruse (eds) (1999) "Biology and the foundation of ethics" Cambridge University Press.
Historical perspective on the relation of biology and ethics. Contains chapter 'The case against Evolutionary Ethics today'. Info.
Matt Ridley (1998) "The Origins of Virtue: Human Instincts and the Evolution of Cooperation", Penguin Paperback 304 pages
This book is described by Richard Dawkins: "as well as being a lucid account of the whole field of Darwinian morality, is especially good on reputation" (TGD, p.218).
Paul Rubin (1998) "Darwinian Politics: The Evolutionary Origin of Freedom", Rutgers University Press, paperback 223 pages.
Darwinian Politics is the first book to examine political behavior from a modern evolutionary perspective. Paul H. Rubin is a professor of economics and law at Emory University.
David Loye (1998) "Darwin's Lost Theory of Love. A Healing Vision For the New Century". toExcel paperback 336 pages.
"Darwin's Lost Theory of Love is the story of the discovery of a major theory of Darwin's that has been ignored for over 100 years. Focusing on the impact on our evolution of love, sex and moral sensitivity rather than selfishness and survival of the fittest, this theory wholly contradicts both the scientific and the popular portrait of Darwin prevailing over the 20th century. Based on page after page of Darwin's own long ignored writings, it includes his overlooked uncovering of a third major process of evolution that offers new hope for humanity during the 21st century." (publisher). "The prominent feature article in the August 3 2000 issue of Christian Science Monitor is a good sign" (amazon). David Loye is editor of "The Great Adventure: Toward a Fully Human Theory of Evolution (Suny Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology)", 2004.
R.D. Alexander (1987) 'The Biology of Moral Systems'. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.
engineering, physics & evolution [ in descending chronological order ]
14 Nov 20
See also: Artificial Life
David Hu (2020) 'How to Walk on Water and Climb up Walls: Animal Movement and the Robots of the Future', Princeton paperback.
Info from the publisher.
Charles S. Cockell (2018) 'The Equations of Life: How Physics Shapes Evolution, Basic Books, 348 pp .
"This book explores one line of thinking that tries to make sense of diverse areas of science that straddle the living and the nonliving, the indefeasible links between physics and evolutionary biology. This book not a sterile attempt to demonstrate that evolution is an utterly predictable product of physics." "Which features of life are deterministically driven by physical laws and which are mere chance, contingent events decided by a metaphorical role of the dice? This question remains one of the most cogent and interesting puzzles about life and its evolution". Cockell is the author of Astrobiology: Understanding Life in the Universe. Review: Science, 20 Jul 2018. Also available as e-book.
Graham Taylor, Adrian Thomas (2014) 'Evolutionary Biomechanics. Selection, Phylogeny, and Constraint', Oxford University Press, 176 pp.
Graham Taylor (Mathematical Biology); Adrian Thomas (Biomechanics): What should surprise us is how slight a role biomechanics has played in the development of evolutionary thought. Biomechanics offers an exceptionally fine lens through which to view pattern and process in evolution, and the purpose of this book is to hold that lens up to some fundamental questions in evolutionary biology. One of the most important contributions that biomechanics can make to evolutionary biology is to elucidate the interaction between selection, phylogeny, and constraint. Evolutionary biomechanics is the study of the interaction of these three key influences upon adaptive evolution. Note: Since we will not know in general how natural selection weights various conflicting performance objectives in a given species, the phenotype will not be predictable. There are several phenotytpic solutions. Usefull overview of the book in chapter 1 (free at publisher site).
Rainer Feistel, Werner Ebeling (2012) "Physics of Self-Organization and Evolution" Wiley-VCH.
Peter M. Hoffmann (2012) "Life's Ratchet: How Molecular Machines Extract Order from Chaos" Basic Books
Hoffmann is professor of physics (homepage). Life from the point of view of a physicist. What is so special about the nanoscale, and why should we look to this scale to explain how life works? The molecular machines in our cells seem to tame the atomic chaos which rules the nanoscale. But how can they do this without violating the ironclad laws of thermodynamics? The Mystery of Life: The mystery revealed. How "mere" molecules turn chaos into order and "purpose". How an understanding of molecular machines provides a powerful argument for evolution. Review: Nature: "The book is a good mix of history and the latest concepts, straightforwardly explained."
John Long (2012) "Darwin's Devices: What Evolving Robots Can Teach Us About the History of Life and the Future of Technology", Basic Books.
Info. Review: "The opening chapters lay a solid foundation for the use of robots to model biological theories, underlining why testing models in the physical rather than the simulated world is important. In the rest of the book, Long describes a series of his experiments with the robots he dubs evolvabots. Each leads on to the next, adding only what is necessary to get to the next level: a virtue in any scientific model." from: Nature. Review in Science.
Adrian Bejan and J. Peder Zane (2012) "Design in Nature: How the Constructal Law Governs Evolution in Biology, Physics, Technology, and Social Organization", Doubleday 288 pp
Mechanical engineer Adrian Bejan and writer J. Peder Zane make a fascinating case for how a single law of physics governs shape and structure in everything, animate or inanimate. Info. Review. Review. See: Constructal law (wiki).
Steven vogel (2012) 'The Life of a Leaf', University of Chicago Press.
A delightful and insighful investigation by an experimental physiologist into the physical environment of plants, especially leaves. With many examples from everyday life and do-it-yourself physical experiments that elucidate the physical forces that act on leaves. The result is a better understanding of how natural selection shapes leaves. After reading this book, you should be impressed by how many physical factors bear on the life and effective design of both individual leaves and whole trees. A point of view hardly encountered in standard evolution text-books. Written with enthusiasm, humour and modesty, driven by insatiable curiosity. (Info) with a positive review in Nature, 2012.
Mark Denny, Alan McFadzean (2011) "Engineering Animals. How Life Works", Harvard University Press.
Denny and McFadzean offer an expert look at animals as works of engineering, each exquisitely adapted to a specific manner of survival. (info). Review: Science: "Mark Denny and Alan McFadzean's Engineering Animals: How Life Works provides a generally engaging engineer's perspective on how animals are built and how they function. The authors, who trained as physicists and worked in the aerospace industry on sonar and remote sensing, seek to provide a readable romp through a diverse range of topics that include animal energetics, metabolism, and ecology; structural and circulatory mechanics; locomotion; sensory signal processing and control; and communication. ... Not surprisingly, Denny and McFadzean spend a great deal of attention on echolocation. High-lighting the abilities of bats to locate and catch prey, they also cover dolphins, whales, oilbirds, and cave swiftlets. ... The authors' discussions of remote sensing culminate in a delightful chapter on animal migration."
Agnès Guillot & Jean-Arcady Meyer (2010) "How to Catch a Robot Rat: When Biology Inspires Innovation", MIT Press
Nature review: "In a wide overview of biology-influenced design, Guillot and Meyer describe how natural structures, materials and behaviours are being adapted for nanotechnology and electronics."
Robert Allen (ed) 2010 "Bulletproof Feathers. How Science Uses Nature's Secrets to Design Cutting-Edge Technology", The University of Chicago Press, 192 pp.
Info. "Based on the realization that natural selection has for countless eons been conducting trial-and-error experiments with the laws of physics, chemistry, material science, and engineering, biomimetics takes nature as its laboratory, looking to the most successful developments and strategies of an array of plants and animals as a source of technological innovation and ideas."
Review: Science: "the six image-stuffed chapters (each written by a top researcher in the field) offer nonspecialists an intriguing sampler of bioinspiration. How do underwater creatures communicate when sound travels only limited distances, how do they see when sunlight only provides minimal lighting, and how do they avoid being crushed by the high hydrostatic pressures?"
David Dusenbery (2009) 'Living at Micro Scale: The Unexpected Physics of Being Small, Harvard University Press.
What are the physical consequences of life at this scale? How do such organisms move, identify prey and predators and (if they're so inclined) mates, signal to one another, and orient themselves? Review.
W. Brian Arthur (2009) 'The Nature of Technology: What It Is and How It Evolves', Free Press/Allen Lane, 256 pp.
Arthur's argument will gain notoriety because of the analogy between biological and technological evolution. The notion that technology evolves is older still, going back at least to Charles Darwin's contemporaries, such as the author Samuel Butler and the archaeologist Augustus Pitt Rivers. All technologies are made up of pre-existing components, so technological change involves assembling new combinations of old and refined technologies - Arthur calls this process 'combinatorial evolution': Review Nature.
Steven Vogel (2009) 'Glimpses of Creatures in Their Physical Worlds', Princeton University Press, Paperback 328 pp.
The biological word seen through the eyes of a physicist-engineer. Info (+free chapter). Also from Vogel: The Life of a Leaf (see above) and Comparative Biomechanics: Life's Physical World (Second Edition).
David E. Alexander (2009) Why Don't Jumbo Jets Flap Their Wings?: Flying Animals, Flying Machines, and How They Are Different, Rutgers University Press, Hardcover.
Comparative aerodynamics of winged animals (birds, bats, insects) and aircrafts. Info. Easy reading.
Alejandro Bahamón, Patricia Pérez, Alex Campello (2008) Inspired by Nature: Plants. The Building/Botany Connection, W. W. Norton, New York, 2008. Paper, 192 pp.
Nature has always furnished stimulating ideas for the design of architecture. Info. Review: Science.
Ed Regis (2008) What Is Life? Investigating the Nature of Life in the Age of Synthetic Biology, Farrar, Straus & Giroux: 2008. 208 pp.
Yoseph Bar-Cohen (ed) (2006) "Biomimetics: Biologically Inspired Technologies"
CRC Press. 527 pp.
"There are two unusual but interesting chapters devoted to design and optimization procedures that imitate the processes of biological evolution. One of these chapters, on 'genetic algorithms', contains some intriguing examples of this procedure, one of which even incorporates an ingenious analogue of sexual reproduction." Reviews: Nature.
12 Aug 14
Eric D. Schneider, Dorion Sagan (2005) "Into the Cool: Energy Flow, Thermodynamics, and Life", University Of Chicago Press paperback
Schrödinger's paradox: how do organisms perpetuate their organization –and thus escape the decay to atomatic chaos– in a universe governed by the Second Law of Thermodynamics? A friendly introduction into 'Open System Thermodynamics' or 'Non-Equilibrium Thermodynamics' (NET).
Note. See here how creationists erroneously turn Schrödinger's paradox into an argument against evolution. One could just as easily turn it into an argument against the possibility of life as well.
Henry Petroski (2005) "Success Through Failure: The Paradox of Design", Princeton University Press: 2006. 240 pp.
"There is a clear flavour of evolution - in terms of success riding on the back of failure - to the theme of this design-centred book". Review: Nature.
Peter Forbes (2005) "The Gecko's Foot. Bio-inspiration: Engineered from Nature."
Fourth Estate: 2005. 272 pp.
Biomimetics is the application of ideas from nature in engineering. According to reviewer R. McNeill Alexander "evolution by natural selection is extremely effective, and designers can surely learn from its solutions". My favourite example is the 'lotus effect'. Lotus leaves stay clean even in the muddiest water. On the basis of the microscopic structure of the leaves (discovered by botanist Wilhelm Barthlott) a paint was developed with the always stay clean property. Reviews: Nature.
Andreas Wagner (2005) "Robustness and Evolvability in Living Systems" Princeton University Press, 383 pp.
"In the first half of the book, Wagner (a computational and theoretical evolutionary biologist) provides a masterful survey of the literature on robustness at all levels of biological organization. Biologists and engineers alike will find snippets of interest. In the second half of the book Wagner reviews the theory of robustness." The author states that the focus of the book is on robustness against mutation, but there are many other issues of robustness that are outside the scope of the book. Reviews: Science, Nature, Evolution, Nature Genetics.
John Avery (2003) "Information Theory and Evolution", World Scientific Books, 232pp. Second ed: 2012. Third ed. ebook 2021.
Discusses the phenomenon of life, including its origin and evolution, against the background of thermodynamics, statistical mechanics, and information theory. Among the central themes is the seeming contradiction between the second law of thermodynamics and the high degree of order and complexity produced by living systems. Info. See also: Thermodynamics (wiki).
Steven Vogel (1998) "Cats' Paws and Catapults. Mechanical Worlds of Nature and People", W. W. Norton & Company, paperback, 382 pages.
Steven Vogel compares the natural and human mechanical worlds, introduces the reader to his field of biomechanics, and explains how the nexus of physical law, size, and convenience of construction determine the designs of both people and nature. - The larger point is our recurrent theme that looking at both natural and human technologies forces us to think about each in novel ways. Most examples are from the animal world. Many bw illustrations. info.
Charles J Lumsden (1997) (editor) 'Physical Theory in Biology. Foundations and Explorations, World Scientific Books, 504 pp.
Jeffrey S. Wicken (1987) "Evolution, Thermodynamics, and Information: Extending the Darwinian Program", Oxford University Press, HB.
According to Eric Schneider and Dorion Sagan (2005): Wicken dares to claim that is only because of the second law of thermodynamics that life exists at all. ... The late Jeffrey Wicken completed some of Lotka's and Schrödinger's unfinished thoughts on the thermodynamic nature of life. Wicken persuasively argued that the second law is not just compatible with life but instrumental in its origins and evolution." (p.105).
sex & evolution [ in descending chronological order ]
See also: Human evolution and feminism.
Graham Bell (2019) 'The Masterpiece of Nature. The Evolution and Genetics of Sexuality', Routledge
Publisher's info. "Originally published in 1982, The Masterpiece of Nature examines sex as representative of the most important challenge to the modern theory of evolution. The book suggests that sex evolved, not as the result of normal Darwinian processes of natural selection, but through competition between populations or species – a hypothesis elsewhere almost universally discredited."
Gil G. Rosenthal (2017) 'Mate Choice: The Evolution of Sexual Decision Making from Microbes to Humans', Princeton University Press, 646 pp.
The popular consensus on mate choice has long been that females select mates likely to pass good genes to offspring. In Mate Choice, Gil Rosenthal overturns much of this conventional wisdom. Rosenthal argues that "good genes" play a relatively minor role in shaping mate choice decisions and demonstrates how mate choice is influenced by genetic factors, environmental effects, and social interactions. (publisher info). Reviewed in Science: "This book provides a clear synthesis of the state of affairs in the study of mate choice and related fields. As such, it is well suited for both new and experienced researchers.". See also Prum (2017).
Richard O. Prum (2017) 'The Evolution of Beauty: How Darwin's Forgotten Theory of Mate Choice Shapes the Animal World–and Us', Doubleday.
Prum claims that in the Origin Darwin saw sexual selection as just another variant on natural selection. This view still prevails today. By the time he wrote Descent Darwin had embraced a much broader concept of sexual selection that may have nothing to do with a potential mate's being more vigorous or better adapted per se, but only with being aesthetically appealing. Moreover, in Descent, Darwin viewed sexual selection and natural selection as two distinct, independent, sometimes conflicting evolutionary mechanisms. Prum belongs to a minority point of view, he is a dissident, and is being ignored and even boycotted by the majority. The book contains bw drawings, photos and colorplates; ebook also contains colorplates.
Dutch translation: 'De evolutie van schoonheid. Hoe Darwin en de seksuele evolutie de dierenwereld en ons hebben gevormd'.
Extensive and free review of the book in the journal Evolution.
Bobbi S. Low (2014) 'Why Sex Matters: A Darwinian Look at Human Behavior', Revised edition, Princeton.
Free chapter 1: Introduction: "Many of us assume that humans operate under rules that are different from those of other species, that our rules are culturally based rather than biological. Many people may be appalled at the approach I will use here, that is, to assume that we humans are as predictable as other animals in our behavior, and are governed by the same rules. How do environmental conditions influence our behavior and our lifetimes?"
Menno Schilthuizen (2014) 'Nature's Nether Regions: What the Sex Lives of Bugs, Birds and Beasts Tell Us about Evolution, Biodiversity, and Ourselves', Viking Press USA
How evolution has graced the animal kingdom with such a bewildering diversity of reproductive organs. Schilthuizen invites readers to join him as he uncovers the ways the shapes and functions of genitalia have been molded by complex Darwinian struggles. Easy-going, written with humour, but always scientific accurate. Also in e-book version. Dutch edition: Darwins peepshow. wat geslachtsdelen onthullen over evolutie, biodiversiteit en onszelf.
Daphne J. Fairbairn (2013) 'Odd Couples: Extraordinary Differences Between the Sexes in the Animal Kingdom', Princeton University Press: 2013. 312 pp
Review Nature (25 Apr 13): "Fairbairn spends the bulk of the book on a guided tour of sexual dimorphism in eight carefully selected and researched species, covering two fishes, a bird, a mammal and four diverse invertebrates. (...) As Fairbairn lucidly explains, the defining distinction between the sexes is that females make eggs and males make sperm. What is harder to understand is how that – along with a species' basic biology and habitat – can drive a cascade of differences in almost every aspect of male and female biology. Whether an organism makes eggs or sperm can affect, for example, the energy it takes to reproduce. This, in turn, affects how much energy each sex has left for growth and survival. Disparities in these, in their turn, alter the body size, habitat use, metabolic rate and reproductive behaviour favoured by Darwinian selection in males versus females. Over time, these effects lead to striking differences in body mass, colour and much more between males and females of the same species. It remains a challenge to understand how these myriad factors interact to shape the striking differences in what it means, across species, to be male or female."
Grazyna Jasienska (2013) 'The Fragile Wisdom: An Evolutionary View on Women's Biology and Health', Harvard University Press.
Info: "The crux of the problem is that women's physiology has evolved to facilitate reproduction, not to reduce disease risk. Any trait–no matter how detrimental to health in the post-reproductive period–is more likely to be preserved in the next generation if it increases the chance of giving birth to offspring who will themselves survive to reproductive age."
Florence Williams (2012) 'Breasts: A Natural and Unnatural History', Norton, 352 pp.
Info. Website. Review: Nature: "Evolutionary biologists have devised elaborate stories to explain the permanent adult presence of human breasts; the most popular is that they are an adornment, like a peacock's train, for attracting the opposite sex. Williams leans more towards the ideas of anthropologist Frances Mascia-Lees, who posits that breasts' ever-present fat reserves are easily mobilized during lactation to keep pace with the baby's rapidly growing brain."
Review Science: Breasts challenges long-held assumptions about the reason for mammary glands and raises critical questions about life-stage exposures in this dynamic tissue. How and why breasts evolved are still unclear and surprisingly controversial. ... She speculates that the view of breasts as an evolutionary "sexual signal" (rather than a nutrient delivery system) may be behind certain theories in the social sciences that posit breasts evolved as "a courtship device" for females or "a first pass filter" for males wishing to find a fecund female. Williams deconstructs these evolutionary scenarios, citing examples of reproductive success among small-breasted women and the fact that pregnancy typically results in well-endowed breasts. It is likely that breasts evolved to create storage spaces for the fat required to facilitate ovulation and nutrients needed to sustain an offspring." [results in the same prediction: the bigger, the better]. "The problem with chemicals in breast milk, explains Williams, is that they are biomagnified, sometimes reaching levels that would surpass federal safety standards if these same chemicals were found in food." (26 Jul 2013)
Erika L. Milam (2010) 'Looking for a Few Good Males: Female Choice in Evolutionary Biology (Animals, History, Culture)' Johns Hopkins University Press, Hardcover
See: 'History of biology & evolution'.
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (2009) 'Mothers and Others: The Evolutionary Origin of Mutual Understanding', Belknap/Harvard University Press: 2009. 432 pp.
Reviews: Nature, American Scientist, Science: "Hrdy presents a well-argued case for human evolutionary history being characterized by cooperative offspring care". This could by integrated with Wranghams 'Cooking Made Us Human' hypothesis.
Joan Roughgarden (2009) 'The Genial Gene. Deconstructing Darwinian Selfishness', University of California Press, 272 pages.
info: "This scientifically rigorous, model-based challenge to an important tenet of neo-Darwinian theory emphasizes cooperation, and vigorously demonstrates that to identify Darwinism with selfishness and individuality misrepresents the facts of life as we now know them".
Biology & Philosophy: "To conclude, The Genial Gene is a provocative and thought-provoking book. Roughgarden's attempts to overthrow the scientific orthodoxy, and her attempt to develop an alternative paradigm, are nothing if not courageous."
BioOne: "Even though I disagree with the author on some points, and though in some cases Roughgarden does her ideas a disservice by discounting well-documented observations of sexual conflict, I applaud her for shaking things up. I believe she is correct in some of her criticisms, and we should remember that competition in sexual interactions is an assumption that should be tested, rather than a factual starting point". review.
Jill B. Becker et al (eds) (2008) "Sex Differences in the Brain. From Genes to Behavior", Oxford University Press, New York, 2008. 504 pp.
Review: Science: "delves deeply and critically into sex dimorphisms in an evolutionary context", "The organizers of Sex Differences in the Brain would perform an enormous public service if they prepared a version of the material for popular consumption.".
Elisabeth A. Lloyd (2005) "The case of the female orgasm - Bias in the Science of Evolution". Harvard Univ. Press hb 311 pages.
See: my review on this site.
Joan Roughgarden (2004) "Evolution's Rainbow. Diversity, Gender, and Sexuality in Nature and People". Univ. of California Press, hb 474 pages.
Tenth Anniversary Edition, With a New Preface by the Author, 2013
Part 1 reviews the body plans, genders, sexualities of animals, leading to the conclusion that Darwin's theory of sexual selection is false (according to Roughgarden). Part 2 is about humans and Part 3 about gender and sexuality variation across cultures and through history. Professor Roughgarden published about ecology, evolution and population genetics. There is a positive review of the book in Nature by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy, however she is less impressed by her critiques and alternative theory. Alison Jolly (Science) wrote: "What Darwinian theory needs is not so much radical revision as a simple expansion to take sexual diversity much more seriously." Roughgarden published in the New Scientist, January 17, 2004 an article with the same name as her book and in Science.
Reviews: Nature, Science, American Scientist, Evolution and more.
Desmond Morris (2004) 'The Naked Woman. A Study Of The Female Body', Thomas Dunne Books.
Publishers info. With black/white illustrations.
Louis A. Berman (2003) "The Puzzle. Exploring the Evolutionary Puzzle of Male Homosexuality". Godot Press, 2003, 583 pp.
See: my review on this site.
Marlene Zuk (2002) 'Sexual Selections. What We Can and Can't Learn about Sex from Animals'
University of California Press, 250 pages.
"I am both a feminist and an evolutionary biologist interested in animal behavior". info
Tim Birkhead (2000) "Promiscuity: An Evolutionary History of Sperm Competition" Harvard University Press.
review, review, review.
Randy Thornhill & Craig Palmer (2000) "A Natural History of Rape: Biological Bases of Sexual Coercion" MIT Press, 2000, 272 pp.
Rape is about sex and reproduction, so ultimately about evolution. A devastating & hostile review by evolutionary biologists Jerry A. Coyne and Andrew Berry has been published in Nature.
Lionel Tiger (2000) 'The Decline of Males: The First Look at an Unexpected New World for Men and Women', St. Martin's Press; 1st edition Paperback.
Lionel Tiger is an anthropologist. Info. He is also the author of The Imperial Animal (1971).
Nancy Etcoff (2000) 'The Survival of the Prettiest. The Science of Beauty, paperback.
Review by Mark Ridley in the New Scientist 31 July 1999: "[This] is a popular evolutionary psychological study of sex appeal. Her aim is clear: "We will look at the argument for beauty as a biological adaptation. ... Etcoff's book is mainly about beauty in women, but she devotes a chapter to men. ... Etcoff writes pleasantly and is often witty, so The Survival of the Prettiest is easy to read. Critics might call it shallow, but I suspect the light touch of Etcoff's prose reflects her skill as an author rather than any paucity of her science." added 24 Sep 2021
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1999) "Mother Nature. Maternal Instincts and How They Shape the Human Species." The Ballantine Publishing Group, paperback 723 pages.
This book made a deep impression on me and had a lasting influence on my view on the role of females/mothers in evolution. Mainstream evolutionary biology of sex is preoccupied with how many times and with how many females a male copulates. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy convincingly demonstrates that all those male activities are evolutionary inconsequential unless a mother invests in rearing a child to reproductive age. Integrating cultural, historical, anthropological and biological data, the book is certainly not exclusively about the human species. Often examples from the animal world are given. It is anthropology in an evolutionary context. There are some passages where Hrdy writes about her personal interests as a mother; but this contributes to the impact of the book and never harms the high scientific value of the book. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is well-known for her studies of infanticide (the killing of infants) in natural populations of the langur monkey in India starting in 1971. Also by Hrdy (1999) "The Woman That Never Evolved", Revised Edition (info)
Matt Ridley (1994) "The Red Queen. Sex and the evolution of human nature". Penguin Books, paperback, 404 pages.
Being a more successful reproducer is not an absolute property, but a relative, temporary advantage. "This concept, that all progress is relative, has come to be known in biology by the name of the Red Queen, after a chess piece that Alice meets in Through the Looking Glass, who perpetually runs without getting very far because the landscape moves with her. It is an increasingly influential idea in evolutionary theory, and one that will recur throughout the book." "I mean why do Earthlings have sex? Why don't they just clone themselves like we do?". Popular description of the 3 theories biologists proposed to explain sex. Recommended reading. Matt Ridley is a zoologist, journalist, was chairman of the UK bank Northern Rock, and in 2013 a member of the Conservative Party in the House of Lords.
John Maynard Smith (1978) 'The Evolution of Sex. Cambridge University Press.
"The aim of this book is to elucidate the selective forces responsible for the evoluton of sex, of recombination rates, of breeding systems, and mutation rates. ... My own approach is that of a population geneticist." (Preface) (from books.google.com). "The central question is: what selective forces maintain sexual reproduction and genetic recombination in nature?" (Chapter 1: The problem).
Feminism and evolution
28 Jul 2023
See also: Sexual selection and sex and evolution
Malin Ah-King (2023) 'The Female Turn. How Evolutionary Science Shifted Perceptions About Females', Palgrave Macmillan
Publisher's info including chapter summaries. The author is an evolutionary biologist and feminist. "The sexual selection field is undergoing a female turn–evolutionary biologists' androcentric perceptions of females as coy and passive are being overturned in favor of theoretical and empirical work that acknowledges female agency in sexual encounters."; "females as active, variable, aggressive"; "Already in the 1950s, Japanese primatologists recognized females as powerful in macaque society"; "prevailing assumptions about coy, passive and monogamous females"; "Insect researchers knew about female multiple mating early on". Insane pricing at amazon and KOBO.
Lucy Cooke (2022) 'Bitch. On the Female of the Species', Basic Books
Lucy Cooke is a New York Times best-selling author, award-winning broadcaster, National Geographic explorer and TED talker with a Masters in zoology from New College Oxford, where she studied under Richard Dawkins. From the Introduction:
"It takes courage to challenge Darwin". (...) "In Bitch I go on a global adventure to meet the animals and scientists that are helping to rewrite an outdated patriarchal view of evolution and redefine the female of the species."
Nature: "... to correct stereotypes of the active male versus passive female. Many such concepts were initiated by Charles Darwin, who is nevertheless Cooke's 'scientific idol'."
A useful, amusing and entertaining book that brings you up-to-date about the current research about the role of female animals in evolution. See my blog about the book:
Lucy Cooke (2022) 'Bitch. On the Female of the Species': life without males?.
Griet Vandermassen (2019) 'Dames voor Darwin. Over feminisme en evolutietheorie', see: Nederlandse boeken.
Kimberly A. Hamlin (2014) 'From Eve to Evolution. Darwin, Science, and Women's Rights in Gilded Age America', Univ. of Chicago Press.
"By displacing the biblical origin stories that had been used to justify female subjugation for centuries, Darwin's explanation made room for women's rights advocates to push for equality. Hamlin argues that "evolution reframed the terms of gender debates from biblical ancestors to animal kin, from individual to species, from piety to reproduction" (p. 55). Many women found this new perspective liberating and galvanizing." (Journal of American History, Volume 102, Issue 1, June 2015, Page 266)
Anne Campbell (2013) 'A Mind Of Her Own. The evolutionary psychology of women'. Oxford University Press. Second Edition.
In this book, Anne Campbell redresses the balance of evolutionary theory in favour of women. She examines how selection pressures have shaped the female mind over thousands of generations.
Griet Vandermassen (2005) 'Who's Afraid of Charles Darwin?: Debating Feminism and Evolutionary Theory, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers; First Edition.
Vandermassen shows that, rather than continuing this enmity, feminism and the biological sciences–and in particular evolutionary psychology–have the need and the potential to become powerful allies.
Sarah Blaffer Hrdy (1999) 'The Woman That Never Evolved. With a New Preface and Bibliographical Updates, 2nd Revised Edition, HUP.
As we see from this book, women are in some ways the most oppressed of all female primates. Sarah Blaffer Hrdy is convinced that to redress sexual inequality in human societies, we must first understand its evolutionary origins.
Patricia A. Gowaty (1996) (editor) "Feminism And Evolutionary Biology", Kluwer Academic Pub 623 pp. [Alternative classification: Politics & evolution]
Have evolutionary biologists worked largely or strictly within a masculine paradigm? Go to your library or Google Books and read it online, contains Commentary (Chapter 23) by John Maynard Smith.
Michael Ruse (1981) "Is Science Sexist?". Reidel Publishing Company, paperback, 300 pages.
Starts with introductory chapters about the structure of evolutionary theory, evidence for evolution, Popper and sociobiology. The book title is misleading because there is only one chapter about sexism: "Is science sexist? The case of sociobiolgy". The final chapter is: "Are homosexuals sick?".
human evolution (general)
17 Mar 2023
A textbook about human evolution is: Mark Jobling (2013) 'Human Evolutionary Genetics. Origins, Peoples and Disease (gives genetic, archaeological, and linguistic perspectives on human evolution), 650 pp. This book is rather expensive. Popular books about human evolution are:
Ian Tattersall (2022) 'Understanding Human Evolution', Cambridge University Press, paperback, 225 pages.
Detailed Review in Evolution journal (free access).
Brian Hare, Vanessa Woods (2020) 'Survival of the Friendliest: Understanding Our Origins and Rediscovering Our Common Humanity', Random House.
See wikipedia article about the book.
Adam Hart (2020) 'Unfit for Purpose. When Human Evolution Collides with the Modern World', Bloomsbury Publishing.
"Rather than helping us, our evolutionary heritage now conspires with the modern world to leave us spectacularly 'unfit for purpose'. This mismatch between the world in which we evolved and the world in which we now find ourselves has, for example, helped to create an obesity crisis; food intolerance; gut bacteria; stress; social networks; violence; addiction; fake news and false beliefs; selfishness.
Gaia Vince (2019) 'Transcendence: How Humans Evolved through Fire, Language, Beauty, and Time, Allen Lane
Author is science journalist Gaia Vince, erstwhile news editor of Nature. For her hugely enjoyable sprint through human evolutionary history, Vince intertwines many threads: language and writing; the command of tools, pursuit of beauty and appetite for trinkets; and the urge to build things, awareness of time and pursuit of reason. (from: Nature review).
Alice Roberts (2014) 'The Incredible Unlikeliness of Being: Evolution and the Making of Us'. Heron Books.
Alice Roberts is an anatomist and humanist. Illustrations by Alice Roberts. "I've written this book not only to help you reconnect with your very own origins as a human – from the point at which one of your mother's eggs was fertilised by one of your father's sperm–but also to let you reconnect with your ancestors. ... The story of how a human body develops is (I hope to persuade you) the most fascinating narrative that science has to offer us".
Clive Gamble, John Gowlett, Robin Dunbar (2014) "Thinking Big: How the Evolution of Social Life Shaped the Human Mind", Thames and Hudson Hardcover, 224 pages
In Thinking Big, Dunbar, Gamble and Gowlett supply a more credible theory with their "social brain hypothesis". They describe the major findings of the ambitious 7-year project 'Lucy to Language: The Archaeology of the Social Brain' ... The authors show that there is a strong correlation between relative neocortex volume and mean social-group size in monkeys, apes and humans. (from: Nature review).
Svante Pääbo (2014) "Neanderthal Man: In Search of Lost Genomes", Basic Books; First Edition.
Late one night in 1996, just as I had dozed off in bed, my phone rang. The caller was Matthias Krings, a graduate student in my laboratory at the Zoological Institute of the University of Munich. All he said was, "It's not human". 'I'm coming," I mumbled.
Review in Science: "The author's success has stemmed from his determination to pursue what many assumed were unknowable answers to fundamental questions about human origins. ... Pääbo would settle for no fewer than three independent lines of statistical evidence before publishing. ... readers will find that Neanderthal Man provides a nonpareil account of the development of the field of ancient DNA."
Thomas Suddendorf (2013) "The Gap: The Science of What Separates Us from Other Animals", Basic Books.
Review: "The Gap is ideal for someone who already has a decent collection about human evolution. ... Bipedalism has traditionally been seen as the starting point of humankind's long journey from prey to predator, and from Africa's Rift Valley to world domination. But for the psychologist Suddendorf it is something that can be disposed of in a couple of pages. As Suddendorf tells us, bipedalism freed the hands to grip and throw, but it came with serious side effects, "including back problems and hemorrhoids. ... Suddendorf points out that, when it comes to relative brain size, humans don't top the charts. There are mice and shrews in which the brain makes up an extraordinary 10% of overall body weight (the human proportion is 2%). So if brain capacity is what makes the difference, there should be some other scale that puts humans at the top. Suddendorf and Andrew Whiten have proposed one: an excess of absolute brain mass over and above that predicted by body size. ... Suddendorf is more concerned with the things we can learn from other surviving primates. Yes, apes cooperate, communicate, use tools, share knowledge, solve problems, demonstrate self-awareness and display emotions. But Suddendorf carefully leaves open the big question: how much can you conclude from each case study? ... Both Suddendorf and Lieberman directly address the question of natural selection in a world in which humans have seemingly taken control of nature, and ensured the survival of the not-so-fit." (Nature).
Henry Gee (2013) "The Accidental Species: Misunderstandings of Human Evolution" University of Chicago Press
Review: "The Accidental Species is discursive, rich in good stories and terrible jokes, and a salutary reminder of how little we know. ... For Gee, bipedalism is just one change among many – one peculiar posture adopted by a group of animals. He notes in The Accidental Species that the posture is seen nowhere else, "but one could say the same for knuckle walking in chimps and gorillas, brachiation in gibbons, and the four-handed swing of orangutans. ... Gee gazes into both past and future, and sees the idea of evolutionary upward mobility a profound misreading of Darwin." (Nature).
Daniel E. Lieberman (2013) "The Story of the Human Body: Evolution, Health and Disease", Pantheon
Review: "The Story of the Human Body is a readable introduction to the whole field and great on the making of our physicality. ... For the evolutionary biologist and barefoot runner Lieberman, bipedalism was a "monumental and consequential" shift. The two-legs-good, four-legs-bad effect is discussed on at least 40 pages of The Story of the Human Body; running, too, gets a good show. We are what we are because our bodies could do what they did. The legs of Homo erectus were 10–20% longer than those of the hominin Australopithecus, which meant the first humans could cover great distances at a lower energy cost. But longer legs make arboreal life difficult, so once humans got moving, they had to stay on the road. Lieberman argues that it is "not just incorrect but also dangerous to view modern human evolution as solely a triumph of brains over brawn". It was the hunter-gatherer physique that got us to where we are now. And today's burgeoning human ills – obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, sleep apnoea, terrible teeth, osteoporosis and so on – occur because we eat more generously than hunter-gatherers but work considerably less. ... Lieberman builds up a picture of vanished society by examining humankind as it is now. He looks at Tanzanian hunter-gatherers and the Kalahari Bushmen, and works backwards to shape an increasingly speculative story of how things might have been as foraging, scavenging, hunting and resourceful humans colonized even the most inhospitable habitats. ... Both Suddendorf and Lieberman directly address the question of natural selection in a world in which humans have seemingly taken control of nature, and ensured the survival of the not-so-fit." (Nature)
Marlene Zuk (2013) "Paleofantasy: What Evolution Really Tells us About Sex, Diet, and How We Live", W. W. Norton: 2012. 336 pp.
Info: "An exposé of pseudoscientific myths about our evolutionary past and how we should live today."
Review Nature: "Zuk, a biologist, reviews how our assumptions about the past have shaped the science of human biology in relation to factors ranging from exercise and diet to mating and marriage. She ably presents a sceptical and light-hearted view of a long list of palaeofantasies and supposed solutions. ... By presenting the state of evolutionary science, Zuk shows that palaeofantasies cannot be justified across a range of environments or with a range of behaviours. She details the evolutionary analysis of human mating patterns, showing that monogamous mating goes way back. Human childhood is long compared with that of our ape relatives, and the palaeofantasy explanation is that cognitive development necessitates a long childhood. Zuk runs through extensive data on the supply side, establishing the credibility of the alternative hypothesis that humans have maintained high rates of reproduction by reducing maternal energy investment in children, instead recruiting grandparents and other relatives to help care for them. ... There are other such examples. Many clear cases of recent adaptation show that natural selection has kept pace with some rapid environmental shifts. ... There are a few real mismatches among the fake ones Zuk highlights. Diet is one. Pleistocene people did not rely on large stored harvests of starchy grains, fatty meat and milk from domesticated animals, or processed sugars – all of which are among the causes of the obesity, type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome that are so prevalent today."
Review Science: "Zuk works hard to convey a simple idea–longing for the days before tool use is not only unnecessary but silly. ... Paleofantasy reinforces the theme that evolution continues, even for humans. ... she dispels the idea that living like our ancestors provides some kind of advantage. "
Chris Stringer (2012) "Lone Survivors: How We Came to Be the Only Humans on Earth", Times Books.
"In 2010, DNA evidence showed that after modern humans left Africa about 60,000 years ago, they bred for a short period of time with archaic humans – and, as a result, some populations today have more archaic genes than others. (...) the evidence from whole genome scans that modern humans living outside Africa each carry about 2.5% of their DNA from Neanderthals; furthermore, people living today in Australia and New Guinea (Australasians) carry about 5% of Denisovan DNA" (Nature, 3 Mei 12). The Australasians carry also 2.5% Neanderthal DNA, which totals to 7.5% archaic DNA.
Chris Stringer (2011) "The Origin of Our Species" Allen Lane
Info. Review in the Guardian: "Chris Stringer is in the thick of this ferment. He is Britain's foremost expert on human evolution. Stringer is most concerned with the period from the emergence of Homo sapiens in Africa, around 195,000 years ago, to their arrival in Europe and the subsequent demise of the Neanderthals (who had left Africa hundreds of thousands of years before). ... The introduction of farming was the single greatest event in the evolution of Homo sapiens since its emergence. From farming flowed, in an incredibly short time, population growth, craft, art, religion and technology."
Timothy Taylor (2010) "The Artificial Ape: How Technology Changed the Course of Human Evolution", Palgrave Macmillan.
info. Timothy Taylor is an archaeologist. Potentially interesting book. Review: "a reversal of the received idea of evolution through natural selection. In this, a mutation takes place that happens to be useful; it is retained and spreads through the population. In the new theory, proto-human beings, through innovative technologies, created the conditions that led to a rapid spread of new mutations. ... Taylor endorses Wrangham's hypothesis but believes it is not enough".
Michael P. Muehlenbein (ed) (2010) "Human Evolutionary Biology", Cambridge University Press, 634 pages.
Info + view inside.
Clive Finlayson (2009) 'The Humans Who Went Extinct: Why Neanderthals died out and we survived', OUP Oxford
Richard Wrangham (2009) "Catching Fire: How Cooking Made Us Human", Basic Books. 320 pp.
"Wrangham's thinking about the effect of food choices on society is interesting, but his attempt to superimpose his hypothesis on to the early fossil and archaeological record is unconvincing." Reviews: Nature (free); Science ("offers a convincing argument that cooking allowed us to do the work of chewing and digesting outside of our bodies"). Review: "Wrangham argues that the advent of fire, and cooking (as a result), gave rise to the genus Homo". Info. Richard Wrangham is the author of Demonic Males: Apes and the Origins of Human Violence (1997).
Bernard Chapais (2008) "Primeval Kinship: How Pair-Bonding Gave Birth To Human Society", Harvard University Press.
"The root of humanity lies in pair bonding (the strong affinity that can develop in a breeding couple), the brother-sister tie, and the transfer of females between groups." from review: Nature. info & excerpt .
Robert Boyd, Joan B. Silk (2006) "How Humans Evolved. Fourth Edition", W.W.Norton & Company, paper, 550 pages
Well illustrated textbook for undergraduates. Starts with introductory chapters about the modern theory of evolution. Focus on primatology, behaviour, ecology, fossils. Info. Comes with CD-ROM and website. Fifth edition (2009) (website). Small complaint: no Boskop skull, no comparative cytogenetics of apes and humans.
Steven Mithen (2006) "The Singing Neanderthals: The Origins of Music, Language, Mind, and Body", Harvard University Press. (2007 pb)
"Thus Mithen arrived at the wildly ambitious project that unfolds in this book: an exploration of music as a fundamental aspect of the human condition, encoded into the human genome during the evolutionary history of our species."
Stephen Cunnane (2005) "Survival of the Fattest. The Key to Human Brain Evolution". World Scientific, 343 pages
The book title Survival of the Fattest is a beautiful variation on Darwin's Survival of the Fittest. It means that the fattest infants stood the best chance of becoming the smartest adults. To evolve fat babies, one is obliged to look to the shores because compared to all other sources of food the shored-based food supply was rich in nutrients necessary for brain development. The shore-based scenario to explain human origins is the middle ground between the Aquatic Ape and the Savannah Theory.
Steven Pinker (2003) "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature", Penguin paperback. Review
Armand Marie Leroi (2003) 'Mutants. On Genetic Variety and the Human Body', Viking, hardback. Paperback: 2005
Phenotypic mutations in humans: embryo, face, arms, legs, skeletons, growth, gender, skin, ageing.
Matt Ridley (2003) "Nature Via Nurture: Genes, Experience, and What Makes Us Human", HarperCollins (Hardcover) "A splendid, very well written book on the nature-versus-nurture debate in human brain development. Ridley takes the reasonable middle path. A page turner, actually." (David J. Linden). Review
David Horrobin (2001) "The Madness of Adam and Eve. How schizophrenia shaped humanity". Bantam Press, 2001, 275 pages
The crucial difference between humans and chimpanzees is the way we accumulate fat beneath the skin (buttocks and breasts) and in the brain. The richness of brain connectivity, and thus intelligence is entirely dependent on phospholipids (fats). Aquatic food sources are very rich brain fatty acids. The author is unaware of the aquatic ape hypothesis, but gives a different interpretation of the fact that humans are fat and love water so much. A simple mutation in Phospholipase A2 is linked to schizophrenia and super-intelligence in humans.
Jared Diamond (1999) "Guns, Germs, and Steel. The fates of human societies". W.W. Norton & Company, 494 pages.
To summarize a long book in one sentence: "History followed different courses for different peoples because of differences among people's environments, not because of biological differences among the peoples themselves." In this influential book Diamond establishes a new paradigm in the historical sciences. On the origin of civilizations.
Elaine Morgan (1997) "The Aquatic Ape Hypothesis". Souvenir Press, paperback 205 pages.
Elaine Morgan's Aquatic Ape theory throws a completely new light on human anatomy. It is a pleasure to read and to discover how a great number of peculiarities of the human body suddenly make sense in the light of the aquatic ape theory. An eye-opener. If you think the human body is adapted to our current environment or something close to it, read this book and it will change your view forever. There is also an older edition "The Scars of Evolution. What our bodies tell us about human origins" (Penguin books, 1990.). A book about the same subject is: Marc Verhaegen (1997) 'In den beginne was het water. Nieuwste inzichten in de evolutie van de mens' (see Dutch evolution books).
Psychology, behaviour, brain See also: sex, politics, human evolution
16 Sep 22
Evolution of the brain Textbooks 'Evolutionary Psychology':
David Buss (1999, 2008) "Evolutionary psychology: The New Science of the Mind.
The founding paradigm textbook of 'Evolutionary Psychology'. Info.
Barrett, Dunbar, Lycett (2002) Human Evolutionary Psychology
info + table of contents + sample chapter). A textbook devoted to humans.
Steven M. Platek, Todd K. Shackelford (2009) Foundations in Evolutionary Cognitive Neuroscience, Cambridge. (Info).
Popular science books are:
David P. Barash (2013) "Homo Mysterious. Evolutionary Puzzles of Human Nature"
Robert Wright (1994,1995) "The Moral Animal: Evolutionary Psychology and Everyday Life (Info)
Steven Pinker (2004) "How The Mind Works
review. and "The Blank Slate: The Modern Denial of Human Nature"
Pinker is perhaps the most popular popularizer of evolutionary psychology.
David Buss (1995) "The Evolution of Desire: Strategies of Human Mating, and (2001) "The Dangerous Passion: Why Jealousy is as necessary as Love and Sex.
There are many introductions into evolutionary psychology. Some of the most affordable are:
Lance Workman, Will Reader (2008) 'Evolutionary Psychology. An Introduction 2nd Edition (Info). 3rd ed. 2014.
Dylan Evans (2006) Introducing Evolutionary Psychology, 2nd Ed. (pb) is a cartoon guide
Robin Dunbar (2005) Evolutionary Psychology: A Beginner's Guide
David P. Barash (2003) Revolutionary Biology. The New, Gene-Centered View of Life (about altruism, reciprocity, parenting).
Single-topic books are:
David Livingstone Smith (2004) 'Why We Lie. The Evolutionary Roots of Deception and the Unconscious Mind', St. Martin's Press.
In this book lying and deception are connected with 'the unconscious mind' right from the start. Freud is discussed (there is some truth in Freud). "Deceptive creatures have an edge over their competitors in the relentless struggle to survive and reproduce that drives the engine of evolution. As well-honed survival machines, human beings are also naturally deceptive." We are "natural-born liars". "One of the basic functions of language is to deceive others.". "We are deceptive animals because of the advantages that dishonesty reaped for our ancestors." In other words: lying and deceiving are natural. "I plead guilty of not having provided adequate empirical support for the distinctive views advanced in this book." According to the author, lying is natural and universal among humans and it has a useful function in our relationships and our own mental health.
Is this book a defense of lying? Are there any lies in this book? This is an extremely lopsided book: honest signaling theory and the handicap principle are ignored. Furthermore, Machiavellianism is a personality trait (manipulativeness, callousness, indifference to morality), not a universal human property.
Martin Daly, Margo Wilson (1999) The Truth about Cinderella: A Darwinian View of Parental Love (Darwinism Today series, 80 pages)
David P. Barash (2003) The Survival Game. How Game Theory explains the biology of cooperation and competition
David Barash, Judith Lipton (2002) The Myth of Monogamy. Fidelity and infidelity in animals and people
David Barash, Judith Lipton (2009) How Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So Stories
About menstruation, ovulation, breasts, female organism, menopause; bw illustrations. Info)
Geoffrey Miller (2000) The mating mind: how sexual choice shaped the evolution of human nature (review).
David F. Bjorklund, Anthony D. Pellegrini (2001) Origins of Human Nature: Evolutionary Developmental Psychology
See Herbert Gintis review at amazon.com.
Deirdre Barrett (2010) Supernormal Stimuli. How Primal Urges Overran Their Evolutionary Purpose (Info).
Critiques of Evolutionary Psychology are:
Hilary Rose, Steven Rose (2000) (eds) Alas, Poor Darwin: Arguments Against Evolutionary Psychology. review.
Harmon R. Holcomb III (2001) Conceptual Challenges in Evolutionary Psychology: Innovative Research Strategies, which is an advanced text for students and scholars that critiques the dominating work of Buss, Cosmides and Tooby, Dennett, and Pinker
Kevin N. Laland, Gillian R. Brown (2002) Sense and Nonsense: Evolutionary Perspectives on Human Behaviour is a general examination of the usefulness of evolution in studying human behavior, and also an analysis and comparison of five approaches to this study (review).
David Buller (2005) Adapting Minds. Evolutionary Psychology and the Persistent Quest for Human Nature ((Philosopher). Review: Science; book is difficult to read)
Robert C. Richardson (2007) Evolutionary Psychology as Maladapted Psychology. Philosopher. Review: Science; "Richardson joins this literature using the standards of biological explanation as the ground for his attack" from: review, review).
An evolutionary approach to animal behaviour is John Alcock (2013) Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach (see above). The classic work about the evolutionary study of social behaviour of animals is Edward O. Wilson (1975) Sociobiology. The New Synthesis (2000: paperback edition). More than 25 years later John Alcock reviews the controversy that has surrounded Sociobiology. The New Synthesis in: The Triumph of Sociobiology (2003). A splendid and readable comparison of human and ape behaviour is Frans de Waal (2005) Our Inner Ape (see politics). A history of the altruism problem and Darwinian solutions is Lee Alan Dugatkin (2006) The Altruism Equation. Seven Scientists Search for the Origins of Goodness (reviews: Nature, Science, Evolutionary Psychology, American Scientist). The Price of Altruism. George Price and the Search for the Origins of Kindness by Oren Harman (2010) "is the most extensive treatment of the history of altruism that exists in the literature. Additionally it tells George Price's story" (reviews: Science, Nature, American Scientist, youtube).
An introductory level book covering evolutionary psychology is: John H Cartwright (2001) Evolutionary Explanations of Human Behaviour. Dugatkin (2000) The imitation factor. Evolution beyond the gene examines the origins of culture in humans and animals and proposes that behaviour imitation is an important but overlooked factor. Darwin's remark about the mind of a baboon inspired an empirical study of baboons: Cheney and Seyfarth (2007) Baboon Metaphysics: The Evolution of a Social Mind (review: Science, info, excerpt).
The following three books are about social behaviour we share with our primate relatives: Alexander H. Harcourt & Kelly J. Stewart (2007) Gorilla Society: Conflict, Compromise and Cooperation Between the Sexes; Dario Maestripieri (2007) Macachiavellian Intelligence: How Rhesus Macaques and Humans Have Conquered the World ("Maestripieri's slimmer volume will appeal to a general audience with its fast pace, references to popular culture and wide-ranging discussion of human behaviour"); Frans de Waal (2007) Chimpanzee Politics: Power and Sex Among Apes (25th Anniversary Edition). (Review: Nature). For professioals: Oxford handbook of evolutionary psychology edited by Dunbar and Barrett. An antidote for the books of Frans de Waal is: Malcolm Potts and Thomas Hayden (2008) Sex and War. How Biology Explains Warfare and Terrorism and Offers a Path to a Safer World (review: Science).
David Sloan Wilson (2015) 'Does Altruism Exist?: Culture, Genes, and the Welfare of Others" Yale University Press, 192 pages
Review in Nature by Herbert Gintis: "Wilson's basic principle is the group-selection credo: "Selfishness beats altruism within groups. Altruistic groups beat selfish groups. Everything else is commentary". Is reviewed together with The Moral Arc: How Science and Reason Lead Humanity toward Truth, Justice, and Freedom by Michael Shermer.
Michael Tomasello (2014) "A Natural History of Human Thinking", Harvard University Press, 2014 192 pp
Review: "Still, the book's great virtue is its conceptual analysis of the cumulative steps in cognition required to get us from ape to human. For empirical illustration of each step, Tomasello draws largely on his group's work on apes and children. ...omasello's explanation seems to need extension. ... both books neglect speech ... Oddly, neither book engages seriously with the new data from paleontology, archaeology, and ancient DNA." (Science).
Frans de Waal (2013) "The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism among the Primates ", W. W. Norton
Info. Review Nature: "The novel element in The Bonobo and the Atheist is that de Waal analyses today's moral landscape, in particular the schism between militant atheism and religion. The Bonobo and the Atheist does leave a gap of sorts in explaining moral origins. The Bonobo and the Atheist is a synthesis on all levels, masterfully marshalling ethology, psychology, philosophy and anthropology in its drive to understand ourselves through the lens of other primates." Translated in Dutch: 'De Bonobo en de tien geboden. Op zoek naar humanisme bij de primaten' (2013).
Philip Lieberman (2013) "The Unpredictable Species: What Makes Humans Unique"
Info: The Unpredictable Species argues that the human brain evolved in a way that enhances our cognitive flexibility and capacity for innovation and imitation. In doing so, the book challenges the central claim of evolutionary psychology that we are locked into predictable patterns of behavior that were fixed by genes, and refutes the claim that language is innate.
Dale Goldhaber (2012) "The Nature–Nurture Debates. Bridging the Gap" Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2012. 188 pp
Review: Science: "...debate, which is actually not about nature versus nurture but whether behavior can be dissected into "innate" and "acquired" components. ... I was quite surprised to see that in The Nature–Nurture Debates, he does not refer to the classic Lorenz-Lehrman discussion at all. When reading his interesting historical account, however, I realized that the real dichotomy here is between biology and psychology. Whereas for biologists like myself, Lehrman has settled the matter, allowing us to move on, Goldhaber makes quite clear that the debates continue among psychologists."
Dario Maestripieri (2012) "Games Primates Play An Undercover Investigation of the Evolution and Economics of Human Relationships", Basic Books (Perseus) 320 pp.
Review: Science: "Using concepts such as social dominance and cost-benefit trade-offs to analyze human relationships, he pursues the claim that the social ways of humans are not particularly different from those of our closest evolutionary relatives. Although the book is ostensibly about the science of human social behavior, most of what we are told about humans comes from personal anecdotes. He dismisses the idea that human diversity might be important".
Robert Trivers (2011) "Deceit and Self-Deception: Fooling Yourself the Better to Fool Others", (US title: The Folly of Fools), Basic Books/Allen Lane: 2011. 352 pp
Info (but no contents listing available).
Reviews: Nature: Trivers' theory is that individuals mislead themselves because it helps them to deceive others more convincingly. Review and Profile in Science: "Jerry Coyne says the book suffers from a lack of tangible zoological examples. "But Trivers's forte has never been to show what has happened but what could happen," he says. He calls Trivers "one of those thinkers whose importance rests on inspiring a generation of researchers." "Only once, during his second breakdown, did he feel the disease actually spurred some creative thinking."
Johan Bolhuis (Science): "Readers will find a version of evolutionary psychology conducted by an eminent evolutionary biologist.". Robert Kurzban in BioOne: "The costs of false beliefs would seem to be important, yet they are given scarce attention in terms of the theoretical development. The book is filled, in contrast, with accounts of the costs of false beliefs to their owners" (pdf) (good and detailed review).
Noteworthy are courageous chapters 'False historical narratives' and 'Self-Deception and War' and a short, but insightful critique of "the science of economics" (p.310-313) in chapter 13. Contains some honest autobiographical anecdotes. In general this book gives useful insights about deceit and self-deception in many fields from everyday life, religion, politics, science and aviation. See also Note 14 of this review.
Martin A. Nowak, Roger Highfield (2011) "SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed" Free Press: 2011. 352 pp.
See: Theoretical & Mathematical biology.
Sara J. Shettleworth (2010) Cognition, Evolution, and Behavior, Oxford University Press, 720 pp.
Comparative cognition, comparative psychology. New chapters on evolution and the brain. Review.
David Westneat, Charles Fox (editors) (2010) "Evolutionary Behavioral Ecology", Oxford University Press, paperback, 664 pages .
Gregory Radick (2008) "The Simian Tongue: The Long Debate about Animal Language", University Of Chicago Press, hb 544 pages
"The Simian Tongue charts the scientific controversies over the evolution of language from Darwin's day to our own, resurrecting the forgotten debts of psychology, anthropology, and other behavioral sciences to the Victorian debate about the animal roots of human language."
John Price, Anthony Stevens (2000) Evolutionary Psychiatry: A New Beginning (Paperback) Routledge; 2 edition.
About: affective disorders, borderline states and schizophrenia, as well as offering solutions for puzzles such as sadomasochism and the function of dreams. info.
Edward O. Wilson (1975,2000) 'Sociobiology. The New Synthesis', Belknap Press.
"Wilson's book Sociobiology, published in 1975, was the first to address the evolution and organization of societies in organisms ranging from colonial bacteria to primates, including humans. The final chapter, on human social interaction, ignited controversy. ... Opponents claimed that nothing in human behaviour is grounded in genetics, except sleeping, eating and defecation. ... Wilson responded with elegance and humour; in my view, most scholars now agree that he won this argument. ... he had rejected the theory of inclusive fitness that he once propagated." See OBITUARY in Nature: Edward O. Wilson (1929–2021) Naturalist, conservationist and synthesizer who founded sociobiology. (Nature).
22 Aug 19
Joseph LeDoux (2019) 'The Deep History of Ourselves: The Four-Billion-Year Story of How We Got Conscious Brains', Viking
Reviewed in Nature: "The book is an epic tale, tracing the evolution of survival behaviours from the dawn of life on Earth 3.8 billion years ago, to the development of the human brain's capacity for consciousness, language and culture. ... LeDoux begins the book with a crash course in evolution. ... He uses the rest of The Deep History of Ourselves to sketch a natural history of brains as they developed the capacity to create the elements of the human mind, focusing mainly on the emergence of emotions, memory and consciousness."
According to LeDoux emotions are the product of a (self)conscious brain and only humans have such a brain. All other animals have no consciousness (better: we cannot know) and no emotions.
Donald W. Pfaff (2014) 'The Altruistic Brain: How We Are Naturally Good', Oxford University Press
Reviewed in Science by Frans B. M. de Waal: "As moral tendencies have been documented in human babies as well as our primate relatives, they don't seem to require language or religious dogma. Now, Donald W. Pfaff, an eminent American neuroscientist, has come along to place them squarely inside of our brains. Written in a highly readable style, The Altruistic Brain summarizes the current state of knowledge in the field and offers an excellent starting point for readers who are interested in learning more about the biology and neuroscience of human prosociality. ... Pfaff 's aversion to separating morality from emotion is refreshing ..." (23 Jan 2015)
Gerald E. Schneider (2014) "Brain Structure and Its Origins. Function, Evolution, Development", The MIT Press
The early chapters of this book tell the story of the brain's origins ... proceeds from basic aspects of nerve cells and their physiology to the evolutionary beginnings of the nervous system ... it makes enlightening connections to evolutionary history and individual development. See very detailed Table of Contents at publishers website.
John S. Allen (2009) 'The Lives of the Brain. Human Evolution and the Organ of Mind', Harvard University Press, 352 pages.
Focus on brain evolution rather than the evolution of consciousness, intelligence, behavior, evolutionary psychology or cognition. Based on recent research in paleoanthropology, brain anatomy and neuroimaging, molecular genetics, life history theory. Do the models of brain evolution created by ecologists match those put forth by geneticists or paleoneurologists? My approach is 'bottom up' rather than 'top down'. The molecular evolution of the brain. Info (+free introduction). See also google books.
J. Kaas (ed) (2009) "Evolutionary Neuroscience", Elsevier.
Evolution is central in this book. Brain evolution of vertebrates, fishes, amphibians, reptiles, birds, mammals, primates, humans.
Michael S. Gazzaniga (2008) "Human: The Science Behind What Makes Us Unique", 447 pp., HarperCollins/Ecco
If you want to find out what we know today about how human brains and minds transcend those of other species, and particularly if you take pleasure in contemplating our superiority, you can't do better than reading this book. It makes you feel superior to all other species. Review. Info. browse.
Gary Lynch and Richard Granger (2008) "Big Brain. The Origins and future of Human Intelligence", Palgrave hardback, 259 pages.
Evolution of the brain in evolutionary time and the lifetime of an individual. Differences in individual brains. Differences of human and animal brains. The big brains of Boskop humans. Info. Review.
Daniel Lord Smail (2008) "On Deep History and the Brain", University of California Press, Berkeley, 2008. 286 pp.
"On Deep History and the Brain is a small book with big ideas: that human history is linked in deep time by the physiological mechanisms that we share with our vertebrate ancestors and that the historical "progress" and "acceleration" we detect are in fact directionless series of ongoing culturally specific experiments with psychotropic mechanisms. Smail deftly and impressively pulls together information from the disparate fields of cultural history, evolutionary biology, and neuroscience": from Science.
Gary Marcus (2008) "Kluge: The Haphazard Construction of the Human Mind", Houghton Mifflin Co.
Home page. Review: Nature: "psychologist Gary Marcus presents a lively tour of the shortcomings of human minds and concludes that evolution has left us with something of a mess. Marcus makes his case by describing cognitive difficulties, including false beliefs, linguistic ambiguity, impulsiveness and mental illness." See also: Gary Marcus (2004).
David J. Linden (2007) "The Accidental Mind. How Brain Evolution Has Given Us Love, Memory, Dreams, and God", Harvard University Press.
"The brain is not an optimized, general-purpose problem-solving machine, but rather a weird agglomeration of ad-hoc solutions that have been piled on through millions of years of evolutionary history." "The things we hold highest in our human experience (love, memory, dreams, and a predisposition for religious thought) result from a particular agglomeration of ad hoc solutions that have been piled on through millions of years of evolutionary history." "The mouse brain is basically the lizard brain with some extra stuff thrown on top. Likewise, the human brain is basically the mouse brain with still more stuff piled on top." Review: Nature. Info (+Prologue, Ch.1). Blog with free chapter 7. [Alternative classification of the book: Anti-Creationism/ID ].
Ralph Greenspan (2007) "An Introduction to Nervous Systems", Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press: 2007. 200 pp.
"Ralph Greenspan's An Introduction to Nervous Systems will similarly enlighten many of its readers on the wonders to be found through the study of invertebrate nervous systems and the behaviours they control. Furthermore, it is an eloquent mixture of fundamental neuroscience and evolutionary biology. Greenspan uses a variety of invertebrate animals to describe the fundamental processes of nervous-system function and by placing the basics of neuronal signalling in their functional contexts, he casts this information in evolutionary terms." from: Nature. Review: dannyreviews.
Georg F. Striedter (2005) "Principles of Brain Evolution, Sinauer, 363 pages, $67.95
Gary Marcus (2004) "The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates The Complexities of Human Thought", Basic Books, paperback, 278 pages (including appendix, glossary, notes, references, subject index, name index).
Despite its offputting subtitle, this book is a magnificent overview of what scientists know of the biological, neurological and genetic basis of the human mind. Genes produce the brain, the brain produces the mind. Genes are created by evolution. Although not its primary goal, the book appears to be one of the first attempts to integrate neuroscience and cognitive science into neo-Darwinism. In other words: how the human mind with language and thought evolved from a chimp-like brain. Chapter 7 is about the evolution of mental genes. Psychologist Gary Marcus appears to be an excellent and humorous educator. Accessible to the non-specialist. Reviewed in: Biology and Philosophy.
John Allman (2000) "Evolving Brains", Scientific American Library, pb 224 pp.
Very good book about the evolution and genetics of the brain.
Gerald Edelman (1987) "Neural Darwinism: The Theory of Neuronal Group Selection", Basic Books, New York 1987.
Edelman introduced Darwinian thinking in the neurobiology of the brain.
Genetics, Genomics & Evolution [ in descending chronological order ]
16 May 23
26 Jun 23
16 Nov 22
20 Dec 22
Genetics: the inheritance of individual genes or mutations. Genomics: the complete DNA sequence of an organism. Genomics era began in the 1990s. Epigenetics: modifications to DNA that do not change the DNA sequence which are inherited by daughter cells following cell division.
Laurence Moran (2023) 'What's in Your Genome? 90% of Your Genome Is Junk', University of Toronto Press, Release Date: May 16, 2023
Andrew Travers (2022) 'Why DNA? From DNA Sequence to Biological Complexity', Cambridge University Press.
This book is concerned with the relatonship between DNA, information and complexity and traces the evolution of that relationship from the origin of life.
Individual chapters can be bought here.
Why DNA? is one of my favorite topics, I have blogged many times about the question. However, by 'alternative DNA structures' the author means that DNA can adopt different 3-D structures, not that it could contain for example alternative bases such as isocytosine and isoguanine. This book is not a popular-science book, it contains all the technical details and no anecdotes.
Robert DeSalle, Michael Yudell (2020) 'Welcome to the Genome: A User's Guide to the Genetic Past, Present, and Future', 2nd Edition Wiley-Blackwell 277 Pages
Henry H. Heng (2019) 'Genome Chaos. Rethinking Genetics, Evolution, and Molecular Medicine', Elsevier.
This book is very expensive. However, the author published several articles in scientific journals. This one is free full text: What Is Karyotype Coding and Why Is Genomic Topology Important for Cancer and Evolution? (2019). Karyotype Coding Hypothesis: By considering the genomic topology as a new type of information, we have hypothesized that chromosome sets carry organizational information of genes (system inheritance) that is distinct from the information created strictly by individual gene sequences (parts inheritance). Chromosomes are not just the vehicle of genes but the organizers of gene interaction.
Gareth Williams (2019) 'Unravelling the Double Helix: The Lost Heroes of DNA', Weidenfeld & Nicolson
The history of DNA from the fist description of nucleic acid in 1868 by Friedrich Miescher to the description of the chemical structure of DNA by Watson & Crick in 1953. That is: 85 years of nucleic acids research by hundreds of scientists preceded the Watson & Crick model. So, Watson & Crick did not invent DNA, they built upon previous hard work and many false starts. Among the false starts was the tetranucleotide hypothesis of Phoebus Levene.
John Archibald (2018) 'Genomics: A Very Short Introduction', Oxford University Press, 135 pages (contrary to 160 pp claim of OUP).
Recommended introduction in the field of Genomics. Knowledge of evolutionary genomics is essential for understanding evolution. With 21 bw drawings. Includes a discussion of different genomics techniques, human genomics, evolutionary genomics, paleogenomics, microbial genomics, metagenomics, virogenomics, the future of genomics. Topical: junk DNA and the ENCODE project (pp 50–52). The 80% functional genome is controversial (See book of Laurence Moran on this page). Publishers info. Also available online with free abstracts.
David Reich (2018) 'Who We Are and How We Got Here: Ancient DNA and the New Science of the Human Past', Pantheon.
Review in Nature: "What has been revealed is something much more complex and exciting: populations that split and re-form, change under selective pressures, move, exchange ideas, overthrow one another."
Alexey S. Kondrashov (2017) 'Crumbling Genome. The Impact of Deleterious Mutations on Humans', Wiley-Blackwell.
John Parrington (2017) 'The Deeper Genome. Why there is more to the human genome than meets the eye', Oxford University Press Paperback 400 pages.
Read Introduction chapter and Chapter 1 at google books. About the ENCODE project and the junk DNA controversy. RNA plays a far more imporant role in the cell and organism than previously thought. Focus on humans. Chapter 10: 'Code, Noncode, Garbage and Junk.'
Compare with: Laurence Moran (2023) 'What's in Your Genome? 90% of Your Genome Is Junk'.
Matthew Cobb (2015) 'Life's Greatest Secret: The Race to Crack the Genetic Code', Profile Books
"As Matthew Cobb writes in his excellent Life's Greatest Secret (Profile, 2015), the image's significance has often been overstated, largely because Watson chose to play it up ... " (Philip Ball in Nature). The author about his book: "Life's Greatest Secret was a way of looking not so much at the actual discovery of the double helix, but rather the context around it." "Cobb: When they found the double-helical structure of DNA, it still wasn't clear that DNA was the genetic material. What the discovery of the double helix says is that you don't need the proteins because this structure contains information. So, in a way, the discovery of the double helix made everybody think that maybe DNA could be the real material. But it still wasn't shown that it was the genetic material in anything other than bacteria and viruses. Indeed, the first demonstration that DNA was the genetic material in a eukaryote didn't happen till the mid-1970s." (source).
John Parrington (2015) 'The Deeper Genome: Why There Is More to the Human Genome Than Meets the Eye', Oxford Univ. Press 2015.
"Parrington's strongest chapters survey the emerging view of gene regulation, including DNA folding, epigenetics and regulatory RNA. Overall, this is a faithful, engaging portrait of the twenty-first-century genome." (review Nature).
Nessa Carey (2015) 'Junk DNA. A Journey Through the Dark Matter of the Genome', Columbia University Press.
Defending the idea that most noncoding DNA in the human genome is not junk. This is a controversial view. See: Larry Moran (2023) on this page. Short book review by Scientific American.
Craig Venter (2013) "Life at the Speed of Light. From the Double Helix to the Dawn of Digital Life", Viking.
Science: "Whereas Venter's previous book ( A Life Decoded: My Genome: My Life) traced his career and personal life, he now offers a 21st-century response to the question physicist Erwin Schrödinger in 1943: "What Is Life?". ... Venter first looks back to trace the past 60 years of molecular biology, identifying thematic precursors to synthetic biology ... He dispenses with his critics by privileging the genome as the definition of life, noting that "creating" "synthetic" "life" affected his thinking about life itself: "Our experiments did not leave much room to support" proponents of "a 'vital force' that [distinguishes] the animate from the inanimate. ... He bemoans a strain of 21st-century vitalism that "manifests itself in the guise of shifting emphasis away from DNA to an 'emergent' property of the cell that is somehow greater than the sum of its molecular parts."" ... In his view, any understanding of biology that does not privilege DNA as primum movens is tantamount to neovitalism." (Science, 18 Oct 2013). My comment: one does not need to be a neovitalist to assert that DNA is a passive information carrier that needs to be read by the cell machinery. If DNA is the primum movens, why does it fail to explain the origin of life?
Nature: "So eager is Venter to exterminate vitalism from science that he treats the concept of emergent properties ... as vitalistic." (24 Oct 2013)
Nessa Carey (2012) 'The Epigenetics Revolution', Columbia University Press
"offers lucid science writing and vivid imagery" (review nature).
National Center for Biotechnology Information (2011), "Genes and Disease".
Genes and Disease is a collection of articles that discuss genes and the diseases that they cause. These genetic disorders are organized by the parts of the body that they affect.
Free online at the NCBI website.
James Darnell (2011) "RNA Life's Indispensable Molecule", Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press. bw + color illustr.
Info + excerpt. Review: Science: "Darnell's book is not only a bible but a lexicon. It really does say it all." "DNA may encode a cell's potential, but the RNA molecules present dictate the activities that define a cell's state at any particular moment."
Donald R. Forsdyke (2011) "Evolutionary bioinformatics" Springer; hardback, 2nd Edition 509 pages. Including (color)illustrations.
His research includes bioinformatic analyses of DNA sequences relating to introns and speciation. Info and sample chapter. See also: Forsdyke Evolution Academy on Youtube. See also: The Origin of Species Revisited by the author.
Brian and Deborah Charlesworth (2010) "Elements of Evolutionary Genetics". Roberts and Company, 2010. 768 pp
review: "Wherever the study of evolution intersects with the study of inheritance we have evolutionary genetics. Evolutionary genetics thus covers a huge chunk of evolutionary biology, as without inheritance there can be no cumulative change. Elements of Evolutionary Genetics is a superb introduction to evolutionary genetics for the serious and motivated student of evolution".
Frank Ryan (2009) "Virolution", Collins paperback, 390 pp
"The majority of the molecular biologists and geneticists who are screening the genome are completely unaware of the concept of viral symbiosis. The reason is they were taught evolution on the exclusive basis of mutation-plus-selection. This inclines them to think that the viral elements in the genome can only be seen as selfish genetic parasites, and so it comes as a surprise when they accidently discover a "beneficial" viral contribution." (p.163).
Popular account of the role of viruses in evolution. In particualr Chapter 6 about retroviruses in the human genome is very interesting. Info, Info.
J. V. Chamary and Laurence D. Hurst (2009) 'The price of silent mutations', Scientific American, June 2009, pp34-41.
This is a very readable overview of 'silent' mutations. It appears that bases in protein coding exons can at the same time function as intron splicing recognition sites, and that a synonymous mutation can prevent intron splicing, resulting in mutated proteins. Important for evolution.
Stewart Scherer (2008) "A Short Guide to the Human Genome"
Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press (CSHL), Paperback 150 pp.
A short but useful guide in Q&A form. Chapter 10 'Comparative genomics' is relevant to evolution. The book gives an enormous amount of data. However, the data frequenlty present puzzles which are not addressed in this book. A genomics handbook is required to find explanations for the puzzling data. After 10 year and a lot of new data, this book urgently needs a new and updated edition.
Michael Lynch (2007) "The Origins of Genome Architecture", Sinauer, 389 pages
Evolution is a change in genotype frequencies. There are 4 causes of evolution: natural selection, and 3 non-adapative forces: mutation, recombination, genetic drift. Lynch claims that a lot of (genome) complexity is random, non-adaptive, not produced by natural selection. "By magnifying the role of chance, genetic drift indirectly imposes directionality on evolution by encouraging the fixation of mildly deleterious mutations and discouraging the promotion of beneficial mutations." Info. "The role null models play in testing hypotheses in evolution is a central focus of this book." (Review).
Mark Pagel, Andrew Pomiankowski (2007) "Evolutionary Genomics and Proteomics, Sinauer, 295 pages, 90 illustrations.
Info. Chapters include: Evolutionary Systems Biology, The Origin of New Genes, Human Evolutionary Genomics.
Catherine Brady (2007) "Elizabeth Blackburn and the Story of Telomeres. Deciphering the Ends of DNA", MIT Press, Cambridge, MA, 2007. 412 pp
Review: Science (14 March 2008): "Blackburn's groundbreaking work in telomere biology is a remarkable story worth telling.".
James D. Watson (2007) "Avoid Boring People. Lessons from a Life in Science / And Other Lessons from a Life in Science", Knopf, New York, 2007. hardback 365 pp
"But after reading the book, I quickly changed my mind. It is interesting because it fills out the parts of Jim's life missing from his previous books." according to Sydney Brenner in his review in Science. It is an autobiographical book. Chapter 6 is about the famous period 1951 - 1953 (pp 94 - 117), (contains a rare photograph of beautiful Rosalind Franklin, and some nice story about Pauling). The special thing about the book is that each chapter ends with lessons and advice to young scientists. However, too much boring details of his life for the general reader. No index, but there is a dictionary style who-is-who. Review: Nature (2007): "Sadly, and without explanation, the book ends too soon, at the point where Watson leaves Harvard in 1976". Watson's previous autobiographic books: The Double Helix: A Personal Account of the Discovery of the Structure of DNA (1968); Genes, Girls and Gamow (2001); DNA: The Secret of Life (2003).
J. Craig Venter (2007) "A Life Decoded. My Genome: My Life", Viking, New York, 2007. 416 pp.
This is an autobiography of Venter. Venter, leader of the private company Celera, made his own attempt to decode the human genome, while the public Human Genome Project -headed by James Watson, later by Francis Collins- was up and running for some time. My impression is that Venter's book is more about politics of science than science itself, but I may be wrong. Review: Science.
Norman Johnson (2007) "Darwinian Detectives. Revealing the natural history of genes and genomes", Oxford University Press, hb 220 pp.
Introducing negative and positive selection, human roots, Are we the third chimpanzee?, culminating in chapters 'What are the genetic differences that made us human?', and 'Size matters: toward understanding the natural history of genomes' with interesting issues: variation in genomes, how and why does genome size matter?, did big genomes cause salamanders to evolve simple brains, genome size and extinction. Info.
Austin Burt and Robert Trivers (2007) "Genes in Conflict: the Biology of Selfish Genetic Elements", Harvard University Press: 2006 632 pp.
Viruses are selfish entities. By the same token, 'transposable elements' (chapter 7), 'homing endonucleases' (chapter 6) and similar genetic elements belong in this category, because of their ability to increase their copy number within the genome. 'Selfish cell lineages' (chapter 11), such as cancer cells. Review: Nature Genetics.
Michael Lynch (2007) "The Origins of Genome Architecture", Sinauer Associates, Sunderland, MA, 2007. 510 pp.
"the book's first 12 chapters are a mustread for anyone interested in the evolution of genomes. This Origins represents a serious, valiant, and highly scholarly attempt at making sense of the new data provided by the genomic revolution. (...) One of the central theses of the book is that natural selection is not necessarily the central evolutionary mechanism, as quite a bit of the details of genomic structures and evolution can be accounted for by invoking the neutral mechanisms of mutation, recombination, and drift." from: Science. Nature: "Lynch goes a step further by combining molecular mechanisms and evolutionary theory into a coherent evolutionary genomics framework and claiming it as the next phase of evolutionary biology. (...) It is the best, most up-to-date and thorough summary of genome evolution published. (...) Not every evolutionary biologist, genome researcher or 'evo-devo-ist' will agree with Lynch's strong opinions that largely non-adaptive forces shaped genomes".
Joram Piatigorsky (2007) "Gene Sharing and Evolution. The Diversity of Protein Functions", Harvard University Press hb 336 pp 2007
"In the 1980s and early 1990s, Joram Piatigorsky and colleagues coined the term "gene sharing" to describe the use of multifunctional proteins as crystallins in the eye lens. In Gene Sharing and Evolution Piatigorsky explores the generality and implications of gene sharing throughout evolution and argues that most if not all proteins perform a variety of functions in the same and in different species, and that this is a fundamental necessity for evolution." info. Review: Nature Genetics.
Jean-Michel Claverie, Cedric Notredame (2006) "Bioinformatics For Dummies"
Matt Ridley (2006) "Francis Crick - Discoverer of the Genetic Code", Atlas Books.
Ridley makes a concise account of the factors that made the discovery of the 3D structure of DNA possible. "Ridley rightly emphasizes the key role Crick has played in working out the genetic code. Ridley has written a very readable book. He describes Crick's scientific achievements with remarkable clarity." Reviews: Science, Nature, Nature, Nature Genetics. Please note this author is not the same person as the evolutionary biologist Mark Ridley.
Lisa Seachrist Chiu (2006) "When a Gene Makes You Smell Like a Fish ... and Other Tales about the Genes in Your Body" Oxford University Press, hardback 219 pages.
If you want to be educated about human genetics and how mutations in your DNA affect your health, read this book! Illustrated, friendly style, but also interesting for advanced students because details about genes are included plus a detailed References section at the end of the book.
Denis Noble (2006) "The Music of Life. Biology beyond the Genome" Oxford University Press, hardback 153 pages.
Important book, especially the first 4 chapters are deconstructing the gene and genome-centered view of life. This little book explains why expressions such as 'the genome is a program' and 'the book of life' are inadequate. If we want to make progress we must go beyond the genome as the privileged cause of life. We must move away from the gene-centred view of evolution. We must replace gene-networks by gene-protein networks. Progress is the view that genes are controlled by proteins and various higher-levels such as cells and organs. Keywords: reductionism, anti-reductionism, downward causation, systems biology. Interesting and original analysis of Dawkins' selfish gene point of view (page 11-22). The book is written in a friendly style (no arrogance or too many technical terms), runs smoothly and has good educational value. Website of the book including youtube interview with author, Info. Review: Science (the reviewer seems to have a genome-centered view of development, but also points out that a multicellular organism has millions of genomes!). Although Noble does not know Senapathy, he delivers exceptionally forceful ammunition against independent origin: here.
Paul G. Higgs and Teresa K. Attwood. (2005) "Bioinformatics and Molecular Evolution" Blackwell Publishing, Oxford. 365 pp.
This book is written for people who want to understand bioinformatics methods. The book can also be used by evolutionists to learn bioinformatics. Review: Evolution.
Rob DeSalle and Michael Yudell (2004) "Welcome to the Genome: A User's Guide to the Genetic Past, Present and Future" Wiley & Sons, hardcover 215 pages.
DeSalle and Yudell should be applauded for their ambition. They've produced a timely and readable book that packs an extraordinary amount of information into less than 170 pages of text. Review: Nature. Info.
John S. Mattick (2004) The Hidden Genetic Program of Complex Organisms in: Scientifc American October 2004 pp 30-37.
"Biologists assumed that proteins alone regulate the genes of humans and other complex organisms. But an overlooked regulatory system based on RNA may hold the keys to development and evolution."
Mattick argues that the number of genes is not important for creating complex organisms, but in stead nonprotein-coding RNA's are important. Most of the 98.5% 'junk'-DNA (introns) is transcribed into RNA, not protein. In mammals thousands of RNA's never get translated into proteins. This is absent in prokaryotes. Probably these RNA's regulate the expression of genes, which is important in multicellular organisms (hundreds of different cell types). Furthermore, thousands of non-coding DNA are much more conserved than protein coding DNA, which suggests a role for natural selection.
Bryan Sykes (2004) "Adam's Curse" W.W. Norton, hb 316 pp
About the chromosome and the gene that makes a human body a male body: the Y-chromosome and SRY gene. The path to the discovery was littered with false leads and false conclusions. I especially liked Sykes' description of how the correct human chromosome number was established (I worked in the field of cytogenetics). Accessible to the non-specialist reader. Info.
Andrew Parker (2003) "In the Blink of an Eye", Perseus Publishing, 2003, hardback, 316 pp. Paperback 2004.
This book is reviewed by me here on this website.
Jonathan Marks (2003) "What it means to be 98% chimpanzee. - Apes, people, and their genes." University of California Press. paperback 312 pages.
Human genetics viewed through the eyes of an anthropologist. Criticism of naive claims of human geneticists, but biased against genetic/evolutionary explanations of human behavior. The first two chapters are about what DNA differences between humans and chimpanzees are and what they mean (good and educational). Other chapters are about behavioral genetics, human diversity and human 'races', human nature, Kennewick man, and closing with a provocative chapter about Science, Religion and Worldview. Marvellous quote: "The scientist says: Science has explained many things about the universe. Your life has no meaning. Have a nice day." (31). Review: American Scientist, July-August 2002; Nature Medicine. Marks is the author of: Why Are There Still Creationists? Human Evolution and the Ancestors (2021).
Maurice Wilkins (2003) "The Third Man of the Double Helix". Oxford University Press, Hardback 274 pages.
The discovery of the double helix as told by the man who shared the Nobel Prize with Francis Crick and James Watson, but who was also a competitor in the race to solve the structure of DNA, because he worked in another research institute in the UK. Wilkins was offered co-authorship of the now famous 1953 Nature publication, but he refused because he was not involved in the discussions in the final month before the publication. The fourth scientist was Rosalind Franklin who worked in the same lab as Wilkins, but died before the Nobel Prize was awarded. Alternative single and triple helix models were considered in 1951 and 1952. Rosalind Franklin even worked on a non-helical model for quite some time and the famous Linus Pauling (27), (28) produced a wrong model too. Anne Sayre's book Rosalind Franklin and DNA was "so grossly inaccurate that it did not require a response" and James Watson's The Double Helix contains "seriously misleading descriptions".
The book is reviewed by Raymond Gosling (at the time research student of Rosalind Franklin) 'Completing the helix trilogy', Nature.
Double helix: 50 years of DNA (23 January 2003) index of articles.
Nature website, 24 Jan 2003. (All content is free).
This is a collection of articles around the publication of the structure of DNA by James Watson and Francis Crick in April 1953, and the revolution in biology it caused. Among the articles is the original publication of Watson and Crick (pdf) and Crick's interesting retrospective view (4MB pdf) 21 years after the publication (1974). Please note the minimal information both had available and the huge unsolved problems the model faced: for example the unwinding problem. If the genetic information was buried inside the double helix, and if the DNA molecule was millions of bases long, how could it be replicated and read? They had not the slightest idea, nonetheless they were convinced that their DNA model was fit for carrying the hereditary information. The only article about DNA and evolution is from Svante Pääbo. There are some revolutionary ideas in it! Leroy Hood, the inventor of the first DNA sequencing machine, wrote an article about DNA and genomics "The digital code of DNA". There are two types of biological information in the genome: protein encoding genes and regulatory DNA. Important additional information about the discovery of the helix is given by Watson Fuller in Who said 'helix'? Nature 424, 876-878 (21 Aug 2003).
A Conversation with James D. Watson.
Scientific American website, April 2003 issue. (part is free access)
An impressive interview with the co-discoverer of the structure of DNA.
Exploring the Crick papers
A showcase of the Crick archive, including early drafts of the 1953 Watson and Crick papers, and a full copy of Crick's 'most influential unpublished paper'.
James D. Watson (2003) "DNA: The Secret of Life", A Knopf, 416 pp.
James D. Watson discovered the structure of DNA 50 years ago (together with Francis Crick). Included are all the famous discoveries that made the field of genetics. First chapter: 'Beginnings of Genetics: From Mendel to Hitler'(!). Included are: biotechnology, the human genome, evolution, human past, DNA fingerprinting, genetic disorders, gene therapy. Reviews: Nature (favourable), Science 18 Apr 2003, p.432 (unfavourable), New Scientist. Reprinted 2004, 2008.
David Bainbridge (2003) "The X in Sex. How the X chromosome controls our lives", Harvard University Press, 205 pp.
How the X chromosome (and Y chromosome) make females and males and the implications of the XY-system for health and disease. Several unexpected complications, far-reaching consequences and serious disadvantages of the XY sex determining system are explained. The embryological construction of sex organs is clumsy and weird. The female body is a genetic mosaic. This book has more scientific depth than its counterpart "Y: The Descent of Man" by Steve Jones (reviews: Nature, Science).
Lynn Helena Caporale (2003) "Darwin in the Genome. Molecular strategies in biological evolution." McGraw-Hill, hb 246 pp.
Accesible, to the point, factual. Mutations are not always random. There are hot spots of mutations. 'Mutation strategies'. Review: BioEssays, (pdf). Here is a website about the book with the online article "Dr. Caporale's 2003 update of evolutionary theory". See also: New Scientist 6 March 2004, pp.42-45: 'Genomes don't play dice' by Lynn H. Caporale. Caporale published also: The Implicit Genome (2006).
Spencer Wells (2002) "The Journey of Man. A Genetic Odyssey", Allan Lane, hb 224 pp.
He reveals how our DNA enables us to work out where our ancestors lived. Also as penguin edition (2003). See also: The Genographic Project (see the maps!).
Terence A Brown (2002) "Genomes". 2nd edition. Oxford: Wiley-Liss.
This book is available for free online at the NCBI website: Genomes, 2nd edition.
Carina Dennis and Richard Gallagher (2001) "The Human Genome." Nature Publishing Group, hardback 140 pp.
The original Nature article of 15 Feb 2001 reporting the draft of the Human Genome. Including many introductory articles with many colour illustrations.
Kevin Devies (2001) "Cracking the Genome. Inside the Race to Unlock Human DNA". Released in the UK as: "The Sequence. Inside the Race for the Human Genome".
Matt Ridley (1999,2000) *Genome. The Autobiography of a Species in 23 Chapters. Fourth Estate, paperback 344 pp.
This book was published before the publication of the draft human genome sequence. It is based on traditional genetics: finding genes responsible for specific phenotypic effects. Describes the most interesting gene on each chromosome and connects it with themes such as Intelligence, Instinct, Personality, Sex, Memory and Free Will. Reviews: Nature.
Richard Lewontin (2000) "The Triple Helix. Gene, Organism, and Environment", Harvard University Press, hb 136 pp.
"The trouble with general scheme of explanation contained in the metaphor of development is that it is bad biology. If we had the complete DNA sequence of an organism and unlimited computational power, we could not compute the organism, because the organism does not compute itself from its genes. (...) Of course it is true that chimps look different from humans because they have different genes. And a satisfactory explanation for the differences need not involve other causal factors."
I found this book disappointing considering the high status of Lewontin.
Review: Heredity. Also from Lewontin: The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change (1974); Not in Our Genes (1984, together with Steven Rose and Leon Kamin); Biology as Ideology: The Doctrine of DNA (1993); 'It Ain't Necessarily So. The dream of the human genome and other illusions' (2001).
See an obituary of Lewontin in Nature: Richard C. Lewontin (1929–2021). Pioneer of molecular evolution who campaigned against biological racism.
Horace Freeland Judson (1996) *The Eighth Day of Creation: The Makers of the Revolution in Biology (25th Anniversary Edition) CSHL Press paperback 714 pp.
Info. Famous and very detailed history of the origin of molecular biology starting with the discovery of the structure of DNA. With new Afterword. Written for non-scientists and using interviews with the people involved and quotes from letters of the scientists that created the molecular biology revolution. Insightful, accessible and entertaining. Three main parts: I. DNA (the elucidation of the structure), II. RNA (the breaking of the genetic code), III. Protein. Three Afterwords: In Defense of Rosalind Franklin; What did Erwin Chargaff contribute?; Dawn of The Eighth Day. Compare this book with Robert Olby (1974) The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA.
Wen-Hsiung Li (1997) 'Molecular Evolution' Sinauer Associates, hardback.
"RNA-dependent polymerases are more error prone than DNA-dependent polymerases because they lack the proofreading (3'→5' exonuclease) activity. For this reason, the mutation rates are in general much higher in RNA viruses than in DNA viruses." (p.194 hardback). This applies to SARS covid-19 virus.
Francis Crick (1990) "What Mad Pursuit: A Personal View of Scientific Discovery", Basic Books Paperback 182 pages. illustrated.
This book was written 37 years after the discovery of the double helix. The advantage is that he also describes his work after 1953, including the gradual unravelment of the genetic code and his later years when he studied of vision and consciousness. It is not a very detailed account of the discovery of DNA. The details have been described by Robert Olby: The Path to the Double Helix, and Horace Freeland Judson: The Eighth Day of Creation. Easy to follow. It reads like a summary. Surprise: "The most important theme of the book is natural selection."! Includes index, but no literature list. See also: James D. Watson (1968) The Double Helix, Maurice Wilkins (2003) The Third Man of the Double Helix and Rosalind Franklin: The Dark Lady of DNA by Brenda Maddox. See also: Francis Crick (1995) The Astonishing Hypothesis. See also: 8.
Robert Olby (1974) "The Path to the Double Helix: The Discovery of DNA",
New edition Dover Publications June 21, 2012.
James D. Watson (1968) "The Double Helix. A personal account of the discovery of the structure of DNA", Penguin, 175 pages. With bw illustrations.
The famous book. Absolutely recommended. Shows how Watson and Crick struggled to fit all they knew about the details of DNA in a 3-dimensional model including a number of wrong models such as a single, two, three and four strand model, the bases on the outside, AA, TT, CC and GG pairing. This not an objective history but a personal view. To have a more balanced view one has to read: Aaron Klug (2004) 'The Discovery of the DNA Double Helix', J. Mol. Biol. (2004) 335, 3–26. or watch his story about the role of Rosalind Franklin on the web of stories. See also Rosalind Franklin on wiki. There is a nice site about the involvement of Linus Pauling (27), (28) containing videos were Watson and Crick are explaining the discovery on tv: Linus Pauling and the Race for DNA. Recommended: The Annotated and Illustrated Double Helix (2012) hardcover, the 1968 edition with over three hundred annotations, illustrations and photographs added by Alex Gann and Jan Witkowski.
Theoretical & Mathematical biology
6 Sep 20
See also: Artificial Life
Mathematical biology includes: systems biology, complexity theory, theoretical ecology, population genetics, game theory, epidemiology, theoretical immunology, protein folding, genetic regulatory networks, neural networks, genomic analysis, and pattern formation.
Stuart Kauffman (2019) 'A World Beyond Physics: The Emergence and Evolution of Life', Oxford University Press.
Building on his previous books (f.e. At home in the universe) Kauffman significantly extends his autocatalytic set theory, includes several examples of real world chemistry, solves the origin of life (in theory), attacks Dawkins and the overemphasis on genes in general; rejects the RNA-world because nobody has shown in 50 years that it works; explains why biology cannot be reduced to physics and why evolution is open-ended and unpredictable. He is not an anti-Darwinist. This book is about the most fundamental features of (single-celled) life and the origin of life. Not about the evolution of (multi-cellular) life as the title of the book suggests. There is no account of the origin of RNA, DNA or the genetic code. Very intelligent and visionary. More than an update of his previous books.
Geoffrey West (2017) 'Scale: The Universal Laws of Growth, Innovation, Sustainability, and the Pace of Life, in Organisms, Cities, Economies, and Companies', Penguin / Weidenfeld & Nicolson (e-book).
Geoffrey West is a theoretical physicist and erstwhile head of that mecca of multidisciplinary complexity studies, the Santa Fe Institute in New Mexico. Reviewed by Nature (11 May 2017): " In Scale, he explains mathematical relationships between the size and properties of many complex systems, natural and human, ... living organisms, cities, companies, economies". Chapters 3 and 4 are mainly about biology and evolution.
Gerard Jagers op Akkerhuis (ed.) (2016) 'Evolution and Transitions in Complexity. -The Science of Hierarchical Organization in Nature', Springer.
Abstracts of each chapter can be read on the website of the publisher. Chapters can be bought separately.
Fritjof Capra, Pier Luigi Luisi (2014) 'The Systems View of Life: A Unifying Vision", Cambridge University Press, 510 pp
Pier Luigi Luisi is the author of: The Emergence of Life: From Chemical Origins to Synthetic Biology and: By Pier Luigi Luisi - Mind and Life: Discussions with the Dalai Lama on the Nature of Reality. [Pier Luigi Luisi is a good scientist, but seems to have become a mystic]
Fritjof Capra is the author of: The Web of Life: A New Scientific Understanding of Living Systems and: The Tao of Physics: An Exploration of the Parallels between Modern Physics and Eastern Mysticism.
Chapters: The mechanistic wordlview, The rise of systems thinking, A new conception of life (autopoiesis, complexity, evolution, Origin of Life), consciousness, spirituality, ecology, etc.
John E. Mayfield (2013) 'The Engine of Complexity: Evolution as Computation', hardcover Columbia University Press.
John E. Mayfield is professor emeritus of genetics, development, and cell biology. "In this book I show it is not just living things that owe their existence to evolutionary computation, but also the ability of your body to fight off infection, the human capacity to learn new concepts, the technologies that characterize modern life, and the various institutions that characterize societies. ... I argue that to properly understand evolution one must tackle the concept of information. This is because the essence of what evolution does is to accumulate information. ... But, I had a nagging feeling that the standard way evolution was being taught, lacked something important. ... ". John E. Mayfield is a biologist who studied for most of his career DNA sequences. Maybe these ideas could help to solve the C-value and G-value paradox!
John H. Holland (2012) 'Signals and Boundaries Building Blocks for Complex Adaptive Systems, MIT Press, Cambridge
Review (Science): "John Holland proposes that computational modeling is the appropriate tool not only for describing but, fundamentally, for understanding such systems. In particular, he argues that this modeling approach is in no way inferior to a mathematical one. Rather, he advocates that the computational modeling of signal-boundary systems goes where mathematics cannot go while being no less rigorous, no less exact."
Gregory Chaitin (2012) "Proving Darwin. Making Biology Mathematical", Random House (144 pags).
Paperback and ebook.Info: "Has there been enough time for evolution to produce the remarkable biological diversity we see around us? It's a question no one has yet answered–in fact, no one has even attempted to answer it until now." It is a scandal that we do not have a proof that Darwinian evolution works. (Fred Hoyle's Boeing is quoted).
Chaitin develops a 'toy model of evolution', which is a very abstract theory of Darwinian evolution. This enables Chaitin to prove creative evolution is possible: "We want to find the simplest, mathematically most straightforward situation in which we can prove that life evolves." "I start with fully functioning living beings and make them evolve forever.". "I construct artificial mathematical life-forms. My organisms have no metabolism, no bodies, only DNA; no hardware, only software." "I eliminate populations and sex." "My organisms will be computer programs", have mutations, fitness, hill-climbing random walk. There are no evolutionary algorithms, no population genetics. The details of the proof will only be understandable for people with expert knowledge of algorithmic information theory. personally, I would say that the toy model is too far removed from reality to be interesting for biologists. Here is a review.
George R. McGhee (2011) 'Convergent Evolution: Limited Forms Most Beautiful (Vienna Series in Theoretical Biology) ', Hardcover, 312 pp.
Convergence in animals, plants, ecosystems, molecules and minds. McGhee analyzes the role of functional and developmental constraints in producing convergent evolution, and considers the scientific and philosophical implications of convergent evolution. How predictable is the evolutionary process? In the last chapter: judging the arguments for and against (un)predictability of evolutionary outcomes. In Conclusion: A rewrite of Darwin's View of Life. Rewriting Darwin: "from so simple a beginning limited forms most beautiful [title of the book!] ... have been, and are being evolved. The purpose of this book is to reveal how ubiquitous the phenomenon of convergent evolution is in life and that it occurs on all levels of evolution, from tiny organic molecules to entire ecosystems of species." (from the Preface).
Info including free preview of preface, chapter 1 and 2 of e-book version. Google preview has more pages. Compare this book with: Simon Conway Morris (2003). McGhee is the author of The Geometry of Evolution: Adaptive Landscapes and Theoretical Morphospaces.
Review: Trends in Evolutionary Biology: "The strongest chapters in the book, Chapters 7 and 8, do present a discussion of the intersection of developmental and functional constraint from a morphological perspective." There are only a few illustrations in the book.
There is a 2019 hardcover edition (336 pages): Convergent Evolution on Earth. Lessons for the Search for Extraterrestrial Life. I don't know the difference.
Ian Stewart (2011) 'The Mathematics of Life', Basic Books.
Info. Review: Nature.
Martin A. Nowak, Roger Highfield (2011) "SuperCooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed" Free Press: 2011. 352 pp.
Martin Nowak is the author of "Evolutionary Dynamics. Exploring the Equations of Life" (2006). SuperCooperators could be viewed as a popular version of Evolutionary Dynamics without mathematical formulas.
Review: Nature: "Leading evolutionary theorist Martin Nowak sees cooperation as the master architect of evolution. He believes that next to mutation and selection, cooperation is the driving force at every level, from the primordial soup to cells, organisms, societies and even galaxies. Without cooperation, he says, our predecessors would still be RNA molecules. A pleasure to read, SuperCooperators offers an explanation of the evolution of cooperation and shows where the experts disagree."
Science: "Nowak's essential (and rather simple) claim is that all forms of cooperation can be understood in terms of individual-level selection operating in hierarchically structured populations".
See also: Karl Sigmund.
Len Fisher (2010) 'The Perfect Swarm: The Science of Complexity in Everyday Life', Basic Books: 2009. 288 pp.
Review: Nature: "Based on a profusion of examples, mainly biological, Fisher draws up rules for living in a complex world."
Karl Sigmund (2010) 'The Calculus of Selfishness', Princeton University Press.
Info: "The book analyzes to what extent one key facet of human nature -selfishness- can lead to cooperation". Reviews: Nature: "Sigmund has pioneered the development of evolutionary game dynamics", Science: "I consider the three chapters on reputation, fairness and trust, and public goods the richest in new insights. These chapters provide the strongest evidence for the ability of simple mathematical ideas to illuminate complex psychological and social phenomena."; American Scientist: "Sigmund, like everyone else in the field is trying to explain how ethics could arise from selfishness".
See also: Martin Nowak.
Anatoly Ruvinsky (2009) Genetics and Randomness, CRC Press, 160 pages.
Info. How do random molecular events like mutations become facts of life? Quantum uncertainty and unpredictability of life; Meiotic recombination generates randomness; Stochastic nature of gene activity; Random X chromosome inactivation; Random genetic drift and "deterministic" selection; Randomness: nuisance or essence?
Fred C. Boogerd et al (2007) Systems Biology. Philosophical Foundations, Elsevier, Amsterdam, 360 pp.
"is a collection of papers arising from a 2005 symposium convened by the Department of Molecular Cell Physiology, Vrije Universiteit, Amsterdam, and the first book on the philosophy of systems biology. (...) the editors explicitly exclude one discipline: evolutionary biology. (...) Systems biology is functional and mechanistic rather than evolutionary biology." From: review in Science.
Richard McElreath and Robert Boyd (2007) Mathematical Models of Social Evolution. A Guide for the Perplexed, University of Chicago Press, 2007. 428 pp.
"This book will no doubt reward psychologists, sociologists, and economists interested in evolutionary theory. Anyone desiring a thorough, yet down-to-Earth, introduction to modeling in social evolution couldn't do much better than to read this book. Using little more than high school mathematics, McElreath and Boyd show how one can take a big step toward understanding many perplexing evolutionary processes." from review in: Science.
See on this page: Denis Noble (2006) "The Music of Life. Biology beyond the Genome" is about systems biology.
A useful review of 3 books about systems biology appeared in Nature:
Kunihiko Kaneko (2006) "Life: An Introduction to Complex Systems Biology"
Uri Alon (2006) "An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits"
"Alon (a physicist turned molecular biologist at the Weizmann Institute of Science) aims to provide a mathematical framework, to illustrate select design principles, and thus to foster understanding of biological networks. (..) Alon's approach is technical, not intrinsically functional nor necessarily evolutionary" from review in: Science.
Bernhard Palsson (2006) "Systems Biology: Properties of Reconstructed Networks"
My impression is: the success or failure of system biology depends on the right amount and the right kind of abstraction.
John Tyler Bonner (2006) "Why Size Matters: From Bacteria to Blue Whales", Princeton University Press: 2006. 171 pp.
Covers partly the same topics as John Whitfield's book, but Bonner mainly discusses the topic from the point of view of a biologist, including evolution and division of labor. Most stunning insight: 'there is always room at the top'. The difference with Whitfield's approach is that Whitfield describes predictive mathematical universal laws (the physicist point of view). Info. Review: Nature
John Whitfield (2006) "In the beat of a heart. Life, energy, and the unity of life".
I recommend this book to every evolutionary biologist as well as non-biologist seeking a deep and broad understanding of universal regularities of life independent of evolutionary accident and history. Far from criticising evolutionary theory, Whitfield's theorizing takes over where evolutionary theory reaches its boundaries of explanatory domain. Whitfield is not only a skilful populariser of science, but has also a thorough command of this extraordinary fascinating subject. Topics: Rubner's Law; Bergmann's rule; Kleiber's law; Allometric scaling laws; Hutchinson's ratio, etc. Review: Nature. Info. See also: Rensch's rule; Constructal law.
Martin A. Nowak (2006) "Evolutionary Dynamics. Exploring the Equations of Life"
"I have concentrated on evolution because it is the one unifying principle of all of biology.". "Uniquely compelling introduction to mathematical biology. Nowak aims to demonstrate the power of simple mathematics to illuminate diverse aspects of evolutionary analysis". Reviews: Science, American Scientist. Info.
Philip Ball (2001) "The self-made tapestry. Pattern formation in nature", Oxford University Press, paperback 287 pp
Info. This book contains an exhaustive review of physical, chemical and biological patterns in nature. Relevant biological chapters are: chapter 1: Patterns (which gives an introduction to Form and Life, Darwins theory of evolution, the black box of genetics; is biology just physics?); chapter 4: Bodies; chapter 5: Branches. In the spirit of D'Arcy Thompson. Tends to deemphasize natural selection. In search of the laws of form. Well illustrated, inlcluding many color illustrations. Review: American Scientist. A successor is: Shapes: Nature's Patterns: a Tapestry in Three Parts (2009, 2011); part II: Branches; part III: Flow.
Stuart Kauffman (1995) "At home in the universe", Viking.
See my review of the book.
This book could be included in the category ALife because his autocatalytic model is a computer simulation of the origin of life, although Kauffman does not claim having created 'artificial life'. He certainly stimulates thinking about the nature of life and evolution. He can be characterised as a theoretical or mathematical biologist, not an Alife-researcher.
Prezemyslaw Prusinkiewicz and Aristid Lindenmayer (1990) "The Algorithmic Beauty of Plants", Springer Verlag, hardback 228 pp.
"The Bible of L-sytems". L-systems (Lindenmayer systems) are algorithms to produce graphic representations of plants and trees. L-systems are mathematical models of the morphology and development of plants. Although a goal of L-systems is to produce realistic visualisations, and they display growth & development, there is no claim that L-systems are 'artificial life'. Illustrated with 150 illustrations (48 in colour). Unfortunately, this book is dryly written, with excessive literature references, and mainly aimed at theoretical biologists, computer-programmers, nerds, mathgeeks. However, it contains beautiful illustrations of plants produced by a diversity of algorithms. Professor Lindenmayer taught several courses in theoretical biology at the Utrecht University, which I attended.
Daniel R. Brooks, E. O. Wiley (1988) "Evolution As Entropy. Toward a Unified Theory of Biology", Second Edition, The University of Chicago Press. 429 pages.
Info. It seems that Koonin (2011) was wrong when claiming that Michael Lynch and Conery (2003) proposed a new theory of the evolution of complexity. Brooks and Wiley did it first.
"...outlining, albeit incompletely, what we perceive as the current state of evolutionary theory, (...) and what we think is missing." (Prelude). They give 4 shortcomings of neo-Darwinism! (see: google books)
As the name of the field suggests, 'artificial life' makes the strong claim that what they have produced is 'life', albeit artificial. Is the concept 'artificial life' an oxymoron? Is a plane an artificial bird? Maybe a more important claim of AL is the creativity of blind unguided processes. How successful is ALife in elucidating the nature of life and evolution?
Stefano Nolfi, Dario Floreano (2004) "Evolutionary Robotics: The Biology, Intelligence, and Technology of Self-Organizing Machines", The MIT Press Paperback 332 pp.
Robots bring embodiment and behaviour to the equations of theoretical evolutionary models. Info.
Nancy Forbes (2004) "Imitation of life. How biology is inspiring computing"
Forbes concisely describes evolutionary algorithms, cellular automata, artificial life (and more) and reports different views on the status of alife without forcing her own opinion upon the reader.
Mark Ward (1999) "Artificial Life. The Startling World of Artificial Life"
A good popular introduction to Alife. Written for the non-specialist, accessible, conversational style, anecdotes and historical introductions of subjects. Discusses ALife, Robotics and Artificial Intelligence, 'artificial evolution' (Tierra, Echo, Avida, Cosmos), genetic algorithms. It is doubtful whether Alife models can tell us something about real-life biological evolution at all.
Steve Grand (1999) "Creation. Life and how to make it"
From the inventor of the groundbreaking computer game 'Creatures'. Some nice insights, but disappointing from the point of view of understanding the essence of life and evolution.
Christoph Adami (1997,1998) "Introduction to Artificial Life"
Textbook. Good, but too expensive. Review: Science: "In short, the book is an interesting and worthwhile contribution of a physicist who is intrigued by special features of living and evolving systems". The reviewer is not sure whether the results can be extended to real organisms. He leaves the big question unanswered.
Claus Emmeche (1994) "The Garden in the Machine. - The Emerging Science of Artificial Life". Princeton University Press.
Emmeche is a theoretical biologist. This book first appeared in 1991 in Danisch. There is ample discussion of the question whether a-life is real life and related questions. Deserves a separate review.
Mark A. Ludwig (1993) "Computer viruses, Artificial Life and Evolution". American Eagle Publications, paperback
Mark Ludwig is a physicist. Compares computer viruses and biological viruses. Careful discussion of the question whether artificial life creatures are alive. Also: are viruses alive? Profound and clear discussion of What is life? (defining life), emergence, self-reproduction, autonomy, information, cellular automata. Additionally, Ludwig is an Intelligent Design Theorist. See a detailed review on this site.
Christopher Langton (1989) (editor) "Artificial Life" VI.
This book contains the proceedings of a workshop on the synthesis and simulation of living systems, held September 1987. Includes lengthy introductory chapter about Alife by Langton, in which two different definitions of Alife occur: (1) 'synthesize life-like behaviors', (2) 'life made by man' (this is also reflected in the subtitle of the book: 'the synthesis and simulation of living systems'). With (1) I have no problem, with (2) I have problems because everything made by man is an artefact. I would agree with 'life-like artefacts', but not with 'life'. All chapters are written for specialists. It is difficult to extract insights about the nature of life and evolution. So this is not a book for beginners.
Evolution & Literary studies & Art See also: wikipedia
12 Mar 21
Literary Darwinism is devoted to studying literature using the concepts of evolutionary biology and the empirical, quantitative methods of the sciences. Literary Darwinists believe that literature reflects a universal human nature shaped by natural selection, and as a result, read texts in terms of animal concerns such as mate choice, relations between kin, and social hierarchies. The first work in the field of literary Darwinism is Joseph Carroll's (1994) Evolution and Literary Theory. A collection of his most important previously published work, along with three new essays is Joseph Carroll (2004) Literary Darwinism: Evolution, Human Nature, and Literature. A recent collection of essays on literary Darwinism is Jonathan Gottschall and David Sloan Wilson (eds) (2005) The Literary Animal: Evolution and the Nature of Narrative (Reviews: Science, Nature). In the same year appeared D. P. Barash & N. R. Barash (2005) Madame Bovary's Ovaries: A Darwinian Look at Literature (Review: Nature. Professor of English, George Levine's (2006) Darwin Loves You. Natural Selection and the Re-enchantment of the world counters the pervasive view that the facts of Darwin's world must lead to a disenchanting vision of it. (Review: American Scientist. info, info, Chapter 1). A similar work is: Edith Wharton's Evolutionary Conception. Darwinian Allegory in the Major Novels by Paul J Ohler (2006) (info).
Christiane Nusslein-Volhard (2019) 'Animal Beauty. On the Evolution of Biological Aesthetics, MIT Press. 116 pp. 47 color illus.
This small book is illustrated with many watercolor drawings, but the text is mainly about how patterns on the body of animals are formed. See: Evo-Devo. Christiane Nüsslein-Volhard is a Nobel Prize–winning biologist and author of Coming to Life: How Genes Drive Development.
Katrina van Grouw (2018) Unnatural Selection, Princeton.
See description in section Mainstream evolution books. Works of art are a major element in the book.
Brian Boyd, Joseph Carroll, Jonathan Gottschall (editors) (2010) 'Evolution, Literature, and Film. A Reader', Columbia University Press
Brian Boyd (2009) On the Origin of Stories: Evolution, Cognition, and Fiction
Gillian Beer (2009) Darwin's Plots. Evolutionary Narrative in Darwin, George Eliot and Nineteenth-Century Fiction, updated 3rd Edition 2009.
Info. It focuses on how writers, including George Eliot, Charles Kingsley and Thomas Hardy, responded to Darwin's discoveries. Includes a new essay that investigates Darwin's concern with consciousness across all forms of organic life.
Peter W. Graham (2008) 'Jane Austen & Charles Darwin. Naturalists and Novelists', Ashgate Publishing Group.
"Are Jane Austen and Charles Darwin the two great English empiricists of the nineteenth century?". Info.
Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd (2005) "Not By Genes Alone. How Culture Transformed Human Evolution, The University of Chicago Press
Info. "Our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's."
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