From Publishers Weekly
A core tenet of the intelligent design movement is that some organisms are simply too elaborate and complicated to have evolved by chance. Arthur, a professor of zoology at the National University of Ireland, Galway, aims to render this strain of creationism unnecessary by "explaining, in a way that is accessible to a general readership, how the rise of complex creatures can be explained in terms of natural processes." Creatures of Accident
makes this case through a series of easily intelligible, chatty chapters, offering a way of understanding the emergence of animals (the most complex life form) without resorting to either the relativist idea that all life is essentially the same (with animals being, as Stephen Jay Gould once put it, "a mere epiphenomenon") or the teleological view that if animals are uniquely complex, then some intelligent designer must have made them so. Drawing ideas and examples from the large (zoology) to the small (cellular biology), Arthur popularizes recent breakthroughs in the field of evolutionary development—the trendily dubbed "evo-devo"—to make the paradoxical case that complexity can, in fact, happen quite simply. (Sept.)
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Discussing the evolution of life in this spry work, Wallace advances the argument that the process tends toward greater complexity over time. If the existence of complexity is seemingly self-evident, explaining it often leads to diverging theories, which Arthur, a zoology professor in Ireland, critiques in accessible fashion. He gives short shrift to creationism and so-called intelligent design but tackles at length the view, espoused in the oeuvre of biologist Richard Darwin, that evolution is simply an aimless series of micro- and macro-biological events without any bias toward complexity. Writing in a conversational manner, Arthur sketches out the main structural attributes of complexity in animals, from the cell to organs to embryology to body forms, and when they appeared. In considering these anatomical traits, Arthur inveighs repeatedly against the intrusion of philosophical casts of mind. Championing naturalistic clarity, Arthur's precision about the processes of evolution will benefit serious students of the topic. Gilbert TaylorCopyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved