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Darwinian Dynamics

5 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691050119
ISBN-10: 0691050112
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Editorial Reviews


"Darwinian Dynamics is an excellent and masterful synthesis of the current understanding about how evolutionary principles work at the various levels of biological organization.... Much like Einstein's theories of relativity extended classical mechanics, Michod's multi-selection theory is an extension of classical selection theory.... Well produced and current.... Michod has written what should be a classic for decades to come."--Norman A. Johnson, Bioscience

"Individuality and fitness, two of the most fundamental concepts in evolutionary theory, are anything but simple. Theoretical biologist Richard Michod reviews and extends the state of the art for these subjects in Darwinian Dynamics.... [These are] some of the most exciting advances in modern biology from one of its most able practitioners."--David Sloan Wilson, Human Biology

About the Author

Richard E. Michod is Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology at the University of Arizona. He is the author of Eros and Evolution: A Natural Philosophy of Sex. Among the volumes he has coedited are Evolution of Sex: An Examination of Current Ideas and The Origin of Values.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (January 10, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691050112
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691050119
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.6 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,850,778 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Massimiliano Celaschi on October 17, 2000
Format: Paperback
I regret that my shallow knowledge of biology and biochemistry did not allow me to fully appreciate this very interesting book, making me to search for references every time I needed to get a better understanding of mechanisms of genetics. It is not an easy-to-read book, and its fragmented style, which requires a thorough attention, does not help the reader. I remember that in university math courses it was said that "economists learnt how to use mathematics, whilst biologists did not", and I believe that this book is a good example of that (as a comparison term, I found much clearer the papers by Maynard Smith). But it is really worth reading it and facing these difficulties, and its price, compared to the deepness of its content, is quite low.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By jukka aakula on May 1, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
My interest is in the cultural group evolution (dual heritance theory) of Boyd and Richerson. Especially I have tried to understand the evolution of co-operation in human societies by weak reciprocity and strong reciprocity and the relevance of the altruistic punishment.

The research of Boyd and Richerson has created a multidisciplinary tradition in economy (Samuel Bowles, Ernst Fehr), policy studies (Elionor Ostrom), antrpology (Boyd, Richerson, Henrich) etc.

This book does not diectly belong to that tradition - but has a clear and very interesting linkage to that. B&R's approach can be seen as a special case of the major transition theory Michod is elaborating.

Michod mentions Boyd and Richerson several times when he discusses the first adaptations of the emerging new unit of selection. Those adaptations are the one's which emerge to decrease conflicts between lower level units - and which are the core to the major transition. I.e. separation of germ line and soma on the other hand and so called worker policing on the other hand.

Even if worker policy is potentially relevant for any major transition a well studied example is the altruistic punishment of humans by B & R. (Another is the worker policing of aunts.)

This book showed to me a new way of utilizing the multi-level selection approach promoted by DS Wilson - and so well adapted for long time in a creative way by the Boyd - Richerson tradition.

For a non-biologist this book was pretty heavy but very much worth reading. I had to read e.g. Maynard Smith's Evolutionary Genetics as support literature.

The mathematical models were difficult to follow - even for one with some experience on mathematical modelling in evolution - because the models were only partially elaborated. In other words details were left out.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Robert Jones on December 11, 2007
Format: Paperback
Michod's Darwinian Dynamics is the best book I know of on the subject of biological fitness. My only criticism would be that although it is often assumed that a set can be completely ordered by the preferences of some agent (utility in economics) or evolution (fitness in biology) it is not possible, in general, to define on that set a real valued order preserving function (utility, fitness). See, for instance, "The non-existence of a utility function and the structure of non-representable preference relations" (Beardon, et al, Journal of Mathematical Economics, vol. 37, pg 17, 2002) and references therein. In place of a scalar economists have experimented with vector utilities (see, for example, Hausner, "multidimensional utilities" chap. XII in Decision Processes,
R. M. Thrall, Wiley, 1960). Perhaps biologists should be using a vector fitness. In fact Michod mentions a vector fitness on page 90 of Darwinian Dynamics but he doesn't develop it any further. Perhaps that is the direction future research should take. I have used a vector fitness in my artificial life worlds (Transactions of the Kansas Academy of Science, vol. 109, pg 159, 2006).
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a difficult book for me to review. I don't have much good to say about it - but I don't have much in the way of interesting criticism either. So, I'll try to be brief. I'd previously read one other Michod Book: "Eros and Evolution". That book was pretty readable and interesting - but had the serious flaw of failing to address rival theories to the one it discussed - particularly the red queen hypothesis. Compared to that book, this one is longer and significantly harder going. It addresses evolutionary transitions and the rise of large scale cooperation in evolution. It uses kin selection and group selection to do this. There's also another theme: the meaning and significance of 'fitness' in evolutionary theory. With these topics on the table, the book ought to be an interesting one - but for me it mostly failed to stimulate me. This was partly because the book was dry and boring and partly because I didn't share many of the author's opinions.

One point I would like to address in this review is the issue of the generality of the "Darwinian Dynamics" which Michod discusses. Michod addresses the issue of the domain of Darwinian evolutionary theory in two places - and they both say the same thing. He says that it includes regular, organic evolution, learning systems and other phenomena - such as lasers. I award Michod some points for recognizing that Darwinian evolutionary theory is broader than many imagine. However there are only a few sentences in the book about the topic - and all of the examples in the book are drawn from the realm of DNA evolution. This is a serious failing in my opinion: evolutionary theory needs to be studied in multiple domains - so we can distinguish what is fundamental from what is an historical accident.
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