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Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) [Paperback]

Eva Jablonka , Marion J. Lamb , Anna Zeligowski
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)

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Book Description

September 8, 2006 0262600692 978-0262600699 1

Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four "dimensions" in evolution -- four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb "put Humpty Dumpty together again" by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional (and skeptical) "I.M.," or Ifcha Mistabra -- Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture" -- refining their arguments against I.M.'s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski's lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors' points.

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Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) + The Epigenetics Revolution: How Modern Biology Is Rewriting Our Understanding of Genetics, Disease, and Inheritance + Epigenetics: How Environment Shapes Our Genes
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Editorial Reviews


"An individual's personal experience can influence the characteristics of his or her offspring. Some of the ways in which this happens would have seemed heretical in the past. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb's stimulating new book successfully challenges some of the old orthodoxies. I recommend it warmly to anybody with a serious interest in developmental and evolutionary biology."--Sir Patrick Bateson, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, author of *Design for a Life: How Behavior and Personality Develop*

"Another valuable perspective to the discussion... I found it refreshing to read a science book that is a conscious attempt at good literature." Nature

"As this important book by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb shows, the twentieth-century 'neo-Darwins' told the evolutionary story in their own particular way, and some of the richnes of evolution that their forebear had described fell into neglect." The New Republic

"There have been rumblings for some time to the effect that the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the early twentieth century is incomplete and due for a major revision.... Evolution in Four Dimensions is the most recent addition to this genre, and contributes yet another valuable perspective to the discussion." Massimo Pigliucci Nature

About the Author

Eva Jablonka is Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. Jablonka and Lamb are also the authors of Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution.

Marion J. Lamb was Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, before her retirement. Jablonka and Lamb are also the authors of Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution

Product Details

  • Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology
  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; 1 edition (September 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262600692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262600699
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #101,732 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
138 of 152 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
The Grand Synthesis of Mendelism and Darwinism, involving such greats as Haldane, Fisher, Wright, Maynard Smith, Mayr, Hamilton, Dawkins, Dobzhansky and many more, is one of the greatest achievements of modern science. Like every great theory, the Grand Synthesis has had its prominent critics, but most of the charges laid against it have failed to take root. By the 1970's and 1980's such critics were widely dismissed as crackpots and minds were closed against their ideas.

Subtitling their 1995 book "The Lamarckian Dimension" was about as in-your-face a flaunt on orthodoxy imaginable, and I was surprised that the book turned out to be quite a credible review of our understanding of epigenetic inheritance. Their new book is on the same topic, but is much more considerate of the reader, mature, and self-assured than the author's previous foray.

Genetic (DNA), epigenetic (non-DNA chemical), behavioral (learning/assimilating), and symbolic (language, theory) information transmission are important in many levels of biological organization, from the structure of the cell to the social organization of masses of ants and humans. This much was clearly laid out in a number of recent books, including those of Maynard Smith and Szathmary, Keller, Michod, Durham, Boyd and Richerson, and others. But, this book is unique in being both accessible to the interest lay reader and having great breadth, covering many of the important levels in "multi-level selection."

I remember the first time it hit me that the problem of regulating the behavior of errant cells in a multi-cellular organism is the same, in principle, as regulating the behavior of an individual member of a social species.
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73 of 81 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great Book. Wish it Were Better. September 25, 2006
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is such a good book, I wish it were better. In particular, I wish that the authors had not spent so much time discussing the effects of informational and symbolic transmission on evolution (most of which is fairly obvious) and spent more time on the fascinating topics of epigentic transmission and genetic control systems, which are extremely complex and difficult issues, and go by too fast.

The authors pose a question that evolutionary scholar rarely broach: If evolution produces and preserves adaptive traits, why does it not produce the trait that is the most adaptive of all -- the ability to directly transmit acquired adaptive characteristics to offspring? Ironically, despite their qualified claim that organisims do have such an ability, the authors provide an excellent Darwinian reason why this trait is so limited -- because a species which possesses it (like, say, humans) is so likely to "crash and burn" if it mistakenly adopts a trait which turns out to be maladaptive.

Jablonski and her co-author are neo-Lamarkians; that is, they believe (or want to believe) in the inheritance of acquired characterists. Lamarkism is deeply distrusted by evolutionary biologists for two very good reasons: there is not much evidence for it, and a mechanism for transmitting acquired characteristics seems biochemically impossible. The authors present some good arguments why this might not be so. Particulary impressive is their discussion of epigenetics -- biochemical processess not involving genes which nonethelesss affect an organism's development. Epigenetic processes pretty clearly can be affected by environmental factors, and so environmental factors do have a direct impact on bodily devlopment, and hence evolution.
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54 of 60 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A ground breaking book June 17, 2005
This book should make a significant impact on the direction of biologic research and theory. If it does not, the fault will lie in the tenacity of the human tendency to cling to accepted dogma and to simplicity, not to any shortcomings of the book.

For almost a hundred years, biologists have clung to the `modern synthesis' as the sole explanation for all evolution. Evolution, according to its core tenet, results from accidental, random errors in genetic copying in cell division. A few of these mutations give the organism an advantage over other members of the species, and, hence, greater survivability and opportunity for producing offspring. Hence all hereditary characteristics are said to result from this process which is `directionless,' `blind,' and pure chance. To many laymen and to more than a few scientists, this creed may be understandable as one cause of evolution. But as the sole cause it runs contrary to common observation, and common experience, and is difficult to accept.

That difficulty is undoubtedly one factor, though only one, feeding life into ideas of totally unscientific `creationism,' intelligent design, literal acceptance of the Biblical story of creation, and/or the dogma of Bishop Usher for a world created suddenly 6000 years ago.

Yet in the past five or six decades have come increasing reports in the scientific journals of instances of rapid evolution in various species, both in the laboratory and in nature, following change in habitat or in environment. These changes were too adaptive to the new milieu, and too rapid to be attributable to chance mutation. Further, intriguing hints of heritable change through various biological processes, have appeared.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good, I guess
I bought this book as a supporting resource for my forthcoming book, The Dimensional Biologist's Toolkit (2015), and I must say I was disappointed in the lack of depth and... Read more
Published 4 months ago by N. Coppedge
5.0 out of 5 stars Everyone should read this book
Everyone should read this book... The science of evolution and genetics has come a long way since I finished high school. I'm sure it will be the same for many of you.
Published 9 months ago by Kelby OShea
5.0 out of 5 stars Non-Polemic yet Potent Theorizing
This book speaks truly, or at least it must be said to be on the path to "the truth" based on as much as can be known right now. Read more
Published 11 months ago by Gregory Nixon
5.0 out of 5 stars Very easy to understand!
My research work is closely related with this book's basic ideas. I try to apply the aging theories of organisms to the growth of firms. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Ichiro Horide
4.0 out of 5 stars The future of evolution
This book is definitely worth reading. It is far more approachable for the biology novice than it lets on (unless I am less of a novice than a 9th grade education in biology lets... Read more
Published 12 months ago by M.K.
5.0 out of 5 stars A very important read on evolution
I will give only a short review. A very important review of the new elements of epigenesis, behavior and symbolic evolution. Well written, clear and balanced. Read more
Published 13 months ago by T. Stephens
5.0 out of 5 stars Good book
Good, informative book; well written; brings people's conceptions of biology to date w/recent research. Of interest to people in biology, psychology, etc.
Published 13 months ago by chris
5.0 out of 5 stars A Must read....
This is an excellent summary of all the ways that important information is inherited by species. Specifically, evolution is not all about DNA, random variation and selection. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Keith Aspinall
4.0 out of 5 stars Influential
This book was influential in getting me and my lab to think more about epigenetics (before the recent boom in interest). Read more
Published on November 11, 2010 by Aspiring Prof
4.0 out of 5 stars Kindle version review
Buy this wonderful, illuminating work for your e-reader and you will improve it and yourself! You will soon wish that you had all your other great books there as well, available... Read more
Published on May 6, 2010 by William A. Baity
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