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Monad to Man: The Concept of Progress in Evolutionary Biology Hardcover – January 1, 1997

ISBN-13: 978-0674582200 ISBN-10: 0674582209 Edition: First

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 648 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First edition (January 1, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674582209
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674582200
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 6.7 x 1.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,870,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Evolution has stirred heated social debate from before the time of Darwin to the present, perhaps especially today. Ruse, a philosopher of bioethics and evolutionary biology at the University of Guelph, Ontario, discusses the influence of biological and social progressionist thought on the primary figures in the development of evolutionary theory. He also explores the role of progress in the development of the discipline from popular to professional science. Ruse confines himself to the biological realm of evolution and avoids the evolution vs. creation debate. From historical research to interviews with today's leading evolutionary biologists, Ruse's book mirrors the lively debates throughout the history of the field. Though not necessarily designed for general audiences, this thought-provoking and readable book is highly recommended for larger general as well as advanced undergraduate collections.?Bruce D. Neville, Univ. of New Mexico Lib., Albuquerque
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.


What is your favourite model of biological evolution? Whether it is rungs on a ladder, the ever-branching tree, or even the more modern image of movement between peaks in a 'fitness landscape', chances are it treats time in just one way: later means better...The idea of evolution was the child of the hopes of progress, as Michael Ruse puts it in Monad to Man, his impressive 'philosophical history' of these notions...Ruse tracks down [this] tendency in the work of innumerable writers...All this makes [his] book a superb summary of the views of every major evolutionist. The result is unfailingly interesting. Ruse presents much to argue with, both for aficionados of evolution and for theorists of science. (Jon Turney New Scientist)

[A] fascinating, and often maddening book...[Ruse] traces the history of evolutionary thought from Aristotle to Stephen Jay Gould and E. O. Wilson...[Ruse's book] gives us much to think about: the concept of evolution and the evolution of concepts, progress in nature and the nature of progress. (Lucy Horwitz Boston Book Review)

Ruse provides a history of evolutionary biology from its inception to its belated maturity that is full of insight. (David L. Hull Nature)

Michael Ruse has written an important book on the status of evolutionism that will almost certainly become embroiled in controversy. (Peter J. Bowler American Scientist)

Based on comparisons of professional and popular literature and interviews with leading theoreticians, this book presents a thorough overview and synthesis of evolutionary biology. Of significant heuristic value in the debate of the Western predeliction for the concept of progress as it applies to evolutionary theory. Sensitive to concerns of many non-scientists for the science of evolutionary biology. Extensive literature cited section. Very detailed and interesting accounts of the many people who have contributed to science of evolutionary biology. (Northeastern Naturalist)

With verve, humor and much historical color, [Ruse] traces the conflict between the popular conception of evolution and the professionally legitimate version. (Jeffrey Marsh Washington Times)

What Ruse produces is a grand review, an interesting and informative survey. (Arthur B. Cody Toronto Globe & Mail)

Monad to Man will be controversial not because of its implications for social and ethical issues, but because of what it says about the scientific study of evolutionary biology...Ruse's writing style is bluff, unselfconscious, and opinionated...[It] does detract from the appearance of neutrality. But it adds immeasurably to the literary value of the book. Monad to Man combines the sweeping history of the science of evolution with intricate details about individual scientists' researches, prejudices, and personal lives...The result is a richly textured narrative...Ruse has certainly established that the ideas of evolution and progress have been closely linked. His thesis that the profession of biology has been shaped by scientists' embarrassment about this linkage will be the focus of further debate. In the meantime he has given us a rich and compelling narrative of the personalities and ideas that shaped the history of evolutionary biology. (Ron Amundson British Journal for the Philosophy of Science)

The historical and conceptual richness of Ruse's treatment makes it inspiring reading. The book is not intended as a definitive history of evolutionary science. Rather it is a kaleidoscope of events and reflections meant to suggest new questions and inspire further research. (Nils Roll-Hansen Nuncius [Italy])

From historical research to interviews with today's leading evolutionary biologists, Ruse's book mirrors the lively debates throughout the history of the field...This thought-provoking and readable book is highly recommended. (Library Journal)

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26 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Amazon Customer on May 11, 2002
Format: Hardcover
This massive bit of research into the history of evolutionary thought represents Michael Ruse's attempt to convince fellow scientists to show interest in what he sees as two fundamental issues in evolutionism. The first is the dissonance between it and other scientific enquiries. More specifically Ruse is concerned about the indifference physicists, chemists, and other scientists engaged in the "practical" sciences show towards evolution. They hardly care about evolution's focus on origins and are instead interested in their own experiments. The second issue is Ruse's pet peeve. It is the tendency, which he says he can trace back 250 years, for evolutionism to be influenced by cultural values. More specifically, Ruse says that the idea of social progress has always had a close relationship with evolution. This is the subject which he explores for the vast majority of the book.
The best encapsulation of this idea of Progress (which Ruse describes with a capital "P" to emphasize its significance)is its movement from the simplest biological form to the most complex. Thus we have from MONAD TO MAN. Ruse says that the idea "that there will be an ongoing improvement of human society through human effort was the parent idea of evolution, which was taken to have at its heart the idea of biological progress." He shows that it was in fact the norm in Darwin's time. But is it still so today, and of critical importance to readers of this book, does Ruse make a convincing argument that it is so? More importantly still, does he make a case to convince his fellow scientists to care? I say yes to the first part (and at over 600 pages his book had better be convincing!) He points out that from about the 1950's there was a shift and evolutionary science became more objective.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Ruse is one of the best and fairest intellectuals in philosophy of biology today. He traces the concept of progress as he does all other ideas--fairly and impartially. Good read but not an easy one, definitely for scholars. A brief summary of the ideas of progress can be found in Chapter 9 of The Meaning of Life: Religious, Philosophical, Scientific, and Transhumanist Perspectives by John Messerly available here at amazon.
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