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The Evolutionists: The Struggle for Darwin's Soul Hardcover – May 1, 2001

ISBN-13: 978-0716740940 ISBN-10: 071674094X Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 262 pages
  • Publisher: W. H. Freeman; 1st edition (May 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 071674094X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0716740940
  • Product Dimensions: 5.8 x 0.9 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (18 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,030,611 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews Review

Evolution is a fact: of that there can be no dispute. But, writes Richard Morris in this lively overview of modern biology, scientists have been arguing about most other aspects of Darwinian thought for generations, and the battle is growing ever fiercer with the advent of "evolutionary psychology" and other new approaches.

Following the biologist Ernst Mayr, Morris identifies at least five subtheories in the theory of evolution: "evolution as such," or the idea that evolution takes place at all; "common descent," the notion that all life originated in a common ancestor; "multiplication of species," or the splitting of one species into two or more species over time; "gradualism," the idea that evolutionary change happens slowly over a long period of time; and "natural selection," the idea that favorable genetic characteristics prevail over less desired ones. These subtheories are widely debated these days, with controversial scientists such as Stephen Jay Gould advancing ideas of "punctuated equilibrium," whereby change happens suddenly and often catastrophically; Gould's nemesis Richard Dawkins advancing orthodox Darwinism under the "selfish gene" metaphor; and other scientists turning up bits and pieces of evidence of environmental determinism and parallel evolution in nature that alternately undermine and support Darwinian thought.

The arguments among these contemporary scholars are lively, often acrimonious, and amply fueled--after all, Darwin himself puzzled over whether natural selection was the driving force of evolutionary change. Morris offers an evenhanded account of the many schools of thought at work today, and his book will be of great interest to students of the life sciences. --Gregory McNamee


"Richard Morris outlines where the real action is—not whether evolution happened, but how it happened and what the implications are for our lives. After you read this book you will be compelled to continue watching the drama unfold.
—Michael Shermer, publisher, Skeptic Magazine, author of Why People Believe Weird Things and How We Believe

Customer Reviews

The core idea of the book is excellent and this makes the book worth reading.
Bruce Crocker
It's about 5 pages of content morphed into 200+ pages of text (how many times can Morris report exactly the same findings about stickleback fish?
As a biology student I was overwhelmed with the information and the presentation in this outstanding book.
Tylas Powell

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

18 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Thomas J. Brucia on November 3, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I found this book to be a godsend. I have read extensively (30 + books) in the areas of complexity and chaos theory, evolutionary psychology,evolutionary theory, genetic programming, evolutionary history, genetic mutation, and other related areas and frequently felt lost in the forest of ideas, though increasingly familiar with each tree, twig, and type of bark (to extend the analogy). Richard Morris does an admirable job of describing the forest, and helped give me a context to understand the (frequently high-decibel!) arguements between the advocates of different positions. Right from the start, Morris categorizes thinkers into broad schools -- for example, among evolutionary theorists he groups the disputatants into two broad schools: pluralists and reductionists. He clearly explains the differences between these, and does so without himself becoming polemical. He even devotes space to very recent studies (1999 & 2000) casting light on 'which way the evidence points.' Morris sidesteps the creationists (thank you!) and examines differences within the scientific community itself. Many familiar names appear within this book: John Maynard Smith, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Steven Pinker, Niles Eldridge, Steven Jay Gould (of course!), Richard Lewontin, Charles Darwin himself and others. I was surprised at a few names that did NOT appear: Jared Diamond, Benoit Mandelbrot, Brian Fagan, John Koza and Terrence W. Deacon, just to name a few.... But my gratitude for Morris's very clear guide overwhelms my quibbles. Those of us who stumble from book to book trying to understand the issues and the reasons for disagreements (not to mention the development of various lines of thought!) have long needed an overview like this one!
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By yvette Lemoine on July 14, 2001
Format: Hardcover
I have read many books on the evolution theory and this is by far the best written and the most easily understandable.
This book is food for the hungry curious mind if one wants to learn how evolution has evolved since Darwin's theory in 1859. It introduces us to the world of scientists and their way of expressing skepticism about claims made by other scientists. As Richard Morris said that is the only way that science can progress.
I really enjoyed the details concerning the herd of elephant overrunning the world in no more than a few thousand years if all of the offspring lived to maturity. Or better the story of the brainworm, a parasite infecting sheeps, eaten by snails, whose mucus worm larvae is eaten by ants, who then crawl up a stem of grass, and wait there patiently until a sheep makes a feast with it. What about the species of ants which makes slaves, others maintain fungus farms and some other "milk" their owns. Why do you help your neighbor or give money to the homeless, why does the house sparrow have a different wingspan depending on where they live,
What about the story of Mendel and his peas? Did you know that Mendel was an Austrian monk who discovered the genetic inheritance before Darwin?
Richard Morris introduces us slowly to the evolution theory' scientific terms, which for a layman are very inspiring: Do you know what a spandrel is? What is the Wason Selection Task? The Cambrian era? What is Dr. Kettelwell experiment with moths and his findings? Who are the parents of the mule? What is a hinny and who are its parents? What is a tetrapod? Why are the same bones seen in the leg of a frog, in the wing of a bat and in the arm and hand of a human being? How new scientific disciplines like complexity theory and evolutionary psychology have emerged?
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29 of 35 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Crocker on August 2, 2001
Format: Hardcover
The Evolutionists by Richard Morris is a good book, but not a great book. The core idea of the book is excellent and this makes the book worth reading. Central to the book is the fact that evolution happened and that no scientist working in any field dealing with life disputes evolution. Also critical to the book is the fact that scientists in an active area of study usually do not agree on the details. Morris quickly dispatches the creationists [sorry creationists, you may have convinced the general public in the US that creationism is part of the debate, but I suspect there is a special place in Hell for folks as intellectually dishonest as you guys are] and moves on to several areas of current debate in the evolutionary sciences, including punctuated equilibrium, evolutionary psychology and complexity theory. Morris provides good coverage of all these debates, but too often repeats himself . The book falls into a stasis of repetition punctuated by moments of brilliant lucidity. Since I was highly motivated, I got through the frequent recaps to the next batch of new insights. My fear is that a less motivated reader will fail to make it to the end of the book. I also worry about some of the focus on the personalities involved [yeah, I can see the title is The Evolutionists]. I have read every essay Stephen Jay Gould has written for Natural History and respect his intelligence and I enjoy Richard Dawkins books even though I don't always agree with him, but if Morris depicts their behavior correctly, I think we have a situation of intelligent men behaving badly and I would have liked the focus to stay on the substantive parts of the debate and minimize the ad hominem crappola. That said, I do think you should read this book.
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