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101 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, November 25, 2007
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This review is from: Evolution: What the Fossils Say and Why It Matters (Hardcover)
The earth is old, and animals and plants have changed over time. If you know somebody who doubts these two well-established propositions, this is the book to share with them. I remember, as a teenager, in the early 1980s, reading Duane Gish's "Evolution: The Fossils Say No," as well as the other standard texts of creationism, and Prothero's book would have helped me think through (and past) creationism a lot quicker than I did. Prothero's book might have been aptly titled, "Evolution: The Fossils Say Yes." It is a lavishly illustrated, thoroughly readable, and authoritative dismantling of creationism. Because of the patient work of contemporary scientists writing accessible popular texts on evolution, no thoughtful 21st century young person need be intellectually derailed by creationist literature. Dr. Prothero's is perhaps the best of the current spate of these types of books. I especially liked the chapter on the origins of life, and the chapter on the Grand Canyon. One of the strengths of this book is that Dr. Prothero does not dodge difficult questions, but attempts to address them directly. It is always refreshing to read somebody who does not obfuscate or downplay contrary lines of evidence, and who is willing to say "I don't know" when something is uncertain. The book is thus, in addition to its overt purpose, also an excellent model of sane and measured reflection. A good companion volume to Dr. Prothero's book might be "The Counter-Creationism Handbook," by Mark Isaak, recently published by the University of California Press.
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Showing 1-3 of 3 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Mar 26, 2009 12:51:40 AM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jul 14, 2011 12:39:12 PM PDT
F. Ramos says:
Excellent review on Prothero's book Santi! I agree with a good chunk in your review, but I think you may be focused too much on counter-creation. Live and dwell on how far the degree of gene selection has attributed to speciation. Focus on evidence, not in the misinterpretations, or twisting of facts from others. Focusing on misunderstandings of others takes away our time and causes you unnecessary frustration. Stay on the line and you will be fine.

Anyways, on the degrees of capacity of natural selection in terms of macrospeciation:
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I said the following similar comments on another review:
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I read Prothero's book last Summer and found it quite educative in terms of what goes on in Paleontology. I however I recently found a very curious book on fossils called:

Evolution: The Grand Experiment: Vol. 2 - Living Fossils By Carl Werner and it can be found here at amazon.com

I found it curious since here in Werner's book you have discussion of the static nature of presumably unevolved species that also seem to be found in the fossil record. Some of these fossilized species are also found alive today with ridiculously very little evolutionary variation, it seems. The interesting part of this other book by Werner is that it compares directly a good chunk of fossils mostly from the Cretaceous period and further back in time. Some of these fossils are found in Prothero's book, and Werner compares them with modern living descendants and look very much unevolved after millions of years of existence. These fossils in Werner's research survey include: Arthropods, Echinoderms, Mammals, Aves, Botanical species, and more. These fossils from Werner's book were generally photographed by him and his wife at museums, paleontological digs, zoo's, oceans, and other places.

It has direct pictures of some fossils and direct pictures of modern species of the same if not similar fossils to see how much macro evolution may or may not have occurred. One issue I did have with Prothero's book and well, most paleontologist books, and I have quite a good number, is that there are too many drawings and not enough photos of the direct fossils so that people can decide for themselves how far gene selection has taken many species. Usually, it seems like it's the drawings and sketches that are the ones evolving, not the fossils. More photographs is what I am looking for. Empiricism is best when surveying natural history of speciation and photographs of fossils need to be published in these Paleontological books to be more believable. A good example of good use of Photographic fossil evidence is found in From Lucy to Language: Revised, Updated, and Expanded by Donald Johanson. Good stuff.

Stephan Jay Gould's Punctuated Equilibrium gives an excellent assessment on that most species in the fossil record have not macroevolved at all, only microevolved with the same body plans.

For those interested in reading historical Evolutionary Theories read Lamarck's theory of evolution in his work Zoological Philosophy, An Exposition with Regard to the Natural History of Animals

To see if Wallace and Darwin's theory was really that unique too.

Also see Alfred Russel Wallace's Contributions to the Theory of Natural Selection: A Series of Essays with his 1858 (1 year before Darwin's Origin of Species) paper that is identical to Darwin's thesis and predates it too. Others before Darwin had come up with similar views on speciation, they just were never emphasized much and still aren't today, unfortunately. From the Greeks to Darwin: An Outline of the Development of the Evolution Idea (Classic Reprint).

For information on the new evolutionary theory that is going to go beyond Darwin's purposed mechanism and how molecular data has challenged the Wallace-Darwinian gradual evolution by interviews with molecular evolutionary biologists and astrobiologists that feel the need to propose a newer evolutionary synthesis, please read The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry and Evolution - the Extended Synthesis.

And also look at the reassessment of the status of evolutionary theory in light of information from the genome in these papers from journals from the National Institutes of Health where they keep data on genomes from many different species:

"SURVEY AND SUMMARY Darwinian evolution in the light of genomics" and "The Origin at 150: is a new evolutionary synthesis in sight?" both by Eugene V. Koonin. They shed light on what has been both right, wrong and outdated material used in evolutionary biology in light of recent massive molecular data from genomes.

Micro evolution is what everyone believes happens. Just look at human races or dogs or cats. However, macro evolution is not something that people think is possible via blind processes. Many will claim that macro evolution is just accumulated micro evolution, but the problem is that micro evolution accumulating by natural processes have yet to show massive morphologies in bacteria and fruit flies or any other creature, for example. But we know for a fact that macro evolutions does occur via conscious intervention (intelligent design, intelligent activites, or whatever you want to call it). Domestication, is an example of what intelligent design does do - cause macro speciation (mules from donkeys and horses, corn from "teosinte" wild grass, hybrid pants, activate resistances to diseases, and so much more). Artificial selectionists or intelligent interventionists or intelligent designers like genetic engineers, breeders, farmers, laboratory scientific, etc. have shown how to macro evolve creatures in many cases, while nature in long term experiments like Richard Lenski's on E. Coli (bacteria) or Molly Burke's on Drosophila (fruit flies) have not been successful as much as domestication.

Look at the results from live evolutionary experiments to see if macroevolution can occur in both single celled and multiple celled creatures in Experimental Evolution: Concepts, Methods, and Applications of Selection Experiments. Lenski is referenced here a few times.

For a better look at the complex interactions in biology and sophisticated gene networks found in cells please research "systems biology" in An Introduction to Systems Biology: Design Principles of Biological Circuits (Chapman & Hall/CRC Mathematical & Computational Biology).

In reply to an earlier post on Aug 26, 2009 7:54:10 AM PDT
Nearenough says:
May I suggest something more in lines of a thought experiment, as I am not a paleontologist. Many species seem static because that have not all been imbued with the mutation(s) that changed them. This sounds obvious but it doesn't enter your thinking unless you look at the big picture. Creationists ask, "if we evolved from apes, why are there still apes." Well, if I came from Italian stock, I have evolved in the New World, am different, and my forebears are still back in Italy un-Americanized.

If you have 1000 individuals as a species, generally only one (or a few) will get the mutation to change it into something different. These changed individuals go on to produce a new branch in the bush of life and the group from which they came gets left behind to reproduce as they always have. Hence the relative rarity of the new "transitional" form and the abundance of the precursor form. It will look like "punctuated" evolution or saltation. Does this make sense?

In reply to an earlier post on Feb 7, 2010 4:04:57 PM PST
Last edited by the author on Jul 17, 2011 5:51:18 PM PDT
F. Ramos says:
I agree with most of what you have claimed, but it seems strange that you are talking about bursts of physiological transformation, when in reality this has been tested and is still being tested in bacteria which are able to reproduce perpetually and daily. All the mutations that have occurred in bacterial samples have only had minor effects such as immunity to certain diseases. Physiological or "punctuated" evolution has yet to occur and emerge among bacteria samples. Most other creatures such as mammals and reptiles do not reproduce rapidly or as constantly as do microorganisms, so if bursts of physiological evolution were to emerge, we should see this in bacterial samples.

If you know of any results which show perpetual physiological transformation on modern creatures, then please cite it. I don't mind believing it. Some species genomes, for example, have been "spliced", but this only shows that transformation is possible, especially when we intervene and do the splicing ourselves, but the debate is whether nature needs interference or not. Nature must be shown to have done bursts of physiological transformation on her own.

The origins of life faces similar issues. Life should be able to be formed in a laboratory and it probably will, but the question is, is there any evidence from earth or other planets where life forms naturally or does nature need interference? Thus far, the best evidence indicates life is a rare event in our solar system especially on this planet, though it should be common for life to be emerging constantly and rapidly naturally in a biochemically abundant environment like planet earth. Oil fields which have existed for a few hundred million years have thousands of hydrocarbons that are available for possible generation of life, but thus far we have yet to detect life forming here on earth today by nature alone. Conscious entities, on the other hand, are trying to create life and are getting closer to doing it. Making a living cell is not easy at all, but it should be able to be done by conscious entities like us.

Has evolution occurred? Of course, but the question is how? DNA mutations are now being considered to be not the main drive for physiological diversification. DNA is not in charge of making body plans since DNA allows for information to be distributed in making proteins, for example. Protein configurations and protein interactions and genes are what influence body plans. But still "bursts" or segments of fast gradualism of transformations of body plans have yet to be seen - even after tens of thousands of generations of bacteria. Richard Lenski's experiments on E. Coli shows that after 44, 000 generations of E. Coli reaching up to way more than 10 trillion (way more than 10,000,000,000,000) in population size offering massive samples to see and test macrospeciation, no physiological macroevolution or "bursts" have occurred at all. Only micro evolution as it is among humans who have resistances to diseases like sickle cell anemia and vary in sizes (tall people and midgets).

Check out The Edge of Evolution: The Search for the Limits of Darwinism to see current molecular experiments on the limits of evolution. This book discusses the genetic limits of natural selection and how far it has been seen to go from experiments and history between disease and human evolution.

There are some humans that are born with an extra finger and sometimes born with an extra head and even a tail, for example. Does this mean that this trait will generate a "burst" and separation of species of humans at some point? What do you think? Most mutations are neutral or just microreistances to other organisms or substances like antibiotics. This is especially seen in Richard Lenski's longest live evolutionary experiment with E. Coli and the way more than 10 trillion population he has been able to observe and keep track of the extent of speciation and evolution to see if random mutations alone can create macroevolutionary results as many infer from the fossil record.

Also it is interesting how massive amounts of reproduction of humans, chickens, and many domesticated animals have yet to macroevolve newer species despite there being billions of sexual interactions among these each year. Muti-celled organisms such as these offer excellent data on the capacity for random mutations to generate newer more complex organisms. Long term experiments on flies found in Experimental Evolution: Concepts, Methods, and Applications of Selection Experiments and http://web.me.com/mollyburke/Site/Home.html are interesting in their finds.
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