Endless Forms Most Beautiful MP3 CD – Unabridged, August 11, 2015
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About the Author
- Item Weight : 3.5 ounces
- ISBN-10 : 150128455X
- ISBN-13 : 978-1501284557
- Product Dimensions : 5.5 x 5.5 x 0.25 inches
- Publisher : Brilliance Audio; Abridged Edition (August 11, 2015)
- Language: : English
- Best Sellers Rank: #3,177,597 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
- Customer Reviews:
Top reviews from the United States
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However, I would not have added a review to the many already published unless I have a point to add, as explicated in the book I am writing on Steering Human Evolution.
First, I quote from Carroll: “The forms of animals and their body parts are never the result of the action of a single switch or protein. Body parts, tissues, and cell types are the products of large numbers of switches and proteins that organize patterns in time and space, and of proteins and other molecules that endow cells and tissues with their physiological and mechanical properties” (p. 129). Also “The forms of animals and their body parts are never the result of the action of a single switch or protein […] Animal architecture is a product of genetic regulatory network architecture” (p.129). And “The term “genetic architecture” has been coined to refer to the number of genes and the relative effect of individual genes contributing to the evolution of a particular trait […] studies of human variation suggest that many genes contribute to differences in height, body size, and other quantitative characters” (p . 277).
Then comes my conclusion: “Given this recent knowledge… the literature foreseeing genetic engineering as leading swiftly to post-humanity, Humanity.2 and even Humanitky.3 is, to put it much too mildly, mistaken. ‘Homo Deus’ is not around the corner. Those who claim otherwise should study carefully novel findings in Evo Devo and related domains, taking care to pick up recent texts by high quality scientists .Carroll’s 2011 book is a good text to start, but check for updated editions – Evo Devo is a step forward, but the way to really understand evolution is still very long.
Professor Yehezkel Dror
The Hebrew University of Jerusalem
It turns out, counter to what biologists thought for most of the 20th Century, that our genomes really are a lot like blueprints. We thought that there's no easy mapping from a gene to a body part or detail at some spot on the body. But there often is. We thought that the genes specify the process of embryogenesis, not a picture of the final product, and that's true, but the process has a lot to do with identifying locations and things to go in locations. The "toolkit" that Carroll talks about is a system common to all multicelled animals for laying out maps and allocating places on those maps for parts, then (recursively) laying out maps interior to the parts and allocating space for subparts, and so on. As if, at each stage, you had bosses and sub-bosses reading from blueprints and sub-blueprints to surveyors and builders.
This is done with chemical signal gradients and the switches that turn genes on and off based on combinations of signals and cell states. All of this happens as the ground on which the work is happening is expanding exponentially, so that although the signals operate over similar ranges, if a signal is put out earlier in the growth process it influences what finally becomes a larger part. Carroll emphasizes that this means parts' sizes can be varied by varying when their formation triggers. Another effect is when, over the course of evolution, a controlling gene becomes duplicated, the the original and variant genes evolve to trigger at different locations, and then the two duplicate parts can specialize differently while still sharing most of their code.
There is an alternation between the activation of signals for body parts-- like head, thorax, tail, then later eye, leg, heart-- and setting up gradients that identify locations in a space, like toward the torso vs. out toward the extremities. At first you identify north, south, east and west, and then New York, DC, Seattle, LA, Miami, Chicago identify themselves, then the grids around the cities, then named neighborhoods within those grids, and so on. If you think of an individual final cell, it (and the ancestor cells it split form) learns step by step the details that customize it: first it's in the Northeast, then it's a New Yorker, then slightly to the southeast of Manhattan, then in Brooklyn... the center... Park Slope... top of the hill... until it's the assistant to the owner of a flower shop across from the park.
Something I thought was missing: how do reaction-diffusion processes and/or mutual-inhibition fit into this process? They seem necessary for cells (and groups of cells) to make definite decisions about what to be, where a sharp edge is, for there to be a single center for a part, and so forth. It seems to be either left out because the relation to evo-devo isn't well-studied, or touched on in an earlier section of the book but not fit into the general summary.
Something that seemed important that I want to pay attention to on my second reading: why are strings of HOX genes in the same order along the DNA that the corresponding parts are along the body? It was emphasized in the story of their discovery but I forget how they ended up that way evolutionarily, and how it figures into the way they play out in development.
Top reviews from other countries
In the book he walks us through a whole set of cases where the mechanism for the way structure in living creatures develops is elucidated in great genetic detail. He discusses a series of cases where specific deformations can be shown to be the result of specific mutations, and shows us how these results can be understood and generalised.
He then goes into details about fruit flies. These little creatures are a backbone of genetics research, since they are so easy and quick to handle and make experiments on. And they turn out to be extraordinarily interesting! It turns out that fruit fly genes are found all across the animal kingdom, including in us, and wherever they are found they are used in the same (generalised) way. The new understanding is of a "toolbox" approach. Nature appears to have a genetic toolbox to make the riot of different forms that we see.
Then, in Part II, he becomes even more exciting. He says: "The stories I will tell create a vivid new picture of the evolutionary process ... discoveries have revealed one of the 'Holy Grails' of evolutionary biology -- the precise genetic changes responsible for evolution in particular species." This makes my heart race!
He has a section called "New genes for new animals?", and proceeds to show that, no, it is old genes that are re-used for new animals. He has a deeply interesting chapter on appendages (legs/gills/wings/antennae) showing the genetic relationship of the various instances of these in many vastly different organisms ; and another on how the butterfly got its spots : this is a case where the genetic organising factors are rather simple and have been worked out in detail. Then follows an equally fascinating study of how the zebra got its stripes : the importance of melanism ("Paint it Black!").
Finally he has a chapter on the evolution of the human mind ("The Complex and Subtle Genetic Basis of Human Evolution"). He says: "The discoveries of FOXP2 and MYH16 have generated a great deal of excitement in scientific and medical circles as well as in the general press. But are they the whole story of the development and evolution of jaw musculature and craniofacial form, or of speech and language? Not at all. They are just the beginning."
Carroll is out to explain to us what is really happening. He doesn't simplify! Omitting detail is not the same as simplifying! I love this book for this very reason. I finished it, being deeply informed about the realities of what is going on.
All the way through Carroll's book he is emphasising the surprise of the new discoveries. So on p4 he says, "only very recently have deep answers been discovered, many of them so surprising and profound that they have revolutionised our views of the animal world and our place in it." He talks of "breathtaking" processes, "bombshells", "shattering our previous notions" and so on. For Carroll, beauty in science is much more than skin-deep. The best science is an integrated product of our emotional and intellectual sides.
On page 131 I bumped into the "color plates", printed in black and white on ordinary paper. The first "plate" reads "... in green and red; overlap appears yellow". There is no green, red, or yellow.
Do yourself a favor and avoid this cheapskate publisher.