- Series: The MIT Press
- Paperback: 504 pages
- Publisher: The MIT Press (March 26, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0262513676
- ISBN-13: 978-0262513678
- Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 9 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #880,265 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Evolution, the Extended Synthesis (The MIT Press) 0th Edition
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An impressive and provocative overview; it should become the focus of semester-long graduate student reading groups across the country, as it has at my home institution.―Michael J. Wade, BioScience (Reviews)
The essays in this volume provide ample food for thought, and from all the major food groups! The Modern Synthesis in evolutionary theory, and what lies beyond, are assessed here from multiple angles. This book will greatly interest evolutionary biologists and philosophers of evolutionary biology alike.―Elliot Sober, Hans Reichenbach Professor and William F. Vilas Research Professor, Department of Philosophy, University of Wisconsin-Madison (Endorsement)
The twenty-first century will likely be the century of biology, just as the twentieth century was the century of physics. The central, organizing theory of biology is―and will remain―the theory of evolution. If you want to know how the theory of evolution will likely expand and be configured in the twenty-first century, reading Evolution, the Extended Synthesis is a good way to start.―Francisco J. Ayala, Donald Bren Professor of Biological Sciences, University of California, Irvine and author of Human Evolution: Trails from the Past (Endorsement)
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The problem the extended synthesis has is in being written by numerous authors it suffers from not having the single expansive viewpoint of that giant of evolutionary thinking, Huxley. The other problem for me is that it does not do much to fill in the massive gaps that are overdue to be eloquently and thoroughly filled from the considerable scientific advances; it seems to jump into today's world. A big big jump from 1942. Maybe no one writes the kind of science that Huxley wrote. But with the controversy that ignorance of evolution (and biology in general) creates in today's body politic - probably about the same as in Darwin's world - I'd love to see the editors attempt a more thoroughly conceived treatise.
As a non-specialist reader with a basic background in biology there were a number of concepts in this book which I found hard to comprehend. What I enjoyed in this book was coming across startling new ideas which spurred me to further reading. As an example I shall mention the article by Eva Jablonka of Tel Aviv University. She questions one of the traditional tenets of evolutionary theory, that the targets of natural selection are individual organisms. Since the bodies of humans and other higher animals contain symbionts and parasites that are transferred from one generation of the host to the next, she quotes the ideas of Zilber-Rosenberg who suggests that it may be necessary to consider such communities (of the human organism and its symbiotic bacteria) as targets of selection.
When I searched for more information on this topic, I found that a developing idea was that humans are now being considered as superorganisms with two genomes that dictate phenotype, the genetically inherited human genome (25,000 genes) and the environmentally acquired human microbiome (over 1 million genes). There is now evidence that one function of these microbes in the gut is to process certain components of the diet and enable the deposition of this extracted energy in host fat depots. This would have been beneficial in the course of evolution when our ancestors did not have reliable access to food supplies, but may now contribute to unhealthy obesity.
Pigliucci and other contributors state that the gene-centric approach of traditional evolutionary theory is being increasingly challenged. The developing view is that rather than consider the gene as the main or sole unit of evolution, the cell, the individual organism, or groups of organisms could be the units of natural selection in various circumstances. Fernando and Szathmary quote the view of Maynard Smith that units of evolution must multiply, show heredity across generations, and heredity should not be exact. This characterization of Darwinian dynamics is deliberately general; it is not restricted to cover living systems only. They describe their computer models of the neuronal replicator hypothesis, which suggests that groups of neurons in the brain are selected according to their "fitness", leading to the "evolution" of optimal functioning.
David Sloan Wilson argues that between-group selection became the primary driving force for the evolution of human beings from primate species. He notes that (a) extant human human hunter-gather societies are fiercely egalitarian and, (b) humans are incomparably better at throwing projectiles than other primates, and infers a connection between these two observations. He suggests that throwing could be used to suppress bullying and other domineering behavior within groups, resulting in better co-operation within the group and consequently enhanced fitness.
This book will, I think, become essential reading for undergraduates and researchers in the field, and also of considerable interest to the general reader.
Thankfully, we can all breathe easy with the release of, Evolution - The Extended Synthesis; "Under the heading "Extended Synthesis" this volume represents a broad survey of key ideas in this multifaceted research program, and a first look at an expanded theory of evolution as a work-in-progress. We have gathered some of the most prominent authors who have been writing about new directions in evolutionary biology and asked them to explain where they think the field is headed, and how the new concepts square with the Modern Synthesis's view of what evolution is." To be sure, this is actually a very exciting time to be reading about the field of Evolutionary Theory because, "The overcoming of gradualism, externalism, and gene centrism [a la Richard Dawkins' The Selfish Gene: 30th Anniversary Edition--with a new Introduction by the Author] are general hallmarks of the Extended Synthesis, whether in the forms presented here or in various other accounts to a similar effect published since the late 1990's. The editors and authors of this volume offer this extended view of evolutionary theory to the scientific community as, we hope, much food for thought and a stimulus for constructive discussions."
In sum, the selections in this volume represent the most recent research into Evolutionary Theory; there are only a handful of scientists working on these issues presently. This is great for the lay reader because there are so few books advancing the views presented in this collection that there is ample time to read through the literature. I recommend starting with this book, Evolution - The Extended Synthesis. Some other books in this area are: Evolution and the Levels of Selection,Darwin's Conjecture: The Search for General Principles of Social and Economic Evolution,Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology), and The Evolutionary World: How Adaptation Explains Everything from Seashells to Civilization.