- Series: 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: #724,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Evolution, the Extended Synthesis (MIT Press) 0th Edition
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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)
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)
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)
About the Author
Massimo Pigliucci is Professor of Philosophy at the City University of New York.
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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.
I don't know whether it is a good time to take another stab at nailing down the fundamentals of evolutionary theory. However, what does seem clear is that last time an attempt was made at this, the results left quite a bit to be desired. The modern evolutionary synthesis is widely billed as a reconciliation between the ideas of Darwin, Mendel and population genetics. However, it excluded cultural evolution - a pretty fatal mistake. As Ed Wilson put it, "stagnation inevitably followed".
I generally favor the idea that something needs to be done. However, this book is more like a catalog of discontent rather than any coherent plan. Each essay has its own quite different ideas about the limitations and problems with the modern evolutionary synthesis.
The book is reasonably readable. Some chapters are tedious and boring, though. That's what you often get with edited volumes.
For me, one of the biggest problems with the book was its conservative nature. Some things that I think are important received very little coverage. In particular, the modern extensions of Darwinism into physics and chemistry get no mention here. Other well-established changes since the modern synthesis also receive little coverage. Symbiosis surely ranks as one of the most important changes in evolutionary theory since the modern synthesis - but there's little about it in this book. The resulting impression is of uneven coverage of the topic.
I thought that the most coherent call for an update to Darwinian evolution was the chapter on niche construction by John Odling-Smee. I have a bunch of differences of opinion regarding these ideas and the terminology used to express them, but the ideas here are interesting ones.
Another fine chapter was the last one - by Werner Callebaut - offering a historical perspective on the modern synthesis. That might not sound like the most interesting topic, but that chapter is a wonderfully written page turner, rich in interest.
I read some criticisms of this book. One complaint seems to be that the authors are attacking the out-of-date modern synthesis, and haven't kept up with more recent developments in evolutionary theory. That criticism misses the intended purpose of the book, I think.
I had fairly low expectations of this book. It had Massimo Pigliucci's name on the cover, and I've seen some of his ideas about cultural evolution, and know how misguided they are. I figured that the chances of him editing a good book on the topic were low. However, the book exceeded my expectations. I'm a Darwinian revolutionary myself, and it was quite stimulating to see various other takes on the ongoing evolution revolution. It certainly seems like exciting times for Darwinism. Perhaps the revolutionaries should wait for things to settle down before attempting to pin down a new consensus. IMO, the synthesis sketched out in this book is one that would be quickly out of date.