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Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology) 1st Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 37 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0262600699
ISBN-10: 0262600692
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Editorial Reviews


"An individual's personal experience can influence the characteristics of his or her offspring. Some of the ways in which this happens would have seemed heretical in the past. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb's stimulating new book successfully challenges some of the old orthodoxies. I recommend it warmly to anybody with a serious interest in developmental and evolutionary biology."--Sir Patrick Bateson, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, author of *Design for a Life: How Behavior and Personality Develop*

"Another valuable perspective to the discussion... I found it refreshing to read a science book that is a conscious attempt at good literature." Nature

"As this important book by Eva Jablonka and Marion J. Lamb shows, the twentieth-century 'neo-Darwins' told the evolutionary story in their own particular way, and some of the richnes of evolution that their forebear had described fell into neglect." The New Republic

"There have been rumblings for some time to the effect that the neo-Darwinian synthesis of the early twentieth century is incomplete and due for a major revision.... Evolution in Four Dimensions is the most recent addition to this genre, and contributes yet another valuable perspective to the discussion." Massimo Pigliucci Nature

About the Author

Eva Jablonka is Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. Jablonka and Lamb are also the authors of Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution.

Marion J. Lamb was Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, before her retirement. Jablonka and Lamb are also the authors of Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution

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Product Details

  • Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology
  • Paperback: 472 pages
  • Publisher: A Bradford Book; 1 edition (September 8, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262600692
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262600699
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 1 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (37 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,575 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
The Grand Synthesis of Mendelism and Darwinism, involving such greats as Haldane, Fisher, Wright, Maynard Smith, Mayr, Hamilton, Dawkins, Dobzhansky and many more, is one of the greatest achievements of modern science. Like every great theory, the Grand Synthesis has had its prominent critics, but most of the charges laid against it have failed to take root. By the 1970's and 1980's such critics were widely dismissed as crackpots and minds were closed against their ideas.

Subtitling their 1995 book "The Lamarckian Dimension" was about as in-your-face a flaunt on orthodoxy imaginable, and I was surprised that the book turned out to be quite a credible review of our understanding of epigenetic inheritance. Their new book is on the same topic, but is much more considerate of the reader, mature, and self-assured than the author's previous foray.

Genetic (DNA), epigenetic (non-DNA chemical), behavioral (learning/assimilating), and symbolic (language, theory) information transmission are important in many levels of biological organization, from the structure of the cell to the social organization of masses of ants and humans. This much was clearly laid out in a number of recent books, including those of Maynard Smith and Szathmary, Keller, Michod, Durham, Boyd and Richerson, and others. But, this book is unique in being both accessible to the interest lay reader and having great breadth, covering many of the important levels in "multi-level selection."

I remember the first time it hit me that the problem of regulating the behavior of errant cells in a multi-cellular organism is the same, in principle, as regulating the behavior of an individual member of a social species.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is such a good book, I wish it were better. In particular, I wish that the authors had not spent so much time discussing the effects of informational and symbolic transmission on evolution (most of which is fairly obvious) and spent more time on the fascinating topics of epigentic transmission and genetic control systems, which are extremely complex and difficult issues, and go by too fast.

The authors pose a question that evolutionary scholar rarely broach: If evolution produces and preserves adaptive traits, why does it not produce the trait that is the most adaptive of all -- the ability to directly transmit acquired adaptive characteristics to offspring? Ironically, despite their qualified claim that organisims do have such an ability, the authors provide an excellent Darwinian reason why this trait is so limited -- because a species which possesses it (like, say, humans) is so likely to "crash and burn" if it mistakenly adopts a trait which turns out to be maladaptive.

Jablonski and her co-author are neo-Lamarkians; that is, they believe (or want to believe) in the inheritance of acquired characterists. Lamarkism is deeply distrusted by evolutionary biologists for two very good reasons: there is not much evidence for it, and a mechanism for transmitting acquired characteristics seems biochemically impossible. The authors present some good arguments why this might not be so. Particulary impressive is their discussion of epigenetics -- biochemical processess not involving genes which nonethelesss affect an organism's development. Epigenetic processes pretty clearly can be affected by environmental factors, and so environmental factors do have a direct impact on bodily devlopment, and hence evolution.
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Format: Hardcover
This book should make a significant impact on the direction of biologic research and theory. If it does not, the fault will lie in the tenacity of the human tendency to cling to accepted dogma and to simplicity, not to any shortcomings of the book.

For almost a hundred years, biologists have clung to the `modern synthesis' as the sole explanation for all evolution. Evolution, according to its core tenet, results from accidental, random errors in genetic copying in cell division. A few of these mutations give the organism an advantage over other members of the species, and, hence, greater survivability and opportunity for producing offspring. Hence all hereditary characteristics are said to result from this process which is `directionless,' `blind,' and pure chance. To many laymen and to more than a few scientists, this creed may be understandable as one cause of evolution. But as the sole cause it runs contrary to common observation, and common experience, and is difficult to accept.

That difficulty is undoubtedly one factor, though only one, feeding life into ideas of totally unscientific `creationism,' intelligent design, literal acceptance of the Biblical story of creation, and/or the dogma of Bishop Usher for a world created suddenly 6000 years ago.

Yet in the past five or six decades have come increasing reports in the scientific journals of instances of rapid evolution in various species, both in the laboratory and in nature, following change in habitat or in environment. These changes were too adaptive to the new milieu, and too rapid to be attributable to chance mutation. Further, intriguing hints of heritable change through various biological processes, have appeared.
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