- Hardcover: 833 pages
- Publisher: Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory Press; 1st edition (June 26, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0879696842
- ISBN-13: 978-0879696849
- Product Dimensions: 11 x 1.3 x 8.8 inches
- Shipping Weight: 4.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 6 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,246 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Evolution 1st Edition
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''This new [textbook in evolutionary biology] by Barton and colleagues is among the best. The production quality is superb in layout, composition, typesetting, colour palette, illustrations and gorgeous half-tones; and the writing is excellent, as one might expect from such a stellar cast of experts in population genetics, palaeontology, human genetics, bacterial genomics and developmental biology (respectively).'' --Daniel Hartl, Harvard University (Nature)
''The book has many strengths. The prose is crisp and explanations are rigorous but clear. The authors do not hesitate to discuss complex ideas or to provide appropriate caveats about the certainty of our knowledge. The Figures are useful and abundant...The expertise of the authors in quantitative, population, and developmental genetics is obvious; explanations are often less formal than in other texts, but at the same time are more sophisticated and more intuitive. The chapters on diversity include a detailed but engaging introduction to the genetics and genomics of bacterial and archaeal diversity, the origins of multicellularity, and the evolution of novelty inferred from both fossil data and from developmental biology. Although I had assured myself that I would not read the text word-for-word, I found myself deeply immersed in many chapters and read them from beginning to end. The material was not new (for me), but the descriptions and explanations seemed fresher and more compelling than in other current evolution texts. The explicit focus on questions at the molecular level determines the use of examples throughout the text, but these examples come from basic biology, not biomedical science. This book will be particularly attractive to molecular biologists who want to learn the details of evolutionary pattern and process. It may also be the book of choice for evolutionary biology graduate students with interests in population genetics, ''evo-devo,'' and molecular evolution.'' --Richard G. Harrison, Cornell University, Ithaca (Evolution)
''At 833 pages, Evolution by Barton et al. is a large book, and it is copiously and helpfully illustrated with photos, figures and line drawings, mostly in color. The lion's share consists of Part II, ''The Origin and Diversification of Life,'' and Part III, ''Evolutionary Processes.'' The three chapters of Part I introduce the history of evolutionary biology, including molecular biology, and the evidence for evolution. The final two chapters, in Part IV, provide an excellent, up-to-date summary of human evolution. The discussion of the Out-of-Africa and multiregional hypotheses of the origin of modern humans is nuanced rather than dogmatic. A section on ''Genomics and Humanness'' is brief but incisive. The final chapter on ''Current Issues in Human Evolution'' is exemplary and can be profitably read by medical geneticists seeking to establish associations between genes and diseases.
The expertise of Barton et al. in population and evolutionary genetics is eminently displayed in Part III, which makes up somewhat more than half of Evolution. All the bases are covered, and well covered at that: mutation and variation, population structure, random drift and gene flow, selection, social evolution, speciation, and much more...The last two chapters of Part III, ''Evolution of Genetic Systems'' and ''Evolution of Novelty,'' are priceless. In length, depth and excitement, these two chapters go far beyond what is typically covered in evolution textbooks. The increasingly relevant topic of the evolution of evolvability is helpfully included, and evo devo considerations are again brought to bear in these chapters.'' --Francisco J. Ayala, University of California, Irvine (Nature Genetics)
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Unfortunately, I do have a couple of issues with this book. I am a biologist and have read 17 out of the 26 chapters (about 2/3). In summary, the book is too long because it is often vague and sometimes fairly technical. Occasionally I had trouble understanding the material because of poorly selected figures or examples. Here are some examples:
The introductory 3 chapters already have some serious shortcomings. For example, the section on "Objections to Evolution" (p. 76) is pretty lame. The argument that evolution cannot be observed is only vaguely addressed. Of course it can be observed, given that we can observe mutations either accumulate from generation to generation or that we can simply generate such mutations at will. We can also observe selection of such mutations in the lab etc. Similarly, the argument that evolutionary theory is not testable is rebutted by the "consistency of phylogenies" and the fossil record. Sigh. Is that all the authors could come up with?
In the same vain, I find many sections vague, with suboptimal examples. For instance, the chapter on evolutionary novelty doesn't really present any novelties but rather "standard evolution". We have known of a number of newly (or recently) evolved genes, novel enzyme activities, or novel morphological structures. There is barely any mention of those. Instead the chapter describes "Müllerian mimicry", how mutations in phosphoglucose-isomerase causes temperature-sensitive differences in kinetics or how opsin can change its light absorption properties by mutations. Hardly any novelty that will convince a creationist. It is true that there are not many true novelties that we understand well but there are certainly better examples than those in the book, e.g. radical changes in protein activity with very few mutations (think yeast Gal1 and Gal3 proteins) or morphological inventions such as feathers from reptile scales. Instead, Barton and colleagues use rather obscure examples and then don't even explain them well.
In fact, the vagueness is my main complaint. There are dozens of cases where the authors talk, for instance, about "baceria that grow on carbon monoxide" (p. 719) but don't say which ones. A page earlier they have a figure illustrating non-homologous gene displacement, using a hypothetical "green gene" displaced by an "orange gene". I am inclined to scream "Lord! Just give me a real example, please!" and there are many, especially in microbial metabolism. Often I got the impression that the authors were too lazy to look up better examples (or ANY example) and this is what makes evolution so interesting and convincing.
Finally, the book is often too complicated because of the many attempts to recapitulate the scientific literature without distilling out the gist of it. Chapter 11 is a case in point. It would have helped to edit some figures by simply adding labels instead of just reprint them from a scientific paper (see Fig. 11.16 which is incomprehensible without reading the legend). Many sections thus could easily be shortened significantly without losing much information.
I often have discussions with a creationist friend, but I am reluctant to recommend this book to him. It may backfire...