- Hardcover: 344 pages
- Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1 edition (November 13, 2008)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0195322827
- ISBN-13: 978-0195322828
- Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 1.2 x 5.7 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 18 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,292,634 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution 1st Edition
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"Mark Blumberg's beautifully written book introduces some major problems in both developmental and evolutionary biology. Individuals can sometimes develop in astonishingly aberrant ways. These freaks of nature challenge the way we think about development and, over the years, have caused some biologists to wonder whether the formation of new species is always as continuous as orthodox theories of evolution purpose."--Sir Patrick Bateson, Professor Emeritus of Ethology, University of Cambridge
"Mark Blumberg is a freak of literature--one of the very few scientist-writers (think Stephen Jay Gould or Oliver Sacks) who can sweep us along as they try to figure out how the exceptions in the species can prove the rule of who we all are. In Freaks of Nature, the specimens are certainly riveting, but it's also Blumberg's lucid, lyrical, profound insights into what it means to be human that will stay with the reader."--Richard Panek, author of Seeing and Believing: How the Telescope Opened Our Eyes and Minds to the Heavens and The Invisible Century: Einstein, Freud, and the Search for Hidden Universes
"Freaks of Nature examines various kinds of disfigurement that occur in both human beings and animals, includes diagrams and photographs, and questions our assumptions about the abnormally developed...Blumberg urges us to consider how our ideas of what is natural can and should expand to include the anomalies among us."--The Chronicle Review
"When people come to the Mutter Museum 'to see the freaks,' I cringe inwardly, smile outwardly and generally say nothing at all. I have found over the years that the inhabitants of this remarkable place say far more than I ever could. Whatever the reason for visiting the museum--fascination, repulsion, even derision--people tend to leave more informed and perhaps even more aware than when they arrive. And that is exactly how I felt after reading this book."--Anna N. Dhody, Curator of the Mutter Museum of The College of Physicians of Philadelphia, in The Scientist
"Timely and wide-ranging, Freaks of Nature shows that although we've passed some exciting landmarks on our journey, we're still some distance from that circled destination and the route is still unclear."--New Scientist
"If you're interested in the science behind the macabre, this book will thrill you. It's also a must-read for anyone who wants to know more about a cutting-edge area of evolutionary theory."--io9.com
"One of the Best Books of 2008"--Neurotopia
"With well-picked examples, Blumberg constructs his at first peculiar, but ultimately profound, argument...Startlingly convincing." --Elizabeth Quill, Science News
"Blumberg is a developmental psychobiologist, and thus advocates for a more supple understanding of the interplay between development, behavior, and evolution than has usually been accepted. He eloquently defends the view that 'development is the story of adaptation within one lifetime,' and that thinking seriously about anomalies helps us see 'how much adaptability there is in the developing organism.' --Jason B. Jones, Boldtype
"By presenting a parade of animal freaks, mutants, developmental anomalies, and weird species, Blumberg imparts lessons that, although familiar to biologists, will be valuable to non-specialists. He emphasizes that the complex process of development can be unraveled by understanding how such anomalies are produced...Blumberg illustrates his points with clear and intriguing examples...Blumberg's ambitions transcend storytelling: he aims to show that developmental biology has made real contributions to evolutionary theory." --Jerry A. Coyne, Nature
"Blumberg takes us on a tour of real-life teratology, and how understanding abnormalities is casting new light on the relationship between the genetic and non-genetic forces that shape us all." --Stephen Cass, Discover
"A stimulating read." --Financial Times
"Blumberg's explanations of the factors that go into [these] deformations are gripping." --Robert Colvile, Telegraph.co.uk
"Engrossing and interesting." --John Wilkins, Evolving Thoughts
About the Author
Mark Blumberg is Professor and Starch Faculty Fellow at the University of Iowa. The author of two books and more than eighty journal articles and chapters on a wide variety of subjects, he currently serves as Editor-in-Chief of the journal Behavioral Neuroscience and as President of the International Society for Developmental Psychobiology.
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Now, I cannot judge if Blumberg has got his epigenetics right, but he seems quite adamant and polemic about it. Without mentioning Richard Dawkins, Matt Ridley or E.O. Wilson, he strongly condemns what he sees as "genetic determinism". It's old-fashioned as well as incorrect, he says, to apply a gene-centered view on evolution. It also works the other way around: the environment induces evolutionary change. "Character can be inherited by the next generation without a genetic mechanism", he states and claims that this insight is now becoming commonplace (183). Here he refers notably to Jablonka and Lamb (Evolution in four dimensions, 2005) and West-Eberhard (Development plasticity and the origins of species, 2005). When he mentions supporters of Evo Devo, such as Sean Carroll, he still deplores their one-sidedness in conferring to genes the main role in evolutionary development. On the other side of the coin, there is no mentioning of Lamarck, making it a bit unclear to a lay-person like me what exactly it is that Blumberg so vehemently defends. In his "Nature via Nurture" from 2003, Matt Ridley states: "Learning could not be expressed without experience. Innateness could not be expressed without experience. The truth of each idea is not proof of the falsehood of another." His conclusion is that the dichotomy "Nature versus Nurture is dead "(279-280). He illustrates this with a couple of quotations by proponents of different perspectives on evolution, such as Gould, Dawkins, Pinker and Rose. Some of these would be considered by the others to be extreme genetic determinists. Yet, according to Ridley, they believe roughly the same thing, namely that human nature comes from an interaction of nature with nurture. This point is also made in another book, "Not by genes alone" by Richerson and Boyd (2005), putting the emphasis on culture but without using the term epigenetic.
Be that as it may, except for a few technical discussions - he somewhere jokingly apologizes for what looks like a list of acronyms - Blumberg has written a highly readable and thought-provoking book about what evolution and its false starts can tell us about ourselves. Quite hilarious is the passing fancy that God created Eve, not from the rib of Adam but out of his baculum, i.e. man's lost penis bone. In support of this Blumberg offers the fact that males and females share the same number of ribs.
Most recent customer reviews
books for better writing and better science. The book is poorly written and the science is terrible
Freaks of Nature tries to be something great, like Mutants by Armand Marie Leroi, and just...Read more