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'Mathematics of Evolution' Hardcover – October 1, 1999
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From the Publisher
Fred Hoyle's longtime friend George Carson urged Hoyle to write this book. Carson was a biologist who thought that neo-Darwinian evolution needed to be mathematically analyzed, and he knew that Hoyle was capable of doing the job. But Hoyle was preoccupied with cosmology and astronomy at the time. Only later he did turn his attention to biology. In collaboration with his former student, astronomer Chandra Wickramasinghe, he studied evidence for organic compounds in space. This work beginning in the early 1970s, and his correspondence with J.B.S. Haldane reopened Hoyle's interest in biology. In 1986, Hoyle finally did the mathematical study that Carson had urged him to do. He dedicated the book to Carson's memory. But, except for a few facsimile copies of Hoyle's manuscript, the book was not published. Now Hoyle has updated the text and written a Foreword for the publication on January 1st, 1999.
Fred Hoyle has made a good living by writing about science in a simple and comprehensible style. He retains this style in Mathematics of Evolution. The interested reader will be rewarded with a new perspective on neo-Darwinian evolution.
About the Author
Professor Hoyle has had a distinguished career as a theoretical physicist, writer and researcher. At the University of Cambridge, he was a lecturer in mathematics for eleven years before he was made Plumian professor of astronomy and experimental philosophy in 1958. He founded and was the first director of the Cambridge Institute of Theoretical Astronomy in 1967, was named an associate member of the American National Academy of Sciences in 1969, and has been an honorary professorial fellow at University College, Cardiff since 1976. He has been awarded many honors and was knighted in 1972. Sir Fred Hoyle has shown himself to be a gifted scientist and writer who is willing to address funda mental problems and to challenge established ideas in science.
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One could say that the essence of the book lies in its challenge to what has become known as neo-Darwinism. In the preface to his book, Hoyle makes clear that his opposition to the standard Darwinian model is based upon different premises to the more commonly touted religious objections to the theory. By his statement, “to deny the paleontological evidence of evolution, and in particular, man’s place in it, is on a par with denying that water flows downhill” ( p.xv ), Sir Fred Hoyle does not reject evolution, but rather offers an alternative explanation for its mechanistic functioning. Although Hoyle’s career was in the astronomical and cosmological sciences, his interests in biology date back to his student days in the 1930’s, when, during his frequent discussions with his contemporary, George Carson, on the subject of Darwinian evolution, Carson, a biology PhD candidate, conferred to Hoyle that “ …..something” was “….amisss with the Darwinian theory.”
Apart from the deficiency of transitional fossils in the geological record, Hoyle shows, by rigorous mathematical proofs, how the Darwinian model as an explanation for the evolutionary process lacks viability. In “Mathematics of Evolution”, Hoyle, as in his other publications of the same genre, accounts for the diversity of biological forms by a means which he, and his colleague, Prof. Chandra Wickramasinghe, term “genetic storms.” Placing the issue of evolution within the academic discipline of Astrobiology, a marriage of astronomy and biology, and thus onto a wider cosmological context, biological diversity can be explained by the acquisition of incoming genes by terrestrial species.
Through the process of unifying biology with astronomy, and by further placing the astrobiological theory within a mathematical framework, Hoyle does much in the way of logically filling in the gaps left open by standard Darwinian theory.
The author does mention the idea of punctuated equilibrium but points out the absence of plausible mechanisms for it. He then proceeds to mention his hypothesis of "Evolution from Space" (his book, "Cosmic Life Force" goes into more detail) as a possible mechanism; that is, genetic fragments are constantly falling to Earth from outer space and getting incorporated into DNA of various species - sort of like the novel "The Einstein Intersection" by Samuel R. Delany.
I think the book is worth reading and struggling through; it is a very dense introduction to mathematical genetics and has a good discussion of the short-comings of standard Darwinism.
This book is very much in character for Hoyle, and I highly recommend it. Few minds in the twentieth century have provided such a constant challenge to the intelligent as has Hoyle throughout his many books and papers in a long career.
It is often a person outside a great field who sees it the most clear-eyed way and knows where it needs to blush because it has cheated.
- Patrick Gunkel