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Symbiotic Planet: A New Look At Evolution Revised ed. Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 33 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0465072729
ISBN-10: 0465072720
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

From the origin of life to the classification and phylogeny of living organisms, from a discussion of GaiaAthe belief that Earth operates like a living beingAto a discussion of the underlying reasons for sex, iconoclastic biologist Margulis (coauthor, What Is Sex?, etc.) takes on many of the big questions in biology in this small, rambling and informal tract. In a book that is part autobiography and part biological primer, MargulisAthe scientist most responsible for the theory that animal and plant cells originally arose by combining with simple bacteriaAadvances the idea that a large part of organic evolution can be explained by symbiosis, "the living together in physical contact of organisms of different species." Rather than convincing readers of this theory, however, she seems content to lavish most of her attention on basic biological concepts. While Margulis conveys a sense of the wondrous and intricate origins of life, many of the issues she touches upon here are more clearly and comprehensively dealt with in her other works. 11 b&w illustrations.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

For 30 years, the Gaia theory of life on Earth has remained vital, dynamic, and controversial. One of its leading advocates provides a synthesis and overview of the current status of the theory, plus a few important new ideas of her own.
Copyright 1999 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; Revised ed. edition (October 8, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0465072720
  • ISBN-13: 978-0465072729
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.4 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.3 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #450,562 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
I am a great admirer of the author, who is one of the most creative biologists alive today, and a tireless popularizer of the brilliant and exciting ideas that define her career. For fans like me, this book is a must, as it offers tidbits about the author's life, including her marriage to Carl Sagan. It is also valuable in that it seeks to respond to criticisms of the Gaia hypothesis. But for those new to Margulis' work, I would recommend starting with Microcosmos, which she wrote with her son Dorion Sagan, a truly wonderful book that everyone interested in biology or the environment should have on their shelves. If Microcosmos doesn't grab you, don't bother with Symbiotic Planet. If it does grab you, then you'll probably want to go on to this book and others by Margulis.
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Format: Paperback
Some years ago, Margulis promoted a new concept in evolution. Complex life developed from the merging of microbial forms of life. Elements of the cell such as mitochondria, chloroplasts and other organelles came from small, simple lifeforms invading larger cells. The idea was a long time in gaining acceptance, but is now part of conventional evolutionary texts. In this book, she expands her earlier work with some accounts of her life as a scientist and wife of Carl Sagan. She also goes beyond her earlier work to advance a new thesis on the accelerator of evolution - sex. While many of her ideas are presented in more detail elsewhere, this book is a good, quick introduction to fuller accounts of her thinking.
Margulis is an innovator - forceful in imparting her ideas. She portrays herself as a rebel from early in her career, arguing here that she was sceptical of "genes in the nucleus determin[ing] all the characteristics of plants and animals." Her misgivings received scant support, however, without a replacement thesis. She found one in symbiosis - the association of multiple organisms. It took many years of investigation, including initial rejection of her attempts to publish, before the idea of SET [Serial Endoymbiosis Theory] found acceptance. So much attention had been focussed the DNA in the cell nucleus that organelle structure and function had been essentially overlooked as irrelevant. That these organelles might have been independent organisms at some point was too novel. Her account of the struggle to gain recognition is related as one of dogged persistence, nearly devoid of outside support .
Moving through an interesting discussion of life's origins, she dismisses the notion that forms of nucleic acids arose before simple cells.
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Format: Hardcover
Readable in a few hours, this book gives a quick introduction to a concept tremendously important to understanding the evolution on life on earth. I would have liked more extensive discussion of SET, with respect to the protoctists; the recognition of the development of these organisms from the symbiosis of various bacteria laid the groundwork for the understanding of symbiotic relationships in plants, animals, and fungi, which Margulis discusses in later chapters, yet the details of it take only a couple early chapters. Other volumes in this series are longer (some 170 pp.), and this one could have been, too. The clarification of "the Gaia hypothesis," in the last chapter, is very strong, and welcome; undergirding it is Margulis's insistence (throughout the book) on unsentimental and rigorous scientific thinking. The book does contain flaws. Editorial errors show a lack of careful proofreading (e.g., the date of the rediscovery of Mendel's work is given as 1990). Many sentences would have benefitted from more use of commas. More illustrations (e.g., of the structures of cells and organelles, mitosis, and meiosis) and summary equations for various metabolic processes, as well as a glossary, would make the book more accessible and useful to those who retain only a hazy knowledge (and that probably out-dated) of these things. Finally, Margulis takes too much the stance of the battered, then embraced and finally vindicated iconoclast, and seems rather too smug (as when she refers to "my SET theory"). It's just not attractive, and could have been toned down; it's obvious that she's brilliant. My criticisms, however, are relatively minor, and I recommend this book enthusiastically.
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Format: Paperback
I um'd and ah'd about how many stars to give this book. If I was just assessing the importance of Lynn Margulis's scientific work it would definitely receive five stars. Margulis is an underrated genius. Her work on symbiosis and evolution is extremely important. It reminds us that evolution is far more complex than a simple choice between neo-Darwinism and Lamarckism. Her connecting of her ideas to the Gaia hypothesis of James Lovelock is inspired. Unfortunately, this book shows why she might be getting less exposure than she deserves - it is not terribly well written. In fact, it reads as though it was produced in a hurry with almost no editing. Further, there are diagrams in the book which have no stated connection to the text (OK, you can work it out for yourself, but it still comes across as shoddy). Having said that, the style perhaps gives an insight into the person - clearly Margulis is a battler for her ideas. Its good to have something to read by her that is less weighty than her other seminal but hefty works. Sometimes here she can be very funny. I particularly liked her comments on James Lovelock's dislike of the patenting process. So in all, four stars - a very good book that with a little tightening up could be great.
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