- Series: Canto
- Paperback: 380 pages
- Publisher: Cambridge University Press; 3 edition (July 30, 1993)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0521451280
- ISBN-13: 978-0521451284
- Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,902,817 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Theory of Evolution (Canto) 3rd Edition
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'Few people in the world are better qualified than John Maynard Smith to explain evolution to us, and no subject more than evolution deserves such a talented teacher. Like Darwin himself, Maynard Smith knows that his story if intrinsically interesting and important enough to need no more than clear, patient, honest exposition. The new Introduction is an elegant essay which can be recommended in its own right as a summary of important recent developments in evolutionary theory. This book is the best general introduction to the subject now available.' Richard Dawkins, from the Foreword to the Canto edition
A century ago Darwin and Wallace explained how evolution could have happened in terms of processes known to take place today. This book describes how their theory has been confirmed, but at the same time "transformed", by recent research.
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There are, in my opinion, two cons of the book. One was already mentioned by a previous reviewer. The book is a bit old. For example, since this book was published there have been developments in complexity theory that have opened up new avenues in our attempt to understand the origins of life, and there have been developments in the field now known as EvoDevo that have increased our understanding of the control of gene action and its role in evolution. Readers looking for good books that cover some of those developments could look at At Home in the Universe: The Search for the Laws of Self-Organization and Complexity by Stuart Kauffman, and Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo by Sean Carroll. The second con is, the book can be a bit dull. It feels a little bit like reading a textbook. The information is good but it does not really make for exciting reading.
I think the field of evolutionary biology is actually a really exciting and interesting field. The field is exciting because we are learning so much at a relatively fast rate. There is also an inherent beauty to the theory of natural selection, and the way that life operates, and writers who are able to capture that beauty are able to inform while also exciting the imagination. Maynard Smith does not, in my opinion, quite succeed in making the theory of evolution as exciting as I think it is. Unfortunately, being a layperson in the field of biology, I am not aware of any other general introductions to the theory of evolution that, 1) manage to pack as much information in as Smith, and 2) make for exciting reading. If I find one I will update my review and recommend it in place of Smith's book. Until then, I would still recommend Smith's book for anyone who wants a broad introduction to the overall field of evolutionary biology. It serves that purpose quite well. Once the reader has that broad overview they can focus in on more specific topics. There are lots of exciting books on specific topics, like the two I referenced above.
This is a grouping of his essays, many of which are not easily followed because of the depth of his mathmatics.
Nonetheless some of the essays are worth a read to see some interesting theoretical evolutionary explanations."Game Theory and the Evolution of Fighting", and "Eugenic and Utopia" are particularly recommended. "The origin and maintence of Sex", is worth a read, but I doubt some of his theories and suspect there have been better essays written on the subject by now.