With Trilobite, Richard Fortey, paleontologist and author of the acclaimed Life, offers a marvelously written, smart and compelling, accessible and witty scientific narrative of the most ubiquitous of fossil creatures.Trilobites were shelled animals that lived in the oceans over five hundred million years ago. As bewilderingly diverse then as the beetle is today, they survived in the arctic or the tropics, were spiky or smooth, were large as lobsters or small as fleas. And because they flourished for three hundred million years, they can be used to glimpse a less evolved world of ancient continents and vanished oceans. Erudite and entertaining, this book is a uniquely exuberant homage to a fabulously singular species.
Ever Since Darwin, Stephen Jay Gould's first book, has sold more than a quarter of a million copies. Like all succeeding collections by this unique writer, it brings the art of the scientific essay to unparalleled heights.
Few would question the truism that humankind is the crowning achievement of evolution; that the defining thrust of life's history yields progress over time from the primitive and simple to the more advanced and complex; that the disappearance of .400 hitting in baseball is a fact to be bemoaned; or that identifying an existing trend can be helpful in making important life decisions. Few, that is, except Stephen Jay Gould who, in his new book Full House: The Spread of Excellence from Plato to Darwin, proves that all of these intuitive truths are, in fact, wrong.
"All of these mistaken beliefs arise out of the same analytical flaw in our reasoning, our Platonic tendency to reduce a broad spectrum to a single, pinpointed essence," says Gould. "This way of thinking allows us to confirm our most ingrained biases that humans are the supreme being on this planet; that all things are inherently driven to become more complex; and that almost any subject can be expressed and understood in terms of an average."
In Full House, Gould shows why a more accurate way of understanding our world (and the history of life) is to look at a given subject within its own context, to see it as a part of a spectrum of variation rather than as an isolated "thing" and then to reconceptualize trends as expansion or contraction of this "full house" of variation, and not as the progress or degeneration of an average value, or single thing. When approached in such a way, the disappearance of .400 hitting becomes a cause for celebration, signaling not a decline in greatness but instead an improvement in the overall level of play in baseball; trends become subject to suspicion, and too often, only a tool of those seeking to advance a particular agenda; and the "Age of Man" (a claim rooted in hubris, not in fact) more accurately becomes the "Age of Bacteria."
"The traditional mode of thinking has led us to draw many conclusions that don't make satisfying sense," says Gould. "It tells us that .400 hitting has disappeared because batters have gotten worse, but how can that be true when record performances have improved in almost any athletic activity?" In a personal eureka , Gould realized that we were looking at the picture backward, and that a simple conceptual inversion would resolve a number of the paradoxes of the conventional view.
While Full House deftly reveals the shortcomings of the popular reasoning we apply to everyday life situations, Gould also explores his beloved realm of natural history as well. Whether debunking the myth of the successful evolution of the horse (he grants that the story still deserves distinction, but as the icon of evolutionary failure); presenting evidence that the vaunted "progress of life" is really random motion away from simple beginnings, not directed impetus toward complexity; or relegating the kingdoms of Animalai and Plantae to their proper positions on the genealogical chart for all of life (as mere twigs on one of the three bushes), Full House asks nothing less than that we reconceptualize our view of life in a fundamental way.
"From the Hardcover edition."
Evolution is not merely the process that ruled the rise and fall of the dinosaurs over hundreds of millions of years. It also happens rapidly, so quickly and so frequently that it changes how all of us live our lives. Drugs fail because diseases like HIV and tuberculosis evolve in a matter of months, neatly sidestepping pharmacology. Insects adapt and render harmless the most powerful pesticides in a matter of years, not centuries. While the ecological impact of human technology has been well publicized, the evolutionary consequences of antibiotic and antiviral use, insecticide applications, and herbicide bioengineering have been largely unexplored. In "The Evolution Explosion," Stephen R. Palumbi examines these practical and critical aspects of modern evolution with a simple, yet forceful style that contains both an urgent message and a sense of humor.
While we joke that men are from Mars and women are from Venus, our gender differences can't compare to those of many other animals. For instance, the male garden spider spontaneously dies after mating with a female more than fifty times his size. And male blanket octopuses employ a copulatory arm longer than their own bodies to mate with females that outweigh them by four orders of magnitude. Why do these gender gulfs exist?
Introducing readers to important discoveries in animal behavior and evolution, Odd Couples explores some of the most extraordinary sexual differences in the animal world. Daphne Fairbairn uncovers the unique and bizarre characteristics of these remarkable species and the special strategies they use to maximize reproductive success. Fairbairn also considers humans and explains that although we are keenly aware of our own sexual differences, they are unexceptional within the vast animal world.
Looking at some of the most amazing creatures on the planet, Odd Couples sheds astonishing light on what it means to be male or female in the animal kingdom.-- "AAAS"
"The peacock's tail," said Charles Darwin, "makes me sick." That's because the theory of evolution as adaptation can't explain why nature is so beautiful. It took the concept of sexual selection for Darwin to explain that, a process that has more to do with aesthetics than with the practical. Survival of the Beautiful is a revolutionary new examination of the interplay of beauty, art, and culture in evolution. Taking inspiration from Darwin's observation that animals have a natural aesthetic sense, philosopher and musician David Rothenberg probes why animals, humans included, have innate appreciation for beauty-and why nature is, indeed, beautiful.
A groundbreaking interpretation of evolution as the work of Nature's intelligence- Refutes the orthodox view of evolution as a mindless process driven by chance - Explains why context is more important than mutation in evolutionary innovation - Shows how, by recognizing Nature's innovative and creative powers, we can overcome our social and environmental challenges with a new green science of evolution Darwin's theory of evolution is undoubtedly one of the most important scientific ideas of the modern age, explaining the existence of both life and consciousness without recourse to divine intervention. Yet how do we interpret evolution? How do we evaluate the ability of Nature to engineer something as exquisite as the genetic code or the human brain? Could it be that evolution is an intelligent process? Is Nature smart? According to most scientists, the answer is no. While humanity may be intelligent and purposeful, the natural processes that crafted us are deemed to be devoid of such attributes. In a radical move away from orthodoxy, Simon G. Powell extends Darwin's vision by showing that evolution is not just about the survival of the fittest but rather the survival of clever and sensible behavior. Revealing the importance of the context in which things evolve, he explores the intelligent learning process behind natural selection. Rich with examples of the incredibly complex plants, animals, insects, and marine life designed by Nature--from the carnivorous Venus flytrap and the fungus-farming leafcutter ant to the symbiotic microbes found inside the common cow--he shows Nature as a whole to be a system of self-organizing intelligence in which life and consciousness were always destined to emerge. Examining the origins of life and the failure of artificial intelligence to compete with natural intelligence, he explains how our scientifically narrow-minded views on intelligence are now acting as a barrier to our own evolution. As Darwin's unfinished business comes to light and Nature's intelligence is embraced, we learn that Nature's agenda is not simply the replication of genetic matter but of expanding consciousness. By working with Nature's creative and innovative powers instead of against them, we can address today's social and environmental challenges with a new green science of evolution.
This book covers the crucial role of evolutionary biology in transforming our view of human origins and relation to the universe, and its impact on traditional philosophy and religion. Furthermore, it explains the most important basic findings and procedures in the area, and how it has developed since the first publications of Darwin and Wallace 150 years ago 1. Introduction 2. The Processes of Evolution 3. The Evidence for Evolution: Similarities and Differences Between Organisms 4. The Evidence for Evolution: Patterns in Time and Space 5. Adaptation and Natural Selection 6. The Formation and Divergence of Species 7. Some Difficult Problems Further Reading Less than 450 years ago, all European scholars believed that the earth was the centre of a universe that was at most a few million miles in extent, and that the planets, sun, and stars all rotated around this centre. Less than 250 years ago, they believed that the universe was created essentially in its present state about 6000 years ago. Less than 150 years ago, the special creation by God of living species was still dominant.The relentless application of the scientific method of inference from experiment and observation, without reference to religious, or governmental authority has completely transformed our view of our origins and relation to the universe, in less than 500 years. Few would dispute that this programme has been spectacularly successful, particularly in the twentieth century.This book is about the crucial role of evolutionary biology in transforming our view of human origins and relation to the universe, and the impact of this idea on traditional philosophy and religion. The purpose of this book is to introduce the general reader to some of the most important basic findings, concepts, and procedures of evolutionary biology, as it has developed since the first publications of Darwin and Wallace on the subject, over 140 years ago. Evolution provides a unifying set o
This book examines a little-noted contradiction inherent in the two essential elements of Darwin's theory of biological evolution--natural selection and reproduction. Physiologist Stephen Rothman makes the revolutionary claim that the evolution of life's complex and diverse reproductive mechanisms is not the consequence of natural selection. In so doing, he exposes the deepest question possible about life's nature--its reason for being.In meticulously detailed but accessible terms he lays out the crux of the paradox and offers an intriguing solution within a naturalistic framework. In an ostensibly purposeless universe, somehow purposeful life has evolved. For all living things there are two overarching purposes: survival and the creation of new life. Natural selection is about the survival of existing life, but has no interest in life's future, about whether it persists or perishes. By contrast, reproduction is only about the future of life, and has no interest in existing life except as a means to that end. Where do these purposes come from? As Rothman demonstrates, at every level life is wired to react to danger. Counterintuitively, without the danger to its existence, life would not have come into being. As for reproduction, nature's destructive forces drive the creation of new life. Written with great clarity and informed by deep learning, this elegant, thoughtful work tackles some of the most challenging questions raised by the theory of evolution, while calling to mind Darwin's famous words from the conclusion of On the Origin of Species "There is a grandeur in this view of life."