Author: Richard Dawkins
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2016-08-21
In The Selfish Gene, Richard Dawkins crystallized the gene's eye view of evolution developed by W.D. Hamilton and others. The book provoked widespread and heated debate. Written in part as a response, The Extended Phenotype gave a deeper clarification of the central concept of the gene as theunit of selection; but it did much more besides. In it, Dawkins extended the gene's eye view to argue that the genes that sit within an organism have an influence that reaches out beyond the visible traits in that body - the phenotype - to the wider environment, which can include other individuals.So, for instance, the genes of the beaver drive it to gather twigs to produce the substantial physical structure of a dam; and the genes of the cuckoo chick produce effects that manipulate the behaviour of the host bird, making it nurture the intruder as one of its own. This notion of the extendedphenotype has proved to be highly influential in the way we understand evolution and the natural world. It represents a key scientific contribution to evolutionary biology, and it continues to play an important role in research in the life sciences.The Extended Phenotype is a conceptually deep book that forms important reading for biologists and students. But Dawkins' clear exposition is accessible to all who are prepared to put in a little effort.Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallized big ideas, and shaped the way we think.
Author: Richard Dawkins
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Release Date: 1997-09-17
A brilliant book celebrating improbability as the engine that drives life, by the acclaimed author of The Selfish Gene and The Blind Watchmaker. The human eye is so complex and works so precisely that surely, one might believe, its current shape and function must be the product of design. How could such an intricate object have come about by chance? Tackling this subject—in writing that the New York Times called "a masterpiece"—Richard Dawkins builds a carefully reasoned and lovingly illustrated argument for evolutionary adaptation as the mechanism for life on earth. The metaphor of Mount Improbable represents the combination of perfection and improbability that is epitomized in the seemingly "designed" complexity of living things. Dawkins skillfully guides the reader on a breathtaking journey through the mountain's passes and up its many peaks to demonstrate that following the improbable path to perfection takes time. Evocative illustrations accompany Dawkins's eloquent descriptions of extraordinary adaptations such as the teeming populations of figs, the intricate silken world of spiders, and the evolution of wings on the bodies of flightless animals. And through it all runs the thread of DNA, the molecule of life, responsible for its own destiny on an unending pilgrimage through time. Climbing Mount Improbable is a book of great impact and skill, written by the most prominent Darwinian of our age.
From the New York Times–bestselling author of Science in the Soul. “If any recent writing about science is poetic, it is this” (The Wall Street Journal). Did Newton “unweave the rainbow” by reducing it to its prismatic colors, as Keats contended? Did he, in other words, diminish beauty? Far from it, says acclaimed scientist Richard Dawkins; Newton’s unweaving is the key too much of modern astronomy and to the breathtaking poetry of modern cosmology. Mysteries don’t lose their poetry because they are solved: the solution often is more beautiful than the puzzle, uncovering deeper mysteries. With the wit, insight, and spellbinding prose that have made him a bestselling author, Dawkins takes up the most important and compelling topics in modern science, from astronomy and genetics to language and virtual reality, combining them in a landmark statement of the human appetite for wonder. This is the book Richard Dawkins was meant to write: a brilliant assessment of what science is (and isn’t), a tribute to science not because it is useful but because it is uplifting. “A love letter to science, an attempt to counter the perception that science is cold and devoid of aesthetic sensibility . . . Rich with metaphor, passionate arguments, wry humor, colorful examples, and unexpected connections, Dawkins’ prose can be mesmerizing.” —San Francisco Chronicle “Brilliance and wit.” —The New Yorker
Author: Nessa Carey
Publisher: Columbia University Press
Release Date: 2012-03-06
Epigenetics can potentially revolutionize our understanding of the structure and behavior of biological life on Earth. It explains why mapping an organism's genetic code is not enough to determine how it develops or acts and shows how nurture combines with nature to engineer biological diversity. Surveying the twenty-year history of the field while also highlighting its latest findings and innovations, this volume provides a readily understandable introduction to the foundations of epigenetics. Nessa Carey, a leading epigenetics researcher, connects the field's arguments to such diverse phenomena as how ants and queen bees control their colonies; why tortoiseshell cats are always female; why some plants need cold weather before they can flower; and how our bodies age and develop disease. Reaching beyond biology, epigenetics now informs work on drug addiction, the long-term effects of famine, and the physical and psychological consequences of childhood trauma. Carey concludes with a discussion of the future directions for this research and its ability to improve human health and well-being.
Only in recent years have biologists and ethologists begun to apply careful evolutionary thinking to the study of animal societies--and with spectacular results. This book presents the choicest of these findings, illustrated with both photographs and explanatory diagrams.
Author: John A. Endler
Publisher: Princeton University Press
Release Date: 1986
Natural selection is an immense and important subject, yet there have been few attempts to summarize its effects on natural populations, and fewer still which discuss the problems of working with natural selection in the wild. These are the purposes of John Endler's book. In it, he discusses the methods and problems involved in the demonstration and measurement of natural selection, presents the critical evidence for its existence, and places it in an evolutionary perspective. Professor Endler finds that there are a remarkable number of direct demonstrations of selection in a wide variety of animals and plants. The distribution of observed magnitudes of selection in natural populations is surprisingly broad, and it overlaps extensively the range of values found in artificial selection. He argues that the common assumption that selection is usually weak in natural populations is no longer tenable, but that natural selection is only one component of the process of evolution; natural selection can explain the change of frequencies of variants, but not their origins.
Author: Peter M. Hoffmann
Publisher: Basic Books
Release Date: 2012
A physicist describes how life emerges from the random motion of atoms through sophisticated cellular machinery and describes the long quest to determine the true nature of life from ancient Greece to the study of modern nanotechnology. 20,000 first printing.
Author: David Beerling
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2017-02-23
Plants have profoundly moulded the Earth's climate and the evolutionary trajectory of life. Far from being 'silent witnesses to the passage of time', plants are dynamic components of our world, shaping the environment throughout history as much as that environment has shaped them. In The Emerald Planet, David Beerling puts plants centre stage, revealing the crucial role they have played in driving global changes in the environment, in recording hidden facets of Earth's history, and in helping us to predict its future. His account draws together evidence from fossil plants, from experiments with their living counterparts, and from computer models of the 'Earth System', to illuminate the history of our planet and its biodiversity. This new approach reveals how plummeting carbon dioxide levels removed a barrier to the evolution of the leaf; how plants played a starring role in pushing oxygen levels upwards, allowing spectacular giant insects to thrive in the Carboniferous; and it strengthens fascinating and contentious fossil evidence for an ancient hole in the ozone layer. Along the way, Beerling introduces a lively cast of pioneering scientists from Victorian times onwards whose discoveries provided the crucial background to these and the other puzzles. This understanding of our planet's past sheds a sobering light on our own climate-changing activities, and offers clues to what our climatic and ecological futures might look like. There could be no more important time to take a close look at plants, and to understand the history of the world through the stories they tell. Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallized big ideas, and shaped the way we think.
Author: Richard Dawkins
Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
Release Date: 2016-08-31
The Selfish Gene is a classic exposition of evolutionary thought. In it Professor Dawkins articulates a gene's eye view of evolution - a view giving centre stage to these persistent units of information, and in which organisms can be seen as vehicles for the replication of genes. The book provoked widespread and heated debate, which in part led Dawkins to write The Extended Phenotype, in which he gave a deeper clarification of the central concept of the gene as the unit of selection, as well as contributing his own development of this insight. For the first time, The Extended Selfish Gene brings these two books together, by including two key chapters from The Extended Phenotype. These chapters provide Dawkins's detailed and powerful response to two issues raised by critics of The Selfish Gene: the accusations of genetic determinism (the idea that our behaviour is entirely determined by our genes), and of "adaptationism" (that all traits are indiscriminately perceived to be adaptations resulting from natural selection). While written in particular for the biology community, Dawkins's clarity of expression allows these chapters to be accessible to all who are seriously engaged with the gene's eye view and its implications. The imaginative, powerful, and stylistically brilliant Selfish Gene not only brought the insights of Neo-Darwinism to a wide audience, but galvanized the biology community, generating much debate and stimulating whole new areas of research. Forty years later, its insights remain as significant as on the day it was published. Along with the two extra chapters, The Extended Selfish Gene includes a new epilogue to The Selfish Gene from the author which highlights the relevance of the gene's eye view to evolutionary biology today.
Author: Nick Lane
Publisher: OUP Oxford
Release Date: 2006-10-26
Mitochondria are tiny structures located inside our cells that carry out the essential task of producing energy for the cell. They are found in all complex living things, and in that sense, they are fundamental for driving complex life on the planet. But there is much more to them than that. Mitochondria have their own DNA, with their own small collection of genes, separate from those in the cell nucleus. It is thought that they were once bacteria living independent lives. Their enslavement within the larger cell was a turning point in the evolution of life, enabling the development of complex organisms and, closely related, the origin of two sexes. Unlike the DNA in the nucleus, mitochondrial DNA is passed down exclusively (or almost exclusively) via the female line. That's why it has been used by some researchers to trace human ancestry daughter-to-mother, to 'Mitochondrial Eve'. Mitochondria give us important information about our evolutionary history. And that's not all. Mitochondrial genes mutate much faster than those in the nucleus because of the free radicals produced in their energy-generating role. This high mutation rate lies behind our ageing and certain congenital diseases. The latest research suggests that mitochondria play a key role in degenerative diseases such as cancer, through their involvement in precipitating cell suicide. Mitochondria, then, are pivotal in power, sex, and suicide. In this fascinating and thought-provoking book, Nick Lane brings together the latest research findings in this exciting field to show how our growing understanding of mitochondria is shedding light on how complex life evolved, why sex arose (why don't we just bud?), and why we age and die. This understanding is of fundamental importance, both in understanding how we and all other complex life came to be, but also in order to be able to control our own illnesses, and delay our degeneration and death. 'An extraordinary account of groundbreaking modern science... The book abounds with interesting and important ideas.' Mark Ridley, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
Author: Dorothy H. Crawford
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Release Date: 2018-02-08
Ever since we started huddling together in communities, the story of human history has been inextricably entwined with the story of microbes. They have evolved and spread amongst us, shaping our culture through infection, disease, and pandemic. At the same time, our changing human culture has itself influenced the evolutionary path of microbes. Dorothy H. Crawford here shows that one cannot be truly understood without the other. Beginning with a dramatic account of the SARS pandemic at the start of the 21st century, she takes us back in time to follow the interlinked history of microbes and man, taking an up-to-date look at ancient plagues and epidemics, and identifying key changes in the way humans have lived - such as our move from hunter-gatherer to farmer to city-dweller — which made us vulnerable to microbe attack. Showing how we live our lives today — with increasing crowding and air travel — puts us once again at risk, Crawford asks whether we might ever conquer microbes completely, or whether we need to take a more microbe-centric view of the world. Among the possible answers, one thing becomes clear: that for generations to come, our deadly companions will continue to shape human history. Oxford Landmark Science books are 'must-read' classics of modern science writing which have crystallized big ideas, and shaped the way we think.