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Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic,…

Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and…

by Eva Jablonka, Marion Lamb (Author), Marion J. Lamb (Author)

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A very interesting, but idosyncratically flawed book. Jablonka and Lamb survey four different systems of heredity that are able to be shaped through time by natural selection. Based on my own research as an evolutionary biologist I agree with the authors' conclusions that the species' heredity is carried in several qualitatively different systems:

Most living things, probably including all multicellular living things have (1) DNA (genes) and (2) Epigenetic controls (systems controlling the activity and timing of gene activity.

Most animals with developed neuro-sensory systems have (3) mechanisms for the memory and behavioral transmission of "cultural" inheritance.

Humans have evolved the capability to record and transmit heritage via (4) symbolic means, i.e., language, writing, printing and electronic means.

It is to the authors' credit that they have put these ideas together in a single framework. Unfortunately, they have done this in a very quirky and idosyncratic style that I personally found to be very offputting. The uniquely quirky illustrations contribute little. I would have much preferred standard explanitory diagrams and illustrations. Drawing "cute" faces on what are supposed to be chromosomes is at best childishly irritating (almost every object illustrated is drawn with a face or otherwise anthropomorphised!).

The other quirky aspect detracting from the exposition is the dialog concluding each chapter between M.E. (Marion and Eva) and the devil's advocate, I.M. (Ifcha Mistabra - Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture" - Talmudic argument). It was a brave stylistic decision to take this approach, but I think Talmudic dialog is quite inappropriate for a work that integrates scientific ideas that are all fairly well accepted when taken individually. It would have been much better to deal with each of the issues and questions in a factual expository style in the one place. ( )
4 vote BillHall | Aug 16, 2008 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Eva Jablonkaprimary authorall editionscalculated
Lamb, MarionAuthormain authorall editionsconfirmed
Lamb, Marion J.Authormain authorall editionsconfirmed
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To our genetic, epigenetic, and cultural parents and offspring
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...Our basic claim is that biological thinking about heredity and evolution is undergoing a revolutionary chang. What is emerging is a new synthesis, which challenges the gene-centerd version of neo-Darwinism that has dominated biological thought for the last fifty years.
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0262600692, Paperback)

Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four "dimensions" in evolution -- four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb "put Humpty Dumpty together again" by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional (and skeptical) "I.M.," or Ifcha Mistabra -- Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture" -- refining their arguments against I.M.'s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski's lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors' points.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:29 -0400)

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