9780716730460 / 0716730464

The Pattern of Evolution


Publisher:W.H. Freeman & Company



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About the book:

What drives biological evolution? Celebrated theorist Niles Eldredge shows us how the adaptation of organisms to their environment mirrors other natural processes in The Pattern of Evolution, and while he's at it, he gets in a few jabs at "ultra-Darwinians" like Richard Dawkins. The well-known theory of punctuated equilibrium, which Eldredge conceived and promoted with Stephen Jay Gould, holds that species remain stable for long intervals between literally earthshaking events that rewrite the evolutionary roster. Eschewing the traditional view differentiating between historical sciences, like his beloved paleontology, and functional sciences, like physics and chemistry, Eldredge proposes that evolutionary theory, by explaining patterns found in nature, can give us just as much "hard" knowledge as Newton's laws. His intriguing ideas are fleshed out with descriptions of illustrative sites (particularly the Puerto Rican rain forest) and dramatic arguments from before, during, and after Darwin's publication of The Origin of Species. As much a pleasure to read as his better-known colleague Gould, Eldredge shares his passions with his readers and is one of the few writers who can make theory both accessible and engrossing. While not all readers will agree with his attitude toward the "selfish gene" model of evolution, few will argue that his arguments for interdisciplinary synthesis in The Pattern of Evolution are anything but necessary and profound. --Rob Lightner

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