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1. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates
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2. Concepts of Genetics (7th Edition)
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3. Evolutionary Analysis, Third Edition
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4. Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary
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5. Genetics: Analysis of Genes and
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6. Icons of Evolution: Science or
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7. Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution
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8. Endless Forms Most Beautiful:
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9. Not By Genes Alone : How Culture
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10. The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution
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11. The Case of the Female Orgasm
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12. Genetics:From Genes to Genomes
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13. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the
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14. Evolutionary Psychology: The New
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15. Inferring Phylogenies
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16. How the Mind Works
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17. The Ancestor's Tale : A Pilgrimage
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18. Human Evolutionary Genetics: Origins,
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19. Evolution of Tertiary Mammals
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20. On the Origin of Phyla

1. Guns, Germs, and Steel: The Fates of Human Societies
by Jared Diamond
list price: $16.95
our price: $11.86
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0393317552
Catlog: Book (1999-04)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 299
Average Customer Review: 3.94 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize. In this "artful, informative, and delightful" (William H. McNeill, New York Review of Books) book, Jared Diamond convincingly argues that geographical and environmental factors shaped the modern world. Societies that had had a head start in food production advanced beyond the hunter-gatherer stage, and then developed religion --as well as nasty germs and potent weapons of war --and adventured on sea and land to conquer and decimate preliterate cultures. A major advance in our understanding of human societies, Guns, Germs, and Steel chronicles the way that the modern world came to be and stunningly dismantles racially based theories of human history. Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, the Phi Beta Kappa Award in Science, the Rhone-Poulenc Prize, and the Commonwealth club of California's Gold Medal. ... Read more

Reviews (625)

5-0 out of 5 stars Impressive Achievement
Jared Diamond's Guns, Germs, and Steel sets out a huge goal for itself, the examination and explanation for the direction of 13,000 years of human society around the world. It would be foolish to spend much looking at the points where his thesis may fail instead of spending more time marveling at the mighty achievement he did accomplish. Of course, taking such a large chunk of history and creating a theory to explain all of its shifts will not always be a perfect but it is wonderful to see just how much of history can be explained by his wonderfully all-encompassing ideas. With the soul of a scientist, Jared Diamond has created a wonderful synthesis to explain the development of writing, agriculture, conquest, disease and many, many other factors. Historians may balk at the largeness of such ideas, not seen Karl Marx found a convenient explanation for all human history, but it is a wonderful book to read, whether it is delighting or frustrating. It gives the reader much to think about and hopefully allows a new perspective to blossom among all of one's older, inherited ideas. A marvelous book.

4-0 out of 5 stars A whole new way of seeing the world
This 400 page summation of 13,000 years of history is hard to put down when it begins and hard to finish when you reach its final quarter. Diamond's friendly style draws the reader in immediately, making the book feel not only lively but vitally important as well. What could be more important or interesting than the reasons why the world has turned out the way that it has?

Without a doubt, this is an important book, and not because it won a Pulitzer. Diamond makes a convincing case as he argues against notions that were quite popular when he wrote this at the close of the 90s. He refutes the notions of The Bell Curve, which used pretend science to claim that blacks were destined by genetics to be less intelligent than whites and Asians. Instead, he shows that the reasons why Europeans ended up dominating most of the world instead of Africans or native Australians or Americans are myriad, but boil down to a reasonable set, including: Eurasia's size advantage; the fortunate combination of ancient plants and large animals available for domestication; its east-west axis, making the spread of plant and animal domesticates easier by keeping them in the same climate; and its relatively mild barriers, like the Urals, which posed less a division than rain forests, high mountains, and deserts in the Americas and Africa.

The thrilling opening and friendly style are eventually tempered by a repetition of these primary causes; Diamond explores numerous situations around the world, from New Guinea to the New World, and makes essentially the same arguments about each region, adding only nuances for the particulars of each place. It's the beginning of the book that's got the goods-the fourth part, especially, is a litany of details that are less captivating because the reader has learned enough to predict many of them.

Still, this is a very useful book for understanding the world, and it will arm you with facts to use against anyone who claims that a person's intellect can be predicted by his or her race. Diamond also shows how present conflicts on the world stage are very similar to ones that have been going on for 40,000 years, casting modernity in the same light as prehistory. And, while the fourth part is slower than the rest, the epilogue explains why Europe leapt ahead of Asia in the last millennium, an explanation that is both fascinating and worth learning from.

Why did Europe colonize America and not the other way around? If you'd like to know, read this book. It's weighty stuff, but it will reward you richly.

5-0 out of 5 stars Good for all types of readers.
I read this book purely for pleasure, unlike a lot of people I know who have read it for class or as part of an academic exercise. I simply like to pick a book that will challenge me in between fiction books. This book did not disappoint.

This is a rare work in that it can appeal to academics and pleasure readers. The knowledge and research behind the concepts in the book are complex and detailed, but Diamond does such an excellent job of explaining things, that you can easily sometimes forget the vast amount of information that he had to assimilate in order to put forth this hypothesis.

There are also two main points from the book that I took. One is the merely academic and scientific data that you learn from the book. I do not have a science, anthropologic, or linguistic background, so I learned a great deal from this book. But secondly, there is a very clear goal of this book to discount the foundations of racism. This is a lesson that every reader from this book can take with them and actually use in real life. I was struck at how this book can have such a dual purpose, and this makes it truly unique in my opinion.

Sure, there are vast generalizations that are made in a work such as this, just as there are in any history book, but this book has excellent points, is well researched, and makes solid arguments. I would definitely read another book by Jared Diamond and will definitely not forget the lessons I learned in this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars Great if you ever wondered how our cultures got here
If you have curiosity about how the big picture of civilizations emerged - for example, why it was the European civilizations dominating with ships and guns and not the American civilizations - you should really enjoy this book. Yes, Jared Diamond has biases (he clearly doesn't like people who believe whites are genetically superior to other races) but he weaves a fantastic story with scientific facts and elegant reasoning. Many facts (relating to plant and animal science) are clearly and concisely presented. Other facts are obvious once pointed out (the lack of domesticatable animals in sub-Saharan Africa, or how long it takes for domesticated plants to adjust to different climates) you have these great "Aha" moments while reading. I loved how his arguments came together.

Are there cons? Well, certain chapters in the second half of the book do repeat parts of the first half. It adds to the clarity (showing how the same principles can apply to different parts of the world), but if you "got it" the first time, some parts of the book can get long. Given how this book can change the way you look at different peoples and cultures, I can forgive him for repeating himself.

If you like science and are curious about how environment shaped, or better, limited civilizations, get this book.

5-0 out of 5 stars NO PIGS!
Because a new crop of bushy tailed Ivy League students are sure to be required to pick up a copy of this book before their orientations, before even being allowed on campus, there are a few things that you should know about this book before you do start.

Even though there are plenty of wild pigs in New Guinea, which could have been domesticated at any time during the last 100,000 years, Jared Diamond describes the natural fauna in New Guinea as if it were the most protein deficient wasteland on earth. No protein, hmmmm, what could this mean? Why, those poor people!

And even though you would think that this work might lose all credibility if when discussing human cultures, he were to leave out such a grossly significant fact, as the observation that the rugged terrain of the thousands of square miles of the New Guinea highlands is most well known, among educated people, as the home of a people that have been nothing for thousands of years but stone age men without a written language, or any metal tools, but with a human bone or a nasal shell through their septum because they are the world's most feared cannibals.

Yet not one word will you find in this book about that, but with a subtle nod of Jared's head for those in the know, wink wink, that oh, their natural diet has no protein. So, of course, the same trade routes and tasty plants that led other peoples to great things, through no fault or effort of their own, left these poor people in New Guinea very hungry. Very hungry for protein!

You will kill anyone who disagrees with you, by the end of this great work, about the fact that all cultures just have different ways of solving the same universal problems, like protein deficiency for example. And that socialism and capitalism and communism and cannibalism are all just different ways of accomplishing the very same things. Except for capitalism, of course, which is grossly unfair to the poor and to be despised!

You will always have a warm feeling in your stomach, as well, at the secret thoughts that you will imagine that you only realize to yourself after reading this book, about how white boys aren't really anything special after all, despite what you had previously been tricked into believing, in how they just happened to find themselves on east west trade routes near plants that just happened to contain protein.

Of course, you will find many other new ideas in this book, such as Jared Diamond's suggestion in the introduction, that Western civilization encourages white boys to pass on their genes, no matter how intellectually deficient they might be, because Western civilization makes so few demands upon its citizens. Which is why you must be given this book to read even before your orientation, while you are still unlearned enough to not even know about the famous conch shell collecting New Guinea cannibals. ... Read more


2. Concepts of Genetics (7th Edition)
by William S. Klug, Michael R. Cummings
list price: $123.00
our price: $123.00
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Asin: 0130929980
Catlog: Book (2002-07-25)
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Sales Rank: 38919
Average Customer Review: 3.38 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (8)

4-0 out of 5 stars A descent book for beginners
Before making any critics about this book I should stress upon the fact that the authors well deserve a four star rating for this most readable book, both for the writing style and for the contents. Almost everything written is clear, concise and well presented. The captions are of high quality and if you ever buy this book feel sure that you are not wasting your money! I am referring in particular to chapter 16: Genetics of Bacteria and Bacteriophages which in reality is quite tricky but here presented with simple words. You may not have to read it more than once for you will understand it right from the first lecture. For in-depth study though you might need something more advanced!
However I did not really appreciate the way the fluctuation test of S.Luria and M.Delbruk was presented nor was the following work of J.Cairns and B.Hall in chapter 14: Gene mutation, DNA repair and Transposable elements. There seems to lack the true essence of it. Furthermore the existence of mutational hotspots is limited to a subsection only of chapter 14 and a few lines on the work of S.Benzer. Even B.Lewin in Genes VII gives a better treatment of mutational hotspots. Finally I would have expected a chapter on Mutations to talk about mutator mutations as possible ways to increase or decrease the spontaneous mutation rate but no such references were made.
Despite these few things, if you love genetics or need an introductory course be sure that this book is meant for you!

5-0 out of 5 stars I was taught by the proffesor who wrote the book
Yup, and the professor gave out many problems in addition to supplementary problems. The book was an easy read but in order to do well in this course you simply need a mind for genetics. This is probably the best book I've seen.

5-0 out of 5 stars I am very pleased with my purchase:timely, great condition!
I recieved the book in one day and it was in great condition!

2-0 out of 5 stars OK, but could have been better
I used this book in an intro genetics course. Now I can't say if it was the professor or the book that made me really dislike the subject, but I think that if it was a really good book I would have come out with a least a little understanding on what genetics is about; I didn't. Something was not right; genetics is supposed to be a booming field, interesting, and cutting edge in terms of research. I did not get this picture from reading this book. Now I must say that the book was easy to read in the sense that they don't try and pack too much material on one page, there are nice illustrations and color photograhs etc. The problem I had with it was that it didn't really explain how to do those complicated genetics problems, those ones where you'd have to predict the percentages of progeny that were pink, spotted, and had one ear if the parents had linked recessive genes on chromosome 17.25 (you get the gist) These were the kinds of problems that we had all year and I just never understood. The professor couldn't explain them, neither could the book, neither could my friends. All in all, genetics was a bad experience for me and this book did not make it any better. I am sure that there are many better texts out there, but I have just been so turned away from genetics that I haven't bothered to look.

4-0 out of 5 stars I loved this book.
I used this textbook in as an undergraduate student at Trenton State College. Not only did I find the course incredibly fascinating, the text book was a great complement to the material. I found it to be readable and by no means did it resemble a research paper as one reviewer commented. On a personal note, Dr. Klug, the author of the book, was infact my professor. I imagine that this may have influenced my appreciation of the text but in any case I enjoyed the book and course immensely. Also, for the reviewer who suspected that Dr. Klug was some snobby PhD, he was one of the best professors I had during my college career! ... Read more


3. Evolutionary Analysis, Third Edition
by Scott Freeman, Jon Herron
list price: $102.00
our price: $102.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0131018590
Catlog: Book (2003-07-15)
Publisher: Prentice Hall
Sales Rank: 101216
Average Customer Review: 3.17 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Designed to help readers learn how to think like evolutionary biologists, this 4-color book approaches evolutionary biology as a dynamic field of inquiry and as a process. Using a theme-based approach, it illustrates the interplay between theory, observation, testing and interpretation. It offers commentary on strengths and weaknesses of data sets, gives detailed examples rather than a broad synoptic approach, includes many data graphics and boxes regarding both sides of controversies.Introduces each major organizing theme in evolution through a question--e.g., How has HIV become drug resistant? Why did the dinosaurs, after dominating the land vertebrates for 150 million years, suddenly go extinct? Are humans more closely related to gorillas or to chimpanzees? Focuses on many applied, reader-relevant topics--e.g., evolution and human health, the evolution of senescence, sexual selection, social behavior, eugenics, and biodiversity and conservation. Then develops the strategies that evolutionary biologists use for finding an answers to such questions. Then considers the observations and experiments that test the predictions made by competing hypotheses, and discusses how the data are interpreted.For anyone interested in human evolution, including those working in human and animal health care, environmental management and conservation, primary and secondary education, science journalism, and biological and medical research. ... Read more

Reviews (12)

5-0 out of 5 stars Insightful biology textbook
I bought this book because I am taking a biology class at the University I attend currently. This book is our textbook.

The first two chapters are about Darwinism and Evolution. I also read the Beak of the Finch by Jonathan Weiner who is the winner of the Pulitzer Prize. His points about Darwinism and Evolution are all in this textbook with many of graphs and pictures. Although it is a textbook, it's easy to comprehend even if you are not a pre-med student. Topics such as natural selection, microevolution, and irony and controversy of the validity of evolution by natural selection are covered.

Part II of the book is about Mutation and Mendelian Genetics. The author covers gene duplication and Yule's Numerical examples, analyzing the point of the natural selection being a potent force of evolution. And sexual selection and adaptations are other important topics that are discussed in the part II.

Part III of the book is about current research (1998). Various theories in relationships among humans and the extant apes, and sexual selection are covered in great depth. Again, it all comes down to microevolution and macroevolution and their patterns after examing adaptive radiations, punctuated equilibrium, and fossiles.

Lastly, the author talks about social behavior of various species. The author concludes that when individuals interact, four outcomes are possible with respect to fitness: cooperation, altruism, selfishness, and spite. Robert Trivers' theory of altrusim is tested and other "outcomes" about animal behavior are studied. From these studies, the author concludes that genetic variance exists for behavioral traits. "Thh field of behavior genetics is devoted to exploring the extent and nature of this variation. Behavioral geneticists use selection and heritability studies to identify traits with significant genetic variance... and can uncover the specific function of loci influencing social behavior."

I think this book covers many important topics and is easily comprehensible even for non-biology majors.

5-0 out of 5 stars Makes evolutionary biology interesting
Evolutionary biology can be extremely tedious for undergraduate students if one insists on teaching the more arcane debates as Fisher versus Shifting Balance. That might be good for a second course for future professionals, but if one starts with such stuff, students will lose all the interest in evolution they came with.
Evolutionary Analysis is interesting, wel-informed and up to date, and is meant for general biologists. It cannot be used as a reference book for neo-darwinian debates, so the better.

1-0 out of 5 stars horrible
Bought this one for Evolution class. It is a horrible excuse for a textbook. Do not buy this book unless it is for a middle school student. If the authors think this book has been written for an advanced audience, then I would suggest that anyone interested in learning evolution not attend University of Washington.

4-0 out of 5 stars Captives of the paradigm
Although not a student in a course, I found perusing this (upgraded, new edition)text to be interesting and intriguing, despite being a severe Darwin critic. Well illustrated with clear expositions of technical pop gen. However, if Little Red Riding Hood were an Amazon reviewer the text would read, 'What nice teeth you have...". Sociobiological thinkings is now being mainstreamed.
One of the puzzles of modern culture is the obtuseness of the technical elite, especially Darwinists. From whence did they get their rigid mentality, and total inability to think critically on evolution? It's no mystery if you look at the textbooks used to train these elites, as here. These are the doctors, biologists and others who, for the trouble of taking a close look at evolutionary theory, will end with the false assumptions of the Synthesis engraved on their eductional memory modules.
The issue can be insidious with the study of population genetics, nicely done here in its own way. But it is a subject where technical math deludes people into thinking it constitutes a theory of evolution. The sad thing is that physicists who must think critically about physics remain silent about these models, none of which are properly verified in the complex cases of advanced evolution. It reminds one of economics courses where the curious illusions of theory remain educationally entrenched despite the critics. At least it is generally known what the limitations are. But in evolution these underpowered population models are extrapolated to become a new form of metaphysics and there is no review of the propaganda possible, it seems.
So that's the reason the techical elites are 'disinformation grouwnups'. It is a situation worthy of Foucault.

1-0 out of 5 stars Please use a better text, if you are an instructor
So there is a new evolution instructor at our school and he is using this text and lecturing out of it directly - ie no supplementation with other material. Very bad combination, boring simple lectures on what is actually a complex interesting topic. It would be different if the text was comprehensive and challenging but it is not.

Positives of the text:
Easy to ready
Entertaining examples

Negatives of the text:
1.Very, very frustratingly simplistic
2.Overlooks controversial topics or only presents one side of an issue. Example, no coverage of Wright's shifting balanced theory as opposing Fisher's mass selection theory. Doesn't even indicate there IS another theory out there.
3.Simplifies primary literature. Does not detail assumptions or boundaries of experiments.
4.Inadequate index and glossary (for example, epistatis, is in neither)

The entire book reminds me of justso stories my mama read to me as a wee pup, not a scientific examination of evolution.

The authors say this is book is at undergraduate level. But given the lack of complexity and depth, I'd say it is more suited for say an 5-6th grade class level. ... Read more


4. Animal Behavior: An Evolutionary Approach
by John Alcock
list price: $84.95
our price: $84.95
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Asin: 0878930116
Catlog: Book (2001-07-01)
Publisher: Sinauer Associates
Sales Rank: 70115
Average Customer Review: 3.43 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This new edition of Animal Behavior has been completely rewritten, resulting in a more compact yet thoroughly up-to-date text. Notable is the inclusion, for the first time, of four-color photographs and illustrations throughout. Like previous editions, the book shows how evolutionary biologists analyze all aspects of behavior. It is distinguished by its balanced treatment of both the underlying mechanisms and evolutionary causes of behavior, and stresses the utility of evolutionary theory in unifying the different behavioral disciplines. Important concepts are explained by reference to key illustrative studies, which are described in sufficient detail to help students appreciate the role of the scientific process in producing research discoveries. Examples are drawn evenly from studies of invertebrates and vertebrates, and are supported by nearly 1,300 reference citations. The writing style is clear and engaging: beginning students have no difficulty following the material, despite the strong conceptual orientation of the text. Indeed, instructors consistently report a high level of enthusiasm for the book on the part of their students.

The book is organized into two major sections, one dealing with the proximate mechanisms of behavior and the other with the ultimate or evolutionary causes of behavior. The first two chapters introduce the distinction between proximate and ultimate causes in biology that is the foundation for the remaining chapters. Four subsequent chapters then take a more detailed look at different aspects of proximate bases of behavior.

The text then shifts to the other major section that covers the evolution of behavior. Making the point that each behavioral trait has an evolutionary history as well as potential current adaptive significance, the author examines the history and adaptive value of various categories of behavior, including evasion of predators, reproductive tactics and social behavior. A final chapter presents an evolutionary view of human behavior. ... Read more

Reviews (7)

5-0 out of 5 stars From sea slugs to siblings
There's benefit in starting this book at the final chapter. After all, we consider humans the most important member of the animal kingdom. A quick perusal of Chapter 15, "The Evolution of Human Behavior", introduces you to many issues within that topic. The question that must arise, is "how did we get to be that way?". To answer that question, simply turn to page 1 and start reading. The rewards gained by following John Alcock's presentation are beyond measure. He's an outstanding researcher and analyst. His writing demonstrates the importance of understanding why this book is necessary for both professional and novice. The behavioural traits he explains show the workings of evolution. We are but one of the products of that process.

Stating that Darwin's concept of evolution was a "blockbuster" of an idea, he argues it illuminates everything once you have the courage to look. He uses the concept of "proximate" and "ultimate" causes in analysing traits and deriving their origins. What we see in nature are the "proximate" causes of behaviour - how do a moth's muscles make the wings move in a particular way? The "ultimate" cause is what, if anything is gained by the action or behaviour? Answering the second question leads to a probable explanation of how evolution brought the feature about. Traits are the result of a long series of tiny steps leading to what is seen today. Alcock demonstrates that there are many influences affecting the course of evolution.

Alcock presents an array of examples neatly arranged in groupings such as environmental impact, heredity, mating and feeding. How does the ungainly seaslug discern predator approach and how does it escape? Why do so many male birds sing, and so few females? How do night-flying moths evade the sonar-equipped bat? Why is the Monarch butterfly so brilliant in colour while other butterflies and moths seem drab and muted? How do we recognize faces? The underlying question in each example is whether the observed property is a beneficial adaptation.

Every trait is subject to a balance of "benefits" and "costs" - camouflage to hide from predators may also cloak you from a possible mate. Alcock examines this balance for many species, noting that some assessments remain in dispute. Testing alternative hypotheses is a major sub-theme of this book. Considering "cost/benefit" of human behaviours is only now being undertaken, but is just as applicable to us as to other animals. What are the benefits of a social environment such as ours? What are the costs involved in maintaining this type of existence? One "cost/benefit" analysis is the evolution of "helpers". Humans long believed the rest of the animal world never exhibited altruism. Yet, now it's known that "assistance to others" can range from adoption of offspring to a variety of reciprocal trade-offs of many types across many species.

Although this book is designed as a classroom text, the writing style, illustrative material and references make it a worthy purchase for anyone. At first glance the cost of this book seems staggering. Looking at the bibliography, however, suggests you could spend this figure many times over in detailed studies. Alcock presents the work of many researchers, summarising it effectively. Further examination of a single topic is easier with the "head start" Alcock offers in many topics. The value of this book is inestimable and Alcock's frequent upgrades ensure you will be kept abreast of recent findings. With luck and effort, you might even contribute some of your own. [stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

2-0 out of 5 stars Going downhill
I used this book as a student and enjoyed it then. Years later, as a professor, I decided to switch from Krebs and Davies' text to this one for the greater number of examples. However, the lack of theoretical underpinning makes this book more of a fun read than an educational one. My students often thought "wow, thats cool" without understanding the significance. I also found the avoidance of mathematical models troubling. This is a trend I have seen in the most recent Ricklefs' Ecology text as well (which I no longer use). Beautiful photos, easy to read, lots of examples, but much too watered down. I would give this book to my parents to read to understand animal behavior, but I wont use it for a college text again.

2-0 out of 5 stars Ok. I take it back (send it back)
Every time I teach Animal Behaviour I swear that I am going to change texts "the next time" -and every time UNTIL NOW my students have said that they REALLY liked Alcock, well, the latest edition changes all that. As other reviewers have noted (and for reasons that escape me) Alcock has allowed his publisher to "dumb down" the text into a bland "pretty face" that turned students off in droves. As I moved through each chapter I kept thinking "How could someone as smart & interesting as Alcock make so many cool subjects so BORING?" Previous editions convince me that it ain't him, so it must be the publisher. Margins are huge, more and more gratuitous "illustrations" clutter up the text & break one's stream of thought, and by mid-term I essentially threw up my hands, apologized to the class & went to using the original primary sources with the book as a marginal reference for those that got lost. If you have a huge lecture course full of unimaginative students who want to take one & one only Behaviour course so that they can say that they have "done Behaviour" then this text is probably perfect for you, otherwise I would suggest haunting used book shops for past editions or going straight to the literature. the whole thing reminds me of "New Coke" -a marketing scheme that ignored its market. Alcock is an excellent scholar and in the past his book has been a great source of original material which I have encouraged my students to have on their shelves as a reference source,but this is a shame.

3-0 out of 5 stars Step backwards
Alcock's 'Animal behavior: an evolutionary approach' editions 1 through 6 have come to dominate the field. Edition 7 (without the 'evolutionary approach' on the cover) is a step backwards. The page size is larger with much white space and the pictures have been artistically coloured. Some pictures are there for entertainment and are biologically wrong (flip) p372 the asymmetric pseudoscorpion with a leg and a pedipalp segment missing. There is significantly less content (at least 20% less on the sample of pages I measured). The language is simpler, sometimes at a cost in precision. Some explanations have become 'textbook glib' where attention could/should have been drawn to the fragility of evidence (e.g. it's about time someone pointed out the influence of a single point on Baker & Bellis' human mate guarding results (p476 Fig 15 this edition)) other examples p344 - the suicidal male redback spider - fails to consider mating strategies in other closely related Latrodectus sp. and the observation the fatal flip breaks the embolus, sealing the female's reproductive tract. etc., etc.
The redesign, pretty pictures and reduction in content seems to come at the expense of a marked price hike.
In content the book is now closer to Krebs & Davies 'An introduction to behavioural ecology' which needs to be considered as an alternative for textbook adoption.
In favour of the new style is that a sample of students preferred this book on appearance.

5-0 out of 5 stars A great book!
This is a really great book for a thorough introduction to animal behavior. It's well written and well documented. One of its strengths is that, unlike some texts in behavioral ecology, it provides good coverage of the proximate mechanisms underlying patterns of animal behavior. ... Read more


5. Genetics: Analysis of Genes and Genomes
by Daniel L. Hartl, Elizabeth W. Jones
list price: $123.95
our price: $123.95
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Asin: 0763715115
Catlog: Book (2004-08)
Publisher: Jones & Bartlett Publishers
Sales Rank: 112031
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Book Description

Genetics: Analysis of Genes and Genomes, Sixth Edition by Hartl and Jones presents the modern world of genetics; treating classical, molecular, and population genetics as unified subdisciplines in a field that, even in our post-genomic era, still goes by the name "genetics." This approach to teaching genetics is a logical progression in a time when the various subdisciplines of genetics are so closely interwoven.

Written by two renowned authorities in the field, Genetics, Sixth Edition provides the most current, clear, comprehensive, and balanced introduction to genetics and genomics at the college level. It treats transmission genetics, molecular genetics, and evolutionary genetics as fully integrated subjects, and provides students with an unprecedented understanding of the basic processes of gene transmission, mutation, expression, and regulation. The text also explores the connections between modern and historical experimental methods used by geneticists, and offers valuable insight into the important historical and social context of genetics and genomics. ... Read more


6. Icons of Evolution: Science or Myth? Why Much of What We Teach About Evolution is Wrong
by Jonathan Wells, Jody F. Sjogren
list price: $18.95
our price: $18.95
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Asin: 0895262002
Catlog: Book (2002-01)
Publisher: Regnery Publishing
Sales Rank: 58338
Average Customer Review: 3.07 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (118)

4-0 out of 5 stars Fair, accurate, and well-reasoned--up to a point.
I detest creationism. I'm an agnostic. I have a degree in zoology.

This is a good book.

Jonathan Wells' motives may well be suspect, and the purpose of this book may well be to supply ammunition for creationists who want to attack their local school curricula. According to an article by Wells on a Unification Church website, http://www.tparents.org/library/unification/talks/wells/DARWIN.htm , "Father's words, my studies, and my prayers convinced me that I should devote my life to destroying Darwinism."

It doesn't matter.

This is a good, well-written, cogently argued book. Up until about page 229, I think what it says is accurate and reasonably fair. It is a good example of critical discussion.

Well's "icons of evolution" are well-known textbook examples of supposed facts that support the Neodarwinian theory of evolution: industrial melanism, Darwin's finches, etc. I don't think see how you can challenge him here; these are not straw men, these really are the "textbook examples."

Wells proceeds to argue that each of these "facts" is misinformation or worse. And I think his critiques are quite justifiable.

He also asserts that these "facts" are widely known to be faulty, yet continue to be repeated in textbooks. He implies strongly that the reason for this is that there is an extrascientific agenda at work. Here we get into murkier waters, but, yes, I believe that pressure from religious dogmatists has forced evolutionists into a dogmatism of their own. Scientists have been too willing to circle the wagons and present a united public front against the creationists.

I've read a number of articles that attack this book, and I think most of them do not succeed very well. For example, Wells points out, correctly enough, that the textbook photographs of _Biston betularia_ on light and dark-colored tree-trunks are all but fake. What can possibly be said in defense of faked photographs in textbooks? That it doesn't matter, because many other textbook pictures are also fake? That many nature photographs might best be described as posed illustrations of true facts? Or (worst of all) that if something is true it is OK to use inaccurate but memorable pictures to illustrate it?

School committee members may fear, perhaps justifiably, that irate citizens are going demand that school biology textbooks be labelled with the "warning labels" he so helpfully provides in Appendix II. And certainly the notion of "warning labels for textbooks" is a politically charged attack.

But even the actual text of his "warning labels" is reasonable enough: ("WARNING: Archaeopterix is probably not the ancestor of modern birds, and its own ancestors remain highly controversial; other missing links are now being sought;" "WARNING: Darwin's tree of live does not fit the fossil record of the Cambrian explosion, and molecular evidence does not support a simple branching-tree pattern.")

Perhaps Wells is a dogmatist who is cleverly feigning the spirit of free inquiry in order to make an effective attack. And quite possibly Wells deserves to be attacked _ad hominem_. But I think it is best to speak to the actual words he puts on the page.

And I can go with him at least as far as page 229. I say if he's right, he's right-and-up to page 229-I think he IS right, by and large, for the most part.

5-0 out of 5 stars Shocking Exposè of Evolutionary Myths
After an in-person interview with Jonathan Wells on this book, several things stand out to make this book shockingly significant: 1) The 10 beloved evolutionary icons (popular examples of "evidence" purportedly showing the validity of Darwinian macro-evolution) are all known to be misleading if not flat out fraudulent -- even within the ranks of Darwinian and neo-Darwinian scholars. 2) Wells points out that the continued use of these "icons" in biology text books (and he names titles and publishers - to their shame!) betrays a metaphysical agenda that bears no resemblance to objective science. And lastly, 3) Wells is no raving creationism propagandist. With his double doctorates (Yale and Berkeley), his scholarship is exemplary, and for those who care to know a little more about the authors of the books they read, he has a genuine warmth and friendliness not often associated with "scholarly types." Considering the propagation of the faulty examples of Darwinian evolution listed in the biology texts today, this book is a step toward a badly needed corrective toward a more honest and objective reading of biological science.

4-0 out of 5 stars To see the book for what it is...
There are plenty of other books written recently that directly challenge evolutionary theory. In my view, the importance of this book isn't to prove evolution is false, but to reveal the zealous propagation of the so-called "facts" of evolution. That many textbooks today that still use these eroneous "icons" to demonstrate the "facts" of evolution is exactly what the author claims: misleading. Students have been taught to be uncritical of evolution from textbooks that use these misrepresentations.

A better approach, though perhaps an unpopular compromise in the view of evolutionists is the "Teach the Controversy" proposal recently adopted by the State Board of Education of Ohio. Interestingly, National Academy of Sciences president Bruce Alberts has recently and fervently opposed "Teach the Controversy". And in Wells' book, he quotes the Academy's booklet on science teaching:

"This process of public scrutiny... is an essential part of science. It works to eliminate individual bias and subjectivity, because others must also be able to determine whether a proposed explanation is consistent with the available evidence."

One might wonder why all the fuss over adoption of critical evalutation of evolutionary theory if indeed there is no evidence against it? Maybe they are a bit worried that recent polls have shown that the public is overwhelmingly open to "Teaching the Controversy"? Another example is the Ohio ACLU, which has launched an investigation and threatened a lawsuit over "Teach the Controversy" (see: http://www.acluohio.org). If one steps back from the details of the debate, perhaps it really is plain to see that many evolutionists are not even open to critical analysis of their "theory".

Note, then, the long history of misleading "icons" that Wells documents in the book. When these errors were originally uncovered (which was long before this book was written), were the textbooks changed to correct them? Or were they silently ignored and left uncorrected in order to stymie criticism of supposed "fact"? In the introduction of the book, Wells acknowledges that "In several cases, they [contributors to his research] chose anonymity because their careers might suffer at the hands of people who strongly disagree with the conclusions of this book." This remark is highly believable when you consider the responses that have been written to this book including reviews here at Amazon and in the scientific community as well.

1-0 out of 5 stars Garbage!
This book's arguments are completely dishonest. It is based on a complete lack of understanding of the theory of evolution that is horribly tainted by blatantly unwarranted faith in mythical creation. Evolution is upheld by EVIDENCE, which is something creationism does not have. As with ALL scientific theories there can be disagreements and discussion and changes as evidence, technology and science themselves evolve. Even if some grand discovery somehow proved evolution to be incorrect it does not mean that creationism would become true by default. Creationism is not based on any kind of science. It is the distortion of truth to make it fit within the bounds of biblical myth. It is very unfortunate that christians who claim to uphold the truth are so willing to ignore facts and fabricate their own form of "science" in order to propogate lies. The bible is NOT a science book. It is not even a history book. It is a book of myths. Man made fairy tales. The supporters of creationism wish to return us to the Dark Ages where all facts are derived from the bible and all who disagree are tortured and burned to death by the church. It is very sad that more christians do not see that they are self decieved.

4-0 out of 5 stars Interesting perspective; needs better writing....
Just finished this book, and thought it was interesting, but not nearly as intersting as the venom it has stirred up here on the review boards. As I understood the text, Wells is not attempting to provide an alternative explanation to Darwinism, but rather point out the near-dogmatic fervor to which strict Darwinists adhere to the theory (despite the flaws of that theory).

I wish there had been better examples than Wells himself provides; he does a good job of debunking the public myths of Darwinism, but doesn't offer any explanation as to why Darwinism is so widely accepted. Surely there must be some substantive evidence other than a simple knee-jerk reaction to the possibility of intelligent design.

What I find most provocative about this book (despite its limitations) is that Wells doesn't attempt to phrase the argument in terms of evolution-vs-creationism (as many reviews here seem to do); rather, he attempts to dissect Darwinism based solely on the content of the messages in the public sphere. This opens up the discussion to alternate perspectives, neither pure Creationistic or neo-Darwinistic in nature. ... Read more


7. Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution of Human Sexuality (Science Masters)
by Jared M. Diamond
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Catlog: Book (1998-11-01)
Publisher: Basic Books
Sales Rank: 16683
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Reviews (16)

3-0 out of 5 stars Why Sex is Sex
There is a minor truth-in-advertising issue regarding Why Is Sex Fun?: The Evolution of Human Sexuality, by physiologist Jared Diamond: The title question is never really addressed. The true theme seems to be How Sex Came to be Sex as We Know It. Not that this isn't interesting in its own right, of course. It's just that the original question is worthy of discussion too.

Why is Sex Fun? reads like a lecture series rather than a book. Apparently intended to provide the reader with an overview of the latest thinking on the evolutionary aspects of the subject, this short work includes sections on different sexual (and mate) selection strategies employed by males and females (presumably based on unequal "investments" in the methods of getting one's genes into the next generation); lactation (why milk is produced by females, but not, as a rule, males); how and why humans, almost uniquely, came to engage in engage in recreational sex; the unequal domestic roles played by males and females, particularly in child rearing; female menopause (which is, again, nearly unique to humans); and sexual signaling (Diamond considers penis length in human males to be a prime example, but not necessarily a signal directed at females).

As fascinating as these subjects are, there is much more that is left out. Any full discussion of human sexuality, especially with the high-order concept of "fun" in its presumed abstract, needs to deal with that odd species' whole gamut of non-procreational expression: homosexuality, old-age love, and sex-as-power, for non-inclusive example. But Why is Sex Fun? treats the very large subject of recreational sex only from the "selfish gene" point of view. Even then, there is at least one major methodological criticism: Most evolutionary biologists and evolutionary psychologists go to great lengths to bring out the importance of "ancestral environment". That is, gene-based behavioral tendencies have evolved over a great deal of time, so it doesn't do a lot of good to consider them only from the standpoint of a modern participant. This problem crops up in Diamond's discussion of male hunting strategies. In a modern hunter-gatherer society, men typically go for the "big kill" (a large mammal, for instance), while women are more content to gather roots and so on. Diamond makes the point that the male strategy makes no sense nutritionally, so the answer must be found in differential sexual strategies. However, the possibility is not mentioned that hunting patterns may have evolved when big game was, in fact, rather more plentiful than it is today.

All this is a pity, because we know, from the author's other works (especially the wonderfully told Guns, Germs, and Steel), that he is quite capable of a fully formed presentation. Sex deserves it.

4-0 out of 5 stars Why This Book is Fun
This short work by the author of the classic "Guns, Germs, and Steel" seeks to explain the evolutionary paths of distinctive human sexual characteristics. It does not, however, attempt to explain all sexual behavior in humans, focusing instead on general sexual behavior between men and women. Masturbation, homosexuality, and many other types of sexual behavior are not touched upon here, so if you find any of them fun, you will have to look elsewhere for reasons explaining why.

Humans have several sexual traits that, even if not unique, are still highly unusual in animal species -- concealed ovulation in females, near constant female receptivity to sex, recreational sex, and female menopause. Diamond shows the most likely evolutionary explanations for why humans possess these traits. Some of the explanations are more plausible than others, but almost all of the arguments are interesting to read.

As usual, Diamond writes well; the book is clear and concise and can be finished in an evening. Also, as usual, Diamond can't help but let his politics show in his writing; in one chapter, he gives a bizarre boost to male lactation and the notion that men might someday help their wives breastfeed their young.

1-0 out of 5 stars Weak as lolly water...
Why are others so impressed with this book? Beats the heck outa me - the book is *speculative* - and the author admits it right up front in the preface. Yet I have seen it referred to as an authority on sexuality - go figure.

Diamond spends much time discussing the sexual habits of other species but never really shows why this is relevant or instructive in connection with human sexuality. He demonstrates that human sexuality is different from that of other species: But so what? How does that advance our understanding of sexuality in humans? Diamond is unable or unwilling to elucidate. A strictly lightweight book suitable only as a coffee table decoration.

The bottom line: The author does not even answer his own question posed in the title. Why is sex fun? Read this and you will be none the wiser...

4-0 out of 5 stars A quickie from Diamond
A short, fun book from physiologist Diamond. Not up to the standard of the Third Chimpanzee or Guns, germs and steel, but a worthwile addition to the Science Masters series

3-0 out of 5 stars A fun read, but not as fun as sex!
While reading this book, one cannot help but compare it with Diamond's earlier works, in particular, Guns, germs and steel (GGS). While GGS comes across as a work of a life time, this book seems hastily written, to cash in on GGS's fame. Now, don't get me wrong, there are a lot of interesting trivia that you end up learning about sexuality: both human and animal. However, the fundamental theme of "Why sex is fun?" seems to be lost amidst all the interesting trivia. The facts, theories and hypotheses about sexuality in the book resemble more a program on MTV with fast and random style editing and closeup shots that lacks a principally sound story. Having said all this, I would still recommend that the book be read, since it throws interesting light on a topic that occupies a good part of human thought and behavior: Sex. ... Read more


8. Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devo and the Making of the Animal Kingdom
by Sean B. Carroll
list price: $25.95
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Asin: 0393060160
Catlog: Book (2005-04-11)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 2709
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Book Description

What Brian Greene did for string theory, Sean Carroll—a leading biologist—does for Evo Devo.

Evo Devo is evolutionary developmental biology, the third revolution in evolutionary biology. The first was marked by the publication of The Origin of Species. The second occurred in the early twentieth century, when Darwin's theories were merged with the study of genetics. Now the insights of Evo Devo are astonishing the biology world by showing how the endless forms of animals—butterflies and zebras, trilobites and dinosaurs, apes and humans, are made and evolved.

Perhaps the most surprising finding of Evo Devo is the discovery that a small number of primitive genes led to the formation of fundamental organs and appendages in all animal forms. The gene that causes humans to form arms and legs is the same gene that causes birds and insects to form wings, and fish to form fins; similarly, one ancient gene has led to the creation of eyes across the animal kingdom. Changes in the way this ancient tool kit of genes is used have created all the diversity that surrounds us.

Sean Carroll is the ideal author to lead the curious on this intellectual adventure—he is the acknowledged leader of the field, and his seminal discoveries have been featured in Time and The New York Times. 16 pages of color and 100 black-and-white illustrations. ... Read more


9. Not By Genes Alone : How Culture Transformed Human Evolution
by Peter J. Richerson, Robert Boyd
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Asin: 0226712842
Catlog: Book (2004-12-31)
Publisher: University Of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 4332
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Humans are a striking anomaly in the natural world. While we are similar to other mammals in many ways, our behavior sets us apart. Our unparalleled ability to adapt has allowed us to occupy virtually every habitat on earth using an incredible variety of tools and subsistence techniques. Our societies are larger, more complex, and more cooperative than any other mammal's. In this stunning exploration of human adaptation, Peter J. Richerson and Robert Boyd argue that only a Darwinian theory of cultural evolution can explain these unique characteristics.

Not by Genes Alone offers a radical interpretation of human evolution, arguing that our ecological dominance and our singular social systems stem from a psychology uniquely adapted to create complex culture. Richerson and Boyd illustrate here that culture is neither superorganic nor the handmaiden of the genes. Rather, it is essential to human adaptation, as much a part of human biology as bipedal locomotion. Drawing on work in the fields of anthropology, political science, sociology, and economics--and building their case with such fascinating examples as kayaks, corporations, clever knots, and yams that require twelve men to carry them--Richerson and Boyd convincingly demonstrate that culture and biology are inextricably linked, and they show us how to think about their interaction in a way that yields a richer understanding of human nature.

In abandoning the nature-versus-nurture debate as fundamentally misconceived, Not by Genes Alone is a truly original and groundbreaking theory of the role of culture in evolution and a book to be reckoned with for generations to come.

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Reviews (4)

4-0 out of 5 stars Great article in NY Times
The Science section for 5/10/05 had a great review and discussion of this book and its concepts.Made me order toot sweet.
http://query.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=F30814FA39540C738DDDAC0894DD404482&incamp=archive:search

DPS/Seattle

3-0 out of 5 stars Gently bashing the straw man
Some years ago, Richard Dawkins published "The Selfish Gene", explaining how gene survival was fundamental in natural selection.He also coined the term "meme" to explain the dissemination of ideas across societies.Almost immediately, there was a strident chorus of objection, based on the theme of "you can't say that about humans!"The outcry hasn't ceased, but in the case of Richerson and Boyd, it's become somewhat muted.This book is designed to gently persuade you that human evolution rests on a solid "cultural" base.Biology is under there somewhere, but for humanity, cultural impact overwhelms our genetic roots.

The authors would like to abandon the dichotomy of what's usually referred to as the "nature versus nurture" debate.That's admirable, but not only has that contest been challenged elsewhere, finding anyone adhering to either position as an absolute is difficult, if not impossible.Who claims "genes" are the sole behaviour drive?Not even religions, the most dogmatic element in our society, any longer label infants as "blank slates" to be moulded at will.Individuality and expression may be curtailed, but not constrained.Yet that curtailment, even if only mindless imitation, is the foundation of this book.Instead of the chaos of individual response to environmental pressures, "culture" guides behaviour to the extent that groups become predictable in their activities.For them, "culture" is a sort of behavioural umbrella keeping families and small communities from unravelling the fabric of society.

Richerson and Boyd gather a wide spectrum of studies to erect their cultural edifice.They examine studies of social animals, scrutinise the grim world of economics and wonder how it is that of all species, human beings filled nearly every environmental niche.They accept the complexity of human society as naturally hierarchical.That organisation, coupled with a strong imitative/cooperative sense enabled our species to readily adapt to so many ecological niches.Where some say, "If it works, don't fix it!", Richerson and Boyd counter, "If it works, imitate it!"Human beings, they contend, are better imitators than other species because we can judge long-term impacts of actions.This talent, coupled with language, provides our unique adaptability in varied environments.We can test for success and pass our findings to our neighbours.This gives groups within our species both unique abilities and the means to improve them.Not all of humanity is but one culture.It's a melange of groups, each culture representing a regional or social norm.

"Group selection" is the offshoot of an older, flawed, evolutionary concept - "species selection".With the idea of "species selection" quickly demonstrated as false, group selection arose to replace it.A close look at group selection reveals that it's but another mechanism to keep humanity separated from the remainder of the animal kingdom.If you downplay any similarities between us and other beasts, you are able to retain a "divine spark" or other metaphysical notions for humanity.And only humanity.Richerson and Boyd's use of animal behaviour studies to ameliorate this distinction are a welcome addition to social studies.However, these examples are carefully selected and interpreted by the authors.They aren't set in an evolutionary context, but are given solely as a contrast to the also carefully chosen aspects of human behaviour.The book raises a number of interesting questions, but answers few of them satisfactorily.[stephen a. haines - Ottawa, Canada]

4-0 out of 5 stars Evolution's Trajectory
I purchased "Not by Genes Alone" because it promised to further develop the concept of `evolution's trajectory' explored in chapters 11 & 12 of my book, "Concepts: A ProtoTheist Quest for Science-Minded Skeptics." The concept of evolution's trajectory is an expansion of the idea that we are a `hybrid species' which I first came across in reading Merlin Donald's "A Mind So Rare." For example, just as the spider's web is an extension of, and essential to, the spider; our culture is an extension of, and essential to, us. Spiders' organisms co-evolved along with their webs, one just as important as the other, as a kind of hybrid. So too our organism co-evolved along with our culture; `culture' defined, not only as language, music &c, but as tools (clothing, shelter, weapons and other artifacts) and social institutions. So we need to view human evolution as a hybrid, not just in our organism but also in our culture, which now is `evolving' at an accelerating rate in runaway materialism. But whereas spiders and their webs evolved by random variation, we largely `invent' the variations in our culture. Thus we're now more or less in charge of our evolution; evolution is no longer `blind', we can be evolution's `eyes'.We now have the potential to direct evolution's trajectory.

Richerson & Boyd in their "Not by Genes Alone" use a narrower definition of culture: "Culture is information capable of affecting individuals' behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation, and other forms of social transmission." (p.5) "Culture is ... stored and manipulated in human brains." (p.7) Eventho later they use the caption "Technology is culture, not environment" (p.29) their principal focus is on the social aspects of culture. Their thesis is that genes and culture co-evolve. "In the short run, cultural evolution, partly driven by ancient and tribal social instincts [in genes] and partly by selection among culturally variable groups, gave rise to the institutions we observe. In the longer run, cultural evolutionary processes create an environment that led to the evolution of uniquely human social instincts [in genes]." (p.235)

But Richerson & Boyd seem to largely ignore the technical aspects of our culture which today are evolving at an accelerating rate much faster than, and driving the evolution of, the social aspects. On the one hand, how do our Pleistocene instincts (genes) equip us to use artifacts such as cars, computers and cell-phones, and on the other hand, how can these artifacts lead to the evolution of new instincts (genes) in such a short evolutionary timescale? The first answer may be the plasticity of our neocortex, especially in youth. The second answer may come from future technology that will develop and install new genes in humans which equip us to better deal with our accelerating technology.

Another quibble: Richerson & Boyd, as do many authors, explain altruism by kin-selection and reciprocity, but fail to credit the desire of some individuals to improve humans' understanding and circumstances. Yet they themselves in writing this book are advancing human understanding, perhaps to some extent for selfish reasons such as prestige &c, but also for altruist reasons having little to do with kin-selection and reciprocity, nor presumably with attracting mates.

So "Not by Genes Alone" is worth reading to understand the co-evolution of genes and social culture, but doesn't provide much insight to help us direct the more crucial technical aspects of evolution's trajectory. We live in interesting times, perhaps on the cusp of a radical shift in our culture.

5-0 out of 5 stars Homo Sapiens 101
In the concluding pages of this book, Richerson and Boyd observe that universities have introductory courses in psychology, sociology, economics and political science in which students "are encouraged to think that the study of humans can be divided into isolated chunks corresponding to these historical fields." There is, however, no Homo Sapiens 1 or 101, "a complete introduction to the whole problem of understanding human behavior." The authors note that the chief reason no such course exist is "that the key integrative fields have not yet developed in the social sciences" and that "a proper evolutionary theory of culture should make a major contribution to the unification of the social sciences. Not only does it allow a smooth integration of the human sciences with the rest of biology, it also provides a framework for linking the human sciences to one another." I believe that such an evolutionary theory can and should integrate the social sciences with each other and biology and that this book could and should serve as the foundational text for Homo Sapiens 101.

There are dozens of books available employing evolutionary thinking to humans, the large majority of which do not offer a "proper evolutionary theory" because they neglect the most obvious and unique feature of our species--our culture, information affecting behavior acquired from other humans through social transmission. This failure results from a steadfast dedication to accounting for human behavior in terms of principles applicable to the prosocial behavior of other species, kin selection and reciprocity. In an attempt to not stray from "orthodox" neo-Darwinism, neo-Darwinians have failed to fully acknowledge, let alone explain, the most salient feature of our species--a fact that "social contructivists" use to dismiss evolutionary theory. Richerson and Boyd recognize the "ancient social instincts" of kin altruism and reciprocity but they also acknowledge and give appropriate attention to what they call the "tribal social instincts." These instincts, which probably emerged during the dramatic climate variations of the late Pleistocene, allow members of our species to identify with, dedicate themselves to, and take normative direction from, groups of people that include hundreds to thousands of people beyond kin and friends. These tribal instincts are accommodated in complex societies such as our own through "work-arounds," institutions such as religious organizations, political parties, voluntary associations and other symbolically marked groups that exploit our inclination toward particularistic community attachment. Originally, though, these instincts coevolved in a ratcheting process with our language, capacity for perspective taking, morality, religion and "culture" broadly conceived. We are a thoroughly unique groupish species and the only species on which group selection of cultural variants has played a role. As Richerson and Boyd argue, genes and culture have coevolved within our species. Culture has been primary in the environment selecting features of our genotype. Those humans incapable of cooperating in tribal settings were ostracized and were unlikely to find mates. They were less likely than cooperators to survive and reproduce. Culture has molded our genetic make-up just as our genes have directed the development of our culture.

I do not have space here to outline Richerson and Boyd's theory of cultural evolution beyond noting that population thinking plays as prominent a role as it did in Darwin's thought. I can say that unlike their landmark book, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (1985), this book is accessible to any adult with a three digit IQ. I can also note that the authors are both modest and civil toward those with whom they disagree--characteristics that portray their training in the natural sciences instead of the social sciences. They are quick to acknowledge when empirical evidence is currently lacking to substantiate claims they are making, and they are always generous to their intellectual opponents. For example, they acknowledge Richard Dawkin's contributions to evolutionary theory, while demonstrating the deficiencies of his "meme" theory of culture; they faithfully reproduce the arguments of evolutionary psychologists concerning domain-specific mental modules, while showing the dangers of overly-adaptationist accounts of our mental mechanisms; and in their discussions of various religious groups--Mormons, Catholics, the Amish, Hutterites, and the earliest Christians--Richerson and Boyd are deeply respectful of religious believers, something utterly missing in the writings of non-believers such as Richard Dawkins. This respectful attitude issues not from an impulse to pander but, rather, from an appreciation for our species-wide groupish tendencies and the accomplishments of symbolically marked groups, religious and otherwise.

Perhaps the largest contribution this book will make if it attains the number of readers it deserves is that it provides Darwinians and social constuctivists in the social sciences and the humanities grounds for common discussion and possible agreement. This is no small feat given the tendency of these symbolically marked groups to deem their in-group members angelic and those in the out-group moronic, if not demonic.
Brad Lowell Stone
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10. The Third Chimpanzee : The Evolution and Future of the Human Animal
by Jared M. Diamond
list price: $15.00
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Asin: 0060984031
Catlog: Book (1992-12-02)
Publisher: Perennial
Sales Rank: 2950
Average Customer Review: 4.47 out of 5 stars
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Jared Diamond states the theme of his book up-front: "How the human species changed, within a short time, from just another species of big mammal to a world conqueror; and how we acquired the capacity to reverse all that progress overnight." The Third Chimpanzee is, in many ways, a prequel to Diamond's prize-winning Guns, Germs, and Steel. While Guns examines "the fates of human societies," this work surveys the longer sweep of human evolution, from our origin as just another chimpanzee a few million years ago. Diamond writes:

It's obvious that humans are unlike all animals. It's also obvious that we're a species of big mammal down to the minutest details of our anatomy and our molecules. That contradiction is the most fascinating feature of the human species.

The chapters in The Third Chimpanzee on the oddities of human reproductive biology were later expanded in Why Is Sex Fun? Here, they're linked to Diamond's views of human psychology and history.

Diamond is officially a physiologist at UCLA medical school, but he's also one of the best birdwatchers in the world. The current scientific consensus that "primitive" humans created ecological catastrophes in the Pacific islands, Australia, and the New World owes a great deal to his fieldwork and insight. In Diamond's view, the current global ecological crisis isn't due to modern technology per se, but to basic weaknesses in human nature. But, he says, "I'm cautiously optimistic. If we will learn from our past that I have traced, our own future may yet prove brighter than that of the other two chimpanzees."--Mary Ellen Curtin ... Read more

Reviews (57)

5-0 out of 5 stars A fascinating and important book...
After trying to read _Guns, Germs, and Steel_, I found this book, surprisingly, easier to get interested in and understand. Not that it's simpler or dumbed-down!

The book tries to answer the questions of what it means to be human, and how we are different from other life forms. This might sound like a cliché, but as Diamond delves into ethics, sex, history, evolution, and drug abuse, and comes out with his grim but guardedly optimistic conclusions, it seems apparent to me, at least, that what he is saying is of utmost importance to everyone in the world.

Having read the book _Ishmael_, by Daniel Quinn, a few years ago, I wonder if Diamond's thinking could actually be improved by being combined with Quinn's. Diamond suggests that, when prehistoric societies drove certain animals to extinction, they were acting out a human tendency to be destructive to our local environments that is simply horribly intensified today. Quinn suggests that some of those prehistoric societies were not particularly more destructive than other animals, and for the same reasons; while other, more civilized societies had the tendency to be destructive because of their cultures' inclinations, and passed this tendency on to us, their cultural descendants.

Of course, if Quinn is correct, our culture must be changed, a daunting task; while if Diamond is correct, the solution is unclear. He suggests that we may in fact be learning to change our behavior, in our own self-interest. I don't see much evidence of this offhand. (Although recent books by Paul Hawken and Ray C. Anderson suggest that business can be reformed in a way that's good both economically and ecologically; they're next on my reading list!) Quinn and Diamond alike offer a very cautious hope for our ecological future: that we may learn from the errors of the past and change our behavior accordingly.

But how easy it is to sit and type platitudes about the fate of all human life! Read the book; I'm going to reread it myself, in order to thoroughly take in its meaning. If anyone is interested in discussing these topics, please email me.

5-0 out of 5 stars A Captivating Work
I read this book just after I finished GGS and at some aspects, I liked it even more than the much celebrated GGS.

At each chapter of the Third Chimpanzee we learn a totally new subject in the Jared Diamond style: a well-thought synthesis, a simple and organized presentation. Every other twenty pages was a new adventure for me.

Obviously, this might not be the case for other readers that are more acquainted with evolution readings, and obviously I need a lot to learn before I can decide their authenticity but I found his ideas on subjects like extraterrestrial life and evolution of drug abuse very original and provoking. I also found his narration of the issues of Indo-European Languages spreading, mate selection, animal art and genocide very moving and comprehensive.

A surprise for me was that this book tells the main concept of GGS thoroughly in just two chapters. Given the occasionally criticized redundancy and large volume of GGS, I might humbly suggest a prospective reader of Diamond who has limited time to read this book instead of GGS. For sure, GGS gives a much better and extensive treatise of the concept and it is also a must read book for anybody who wants to put a perspective to human history. Third Chimpanzee also gives a perspective to human psychology and I sincerely recommend it to anybody interested in these two subjects.

4-0 out of 5 stars Thought-provoking
This is a very worthwhile read for anyone interested in how man differs and does not differ from the rest of the animal kingdom (particularly the great apes). Since the book is already over ten years old, it is a bit weak on new advances in genetics and does not seem to be up-to-date on the Clovis debate about the peopling of the Americas (new genetic data showing that the entrance was probably earlier than the assumed 12,000 years ago). However, the bulk of the book is a very mind-broadening, timeless view of homo sapiens and this species conquest of the entire planet. The history that Diamond portrays does not augur well for mankind: habitual destruction of the environment; mass extinctions of other species; increasingly limited genetic diversity in the human species; the propensity for genocide. In short, Diamond shows that man has a history of selfishly expanding its population to the detriment of the very environment upon which he depends and that this proclivity could someday spell the end of the species as our numbers continue to rise. Some sobering facts are offered here; and open minds should recognize them and heed them.

I only give the book four stars for two reasons:
1) As mentioned, the part on genetics is partially out of date and should be made current in a further edition.
2) Diamond has a number of annoying tendencies that are sometimes frustrating: I grew weary of his "Outer Space" perspectives (i.e., the paleontologist from Outer Space, the archaeologist from Outer Space, the biologist from Outer Space), as if the reader were incapable of standing back and gaining perspective on his own species without this trick. Also, he piqued my curiosity on a number of subjects that he promised to cover in detail later. When thse subjects finally came, there were often more questions than answers.

5-0 out of 5 stars Absolutely FASCINATING!!!
Jared Diamond has to be one of my favorite authors. I could hardly put this book down! After reading "Guns, Germs and Steel," and "Why is Sex Fun?", "The Third Chimpanzee" has also proven to be yet another brilliant work by the author. He asks questions and looks at angles that are fascinating and provide almost endless food-for-thought. He approaches his subjects with open-mindedness and a true desire to uncover the truth.
Human evolution and early human history is a mysterious subject with much of the pieces missing, simply because of how long ago it happened and the lifestyle of those early humans. Yet it is such an important subject-- to understand WHAT homo sapiens really are, how we fit in with the other members of our family tree, how we got to be the way we are. Mr. Diamond applies his experience with hunter-gatherer New Guinian peoples to try to fill in these gaping holes. For thousands of years, all humans lived as hunter-gatherers, yet today it is a lifestyle that is becoming increasingly rare. He also provides insight into our physical evolution, sexual and reproductive evolution, the evolution of language and communication, and how our closest current relatives --the chimps and gorillas-- differ from and are similar to us. He also discusses what he terms "our Great Leap Forward"-- the point were we stopped being pre-human and started being (mentally and behaviorly) modern.
If you are at all interested in early human history and the "whys" and "hows" of many of our "human" characteristics, then this book is for you. You'll find Mr. Diamond's open, honest approach refreshing and easy to follow. Excellent book on understanding what it means to be human, and how we got that way.

5-0 out of 5 stars An amazing puzzle of a book
Challenges the intellect and provokes deep thought. ... Read more


11. The Case of the Female Orgasm : Bias in the Science of Evolution,
by Elisabeth A. Lloyd
list price: $27.95
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Asin: 0674017064
Catlog: Book (2005-04-22)
Publisher: Harvard University Press
Sales Rank: 4182
Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Why women evolved to have orgasms--when most of their primate relatives don't--is a persistent mystery among evolutionary biologists. In pursuing this mystery, Elisabeth Lloyd arrives at another: How could anything as inadequate as the evolutionary explanations of the female orgasm have passed muster as science? A judicious and revealing look at all twenty evolutionary accounts of the trait of human female orgasm, Lloyd's book is at the same time a case study of how certain biases steer science astray.

Over the past fifteen years, the effect of sexist or male-centered approaches to science has been hotly debated. Drawing especially on data from nonhuman primates and human sexology over eighty years, Lloyd shows what damage such bias does in the study of female orgasm. She also exposes a second pernicious form of bias that permeates the literature on female orgasms: a bias toward adaptationism. Here Lloyd's critique comes alive, demonstrating how most of the evolutionary accounts either are in conflict with, or lack, certain types of evidence necessary to make their cases--how they simply assume that female orgasm must exist because it helped females in the past reproduce. As she weighs the evidence, Lloyd takes on nearly everyone who has written on the subject: evolutionists, animal behaviorists, and feminists alike. Her clearly and cogently written book is at once a convincing case study of bias in science and a sweeping summary and analysis of what is known about the evolution of the intriguing trait of female orgasm.

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Reviews (2)

2-0 out of 5 stars Interesting, but obtuse.
Lloyd's argument is persuasive as far as it goes -- she argues very convincingly that female orgasm is not adaptive towards the same purpose as male orgasm.She fails, however, to demonstrate conclusively that there are NO adaptational values for the big O, or that even if it did develop as an epiphenomenon, it persisted because it provided benefit -- at the very least, there's extensive psychological research behind the idea that "happy" people (and if you don't think sexual satisfaction contributes to overall happiness and ability to cope with stress, you need to get laid) tend to become more successful over time in various regards (collecting wealth, receiving social approval, etc) which can play into reproductive success.

She seems to willfully ignore the social bonding role of sexuality both in human societies with looser taboos than our own, and in our near-relatives, the bonobos.She bases part of her argument for orgasm-as-epiphenomenon on the fact that pure-vaginal orgasm (i.e. without clitoral stimulation) is rare, ignoring the fact that only in the most prudish societies does one find sexuality restricted entirely to vaginal intercourse, with no "foreplay" or non-reproductive "recreational" sexual behavior.(And again, observation of related primates suggests that recreational sex is far from aberrational.)

Worst of all, even though she plainly supports the basics of evolutionary theory, she seems utterly unaware that her attacks on adaptationists -- who DO overstate their case, and spin just-so stories, and SHOULD be criticized at times -- will inevitably be yanked out of context by obscurantists.

The book does a grave disservice to Lloyd's field of study.

5-0 out of 5 stars Comprehensive and astute
Elisabeth's A. Lloyd's book is a comprehensive survey of the theories and conjectures that try to explain the evolutional basis for the female orgasm. It is extremely well argued, and convincely rips into the biases of those who have proposed various adaptational (versus exaptational) accounts. Lloyd shows how theorists have misconstrued and ignored research into human female orgasm and primate female orgasm when drawing their conclusions,and makes a convincing case that many theorists started out with an a-priori notion that human female orgasm has to be adaptive. This book is great documentation in one area on how biased scientists can be, how undisciplined their reasoning can be, and how much this invalidates their conclusions. And the upshot is,if scientists are biased on this subject, how many more areas of research are they biased about? ... Read more


12. Genetics:From Genes to Genomes
by LelandHartwell, LeroyHood, Michael L. Goldberg, Lee M. Silver, Ruth C. Veres, AnnReynolds
list price: $123.12
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Asin: 0072462485
Catlog: Book (2003-03-04)
Publisher: McGraw-Hill Science/Engineering/Math
Sales Rank: 147937
Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Genetics: From Genes to Genomes is a cutting-edge,introductory genetics text authored by an unparalleled author team, including Nobel Prize winner, Leland Hartwell.The Second Edition continues to build upon the integration of Mendelian and molecular principles, providing students with the links between early genetics understanding and the new molecular discoveries that have changed the way the field of genetics is viewed. ... Read more

Reviews (2)

5-0 out of 5 stars Glad to have it!
This is a very well-written book, providing a modern coverage of an important area in biology, namely genetics. The novel aspect of the book is its new and molecular biology approach. Thus, modern genomic advances can be brought into bear on genetics. Yes, of course, the system biology approach has been exposed in this very cutting edge book. You should love to have a copy of it and learn the wisdom from some of the most well-known experts in Seattle.

4-0 out of 5 stars Genetics concepts well understood
Excellent book that goes in depth to the science of genetics. ... Read more


13. The Blind Watchmaker: Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe Without Design
by Richard Dawkins
list price: $15.95
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Asin: 0393315703
Catlog: Book (1996-09-01)
Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company
Sales Rank: 1474
Average Customer Review: 3.69 out of 5 stars
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Richard Dawkins is not a shy man. Edward Larson's research shows that most scientists today are not formally religious, but Dawkins is an in-your-face atheist in the witty British style:

I want to persuade the reader, not just that the Darwinian world-view happens to be true, but that it is the only known theory that could, in principle, solve the mystery of our existence.

The title of this 1986 work, Dawkins's second book, refers to the Rev.William Paley's 1802 work, Natural Theology, which argued that just as finding a watch would lead you to conclude that a watchmaker must exist, the complexity of living organisms proves that a Creator exists. Not so, says Dawkins: "All appearances to the contrary, the only watchmaker in nature is the blind forces of physics, albeit deployed in a very special way... it is the blind watchmaker."

Dawkins is a hard-core scientist: he doesn't just tell you what is so, he shows you how to find out for yourself. For this book, he wrote Biomorph, one of the first artificial life programs. You can check Dawkins's results on your own Mac or PC. ... Read more

Reviews (234)

4-0 out of 5 stars very good book (with patience)
I've wanted to read this book for years because I find the intricacies and nuances of evolution fascinating, and I've always admired Richard Dawkins as well.

A few chapters were captivating, including discussions about how bats use sonar to "see", and the amazing complexity of the eye. Dawkins makes excellent arguments about how and why mechanisms so amazingly improbable could evolve over millions of years. I admire the incedible depth of his intellect and lets face it, to truly understand evolution one must really think deeply about it. It's not all black and white and I admit that sometimes evolution itself is not something that is always easy to accept. But I believe it. It's makes so much sense to me when I learn about it. Yes, there are unanswered questions that can't be easily answered in a high school biology lab, but that doesn't mean the whole thing should be abandoned.

Dawkins does tend to ramble and go off on tangents in too many places to the point where I lost what he was trying to get at. Although I lean heavily on the side of not believing in intelligent design, after finishing the book I didn't feel as a whole he made a clear and concise argument that the watchmaker is indeed blind because of the somewhat disorganized writing. But I still recommend this book for people interested in the subject because there are enough gems in here to make it worth the effort.

4-0 out of 5 stars A Universe Without Design
The debate as to whether or not the world as we know it has some omnipresent, omniscient creator, unfortunately, continues to this day. There are still those who refuse to yield to science, logic, and observable fact, and feel as though science and religion must be mutually exclusive. Richard Dawkins points out that this is not the case. Whether or not there is an ultimate creator is left up to the reader, yet at the same time it should be noted that evolution has occurred, is occurring, and will continue to occur. Furthermore, it occurs without a predestined design. Evolution by natural selection is no longer regarded as theory by most in the field. It has been observed both in the laboratory and in nature.

The "Blind Watchmaker" of this book refers to Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection. For, the watch is an intricate piece of machinery that surely requires a watchmaker to piece together all it's inner workings. The analogy has been made (specifically in Rev. William Paley's "Natural Theology") that the universe as we know it can be seen as an intricate working similar to that of a watch, and thus the universe must also have a maker of it's own. Dawkins points out that if one chooses to go along with this analogy, then evolution by natural selection would be the watchmaker, and this maker is indeed blind. Blind in the sense that evolution has no direction, no goals, and no predetermined stopping point.

Dawkins uses extremely convincing analogies such as the intricacies of the eye, the sonar used by bats, and even several computer simulations, using programs he wrote, to support his arguments. Small changes, mutations, give rise to phenotypic traits that are advantageous to a particular species, or a subset of a species, and thus this mutation persists. Over geologic time, then, a few small photoreceptor cells may eventually become the eyes we know of today.

As a biology major, this book was a must-read. However, one thing I really loved about this book is that you don't have to be a biology major to understand and appreciate the points Dawkins makes. He draws the reader through his analogies and explanations using simple layman's terms, and everyday examples that are easily understood. My only complaint is that some of his examples can be rather long-winded, redundant, and circuitous. Indeed, Dawkins can be rather verbose at times. Nonetheless, I feel that this is a must-read book for anyone who is either still on the fence with regards to creationist theory, or anyone who wants to open their eyes to some easily digestible science. Overall this was a very well written argument for a universe without design, and this theory, if not this book, should not be overlooked.

5-0 out of 5 stars A non-teleological evolution classic
This is one of the books I have enjoy the most. I won't say it blows down all and everyone of the arguments creationists had ever construct, but it gives you the logical background to judge between sides (evolutionists vs. creationists). I just love to read a coherent, clear and remarkably well written book about evolution and its historic differences with religion. I really don't recommend this book to anyone intending to approach it with prejudices. It is always deeply disturbing to read reviews attacking a book like this with arguments so inconsistent with the ones found in the book. This means that the reader didn't understand the text, or maybe he read it with the only intention of criticize it later, or worst of all, did not read it, but anyway criticize it.
So this book is a great read anytime and anywhere, besides, you don't need much background in evolution to understand it and enjoy it.

3-0 out of 5 stars The Random Bookwriter:
I have heard that educated people believe that a monkey typing randomly could write the Encyclopedia Brittanica, given enough time.

I want to briefly comment on Dawkins' reliance on genetic algorithms' ability to randomly generate intelligent results that only *appear* to have design -- given enough iterations -- as evidence that random processes created the first living cell.

What is missing in his reasoning is the crucial part of the algorithm's loop: the feedback test. That is, the determination at each iteration as to whether a current mutation is closer or farther, from the desired optimal result. This, of course requires a comparison with the desired (fully developed) output.

The Programer designs the genetic algorithm, and of course, the Programmer designs the goal of that algorithm. The fact that the designer does not care how the result is attained does not remove the fact that he defines what the result should do.

"The fountain does not rise above its source"

I recommend this book because it is an excellent example of how a researcher often can only assemble evidence, filtered by his preconcieved notions, in accordance with his desired result.

3-0 out of 5 stars Useful
Good for refuting creationist (including "intelligent design") nonsense. Over the years, though, I've become convinced that Dawkins' worldview is in many ways a mirror image of the fundamentalism he so rightly detests. The "selfish gene" ideology amounts to little more than theology for atheists. ... Read more


14. Evolutionary Psychology: The New Science of the Mind, Second Edition
by David Buss
list price: $76.80
our price: $76.80
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Asin: 0205370713
Catlog: Book (2003-08-15)
Publisher: Allyn & Bacon
Sales Rank: 228452
Average Customer Review: 4.82 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Composed of cutting-edge reasearch and featuring an engaging writing style, the author offers compelling scientific answers to the profound human questions regarding love and work. Beginning with a historial introduction, the text logically progresses by discussing adaptive problems humans face and ends with a chapter showing how the new field of evolutionary psychology encompasses all branches of psychology.Each chapter is alive with the subjects that most occupy our minds:sex, mating, getting along, getting ahead, friends, enemies, and social hierarchies.Why is child abuse 40 times more prevalent among step-families than biologically intact families?Why, according to one study, did 75% of men but 0% of women consent to have sex with a complete stranger?Buss explores these intriguing quandaries with his vision of psychology in the new millenium as a new science of the mind. Anyone with an interest in the biological facets of human psychology will find this a fascinating read. ... Read more

Reviews (11)

5-0 out of 5 stars A triumphantly successful milestone for modern psychology.
Professor Buss has taken upon himself the formidable challenge of producing the first evolutionary psychology textbook, a milestone that is long overdue. In his endeavor he has succeeded magnificently. In 411 pages he manages a sterling job of covering the most important topics in evolutionary psychology, bringing to bear the most up to date literature in a simple to read yet academically compelling format. He begins with a complete and intelligent introduction to both evolutionary theory and the events leading to the development of an evolutionary psychology. Thereafter, he covers broad branches of human behavior - kin relations, cooperative relationships, warfare, aggression, status-seeking, parenting and, of course, human mating strategies. This last topic is covered in several different chapters and highlights the author¹s own valuable, ground-breaking work done in the area. His book provides a miraculous combination of both utterly fascinating and effortless reading, rare qualities in textbooks. No review can be complete without mention of a few blemishes, however minor and in this case it is particularly tempting to simply omit them entirely. However, Dr. Buss occasionally relies heavily, too heavily perhaps, on secondary or general sources of information (i.e., Dawkins, de Waal, Pinker) when more research oriented sources are available. No doubt this stems, at least in part, from the fact that there is simply not as much primary literature on the subject as one could hope for (at least where humans are concerned). This will undoubtedly be improved by the time the next edition rolls off the press. Too, one would greatly hope that future editions of this text might include a section on foraging/hunting and food adaptations since they are so fundamental to survival and because so many other primate species display overt and well-studied feeding adaptations. However, such minor details are utterly dwarfed by the magnitude, importance and quality of this work. The breadth, depth and timeliness of this textbook cannot be overstated. If you are planning on teaching an undergraduate course on evolutionary psychology or are simply interested in learning more about the subject, this is, without question, the most authoritative and comprehensive vehicle available, eclipsing even the extraordinary Adapted Mind.

5-0 out of 5 stars This is an excellent textbook for undergraduate students.
By working from the premises of Tooby & Cosmides' Integrated Causal Model, David Buss has done an outstanding job of making accessible not only the complex historical development of evolutionary psychology, but also inclusive fitness theory, specific evolutionary hypotheses and specific predictions derived from these hypotheses. Furthermore, Buss is comprehensive, balanced and precise when asserting theories and empirical substantiation from other major thinkers, viz., Trivers, Pinker, Bloom, Ridley, Symons, Williams, Mayr, Plomin, DeFries, etc.

5-0 out of 5 stars HUMAN CIVILIZATION FROM THE PRESENT: WHY WE ACT THIS WAY
Each day for twenty-something years I woke up to see reality as it was presented to me. I noticed many patterns in life that are hard not to notice -- such as the difference between men and women in how they approach sexual opportunities. Men will readily say yes, women firmly no. Why?

Evolution is such an intriguing and elegant theory on its approach to our current behavior. Boss's contention is that the present behaviors we see today in our modern era -- fear of snakes, high male sexual drive -- arose from our ancestors. Those who did not have such characteristics did not become our ancestors. Thus, over time, certain characteristics were more likely to be successful in the mating process, and those are the same characteristics we see today. Boss's insight required a lot of keen intellectual insight into many different hypothesis.

Some of these hypothesis seemed far-fetched at first. Who would think that there would be statistical differences in how maternal grandparents v. paternal grandparents relate to their grandchildren. There are, however. Maternal grandmothers have less risk in investing in a grandchild who is not biologically related since she is confident that her daughter is biologically hers, and she can be certain that her daughter's child is biologically related, too. The hypothesis that paternal grandfathers would be most distant -- since they have the most to lose -- turned out to be true. (Paternal grandfathers cannot be 100% certain that they fathered their son or daughter, and thus, they cannot be sure that that child's son or daughter is biologically related).

This is perhaps one of the most important contributions in scientific literature since Watson and Clark's published report on their findings of DNA.

Michael Gordon

5-0 out of 5 stars A thorough, rigorous, and illuminating book.
David Buss, author of The Evolution of Desire and The Dangerous Passion, brings his formidable intellect, research experience, knowledge, and writing talent to bear in this impressive introduction to the field of Evolutionary Psychology. It is obvious from reading the book that it was painstakingly researched. An impressive breadth of research studies in evolutionary psychology and relevant work from other disciplines, including anthropology, biology, and sociology are clearly explained and their implications discussed. Alternative hypotheses and interpretations of research, where alternatives have been explicitly proposed, are even-handedly explored. The chapters of the book are organized by the kinds of problems of survival and reproduction faced by our ancestors. This organization makes the broad range of specific research covered in the book easy to understand and integrate into a coherent understanding of the evolutionary origins of human cognition and behavior. Thought-provoking, absorbing, and exceptionally well written: Dr. Buss's Evolutionary Psychology text is an absolute joy to read. It is a must-have for psychologists, biologists, and any student of human nature.

3-0 out of 5 stars Procede with Caution
I have not read the text book. I am a former student of Dr. Buss' and suspect that it will be as vacant in theory as his previous literary attempts. Evolutionary Psychology is an extremely interesting field, but as with any field must be considered in an interdisciplanary manner. The reviewers that make blanket statements about Evolutionary Psychology being the only world view might benefit from reading some philosophy without prejudging it as merely a coping mechanism. For those of you who considering purchasing this book, the last time I spoke with Dr. Buss, he had only very superficial knowledge of the more detailed and sophisticated theories in this field of study and this will probably be reflected in the text book. To be fair, his writing is often enjoyable and as others have said, does read like a novel, but do not mistake this for depth of knowledge. ... Read more


15. Inferring Phylogenies
by Joseph Felsenstein
list price: $61.95
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Asin: 0878931775
Catlog: Book (2003-09-04)
Publisher: Sinauer Associates
Sales Rank: 63088
Average Customer Review: 4.33 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Phylogenies (evolutionary trees) are basic to thinking about and analyzing differences between species. Statistical, computational, and algorithmic work on them has been ongoing for four decades, with great advances in understanding. Yet no book has summarized this work until now. Inferring Phylogenies explains clearly the assumptions and logic of making inferences about phylogenies, and using them to make inferences about evolutionary processes. It is an essential text and reference for anyone who wants to understand how phylogenies are reconstructed and how they are used.

As phylogenies are inferred with various kinds of data, this book concentrates on some of the central ones: discretely coded characters, molecular sequences, gene frequencies, and quantitative traits. Also covered are restriction sites, RAPDs, and microsatellites.

Inferring Phylogenies is intended for graduate-level courses, assuming some knowledge of statistics, mathematics (calculus and fundamental matrix algebra), molecular sequences, and quantitative genetics. ... Read more

Reviews (3)

4-0 out of 5 stars More than what the title implies
As one would expect, the majority of this book deals with the various algorithms for phylogenetic analysis (such as the various versions of parsimony, distance based methods, and likelihood methods), but the book covers more topics that this. In particular, the book covers methods of tree comparison such as the KHT and SH tests, which I found particularly welcome because the current literature covering these tests often are rather opaque to those who haven't followed it since their conception.

The only weak thing about about the book (besides the many typos, which should be fixed in the new printing anyway), is Felsenstein's rather acrimonious treatment of Bayesian methods, in which the Bayesian use of priors is criticized on philosophical grounds.

I was annoyed by this not because I'm a card-carrying Bayesian (which I'm certainly not), but rather because I would have thought that Felsenstein of all people, whose primary opponents in the 1980's were the members of the philosophically-minded Willi Hennig crowd (who always claimed that parsimony was "philosophically right" even when it gave the wrong answer), would realize the futility of arguing scientific issues on philosophical grounds. Bayesian methods, as all scientific methods, will win or lose based on how well they work in practice, despite turgid philosophizing on both sides of the issue.

4-0 out of 5 stars first print
The book I bought is first printing version. Lots of typo inside..... I should correct them myself.-:(

5-0 out of 5 stars The encyclopedia
It's fairly common to start with a few protein or DNA sequences from different species, and to try to figure out what the various lines of descent are that connect them. This book is about the computations that find the "family trees" based on molecular (or other) data.

The book is a goldmine. Among phylogeny programs, PHYLIP (supported since 1980) could well be the most popular - Felsenstein wrote it. In this, he covers an incredible number of techniques, drawn from dozens of fundamentally different insights into the problem of relatedness. Felsentein desribes many techniques, their variations, and their relationships to others. He describes every phase of the analysis, from interpreting raw data, through deducing trees and evaluating them statistically, to displaying them visually. Despite this book's thud factor - ove 600 pages - it can not cover every topic in full detail. That's when the book's references, about 50 pages of them, become valuable. Felsenstein welcomes the interested reader into every aspect of the field's literature.

Despite the huge body of theory and practice, there are still many disputes about the proper interpretations or approaches to some thorny issues. Felsenstein goes over the issues in some detail, and is not afraid to take sides when he sees reason to.

Felsenstein gives clear descriptions of many basic algorithms. There's no code here, but a diligent reader should be able to develop implementations of them. I could have hoped for better indexing of algorithms, but the chapter organization is clear enough to make any search brief. I could also have asked for more of the algorithms to be spelled out in implementable detail, but the book would have needed thousands of pages to include them all. He seems to have chosen a variety of well-known and important algorithms for full description, and left the minor or complex ones for the references.

If you just want to use one of the common phylogeny programs, you came to the wrong place. This is about fundamental techniques for creating programs - there's almost nothing here for the user who just wants the results. Such users won't even learn much more about the results they do get. Developers and statisticians who need detailed analyses will probably find what they they want, and lots more.

The only problem with the book is that it reads like an encyclopedia. Lots of developers can get lots of good work done without this level of knowledge. It will take a truly devoted reader to plow though it, as well as a good foundation in algorithm development and in probability and stats. If you are dedicated to becoming an expert in the practice and problems of phylogenetic analysis, though, I doubt that any other book will give you a third of the knowledge or a tenth of the breadth. ... Read more


16. How the Mind Works
by Steven Pinker
list price: $29.95
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Asin: 0393045358
Catlog: Book (1997-10-01)
Publisher: W W Norton & Co Inc
Sales Rank: 190794
Average Customer Review: 3.59 out of 5 stars
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Why do fools fall in love? Why does a man's annual salary, on average, increase $600 with eachinch of his height? When a crack dealer guns down a rival, how is he just like Alexander Hamilton, whoseface is on the ten-dollar bill? How do optical illusions function as windows on the human soul? Cheerful,cheeky, occasionally outrageous MIT psychologist Steven Pinker answers all of the above and more in hismarvelously fun, awesomely informative survey of modern brain science. Pinker argues that Darwin pluscanny computer programs are the key to understanding ourselves--but he also throws in apt references toStar Trek, Star Wars, The Far Side, history, literature, W. C. Fields, Mozart,Marilyn Monroe, surrealism, experimental psychology, and Moulay Ismail the Bloodthirsty and his 888children. If How the Mind Works were a rock show, tickets would be scalped for $100. This bookdeserved its spot as Number One on bestseller lists. It belongs on a short shelf alongside such classics asDarwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and theMeanings of Life, by Daniel C. Dennett, and The Moral Animal: Why We Are the Way We Are:The New Science of Evolutionary Psychology, by Robert Wright. Pinker's startling ideas pop outas dramatically as those hidden pictures in a Magic Eye 3D stereogram poster, which healso explains in brilliantly lucid prose. ... Read more

Reviews (139)

5-0 out of 5 stars Steven Pinker's 'How the Mind Works' Précis
Steven Pinker begins his explanation of "How the Mind Works" arguing that the mind is best understood in terms of a computational model and that, in part, by reverse engineering the mind one can understand many aspects of cognition. He also examines why aspects of cognition, such as consciousness, knowledge, meaning, free will, self, morality, etc. still remain beyond the purview of cognitive science. Pinker identifies natural selection as the process which shaped the mind; subsequently, history, cognitive and social psychology, and human ecology are the most important factors which for him continue to shape the mind. The significance of the book lies, in part, in Pinker's differentiation of what reverse engineering can show from what is still beyond the tools of cognitive science. Pinker suggests that the reason biologically unnecessary aspects of human behavior such as language, art, wit, music, literature, etc. are so significant to people and remain problematic may be because scientists don't yet have the cognitive equipment to solve them and suggests that consciousness and free will, for example, may ultimately remain elusive aspects of the mind.

By arguing that "the mind is a system of organs of computation, designed by natural selection to solve the kinds of problems our ancestors faced in their foraging way of life, in particular, understanding and outmaneuvering objects, animals, plants, and other people," (21) Pinker rejects most other views of the mind that have held sway in the last century. By insisting on the complexity of the mind, Pinker claims that a) thinking is a kind of computation used to work with configurations of symbols, b) that the mind is organized into specialized modules or mental organs, c) that the basic logic of the modules is contained in our genetic program, and d) that natural selection shaped these operations to facilitate replication of genes into the next generation (21, 25). Pinker thus shows that the computational model of mind is highly significant because it has solved not only philosophical problems, but also started the computer revolution, posed important neuroscience questions, and provided psychology with a very valuable research agenda (77).

By examining mental processes which are reverse-engineerable, Pinker lays the groundwork for examining which cognitive processes aren't yet understandable. For example, chapter 4, "The Mind's Eye," describes how the mind's vision process turns retinal images into mental representations, how the mind moves "splashes of light to concepts of objects, and beyond them to a kind of interaction between seeing and thinking known as mental imagery" (214). By describing a specific modular process, Pinker shows how this modular process fits together like a puzzle, as well as with other parts of the mind. Taken together the chapters thus also show what processes, such as sentience and especially consciousness, are still not readily explained.

Pinker asks not only how scientists might understand "the psychology of the arts, humor, religion, and philosophy within the theme of this book, that the mind is a naturally selected neural computer" but also why they are so resistantly inscrutable (521). He suggests that the arts "engage not only the psychology of aesthetics but the psychology of status," thus making the arts more readily understood by economics and social psychology (521).

According to Pinker, consciousness, too, resists understanding. He asks: "How could an event of neural information-processing cause the feel of a toothache or the taste of lemon or the color purple?" (558) thus highlighting the important 'Gordian-knot' question of causality in consciousness. In suggesting that such questions are difficult because Homo Sapiens' minds don't have the cognitive equipment to solve them, "because our minds are organs, not pipelines to truth" (561), he emphasizes the significance of natural selection in shaping the mind to solve matters of life and death for our ancestors (356) and leaves open the possibility of explaining consciousness at a later date. Pinker's book is significant, therefore, because it explains both how many aspects of the mind work, as well as what we don't yet know about how the mind works. In his conclusion, Pinker offers only tentative answers about why scientists don't understand consciousness, for example, and leaves open the possibility that we may never understand it.

5-0 out of 5 stars brilliant
with simple, familiar language MIT professor Pinker delves into how the mind evolved and how it works. Of special interest to me were the parallells he drew between computer code (logic) and brain tasks. Easy to read (considering the material) and right on as far as factual material goes, 5 stars for me. He could have cut the book down to ~500 pages or so (i struggled through most of the chapter on perception and finally just skipped on) but overall a great book.

3-0 out of 5 stars In and Out of his element
Steven Pinker certainly knows his stuff when it comes to how our brain works. If you have the endurance and are a scientist already, you may get through this incredibly monotonous book. He is able to comprehend the mechanics of how the human mind works, but flops when it comes to drawing any meaningful implications. His views about religion and philosophy are stale and hackneyed. While his discussions about the biology of the brain and its varied mechanisms are within his expertise, his discussions of religion and philosophy are shallow and un-thoughtful-bordering upon arrogance. I would still recommend the book; it is better than counting sheep!

5-0 out of 5 stars Three pounds of hamburger
Great book about how the Brain works but should be titled, "How the Brain Works". Without the Soul, there is no mind. The Soul IS the mind operating within the brain. Three pounds of hamburger with ten trillion neurons flashing is still not MIND!.

3-0 out of 5 stars Families not Species?
I enjoy Mr Pinker's books - this is not the first one I have read.A nd yet I find myself balking at some of it. Indeed I have a personal characteristic, not unique of course, that separates me from a lot of what is said here. A physical characteristic, not an emotional one. Consequently I keep finding myself challenging, defending, objecting .....

Previously I had read 'Why Sex is Fun?' by Jared Diamond and during this book I realised that the title is totally misleading. It suggests that sex was developed by a conscious entity who thought - 'How can I make this work? I know, I'll make it fun.' For me this is back to front. We are here - our species - because sex just happens to be fun. If it were unpleasant or a chore we probably wouldn't be here.

So here we are again looking at evolution and trying to justify human behaviour as somehow driven by genetic imperatives - as if the genes are trying to meet objectives. For me, this is crazy. The genes are the accidental vehicles that keep the species going, but they don't do it by design.

And midway through the chapter on families in Mr Pinker's book I realised something new. All we can tell about our existence from evolution is that the species is still here, and something about the way we do things has contributed to that. But Bonobos are here too and they behave in an entirely different way - despite that, they are successful in terms of evolution. But as soon as Mr Pinker talks of the individual male wanting to promote his genes in advance of another man's I know the argument has gone off the rails. We are now talking about - not persistence of the species (which is demonstrable), but persistence of the particular family (which I suspect is not demonstrable). As far as the species is concerned what difference does it make whose genes are being contributed as long as there is variety.

OK, men do not like to be cuckolded but I don't think that that is an evolutionary matter. The psychological studies need to look elsewhere.

I recommend this book because it will get you thinking, not that I agree with it necessarily.

Recommended other reading:
'Why is Sex Fun?' by Jared Diamond

One that you might like to consider, but I hated:
'The Red Queen' by Matt Ridley ... Read more


17. The Ancestor's Tale : A Pilgrimage to the Dawn of Evolution
by Richard Dawkins
list price: $28.00
our price: $16.80
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0618005838
Catlog: Book (2004-10-27)
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin
Sales Rank: 98
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From Amazon.co.uk

Just as we trace our personal family trees from parents to grandparents and so on back in time, so in The Ancestor's Tale Richard Dawkins traces the ancestry of life. As he is at pains to point out, this is very much our human tale, our ancestry. Surprisingly, it is one that many otherwise literate people are largely unaware of. Hopefully Dawkins's name and well deserved reputation as a best selling writer will introduce them to this wonderful saga.

The Ancestor's Tale takes us from our immediate human ancestors back through what he calls ‘concestors,’ those shared with the apes, monkeys and other mammals and other vertebrates and beyond to the dim and distant microbial beginnings of life some 4 billion years ago. It is a remarkable story which is still very much in the process of being uncovered. And, of course from a scientist of Dawkins stature and reputation we get an insider's knowledge of the most up-to-date science and many of those involved in the research. And, as we have come to expect of Dawkins, it is told with a passionate commitment to scientific veracity and a nose for a good story. Dawkins's knowledge of the vast and wonderful sweep of life's diversity is admirable. Not only does it encompass the most interesting living representatives of so many groups of organisms but also the important and informative fossil ones, many of which have only been found in recent years.

Dawkins sees his journey with its reverse chronology as ‘cast in the form of an epic pilgrimage from the present to the past [and] all roads lead to the origin of life.’ It is, to my mind, a sensible and perfectly acceptable approach although some might complain about going against the grain of evolution. The great benefit for the general reader is that it begins with the more familiar present and the animals nearest and dearest to us—ourimmediate human ancestors. And then it delves back into the more remote and less familiar past with its droves of lesser known and extinct fossil forms. The whole pilgrimage is divided into 40 tales, each based around a group of organisms and discusses their role in the overall story. Genetic, morphological and fossil evidence is all taken into account and illustrated with a wealth of photos and drawings of living and fossils forms, evolutionary and distributional charts and maps through time, providing a visual compliment and complement to the text. The design also allows Dawkins to make numerous running comments and characteristic asides. There are also numerous references and a good index.-- Douglas Palmer ... Read more


18. Human Evolutionary Genetics: Origins, Peoples & Disease
by Mark A. Jobling, Matthew Hurles, Chris Tyler-Smith, MARK JOBLING
list price: $61.95
our price: $61.95
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0815341857
Catlog: Book (2003-12-01)
Publisher: Garland Science/Taylor & Francis Group
Sales Rank: 311446
Average Customer Review: 5 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

Human Evolutionary Genetics (HEG) is a groundbreaking text which for the first time brings together molecular genetics and genomics to the study of the origins and movements of human populations.

Starting with an overview of molecular genomics for the non-specialist (which can be a useful review for those with a more genetic background), the book shows how data from the post-genomic era can be used to examine human origins and the human colonization of the planet, richly illustrated with genetic trees and global maps.

For the first time in a textbook, the authors outline how genetic data and the understanding of our origins which emerges, can be applied to contemporary population analyses, including genealogies, forensics and medicine.

Drawing its material from a range of disciplines, this text is an invaluable resource for courses in:

• Human Evolution

• Human Variation

• Biological Anthropology

• Physical Anthropology

• Human Population Genetics ... Read more

Reviews (1)

5-0 out of 5 stars Essential reading
Clearly laid out like one of the classic undergraduate textbooks (e.g. Genes VII, Albers et al.), this is the only up-to-date introduction in the field.

The authors make great efforts to link advances in genetics to other fields (e.g. linguistics, anthropology), as well as to organise chapters around key issues such as the spread of agriculture, offering space to key authors in these associated fields. Bibliographic/website sources are also well documented.

Evidently, coverage is broad rather than deep, but if you need some basic background (e.g. I wanted to understand how Y-chromosome sequence data illuminated prehistoric migrations but needed some basic information on microsatellites) before proceeding to original papers, then this is the book for you. ... Read more


19. Evolution of Tertiary Mammals of North America: Volume 1, Terrestrial Carnivores, Ungulates, and Ungulate like Mammals
list price: $85.00
our price: $85.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0521619688
Catlog: Book (2005-03-17)
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Sales Rank: 353681
Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars
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Book Description

This book is a unique compendium and synthesis of the cumulative knowledge of more than 100 years of discovery and study of North American tertiary mammals. The potentially most valuable contribution of this book is the detailed information of the distribution in time and space of each species at fossil localities, recorded in a uniform scheme, so that each chapter provides the same level of information. Thirty six chapters are devoted to a particular family or order, written by leading North American authorities, including discussion of anatomical features, systematics, and paleobiology. Three introductory chapters summarize information on the geological time scale, Tertiary vegetation, and Pleistocene events, and four summary chapters integrate systematic and biogeographic information for higher taxa. This book will serve as a unique data base for continuing studies in faunal diversification and change, and for questions such as how changing biogeography and climates influenced the evolution of mammalian communities. It will be an invaluable addition to the libraries of paleontologists and zoologists. ... Read more

Reviews (1)

4-0 out of 5 stars very good but very overpriced
A very useful book for essentially all the genera of mammals in the groups listed in the title.The two things that kept me from giving it 5 stars are; it is VERY overpriced, aside from libraries, few can afford it, also the listings of localities are done a bit ackwardly.Overall a very useful resource. ... Read more


20. On the Origin of Phyla
by James W. Valentine
list price: $55.00
our price: $55.00
(price subject to change: see help)
Asin: 0226845486
Catlog: Book (2004-06-18)
Publisher: University of Chicago Press
Sales Rank: 159606
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Book Description

Owing its inspiration and title to On the Origin of Phlya, James W. Valentine's ambitious book synthesizes and applies the vast treasury of theory and research collected in the century and a half since Darwin's time. By investigating the origins of life's diversity, Valentine unlocks the mystery of the origin of phyla.

One of the twentieth century's most distinguished paleobiologists, Valentine here integrates data from molecular genetics, evolutionary developmental biology, embryology, comparative morphology, and paleontology into an analysis of interest to scholars from any of these fields. He begins by examining the sorts of evidence that can be gleaned from fossils, molecules, and morphology, then reviews and compares the basic morphology and development of animal phyla, emphasizing the important design elements found in the bodyplans of both living and extinct phyla. Finally, Valentine undertakes the monumental task of developing models to explain the origin and early diversification of animal phyla, as well as their later evolutionary patterns.

Truly a magnum opus, On the Origin of Phyla will take its place as one of the classic scientific texts of the twentieth century, affecting the work of paleontologists, morphologists, and developmental, molecular, and evolutionary biologists for decades to come.

... Read more

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