Endless Forms Most Beautiful: The New Science of Evo Devoby Sean B. Carroll
“A beautiful and very important book.”—Lewis Wolpert, American ScientistFor over a century, opening the black box of embryonic development was the holy grail of biology. Evo Devo—Evolutionary Developmental Biology—is the new science that has finally cracked open the box. Within the pages of his rich and riveting book,/p>/em>
“A beautiful and very important book.”—Lewis Wolpert, American ScientistFor over a century, opening the black box of embryonic development was the holy grail of biology. Evo Devo—Evolutionary Developmental Biology—is the new science that has finally cracked open the box. Within the pages of his rich and riveting book, Sean B. Carroll explains how we are discovering that complex life is ironically much simpler than anyone ever expected.
- Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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Meet the Author
Sean B. Carroll is professor of genetics at the University of Wisconsin–Madison and investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute. His first book, Endless Forms Most Beautiful, was a finalist for the 2005 Los Angeles Times Book Prize. Carroll’s seminal scientific work has been featured in Time and The New Yorker. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin.
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This book certainly succeeds in educating the everyday man. It provides a solid ground for dispelling the notion that mutations are the heart of natural selection and devastates the creationist arguments based on it with effective, gene logic. Overall, to the non-scientific layman this can function is as a great introduction to evolutionary theory in general, especially since it focus on a field (evolutionary developmental biology or evo-devo) that explains many of the questions laypeople have on natural selection. However, anyone seeking more detailed information should look elsewhere. DNA switches, as crucial as they are, are only given superficial coverage in the book. It is never quite explained why DNA switches work when they do to generate complexity. In not explaining this, the author fails to still to answer the fundamental question of how the organism knows how to develop in such a specific way. It is strongly advised that one become moderately fluent in basic genetics before attempting to read this book. While the book features great and interesting examples of the research in evo-devo, such as butterfly stripes, it does not dwell enough on the genetic foundations. Given only a superficial walkthrough in part one (less than half the size of part two), this foundation is necessary for actually understanding how evo-devo works as opposed to just knowing about "cool" and interesting facts. The author occasionally forgets this and goes out of his way to entertain with random references and little jokes as opposed to sticking to hard explanations. One may want to have Wikipedia on hand for better understanding the genetic and cell biological principles mentioned in this book. The author asks certain laws to be accepted almost axiomatically, such as the idea in chapter one that evolution in an organism reduces and specializes the number of parts. While this may seem intuitive to a person of science, it will leave many readers wondering how or why this should be accepted. Also, the author occasionally strays off topic to answer creationist critics. While his annoyance with them is probably understandable, the last chapter deviates a little from the topics discussed earlier in the book and could have conceivably been left out. All this shouldn't cause one to take it that the book as bad. The book certainly succeeds in describing an exciting, new theory that answers many previously unexplained questions, such as the mechanism of selection and the nature of our common ancestry with other species. The book reiterates the principles till they're ingrained in ones head. One comes away from the book definitely knowing the importance toolkit genes have one using a few basic genes to generate vast arrays of organisms. It provides interesting examples, such as fruit fly mutations and arthropod commonality. However, these examples occasionally dominate the text, taking up full chapters near the end. Just as one cannot explain math purely on examples, so must the author take care to make sure evo-devo theory is as properly explained as his examples.
See my review of both books under "The Making of the Fittest", by the same author. They are really one book in two volumes and should be read together.