Genes, Categories, and Species

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In Genes, Categories and Species, Jody Hey provides an enlightening new solution to one of biology's most ironic and perplexing puzzles.

When Darwin showed that life evolves, and that it does so by natural selection, he transformed our understanding of living things. But the very question Darwin addressed-the nature of species-continues to pose an awkward conundrum for biologists. Despite enormous efforts by a great many scholars, biologists still cannot agree on how to identify species or even how to define the word "species."

Genes, Categories, and Species is not like other books on the species problem, for it does not begin by asking, "What is a species?" Instead, it focuses on the very fact that biologists are stumped by species and their curious behavior in coping with that uncertainty.

Faced with a persistent conundrum-and no lack of data on the subject-biologists who ponder the species problem have ceased to ask the most essential of scientific questions: "What new information do we need to resolve the problem?" This is the question that motivates this book and leads to the discoveries it reveals. The answer to the species problem lies not with the processes and patterns of biological diversity, Hey contends, but rather in the way the human mind perceives and categorizes that diversity.

The promise of this book is twofold. First, it allows biologists to understand the causes of the species problem and to use this knowledge to avoid the major confusions that arise over species. Second, with its explanation of the species problem, it gives scholars and students of human nature a humbling example of how ill-suited the human mind is for certain kinds of scientific questions.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"His casual style and thought-provoking examples are convincing...Combining the data collection Hey calls for with a treatment of species concepts as models would advance our understanding of how the world of real evolutionary groups is structured." — Kerry L. Shaw, Science

"In this important and refreshing view of the species debate, Jody Hey draws on a range of philosophical and evolutionary arguments to argue convincingly . . ."—Heredity

"This book links together philosophy, linguistics, and biology in an innovative fashion to arrive at a resolution of the long-standing "species question" of biology. Hey is able to frame his arguments in a style that makes what might otherwise be impenetrable, engaging. It will stimulate useful discussion and insight into the history of science, the physics-envy of ecologists, and the ability of scientists to be truly objective. A thought-provoking and profoundly insightful work."—Choice

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195144772
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 7/28/2001
  • Pages: 240
  • Product dimensions: 8.00 (w) x 5.60 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Jody Hey is Professor of Genetics at Rutgers University, where he uses both mathematical theory and DNA sequencing to study the process of evolution. In recent years he has conducted research on the evolutionary divergence of fruit fly species and on the evolutionary origins of modern humans. This book was written while Dr. Hey was visiting the University of Edinburgh, Scotland with the aid of a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship.

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Table of Contents

1. The Species Problem
2. The Mode of Life
3. The Theory of Life
End of Part 1
4. Categories in the World and in the Mind
5. Typological Thinking About Species
6. Biological Diversity
7. Recombination and Biological Species
8. The Cause of the Species Problem
9. The Origin of Natural Kinds
End of Part 2
10. Phylogeny
11. Systematics
12. Evolutionary Biology
13. What are Species? And What are Taxa?
14. What is to be Done?

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