Genetics and Evolution

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A Companion to GenethicsA Companion to GenethicsA Cooperative SpeciesA Mind So RareA Natural History of RapeAcquiring GenomesAdapting MindsAgeing, Health and CareAlas, Poor DarwinAn Introduction to Evolutionary EthicsAncient Bodies, Modern LivesAnimal ArchitectsAping MankindAre We Hardwired?Bang!BehavingBeyond EvolutionBeyond GeneticsBlood MattersBody BazaarBoneBrain Evolution and CognitionBrain StormBrave New BrainBrave New WorldsChoosing ChildrenCloneCloningConceptual Issues in Evolutionary BiologyConsciousness EvolvingContemporary Debates in Philosophy of BiologyControlling Our DestiniesCooperation and Its EvolutionCreatures of AccidentDarwin Loves YouDarwin's Brave New WorldDarwin's Gift to Science and ReligionDarwin's UniverseDarwin's WormsDarwinian ConservatismDarwinian PsychiatryDarwinism and its DiscontentsDarwinism as ReligionDebating DesignDecoding DarknessDefenders of the TruthDo We Still Need Doctors?Doubting Darwin?Early WarningEngineering the Human GermlineEnhancing EvolutionEnoughEntwined LivesEthical Issues in Human CloningEthical Issues in the New GeneticsEvil GenesEvolutionEvolutionEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human BehaviorEvolution and Human Sexual BehaviorEvolution and LearningEvolution and ReligionEvolution and the Human MindEvolution in MindEvolution, Gender, and RapeEvolution: The Modern SynthesisEvolutionary Ethics and Contemporary BiologyEvolutionary Origins of MoralityEvolutionary PsychiatryEvolutionary PsychologyEvolutionary Psychology and ViolenceEvolutionary Psychology as Maladapted PsychologyExploding the Gene MythFaces of Huntington'sFlesh of My FleshFrom Chance to ChoiceFrom Darwin to HitlerGenesGenes in ConflictGenes on the CouchGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Environment, and PsychopathologyGenes, Women, EqualityGenetic Nature/CultureGenetic PoliticsGenetic ProspectsGenetic ProspectsGenetic SecretsGenetics in the MadhouseGenetics of Criminal and Antisocial BehaviourGenetics of Mental DisordersGenetics of Original SinGenetics of Original SinGenomeGenomeGenome: Updated EditionGenomes and What to Make of ThemGlowing GenesHow Women Got Their Curves and Other Just-So StoriesHuman CloningHuman Evolution, Reproduction, and MoralityImproving Nature?In Our Own ImageIn Pursuit of the GeneIn the Name of GodIngenious GenesInheritanceInside the Human GenomeInside the O'BriensIntegrating Evolution and DevelopmentIntelligence, Race, and GeneticsIs Human Nature Obsolete?Language OriginsLess Than HumanLiberal EugenicsLiving with Our GenesMaking Genes, Making WavesMaking Sense of EvolutionMan As The PrayerMean GenesMenMood GenesMoral OriginsMothers and OthersNature Via NurtureNever Let Me GoNot By Genes AloneOf Flies, Mice, and MenOn the Origin of StoriesOrigin of MindOrigins of Human NatureOrigins of PsychopathologyOur Posthuman FuturePhilosophy of BiologyPlaying God?Playing God?Portraits of Huntington'sPrimates and PhilosophersPromiscuityPsychiatric Genetics and GenomicsPsychologyQuality of Life and Human DifferenceRe-creating MedicineRedesigning HumansResearch Advances in Genetics and GenomicsResponsible GeneticsResponsible GeneticsScience, Seeds and CyborgsSex and WarSociological Perspectives on the New GeneticsStrange BedfellowsStrange BehaviorSubjects of the WorldSubordination and DefeatThe Age of EmpathyThe Agile GeneThe Ape and the Sushi MasterThe Biotech CenturyThe Blank SlateThe Book of LifeThe Boy Who Loved Too MuchThe Bridge to HumanityThe Case Against PerfectionThe Case for PerfectionThe Case of the Female OrgasmThe Century of the GeneThe Common ThreadThe Concept of the Gene in Development and EvolutionThe Debated MindThe Double-Edged HelixThe Epidemiology of SchizophreniaThe Ethics of Choosing ChildrenThe Ethics of Human CloningThe Evolution of CooperationThe Evolution of MindThe Evolution of MindThe Evolved ApprenticeThe Evolving WorldThe Extended Selfish GeneThe Fact of EvolutionThe Folly of FoolsThe Future of Human NatureThe God GeneThe Immortal Life of Henrietta LacksThe Impact of the GeneThe Innate MindThe Innate MindThe Innate Mind: Volume 3The Limits and Lies of Human Genetic ResearchThe Lives of the BrainThe Maladapted MindThe Meme MachineThe Misunderstood GeneThe Moral, Social, and Commercial Imperatives of Genetic Testing and ScreeningThe Most Dangerous AnimalThe New Genetic MedicineThe Nurture AssumptionThe Origin and Evolution of CulturesThe Origins of FairnessThe Paradoxical PrimateThe Perfect BabyThe Robot's RebellionThe Selfish GeneThe Shape of ThoughtThe Shattered SelfThe Stem Cell ControversyThe Story WithinThe Stuff of LifeThe Talking ApeThe Temperamental ThreadThe Terrible GiftThe Theory of OptionsThe Top 10 Myths About EvolutionThe Triple HelixThe Triumph of SociobiologyThe Woman Who Walked into the SeaTwinsUnderstanding CloningUnderstanding the GenomeUnnatural SelectionUnto OthersUp From DragonsVoracious Science and Vulnerable AnimalsWar Against the WeakWhat Genes Can't DoWhat It Means to Be 98 Percent ChimpanzeeWho Owns YouWhose View of Life?Why Evolution Is TrueWhy Think? WondergenesWrestling with Behavioral GeneticsYour Genetic Destiny

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The Fact of EvolutionReview - The Fact of Evolution
by Cameron M. Smith
Prometheus Books, 2011
Review by Leo Uzych, J.D., M.P.H.
Aug 28th 2012 (Volume 16, Issue 35)

The Fact of Evolution is a book about evolution.  The author, Cameron M. Smith, is a prehistorian in the Department of Anthropology, at Portland State University.  Smith states forthrightly, in the book's "Foreword", that evolution is a fact (not a theory).  The reader learns, in the "Introduction", that "evolution", as the term is used by Smith, is the consequence of three independent facts of the natural world.  Namely, the fact that life forms have offspring (replication); the fact that offspring are not identical (variation); and the fact that some offspring pass more of their genes to the next generation than others (selection).  Smith informs the reader, in the "Preface", that he will specifically avoid discussing human genetics, choosing to focus, instead, on the genetics of many nonhuman life forms.

The book's substance is quite adorned, intellectually, with research referenced materials.  Citations for copious research materials are given in a "Notes" section, placed structurally after the last chapter.  Many of the Notes offer intellectually illumining, annotated comment.

The research strength of the book is buttressed additionally by a "Bibliography" (structurally following the Notes), providing citations for multitudinous research materials (alphabetized by author last name; and germane substantively to the study of evolution).

After the Bibliography is a structural section ("Websites for More on Evolution"), identifying some evolution centric websites with accompanying annotated comment.

Some "Figures" add materially to the substantive strength of the book.

The book is further enhanced, didactically, by the inclusion of some "Tables".

Notably, numerous snippets, in the form of quotes, contribute importantly to the instructiveness of the book's substantive composition.

The book's substance is notable, also, for its, characteristically, instructively informative discourse.  Typically, Smith comments informatively and expertly, with the commentary tethered to a considerable multitude of research materials pertinent to evolution.  The review efforts of Smith, concerning these materials, show much erudition.

Cautious readers, without intent to be churlish, may opine cautiously that Smith  does not scrutinize the research field of evolution in fully comprehensive fashion; and that other experts, looking closely at this same field, may possibly see something different.

A further cautionary note that may be sounded is that Smith gamely walks an intellectual tightrope  between presenting science that is overly diluted (for readers who are scientists), and science that is not diluted enough (for lay readers).

But treading doughtily, Smith certainly expertly traverses considerable substantive ground in the region of evolution.

The substantive emphasis, of Chapter 2, is on the fact of "replication" (which, according to Smith, is the first fact of the evolutionary process).

In Chapter 3, Smith focuses readers' attention sharply on the fact that offspring differ from their parents and also from their siblings (what Smith terms as the fact of "variation").

The fact of selection forms the substantive cynosure, of Chapter 4.  As the term is used by Smith, "selection" means that not all members of a population will have the same number of offspring.

The intellectual flashlight of Smith, in Chapter 5, shines intellectually enlightening light on the appearance of new life forms (described, by Smith, as the fact of "speciation").  Some examples of  speciation, falling within Smith's scope of discussion, appertain to:  salamanders, mosquitoes, clam worms, fruit flies, sticklebacks, cichlids, monkeyflowers, and plankton.

The thematic emphasis, of Chapter 7, is on "evolution in action", with selected examples extending to:  meerkats, wasps, cockroaches, hermit crabs, hummingbirds, guppies, oceanic viruses, echolocation (regarding bats and whales), sea lions, cichlids, microbes, and cave fish.

In penultimate Chapter 8, Smith opens an intellectual window, revealing a "mirror house" of discoveries and details linked to evolution.  In this frame, particular topics falling within Smith's intellectual ken encompass:  molecular genetics, horizontal gene transfer, phenotypic plasticity, ancient DNA recovery, mutagenesis, developmental evolutionary biology, and co evolution.

Concluding Chapter 9, in the enframing context of evolution, takes a look at how the human mind works, as seen through the critically discerning eyes of Smith.

All persons with an interest in evolution surely will benefit greatly from a close reading of Smith's important contribution to improved understanding of evolution.

In the professional realm, biologists and geneticists may especially be enamored intellectually of Smith's intellectual toil.


© 2012 Leo Uzych


Leo Uzych (based in Wallingford, PA) earned a law degree, from Temple University; and a master of public health degree, from Columbia University.  His area of special professional interest is healthcare.  Twitter @LeoUzych


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