[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]

Two new books



     Stephan Jay Gould, 2002. The structure of evolutionary theory (Belknap Press)
      Katherine J. Willis & Jenny C. McElwain, 2002. The evolution of plants (Oxford University Press)

      Last year, Kathy Willis and P.M. Barrett published a lengthy paper -- "Did dinosaurs invent flowers? Dinosaur-angiosperm revisited", Biological Reviews [Cambridge Philosophical Society] 76(3):411-447 -- which provides one with an excellent overview of a subject still in the process of exegesis. This year, she presents with Jenny McElwain an excellent distillation of research.
      Stephen Jay Gould's masterpiece is a cause for celebration: he leaves little undiscussed, although I would state that, based on the evidence John Langdon Brooks published in 1984 (a 1980 study by Arnold Brackman opened the gates), and which has yet to be refuted,  Darwin plagiarized for his folio notebooks from Alfred Russel Wallace's lengthy manuscript the concepts of natural selection. Darwin, like Wallace, was not a taxonomist, not interested in classifications (i.e., phylogenetic systematics), his writings emphasizing genealogies. Even the PBS series "Evolution" propogated the myth that the Galapagos finches provided Darwin with key insights; they did not, he never realized the significance of the specimens. The subject of Darwin's various ideas was  analyzed by Kevin Padian in 1999, "Charles Darwin's views of classification in theory and practice", Systematic Biology 48(2):352-364 (available as a PDF file, free, at! ! Kevin Padian's UCMP website). Stephen Jay Gould avoids these mistakes, and his elucidations of Lamarck, Geoffroy (Toby Appel's long out-of-print The Cuvier-Geoffroy debate: French biology in the decades before Darwin should be read alongside Reb Gould's text; perhaps, she will bring the book back into print), Alfred Russel Wallace (some of his interpolations are open to debate), molecular genetics, etc. are brilliant in scope and aim. Puncutated equilibria owes as much to Lamarck as it does to Mendel: catastrophic changes in biological processes, extinction events, cause rapid processes of adaptations.  It is a pity, however, that Reb Gould does not capitulate  the developments of phylogenetic systematics (the PhyloCode, Jacques Gauthier's/Phil Cantino's/Kevin de Queiroz's papers, et al.), nor acknowledges the pioneering work of Barbara Beddall (whose death robbed paleobiology of a keen mind), Adrian Desmond,  Martin Rudwick et al.,  have explored t! ! he pre-O.C. Marsh period of paleontological thought. It is a hope that, in a second edition, he will. As it stands, however, The structure of evolutionary theory  -- along with G.C. Williams's Adaptation & natural selection, and the Currie/Padian reference book  -- should be on the desk of everyone studying dinosaurs and the transitions after the K/T event(s). His masterpiece will, I am sure, overshadow those, playing with crayons empty bubble-gum wrappers, and  moving lips while forming the words, are awaiting the sequel to the Media Barneyologist's Raptor Red, which plundered landscapes for ideas than never occurred to him.