Cover image for Evolution : society, science, and the universe
Evolution : society, science, and the universe
Fabian, A. C., 1948-
Publication Information:
Cambridge, U.K. ; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1998.
Physical Description:
v, 179 pages : illustrations ; 26 cm.
On transmuting Boyle's law to Darwin's revolution / Stephen Jay Gould -- The evolution of cellular development / Lewis Wolpert -- The evolution of guns and germs / Jared Diamond -- The evolution of London / Richard Rogers -- The evolution of society / Tim Ingold -- The evolution of the novel / Gillian Beer -- The evolution of science / Freeman Dyson -- The evolution of the universe / Martin Rees.
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B818 .E82 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Evolution is a fundamental process that cuts across boundaries of art and science and has beguiled thinkers for ages. This collection of articles about all aspects of evolution is a feast of challenging ideas, drawing together world-renowned thinkers and communicators with their own intriguing insights. This impressive cast of contributors takes on such questions as: Why and how do civilizations and societies change over time? Why do our cells develop the way they do? Why are some villages still villages while others have grown into vast cities? Can we learn from our evolutionary past to plan a better future for our health and society? Tracing the history of biological evolution, through the evolution of cultures, society, science and the universe, contributors such as Stephen Jay Gould, Freeman Dyson, and Martin Rees address these mysteries by considering parallels from all levels of life. From the evolution of the embryo to the evolution of a star, common threads emerge to tell a fascinating story with surprising implications.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Evolution in the general sense of adaptive historical change is the theme of both these books. Fabian's collection of essays originated in the 1995 Darwin College Lectures. It includes pieces by some of the finest writers on science: Stephen Jay Gould, Freeman Dyson, and Jared Diamond. The Darwin lectures give a useful and succinct survey of the evolutionary themes that have become more and more prominent in diverse fields of inquiry. Some of the discussions focus narrowly on the evolution of items such as guns, London, and the novel; others examine general evolutionary patterns in society and even the whole universe. Arnhart's work elaborates a naturalistic ethics grounded in Darwinian evolution. He sees this ethics foreshadowed both by Aristotle and Hume, where "the good is the desirable" and reason is only instrumental to satisfying human desires. He lists 20 basic desires or needs that he finds to be universal to the human species; these include propensities for speech, parental care, sexual identity, justice as reciprocity to health, beauty and wealth. These desires are presumed to derive from the hunting-gathering stage of the evolution of Homo sapiens. Arnhart discusses a broad range of literature relevant to the biological as opposed to cultural or transcendent sources of human rights. His scholarship is imposing. In critically examining the major arguments for and against evolutionary ethics, he exhibits expertise in political theory, evolutionary theory, cognitive psychology, and Aristotelian and Humean ethics. His familiarity with arguments concerning naturalistic ethics in contemporary philosophy is, however, rather weaker than his impressive command of arguments from the social science literature. Both books assume some general background knowledge of biological evolution. There are direct connections between some of the essays in Fabian and Arnhart's project. Gould extols an exploratory pluralism in evolutionary theory and challenges those who, like Arnhart, focus only on natural selection as a source of adaptations to consider alternatives. Arnhart rejects, perhaps too easily, such objections to his project. Tim Ingold questions a hunting and gathering stage of human evolution as the essential source of contemporary human social behavior. The Darwin College Lectures are in general more sensitive to dangers of misapplication of Darwinian metaphors--of seeing patterns of adaptive evolution everywhere at work. Both works are good sources for anyone interested in evolutionary ideas. Recommended for academic readers at all levels. Arnhart has an extensive bibliography from biology, philosophy, and the social sciences. H. C. Byerly; emeritus, University of Arizona

Table of Contents

IntroductionAndrew C. Fabian
1 On transmuting Boyle-s law to Darwin-s revolutionStephen Jay Gould
2 The evolution of cellular developmentLewis Wolpert
3 The evolution of guns and germsJared Diamond
4 The evolution of LondonRichard Rogers
5 The evolution of societyTim Ingold
6 The evolution of the novelGillian Beer
7 The evolution of scienceFreeman Dyson
8 The evolution of the universeMartin Rees
Notes on contributors