Saturday, September 02, 2006

Belaboring evolution

New RepublicNow that summer's final holiday weekend is upon us, I'm going to defer further elaboration of the series, Genesis for the rest of us, till the Tuesday after Labor Day, in favor of reading my favorite political magazine.

The September 4 edition of The New Republic is unusually rich in content bearing on this topic. The online version of the magazine offers a glimpse of the two main evolution-related articles in the print version.

First, in An eminent biologist implores evangelicals to go green, Edward O. Wilson urges American evangelicals -- probably the world's largest and most politically potent religious cohort that offers significant resistance to the teaching of evolution -- to find common ground with the scientific community, at least long enough to save the biosphere. It's a nice byproduct of Wilson's newest book, The Creation: A Meeting of Science and Religion.

Evolution in Four DimensionsSecond, in Evolution's radical new theories actually come from Darwin, Oren Harman very favorably reviews Eva Jablonka & Marion J. Lamb, Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (2006). One passage from the book hints at its power:
Rather than being restricted to contemplating a slow process depending on random (i.e., blind) genetic variation and gradual phenotypic change, we are now free to think in realistic molecular ways about rapid genome restructuring guided by biological feedback networks.
In other words, Lamarckism lives, though radically transformed, informed in large part by a mechanism known in Darwin's time only by the Moravian monk Gregor Mendel and not rediscovered until the turn of the twentieth century. We call them genes.

I'll be adding both the Wilson book and the Jablonka/Lamb book to my wishlist.


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