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The Plausibility of Life - Kirschner, Marc W.; Gerhart, John C.; Norton, John - Yale University Press
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The Plausibility of Life

Resolving Darwin’s Dilemma

  • Marc W. Kirschner and John C. Gerhart; Illustrated by John Norton
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Out of Print.


Winner of the 2006 Independent Publisher Book Awards in the Science category.

 in the Science category.

Selected for Association of American University Presses (AAUP) Books for Public and Secondary School Libraries, 2006

Won the 2005 Association of American Publishers, Professional/Scholarly Division (AAP/PSP) Award given for Excellence in the Biological Science category

In the 150 years since Darwin, the field of evolutionary biology has left a glaring gap in understanding how animals developed their astounding variety and complexity. The standard answer has been that small genetic mutations accumulate over time to produce wondrous innovations such as eyes and wings. Drawing on cutting-edge research across the spectrum of modern biology, Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart demonstrate how this stock answer is woefully inadequate. Rather they offer an original solution to the longstanding puzzle of how small random genetic change can be converted into complex, useful innovations.

In a new theory they call “facilitated variation,” Kirschner and Gerhart elevate the individual organism from a passive target of natural selection to a central player in the 3-billion-year history of evolution. In clear, accessible language, the authors invite every reader to contemplate daring new ideas about evolution. By closing the major gap in Darwin’s theory Kirschner and Gerhart also provide a timely scientific rebuttal to modern critics of evolution who champion “intelligent design.”

Marc W. Kirschner is professor and chair, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard Medical School. John C. Gerhart is professor in the Graduate School, University of California, Berkeley.

A selection of Readers' Subscription and Scientific American Book Club

Listen to a conversation with Marc Kirschner on WBUR Boston's On Point with Tom Ashbrook.

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