Darwin's Blind Spot
In Darwin's Blind Spot, Frank Ryan counters the belief that evolution developed through simple survival of the fittest. He argues instead that life on the planet is not only a bloody battle for supremacy, but is also the result of a labyrinth of cooperation.
Darwin based his theory of evolution on competition between individuals, leading to the accumulation of gradual changes, dictated by natural selection. Evolution, he declared, could not make a sudden jump. Only later did biologists realize the importance of living interactions, whether as symbioses between different species or as cooperation within our human species. As Ryan explains, gigantic leaps in evolution have arisen from the blending of whole life-forms, giving rise to the great divisions of life, including the kingdoms of plants and animals, and ultimately to humanity itself.
The reader is taken on a fascinating journey through the history of evolutionary theory in the 19th and 20th centuries, where both hard science and human behavior are discussed as the author explains his wider view of evolution. Ryan gives a plethora of examples, from the union with bacteria that still powers our living cells to the flowering plants that depend on bees, butterflies, and hummingbirds for reproduction; and most startling of all, the retroviruses that live in the human genome and emerge to play their part in every pregnancy. In a book full of scientific wonders, he shows how the Genome of life lies at the heart of all evolutionary change - a force of symbiotic creativity that is far more powerful than conventional Darwinism assumes.
This has important ramifications for our understanding of human evolution and for the forces that still underlie and drive human society. With symbiosis introduced as a creative force in the evolutionary equation, Ryan sees human society evolving to a more civilized stage as our genetic hardwiring in favor of cooperation, love and friendship increasingly influences our behavior.
*** This book has been recommended by the eminent financial guru, Charlie Munger, as his 'Featured Book' at the 2003 Berkshire Hathaway meeting. 'Ryan (Virus X)... attempts to find a common explanation for much in our natural world. Ranging widely from the origin of life to the creation of human civilization and from the origin of sex to the root causes of many mental illnesses, Ryan turns to symbiosis ("an association between different species that persists for a long period") as the natural force responsible for all this and much more.'