More details of Darwin's Blind Spot by Frank Ryan

 

DARWIN'S BLIND SPOT

REVIEWS

'I was thrilled and enchanted on picking up Darwin's Blind Spot, reading the first 100 pages non-stop.  I continually itched to get to the next page.  The role of symbiosis in evolution is intriguing and has not been adequately discussed or integrated into broad biological thought.  This book will do much to remedy this lack of appreciation.  Frank Ryan elegantly presents the concept, one that should be stressed in every high school biology text book, giving both wonderful direction and synthesis to the modern perspective on evolutionary theory, from Darwinism to symbiosis and Gaia to cooperation within human society.'  Douglas E Eveleigh, Professor of Microbiology, Rutgers University.

'In Ryan's hands, symbiosis is a lot more complex and interesting than our popular conception of it... Ryan argues passionately for symbiogenesis, sure, but he also spends a hundred pages detailing the scientific and sociopolitical history of Darwinism; he gives us clean, well-rendered thumbnails of the Gaia hypothesis and a sexy portrayal of reproduction at the molecular level. Best of all, he delivers a wonderful, up-to-date reimagination of the evolution of life on earth, from protobiotic chemical precursors through the first, ancient bacteria, all the way to terrestrial, science-book-review-reading humans.'  Anthony Doerr, Boston Globe.

'Ryan has built an exciting story of heroic outsiders and fierce conflict over the nature of evolutionary innovation...The story moves along. Anecdotes fascinate, personalities excite.' Stephen A Frank, Nature

'"Red in tooth and claw" is how the evolutionary process has been viewed since Darwin first developed his theory of natural selection.  True, there is a cut-throat competition between and within species for the right to pass on genes to the next generation.  But Ryan gathers evidence to suggest that cooperation can be just as important. He says different species mixing their DNA drives evolutionary changes much faster than random mutations.  For example, the mitochondria and chloroplasts that power all multicellular organisms are probably a relic of an early alliance between a bacterium and a single-celled creature.  There is even evidence that higher organisms have sex because of an event in which one bacterium mounted what economists would see as an aggressive takeover of another's genetic assets.'  John Tyler Bonner, George M. Moffett Professor of Biology Emeritus at Princeton University, reviewing for New Scientist.

'I immensely enjoyed reading Darwin's Blind Spot.  In fact, I now plan to use it for a Freshman seminar series I will be offering next academic quarter for incoming majors. I don't think I have read a more coherent accounting of the role of symbiosis on evolution ever and Ryan's broad definition of the concept (including aggressive symbiosis) goes far to eliminate confusion.'  Luis Villarreal, Professor, Department of Molecular Biology and Biochemistry and Director of the Center for Virus Research, UC Irvine.  Professor Villarreal wrote the viral evolutionary chapter in Field's Virology.

'Physician Ryan focuses on a biological mechanism that Darwin and others, who stressed competition was the driving force of evolution, might have underestimated: symbiosis.  Part I reviews the history of evolutionary theory, from the perspective of those who regard symbiosis as a vital agent for speciation.  Even informed readers well versed in the literature will find new material in this discussion.  Perhaps more daring, though, is Part 2, in which the author synthesizes a large volume of current thought, mixes it with his own ideas, and proposes novel theories about such unsettles issues as the origins of life on Earth and the critical roles of bacteria and viruses in evolution.  Ryan covers a lot of territory -- some of it considered suspect by many evolutionary biologists -- but his assertions merit serious attention.'  Gregg Sapp, Library Journal, Science Library.  

'The widespread acceptance of Darwin's one-sided account of evolution is a cultural anomaly that Frank Ryan's book sets out to correct through detailed evidence for cooperative interactions and networks in the web of evolving life.  All of this is woven into a fascinating and historically detailed account.'  Brian Goodwin, Professor of Biology, The Open University.

'A rewarding scientific journey, connecting laboratory with living planet and scientist with society.' Kirkus Reviews

'It takes the broad mind and practical experience of a physician to understand the consequences of evolutionary biology.  Dr Frank Ryan's most readable book is a welcome escape from many misinterpretations of Darwinism.'  James Lovelock, FRS, CBE, author of Gaia.

'Ryan's essay reads like a thriller.  The author successfully questions the usual, one-sided approach of the (neo-) Darwinism in which everything seems to come down to competition. In the course of an interesting overview of the history of science in the realm of evolutionary thought, traced back from pre-Darwinian times, Ryan presents an overwhelming number of detailed examples that support the alleged opposite of competition, i.e. cooperation... In all a commendable book, both for the biologist and the layman, to learn that to cooperate can be as fruitful as to compete: in nature and in human society alike.'  J. Carel von Vaupel Klein.  Crustaceana.

'Darwin himself recognized that a crucial missing piece to his theory of evolution was a mechanism for heredity. Genetics seemed to solve the puzzle, evolution's so-called neo-Darwinian synthesis ...  Yet this orthodoxy has had its doubters, and their stories unfold in this work.  Ryan peppers his presentation with eclectic characters--Who would expect anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin to figure in symbiosis? With an accessible reportorial style, Ryan enlivens a minority view of evolution.'  Gilbert Taylor, Booklist, the journal of the American Library Association. 

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