Books  Ecological & Biological Sciences  Evolutionary Biology  Evolution 

Beyond Natural Selection

Out of Print

By: R Wesson

354 pages, 11 illus

MIT Press

Paperback | Mar 1993 | #25050 | ISBN: 0262731029
Out of Print Details
Hardback | Dec 1991 | #14160 | ISBN: 0262231611
Out of Print Details

About this book

A provocative approach to modern evolutionary theory, in which the author argues that Darwinism and neo-Darwinism explain only part of the richness of natural life. In reality, the evolutionary process is more chaotic in nature, with a tendency for complex systems to become more complex; natural selection cannot sufficiently account for the development of the multitude of modern species. The author also addresses a number of intriguing issues, such as the implications of the incompleteness of the fossil record to Darwinian theory, and the relationship between our understanding of evolution and development of human values.

In many ways, this book is akin to a primer on current evolutionary theory. Yet, Wesson picks his points carefully as he builds the case that chaos theory offers a way of understanding order and pattern in evolution ... a coherent presentation of many contemporary evolutionary conundrums as they might be addressed through a chaos framework. --Science Books & Films


Part 1 The conventional theory - "it is solved": the "neo-Darwinist synthesis"; variants of the theory; the commitment to Darwinism; the religious challenge. Part 2 The universe of complexity: limits of reductionism; higher laws; the new outlook of science; modernizing Darwinism. Part 3 The cryptic record: problems of origins; the leap into the air; between land and ocean. Part 4 Inventive nature: the wonder of life; remarkable structures; fantastic behaviours; intelligent instincts; problems of creativity. Part 5 Inconsistent nature: adaptation; nonadaptation; infertility; premature death. Part 6 The question of sex: the role of sex; sexual practices; why sex? Part 7 Sociality: social animals; social insects; theory of altruism; social specialization. Part 8 Dynamics of evolution: the genetic medley; the problem of information; attractors in the genome; variation; the role of chaos; feedback; summary. Part 9 The power of attractors: coherence of pattern; limits of change; parallel evolution; the meaning of parallelism; evolutionary inertia. Part 10 Evolutionary change: speciation; molecular change - microevolution; structural change - neoteny; fixity; radiation; extinction; summary. Part 11 Positive adaptation: the presistence of Lamarckism; the responsive genome; adaptive variation; behavioural adaptation; learning; instinct. Part 12 Evolution and humanity: becoming human; the evolution of intelligence; intelligence and brain; the mind; sociobiology; cultural evolution. Part 13 Conclusions and perspectives: the autonomy of the genome; the direction of evolution; the evolution of evolution; the anthropic principle; the essence of evolution; moral meaning of evolution.

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Robert Wesson, a political scientist who has undergone ecdysis, is Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institute in Stanford, California.

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