In 2011, James A. Shapiro's Evolution: A View from the 21st Century proposed a revolutionary paradigm for understanding biological evolution: natural genetic engineering, not random accidents, produce genome change. In the 21st-century view, organisms are active participants in the evolutionary process.
Since then, climate change and multiple crises in infectious disease have given new urgency to understanding evolution. In this expanded 2nd edition, Shapiro shares new evidence that living cells re-engineer their genomes in response to environmental challenges and disruptions to cellular reproduction. From the classroom to the laboratory, conventional wisdom still paints evolution as the passive result of mutational accidents and natural selection. A modern vision of evolution recognizes that all living beings, from the simplest organisms to humans, actively modify their read-write (RW) genomes as they evolve. In an unpredictable world, the ability to evolve actively is essential to survival. Today, understanding evolution is equally critical to our shared future.
Read this book to learn:
- How interactions with other species, cells, and viruses shape an organism's evolution
- How better understanding evolution can help protect our health, food supply, and planet
- How to apply lessons from molecular genetics and genomics wisely to benefit society
Written for both general and academic readers, the 2nd edition includes:
- Discussions of the latest thinking on evolutionary processes
- Published scientific papers sharing key research from the past decade
- The full text of the 2011 edition with appendices
About the Author xv
A Note on Reading This Book for Individuals with Different Backgrounds xvii
Introduction: Taking a Fresh Look at the Basics of Evolution in the New Century 1
Part I: Sensing, Signaling, and Decision-Making in Cell Reproduction 7
Part II: The Genome as a Read-Write (RW) Storage System 27
Part III: Evolutionary Lessons from Molecular Genetics and Genome Sequencing 89
Part IV: A New Conceptual Basis for Evolutionary Research in the 21st Century 127
James A. Shapiro is a Professor of Microbiology in the Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology at the University of Chicago. He received his B.A. in English Literature from Harvard in 1964 and his PhD in Genetics from Cambridge University in 1968.
William Hayes was his PhD supervisor, and Sydney Brenner was an unofficial adviser during his time in Cambridge as a Marshall Scholar. His thesis, The Structure of the Galactose Operon in Escherichia coli K12, contains the first suggestion of transposable elements in bacteria. He confirmed this hypothesis in 1968 during his postdoctoral tenure as a Jane Coffin Childs fellow in the laboratory of Francois Jacob at the Institut Pasteur in Paris. The following year, as an American Cancer Society fellow in Jonathan Beckwith’s laboratory at Harvard Medical School, he and his colleagues used in vivo genetic manipulations to clone and purify the lac operon of E. coli, an accomplishment that received international attention. In 1979, he formulated the first precise molecular model for transposition and replication of phage Mu and other transposons. In 1984, he published the first example of what is now called “adaptive mutation”. He found that selection stress triggers a tremendous increase in the frequency of Mu-mediated fusions. Together with Pat Higgins in 1989, he showed that activation of Mu replication and transposition is spatially organized in bacterial colonies. Since 1992, he has been writing about the importance of biologically regulated natural genetic engineering as a fundamental new concept in evolution science.
Following a teaching stint at the University of Havana (1970-1972) and research at Brandeis (1972-1973), Shapiro moved to a faculty position at the University of Chicago in 1973. He has been there since then with occasional sabbaticals and visiting professor appointments at the Institut Pasteur, Tel Aviv University, Cambridge University, and the University of Edinburgh, where he was the Darwin Prize Visiting Professor in 1993. He is a fellow of the American Academy of Microbiology, the AAAS and the Linnean Society of London. In 2001, he received an honorary O.B.E. from Queen Elizabeth for services to higher education in the UK and US.
Together with Ahmed Bukhari and Sankhar Adhya, Shapiro organized the first conference on DNA insertion elements in May 1976 at Cold Spring Harbor laboratory. From 1980 until her death in 1992, he maintained a close scientific and personal friendship with Barbara McClintock, whom he credits with opening his eyes to new ways of thinking about science in general and evolution in particular.
Shapiro is a founding member of the website, www.TheThirdWayofEvolution.com, intended to make the public aware of scientific alternatives to both Intelligent Design and Neo-Darwinism. He has published pioneering books on mobile genetic elements, natural genetic engineering, bacterial multicellularity, and read-write genome evolution.
"Professor Shapiro's [Evolution: A View from the 21st Century] is the best book on basic modern biology I have seen. As far as I can tell, the book is a game-changer."
– Carl Woese, University of Illinois, founder of phylogenomics and discoverer of Archaea, the third domain of life
"This book is a game changer. A radically different view of evolution has been emerging in this century. We now know that living systems actively shape their own evolution. Distinguished geneticist James Shapiro documents what he calls "natural genetic engineering". As he says, it's time to replace the one-way, bottom-up model of the genome with a two-way, "read-write" model."
– Peter A, Corning, Director of the Institute for the Study of Complex Systems and author of Synergistic Selection: How Cooperation Has Shaped Evolution and the Rise of Humankind
"Shapiro masterfully invites readers to join him in rethinking many key evolutionary issues given new knowledge of genomics and evolution in the 21st century. Shapiro's new framework of natural genetic engineering as a major alternative theory to advance our understanding of evolution is a promising paradigm for the 21st century. It will certainly leave a lasting mark on the field of evolutionary biology."
– Henry H. Heng, Professor of Molecular Medicine, Genetics, and Pathology, Karmanos Cancer Institute; and author of Genome Chaos: Rethinking Genetics, Evolution, and Molecular Medicine
"Shapiro rightly emphasizes that genome change by natural genetic engineering (NGE) is not blind or random but non-random, creative and adaptive. Ecological stress activates transposable elements so that organisms rewrite their genomes. Clearly, random mutations followed by selection generating adaptive evolution is unrealistic. The complementarity between NGE and selection seems to me optimal. In sum, the second edition of Evolution: A View from the 21st Century truly presents impressive new horizons in evolution."
– Eviatar Nevo, Founder of the Evolution Institute, University of Haifa; Israel Prize; and explorer of Evolution Canyon
"James Shapiro is the acknowledged master of natural genetic engineering and its role in evolution. This book is, therefore, a landmark and essential reading for those who need to understand the new trends in evolutionary biology. The decade since the first edition has seen vindication that the genome is a read-write database. It is the organism that determines how the genes are used and when to change them."
– Denis Noble, FRS, CBE, Oxford; first cardiac rhythm simulation; author of The Music of Life and Dance to the Tune of Life