During evolution there have been several major changes in the way genetic information is organised and transmitted from one generation to the next. These transitions include the origin of life itself, the first eukaryotic cells, reproduction by sexual means, the appearance of multicellular plants and animals, the emergence of cooperation and of animal societies, and the unique language ability of humans. A common theme in the book is that entities that could replicate independently before the transition can replicate afterwards only as part of a larger whole. Why, then, does selection between entities at the lower level not disrupt selection at the higher level? In answering this question, the distinguished authors offer an explanation for the evolution of cooperation at all levels of complexity.
List of Tables; Preface; 1. Introduction; 2. What is Life?; 3. Chemical evolution; 4. The evolution of templates; 5. The chicken and egg problem; 6. The origin of translation and the genetic code; 7. The origin of protocells; 8. The origin of eukaryotes; 9. The origin of sex and the nature of species; 10. Intragenomic conflict; 11. Symbiosis; 12. Development in simple organisms; 13. Gene regulation and cell heredity; 14. The development of spatial patterns; 15. Development and evolution; 16. The origins of societies; 17. The origins of language; References; Index
It spans the major transitions in evolution, starting with a prebiotic mix of free molecules and ending with the evolution of human language . . . . A splendid and rewarding tour de force.--Nature