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How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity
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How the Leopard Changed Its Spots: The Evolution of Complexity

3.68  ·  Rating Details  ·  79 Ratings  ·  8 Reviews
Do genes explain life? Can advances in evolutionary and molecular biology account for what we look like, how we behave, and why we die? In this powerful intervention into current biological thinking, Brian Goodwin argues that such genetic reductionism has important limits.

Drawing on the sciences of complexity, the author shows how an understanding of the self-organizing pa
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Paperback, 275 pages
Published February 18th 2001 by Princeton University Press (first published January 1st 1994)
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Tutankhamun18
Jan 17, 2016 Tutankhamun18 rated it really liked it
The first 6 chapters were really interesting and I read with a pencil in hand to underline the parts I wanted to transcribe to my notebook. Not only were the ideas well presented and examples frequently used, but also the writing style made it easy to read while retaining a high quality. Also the idea was quite new to me, despite my biology degree. Really great Book. However, the final chapter was so bad that I can't give it 5 stars. In it he tries to link his ideas to culture and humans and eth ...more
Wanda
May 03, 2012 Wanda rated it really liked it
I gave it four stars because I am sympathetic to the author's view of life and evolution, and I get that he is trying to make a point against Darwinism being too much a prisoner of the culture that, um, evolved it. He describes it as a "sin/redemption" point of view, which I found interesting, as I always tend to view it as a product of early 19th century British laissez-faire capitalism and imperialism. Oh, I'm an evolutionist--just not a Dick Dawkins Darwinist.
That said, I thought the last cha
...more
Adrian Herbez
Feb 18, 2016 Adrian Herbez rated it liked it
I have to admit that I skipped the last two chapters. I wanted to read this, because I'm a sucker for books that deal with pattern formation in nature, and there was certainly some interesting content along those lines to be had. However, the author seems to have been influenced by postmodern critical theory, which I find both boring and irrelevant. When he wasn't talking in grandiose ways about how horribly wrong Darwinism is, he manages to make some interesting points about how structures are ...more
Jan Höglund
Oct 03, 2015 Jan Höglund rated it it was amazing
Biology is the "leopard" of the book's title. Brian Goodwin urges biology to shift its focus from a "genocentric" to an "organocentric" perspective (p. 3). The ideas he develops "are very much in the Goethean spirit" (p. 123). Goethe believed in a science of intrinsically dynamic wholes: "the whole plant, the whole organism, or the whole circle of colours in his theory of colour" (p. 123). I very much enjoyed reading the book!
Robert
Jan 23, 2009 Robert rated it did not like it
Shelves: science
I've owned this book for several years, and I don't think I've ever been able to get through it. I'm a very sympathetic audience, and I am well-positioned to understand the argument, but I don't see what he is getting at. It's not just epigenetics, or environmental influence - there seems to be something else we're supposed to get. The thesis is that DNA doesn't explain all the details of development, there's also... chemistry? Yes, we knew that chemistry was involved. Physics? Yes, we knew abou ...more
Nicholas Griffith
Aug 30, 2010 Nicholas Griffith rated it liked it
If you're into evolutionary biology it's a good read. But beware of the beginning and end. First he talks about algae-which is, I'm afraid to say, horribly boring (and this is coming from me, a guy who has an algae herbarium)-and in the end he goes on and on about a "bold new science". It's the meat in between that makes it worth-the point he makes is evolution has fixed parameters within which to work. It can't make a form that isn't already plausible at the biochemistry level. So the hand of a ...more
Brian
Aug 25, 2008 Brian rated it liked it
Shelves: science
Very cool book, though probably would have been better as a long essay with some good figures rather than a whole book. If you are curious how the hell evolution/genetics leads to so many bizarre biological forms, this is for you. Basically he explains (in a long-winded yet convincing fashion), that forms (such as spirals) and complexity are inherent in matter and physics itself such that evolution didn't necessarily 'create' these complex biological forms through selection from a vast reservoir ...more
D.
Aug 04, 2010 D. rated it really liked it
An outstanding look at complexity theory and it's influence on or manifestation within our world.

Have fun.
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“… there is an inherent rationality to life that makes it intelligible at a much deeper level than functional utility …” 0 likes
“Organisms are themselves expressions of … emergent order and agents of higher levels of emergence.” 0 likes
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