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Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us about Development and Evolution

3.61  ·  Rating Details  ·  119 Ratings  ·  14 Reviews
In most respects, Abigail and Brittany Hensel are normal American twins. Born and raised in a small town, they enjoy a close relationship, though each has her own tastes and personality. But the Hensels also share a body. Their two heads sit side-by-side on a single torso, with two arms and two legs. They have not only survived, but have developed into athletic, graceful y ...more
Hardcover, 326 pages
Published November 1st 2008 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published October 16th 2008)
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Dec 12, 2015 Nikki rated it did not like it
The title put me off this right away, the opening chapter helped somewhat because it promised to be more than a parade of curiosities, showing some sympathy and understanding, but ultimately I didn’t feel it did really manage to rise above that. There was a lot of reiteration about ‘circus freaks’, etc, and I don’t think it got past the novelty factor of such cases. There were some rather odd assertions — that the figure of Atlas could’ve been inspired by people with a developmental issue who en ...more
Jan 07, 2013 Ali rated it did not like it
Recommends it for: no one ever
I don't think I've ever read anything that managed to be quite as pretentious and condescending while simultaneously offensive and wrong, so A+ Mark Blumberg, well done. The first two thirds of the book are a poorly organized jumble of trivia (though not particularly diverse or in depth trivia) about both developmental biology and circus freaks. Then there's a chapter on sex ambiguities.

Is the author unclear about the difference between gender, sex, sexual identity, transgender issues, intersex
Vincent Flipanowski
Feb 10, 2010 Vincent Flipanowski rated it it was ok
Had this book been called "Freaks of Nature: What Anomalies Tell Us About Genes, Development, and Behavior" I would have easily given the book three stars. I wasn't crazy about the writing or the organization, but the concept and the stories were interesting. I bought the book expecting (based on the title) there to be ample discussion on what anomalies might tell us about speciation. For example, could a mutation that leads to a pair of four-winged parents producing a two-winged offspring lead ...more
Mar 02, 2012 Xexets rated it really liked it
In spite of the adverse reviews, I think this book is a very good read, it is entertaining and very informative. Overall the claim is very appropriate and it has profound consequences on the more general philosophical thought underpinning but also deriving from scientific studies: we are all freaks, what we call freak is just another path in evolution/development. I found of central importance the section on sex and gender, which has a direct connection with Butler's ideas: we grow up with the i ...more
Paul De Belder
May 29, 2016 Paul De Belder rated it it was amazing
I thoroughly enjoyed this book, which concentrates on the importance of the "Devo" in EvoDevo. By looking at the development of "freaks and monsters", both abnormally developed individuals (like a two-headed snake, a goat without forelegs or a human born without legs), and normally developed animals with strange properties (like regenerating limbs, multiple sexes, strange senses, weird mating systems), the author emphasises how much development shapes life, without help from the genes.
I like the information provided by this book but not the style in which it is presented.
While reading I got the impression that the author had trouble structuring the narrative and had problems prioritizing the information he is trying to convey. It shambles between trying to be funny and being too dry and academical without being able to hit the golden middle ground between the two.
I'm glad I read it since it does provide a summary of the information I needed but I doubt I will try books by t
Emily Brown
Dec 17, 2012 Emily Brown rated it really liked it
Shelves: science, history
definitely a must read for those interested in development!! most of the book is at a layman's level, explaining development and genes. i almost wish i hadn't known the information in it, as it was so fascinating to read all together (instead of piece-mealing it together as i had through my job). if you're an expert, don't expect to find anything new; this is development at its most basic.
So far, interesting, but the author seems desperate to be seen as controversial, putting forward a view that is largely within the mainstream (i.e. that genes and the environment interact, and that much of evolution is controlled at a developmental level) and making artificial contrasts between the gene centric view
Sep 23, 2015 Jess rated it really liked it
This is a fantastic, interesting read. Dr. Blumberg is a professor at the U of I and he is a great storyteller of science. This book made me realize how uncomfortable I am with anomalies and how comfortable I should be. How often does a science book make you question yourself like that? Highly recommend.
This book is more about the debates between scientists about the implications of these "freaks" than about the freaks themselves. If you want a history of research of evolution, evo devo, and embryonic development, you'll like this; otherwise, look elsewhere.
Amy Case
Dec 21, 2013 Amy Case rated it really liked it
Must-read for people involved in teratology. Provided me with a great new paradigm, and I love me a new paradigm.
Seth Loika
Feb 05, 2013 Seth Loika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A highly enjoyable read that focuses on the effect of environment, rather than genetics on the outcome of life-forms.
Feb 22, 2012 Susan rated it did not like it
Shelves: gave-up
Amazing how a book with this kind of title and premise could be quite this boring.
Kelsey King
Jul 29, 2013 Kelsey King rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Very great read for those who have some knowledge of the genetic and or cell field.
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