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The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma

3.97  ·  Rating Details ·  105 Ratings  ·  9 Reviews
Offering daring new ideas about evolution, two highly respected biologists here tackle the central, unresolved question in the field—how have living organisms on Earth developed with such astounding variety and complexity? Marc Kirschner and John Gerhart draw on cutting-edge biological and medical research to provide an original solution to this longstanding puzzle.

"In thi
Paperback, 336 pages
Published November 15th 2006 by Yale University Press (first published 2005)
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May 24, 2007 Christina rated it it was amazing
Fascinating molecular systems view of evolution. Not really recommended for people not up on their biology jargon but pretty awesome.
Apr 19, 2008 Debs rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, 2007
This is the scary part where we get to see if I actually understood what I read. To explain it a little more, they're proposing a theory called "Facilitated Variation." Basically, they're saying that it is impossible that complex structures evolved from complete small chunks of randomness because all of the complex parts couldn't possibly be coordinated just by chance (e.g. the muscles, bones, capillaries, nerves, etc. of the hand), and also because the individual bits of things have no adaptive ...more
Pete Welter
Jul 29, 2014 Pete Welter rated it really liked it
The theory of evolution has three major elements: natural selection, heredity and variation. While support for the first two is quite solid, this book focuses on the variation part of the equation. In the classic version of evolution, it's given that random mutations cause variation, and that some small set of these mutations are helpful and therefore selected for. However, there are few things skipped over with that version of the story. First, the generation of novelty; that is, how do major j ...more
Jun 12, 2008 Melissa rated it it was amazing
Shelves: science-nerd
This book reads more like a textbook than popular science journalism, but it's well worth the extra effort. The authors propose a theory of facilitated variation, poking holes in nearly every argument in the Intelligent Design arsenal by providing evidence that complex systems can, and do, evolve in measurable ways, particularly in light of recent advances in molecular biology and genomics.

The authors begin by outlining five phases on the evolutionary timeline during which novel processes appea
Dec 24, 2010 Ilya rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Darwin's theory of evolution explains the process of natural selection, but doesn't explain the sources of variation the selection acts upon. A lot more is known about variation now than in Darwin's days: how Hox genes divide the bilateral animal embryo into segments, and allow mutated genes to change the development of one segment only; what parts of the genome are conserved for all life, what parts are for all eukaryotes, and so on, and what parts are plastic. There is a connection between the ...more
Apr 01, 2011 David rated it liked it
Shelves: science, biology
This is a fascinating book that proposes a new neo-Darwinian theory for the evolution of life. The theory is called "facilitated variation", because the authors believe that purely random mutations are not sufficient to produce the variability upon which selection can act. The authors show how the biases in phenotype variation play a large part in evolution.

This may be a very important book, but to tell the truth, I don't understand much of it. The book is highly technical, but it is cast as a g
Samuel Lampa
Feb 26, 2016 Samuel Lampa rated it really liked it
Shelves: biology
Very very interesting book on the modularity of biology, and its implications for biology's ability to adapt to its surroundings. I don't agree on all the conclusions of the authors, but I fully agree with their statement that (quoting from memory), "the question of origin of novelty remains one of the biggest challenges in biology today".
Jan 10, 2009 Robert rated it it was ok
In the end, I was barely able to finish this. I mostly skimmed the last two chapters. I don't think I ever really got what they mean by "facilitated variation". They tried hard to write to both a lay and a scientific audience, and I'm afraid that in the end they satisfied neither.
Nov 29, 2015 Xin rated it it was amazing
A great book if you are interested in how evolution creates very complex system known as life.
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