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Paperback | $27.00 Trade | £30.95 | ISBN: 9780262521789 | 284 pp. | 6.8 x 9.9 in | July 1992
 

From Gaia to Selfish Genes

Selected Writings in the Life Sciences
Edited by Connie Barlow

Overview

From Gaia to Selfish Genes is a different kind of anthology. Lively excerpts from the popular writings of leading theorists in the life sciences blend in a seamless presentation of the controversies and bold ideas driving contemporary biological research. Selections span scales from the biosphere to the cell and DNA, and disciplines from global ecology to behavior and genetics, and also reveals the links between biology and philosophy. They plunge the reader into debates about heredity and environment, competition and cooperation, randomness and determinism, and the meaning of individuality.

From Gaia to Selfish Genes conveys the technical and conceptual roots of current scientific theories beginning with the planetary perspective of James Lovelock and Lynn Margulis and concluding with the reductionist views of Richard Dawkins and E. 0. Wilson. The contrasting worldviews, coupled with excerpts drawn from critics of each theory, encourage readers to examine their own presuppositions.

In addition to the scientists' portrayal of the Gaia hypothesis, symbiosis in cell evolution, hierarchy theory, systems theory, game theory, sociobiology, and the selfish gene, the text is rich in autobiographical passages and biographies. By presenting the human side of research, From Gaia to Selfish Genes reveals the social context and interactions, the motivations and range of cognitive styles that comprise the scientific endeavor. Concluding essays written expressly for this book by Lynn Margulis, John Maynard Smith, W. Ford Doolittle, and others underscore the importance of such diversity.

The scientists include: Robert Axelrod. Richard D. Alexander. Ludwig von Bertalanffy. Leo W. Buss. Francis Crick. Richard Dawkins. W. Ford Doolittle. Douglas Hofstadter. Julian Huxley. Leon J. Kamin. Philip Kitcher. Richard C. Lewontin. James Lovelock. Lynn Margulis. Ashley Montagu. Leslie Orgel. Steven Rose. Carmen Sapienza. John Maynard Smith. Lewis Thomas. Gerald Weinberg. E. 0. Wilson. Robert Wright. The science writers include: Lawrence Joseph. Arthur Koestler. Francesca Lyman. Jeanne McDermott. Richard Monastersky. Dorion Sagan.

About the Editor

Connie Barlow is a science writer.

Endorsements

"A crash course in modern biological thought... Many of the unmissable modem masters are here: James Lovelock on Gaia, Lynn Margulis and Dorion Sagan on symbiosis in the cell, Robert Axelrod and William Hamilton on the evolution of cooperation, E.O. Wilson on sociobiology and Richard Dawkins on selfish genes and memes. It is a heady mix one that covers the spectrum from holism to reductionism, without giving houseroom to any but the best writers.... This is a book with a number of different messages. Yet those messages are often so powerful - and the writing so persuasive - that somehow you long for them all to be true. Bold and shocking biology has that effect on people."
Stephen Young, New Scientist