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Fabian, p. ISBN 0 8 hardcover 1. Fabian, A. C, To a biologist it simply means genetic evolution, whereas in many other disciplines it can mean change, or unfolding, with time - sometimes with an implicit gradualness to distinguish it from revolution. This collection of essays is the result of asking eight well-known communicators from separate disciplines to discuss evolution.

It will be seen that most of them tell us how the topic has arrived where it has: the Darwinian concept of evolution itself from Stephen Jay Gould; cells and the embryo from Lewis Wolpert; the current human political divide with a very broad brush from Jared Diamond; society from Tim Ingold; the universe from Martin Rees; the scientific enterprise from Freeman Dyson; Richard Rogers on the evolution of cities concentrates on the current state of London and Gillian Beer considers whether novels have evolved at all and then tells us how the concept of evolution has permeated through fiction.

These Series have become an institution for some in Cambridge and are open to, and well attended by, the public as well as members of the College and University. The Lectures are intended to be interdisciplinary and to that end we select for each Series a group of well-known communicators, mostly from the academic world, and ask them to talk on a chosen theme. A greater appreciation of the overall result can best be obtained by looking at more than one volume. Andrew C. Fabian There is no intention that the authors should know what the others have said or written. In this way the feel for each discipline comes through.

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Styles of writing vary as much as styles of lecturing. Generally, the sciences have more visual aids - illustrations and figures - and are more impromptu than talks from the arts, social sciences and humanities. By giving the talks to a wide public audience it is generally true that they are wholly intelligible to those outside their discipline. We hope that some of the excitement of the intellectual endeavours in a range of disciplines can thereby be readily communicated. Although the process of Darwinian evolution is contested little in the chapters, recent interpretations neo- and ultra-Darwinism are questioned in places, and a suspicion that there is more to life grows as attention shifts from the physical and biological sciences to the social ones.

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Stephen Jay Gould argues that the mechanism of evolution through adaptation has deep roots in the tradition of English natural history. This tradition, in which Darwin worked, emphasized the study of details and of good design and can be seen centuries earlier in the writings of Robert Boyle. Lewis Wolpert shows that evolution proceeds by genetic modification of the development of the embryo, with differential growth being the important factor.

He then explores how multicellular creatures, eggs and embryos arose. Jared Diamond tackles the broad pattern of human history since the last Ice Age. Why did Europeans spread through North America after the fifteenth century whereas the Incas did not and could not invade Europe? He argues that much has to do with the availability of domesticatable large animals and plants which, in turn, depends to a significant degree upon geography. If a land mass Eurasia has a large east-west axis at the same latitude, plants and animals can be successfully transplanted.

Large human societies, and farming, can develop. Surplus people can develop guns; germs are caught from the domesticated animals.

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The invaders then have weapons, transport and disease immunity so are unstoppable. Richard Rogers considers that the evolution of a city such as London is a process of cumulative change which cannot be left to random mutation. London is a postindustrial city facing the consequences of unchecked economic growth.

Many famous public spaces are little more than traffic roundabouts. He argues that a sustainable city can be developed by consolidation around diverse compact urban neighbourhoods. Tim Ingold thinks that developmental biology, rather than Darwin's 'descent Introduction with modification' is the most promising place to start integrating the biological and social sciences. He argues against social life being a product of a selection process and that human capacities are not pre-specified but arise through evolution with other persons, particularly in the interaction with succeeding generations.

Gillian Beer finds that evolution as applied to the novel generally means upward development, and argues against the novel as such evolving. It is the case that novels that are fit to survive do so, and not necessarily those that have survived being somehow intrinsically the best. She then explores how evolution as an idea has been taken up by novelists.

Freeman Dyson tackles the evolution of science by telling stories, mainly of astronomy, to illustrate evolutionary themes.

He shows how speciation and symbiosis occur in the physical universe. It is well known that revolutions occur in the development of scientific understanding. He argues that tool-driven revolutions are much more common than the, more famous, concept-driven ones. Martin Rees describes the evolution of the universe as an unfolding process.

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This takes us from the Big Bang to the build-up of elements heavier than hydrogen and helium in stellar cores and supernovae. He then asks why the physical constants, the strengths of interactions and so on, have the values they do, and discusses ideas in which there are ensembles of universes of which ours is just one in which the constants allow life to develop and exist.

This takes us full circle and allows us to glimpse how genetic evolution may be just a later part of a more directly physical, and possibly deeper, process of unfolding in a physical metauniverse. We see that, in an interdisciplinary sense, the concept of evolution is not fixed, but is a central theme which cannot be ignored.

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Lastly, I am grateful to the Master and Fellows of Darwin College for the opportunity to organize the Lecture Series, and to many individual Fellows and students for assistance in running the Lectures and, in particular, to Joyce Graham for much practical help. A common language across miles of ocean can inspire more closeness than twenty miles of La Manche accompanied by a divergence of tongues - hence the similarities between American and British histories of evolutionary thought, as discussed in this article.

In this work, I try to identify adaptation as the most distinctly anglophonic subject of natural history and subsequent evolutionary ideas. I set out to show that Charles Darwin's Figure 1 decision to site his defence and mechanism of evolution in the explanation of adaptation has roots in a long tradition of English natural history and theology that never provoked much continental attention.

Our current struggles over 'ultra-Darwinian' versus structuralist modes of thought continue the same debate and establish a particularly English continuity across several centuries. He then added, in a portentous line that has sounded throughout the subsequent history of evolutionary theory, that such an explanation would seem empty, not only for leaving out a central subject, but on aesthetic grounds as well: Nevertheless, such a conclusion, even if well founded, would be unsatisfactory, until it could be shown how the innumerable species inhabiting this world have Stephen Jay Gould been modified, so as to acquire that perfection of structure and coadaptation which most justly excites our admiration.

Darwin invites us to consider the alternatives: how else, other than by natural selection, might precise adaptation arise by material causation rather than direct supernatural construction? Darwin notes that environmental induction of variation would be cited by most evolutionarily inclined naturalists, but such an explanation cannot account for the complexity and beauty of adaptation an argument with a strong aesthetic component : Naturalists continually refer to external conditions, such as climate, food, etc.

In one very limited sense, as we shall hereafter see, this may be true; but it is preposterous to attribute to mere external conditions, the structure, for instance, of the woodpecker, with its feet, tail, beak, and tongue, so admirably adapted to catch insects under the bark of trees. Darwin continues , p. We are left with only one alternative to natural selection: the orthogenetic notion of a 'pre-programmed' sequence of phylogenetic transformation, as the Scottish author and publisher Robert Chambers advocated in the anonymously published Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation Darwin properly Boyle's law to Darwin's revolution rejects this notion on methodological grounds - as entirely untestable in the same sense that creation by divine fiat can never be proven and cannot therefore be regarded as useful: The author of the 'Vestiges of Creation' would, I presume, say that, after a certain unknown number of generations, some bird had given birth to a woodpecker, and some plant to the misseltoe, and that these had been produced perfect as we now see them; but this assumption seems to me to be no explanation, for it leaves the cause of the coadaptations of organic beings to each other and to their physical conditions of life, untouched and unexplained.

Darwin, , p. But a decision to view adaptation as the central phenomenon for evolution to explain represents a peculiarly English strategy, and by no means a universal approach. Darwin's revolution may be defined by its radically new and utterly inverted explanation of adaptation, but not by a decision to make the subject central - for good design had been the primary subject of English natural history for at least years.

These differences in national styles, since they began long before the acceptance of evolutionary perspectives, arose from varying approaches to the question of how the workings of nature might reflect the presence and attributes of a divine creator. The distinctively English tradition of 'natural theology' held that God's existence, and also his attributes of goodness and omniscience, could be inferred from the excellence of organic architecture, particularly the good design of organisms and the harmony of ecosystems. Natural theology was defended by some of the greatest seventeenth-century scientists in Newton's orbit, Robert Boyle and John Ray in particular; achieved a culminating statement in the immensely influential Natural Theology of William Paley, first published in ; and enjoyed a final exuberant fling, a bit past its time perhaps, in the sequence of Bridgewater Treatises published during the s.

The natural theologians therefore viewed 'adaptation' - their word, by the way, not Darwin's invention or evolution's neologism - as the primary phenomenon of biology because God's existence and nature lay best revealed therein. Such an attitude would have seemed peculiar to most continental biologists who did not of course deny adaptation, but who tended to view good design as a set of superficial and particularistic tinkerings upon the basic illustrations Stephen Jay Gould of divine intelligence: underlying structures, and the patterns of their transformation in the taxonomic ordering of animals.

Most continental structuralists viewed a well-webbed duck's foot, or a good-digging mole's forearm, as too singular and too puny to illustrate something so ineffable and general as God's omniscience. Louis Agassiz, for example, the great Swiss and, later, American zoologist of Darwin's generation, and the last major scientific creationist, held that the taxonomic structure of the animal kingdom best revealed God's nature and intentionality - for each species is an incarnated thought in God's mind, and relations among species therefore display the character of God's mental machinery.

I do not mean to cast this distinction as a pure and invariant dichotomy. Some continentals, notably the French naturalist Georges Cuvier himself, maintained a predominantly adaptationist outlook non-evolutionary, of course, for Cuvier.

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And some Englishmen favoured the search for geometric rules of archetypal transformation over a singular focus on adaptations, each separately fitted to a particular environment - including Richard Owen, whose adherence to this unfamiliar style of evolutionism led to his frequent misinterpretation abetted by a growing Darwinian establishment, quite content to malign their principal enemy as a lingering creationist for non-adaptational evolutionism might easily be misread as a denial of the entire theme, rather than only of centrality for Darwin's favoured phenomenon.

Paleyan natural theology may have been more the preserve of dons and divines in Cambridge than of the medical radicals in Edinburgh and London who, as the biographer and historian of science Adrian Desmond has shown so well, often embraced Lamarckian and structuralist views ; but Darwin ran with the Cambridge crowd, and this strand of intellectual genealogy ultimately prevailed in British biology. I therefore consider it useful to examine the distinctively British continuity between the adaptationism of the natural theologians and its transmogrification into Darwin's world of descent with modification.