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Evolution (英語) ハードカバー – 2007/6/30
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Evolution is a new book on evolutionary biology that integrates molecular biology, genomics, and human genetics with traditional studies of evolutionary processes. Recommended as a primary textbook for undergraduate courses in evolution Required reading for biologists seeking a clear, current, and comprehensive account of evolutionary theory and mechanisms Written by experts in population genetics, bacterial genomics, paleontology, human genetics, and developmental biology Integrates molecular and evolutionary biology in ways that reflect current directions in research
Unfortunately, I do have a couple of issues with this book. I am a biologist and have read 17 out of the 26 chapters (about 2/3). In summary, the book is too long because it is often vague and sometimes fairly technical. Occasionally I had trouble understanding the material because of poorly selected figures or examples. Here are some examples:
The introductory 3 chapters already have some serious shortcomings. For example, the section on "Objections to Evolution" (p. 76) is pretty lame. The argument that evolution cannot be observed is only vaguely addressed. Of course it can be observed, given that we can observe mutations either accumulate from generation to generation or that we can simply generate such mutations at will. We can also observe selection of such mutations in the lab etc. Similarly, the argument that evolutionary theory is not testable is rebutted by the "consistency of phylogenies" and the fossil record. Sigh. Is that all the authors could come up with?
In the same vain, I find many sections vague, with suboptimal examples. For instance, the chapter on evolutionary novelty doesn't really present any novelties but rather "standard evolution". We have known of a number of newly (or recently) evolved genes, novel enzyme activities, or novel morphological structures. There is barely any mention of those. Instead the chapter describes "Müllerian mimicry", how mutations in phosphoglucose-isomerase causes temperature-sensitive differences in kinetics or how opsin can change its light absorption properties by mutations. Hardly any novelty that will convince a creationist. It is true that there are not many true novelties that we understand well but there are certainly better examples than those in the book, e.g. radical changes in protein activity with very few mutations (think yeast Gal1 and Gal3 proteins) or morphological inventions such as feathers from reptile scales. Instead, Barton and colleagues use rather obscure examples and then don't even explain them well.
In fact, the vagueness is my main complaint. There are dozens of cases where the authors talk, for instance, about "baceria that grow on carbon monoxide" (p. 719) but don't say which ones. A page earlier they have a figure illustrating non-homologous gene displacement, using a hypothetical "green gene" displaced by an "orange gene". I am inclined to scream "Lord! Just give me a real example, please!" and there are many, especially in microbial metabolism. Often I got the impression that the authors were too lazy to look up better examples (or ANY example) and this is what makes evolution so interesting and convincing.
Finally, the book is often too complicated because of the many attempts to recapitulate the scientific literature without distilling out the gist of it. Chapter 11 is a case in point. It would have helped to edit some figures by simply adding labels instead of just reprint them from a scientific paper (see Fig. 11.16 which is incomprehensible without reading the legend). Many sections thus could easily be shortened significantly without losing much information.
I often have discussions with a creationist friend, but I am reluctant to recommend this book to him. It may backfire...