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Evolution: A View from the 21st Century (FT Press Science) [Kindle Edition]

James A. Shapiro

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James A. Shapiro proposes an important new paradigm for understanding biological evolution, the core organizing principle of biology. Shapiro introduces crucial new molecular evidence that tests the conventional scientific view of evolution based on the neo-Darwinian synthesis, shows why this view is inadequate to today's evidence, and presents a compelling alternative view of the evolutionary process that reflects the shift in life sciences towards a more information- and systems-based approach in Evolution: A View from the 21st Century.


Shapiro integrates advances in symbiogenesis, epigenetics, and saltationism into a unified approach that views evolutionary change as an active cell process, regulated epigenetically and capable of making rapid large changes by horizontal DNA transfer, inter-specific hybridization, whole genome doubling, symbiogenesis, or massive genome restructuring.


Evolution marshals extensive evidence in support of a fundamental reinterpretation of evolutionary processes, including more than 1,100 references to the scientific literature. Shapiro's work will generate extensive discussion throughout the biological community, and may significantly change your own thinking about how life has evolved. It also has major implications for evolutionary computation, information science, and the growing synthesis of the physical and biological sciences.


“Shapiro has written a stimulating, innovative manuscript that surely Darwin would have liked.”

Sidney Altman, Yale University; Nobel Laureate in Chemistry, 1989


“Based on a long and highly competent personal experience in science and his novel insights into biological functions, the author has reached views of biological evolution that can reveal to a wide, interested readership how the living world co-evolves with the environment through its intrinsic powers.”

Werner Arber, Professor Emeritus, University of Basel, Switzerland; Nobel Laureate in Physiology/Medicine, 1978


“Professor Shapiro’s offering is the best book on basic modern biology I have ever seen. As far as I can tell, the book is a game changer.”

Carl Woese, University of Illinois; discoverer of Archaea, the third realm of life; National Medal of Science 2000


“‘[N]atural genetic engineering’ explains evolutionary processes that preceded people by at least 3,000 million years. Shapiro’s detailed account of ubiquitous genetic dynamism, DNA machination, repair, and recombination in real life, bacterial to mammalian, destroys myths.... Shapiro’s careful, authoritative narrative is entirely scientific and should interest all of us who care about the evolution of genetic systems.”

Lynn Margulis, University of Massachusetts, Amherst; National Academy of Sciences, National Medal of Science 1999


“[T]his book is a magnificent analysis of the key questions of the origin of variation.... Jim Shapiro has new insights on all the central issues of evolutionary theory. The genome becomes a read-write storage system rather than the sole determinant of heredity. After reading this book, you will find it imperative to see biology as the 21st century is coming to see it.”

Denis Noble, CBE FRS, Balliol College, Oxford; author of The Music of Life


“This book highlights...dynamic systems biology and engineering between the evolving genome, cell, and environmental stresses...affecting memory system underlying life’s evolution.”

Eviatar Nevo, University of Haifa, U.S. National Academy of Sciences; explorer of Evolution Canyon


James Shapiro’s Evolution: A View from the 21st Century proposes an important new science-based paradigm for understanding biological evolution. Shapiro explains how conventional evolutionary theory (as elaborated from the neo-Darwinian synthesis) has become outdated, and he marshals new molecular genetics and DNA sequence evidence to reinterpret fundamental evolutionary processes.


Shapiro’s new information- and systems-based paradigm integrates important phenomena such as symbiogenesis, epigenetics, and natural genetic engineering. He demonstrates how active cell processes can drive the rapid, large evolutionary changes seen in the DNA that cannot be adequately explained by earlier theories.


Evolution: A View from the 21st Century is likely to generate extensive discussion throughout the biological community and might change your own thinking about how life has evolved. Shapiro’s vision also has major implications for evolutionary computation, information science, and the growing synthesis of physical and biological sciences.


Living cells: evolution’s not-so-blind watchmakers
How cells acquire and use external information–and what that means for evolution


Cellular read-write mechanisms and informatics-based approaches

Cell-mediated genome inscriptions at time scales ranging from days to epochs


Nature’s leaps: beyond Linnaeus and Darwin

The growing molecular evidence for rapid, large-scale, evolutionary change


A new conceptual basis for 21st century evolutionary research

Discovering how evolutionary innovation is generated, dispersed, and diversified


  • Format: Kindle Edition
  • Dateigröße: 2009 KB
  • Seitenzahl der Print-Ausgabe: 147 Seiten
  • ISBN-Quelle für Seitenzahl: 0132780933
  • Gleichzeitige Verwendung von Geräten: Bis zu 5 Geräte gleichzeitig, je nach vom Verlag festgelegter Grenze
  • Verlag: FT Press; Auflage: 1 (8. Juni 2011)
  • Verkauf durch: Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Sprache: Englisch
  • ASIN: B0054KOKZ2
  • Text-to-Speech (Vorlesemodus): Aktiviert
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  • Word Wise: Nicht aktiviert
  • Amazon Bestseller-Rang: #357.279 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop (Siehe Top 100 Bezahlt in Kindle-Shop)

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5.0 von 5 Sternen A provocative view of evolution 27. Juli 2011
Von Frank Harold - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe
The history of life is peppered with novelties, functional and adaptive features never seen before. Eyes to see with come to mind, and wings to fly with; so do the seeds of flowering plants, the intricate cilia that move eukaryotic cells, and a thousand others. How do innovations arise? This is the question addressed in this book, and there can be few issues more crucial to our understanding of evolution.

The conventional answer was formulated seventy years ago as part of the Modern Synthesis, which melded Darwin's insights from natural history with the rising science of population genetics. It invokes a static genome composed of discrete heritable genes that are subject to variation by mutation and other accidents; the variations are then culled by natural selection, with the result that adaptation of the organism improves. Evolution takes place slowly and gradually, by small random steps. The fossil record displays many instances, the classic one being the transformation of horses' toes. But skeptics have questioned this scenario from the beginning, arguing that there cannot have been time enough to bring forth the profusion of biological novelty, and in any event random mutations are more likely to degrade organization than to create it. Such doubts have been reinforced in recent years by our growing knowledge of how genomes are constructed and how they operate. James Shapiro puts himself squarely on the side of the skeptics, and offers an alternative vision that he dubs "natural genetic engineering".

Briefly, the architecture of genomes turned out quite unlike what had been expected. In higher organisms, at least, genes are composed of both coding and non-coding sequences, and must be spliced prior to expression. Classical protein- coding sequences make up an astonishingly small proportion of the genome, just a few percent. The remainder features regions that specify an intricate network of regulatory elements, many based on RNA rather than proteins. These are concerned, not only with the expression of individual genes, but with the fidelity and architecture of the genome as a whole. Genomes also contain numerous stretches, long and short, of repetitious DNA, whose physiological functions are not obvious. Junk DNA? Not necessarily. Some can translocate from one locus to another (or at least did so in the past), with the help of enzymes specified by the genome itself, and thereby reconfigure the instructions laid out in the database. The most conspicuous agents of change are the transposons, "jumping genes", that migrate from one place to another spontaneously or in response to stress. Transposons disrupt genes, but they often carry along genes or fragments of genes, which are thereby transferred from one neighborhood to another. Bacterial genomes are more streamlined than those of animals, but no more static. They are buffeted by a ceaseless rain of foreign genetic material, picked up from the environment or carried by viruses. Cells are forever restructuring their genomes, which proved to be more dynamic than we thought, more malleable and interactive, and therefore more evolvable.

At first sight, the continuous makeover seems merely to supply more variations for selection to winnow, but Shapiro argues that there is much more to it than that. Natural genetic engineering generates different kinds of variation from those produced by classical mutations, one gene at a time. Rearrangements can take place at multiple locations at once and shuffle entire domains from one protein to another, producing novel combinations quickly and abruptly, perhaps even purposefully. Genomes, it seems, are built to evolve ---not at the petty pace of classical genetics, but in leaps that entail rearrangement of the genetic architecture or the import of foreign information. So could this be the way that organisms generate the multiple, coherent variations that seem required to manufacture complex organelles such as eyes or flagella? At the end of the day, that is a question that must be answered by experiment; we are not there yet, but the technology to address such issues is coming to hand.

A book that sets out to break images will raise questions in readers' minds, and hackles too. The central question for me turns on that supple word, "random", which commonly means precisely what the user wants it to mean. When cells sense danger, they restructure their genome by natural genetic engineering; but the variations so generated are still "random" in the sense that they are products of chance, not directed by the needs of the organism. There seem to be no truly adaptive mutations, targeted genetic changes that respond in a specific manner to a particular environmental stress or opportunity. Discovery of such directed variations would really shake the foundations of evolutionary thought! I would hold that to be impossible, but in the context of self-organizing cellular systems the idea no longer sounds as fantastic as it did a decade ago.

So this is a provocative book, one that will make you re-examine what you thought you knew. Candor compels me to add that it does not make for easy reading. Molecular biology comes in endless, mind-numbing detail, much of which the author felt obliged to incorporate. Chapter 2, which alone makes up over a third of the text, is a heavy slog that non-specialists will find discouraging, and so did I. The references number over a thousand; surely, they could have been better selected, and listed alphabetically by author! Yet it would be a big mistake to give way to irritation and fling this book to the winds. Skip along to later and more intelligible chapters, and you may return to the molecular morass in better spirit tomorrow. Dense and demanding as it is, this work may just hold insights needed to make Darwinism work in the real world.

Franklin M. Harold, Department of Microbiology, University of Washington, Seattle.

Address for correspondence: 10525 226th Street, SW, Edmonds, WA, 98020
72 von 82 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Evolution: The Untold Story 30. Juni 2011
Von Perry Marshall - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
"Evolution: A View from the 21st Century" is the first book with an accurate depiction of evolutionary processes. To my knowledge, it has not been possible to buy a book that gave you the whole story. Most mechanisms described here were first discovered decades ago. Yet until now, few people knew anything about them.

This book describes:

-"Natural Genetic Engineering" refers to cells' innate ability to re-organize their genomes in response to hundreds of kinds of inputs. This is the star of the show. Not natural selection.

-Horizontal Gene Transfer, cells exchanging segments of DNA to instantly gain new features;

-Inter-species hybridization - new species form when unlikely mates cross from two different species;

-Symbiogenesis, when separate organisms physically merge to form a new species;

-Epigenetics, shaping heredity without altering the DNA sequence;

-Whole Genome Duplication - DNA doubling to expand "hard drive space" and make room for novel features.

Others have grasped at these mysteries with varying degrees of success. "The Plausibility of Life: Resolving Darwin's Dilemma" by Kirschner and Gerhart note how evolution re-uses the same components and processes. But they fall short of recognizing how this is done.

Suzan Mazur's "The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry" offers a kaleidoscope of evolutionary ideas but doesn't reach a conclusion. Fodor's "What Darwin Got Wrong" makes good on its title but offers no alternative. Margulis' and Sagan's "Acquiring Genomes" offers a vital puzzle piece, Symbiogenesis, but could have gone much further.

Most popular books and many college textbooks gravely misrepresent the driving forces behind adaptation as random and accidental. This is tragic, because real-world evolution is awe inspiring in its sophistication, elegance and order.

"Evolution: A View from the 21st Century" succeeds where others failed. Shapiro delivers volumes of of evidence for his 'third way' - a tested alternative to both Creationism and Darwinism. This new model is a fundamental revision to evolutionary theory. It answers the questions raised by these other authors. Yet you'll find not a trace of anxiety or polemic.

Interesting insights include the following:

* As cells divide, two separate error detection & correction mechanisms repair DNA copying errors in real time. This reduces the intrinsic error rate of 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 1 billion. Impressive.

* The Hox complex ("Hox Gene") directs growth and body symmetry in fruit flies. Its activity is amplified in mammals and the exact same code directs vastly more complex growth patterns in humans.

* "As evolution proceeds, so does evolvability": As organisms rise in sophistication, their evolutionary feats become more impressive and take less time. Cells re-use and re-combine existing systems in new ways. This is opposite of what we might expect if evolution were random.

* Shapiro shovels dirt on gradual random adaptations. Changes are often rapid and almost never random; the cell militantly guards against copying errors. He says periods of mass extinction are followed by episodes of new developments because organisms must respond fast to changing ecosystems.

* Organisms are intrinsically teleological. They behave much like human engineers. He suggests they may be sentient.

* He notes that physicists and other outsiders bring a level of open-mindedness to evolution that biologists have forbidden for 100 years. (One of my clients is a biotech company in Tel Aviv. The founder says only in the last 5-7 years have large numbers of people from Computer Science begun to pursue genetics. Thankfully, the tide is beginning to turn.)

* 1162 references buttress his case with volumes of published papers.

* Companies and universities commit resources to research programs that do not produce instant gratification. Contrary to those who deny teleology, Shapiro says organisms are similarly forward-looking, having purposes beyond the present. He says viruses appear to play a role in this, generating novelties which other organisms later adopt.

I liked the concluding chapters. They counter prohibitions that have crippled evolutionary research for the last 50 years. He suggests that many fields, from technology to economics, stand to benefit from evolutionary research. He's being modest. We can learn far more from cells than they can learn from us.

Shapiro resists temptation to spar with his opponents. There's not a hint of ad hominem; those who deserve to be ignored are simply not mentioned. Instead of hearing arguments, you witness unswerving commitment to further the aims of science. He's a gentleman through and through.

I do have some cautions. This is not an easy read and the dense material isn't supported by graphics. (The online supplement does include some illustrations). Informed lay people will appreciate this book, but it's squarely aimed at biology professionals. If you're a lay person without a biology background, feel free to skip the hard core technical content.

That said, you'll still get a better understanding of evolution's toolbox from the 50 pages you do read than in almost any other book available. If you're serious about evolution, the whole 150 pages is worth the effort.

No one can accuse Shapiro of operating on the fringe; he himself discovered transposition in bacteria decades ago. All is scrupulously documented. The book is endorsed by several world-class biologists including Lynn Margulis, Sydney Altman and Carl Woese.

Like his mentor Barbara McClintock, Shapiro has made an immense contribution to evolutionary biology. It's hard to imagine that traditional neo-Darwinism can survive the onslaught much longer. James A. Shapiro might someday be regarded as one of the great researchers of our time. May his tribe increase.
25 von 28 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen Excellent summary of our understanding of evolutionary mechanism, and a manifesto for future researchs 30. Juni 2011
Von Michael J. Edelman - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Vine Kundenrezension eines kostenfreien Produkts (Was ist das?)
There have been four major revolutions in the understanding of inheritance and evolution: First, the Mendelian revolution, which explained how characteristics of organisms might be passed on to successive generations. Second, the Darwinian, which described the process of speciation, and the idea of selection within a gene pool. Third was the discovery of DNA, and unless you're a biologist, that's probably as far as your knowledge goes.

But in the years since Watson's and Crick's description of the double helix of DNA have seen an explosion in the understanding of genetics and evolution that is perhaps even more far reaching than the three previous revolutions combined. The idea of gradual evolution, with natural selection paring away at a set of random mutations has been overthrown in favor of a much more active, one might almost say goal-seeking mechanism, in which organisms play an active role in shaping their evolution.

Consider the case of drug immunity in bacteria. The old story goes something like this: You dose a colony of bacteria with penicillin, killing off 99.99% of them, but then remaining 0.01% carries with it an immunity to penicillin. They replicate and pass this immunity on to their offspring, creating a new colony of penicillin resistant bacteria. You now dose this regrown colony with amoxycillin, killing off 99.99%, and the remaining fraction reproduce, and then you use streptomycin and so on and so on, each time regenerating the community with the new immunity.

There's a serious problem with this story. How can immunity to all possible antibiotics be carried somewhere in the colony? That would imply that every colony of bacteria contains an infinite number of genes that bestow immunity on an infinite number of possible antibiotics- clearly an impossibility. Random mutation is much to slow a mechanism to create these immunities over the times observed. The implication is that some much more active mechanism is at work.

It turns out that a lot of bacteria (and other cells) display what's called natural genetic engineering- the ability to force changes in their genetic structure in order to adapt to change in a single generation. That's kind of astounding. It implies a much greater active role for cells than has ever been imagined. Add to that other recently discovered phenomena, like "horizontal" transfer of genetic fragments between organisms. This is no mere hypothetical; It's been hypothesized that such a mechanism is responsible for the acquisition of immunity to glyphosate weedkillers (i.e., Roundup) in plants that have been exposed to GM crops carrying that gene.

All this is part of what author Shapiro and others see as consequences of the active information-processing properties of cells- the cell not as a mere repository of genetic information (or "read only memory", as Shapiro puts it) but a full blown information processor, storing, manipulating, and creating new information. There are error-correction functions that actually repair strands of DNA in real time during replication, and strands of DNA can actually "double" to increase the amount of information that can be encoded, as new information is acquired by an evolving organism. And there are epigentic factors, information not carried within the DNA, that also contribute to the evolution and genetic transmission of characteristics.

This is not, despite the inviting cover and title, a work of popular science. Rather, it's a summary of current knowledge and a manifesto (if you will) for future research that appears to be aimed at researchers in the field. As such, it's not easy going, even for those with some background in biology and genetics. Nonetheless, this is a very rewarding book for those who have the background and a strong interest in evolution- not just biologists, but researchers and students computer scientists, physicists, and others interested in the mechanics of evolution and evolutionary processes across nature and natural systems.
15 von 17 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
4.0 von 5 Sternen Shapiro swings for the bleachers, and misses 26. September 2013
Von Arlin Stoltzfus - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Taschenbuch|Verifizierter Kauf
I got this book mainly to use as a comparison for another book I'm reading, Nei's _Mutation-Driven Evolution_. Koonin's _The Logic of Chance_ also falls in the category of recent books by seasoned researchers whose primary focus is molecular, and who argue that we ought to rethink evolution based on findings of molecular biology or molecular evolution. The 5-word summaries of these books are:
* Engineering, not accident, provides innovation (Shapiro)
* Mutation, not selection, drives evolution (Nei)
* After Darwinism, things get complicated (Koonin)

In the case of Koonin, you have to read the whole book to understand what he means. If you are not familiar with the past 10-20 years of findings from comparative genomics, then it will be educational, and regardless of your familiarity with genomics, it will be entertaining and thought-provoking. In the case of Nei, you can read the whole book and still not understand his thesis because he never defines terms and never actually compares mutation and selection to determine which one drives evolution.

In Shapiro's case, the book explains precisely what is meant by the idea that innovation is the result of engineering, not accident, though he leaves open the question of what are the general implications of this for evolutionary theory.

The argument begins with understanding that heritable variations generally aren't chemical accidents, but programmed responses catalyzed by enzymes acting in complex pathways, sometimes induced by genomic damage or cellular stress.

Shapiro is right about this part. Some kinds of mutations can be seen as accidents, like when a polymerase accidentally inserts a T instead of a C. But other mutations cannot be understood in this way. Most mutation is not an accident like a branch falling on your roof during a storm and leaving a hole. When cells leave unrepaired holes in our DNA, the outcome is genetic death, not mutation. Instead, mutation is like a branch falling on your roof and leaving a hole, followed by a repair-bot auto-detecting the damage and then shingling over both the branch and the hole using the wrong color of shingles. The mutation is not the hole (which has been repaired), but the funny lump in your roof and the patch of differently colored shingles.

The situation gets creepier when we consider that our genomes are chock full of mobile elements. To describe these little zombies as organisms or genomic parasites might be misleading, but their abundance in the most permissive genomes clearly represents the exploitation of a niche: hide out in the genome, get replicated passively for free, and occasionally copy yourself to a new site, facing a risk of losing your free ride (by damaging it) for the benefit of increasing your numbers, which increases your chance of long-term persistence.

Finally, there are cases in which organisms execute specific DNA changes, like switching from one mating type to another in yeast by a stereotyped transposition event.

Shapiro calls all of this "natural genetic engineering". His book includes multiple tables and heavily referenced descriptions of a variety of different processes of heritable change.

In part 3, he lists many cases in which non-infinitesimal changes have played a role in evolution. That is, a great variety of mutations are not infinitesimal modifications, but significant rearrangements, e.g., moving a piece of DNA from one location to another. When we examine the record of evolutionary history, we see that these changes are frequently important in evolution. Change has not occurred entirely by random infinitesimal changes.

The issue of gradualism is a big muddy issue among evolutionists. Darwin clearly said that his theory would break down if a complex organ did not result from numerous successive slight modifications, and his 20th century followers repeatedly doubled down on this bet. When challenged that this theory could not explain the incipient stages of useful structures, they insisted that any slight change in the right direction would be sufficient, and no saltations are needed. A protein or a hox cluster or a genome is clearly a complex organ, and any protein, RNA or genome clearly could have evolved by single-residue changes, i.e., ATGC can change to ATCGTTAGC or any other sequence one residue at a time. If evolution does not occur in this way, then it is not the kind of process that Darwin and his followers imagined. Shapiro is clearly arguing throughout Part III that evolutionary change does not occur in the atomistic way that Darwin's view demands. Sometimes proteins change by blocks being added or deleted. Genomes undergo doublings and fusions as well. We don't understand the details of how innovations are established, and Shapiro's spin on this isn't necessarily the right one, but we at least know this: in molecular evolution, the incipient stages of useful structures often involve a jump.

For Shapiro, the role of non-infinitesmal mutations in molecular evolution clinches the argument that, in evolution, innovation is introduced by natural genetic engineering, and that we should re-think our understanding of evolution on this basis. The idea of a contradiction between science and teleological thinking must be abandoned. Cells carry on goal-directed activities, including mutation. The changes in evolution aren't random, and they aren't infinitesimal. We need a new evolutionary theory that takes into account this new view.

Some of the weak points in this argument are pointed out by Wilkins ([...])-- a friend of Shapiro's who critiques his book in a gentlemanly way.

I don't agree with Shapiro's conclusions, for reasons that I won't explain, except to say that, just as the architects of the Modern Synthesis went way off the deep end characterizing natural selection as an artistic creator-- a writer, composer, or painter working with the variational "raw materials" of words, notes or pigments-- Shapiro has gone off the deep end characterizing the variation-generating process as "natural genetic engineering."

Though Shapiro is wrong, his book is worth reading. What makes the book worth reading is that (1) it is chock full of useful facts that are not familiar to most evolutionists, and (2) it is short, well edited, and well referenced. Kudos to the scientific editor, Kirk Jensen. Shapiro shows excellent form as a writer. He is clear about terms and concepts and provides numerous signposts to the reader. When he makes a logical leap and falls short, you know it. As a reader, you can take what you want from this book.

The problem with the book is the kind of problem you would expect when a molecular biologist delves into evolutionary theory. Shapiro has brought a knife (and not a particularly large one) to a gunfight. If you want to take a seat at the high table of evolutionary theory, and be part of a generation-spanning dialog with evolutionists living and dead, then you need to actually read their work. Shapiro could start by trying to understand West Eberhard, or Kirschner & Gerhardt, because they are all working on a similar angle.

By way of disclosure, I'm a professional researcher, I'm sympathetic to the need for reform in evolutionary theory, and I have published some work relevant to this topic, which anyone may find by searching.
10 von 11 Kunden fanden die folgende Rezension hilfreich
5.0 von 5 Sternen A Layman's View 20. Juli 2011
Von S. A. Mordecai - Veröffentlicht auf
Format:Gebundene Ausgabe|Verifizierter Kauf
As a well read non-scientist I found Shapiro very informative and easy to read. I highly recommend this work for anyone who wants an excellent overview of the current state of our understanding of evolution. He provides a glossary, references and index. He outlines a revolution in our thinking on the subject "It replaces the "invisable hands" of geologically time and natural selection with cognitive networks and cellular functions for self-modification. The emphasis is systemic rather than atomistic and information-based rather than stochastic". pg. 146. I'm going to give this a second reading!
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