Volpe’s Understanding Evolution 7th Edition
Book PrefaceVolpe’s Understanding Evolution 7th Edition
This new edition of Volpe’s Understanding Evolution, like earlier editions, is addressed to college students with no previous experience with the subject. It is meant to stand in good stead for use as a primary text for an introductory-level evolution course or as a supplement to a basic biology or anthropology course. In revising this time-honored volume, every effort has been made to provide a clear, simple, concise account of the scope, signifi – cance, and principles of evolution for the liberally educated citizen without burdening the reader with exhaustive detail. No apology is offered for drawing many of the examples used in this text from our own species. This edition has been rewritten and expanded to transmit a wealth of new ideas in evolution fostered by new discoveries in many fi elds of science. To accommodate the changing body of knowledge, all chapters have been extensively revised, new chapters have been added, and many new illustrations have been added. In addition, this edition includes a concise glossary to aid the reader with the challenges of scientifi c terminology.
The publication of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, Darwin’s “big book,” is one of the great landmarks in the history of science and laid the foundation for the theory of evolution via natural selection. This groundbreaking tome sold out on the first day of publication and was revised and reissued six times during Darwin’s lifetime. Unlike other scientific ideas, evolution provides a framework for much of human knowledge spanning all of the natural sciences, the social sciences, and beyond and brought about one of the most remarkable and farreaching revolutions in human thought.
The Origin of Species shocked Victorian readers and forever changed science. It profoundly altered and forever changed our conception of ourselves and our world, of the origins and history of life on our planet, and in doing so became and remains controversial to this day. Before Darwin’s Origin of Species, we presumed that humans occupied an exalted position in the world. In its aftermath, we were no longer at the center stage of the Earth and were instead made part of the fabric of nature. Volpe’s Understanding Evolution is an effort to demystify evolution and provide the reader with a clear and concise grasp of this pivotal and groundbreaking idea. Although Darwin’s monumental Origin of Species was initially greeted with a storm of criticism, his fi ndings are now universally accepted.
Darwin’s thesis has been fortifi ed by the everexpanding knowledge of the gene. One of the finest triumphs of modern science has been the elucidation of the chemical makeup of the gene. The fundamental chemical component of the gene is the remarkable molecule deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA). This molecule contains a coded blueprint for all life in its molecular structure and is the universal alphabet for the book of life. The integration of genetics and evolution occurred in the early part of the twentieth-century and is often called “the synthesis” because of the unity of knowledge the melding of these two great bodies of knowledge brought to each other. Due to the importance of genetics to the study of evolution, Volpe’s Understanding Evolution rehearses those facets of genetics that are fundamental to the study and understanding of evolution. Today, most of the important contributions to evolution are coming from genetics, developmental genetics, and the comparison of proteins (proteomics) and whole sets of chromosomes (genomics) among and between organisms. Modern DNA technology has so sharpened the precision of molecular analysis that it has found application in virtually all fields of scientific
inquiry, from medicine to paleontology to the evolutionary history of the human species. Hence, the reader is asked to integrate the principles of genetics with basic Darwinian tenets in order to understand how important “the synthesis” was and is to our modern conceptualization of evolution. The year 2009 marked the 200th birthday of Charles Darwin (February 12, 1809) and the 150th anniversary of the fi rst publication of The Origin of Species (November 24, 1859). These dates remind us that the theory of evolution has a long and complex history fi lled with extraordinary companion books to this volume are Darwin’s original books The Origin of Species (1859) and The Voyage of the Beagle (1839). Both were written for the laymen, the everyday person, living in Victorian England in Darwin’s day, and both were bestsellers. The Origin of Species is one of the 300 most important books ever published in the history of the Western world—a collection of works spanning literature, philosophy, and science and including such giants as Homer, Dante, Hippocrates, Chaucer, Dickens, Melville, Aristotle, Shakespeare, Plato, Euripides, Copernicus, Euclid, Einstein, Galileo, Newton, Galen, Locke, Cervantes, Shaw, Orwell, and Dobzhansky.
Evolution is a central concept in science. In the 150-plus years since the publication of The Origin of Species, Darwin’s thesis has been fortified from many branches of science. No other scientific idea has had a more unifying impact on the sciences, enabling scientists from a myriad of disciplines to better understand and integrate their science. In 1973 the renowned Columbia University evolutionist Theodosius Dobzhansky wrote a now-famous essay entitled “Nothing in Biology Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution.” This essay could as easily have been entitled “Nothing in the Natural Sciences Makes Sense except in the Light of Evolution.” More than any other scientific concept, evolution serves as a lattice for the natural sciences, providing both explanation and venues for prediction and hypothesis testing. The word evolution is derived from the Latin evolutio, meaning “an unraveling” or “an unfolding.” The term reminds us that throughout the history of the universe, change has been a constant motif, especially of the living world. In Darwin’s day, evolution was conceptualized by the word transmutation and it was only later that the term evolution gained acceptance. Throughout life’s history, organisms have constantly and endlessly changed. Change is the leitmotif, the recurring theme and idea, of all living things.
Coupled with the ever-increasing and rapid advances in science and technology is the need for scientific literacy of the citizenry. Scientifi c literacy is an essential part of a liberal arts education. With recent polls revealing that nearly half of U.S. citizens do not accept the tenets of evolutionary biology, the rationale for Volpe’s Understanding Evolution have never been more important. Many otherwise welleducated people cannot describe the principles of evolution or articulate the vast body of evidence built up over the last 150 plus years since the publication of Charles Darwin’s Origin of Species. In this book effort has been made to leave the reader a better educated member of society capable of engaging in informed discussions in all manner of venues.
1 Variation in Populations 1
2 Darwinian Scheme of Evolution 12
3 Heritable Variation 23
4 Mutation 43
5 Genetic Equilibrium 61
6 Concept of Selection 67
7 Selection in Action 82
8 Balanced Polymorphism 94
9 Genetic Drift and Gene Flow 110
10 Races and Species 122
11 Instantaneous Speciation 135
12 Adaptive Radiation 142
13 Major Adaptive Radiations 152
14 Origin of Life 166
15 Molecular Evolution 182
16 History of Life 197
17 Emergence of the Human Species 214
18 Natural Selection, Social Behavior, and
Cultural Evolution 237
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