After the table is set, Reinventing Darwin serves up as entree a history of twentieth century evolutionary theory and a brief introduction to the concepts of natural selection, adaptation, and cladistics. Chapters three to five are the macroevolutionary main courses: stasis and gradualism; punctuated equilibrium, species definitions, and speciation; and species sorting, the connection with ecology, and mass extinctions. Chapter six considers the evolution of large, complex systems and introduces Eldredge and Salthe's idea of dual genealogical and economic hierarchies (at a rather more accessible level than their original paper on the subject). For dessert we have an overview of sociobiology and the successes, failures, and paradoxes of Ultra-Darwinism.
Eldredge lacks the literary and rhetorical flourishes of a Gould or a Dawkins, but in many ways that is an advantage: I think he offers a better insight into what is at stake in current debates within evolutionary biology than either. He also conveys the excitement of a discipline in which many interesting theoretical questions remain unanswered. Reinventing Darwin is a veritable feast for anyone interested in evolution.
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