Different perspectives on evolution

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Hi all,
I read fairly recently -I'm afraid I can't remember where- a biologist saying that whilst Richard Dawkins' books had probably done more than anyone else's to promote the public understanding of evolution, the metaphor of the selfish gene was beginning to outlive its usefulness, and that it was too narrow in scope to accomodate certain recent developments in the field. Can anyone explain what these developments are, and/or some alternative viewpoints, and/or recommend books on the topic that haven't been written by Dawkins? He tends to be critical of ideas such as group selectionism, and I can well imagine that it's difficult for someone like me who's not a biologist to really assess the merits of a position when your only familiarity with it comes from its detractors :uhh:

As a related question, how well is it possible to understand evolution without studying it in a formal context? Popular science books in physics (my own subject) emphasise the strangeness of relativity and quantum mechanics, and whilst I've read some excellent accounts of the underlying logic of relativity, I've read very few that really get the core ideas of QM across.

Thanks in advance.
 

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  • #2
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Hi all,
I read fairly recently -I'm afraid I can't remember where- a biologist saying that whilst Richard Dawkins' books had probably done more than anyone else's to promote the public understanding of evolution, the metaphor of the selfish gene was beginning to outlive its usefulness, and that it was too narrow in scope to accomodate certain recent developments in the field. Can anyone explain what these developments are, and/or some alternative viewpoints, and/or recommend books on the topic that haven't been written by Dawkins? He tends to be critical of ideas such as group selectionism, and I can well imagine that it's difficult for someone like me who's not a biologist to really assess the merits of a position when your only familiarity with it comes from its detractors :uhh:

As a related question, how well is it possible to understand evolution without studying it in a formal context? Popular science books in physics (my own subject) emphasise the strangeness of relativity and quantum mechanics, and whilst I've read some excellent accounts of the underlying logic of relativity, I've read very few that really get the core ideas of QM across.

Thanks in advance.
Stephen J. Gould has some stuff on this. You will have to hunt it down but I would say Gould is probably the best writer on the difficult stuff encountered in Evolution. Get a dictionary while you read him. He does write extraordinarily well; I should say did write well... Ernst Mayr is very good but very long and dry. He also counters some of Dawkins stuff as I remember reading.
 

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