book The Evelyn Fox Keller book:

"Yet for all the power of that theory ['natural selection working on individual variation'], a fundamental mystery remained. If change is the essence of life, how are we to account for the remarkable stability with which, in each generation, organisms develop and grow true to the type of their particular species, and with a certainty that endures over a lifetime of that species?"


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This is an important book for any science literate person because it too, like Galileo and Darwin, comes at a time when the world and especially American education is in a crisis of standards (actually a lack of standards). By that I mean the public thinks one way about reality and the science often exposes a diametrically opposite vision of reality.

the unity of science

Now when selecting the chapters to read and analyze be aware that she progresses from one question in this paradox to another.

Paradox -- how can something that accounts for variability and thus changes over time possess sufficient stability over time not to change its basic functional integrity?


Here too, we see a split between what science discovers and what the public thinks.

Today, more than ever people think we are determined (genetic determinism) by our genes; when instead as Keller points out

A. "gene" is a metaphor and a rather poor one at that for chromosomal packages of functionally related base pair sequences in the form of single or multiple alleles. and
B. we really need to think of DNA, RNA, proteins and enzymes as either a dance ensemble or a symphony that orchestrates a particular performance (my metaphors).

Evelyn F. Keller, The Century of the Gene, 2000.

bookIn examining a chapter to explain:

Who - what - when -- where -- and how Ms. Keller presents the case for how our understanding inheritance included mistakes in describing the process.

Any understanding must be explained in as "metaphor-free" a condition as possible. Or if we must use metaphors in science (yes, we do have to) then let us use them sparingly, but with utmost accuracy.



Thus, today –despite widespread misunderstanding– we are not determined by our genes and there is ample evidence (anomalies) to suggest that

1. genetics has proven Darwin to be correct in terms of common ancestry and selection among differentially variable and differentially viable offspring.
2. genetic selection for certain specific traits (as in animals) often leads to debilitation after several crosses -- or the appearance of some disability.
3. the genome may be as complicated as the ecosystem (for which it is the seed carrier) and hence some say it is a genosystem more accurately than it is a "blueprint."

Evelyn F. Keller, The Century of the Gene, 2000.

Tie the chapter to the book's themes.

Lewontin on genetics.

Living Downstream

Darwin | | Keller | | Lewontin | | Margulis | | Mayr | | Tattersall | | Thomas