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Shaping Life Pb (Darwinism Today) [Hardcover]

3.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

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Customer Reviews

3.3 out of 5 stars
3.3 out of 5 stars
Most helpful customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars The Triumph of Reductionism March 19 2004
Format:Hardcover
This book has two parts. In the first part the author shows how reductionism has been once again triumphant (this time in the field of development). Then he contrasts reductionism with the "opposite" point of view, holism, trying to reach a compromise. He also makes very perceptive observations about the correlation of anti-reductionist views with Marxism and (nowadays) with radical feminist critique of science.
Most commentators seem to think that the author is too hard on the holistic point of view. I think he is too kind: science is reductionism. This has been proven again and again in history. Holism is a sure sign of pseudo-science (or anti-science). This was true in the time when Marxists were combating "Mendelism" (meaning modern genetics) and it is still true today when radically anti-science feminists push holism.
The very use of the word holism is a sure sign of pseudo-science: this has always been true and always will. The triumph of reductionism in development is an occasion for all reductionists to enjoy this new defeat of holism, the old and perennial enemy of science and clear thinking.
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1.0 out of 5 stars Total misunderstanding Nov. 21 1999
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover
Although I certainly enjoy most books and articles by Maynard Smith, this book was a tremendous disappointment. He argues against self-organization in biology in a very bad way. Instead of a good argument, one finds a subjective, totally biased and unscientific argument (what a splash pattern has to do with morphogenesis? no idea, really ... that's a funny picture but nothing to do with development). Still worse, Maynard Smith tries to "put down" previous and current work on development from the point of view of complexity by claiming that it has to do with some obscure disappointment with Marxism and with some feminist-like reasoning (? ). I find this strategy really unfair and not appropiate for a great scientist and writer such as Maynard Smith. I think that it is clear that selforganization is, **together with information and adaptation** a fundamental part of the understanding of life. In trying to ridiculize complexity and selforganization, the author is (perhaps uncounsciously) acting in a way not far from "scientific creationists".
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Format:Hardcover
I was prompted to write this after reading the review below from the New Mexico reader. He misses the point, not Maynard-Smith. This little book (45 pages)is based on a lecture given by Smith at the London School of Economics. The central theme of his lecture was to make the point that the two views in developmental biology i.e. dynamic-holistic view and the local-reductionist view are both important. But, he extends this thinking by suggesting that this dichotomy in biology is a pattern that exists in all aspects/spheres/disciplines in life. This is what I found so revealing. Gore Vs Bush could not be a better (current) example that comes to mind when reading the final chapter 5 - Reductionists to the right, Holists to the left.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.3 out of 5 stars  3 reviews
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Quickstart to the central issues in developmental biology Dec 16 2000
By J. BLUMBERG - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
I was prompted to write this after reading the review below from the New Mexico reader. He misses the point, not Maynard-Smith. This little book (45 pages)is based on a lecture given by Smith at the London School of Economics. The central theme of his lecture was to make the point that the two views in developmental biology i.e. dynamic-holistic view and the local-reductionist view are both important. But, he extends this thinking by suggesting that this dichotomy in biology is a pattern that exists in all aspects/spheres/disciplines in life. This is what I found so revealing. Gore Vs Bush could not be a better (current) example that comes to mind when reading the final chapter 5 - Reductionists to the right, Holists to the left.
48 of 71 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Total misunderstanding Nov. 21 1999
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
Although I certainly enjoy most books and articles by Maynard Smith, this book was a tremendous disappointment. He argues against self-organization in biology in a very bad way. Instead of a good argument, one finds a subjective, totally biased and unscientific argument (what a splash pattern has to do with morphogenesis? no idea, really ... that's a funny picture but nothing to do with development). Still worse, Maynard Smith tries to "put down" previous and current work on development from the point of view of complexity by claiming that it has to do with some obscure disappointment with Marxism and with some feminist-like reasoning (? ). I find this strategy really unfair and not appropiate for a great scientist and writer such as Maynard Smith. I think that it is clear that selforganization is, **together with information and adaptation** a fundamental part of the understanding of life. In trying to ridiculize complexity and selforganization, the author is (perhaps uncounsciously) acting in a way not far from "scientific creationists".
5.0 out of 5 stars Biologists ignore Darwin at their peril Feb. 18 2008
By Luc REYNAERT - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
In this lecture, J. M. Smith explains clearly the differences and the links between evolution, development, self-organization and reproduction.
Although there is a parallelism between the development changes that convert an egg into an adult and the evolutionary changes that converted single-celled ancestors into the existing array of multi-cellar animals and plants, these mechanism are entirely different: the development changes are not driven by natural selection. Development depends on genetic information accumulated during millions of years of evolution. The evolution of adult forms, however, depends on development changes in successive generations.

Changes in genes cause changes in morphology, but during the evolution, it is not the form (morphology), but the information that is conserved (the regulatory genes that act as signals inducing structures to develop at particular places).
Nonetheless, there is a necessary link between development and evolution. Development is modular and evolution proceeds by modifying the later development stages of a module. E.g., the embryo is successively divided into smaller and smaller regions, whose growth is to a degree autonomous. So, changes in one module become possible without the necessity to alter every part.

The basis of heredity is template (stamp) reproduction, not self-organizing structures, because the latter cannot ensure their own survival and reproduction.

This small book is a must read for all those interested in basic biology and evolution.
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