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Evolution in Four Dimensions: Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life (Life & Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology & Psychology) Hardcover – 22 Apr 2005

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 472 pages
  • Publisher: MIT Press (22 April 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0262101076
  • ISBN-13: 978-0262101073
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 3.8 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (5 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 1,811,576 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"An individual's personal experience can influence the characteristics of his or her offspring. Some of the ways in which this happens would have seemed heretical in the past. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb's stimulating new book successfully challenges some of the old orthodoxies. I recommend it warmly to anybody with a serious interest in developmental and evolutionary biology."--Sir Patrick Bateson, Department of Zoology, University of Cambridge, author of "Design for a Life: How Behavior and Personality Develop"

About the Author

Eva Jablonka is Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University. Marion J. Lamb was Senior Lecturer at Birkbeck College, University of London, before her retirement. Jablonka and Lamb have collaborated on a number of journal articles and books, including Epigenetic Inheritance and Evolution (1995).

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17 of 17 people found the following review helpful By immunophilosopher on 31 Dec. 2009
Format: Paperback
This is an excellent introduction to several complex areas of research. To briefly summarise, Jablonka and Lamb make a persuasive case that cumulative evolution has produced three parallel "lamarckian" hereditary systems in addition to the genetic system we are all so familiar with. The authors do a good job of summarising the current state of affairs in each area before presenting their own theories (their historical discussions of the many revisions to evolutionary theory also provide clear summaries). As the subject is so controversial this book is inevitably a bit of a polemic, but the tone is measured and calm throughout, and copious examples and scientific references are provided to support the authors' case.

I was particularly impressed that the authors generously devote a lot of space to the arguments of their opponents, in the form of a series of dialogues between the authors and an imaginary proponent of conventional gene-centred evolution. These dialogues are in my view the best part of the book, and are even amusing at times (quite a big achievement for a science book!) Finally, the authors do what many writers should do but don't, which is to bring up holes in their theory and then suggest research which could plug these gaps. They even find some time to discuss the social implications of a "four-dimensional" approach to evolution.

If you want a book about the future of evolutionary theory that's evenhanded but still puts forward interesting new ideas, I highly recommend this book.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Luis CS on 19 July 2011
Format: Paperback
Eva Jablonka's "Evolution in four dimensions" is a definitely very interesting book, which should be readable by anybody with a minimum knowledge of biology. I was a University lecturer in a related area, and decided to buy it after reading several of her scientific papers. Jablonka's sense of humour is evident and enjoyable. Anna Zeligowski's funny drawings are in my opinion sometimes more fun than they are really hepful, and the small size they get in the paperback does not make them full justice. But they do contribute to the pleasure of reading, and sometimes to comprehension as well. The "dialogues" ending the parts of the book are a nice and elegantly executed idea. All in all, a very enjoyable and thought-provoking book, and for some can be an introduction to Jablonka's papers, some of which are freely available in the net.

Luis CS
Lisbon, Portugal
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Gregory Nixon on 11 Aug. 2013
Format: Paperback
This book speaks truly, or at least it must be said to be on the path to "the truth" based on as much as can be known right now. These authors achieve the extraordinary balancing act of being critical without being caustic, scholarly without being boring, and detailed (at least for a non-specialist in one of the fields) yet covering a grand swath of territory. If they are correct in their current interpretation of evo-devo (evolution + development, each influencing the other) -- and they certainly make a very strong case! -- then the absurd scientism of the extreme geneticists, sociobiologists, or the evolutionary psychologists must certainly make room in their theorizing for the fact that experience and learning influence not only development but also epigenetic and thus genetic evolution. Determinism must give to the anxiety of freedom, as the existentialists liked to say. (Quite a sentence but I hope you get the idea.) Their "four dimensions" of human growth (genetic, epigenetic, behavioural, & symbolic) together make perfect sense and blend nicely into each other even while each maintains a distinct influence & conceptual identity. They carve a unique perspective, yet they are careful to try to see from the points of view of those with whom they disagree, which is nice and polite and all that, but it sometimes has the unfortunate side-effect of not making their own views stand out in contrast. However, in the intriguing question-and-answer section at the end of each chapter, they dare to be more clear on their differences.

What *is* evolution anyway? They touch on the concept of "teleology" but refuse to embrace it since it seems to them to suggest divine purpose or some such thing; however, much of what they profess cannot avoid hinting at some vague natural purpose.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Pseudonym on 13 April 2010
Format: Paperback

Thesis: Jablonka and Lambs thesis is that evolution is taking place in four distinct areas: genetic, epigenetic, behavioral and symbolic. They refute the standard dogma, that evolution is only possible on stochastic changes of the gene. The picture is a lot more complex as not only the phenotypes of nature have evolved but also the mechanisms that produce them.

The way the modern synthesis came into place needs to be looked as under a historical perspective. The idea of evolution was certainly in the air during the late 19th century. Unfortunately, no one including Darwin had a clear idea about how the mechanisms work. Instrumental in paving the way for the modern dogma was Weissman, who categorically denied an influence of the phenotype to the genotype. At the turn of the century Mendel hit the scene and it was clear that there must be something like a double stranded gene. During 1952 Crick and Watson discovered the double helix structure of the DNA. Furthermore it was discovered that radiation can change DNA. Hence it was assumed that all change leading to changes in the DNA and phenotype are stochastic events that are then selected by nature.

However, it was long understood that epigenetic mechanisms are at work in the forming of embryos. During embryo formation all cells have got the same DNA. Yet proteins formed are completely different during the formation of the embryo - otherwise it would be impossible to have a structured organism forming. The basic questions that was not asked - if these mechanisms are at work for the formation of embryos in any vertebrate and other multi cell organisms - why should they not be used by nature to change an organism over several generations and adapt to volatile environment?
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