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Slanted Truths: Essays On Gaia, Symbiosis And Evolution Paperback – 12 Sep 2014


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"Although admitting that many predictions of the Gaia Hypothesis remain unproven, Slanted Truths charts the rise of Gaia from obscurity to the pages of the world's leading scientific journals." Trends in Ecology and Evolution "Twenty-four reprinted essays ... ranging from a memoir of J. Robert Oppenheimer through ... to some reflections on science education." Science

About the Author

Lynn Margulis (1938-2011) who served as a Distinguished University Professor in the Department of Geosciences at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, received the 1999 National Medal of Science from President Bill Clinton. She was a member of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences starting in 1983 and of the Russian Academy of Natural Sciences from 1997 forward. Author, editor, or coauthor of chapters in more than forty books, she published or had her work profiled in many journals, magazines, and books, among them Natural History, Science, Nature, New England Watershed, Scientific American, Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, Science Firsts, and The Scientific 100. She made numerous contributions to the primary scientific literature of microbial evolution and cell biology.

Margulis's theory of species evolution by symbiogenesis, put forth in Acquiring Genomes (co-authored with Dorion Sagan, 2002), describes how speciation does not occur by random mutation alone but rather by symbiotic dEtente. Behavioral, chemical, and other interactions often lead to integration among organisms, members of different taxa. In well-documented cases some mergers create new species. Intimacy, physical contact of strangers, becomes part of the engine of life's evolution that accelerates the process of change. Margulis worked in the laboratory and field with many other scientists and students to show how specific ancient partnerships, in a given order over a billion years, generated the cells of the species we see with our unaided eyes. The fossil record, in fact, does not show Darwin's predicted gradual changes between closely related species but rather the "punctuated equilibrium" pattern described by Eldredge and Gould: a jump from one to a different species.

She worked on the "revolution in evolution" since she was a graduate student. In the last fifteen years of her life, Margulis co-authored several books with Dorion Sagan, among them What is Sex? (1997), What is Life? (1995), Mystery Dance: On the Evolution of Human Sexuality (1991), Microcosmos: Four Billion Years of Evolution from Our Microbial Ancestors (1986), and Origins of Sex: Three Billion Years of Genetic Recombination (1986).

Her work with K.V. Schwartz provided a consistent formal classification of all life on Earth and has lead to the third edition of Five Kingdoms: An Illustrated Guide to the Phyla of Life on Earth (1998). Their classification scheme was generated from scientific results of myriad colleagues and its logical-genealogical basis is summarized in her single-authored book Symbiosis in Cell Evolution: Microbial Communities in the Archean and Proterozoic Eons (second edition, 1993). The bacterial origins of both chloroplasts and mitochondria are now well established.

Since the mid-1970s, Margulis aided James E. Lovelock, FRS, in documenting his Gaia Theory, which posits that the Earth's surface interactions among living beings, rocks and soil, air and water have created a vast, self-regulating system. From the vantage of outer space the Earth looks like an amazing being; from the vantage of biochemistry it behaves in many ways like a giant organism.

Dorion Sagan is author of numerous articles and twenty-three books translated into eleven languages, including Notes from the Holocene: A Brief History of the Future and Into the Cool, coauthored with Eric D. Schneider. His writings have appeared in The New York Times, The New York Times Book Review, Wired, The Skeptical Inquirer, Pabular, Smithsonian, The Ecologist, Co-Evolution Quarterly, The Times Higher Education, Omni, Natural History, The Sciences, Cabinet, and Tricycle. He edited Lynn Margulis: The Life and Legacy of a Scientific Rebel, a 2012 collection of writings addressing Margulis's life and work.

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Amazon.com: HASH(0x9511b960) out of 5 stars 3 reviews
52 of 55 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x952d8150) out of 5 stars Big Trouble in Biology 13 Jun. 2000
By James Strick - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
No scientist of our times has more right than Lynn Margulis to crow about her once-ridiculed but now-vindicated discoveries, such as the cell symbiosis hypothesis. Yet, for all her enthusiasm in promoting her now widely respected triumphs and her new, still-to-be-tested hypotheses, Margulis does not gloat. She is gracious with her opponents and generous in sharing credit with her grad students and other collaborators. One of the volume's most attractive features is that it summarizes the development to date of the views of James Lovelock and herself, on their widely debated and very influential Gaia hypothesis. We are treated to numerous fascinating anecdotes about the making of such a controversial theory, and about its reception (not always very polite, let alone friendly) by the community of "objective" scientists. The real gems of the book, however, are two autobiographical pieces by Margulis, "Sunday with J. Robert Oppenheimer" and "The Red Shoe Dilemma," and a third article "Big Trouble in Biology." In the first, we witness the encounter between the precocious sixteen year old future scientist Margulis and the recently deposed titan of atomic physics and "father of the atomic bomb" at his home in Princeton. The second piece offers Margulis's retrospective on what it meant to be a woman during our times who tried to be a great scientist, as well as a great wife and mother. Her spare use of words throws sharply into relief the realities still facing young women who would make a career in the sciences. Every one of those young women should read this book, and especially "The Red Shoe Dilemma." For any critics of the excesses of late-twentieth century reductionism in the life sciences, "Big Trouble in Biology" will be a call to arms, albeit a very thoughtful and provocative one. Lynn Margulis is no anti-science crackpot; nor is she a latter-day vitalist. But from one of the most successful practitioners in the methodology of reductionism, this heart-felt call for LOOKING at whole, living organisms and marvelling at their living qualities is a challenge that demands serious attention.
14 of 33 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x95659fb4) out of 5 stars Interesting, but not wonderful... 19 Aug. 2000
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
I came upon this book while doing some research into the Gaia hypothesis and found it interesting, especially the autobiographical essays. However, I still think the Gaia hypothesis is a little extreme when formulated as if organisms have a reason to sacrifice their individual survival for the benefit of "Gaia" as a whole. When this anti-natural selection aspect is removed, Gaia says only that organisms have effects on their environment and can evolve feedback systems, which isn't really anything new. It was a fascinating and revolutionary idea - and I do respect it for "thinking outside the box", so to speak - but I just don't see it working out. And attacking reductionism never got anybody anywhere...sometimes things must be understood at their most fundamental level.
6 of 78 people found the following review helpful
HASH(0x959dcdbc) out of 5 stars Slanty eyes tell lies racist cover art means no sale to me. 6 Jun. 2004
By Anonymous - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
"Don't judge a book by its cover" is a common saying, but what if the cover itself is racist? The title "Slanted Truths" implies that an expose of perfidy awaits the reader, while the face of a South East Asian statue indicates the race of the perpetrators.
Until the cover art is changed I will not buy this book and I urge others to do likewise.
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