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Evolution in Four Dimensions

Genetic, Epigenetic, Behavioral, and Symbolic Variation in the History of Life

Eva Jablonka

Publication Year: 2014

This new edition of the widely read <I>Evolution in Four Dimensions</I> has been revised to reflect the spate of new discoveries in biology since the book was first published in 2005, offering corrections, an updated bibliography, and a substantial new chapter. Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb's pioneering argument proposes that there is more to heredity than genes. They describe four "dimensions" in heredity -- four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic (or non-DNA cellular transmission of traits), behavioral, and symbolic (transmission through language and other forms of symbolic communication). These systems, they argue, can all provide variations on which natural selection can act. Jablonka and Lamb present a richer, more complex view of evolution than that offered by the gene-based Modern Synthesis, arguing that induced and acquired changes also play a role. Their lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski's lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors' points. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors refine their arguments against the vigorous skepticism of the fictional "I.M." (for Ipcha Mistabra -- Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture"). The extensive new chapter, presented engagingly as a dialogue with I.M., updates the information on each of the four dimensions -- with special attention to the epigenetic, where there has been an explosion of new research. <B>Praise for the first edition</B>"With courage and verve, and in a style accessible to general readers, Jablonka and Lamb lay out some of the exciting new pathways of Darwinian evolution that have been uncovered by contemporary research." -- Evelyn Fox Keller, MIT, author of <I> Making Sense of Life: Explaining Biological Development with Models, Metaphors, and Machines</I>"In their beautifully written and impressively argued new book, Jablonka and Lamb show that the evidence from more than fifty years of molecular, behavioral and linguistic studies forces us to reevaluate our inherited understanding of evolution." -- Oren Harman, <I>The New Republic</I>"It is not only an enjoyable read, replete with ideas and facts of interest but it does the most valuable thing a book can do -- it makes you think and reexamine your premises and long-held conclusions." -- Adam Wilkins, <I>BioEssays</I>

Published by: The MIT Press

Series: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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Preface to the Revised Edition

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pp. ix-x

Since Evolution in Four Dimensions was first published, there has been a spate of new and exciting discoveries in biology. Many of the new findings are directly relevant to the topics we discussed in 2005, by and large supporting and often strengthening the arguments we put forward then. In addition...

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pp. xi-xii

This book would not have been written without the encouragement and help of our friends, families, students and colleagues. We are grateful to all of them. Part of the book was written while E. J. was a visitor at the Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, Berkeley, University of California, and we would like to...

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pp. 1-4

The content and format of this book are a little unusual, so we want to begin by explaining what it is about and how it is organized. Our basic claim is that biological thinking about heredity and evolution is undergoing a revolutionary change. What is emerging is a new synthesis, which challenges...

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I. The First Dimension

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pp. 5-8

The first dimension of heredity and evolution is the genetic dimension. It is the fundamental system of information transfer in the biological world, and is central to the evolution of life on earth. For a century now, the genetic system has been studied intensely, and these studies have yielded rich dividends...

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1. The Transformations of Darwinism

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pp. 9-46

No sphere of knowledge is free of controversy, and science is no exception. If anyone imagines that scientists are dispassionate and impartial people, discussing theories and ideas unemotionally in the cool clear light of reason, they have been seriously misled. Passion and fervor accompany all...

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2. From Genes to Characters

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pp. 47-78

The relationship between genes and development is one of the hottest topics in biology today. In 2001 the Human Genome Project delivered the first draft of the promised sequence of human DNA, and revealed that we have about 35,000 genes. This was far fewer than most geneticists had...

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3. Genetic Variation: Blind, Directed, Interpretive?

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pp. 79-106

In 1988, the American microbiologist John Cairns and his colleagues dropped a small bombshell on the biological community.1 For more than fifty years, right from the early days of the Modern Synthesis, biologists had accepted almost without question the dogma that all new heritable...

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II. Three More Dimensions

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pp. 107-110

The idea that DNA alone is responsible for all the hereditary differences between individuals is now so firmly fixed in people’s minds that it is difficult to get rid of it. When it is suggested that information transmitted through nongenetic inheritance systems is of real importance for understanding...

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4. The Epigenetic Inheritance Systems

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pp. 111-152

A person’s liver cells, skin cells, and kidney cells, look different, behave differently, and function differently, yet they all contain the same genetic information. With very few exceptions, the differences between specialized cells are epigenetic, not genetic. They are the consequences of events that...

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5. The Behavioral Inheritance Systems

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pp. 153-188

Nonbiologists will probably sigh with relief when they see the title of this chapter. After discussing genes, biochemistry, and molecular biology, about which nonbiologists do not have ready intuitions, we turn to behavior. Here, the layperson usually feels a lot more at home. We are all sharp-eyed...

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6. The Symbolic Inheritance Systems

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pp. 189-228

When an evolutionary biologist looks at her own species, Homo sapiens sapiens, she sees a contradiction. On the one hand she recognizes that in their anatomy, physiology, and behavior humans are very similar to other primates, especially chimpanzees. She can see how alike humans and chimps...

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Between the Acts: An Interim Summary

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pp. 229-234

In part III we shall look at the interactions of the four systems of information transmission that we have described in the previous six chapters. Since we have covered a lot of ground, a summary and comparison of the salient properties of the four systems may be helpful. To avoid excessive...

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III. Putting Humpty Dumpty Together Again

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pp. 235-240

Imagine an entangled bank, clothed with many plants of many kinds, with birds singing in the bushes, with various insects flitting about, with worms crawling through the damp earth, and a square-jawed nineteenth-century naturalist contemplating the scene. What would a modern-day evolutionary...

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7. Interacting Dimensions—Genes and Epigenetic Systems

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pp. 241-278

In this chapter we deal with the interplay of the genetic and epigenetic systems, leaving the other interactions for chapter 8. This means that we shall be returning to some slightly tricky genetics and cell biology, which nonspecialists may find rather tough going. We will do our best to make it...

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8. Genes and Behavior, Genes and Language

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pp. 279-312

One of the take-home messages of the previous chapter was that in evolution the role of “the environment” is quite subtle. Traditionally, it is seen as the agent of selection, determining which variants survive and reproduce. Yet, because it influences development, it also has a role in determining...

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9. Lamarckism Evolving: The Evolution of the Educated Guess

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pp. 313-348

We hope that readers who have reached this penultimate chapter are by now convinced that DNA is not the be all and end all of heredity. Information is transferred from one generation to the next by many inter-acting inheritance systems. Moreover, contrary to current dogma, the variation...

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10. A Last Dialogue

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pp. 349-376

You have taken me on quite a journey through the wonderlands of heredity, and I am certainly not going to go through it all again. Instead I want to look at the core of your argument—at the claims that you made at the beginning of the book, in the Prologue. Your first claim was that there...

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IV. After Nine Years

These words seem to be appropriate if one is thinking about evolution, theories of evolution, or scientific knowledge in general. Science does not stand still, and in the nine years since parts I to III of this book were written, the pace of change in biology has been remarkable. More is now known...

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11. Developing Evolution

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pp. 379-456

Nine years have elapsed since Evolution in Four Dimensions was first published. I would like to know what has happened since then. Has your developmental-evolutionary approach met with approval? More important, have new data and new ideas affected your views? It will be easiest for...


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pp. 457-500


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pp. 501-544


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pp. 545-564

E-ISBN-13: 9780262322676
E-ISBN-10: 0262322676
Print-ISBN-13: 9780262525848

Page Count: 576
Publication Year: 2014

Edition: Revised
Series Title: Life and Mind: Philosophical Issues in Biology and Psychology