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Morphological Innovations, Phylogeny, Ecosystems
Plants in Mesozoic Time showcases the latest research of broad botanical and paleontological interest from the world's experts on Mesozoic plant life. Each chapter covers a special aspect of a particular plant group -- ranging from horsetails to ginkgophytes, from cycads to conifers -- and relates it to key innovations in structure, phylogenetic relationships, the Mesozoic flora, or to animals such as plant-eating dinosaurs. The book's geographic scope ranges from Antarctica and Argentina to the western interior of North America, with studies on the reconstruction of the Late Jurassic vegetation of the Morrison Formation and on fossil angiosperm lianas from Late Cretaceous deposits in Utah and New Mexico. The volume also includes cutting-edge studies on the evolutionary developmental biology ("evo-devo") of Mesozoic forests, the phylogenetic analysis of the still enigmatic bennettitaleans, and the genetic developmental controls of the oldest flowers in the fossil record.
A Christian Explains Why Evolution Is Not a Threat
God or Darwin? It is one of the most contentious conflicts of our time. It is also completely unnecessary, according to Joel W. Martin, an evolutionary biologist and ordained elder in the Presbyterian Church USA. In this slim but powerful book, Martin argues that it is not contradictory to be a practicing, faithful Christian who accepts the science of evolution. Martin finds that much of the controversy in the United States over evolution is manufactured and predicated on a complete—and sometimes willful—misapprehension of basic science. Science and religion, he says, serve different purposes and each seeks to answer questions that the other need never address. He believes that many of the polarizing debates about evolution distract from the deeper lessons of Christianity and that literal, fundamentalist readings of the Bible require the faithful to reject not just evolution but many of science's greatest discoveries. Just as the scientific explanation of rainbows is not meant to refute the biblical "rainbow" story of God’s promise, evolutionary theory is not a ploy to disavow the divine. Indeed, Martin shows that the majority of Christians worldwide accept the theory of evolution. He urges his fellow Christians to refuse to participate in the intellectually stifling debate over evolution and creationism/intelligent design.
Literary Darwinism in Theory and Practice
Showcases the latest developments in literary Darwinism, a powerful approach that integrates evolutionary social science with literary humanism. As the founder and leading practitioner of “literary Darwinism,” Joseph Carroll remains at the forefront of a major movement in literary studies. Signaling key new developments in this approach, Reading Human Nature contains trenchant theoretical essays, innovative empirical research, sweeping surveys of intellectual history, and sophisticated interpretations of specific literary works, including The Picture of Dorian Gray, Wuthering Heights, The Mayor of Casterbridge, and Hamlet. Evolutionists in the social sciences have succeeded in delineating basic motives but have given far too little attention to the imagination. Carroll makes a compelling case that literary Darwinism is not just another “school” or movement in literary theory. It is the moving force in a fundamental paradigm change in the humanities—a revolution. Psychologists and anthropologists have provided massive evidence that human motives and emotions are rooted in human biology. Since motives and emotions enter into all the products of a human imagination, humanists now urgently need to assimilate a modern scientific understanding of “human nature.” Integrating evolutionary social science with literary humanism, Carroll offers a more complete and adequate understanding of human nature.
With their spectacularly enlarged canines, sabertooth cats are among the most popular of prehistoric animals, yet it is surprising how little information about them is available for the curious layperson. What’s more, there were other sabertooths that were not cats, animals with exotic names like nimravids, barbourofelids, and thylacosmilids. Some were no taller than a domestic cat, others were larger than a lion, and some were as weird as their names suggest. Sabertooths continue to pose questions even for specialists. What did they look like? How did they use their spectacular canine teeth? And why did they finally go extinct? In this visual and intellectual treat of a book, Mauricio Antón tells their story in words and pictures, all scrupulously based on the latest scientific research. The book is a glorious wedding of science and art that celebrates the remarkable diversity of the life of the not-so-distant past.
The Conflict between Human Population Growth and Earth's Biodiversity
Are humans too good at adapting to the earth’s natural environment? Every day, there is a net gain of more than 200,000 people on the planet—that’s 146 a minute. Has our explosive population growth led to the mass extinction of countless species in the earth’s plant and animal communities?
Jeffrey K. McKee contends yes. The more people there are, the more we push aside wild plants and animals. In Sparing Nature, he explores the cause-and-effect relationship between these two trends, demonstrating that nature is too sparing to accommodate both a richly diverse living world and a rapidly expanding number of people. The author probes the past to find that humans and their ancestors have had negative impacts on species biodiversity for nearly two million years, and that extinction rates have accelerated since the origins of agriculture. Today entire ecosystems are in peril due to the relentless growth of the human population. McKee gives a guided tour of the interconnections within the living world to reveal the meaning and value of biodiversity, making the maze of technical research and scientific debates accessible to the general reader. Because it is clear that conservation cannot be left to the whims of changing human priorities, McKee takes the unabashedly neo-Malthusian position that the most effective measure to save earth’s biodiversity is to slow the growth of human populations. By conscientiously becoming more responsible about our reproductive habits and our impact on other living beings, we can ensure that nature’s services will make our lives not only supportable, but also sustainable for this century and beyond.
At the end of the time of the dinosaurs, Transylvania was an island in what was to become southeastern Europe, formed by the forces of plate tectonics. The island's limited resources affected the size and life histories of the animals, resulting in a local dwarfism. For example, sauropods found on the island measured only six meters long, while their cousins elsewhere grew up to five times larger. Here, David B. Weishampel and Coralia-Maria Jianu present unique evolutionary interpretations of this phenomenon. The authors bring together the latest information on the fauna, flora, geology, and paleogeography of the region, casting these ancient reptiles in their phylogenetic, paleoecological, and evolutionary contexts. What the authors find is that Transylvanian dinosaurs experienced a range of unpredictable successes as they evolved. Woven throughout the detailed history and science of these diminutive dinosaurs is the fascinating story of the man who first discovered them, the mysterious twentieth-century paleontologist, Franz Baron Nopcsa. Hailed by some as the father of paleobiology, it was Nopcsa alone that understood the importance of the dinosaur discoveries in Transylvania. Nopcsa’s name is synonymous with Transylvanian dinosaurs; their story cannot be told without recounting his. Transylvanian Dinosaurs strikes an engaging balance between biography and scientific treatise and is sure to capture the imagination of professional paleontologists and amateur dinophiles alike.
Focusing on what other books omit, how science works and how pseudoscience works, Matt Young and Paul K. Strode demonstrate the futility of "scientific" creationism. They debunk the notion of intelligent design and other arguments that show evolution could not have produced life in its present form. Concluding with a frank discussion of science and religion, Why Evolution Works (and Creationism Fails) argues that science by no means excludes religion, though it ought to cast doubt on certain religious claims that are contrary to known scientific fact.