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Friday, July 09, 2021

Mutation, Randomness, & Evolution

I just received my copy of a book by Arlin Stoltzfus on mutation. I haven't finished reading it but I thought Sandwalk readers should know about it so they can order their own copy.

This is not light reading since the topics are complicated and there's a lot of misinformation about evolutionary theory floating around. In order to make his points, Arlin has to explain what's wrong with orthodox thinking and why it needs to change and this isn't an easy task. But it's worth the effort ... buy this book!

Here's a short synopsis from page 13.

The following represents a brief guide to the book, which has three parts that correspond roughly to the three combinations of terms.

  • mutation and randomness—how does the biological process of mutation seem random, or not?
  • randomness and evolution—what role does the concept of "random variation" play in evolutionary thinking?
  • mutation and evolution—what is the role of mutation in evolution, and particularly, the role of mutational tendencies?


11 comments :

  1. Thanks for the pointer, Larry. Any update on the release of your book? I'm looking forward to reading it. Also, can you write a post about the best books on biochemistry, genetics, and evolution? It'll be very helpful for people both outside and inside these fields. Thanks!

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    1. Hi!

      “Also, can you write a post about the best books on biochemistry, genetics, and evolution?”

      What exactly is a “best” book? ;-)

      If you want to go from zero to hero in this field, read this:

      DAWKINS, Richard (1986): The Blind Watchmaker. Why the Evidence of Evolution Reveals a Universe without Design.

      Richard Dawkins is a wonderful man of letters with a fine style and tremendous power of argument (“METHINKS IT IS LIKE A WEASEL”). I wish Arlin Stoltzfus had read this book before he started writing himself...

      If you're tough, look at your Biochemical Pathways poster on the wall every now and then as you read: https://www.roche.com/sustainability/philanthropy/science_education/pathways/pathways-ordering.htm




      Cheers,

      Lamarck

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  2. I agree that a post of the best books on evolution would be very welcome. Here’s a short list I’ve cobbled together from this blog:
    The Origins of Genome Architecture by Michael Lynch
    Logic of Chance by Eugene Koonin
    Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean B. Carroll
    Add to the list this book by Arlin Stoltzfus and of course Larry’s upcoming book.

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  3. I'm partial to Jonathan Losos's Improbable Destinies, a study in convergent evolution.

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  4. Thanks a lot for the recommendations, Doug and John. I have only read Losos' book and found it to be fascinating. I'll check out others too! - Rupinder.

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  5. Just saw this about neutral theory (but can't access the full article): https://www.nature.com/articles/s41562-021-01150-4

    Curious to see if you have any remarks? I always love your takes on neutral theory.

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    Replies
    1. It's a short letter to the editor and it doesn't make any sense to me.

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  6. Hi Larry Moran,

    surely you're joking, Mr. Moran!

    “This is not light reading since the topics are complicated and there's a lot of misinformation about evolutionary theory floating around.”

    This is all true, but the mentioned book only makes things worse.... My verdict: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MeNagtwxVuc

    First to the “synopsis” presented (although extracting the question from the lines before would have been more purposeful):

    “[AS] mutation and randomness—how does the biological process of mutation seem random, or not?”

    The author should urgently work on language ability and text competence. How does mutation seem random? How does mutation seem random??? How does mutation seem random?????

    It seems to me that the concept of mutation seems to be connected with the adjective spontaneous (cf. p. 24). But then the coincidence is already priced in here. Or does the author simply confuse mutation with evolution here? After all, the process of evolution (drum roll...) is a heuristic process....

    “[AS] randomness and evolution—what role does the concept of "random variation" play in evolutionary thinking?”

    A role in evolutionary thinking? A role in evolutionary thinking??? A role in evolutionary thinking????? Hey, we do Science, not a melodic jingle for detergent.

    “[AS] mutation and evolution—what is the role of mutation in evolution, and particularly, the role of mutational tendencies?”

    Enough, here comes “Lamarck's hammer”: Evolution is the biological mapping of the algorithm of trial & error into mutation & selection. The rest is derivational.


    I don't expect you to make it through to the end of the book....


    BTW: Did you notice the conspiracy theory portion in the introduction (“”) ? ;-)

    “Ernst Mayr and his cohort of influencers” (p. 7),
    “TheoryA and theoryC” (p. 8),
    “This book explains and thoroughly documents the commitment of the architects of the Modern Synthesis to a mistaken conception of the role of variation that remains deeply embedded in evolutionary thinking” (p. 10),
    “Finally, many scientific readers may be drawn to this book, due specifically to their interest in the “directed mutation” or “adaptive mutation” controversy that erupted in 1988 based on experiments by Cairns, Foster, Hall, and Shapiro [sic!], and their skepticism of the “mutation is random” claim.” (p. 10)....




    Cheers,

    Lamarck

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    Replies
    1. The author should urgently work on language ability and text competence.

      Physician, heal thyself.

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  7. This book by Arlin Stoltzfus is hideously expensive, even the ebook. So, who will read it?

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    1. Most academic books are hideously expensive. That's what libraries are good for.

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