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Look for the Big Picture - A Review of - Randomness in Evolution by John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey (2013)

Gadagkar, R (2014) Look for the Big Picture - A Review of - Randomness in Evolution by John Tyler Bonner, Princeton University Press, Princeton, New Jersey (2013). In: Current Science, 106 (9). pp. 1312-1313.

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Randomness in Evolution. John Tyler Bonner. Princeton University Press, 41, William Street, Princeton, New Jersey 08450, USA. 2013. xi + 133 pp. Price: US$ 27.95. Look for the Big Picture At 90+ years of age, J. T. Bonner has done it again. He has written yet another brilliantly argued book. It has all the traits of Bonner’s previous books – modesty, brevity and engaging style, but perhaps it is his most radical book. Bonner makes a bold case for randomness and an even bolder case against natural selection. True, he is restricting his attention to the morphology of small, microscopic eukaryotes. Nevertheless, it is a radical argument that is likely to be hugely controversial, not the least for emotional reasons. Bonner marvels at the exquisite morphological diversity of unicellular eukaryotes such as radiolarians and diatoms and notes that many diverse forms co-exist and have hardly changed over millions of years. He therefore speculates that these diverse morphologies are perhaps not the result of perfect adaptation to the environment shaped by the relentless action of natural selection, but simply random mutations floating around due to drift. But that is not the end of the story. His more powerful argument comes from an unexpected direction. He asks, following up on many of his previous books, why natural selection is so important in bigger, more complex higher organisms. Bonner has made some of the most powerful arguments, in this as well as his previous books, that higher, larger and generally more complex organisms need to go through an elaborate and sophisticated process of development that orchestrates many biochemical and cellular processes with great spatial and temporal precision. No errors can be tolerated in such a situation and the system is therefore greatly dependent on the relentless purifying action of natural selection to eliminate even mildly less-suited mutations. Now the flip side of this argument is that natural selection cannot be so important in producing simple microorganisms that do not go through such elaborately orchestrated development. In other words, it is the proposed relative absence of natural selection among simple organisms that makes the case for natural selection among complex organisms that much stronger.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: Current Science
Publisher: Indian Academy of Sciences
Keywords: Book review, Randomness in evolution, Natural selection,Role of randomness
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 23 Mar 2021 07:25
Last Modified: 23 Mar 2021 07:25
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/68319

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