Ye Olde Natural Philosophy Discussion Group

Reviews and comments on
Sean B. Carroll: Endless Forms Most Beautiful:
The New Science of Evo Devo

Our group as a whole very much liked this book. On a scale of 0 to 10 everyone but Barbara gave it an 8, 9 or 10. The group average was a rating of 8.0.

Rosie said that she "really, really liked this book" and remarked that among its many virtues is that it has little repetition (unlike many books). John commented that it is "an important book and everybody should read it"—which most of the rest of us agreed with. John thought the book was especially good at demonstrating that "we aren't special", but rather there is a tremendous degree of commonality in the developmental processes of humans and other animals. Rich, and most people, agreed with John's enthusiasm for the book.

Kirby said that he agreed with Carroll's view that "evo devo" is a quantum leap in evolutionary science. He raised a couple very secondary criticisms regarding Carroll's explanation of the doubling of Hox genes in some species and what seemed to him to be the implication by Carroll that everything in biology is now clear and well worked out. But Kirby still gave the book the very high rating of 9.

Kevin Schirado liked everything about the book except the rather cutesy term "evo devo"! He commented that the book has a nice structure, and keeps its promises to explain some points better later on. He said the book really does bring paleontology and genetics together well, and amounts to a thorough refutation of the theory of "intelligent design". I think it was Kevin who also remarked that this would be an excellent book for wide use in public schools, and hopes that this will be the case.

Barbara didn't like the book and only read the first third of it. She found the discussion of genetic mutants unpleasant and was especially turned off by Carroll's description of experiments which involved "changing nature" (such as by modifying insect forms). Later, in our general discussion period, Barbara and Rosie got into this in greater depth. Rosie pointed out that a great many important medical advances have come about because of scientific experiments of this kind. Barbara accepted that, and eased her objections to such scientific work.

Scott said he intends to send a copy of this important book to his nephew who has been gradually succumbing to the anti-scientific views of Christian fundamentalists. Ron said the book leads up well to the refutation of the theory of "intelligent design". He said he has a couple relatives, too, who are fundamentalists, and who wouldn't even open the cover of the book! John then asked the perfect rhetorical question: "Do you think they might be a little closed-minded?"

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