ForeWord review: The Mystery of Metamorphosis
The following book review by Joseph Thompson was published April 1st at ForeWordReviews.com.
In 2009, retired zoologist Donald Williamson published a radical theory shocking the scientific world. His paper, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) suggested the dual stages of an insect’s life, larval and adult, are a result of hybridization rather than through more orthodox evolutionary methods.
The majority of the uproar came not from the audacity of Williamson’s suggestions, but from his bypassing the journal’s peer review process. His paper had been accepted through a now defunct system unique to PNAS that afforded publication to papers providing they had two referees. The scandal overshadowed Williamson’s arguments. The academy faced accusations of nepotism and, in the words of one Duke University biologist speaking to Scientific American, of publishing a paper “better suited for the ‘National Enquirer than the National Academy.'”
Now, almost two years later, physician and evolutionary biologist Frank Ryan examines Williamson’s claims on the basis of their scholarship in The Mystery of Metamorphosis: A Scientific Detective Story. The author of several books, Ryan sparked discussions among academics and casual readers alike with Darwin’s Blind Spot and in 1993, the New York Times selected his book The Forgotten Plague as the non-fiction book of the year. The Mystery of Metamorphosis marks Ryan’s return to the stormy waters of modern science in an attempt to understand evolution’s dynamic concepts, and their relationship to the mystifying lifecycle of many marine and terrestrial creatures.
The enormity of Ryan’s task and the complexity of the cross-disciplinary research would have overwhelmed a lesser writer. Part history lecture and part science class, Ryan brings an accessible passion to the subject comparable to Carl Sagan’s popularization of astronomy. As he builds the case for hybridization in The Mystery of Metamorphosis, Ryan leads readers through the earliest ideas put forth by Darwin and his contemporaries to the modern questions raised by the Cambrian explosion. Like Sagan, Ryan is able to communicate complex theories without becoming simplistic while challenging basic evolutionary concepts.
Opening with a foreword by biologist Lynn Margulis, who refereed Williamson’s paper, and Dorian Sagan, Ryan nods at the past controversy but avoids revisiting its ad hominem accusations. Regardless of the scandal, however, Williamson’s idea is inescapably radical. To be accepted, a massive amount of testing, proof, and elucidation is needed. This is where The Mystery of Metamorphosis ultimately leads the reader: not to a limiting declaration, but rather to a call for greater understanding and exploration.Read the source article at ForeWordReviews.com.Frank Ryan’s The Mystery of Metamorphosis is available now.
In Call of the Reed Warbler, Charles Massy’s stunning observations of interaction between nature and society is nothing short of eye opening. “By arrogantly having placed ourselves outside the functional operating parameters of Earth’s systems, we now see nature and the Earth as separate from us and so just available for use – while all the time…Read More
When our stomachs growl, we eat. When we feel like we’re about to burst, we stop eating. Our bodies have the incredible ability to recognize and adjust to changes in the environment and within itself, and sometimes knows what’s best for us without us even realizing. The following is an excerpt from Nourishment by Fred…Read More
Are you new to the Chelsea Green community and aren’t sure which book to read first? Or maybe you’re a long-time fan and want to continue your binge-reading but need some fresh ideas. Regardless of how you got here, we can help! From the enlightening and thought-provoking to the quirky and fun, we, the Chelsea…Read More
You might remember being a little kid and refusing to eat the broccoli that was put on your plate. But now you can’t get enough of the delicious green veggies. Why is it that your food preferences change over time? Why do you love some foods and despise others? What causes one person to love…Read More
We know a lot of people are wondering what’s coming next in the US, as well as the world, given terrorism, politics, and global warming, among other threats. Given the uncertainty, it doesn’t hurt to be prepared at all times. This 72-hour survival kit will help with any initial emergencies and includes medicine, water cleaning…Read More