John Maynard Smith, Professor of Biology at the University of Sussex, is the author of On Evolution, The Evolution of Sex, Evolution and the Theory of Games, and, with Eörs Szathmáry, The Major Transitions in Evolution. (December 2000)


The Cheshire Cat’s DNA

The Century of the Gene

by Evelyn Fox Keller
In 1900, three biologists independently rediscovered Mendel’s laws, according to which the characteristics of organisms are determined by hereditary units, each kind being present once in a gamete, sperm or egg, and hence twice in the fertilized egg. In effect, it was an atomic theory of heredity. The term “genetics” …

Genes, Memes, & Minds

Darwin's Dangerous Idea: Evolution and the Meanings of Life

by Daniel C. Dennett
As an evolutionary biologist, I am used to being misunderstood by philosophers. Even my favorite philosopher, Karl Popper, although he later repented, argued for many years that evolution theory is metaphysics rather than science. It is therefore a pleasure to meet a philosopher who understands what Darwinism is about, and …

Life at the Edge of Chaos?

Darwinism Evolving

by David J. Depew and Bruce H. Weber
Darwinism Evolving is a history of ideas about biological diversity and evolution, from Aristotle to the present day. The last part of the book is an account of some recent developments, and an attempt to forecast the future. Most of this review will be concerned with the final section, which …

Taking a Chance on Evolution

Wonderful Life: The Burgess Shale and the Nature of History

by Stephen Jay Gould

Bully for Brontosaurus: Reflections in Natural History

by Stephen Jay Gould
Although very different in style and content, the last two books by Stephen Jay Gould—Wonderful Life and Bully for Brontosaurus—and Ernst Mayr’s Toward a New Philosophy of Biology are ultimately about the same questions. Is evolutionary biology a science? If so, what kind of a science is it? Mayr’s book …

Dinosaur Dilemmas

The Dinosauria

edited by David B. Weishampel, edited by Peter Dodson, edited by Halszka Osmólska

Dinosaurs, Spitfires, and Sea Dragons

by Chris McGowan
When, as often happens, I find myself dissenting from something written by Stephen Jay Gould, I remind myself that we share a common childhood experience. We were both dinosaur nuts, at a time when to be interested in dinosaurs was to be an oddball. For both of us, that early …

Triumphs of Colonialism

The Ants

by Bert Hölldobler and Edward O. Wilson
I remember, some years ago, visiting E.O. Wilson at Harvard. For some reason, he had to leave the room for a few minutes, and during his absence I enjoyed watching a colony of weaver ants with which—I almost wrote with whom—he shared his office. At first sight their movements appeared …