I’m back again, writing my book ‘What would Darwin think?’ about the ways that the great man would have been influenced by the changes that have occurred in evolutionary thought since he wrote Origin of Species.
Here’s the opening:
What Would Darwin Think?
A couple of years ago I treated myself to triple organ failure and a few nights at Oxford’s famous teaching hospital known to its regulars as the Hotel John Radcliffe. Things got a little dicey and I was beginning to think that I could check out any time I liked but I could never leave.
As I wandered the corridors of the JR in the wee, small hours of the night wondering whether the ferryman now takes Paypal, I found myself contemplating the things I would like to write if I managed to extricate myself from this mess. I realised that despite spending my entire scientific career studying evolution, like many academics I was an expert on certain parts of my subject but I didn’t really see the whole picture.
Once out of the JR, during the two year convalescence that followed I started thinking about where Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection started and where we are now. It didn’t take me long to realise that we are just about to accelerate into biological hyperspace because modern genetic science has given us newer tools than evolution ‘in the wild’ uses and the knowledge to use them.
To put the idea into context, about five hundred million years ago the oceans of the world were populated by the ancestors of modern animals in the geological blink of an eye. It is the single most important event in the evolution of animals. Within twenty million years – less than half a percent of the age of the earth – the oceans were colonised by our animal ancestors.
Since the publication of Origin of Species in 1859, Darwin’s theory of evolution has fused with the science of genetics. Now they are two sides of the same coin. Since most science proceeds by fragmentation, with promising lines of work giving rise to their own subsidiary disciplines, a fusion such as this is unusual and may explain why so many people have difficulty getting their heads around what I call ‘Evolution Reloaded’. The mechanics of how natural selection works, the operation of the genome, and the pattern these processes leave in the fossil record have become so intertwined it is no longer possible to separate them.
This book details how this integration happened and what the consequences of it may be. With our new found knowledge of genetics and genomics, are we just about to engineer our own Cambrian Explosion?
What would Darwin think of how his theory has developed since 1859? What might he think of Evolution Reloaded now that the age of the Anthropocene Explosion is upon us? Many of the questions that face us today are also ones that Darwin thought about one hundred and sixty years ago. What would he think of the answers that we have found?”
For any publishers out there who would like to read more, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org