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No. 28: Jul-Aug 1983

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Evolution By Numbers

The following paragraph is taken from a letter to Nature by a "practising geneticist."

"In the discussion in your columns about the application of quantitative methodology based on the study of evolutionary processes to the analysis of the development of human culture, there is an unquestioned assumption on both sides of that issue that quantitative theory, as expounded by practitioners such as Fisher, Haldane, Wright, Cavalli-Sforza and Maynard Smith, has been successful in illuminating and explaining the process of biological evolution and the genetic relationships between species. As far as I know, there is no evidence to support this assumption. Indeed, there is a vast number of observations unaccounted for in the extant quantitative evolutionary theories. Many of these observations (inducible mutation systems, rapid genomic changes involving mobile genetic elements, programmed changes in chromosome structure) challenge the most fundamental assumptions which these evolutionary theories make about the mechanisms of hereditary variation and the fixation of genetic differences."

(Shapiro, James A.; "Evolution by Numbers," Nature, 303:196, 1983.)

Comments. The "observations unaccounted for" are buried in such obscure journals as S.B. ges. Morph. Physio. (Munchen). It is pretty obvious that the Sourcebook Project is just scratching the surface.

From Science Frontiers #28, JUL-AUG 1983. 1983-2000 William R. Corliss

Science Frontiers Sourcebook Project Reviewed in:


  • "A sourcebook of unexplained phenomena is therefore a valuable addition to a collection of scientific literature. William R. Corliss has provided this in the past with his source books of scientific anomalies in several subjects, and now he has provided it for astronomy. He has done an excellent job of collecting and editing a large amount of material, taken in part from scientific journals and in part from scientific reporting in the popular or semi-scientific press." -- "The Mysterious Universe: A Handbook of Astronomical Anomalies", reviwed by Thomas Gold, Cornell University, in Icarus, vol.41, 1980

  • "An interesting, systematic presentation of unusual weather [..] This book is recommended for a general audience" --"Corliss, William R., Tornados, Dark Days, Anomalous Precipitation, and Related Weather Phenomena, Sourcebook Project, 1983.", revieweed in Choice, September 1983
  • "..the science is necessarily somewhat speculative, but Corliss's symthesis is based on reputable sources." -- "Corliss, William R. (Compiler). Lightning, Auroras, Nocturnal Lights, and Related Luminous Phenomena" reviwed by Joseph M. Moran, Univ. of Wisconsin in Science Books and Films, Sep/Oct 1983

  • "Before opening the book, I set certain standards that a volume which treads into dangerous grounds grounds like this must meet. The author scrupulously met, or even exceeded those standards. Each phenomenon is exhaustively documented, with references to scientific journals [..] and extensive quotations" -- "Book Review: The moon and planets: a catalog of astronomical anomalies", The Sourcebook Project, 1985., Corliss, W. R., Journal of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, Vol. 81, no. 1 (1987), p. 24., 02/1987