Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

The Paradox of Evolution: The Strange Relationship between Natural Selection and Reproduction

Magazine article The Times Higher Education Supplement : THE

The Paradox of Evolution: The Strange Relationship between Natural Selection and Reproduction

Article excerpt

The Paradox of Evolution: The Strange Relationship between Natural Selection and Reproduction

By Stephen Rothman

Prometheus, 248pp, £12.99

ISBN 9781633880726

Published 1 December 2015

As On the Origin of Species was published more than 150 years ago, you would be forgiven for assuming that questions about the fundamentals of Darwinian evolution have long since been resolved within the scientific community. However, argues Stephen Rothman, there is still plenty of potential for debate. In The Paradox of Evolution, he examines the role that natural selection plays in shaping reproduction, and concludes that the diverse and complex reproductive mechanisms that we see in nature result not from natural selection but rather from alternative biological forces with a purpose that opposes that of natural selection.

He begins by posing a fair and profound question: "Why in God's (or Darwin's) name do we have children?" It is a question that I have been contemplating myself recently, just days away from the arrival of a new addition to our family. Rothman claims that the question of how reproductive mechanisms evolve is a neglected area in evolutionary biology. However, I would disagree. Although the evolution of specific reproductive mechanisms in many organisms may still be misunderstood (there are a lot of organisms to consider), the question of the evolution of sex and reproduction has consumed many great evolutionary biologists both past and present, and there is a plethora of convincing data that highlight the natural conditions under which sex provides a fitness advantage. Perhaps Rothman was not concerned with this area of reproductive evolution, and wanted the reader to consider reproduction's more physiological aspects. However, here - and in other places within the book - omission of these studies seems to cloud rather than clarify many of his arguments. …

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