Arrival of the Fittest

Arrival of the Fittest

Solving Evolution’s Greatest Puzzle

Format
Hardcover
 
Additional Formats
  • Hardcover
  • ISBN 9781591846468
  • 304  Pages
  • Current
  • Adult

Overview

“Natural selection can preserve innovations, but it cannot create them. Nature’s many innovations—some uncannily perfect—call for natural principles that accelerate life’s ability to innovate.”

Darwin’s theory of natural selection explains how useful adaptations are preserved over time. But the biggest mystery about evolution eluded him. As genetics pioneer Hugo de Vries put it, “natural selection may explain the survival of the fittest, but it cannot explain the arrival of the fittest.”

Can random mutations over a mere 3.8 billion years really be responsible for wings, eyeballs, knees, camouflage, lactose digestion, photosynthesis, and the rest of nature’s creative marvels? And if the answer is no, what is the mechanism that explains evolution’s speed and efficiency?

In Arrival of the Fittest, renowned evolutionary biologist Andreas Wagner draws on over fifteen years of research to present the missing piece in Darwin’s theory. Using experimental and computational technologies that were heretofore unimagined, he has found that adaptations are not just driven by chance, but by a set of laws that allow nature to discover new molecules and mechanisms in a fraction of the time that random variation would take.

Consider the Arctic cod, a fish that lives and thrives within six degrees of the North Pole, in waters that regularly fall below 0 degrees. At that temperature, the internal fluids of most organisms turn into ice crystals. And yet, the arctic cod survives by producing proteins that lower the freezing temperature of its body fluids, much like antifreeze does for a car’s engine coolant. The invention of those proteins is an archetypal example of nature’s enormous powers of creativity.
 
Meticulously researched, carefully argued, evocatively written, and full of fascinating examples from the animal kingdom, Arrival of the Fittest offers up the final puzzle piece in the mystery of life’s rich diversity.

Praise

Arrival of the Fittest contains brand-new scientific insights told in sparkling literary prose. It is a landmark book that combines original, perhaps revolutionary ideas elegantly explained. In particular, the concept of genotype networks—that there are thousands of ways to alter a metabolic pathway without stopping it from working—promises to solve the enduring puzzle of how natural selection can be such a force for innovation.”
MATT RIDLEY, author of The Red Queen

Arrival of the Fittest reveals the astonishing hidden structure of evolution, long overlooked by biologists, which makes Darwin’s grand idea viable after all. At the same time, it makes life seem even richer and more remarkable than you thought. Darwin would surely have loved this book; I think you will too.”
PHILIP BALL, former editor at Nature; author of The Self-Made Tapestry

“Wagner’s engaging and delightful book will open your eyes to the mysteries of innovation. His insights will entertain and astonish you and change the way you think.”
DANIEL E. LIEBERMAN, Edwin M. Lerner II Professor of Biological Sciences, Harvard University; author of The Story of the Human Body

“A radical departure from the mainstream perspective on Darwinian evolution. Wagner cuts to the core of innovation in living systems. Fundamental. Entertaining. Brilliant.”
ROLF DOBELLI, author of The Art of Thinking Clearly

“If there is one subject even more controversial than the evolution of intelligence, it is the intelligence of evolution. Andreas Wagner presents a compelling, authoritative, and up-to-date case for bottom-up intelligence in biological evolution, and it sticks.”
GEORGE DYSON, author of Turing’s Cathedral

“Andreas Wagner is one of those rare scientists with the courage and intellect to see the real nature of evolution.”
FRANK VERTOSICK, M.D., FACS, author of When the Air Hits Your Brain and Mind
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