This Is Biology: The Science of the Living World

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9780674884687: This Is Biology: The Science of the Living World

Biology until recently has been the neglected stepchild of science, and many educated people have little grasp of how biology explains the natural world. Yet to address the major political and moral questions that face us today, we must acquire an understanding of their biological roots. This magisterial new book by Ernst Mayr will go far to remedy this situation. An eyewitness to this century's relentless biological advance and the creator of some of its most important concepts, Mayr is uniquely qualified to offer a vision of science that places biology firmly at the center, and a vision of biology that restores the primacy of holistic, evolutionary thinking.

As he argues persuasively, the physical sciences cannot address many aspects of nature that are unique to life. Living organisms must be understood at every level of organization; they cannot be reduced to the laws of physics and chemistry. Mayr's approach is refreshingly at odds with the reductionist thinking that dominated scientific research earlier in this century, and will help to redirect how people think about the natural world.

This Is Biology can also be read as a "life history" of the discipline--from its roots in the work of Aristotle, through its dormancy during the Scientific Revolution and its flowering in the hands of Darwin, to its spectacular growth with the advent of molecular techniques. Mayr maps out the territorial overlap between biology and the humanities, especially history and ethics, and carefully describes important distinctions between science and other systems of thought, including theology. Both as an overview of the sciences of life and as the culmination of a remarkable life in science, This Is Biology will richly reward professionals and general readers alike.

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Review:

At the age of 93, Ernst Mayr has forgotten more about biology than most people ever learn. Mayr has been more than just an eyewitness to the amazing advances in biological theory and understanding over the century; he was an active participant as well, helping to formulate the combination of Darwinian thought and modern genetics that is the bedrock of today's standard theory of evolution. But biology has always been something of a poor relation to the other physical sciences--subjects such as physics or chemistry that have strict rules of cause and effect and a certain predictability. Biology, on the other hand, is based on a muddle of combined causes, pure chance, and evidence drawn from unrelated areas, yet it is the one science that addresses those aspects of nature that can't be reduced to mere laws of chemistry or physics. In his book This Is Biology, Ernst Mayr sets out to show us how and why.

Though biology is a relatively young science, born in the 19th century, its roots go back to the days of Aristotle; Mayr traces its development from the ancient Greeks to the advent of modern molecular techniques. Woven throughout this history of the science is an explanation of its relation to other sciences and to the humanities, particularly history and ethics. This Is Biology was written with great thought and care and requires the same from its readers; for those interested in the science of life as well as one great man's life in science, this book is the natural selection.

About the Author:

Ernst Mayr is Alexander Agassiz Professor of Zoology, Emeritus, at Harvard University. He is also the recipient of numerous honorary degrees and awards, including the Crafoord Prize for Biology, the National Medal of Science, the Balzan Prize, and the Japan Prize.

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Mayr, Ernst.
Published by The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London England (1997)
ISBN 10: 067488468X ISBN 13: 9780674884687
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Book Description The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, Cambridge, Massachusetts and London England, 1997. Hardcover. Book Condition: New. First Edition (Unstated). 327 pages. Hardcover with dustjacket. Like New. BIOLOGY. Biology until recently has been the neglected stepchild of science, and many educated people have little grasp of how biology explains the natural world. Yet to address the major political and moral questions that face us today, we must acquire an understanding of their biological roots. This magisterial book by Ernst Mayr will go far to remedy this situation. An eyewitness to this century's relentless biological advance and the creator of some of its most important concepts, Mayr is uniquely qualified to offer a vision of science that places biology firmly at the center, and a vision of biology that restores the primacy of holistic, evolutionary thinking. As he argues persuasively, the physical sciences cannot address many aspects of nature that are unique to life. Living organisms must be understood at every level of organization; they cannot be reduced to the laws of physics and chemistry. Mayr's approach is refreshingly at odds with the reductionist thinking that dominated scientific research earlier in this century, and will help to redirect how people think about the natural world. This Is Biology can also be read as a "life history" of the discipline - from its roots in the work of Aristotle, through its dormancy during the Scientific Revolution and its flowering in the hands of Darwin, to its spectacular growth with the advent of molecular techniques. Mayr maps out the territorial overlap between biology and the humanities, especially history and ethics, and carefully describes important distinctions between science and other systems of thought, including theology. Both as an overview of the sciences of life and as the culmination of a remarkable life in science, This Is Biology will richly reward professionals and general readers alike. Includes an Index. "An intellectually masterful overview of the big questions in biology, written with clarity and verve." - James D. Watson (Key Words: Ernst Mayr, Evolutionary Biology, Species, Science, Natural Selection, Karl Popper, Homo Erectus, Immanuel Kant, Charles Darwin, Evolution, Karl Ernst von Baer). book. Bookseller Inventory # 71859X1

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