Brian Goodwin, How the leopard changed its spots: The evolution of complexity. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1994, $14.
A mindstretcher book that describes a level of chemical and physical properties that operate between the gene and phenotype. His argument is: a) The organism is an important entity, not merely a bag for genes b) Excitable media show steady state activity (patterns) that are a balance between propagation (repetition of prior events) and inhibition. c) Similar complex patterns are expressed at the chemical, plant, neuronal, organ (cardiac), and human levels. d) Genes may initiate a local pattern of activity; its extension into the rest of a cell depends on physicochemical rules, not direct genetic intervention.
He downplays evolution as strictly a product of historical accident, random mutation, and natural selection. The Natural Selection model does not account for the origin of ancestral forms such as the eye or the 5-digit paw, the finite number of arrangement of leaves on plants, or our inability to grow 4 toes but 6 or more fingers. (According to some writers, it took Darwin about 15+ years after "The Beagle" to accept Natural Selection as a creative force, rather than solely as a means to eliminate maladaptive variability in phenotype that arose from random mutation. He may not have been happy about the choice but was perhaps forced into it by competing work from Wallace.) The events that Goodwin and others describe have promise for uncovering the foundations of species formation. A number of good minds question (and are sometimes hostile about) the notion that new species develop as a continuous "morphing" from an existing creature.
Discussion and help are welcome!