Cells to Civilizations is the first unified account of how life transforms itself--from the production of bacteria to the emergence of complex civilizations. What are the connections between evolving microbes, an egg that develops into an infant, and a child who learns to walk and talk? Award-winning scientist Enrico Coen synthesizes the growth of living systems and creative processes, and he reveals that the four great life transformations--evolution, development, learning, and human culture--while typically understood separately, actually all revolve around shared core principles and manifest the same fundamental recipe. Coen blends provocative discussion, the latest scientific research, and colorful examples to demonstrate the links between these critical stages in the history of life.
Coen tells a story rich with genes, embryos, neurons, and fascinating discoveries. He examines the development of the zebra, the adaptations of seaweed, the cave paintings of Lascaux, and the formulations of Alan Turing. He explores how dogs make predictions, how weeds tell the time of day, and how our brains distinguish a Modigliani from a Rembrandt. Locating commonalities in important findings, Coen gives readers a deeper understanding of key transformations and provides a bold portrait for how science both frames and is framed by human culture.
A compelling investigation into the relationships between our biological past and cultural progress, Cells to Civilizations presents a remarkable story of living change.
Enrico Coen is a plant molecular geneticist based at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, United Kingdom. He is the author of The Art of Genes, a fellow of the Royal Society, and a foreign associate of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences. His awards include the Linnean Gold Medal and the Royal Society Darwin Medal.
"This attempt at a grand theoretical synthesis within biology explores the transformative powers and creative forces that have brought about the living world from the first cells to the latest developments in cultural and technological evolution. . . . [Coen's] eloquently written book offers a programmatic synthesis and an empirically grounded proposal for a theory of biology. . . . Cells to Civilizations will stimulate many productive discussions about the origins and development of life in all its complexities."--Manfred D. Laubichler, Science
"Clearly written . . . intriguing, thought-provoking . . ."--Library Journal
"In Cells to Civilization, [Coen] couples his knowledge of genetics with metaphor and art, likening the unfurling of mutant snapdragon flowers to an artist's brushstrokes on an expanding canvas. . . . The book is packed with fascinating facts. . . . [H]uman cultures and minds are among the most complex information systems in nature, and Coen does a good job of reminding us of their roots in evolution."--John Hawks, New Scientist
"The ideas [in Cells to Civilizations] are subtle, possibly significant, and slightly unsettling. What more could a reader wish for?"--Robert Schaefer, New York Journal of Books
Table of Contents