Preface & Introduction Discussion

Comment on anything you would like in the Preface and Introduction to Endless Forms Most Beautiful by Sean Carroll. The questions below are meant to stimulate thought, and you definitely may respond to them if you wish, but you should also feel free to bring up other aspects of the text you'd like to discuss.

Please comment using the "Discuss" tag at the bottom of the page, not by editing this page directly.

Sean Carroll quotes Nobel laureate Jean Perrin as saying great science "explain[s] the complex visible by some simple invisible." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? For scientific discoveries to be great, do they also have to be counterintuitive?

A major theme of this book (and thus of its introduction) is that the same (or very similar) genes control the morphological development of very different-appearing animals. Carroll states this deep genetic similarity in organisms that are so strikingly (if superficially) different is counterintuitive. Do you agree or disagree? Would you expect, for instance, the development fruit fly eyes and human eyes to be controlled by the same genes?

Carroll writes, paraphrasing Thomas Henry Huxley, "We may marvel at the process of an egg becoming an adult, but we accept it as an everyday fact. It is merely then a lack of imagination to fail to grasp how changes in this process that are assimilated over long periods of time…shape life's diversity. Evolution is as natural as development." Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Surveys have shown that at least half of Americans reject the idea of biological evolution. Do these Americans "lack imagination," as Carroll would have it, or is there a difference between the development of a single simple cell into a complex multicellular organism and the evolution of many complex species from an original simple ancestor?

Carroll ends the introduction of Endless Forms Most Beautiful by describing Rudyard Kipling's "Just-So Stories." What is the difference between a "just-so story" and a scientific explanation?

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