Cells to Civilizations

Plant biologist and President of the Genetics Society (http://www.genetics.org.uk/) Enrico Coen offers us a wonderful book in Cells to Civilizations. This is a 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? 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 colourful 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. This is a compelling investigation into the relationships between our biological past and our cultural progress. Cells to Civilizations presents a remarkable story of living change. It could change your view of things if you read it.

344 pages in Princeton University Press

ISBN 978-0691149677

Enrico Coen


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