Journals Higher Education



Published: 12 August 2010

344 Pages

5-1/2 x 8-1/4 inches

ISBN: 9780199736188

Also Available As:


Bookseller Code (01)

Freaks of Nature

What Anomalies Tell Us About Development and Evolution

Mark Blumberg

  • · Many of the most striking developmental anomalies have evolved into some of the most striking species characteristics (e.g., limbless humans, limbless snakes). (key idea: Body, brain, and behavior are shaped through development, not programmed before development)
  • · We take for granted how easily we can adjust to an anomalous body when we are allowed to "grow" into it. Key examples: Johnny Eck, the two-legged goat, Faith the two-legged dog (key idea: developmental flexibility)
  • · Some of the most devastating anomalies -- e.g., two-headedness, cyclopia -- can arise from a mutation or an environmental factor during development. Freaks are not necessarily mutants (key ideas: epigenesis; gene-environment interchangeability)
  • · Anomalies provide a stark contrast to "intelligent design" and a note of caution to "evolutionary design." They bring us closer to the gears and mechanisms of development, and the options available to evolution.
  • · Debates over whether Barack Obama is "black" recall similar discussions concerning the nature of sex. Nature often offers ambiguities, and it is the human inability to grasp ambiguity that leads us to force natural products into human categories. But anomalies won't go away so easily, because they are an integral part of nature

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