Even in this advanced age of genomics, the evolutionary process of unicellular and multicellular organisms is continually in debate. Dr. John S. Torday, one of the two authors of Evolutionary Biology, Cell-Cell Communication, and Complex Disease took the time to briefly discuss his book with us. Coauthored by Dr. Virender K. Rehanwhich, Evolutionary Biology hones in on the “why and how” of evolution by focusing on the cell as the smallest unit of biologic structure and function.
- What made you originally decide to write Evolutionary Biology?
The writing of the book was prompted by a variety of factors. First, evolutionary-developmental biology was not taking advantage of the standard cell-molecular experimental methods of developmental biology. Second, the Human Genome Project was not catalyzing biomedical research, as was expected, for lack of an ‘algorithm’ by which to readily convert genes into phenotypes; since evolutionary-developmental biology is predicated on that process, the problem had to be addressed. Third, because lung developmental biology—the most successful scientific endeavor to translate basic science into clinical practice to date—was largely driven by the serendipitous discovery that hormones regulate this process. There is too much serendipity and anecdotal thinking in biology and medicine for lack of a unifying theory, and since ‘evolution is all of biology’ (Dobzhansky), that seemed the logical place to look.
- Have you gained any insights from writing the book?
The key concept in the book is that evolution is a process that can be reduced to cell-cell signaling. By doing so, evolution becomes mainstream to all of biology, no longer requiring metaphoric thinking and expression to understand it. On the contrary, it makes evolutionary biology more accessible to mechanistic hypothesis testing using molecular tools. That is significant because as a result, evolutionary biology will now and forever be seen as relevant to the other biologic disciplines, and to medicine. Continue reading