BOOK REVIEW BY H. VAN WAESBERGHE IN THEORETICAL & APPLIED GENETICS (1990) 79 : 431
Lönnig, W.-E.: Artbegriff, Evolution und Schöpfung. Dokumentation und Diskussion der verschiedenen Auffassungen. 3rd edn. Köln: Lönnig 1988. 622 pp. DM 58.-.
The author is a geneticist of the Max Planck Institute (Cologne) and an expert in the cross-breeding of peas. For 20 years he has been in doubt whether mutation and selection - the cornerstones of Neo-Darwinism - provides adequate explanation of the "origin of species". His final conclusion, based partly on an extensive study of molecular, genetical, cytological, physiological, taxonomic, palaeontological and ethological facts, is: no! The first question of his well-wrought account is: "what is a species?" Quite clearly this question should be the first one to be settled by anyone interested in the origin of species. The common practice is, however, quite different, and Mr. Lönnig is an exception in tackling the first question at the beginning. The first half of his book is dedicated to an inventory and criticism of morphological, Darwinian, genetical, palaeontological and creationist definitions of the species. When these definitions are used to estimate the total number of species, the outcome fluctuates between 2 and 20 million.
Some interesting topics of his inquiry are, for example: (1) is individual hybrid sterility decisive or does it result from the reproductive isolation of populations? (2) How do isolating barriers arise and function? (3) What is the proportion of genetic and epigenetic barriers? (4) Is genetic information stored in the nucleus (DNA) only or in the cytoplasm as well? (5) what do we do with sibling species? The author offers no hope an evolutionary progression by chromosomal reshuffling (polyploidy, gene duplication, inversions, deletions, transposons) that seem to be mere evolutionary noise. Such mutations destabilize the genetic balance, increasing indeed the variability, but not seldom is the balance restored by recurrent mutation. To cope with the difficulties of the species concept, the distinction of primary and secondary species is introduced, primary species are not hampered by gene-chromosome- and genome-mutations, which are distinctive features of the secondary species.
The reader of this book is kept in touch with 1,400 plant and animal species and with about 2,000 authors, the latter often quoted to a large extent. As far as I know, a better reference book on the species problem is not to be found anywhere. The conflict with Neo-Darwinism is, of course, inescapable: facts against a theory. While Mr. Lönnig is far from being the only non-Darwinian evolutionist, he deserves a special place in the assembly. Neo-Darwinism will, however, keep upright, until an alternative evolution model comes ready for use. The author also pays attention to the Creator of species. His call will certainly be welcomed by the believer, but offers no alternative to the evolutionist. The third edition of this book is not expensive, badly printed and yet recommendable as an original, instructive and reliable contribution. [Hervorhebungen im Schriftbild von W.-E.L.]
H. van Waesberghe, Zeist