Field of Science

Frozen Evolution book review

Dan Graur reviews Frozen Evolution: Or, That's not the Way It Is, Mr. Darwin: A Farewell to Selfish Gene by Jaroslav Flegr in The Quarterly Review of Biology.

And thank Dan for that, because I know what an awful book that is. As Dan says
I regard this book review as a public service. Life is much too short to waste it on bad books. So, do not even touch this sloppily written, unprofessionally translated, inadequately conceived, improperly edited, dubiously syntaxed, and horribly pompous and tedious stream‐of‐consciousness monologue masquerading as a scholarly work.
I few years back I saw a message somewhere on the web that Flegr was looking for people to review his book, which is in part about epistasis (a topic of my research), so I asked him, and he subsequently sent me a copy. However, I was never able to get through it (apologies), because the writing is indeed sloppy, and the core idea as I perceived it - that because epistasis makes a mutation have different effects on different genetic backgrounds, a mutation can't lead to workable changes in the genome in sexual species, since recombination makes the genetic background in the offspring different from that of both parents - is patently crackpotty. Better things to do, kind of thing.
I have one final piece of advice for those masochists who will imprudently decide against my very strong admonitions to read this book. Have a fun experience by using a “crackpot‐index measure” (see e.g., F. J. Gruenberger. 1964. Science 145:1413–1415) to compare Frozen Evolution against a checklist of the most significant attributes of scientists and quacks. I am looking forward to finding out whether your conclusions will be similar to mine, which I shall keep to myself for the present time.


  1. And I thought my review of Hubert Yockey's diatribe about "Information theory and molecular biology", in the same journal, was harsh. Actually, I thought it was very restrained, while being harsh. I wanted to use the same language as Graur did here. I just had no idea that it would ever going to be printed! And, just as Graur, I thought my review was "public service" also. I spent a significant amount of time on it, that I will never ever get back.

  2. I can't find your review in Quarterly online anymore, but have you ever seen this review of your review on Uncommon Descent?

  3. I have a copy if you want to see it. I did not know about the Uncommon Descent comment. I guess I don't google myself enough! Or else, it shows up so low in Google that I don't ever get to see it. In any case, it is as stupid as Yockey's book.

  4. OK. This review (especially in contrast to four reviews published until now, see is really very hard. But, what about to read the book and write your own review (as you promised in your request for the book) instead of to copy the selected parts of somebody else review?

    Best regards

    Jaroslav F

  5. Hi Jaroslav.

    Yes, you are right that I should read the whole book, and then write a review. I will try to get around to it at some point. Again, sincere apologies.

    For now, will you agree that I got the gist of the argument about epistasis correct?

  6. Dear Bjorg
    Well, not exactly. The epistasis plays the principal role in earlier theories (Shifting Balance theory, the Founder Flush and the Genetic Transilience models) of Wright, Carson and Tepleton). The most important factor in frozen plasticity theory is the frequency dependent selection. The theory is most explicitly described (for scientific audience) in the paper published in Biology Direct.
    Best regards

  7. Bjorn do you have down syndrome?

  8. "I'm a postdoc at Michigan State University"


  9. Thanks for asking! No, I do not have Down syndrome. Why do you ask? Is it the level of my writing, or my picture, perhaps?


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