Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.


Vol. 3 No. 13 · 16 July 1981

Search by issue:

Did Darwin get it right?

SIR: I welcome Professor Maynard Smith’s characteristically lucid and perceptive essay on the current debate on Darwinism (LRB, 18 June) as a salutary sequel to some of the recent and no doubt inevitable media oversimplifications and distortions, to say nothing of Marxist and other red herrings. In defending the orthodox neo-Darwinian position he makes some telling points against what one might call the punctuationist school. Thus ‘species selection’ does not appear to account satisfactorily for the fine adaptations ubiquitous in the animal world, and I for one, though an avowed punctuationist, will remain sceptical until a few well-documented case-histories have been provided. Yet, in his own words, the debate shows no sign of going away. I think I can suggest several reasons for this.

In his light-hearted conclusion Maynard Smith suggests that some critics find the mathematics of population genetics too difficult. Well maybe, but surely that is quite beside the point. The vast majority of working scientists can and do quite rightly treat such mathematics as a black box. What matters is how closely the resulting theoretical model corresponds with the natural world, and how successfully it serves for prediction. As Maynard Smith is honest enough to admit, population genetics models have conspicuously failed to predict the phenomenon of ‘stasis’ (long-term species stability) in the fossil record. While prepared to admit data based on thorough statistical analysis of fossil populations, which is admittedly sparse as yet, he is dismissive of the data presented in, for instance, Stanley’s book on macroevolution, by taking up a nominalist position in relation to the cited species. To suggest that the taxonomic labelling may be largely arbitrary overlooks, however, some striking correspondences recorded by Stanley and others. Thus independent estimates of the species durations of bivalve molluscs of different ages are closely in accord, and significantly greater than, for instance, ammonites and mammals, implying a much higher rate of faunal turnover with time among the latter two groups of organisms. This is unlikely to be a taxonomic artifact because the morphology of ammonites and the mammalian teeth used for fossil species discrimination is no more complex than that of bivalves.

Again stasis has been recorded in a wide variety of fossil animals, from molluscs to antelopes. My colleague Russell Coope has discovered many striking examples of stasis among Pleistocene beetles and his complex data indicating how they have repeatedly tracked the pronounced climatic changes corresponding with glacial advances and retreats only make sense if one assumes that physiological tolerance as well as hard-part morphology has remained stable within given species.

Now if species, as a result of punctuated stasis, are mostly discrete entities in time (only the extreme punctuationist would deny any gradualism), it is a logical corollary that they should likewise be mostly discrete entities in space, as Maynard Smith well appreciates. He points out what no reasonable person would wish to deny, that wide-ranging species may exhibit much geographic variation. The key question is: does such variation merely represent deviation about an average, with minimal morphological or behavioural overlap with neighbouring species, or is there commonly the sort of lateral gradation implied by ‘clines’ and ‘ring speciation’? Maynard Smith cites for the latter the textbook example of the gulls. Shouldn’t such phenomena be commonplace if one is to extrapolate consistently from infraspecific to interspecific relationships, and if so why have not many more well-documented examples been forthcoming from the intensive fieldwork of biologists over many decades?

Ernst Mayr cites the remarkable fact that the many species of birds distinguished by western ornithologists in the jungles of New Guinea correspond very closely to the birds given separate names by the natives. This hardly supports the nominalist view that species are artifacts of a natural continuum because people of vastly different cultures and education would be expected to impose their arbitrary boundaries in different places. Why therefore shouldn’t palaeontological taxonomists be given the same kind of credit? (The argument about discontinuities in the record of rock strata, used as a refuge by Darwin and resurrected by Maynard Smith, can be adequately taken care of in most modern stratigraphic work.) Hard-part morphology is by no means foolproof as a taxonomic criterion, of course, as evidenced by sibling species (species that are genetically different but well nigh indistinguishable morphologically). Nevertheless an adequate methodology can be devised in favourable cases. In my own limited experience with fossil bivalve molluscs, I have taken some pains to ensure that the range of variation within my selected ‘species’ corresponds closely to what malacologists who work on living bivalves would call species. Since we only have genetic information for a minute fraction of living organisms we can generally do no better than that.

Punctuationists do not deny the operation of natural selection but suspect that it may substantially be confined to adaptational ‘fine tuning’ to the environment, and believe that extrapolation to processes of species formation may not be warranted. After all, no one has actually observed a new animal species arise, so arguments for speciation are of necessity based only on circumstantial evidence. The phenomenon of stasis in the fossil record suggests that, for time periods far longer than those available for biologists’ research, the prime role of selection may be a stabilising one. A very occasional environmental crisis may be required to destabilise a ‘homeostatic’ system and hence perhaps promote speciation. This is suggested, for instance, by Williamson’s study of East African fossil molluscs, cited by Maynard Smith, who omits, however, to point out that the morphological variance at the ‘crisis’ intervals tended to increase, before a new species established itself. This is precisely the kind of change that could be predicted if speciation events involve a temporary relaxation of stabilising selection pressure.

Maynard Smith sees the punctuationist view not as a revolution but as a mere ripple on the ocean of neo-Darwinian thought. I see the debate in quite different terms. For several decades the principal drive of evolutionary research has been reductionist, from comparative anatomy to experimental embryology and genetics to molecular biology. Without denying for a moment the many scientific triumphs achieved en route, there has been a growing sense of unease among many evolution-minded palaeontologists and biologists about important problems that they consider to have been glossed over or ignored. The science of evolution is at least as much to do with understanding how the rich diversity of the organic world came about as it is to do with shifting gene balances in populations of fruit flies and land snails. We are more intrigued by the cause of the difference between lions and leopards than that between long-tailed and short-tailed lions.

In their reaction against the ultraselectionist view there is no desire to reject out of hand the findings of population genetics and, for instance, flirt with ‘macromutations’ and ‘hopeful monsters’. It is more a question of a shift of emphasis and a change of direction in attacking the problems of speciation and generation of major new morphotypes, because of a sense of some degree of impasse having been reached by the orthodox approach. Hence the more open-minded attitude towards, for example, random effects of genetic drift in small populations, chromosomal changes and the action of regulatory genes operating at an early stage in an individual’s life history. We are very much at the exploratory stage and no doubt will chase up many blind alleys. In fact, about all we have in common in our diverse and eclectic approach is some degree of dissatisfaction with the current orthodoxy. With the advent of much new geological evidence palaeontologists may before long have plausible answers to previously little considered questions such as what kinds of environmental change have promoted speciation and extinction in particular groups of organisms, and what kinds have merely provoked migration into ecological refuges.

That not all evolutionary geneticists are entirely satisfied with the status quo is indicated by a recent remark by the Harvard biologist R.C. Lewontin: ‘Systematics and palaeontology deal in phenotypes, yet they continue to use the Mendelian population genetics of single genes of fixed effect as a theoretical base for explanation, which only shows consistency and not entailment. As an evolutionary geneticist, I do not see how the origin of higher taxa are the necessary consequence of neo-Darwinism. They are sufficiently explained, but they are not the necessary consequence.’

Anthony Hallam
University of Birmingham

Bites from the Bearded Crocodile

SIR: Cabrera Infante’s article (LRB, 4 June) on the Cuban alternative literary scene was one of those rare and exquisite introductions to a world that is at once distant and comprehensible. May I endorse Salman Rushdie’s plea (later in the same issue) that people in England buy, savour and propagate. But my main reason for writing is to take up the point about the imprisoned Cuban writer Armando Valladares. His case is being pursued not only by Amnesty International but also by PEN. On a more local (but, one hopes, not ineffectual) level he has been ‘adopted’ by Chelsea Lib Party, at PEN’s suggestion.

Jonathan Fryer
Liberal PPC, Chelsea

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.