Cover: Good Enough: The Tolerance for Mediocrity in Nature and Society, from Harvard University PressCover: Good Enough in HARDCOVER

Good Enough

The Tolerance for Mediocrity in Nature and Society

Product Details


$28.95 • £25.95 • €26.95

ISBN 9780674504622

Publication Date: 06/18/2019


320 pages

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

16 color photos, 21 color illus., 1 photo, 2 tables


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Takes aim at this image of evolution as relentless improvement.—Gregory Radick, The Times Literary Supplement

Good Enough wonders why evolutionary biologists shun the scientific thinking called the null hypothesis… Some of nature’s wonders might be happy accidents, rather than masterpieces of adaptation… It is a charming argument, suited to lazy, sunny afternoons: ‘Why should we struggle and strain when we are all good enough?’—Simon Ings, New Scientist

Bold but carefully reasoned… An argument that pays reverence to Darwin as revolutionary thinker while nonetheless insisting that both he and many others have indeed ‘extend[ed] too far the action of natural selection.’ …Milo insists that nature is full not of excellence but of mediocrity—not cut-throat competitive champions but merely the manifold forms of life that survive just well enough not to die… Good Enough is an important intervention that boasts none of the mediocrity that Milo finds everywhere at work—or rather, asleep on the job—in the natural world.—Ben Murphy, PopMatters

A thought-provoking critique of the dominance of adaptationist explanations. He argues that, while natural selection is important, it is not the only, possibly not even the default mechanism, in evolution. No, Milo claims, the mediocre also survive and thrive… Insightful and unsettling… What a fantastic book!—Leon Villager, Inquisitive Biologist

Milo aims to give the messy side of nature its due—to stand up for the wasteful and inefficient organisms that nevertheless survive and multiply… Imperfection is not just good enough: it may at times be essential to survival.Southeastern Naturalist

Stimulating.La Recherche

Through a marshaling of facts and a careful reading of scientific opinions, Milo shows himself to be a persuasive analyst and historical detective, revealing critical sides of the evolution argument that have often been ignored. The book, full of humor and unexpected examples, showcases Milo’s skill for storytelling.—Marc Kirschner, Founding Chair, Department of Systems Biology, Harvard University

Good Enough is a book that changes key cultural assumptions, offering a radical revision of the ideas of evolution and selection. Daniel Milo argues that nature follows the law of inertia, makes do with mediocrity, and relies on chance rather than maximization. It is a rare book that will leave a lasting impact on scientific discourse and on popular imagination.—Eva Illouz, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris

In this salutary essay, Daniel Milo tells biologists with delight what they already know but never confess. Rooting his argument in the genesis of Darwin’s theory, Milo emphasizes the place of the mediocre, the useless, and the level-down in natural variation. Without contradicting the power of natural selection, Good Enough suggests that the long tails of trait variation govern survival more than optimization, subsequently shaping the diversity of life.—Nicolas Gompel, Ludwig-Maximilians University, Munich

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