Extending the Evolutionary Synthesis
The latter perspective is not new (in fact, it is as old as evolutionary biology itself), but it is gaining popularity through what has become calls for ‘extending’ the evolutionary synthesis. Yet, it is unclear how these perspectives on evolution differs from the gene-centric focus that has been dominant for the last century. To bring clarity to these issues – and perhaps ultimately bring about conceptual change – biologists with different expertise need to work together with philosophers and historians of biology.
Ultimately, conceptual frameworks should be evaluated on the basis of their ability to generate useful research. Much of the work in our group is therefore motivated by putting our ‘work-in-progress’ version view of an extended evolutionary synthesis to the test. This includes a large international effort coordinated by Tobias Uller and Kevin Laland. The initiative, funded by the John Templeton Foundation, include 22 projects and over 50 scientists, philosophers and historians centered at eight institutions, including Lund, St Andrews, Cambridge and Stanford.
If you want to know more
Uller, T. & Helanterä, H. Niche construction and conceptual change in evolutionary biology. British Journal for the Philosophy of Science, in press, https://doi.org/10.1093/bjps/axx050
Uller, T. & Helanterä, H. 2017. Heredity in evolutionary theory. In Challenging the Modern Synthesis: Adaptation, Development and Heredity (eds. P. Huneman & D. Walsh), Oxford University Press.
Laland, K.L., Uller, T, Feldman, M., Sterelny, K., Müller, G.B., Moczek, A., Jablonka, E. & Odling-Smee, J. The extended evolutionary synthesis: its structure, core assumptions, and predictions. Proceedings of the Royal Society of London 282: 20151019
Laland, K.N., Uller, T., Feldman, M.W., Sterelny, K., Müller, G.B., Moczek, A., Jablonka, E. & Odling-Smee, J. 2014. Does evolutionary theory need a rethink? Nature 514: 162-165
Laland, K.N., Sterelny, K., Odling-Smee, J., Hoppitt, W. & Uller, T. 2011. Cause and effect in biology revisited: Is Mayr’s proximate-ultimate distinction still useful? Science 334:1512-1516