Several forthcoming articles about Darwin and evolution in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences:
Daniel R. Brooks
Abstract Failing to acknowledge substantial differences between Darwinism and neo-Darwinism impedes evolutionary biology. Darwin described evolution as the outcome of interactions between the nature of the organism and the nature of the conditions, each relatively autonomous but both historically and spatially intertwined. Furthermore, he postulated that the nature of the organism was more important than the nature of the conditions, leading to natural selection as an inevitable emergent product of biological systems. The neo-Darwinian tradition assumed a creative rather than selective view of natural selection, with the nature of the organism determined by the nature of the conditions, rendering the nature of the organism and temporal contingency unnecessary. Contemporary advances in biology, specifically the phylogenetics revolution and evo-devo, underscore the significance of history and the nature of the organism in biology. Darwinism explains more biology better, and better resolves apparent anomalies between living systems and more general natural laws, than does neo-Darwinism. The “extended” or “expanded” synthesis currently called for by neo-Darwinians is Darwinism.
Richard G. Delislea
Abstract The 1920-1960 period saw the creation of the conditions for a unification of disciplines in the area of evolutionary biology under a limited number of theoretical prescriptions: the evolutionary synthesis. Whereas the sociological dimension of this synthesis was fairly successful, it was surprisingly loose when it came to the interpretation of the evolutionary mechanisms per se, and completely lacking at the level of the foundational epistemological and metaphysical commitments. Key figures such as Huxley, Simpson, Dobzhansky, and Rensch only paid lip service to the conceptual dimension of the evolutionary synthesis, as they eventually realized that a number of evolutionary phenomena could not be explained by its narrow theoretical corpus. Apparently, the evolutionary synthesis constituted a premature event in the development of evolutionary biology. Not only are the real achievements of the evolutionary synthesis in need of reevaluation, but this reassessment also has important implications for the historiography of Darwinism and the current debates about the darwinian movement.
David J. Depewa
Abstract Conceptions of adaptation have varied in the history of genetic Darwinism depending on whether what is taken to be focal is the process of adaptation, adapted states of populations, or discrete adaptations in individual organisms. I argue that Theodosius Dobzhansky’s view of adaptation as a dynamical process contrasts with so-called “adaptationist” views of natural selection figured as “design-without-a-designer” of relatively discrete, enumerable adaptations. Correlated with these respectively process and product oriented approaches to adaptive natural selection are divergent pictures of organisms themselves as developmental wholes or as “bundles” of adaptations. While even process versions of genetical Darwinism are insufficiently sensitive to the fact much of the variation on which adaptive selection works consists of changes in the timing, rate, or location of ontogenetic events, I argue that articulations of the Modern Synthesis influenced by Dobzhansky are more easily reconciled with the recent shift to evolutionary developmentalism than are versions that make discrete adaptations central.
Abstract Historians of science have long been agreeing: what many textbooks of evolutionary biology say, about the histories of Darwinism and the New Synthesis, is just too simple to do justice to the complexities revealed to critical scholarship and historiography. There is no current consensus, however, on what grand narratives should replace those textbook histories. The present paper does not offer to contribute directly to any grand, consensual, narrational goals; but it does seek to do so indirectly by showing how, in just one individual case, details of intellectual biography connect with big picture issues. To this end, I examine here how very diverse scientific and metaphysical commitments were integrated in Sewall Wright’s own personal synthesis of biology and philosophy. Taking as the decisive text the short final section of Wright’s long 1931 paper on ‘Evolution in Mendelian populations,’ I examine how his shifting balance theory (SBT) related to his optimum breeding strategy research, his physiological genetics, his general theory of homogenising and heterogenesing causation and his panpsychist view of mind and matter; and I discuss how understanding these relations can clarify Wright’s place in the longue durée of evolutionary thought.
Abstract Many people worry that the theory of evolution that Charles Darwin gave in his Origin of Species is now dated and no longer part of modern science. This essay challenges this claim, arguing that the central core of the Origin is as vital today as it ever was, although naturally the science keeps moving on. Darwin provided the foundation not the finished product.
Abstract The concept of ‘phylogenetic inertia’ is routinely deployed in evolutionary biology as an alternative to natural selection for explaining the persistence of characteristics that appear sub-optimal from an adaptationist perspective. However, in many of these contexts the precise meaning of ‘phylogenetic inertia’ and its relationship to selection are far from clear. After tracing the history of the concept of ‘inertia’ in evolutionary biology, I argue that treating phylogenetic inertia and natural selection as alternative explanations is mistaken because phylogenetic inertia is, from a Darwinian point of view, simply an expected effect of selection. Although Darwin did not discuss ‘phylogenetic inertia,’ he did assert the explanatory priority of selection over descent. An analysis of ‘phylogenetic inertia’ provides a perspective from which to assess Darwin’s view.