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Hardback 352 pp.
6.125" x 9.25"



Publication date:
September 2017

Imprint: OUP US

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Challenging the Modern Synthesis

Adaptation, Development, and Inheritance

Edited by Philippe Huneman and Denis Walsh

Since its origin in the early 20th century, the Modern Synthesis theory of evolution has grown to become the orthodox view on the process of organic evolution. Its central defining feature is the prominence it accords to genes in the explanation of evolutionary dynamics. Since the advent of the 21st century, however, the Modern Synthesis has been subject to repeated and sustained challenges. These are largely empirically driven. In the last two decades, evolutionary biology has witnessed unprecedented growth in the understanding of those processes that underwrite the development of organisms and the inheritance of characters. The empirical advances usher in challenges to the conceptual foundations of evolutionary theory. The extent to which the new biology challenges the Modern Synthesis has been the subject of lively debate. Many current commentators charge that the new biology of the 21st century calls for a revision, extension, or wholesale rejection of the Modern Synthesis Theory of evolution. Defenders of the Modern Synthesis maintain that the theory can accommodate the exciting new advances in biology.

The original essays collected in this volume survey the various challenges to the Modern Synthesis arising from the new biology of the 21st century. The authors are evolutionary biologists, philosophers of science, and historians of biology from Europe and North America. Each of the essays discusses a particular challenge to the Modern Synthesis treatment of inheritance, development, or adaptation. Taken together, the essays cover a spectrum of views, from those that contend that the Modern Synthesis can rise to the challenges of the new biology, with little or no revision required, to those that call for the abandonment of the Modern Synthesis. The collection will be of interest to researchers and students in evolutionary biology, and the philosophy and history of the biological sciences.

Readership : Academic researchers and advances students in theoretical biology, philosophy and history of science.

Contributors iv
Challenging the Modern Synthesis 1, Denis M. Walsh and Philippe Huneman
Part 1: Adaptation and Selection
1. Natural Selection, Adaptation, and the Recovery of Development, David Depew
2. Why would we call for a new evolutionary synthesis? The variation issue and the explanatory alternatives, Philippe Huneman
3. Genetic Assimilation and the Paradox of Blind Variation, Arnaud Pocheville and Ètienne Danchin
4. Evolutionary Theory Evolving, Patrick Bateson
Part 2: Development
5. Evo-devo and the Structure(s) of Evolutionary Theory: A Different Kind of Challenge, Alan C. Love
6. Toward a Non-Idealist Evolutionary Synthesis, Stuart A. Newman
7. Evolvability and its Evolvability Alessandro Minelli
8. Chance Caught on the Wing: Methodological Commitment or Methodological Artifact?, Denis M. Walsh
Part 3: Inheritance
9. Limited Extended Inheritance, Francesca Merlin
10. Heredity and Evolutionary Theory, Tobias Uller and Heikki Helanterä
11. Serial homology as a Challenge to Evolutionary Theory: The repeated parts of organisms from idealistic morphology to evo-devo, Stéphane Schmitt

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Philippe Huneman is CNRS Research Professor and Professor of Philosophy at LInstitut dHistoire et de Philosophie des Science et des Technique, Université Paris I SorbonneWalsh: Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Biology in the Department of Philosophy, Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology and the Department of Ecology and evolutionary Biology, University of Toronto.

Denis Walsh received a PhD in Biology at McGill University and a PhD in Philosophy at King's College London. He held the Canada Research Chair in Philosophy of Biology at the University of Toronto until 2015.

Making Sense - Margot Northey and Joan McKibbin
Evolution's Empress - Edited by Maryanne L. Fisher, Justin R. Garcia and Rosemarie Sokol Chang
Foreword by Sarah Blaffer Hrdy
Molecular Evolution - Ziheng Yang
Processes in Human Evolution - Francisco J. Ayala and Camilo J. Cela-Conde

Special Features

  • Represents the most comprehensive and current survey of the various challenges to the Modern Synthesis theory of evolution.
  • Incorporates a variety of theoretical and disciplinary perspectives, from evolutionary biologists, historians and philosophers of science.
  • These essays constitute the state of the art in the current debate on the status of the Modern Synthesis.