Massimo Pigliucci: Evolution, the extended synthesis

For me this collection of 17 articles was thrilling insight into insider thinking about evolution today. Taken back to front, it moves from an overview of dialectic within science itself, even of science's place within culture, through dialectic within evolutionary biology, through recognition of the disunity that's always marked the Modern Synthesis, through considerations of modern trends in biology that further amplify that disunity, to detailed analyses of specific current controversies through which discourse for framing evolutionary theory is being extended. 

Challenges to the Modern Synthesis appearing in the book Massimo marshals into clusters in his introduction: Gradualism--"various kinds of mechanisms for discontinuous change are now known from the domains of genome evolution, phenotypic plasticity, epigenetic development and nongenetic inheritance." Externalism--"organisms themselves represent determinants of selectable variation and innovation. At the theoretical level this shifts a significant portion of the explanatory weight from the external conditions of selection to the internal generative properties of evolving phenotypes." Gene centrism--"several contributions to this volume converge on the view of 'genes as followers' in the evolutionary process, ensuring... the progressive fixation of phenotypic traits that were initially mobilized through plastic responses of adaptative development systems to changing environmental conditions. In this way, evolution progresses through the capture of emergent interactions which are passed on and elaborated on in subsequent generations." Full review.

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