Darwinism Evolving examines the Darwinian research tradition in evolutionary biology from its inception to its turbulent present, arguing that recent advances in modeling the nonlinear dynamics of complex systems may well catalyze the next major phase of Darwinian evolutionism.
While Darwinism has successfully resisted reduction to physics, the authors point out that it has from the outset developed and applied its core explanatory concept, natural selection, by borrowing models from dynamics, a branch of physics. The recent development of complex systems dynamics may afford Darwinism yet another occasion to expand its explanatory power.
Darwinism's use of dynamical models has received insufficient attention from biologists, historians, and philosophers who have concentrated instead on how evolutionary biology has maintained its autonomy from physics. Yet, as Depew and Weber observe, it is only by recovering Darwin's own relationship to Newtonian models of systems dynamics, and genetical Darwinism's relationship to statistical mechanics and probability theory, that insight can be gained into how Darwinism can successfully meet the challenges it is currently facing.
Drawing on recent scholarship in the history of biology, Depew and Weber bring the dynamical perspective to bear on a number of important episodes in the history of the Darwinian research tradition: Darwin's "Newtonian" Darwinism, the rise of "developmentalist" evolutionary theories and the eclipse of Darwinism at the turn of the century, Darwinism's struggles to incorporate genetics, its eventual regeneration in the modern evolutionary synthesis, challenges to that synthesis that have been posed in recent decades by molecular genetics, and recent proposals for meeting those challenges.
The role of genetic inheritance dominates current evolutionary theory. At the end of the nineteenth century, however, several evolutionary theorists independently speculated that learned behaviors could also affect the direction and rate of evolutionary change. This notion was called the Baldwin effect, after the psychologist James Mark Baldwin. In recent years, philosophers and theorists of a variety of ontological and epistemological backgrounds have begun to employ the Baldwin effect in their accounts of the evolutionary emergence of mind and of how mind, through behavior, might affect evolution.
The essays in this book discuss the originally proposed Baldwin effect, how it was modified over time, and its possible contribution to contemporary empirical and theoretical evolutionary studies. The topics include the effect of the modern evolutionary synthesis on the notion of the Baldwin effect, the nature and role of niche construction in contemporary evolutionary theory, the Baldwin effect in the context of developmental systems theory, the possible role of the Baldwin effect in computational cognitive science biosemiotics, and the emergence of consciousness and language.
The 10 original essays in Evolution at a Crossroads explore "post-Kuhnian" approaches to conceptual problems in contemporary evolutionary and developmental theory. They focus in particular on the effect that current, rapid developments in molecular biology are having on our understanding of evolution and philosophy of science.Philosophy of science has swung widely between the dogmas of logical empiricism and relativism. Evolution at a Crossroads seeks to forge a new synthesis of the two trends to search for a more solid framework for evolutionary biology as well as a more solid philosophy of science. Complementing and extending such anthologies as Elliot Sober's Conceptual Issues in Evolutionary Biology, Robert Brandon's and Richard Burrian's Genes, Organisms, Populations, and Marjorie Grene's Dimensions of Darwinism, this book adds substantially to the emerging and rapidly developing discipline known as "the philosophy of biology."David J. Depew is Professor of Philosophy, and Bruce H. Weber is Professor of Chemistry and Molecular Biology, at California State University, Fullerton. A Bradford Book
Can recent developments in thermodynamics and information theory offer a way out of the current crisis in evolutionary theory? One of the most exciting and controversial areas of scientific research in recent years has been the application of the principles of nonequilibrium thermodynamics to the problems of the physical evolution of the universe, the origins of life, the structure and succession of ecological systems, and biological evolution. These sixteen original essays by evolutionists, ecologists, molecular biologists, physical chemists, physicists, and philosophers of science provide the best current summary of this developing research program.
Chapters in the book's first part - by Steven Frautschi, David Layser, and Dilip Kondoputi - explore the application of the second law of thermodynamics to physical evolution and the origins of life. Those in the second part - by Lionel G. Harrison, Lionel Johnson, Eric D. Schneider, and Jeffrey S. Wicken - take up the thermodynamics of ecology and evolution; Johnson and Wicken criticize neoDarwinian orthodoxy and present alternative theories relating thermodynamics to evolutionary ecology. In the book's third section, E. O. Wiley defends the theory that phylogenetic evolution may be predicted from a general version of the second law reformulated in terms of information theory, and Daniel R. Brooks, D. David Cumming, and Paul H. LeBlond also defend that controversial theory.
The book concludes with a series of essays that evaluate these contributions and point out their implications for biology, philosophy, and the social sciences.
The editors are all professors at California State University, Fullerton. Bruce H. Weber teaches chemistry and biochemistry, David J. Depew teaches philosophy, and James D. Smith teaches zoology. A Bradford Book.