Heyes presents a compelling account of how cultural evolutionary processes shape and create “rules,” or norms, of social behavior. She suggested that normativity depends on implicit, genetically inherited, domain-general processes and explicit, culturally inherited, domain-specific processes. Her approach challenges the nativist point of view and provides supporting evidence that shows how social interactions are responsible for creating mental processes that assist in understanding and behaving according to rules or norms. We agree. In our commentary, we suggest that it is not (...) only that mental processes for grasping norms are recreated in each generation but also that social interactions shape the kinds of social groups that are recognized (for a more extensive discussion, see Kish Bar-On & Lamm, 2023). We highlight evidence showing that accounts of norm psychology thus require a richer notion of human groups. (shrink)
People’s attitudes towards social norms play a crucial role in understanding group behavior. Norm psychology accounts focus on processes of norm internalization that influence people’s norm following attitudes but pay considerably less attention to social identity and group identification processes. Social identity theory in contrast studies group identity but works with a relatively thin and instrumental notion of social norms. We argue that to best understand both sets of phenomena, it is important to integrate the insights of both approaches. Social (...) status, social identity, and social norms are considered separate phenomena in evolutionary accounts. We discuss assumptions and views that support this separation, and suggest an integrated view of our own. We argue that we should be open to the early origins of human social complexity, and conjecture that the longer that the human social world involved multi-level societies the more probable it is that norm psychology and social identity interacted in rich ways. (shrink)
The dichotomy between Nature and Nurture, which has been dismantled within the framework of development, remains embodied in the notions of plasticity and evolvability. We argue that plasticity and evolvability, like development and heredity, are neither dichotomous nor distinct: the very same mechanisms may be involved in both, and the research perspective chosen depends to a large extent on the type of problem being explored and the kinds of questions being asked. Epigenetic inheritance leads to transgenerationally extended plasticity, and developmentally-induced (...) heritable epigenetic variations provide additional foci for selection that can lead to evolutionary change. Moreover, hereditary innovations may result from developmentally induced large-scale genomic repatterning events, which are akin to Goldschmidtian “systemic mutations”. The epigenetic mechanisms involved in repatterning can be activated by both environmental and genomic stress, and lead to phylogenetic as well as ontogenetic changes. Hence, the effects and the mechanisms of plasticity directly contribute to evolvability. (shrink)
This paper applies the conceptual toolkit of Evolutionary Developmental Biology (evo‐devo) to the evolution of the genome and the role of the genome in organism development. This challenges both the Modern Evolutionary Synthesis, the dominant view in evolutionary theory for much of the 20th century, and the typically unreflective analysis of heredity by evo‐devo. First, the history of the marginalization of applying system‐thinking to the genome is described. Next, the suggested framework is presented. Finally, its application to the evolution of (...) genome modularity, the evolution of induced mutations, the junk DNA versus ENCODE debate, the role of drift in genome evolution, and the relationship between genome dynamics and symbiosis with microorganisms are briefly discussed. (shrink)
Distributed adaptations are cases in which adaptation is dependent on the population as a whole: the adaptation is conferred by a structural or compositional aspect of the population; the adaptively relevant information cannot be reduced to information possessed by a single individual. Possible examples of human-distributed adaptations are song lines, traditions, trail systems, game drive lanes and systems of water collection and irrigation. Here we discuss the possible role of distributed adaptations in human cultural macro-evolution. Several kinds of human-distributed adaptations (...) are presented, and their evolutionary implications are highlighted. In particular, we discuss the implications of population size, density and bottlenecks on the distributed adaptations that a population may possess and how they in turn would affect the population's resilience to ecological change. We discuss the implications that distributed adaptations may have for human collective action and the possibility that they played a role in colonization of new areas and niches, in seasonal migration, and in setting constraints for minimal inter-population connectivity. (shrink)
The aim of the book is to explore common concerns regarding methodological individualism in different fields of the life sciences broadly construed. It will address conceptual problems regarding individuals and their relation and dependence on the collectivities they are part of and consider innovative new viewpoints, grounded in specific scientific projects that question the present descriptions and understanding and raise challenges. A wide variety of recent, influential contributions in the life sciences utilize notions of collectivity, sociality, rich interactions and emergent (...) phenomena, as essential explanatory tools to handle numerous persistent scientific questions in the life sciences. -/- Examples range from gene expression and regulation, the dynamics of bacterial populations, the ecological developmental biology of symbiosis, levels of selection, to communication, motion and patterns of behavior in diverse life forms, the role of social institutions and cultural dynamics in human evolution, and the psychological basis for social norms. The book is being structured so that fruitful and rewarding disciplinary interactions take place among researchers and scholars who have been concerned with overcoming methodological individualism. -/- The books includes a section of four papers on holobionts and the hologenome theory and a special memorial article on the work of the late Prof. Eshel Ben-Jacob authored by Herbert Levine. (shrink)
Statistical reasoning is an integral part of modern scientific practice. In The Seven Pillars of Statistical Wisdom Stephen Stigler presents seven core ideas, or pillars, of statistical thinking and the historical developments of each of these pillars, many of which were concurrent with developments in biology. Here we focus on Stigler’s fifth pillar, regression, and his discussion of how regression to the mean came to be thought of as a solution to a challenge for the theory of natural selection. Stigler (...) argues that the purely mathematical phenomenon of regression to the mean provides a resolution to a problem for Darwin’s evolutionary theory. Thus, he argues that the resolution to the problem for Darwin’s theory is purely mathematical, rather than causal. We show why this argument is problematic. (shrink)
Organisms inherit various kinds of developmental information and cues from their parents. The study of inheritance systems is aimed at identifying and classifying the various mechanisms and processes of heredity, the types of hereditary information that is passed on by each, the functional interaction between the different systems, and the evolutionary consequences of these properties. We present the discussion of inheritance systems in the context of several debates. First, between proponents of monism about heredity (gene-centric views), holism about heredity (Developmental (...) Systems Theory), and those stressing the role of multiple systems of inheritance. Second, between those analyzing inheritance solely in terms of replication and transmission, and views that stress the multi-generation reproduction of phenotypic traits. A third debate is concerned with different criteria that have been proposed for identifying and delimiting inheritance systems. A fourth controversy revolves around the significance of the “Lamarckian” aspects of some of the inheritance systems that have been identified, such as epigenetic inheritance and behavioral inheritance, that allow the transmission of environmentally induced characters (i.e., “soft inheritance”). (shrink)
This article describes how empirical discoveries in the 1930s–1950s regarding population variation for chromosomal inversions affected Theodosius Dobzhansky and Richard Goldschmidt. A significant fraction of the empirical work I discuss was done by Dobzhansky and his coworkers; Goldschmidt was an astute interpreter, with strong and unusual commitments. I argue that both belong to a mechanistic tradition in genetics, concerned with the effects of chromosomal organization and systems on the inheritance patterns of species. Their different trajectories illustrate how scientists’ commitments affect (...) how they interpret new evidence and adjust to it. Dobzhansky was moved to revised views about selection, while Goldschmidt moved his attention to different genetic phenomena. However different, there are significant connections between the two that enrich our understanding of their views. I focus on two: the role of developmental considerations in Dobzhansky’s thought and the role of neutrality and drift in Goldschmidt’s evolutionary account. Dobzhansky’s struggle with chromosomal variation is not solely about competing schools of thought within the selectionist camp, as insightfully articulated by John Beatty, but also a story of competition between selectionist thinking and developmental perspectives. In contraposition, Goldschmidt emphasized the role of low penetrance mutations that spread neutrally and pointed out that drift could result from developmental canalization. This account adds to the dominant story about Goldschmidt’s resistance to the splitting of development from genetics, as told by Garland Allen and Michael Dietrich. The story I tell illustrates how developmental thinking and genetic thinking conflicted and influenced researchers with different convictions about the significance of chromosomal organization. (shrink)
In 1869, Johann Friedrich Miescher discovered a new substance in the nucleus of living cells. The substance, which he called nuclein, is now known as DNA, yet both Miescher’s name and his theoretical ideas about nuclein are all but forgotten. This paper traces the trajectory of Miescher’s reception in the historiography of genetics. To his critics, Miescher was a “contaminator,” whose preparations were impure. Modern historians portrayed him as a “confuser,” whose misunderstandings delayed the development of molecular biology. Each of (...) these portrayals reflects the disciplinary context in which Miescher’s work was evaluated. Using archival sources to unearth Miescher’s unpublished speculations—including an analogy between the hereditary material and language, and a speculation that a series of asymmetric carbon atoms could account for hereditary variation—this paper clarifies the ways in which the past was judged through the lens of contemporary concerns. It also shows how organization, structure, function, and information were already being considered when nuclein was first discovered nearly 150 years ago. (shrink)
The “Encyclopedia of DNA Elements” (ENCODE) project was launched by the US National Human Genome Research Institute in the aftermath of the Human Genome Project (HGP). It aimed to systematically map the human transcriptome, and held the promise that identifying potential regulatory regions and transcription factor binding sites would help address some of the perplexing results of the HGP. Its initial results published in 2012 produced a flurry of high-impact publications as well as criticisms. Here we put the results of (...) ENCODE and the work on epigenomics that followed in a broad theoretical and historical context, focusing on three strands of research. The first is the history of thinking about the organization of genomes, both physical and regulatory. The second is the history of ideas about gene regulation, primarily in eukaryotes. Finally, and connecting these two issues, we suggest how to think about the role of genetic material in physiology and development. (shrink)
Species’ adaptation to their environments occurs via a range of mechanisms of adaptation. These include genetic adaptations as well as non-traditional inheritance mechanisms such as learned behaviors, niche construction, epigenetics, horizontal gene transfer, and alteration of the composition of a host’s associated microbiome. We propose to supplement these with another modality of eco-evolutionary dynamics: cases in which adaptation to the environment occurs via what may be called a “distributed adaptation,” in which the adaptation is not conferred via something carried by (...) an individual of the adapted species (as with genes, behavior, or associated microbes), but by some structural or compositional aspect of the population. Put differently, the adaptively relevant information cannot be reduced to information possessed by a single individual, whether genetic or otherwise. Rather, the adaptively relevant information is distributed, and is found strictly at the population level. While human culture is presumably such a case, as may be cases found in social insects, we want to suggest that there are other cases that belong to this category and to explore its evolutionary implications. In particular, we discuss the factors that affect whether adaptive information is stored in a distributed way, to what degree, and what kinds of adaptive information are most likely to be found in this modality of adaptation. (shrink)
‘History will be kind to me, for I intend to write it,’ Winston Churchill is famously said to have quipped. That he never seems to have actually made this comment is beside the point, since the message is important: past events never speak for themselves. Facts do not settle like rocks in a dry river, but are moved, displaced, and replaced by waters that continue to gush. The currents and their temperates are sensetative to mores, signs of their times. And (...) the keepers of the waters, more often than not, are historians. This special issue is devoted to new directions in the historiography of genetics, a field that has seen particularly lively drift, swirl, and surge in recent decades. (shrink)
We discuss two inference patterns for inferring the coevolution of two characters based on their properties at a single point in time and determine when developmental interactions can be used to deduce evolutionary order. We discuss the use of the inference patterns we present in the biological literature and assess the arguments’ validity, the degree of support they give to the evolutionary conclusion, how they can be corroborated with empirical evidence, and to what extent they suggest new empirically addressable questions. (...) We suggest that the developmental argument is uniquely applicable to cognitive-cultural coevolution. (shrink)
Language and norms are both fundamental to human society. A social account of language evolution must take into account the normative context in which language acquisition, use, and change occur. However, at the same time, norms in human society are directly affected by language and the linguistic skills of individuals. My aim in this chapter is to explore the evolutionary consequences of this bi-directional interaction. I discuss how it can help explain central linguistic notions including imperatives, questions, possessives, modal vocabulary, (...) categorization, and performatives, and how it helps explain unique features of human normativity. (shrink)
Both von Neumann and Wiener were outsiders to biology. Both were inspired by biology and both proposed models and generalizations that proved inspirational for biologists. Around the same time in the 1940s von Neumann developed the notion of self reproducing automata and Wiener suggested an explication of teleology using the notion of negative feedback. These efforts were similar in spirit. Both von Neumann and Wiener used mathematical ideas to attack foundational issues in biology, and the concepts they articulated had lasting (...) effect. But there were significant differences as well. Von Neumann presented a how-possibly model, which sparked interest by mathematicians and computer scientists, while Wiener collaborated more directly with biologists, and his proposal influenced the philosophy of biology. The two cases illustrate different strategies by which mathematicians, the “professional outsiders” of science, can choose to guide their engagement with biological questions and with the biological community, and illustrate different kinds of generalizations that mathematization can contribute to biology. The different strategies employed by von Neumann and Wiener and the types of models they constructed may have affected the fate of von Neumann’s and Wiener’s ideas – as well as the reputation, in biology, of von Neumann and Wiener themselves. (shrink)
A prevalent narrative locates the discovery of the statistical phenomenon of regression to the mean in the work of Francis Galton. It is claimed that after 1885, Galton came to explain the fact that offspring deviated less from the mean value of the population than their parents did as a population-level statistical phenomenon and not as the result of the processes of inheritance. Arguing against this claim, we show that Galton did not explain regression towards mediocrity statistically, and did not (...) give up on his ideas regarding an inheritance process that caused offspring to revert to the mean. While the common narrative focuses almost exclusively on Galton’s statistics, our arguments emphasize the anthropological and biological questions that Galton addressed. Galton used regression towards mediocrity to support the claim that some biological types were more stable than others and hence were resistant to evolutionary change. This view had implications concerning both natural selection and eugenics. The statistical explanation attributed to Galton appeared later, during the biometrician-mutationist debate in the early 1900s. It was in the context of this debate and specifically by the biometricians, that the development of the statistical explanation was originally attributed to Galton. (shrink)
The notion of structure of evolution is proposed to capture what it means to say that two situations exhibit the same or similar constellations of factors affecting evolution. The key features of holobiont evolution and the hologenome theory are used to define a holobiont structure of evolution. Finally, Cultural Group Selection, a set of hypotheses regarding the evolution of human cognition, is shown to match the holobiont structure closely though not perfectly.
An argument is presented according to which exposing pseudo-scientific medical claims may be ethically wrong. It is then suggested that this argument gives an interesting explanation why the successful outing of pseudo-science may lead to an increase in medical pseudo-science overall.
This article is arranged around two general claims and a thought experiment. I begin by suggesting that the genome should be studied as a developmental system, and that genes supervene on genomes (rather than the other way around). I move on to present a thought experiment that illustrates the implications a dynamic view of the genome has for central concepts in biology, in particular the information content of the genome, and the notion of responses to stress.
Recent and not so recent advances in our molecular understanding of the genome make the once prevalent view of the genome as a passive container of genetic information (i.e., genes) untenable, and emphasize the importance of the internal organization and re-organization dynamics of the genome for both development and evolution. While this conclusion is by now well accepted, the construction of a comprehensive conceptual framework for studying the genome as a dynamic system, capable of self-organization and adaptive behavior is still (...) underway. This work deals with the effect of such a conceptual shift on evolutionary thought. Specifically, I try to articulate the conceptual commitments and obligations of views that privilege explanatorily or causally the genome, its dynamics and mechanisms, over genes. I refer to this class of views as belonging to ‘the genome perspective’. (shrink)
During the 1960s and 1970s population geneticists pushed beyond models of single genes to grapple with the effect on evolution of multiple genes associated by linkage. The resulting models of multiple interacting loci suggested that blocks of genes, maybe even entire chromosomes or the genome itself, should be treated as a unit. In this context, Richard Lewontin wrote his famous 1974 book The Genetic Basis of Evolutionary Change, which concludes with an argument for considering the entire genome as the unit (...) of selection as a result of linkage. Why did Lewontin and others devote so much intellectual energy to the “complications of linkage” in the 1960s and 1970s? We argue that this attention to linkage should be understood in the context of research on chromosomal inversions and co-adapted gene complexes that occupied mid-century evolutionary genetics. For Lewontin, the complications of linkage were an extension of this chromosomal focus expressed in the new language of models for linkage disequilibrium. (shrink)
Many natural and biological phenomena can be depicted as networks. Theoretical and empirical analyses of networks have become prevalent. I discuss theoretical biases involved in the delineation of biological networks. The network perspective is shown to dissolve the distinction between regulatory architecture and regulatory state, consistent with the theoretical impossibility of distinguishing a priori between “program” and “data”. The evolutionary significance of the dynamics of trans-generational and inter-organism regulatory networks is explored and implications are presented for understanding the evolution of (...) the biological categories development-heredity; plasticity-evolvability; and epigenetic-genetic. (shrink)
Richard Goldschmidt famously rejected the notion of atomic and corpuscular genes, arranged on the chromosome like beads-on-a-string. I provide an exegesis of Goldschmidt’s intuition by analyzing his repeated and extensive use of metaphorical language and analogies in his attempts to convey his notion of the nature of the genetic material and specifically the significance of chromosomal pattern. The paper concentrates on Goldschmidt’s use of metaphors in publications spanning 1940-1955. -/- .