Ideas about heredity and evolution are undergoing a revolutionary change. New findings in molecular biology challenge the gene-centered version of Darwinian theory according to which adaptation occurs only through natural selection of chance DNA variations. In Evolution in Four Dimensions, Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb argue that there is more to heredity than genes. They trace four "dimensions" in evolution -- four inheritance systems that play a role in evolution: genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbolic. These systems, they argue, can all (...) provide variations on which natural selection can act. Evolution in Four Dimensions offers a richer, more complex view of evolution than the gene-based, one-dimensional view held by many today. The new synthesis advanced by Jablonka and Lamb makes clear that induced and acquired changes also play a role in evolution.After discussing each of the four inheritance systems in detail, Jablonka and Lamb "put Humpty Dumpty together again" by showing how all of these systems interact. They consider how each may have originated and guided evolutionary history and they discuss the social and philosophical implications of the four-dimensional view of evolution. Each chapter ends with a dialogue in which the authors engage the contrarieties of the fictional "I.M.," or Ifcha Mistabra -- Aramaic for "the opposite conjecture" -- refining their arguments against I.M.'s vigorous counterarguments. The lucid and accessible text is accompanied by artist-physician Anna Zeligowski's lively drawings, which humorously and effectively illustrate the authors' points. (shrink)
'...a challenging and useful book, both because it provokes a careful scrutiny of one's own basic ideas regarding evolutionary theory, and because it cuts across so many biological disciplines.' -The Quarterly Review of Biology 'In my view, this work exemplifies Theoretical Biology at its best...here is rampant speculation that is consistently based on cautious reasoning from the available data. Even more refreshing is the absence of sloganeering, grandstanding, and 'isms'.' -Biology and Philosophy 'Epigenetics is fundamental to understanding both development and (...) gene expression, and not surprisingly, evolutionary biologists have long been fascinated with its proper place in evolutionary theory...Enter Jablonka and Lamb, who provide a thoughtful review of the recent molecular literature and suggest a number of potential consequences.' -EvolutionSince first publication of this controversial book, much of the initial opposition to the ideas it contained has been replaced by a general, although often grudging, acceptance of them. Advances in knowledge, especially at the molecular level, have enhanced general awareness and interest in epigenetics and the evolution of systems that store and transmit information and put any of the authors' speculations on a more solid basis. This paperback edition contains a new Preface that sets out the major changes in the scientific world and in the authors' own thinking that have occurred since the book was published. A new Appendix provides a selected bibliography of the many books and articles about epigenetic inheritance and its role in evolution that have appeared since first publication. (shrink)
Current knowledge of the genetic, epigenetic, behavioural and symbolic systems of inheritance requires a revision and extension of the mid-twentieth-century, gene-based, 'Modern Synthesis' version of Darwinian evolutionary theory. We present the case for this by first outlining the history that led to the neo-Darwinian view of evolution. In the second section we describe and compare different types of inheritance, and in the third discuss the implications of a broad view of heredity for various aspects of evolutionary theory. We end with (...) an examination of the philosophical and conceptual ramifications of evolutionary thinking that incorporates multiple inheritance systems. (shrink)
In his theory of evolution, Darwin recognized that the conditions of life play a role in the generation of hereditary variations, as well as in their selection. However, as evolutionary theory was developed further, heredity became identified with genetics, and variation was seen in terms of combinations of randomly generated gene mutations. We argue that this view is now changing, because it is clear that a notion of hereditary variation that is based solely on randomly varying genes that are unaffected (...) by developmental conditions is an inadequate basis for evolutionary theories. Such a view not only fails to provide satisfying explanations of many evolutionary phenomena, it also makes assumptions that are not consistent with the data that are emerging from disciplines ranging from molecular biology to cultural studies. These data show that the genome is far more responsive to the environment than previously thought, and that not all transmissible variation is underlain by genetic differences. In Evolution in Four Dimensions (2005) we identify four types of inheritance (genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and symbol-based), each of which can provide variations on which natural selection will act. Some of these variations arise in response to developmental conditions, so there are Lamarckian aspects to evolution. We argue that a better insight into evolutionary processes will result from recognizing that transmitted variations that are not based on DNA differences have played a role. This is particularly true for understanding the evolution of human behavior, where all four dimensions of heredity have been important. (shrink)
In responding to three reviews of Evolution in Four Dimensions (Jablonka and Lamb, 2005, MIT Press), we briefly consider the historical background to the present genecentred view of evolution, especially the way in which Weismann’s theories have influenced it, and discuss the origins of the notion of epigenetic inheritance. We reaffirm our belief that all types of hereditary information—genetic, epigenetic, behavioural and cultural—have contributed to evolutionary change, and outline recent evidence, mainly from epigenetic studies, that suggests that non-DNA heritable variations (...) are not rare and can be quite stable. We describe ways in which such variations may have influenced evolution. The approach we take leads to broader definitions of terms such as ‘units of heredity’, ‘units of evolution’, and ‘units of selection’, and we maintain that ‘information’ can be a useful concept if it is defined in terms of its effects on the receiver. Although we agree that evolutionary theory is not undergoing a Kuhnian revolution, the incorporation of new data and ideas about hereditary variation, and about the role of development in generating it, is leading to a version of Darwinism that is very different from the gene-centred one that dominated evolutionary thinking in the second half of the twentieth century. (shrink)
The commentaries on Evolution in Four Dimensions reflect views ranging from total adherence to gene-centered neo-Darwinism, to the acceptance of non-genetic and Lamarckian processes in evolution. We maintain that genetic, epigenetic, behavioral, and cultural variations have all been significant, and that the developmental aspects of heredity and evolution are an important bridge that can unite seemingly conflicting research programs and different disciplines.
Adaptive evolution is usually assumed to be directed by selective processes, development by instructive processes; evolution involves random genetic changes, development involves induced epigenetic changes. However, these distinctions are no longer unequivocal. Selection of genetic changes is a normal part of development in some organisms, and through the epigenetic system external factors can induce selectable heritable variations. Incorporating the effects of instructive processes into evolutionary thinking alters ideas about the way environmental changes lead to evolutionary change, and about the interplay (...) between genetic and epigenetic systems. (shrink)
The attitude of biologists to the history of their discipline varies. For some, a hazy knowledge of the recent past is all that is necessary to provide an explanatory basis for their work. They take it for granted that everything of value from the less recent past has been appropriately incorporated into present-day thinking. Other biologists see history as an integral part of their research: the historical roots of accepted facts and theories help in the evaluation of present positions. These (...) biologists bring to history their specialized knowledge, which can be an advantage, but often they also bring an agenda that biases what they investigate and how they present it. We illustrate this by describing our own foray into history, which was motivated by findings in cell biology that suggested that some accepted views about heredity and evolution were wrong. (shrink)