Evolutionary developmental biology represents a paradigm shift in the understanding of the ontogenesis and evolutionary progression of the denizens of the natural world. Given the empirical successes of the evo-devo framework, and its now widespread acceptance, a timely and important task for the philosophy of biology is to critically discern the ontological commitments of that framework and assess whether and to what extent our current metaphysical models are able to accommodate them. In this paper, I argue that one particular (...) model is a natural fit: an ontology of dispositional properties coherently and adequately captures the crucial casual-cum-explanatory role that the fundamental elements of evo-devo play within that framework. (shrink)
A central reason that undergirds the significance of evo-devo is the claim that development was left out of the Modern synthesis. This claim turns out to be quite complicated, both in terms of whether development was genuinely excluded and how to understand the different kinds of embryological research that might have contributed. The present paper reevaluates this central claim by focusing on the practice of model organism choice. Through a survey of examples utilized in the literature of the Modern (...) synthesis, I identify a previously overlooked feature: exclusion of research on marine invertebrates. Understanding the import of this pattern requires interpreting it in terms of two epistemic values operating in biological research: theoretical generality and explanatory completeness. In tandem, these values clarify and enhance the significance of this exclusion. The absence of marine invertebrates implied both a lack of generality in the resulting theory and a lack of completeness with respect to particular evolutionary problems, such as evolvability and the origin of novelty. These problems were salient to embryological researchers aware of the variation and diversity of larval forms in marine invertebrates. In closing, I apply this analysis to model organism choice in evo-devo and discuss its relevance for an extended evolutionary synthesis. (shrink)
With Carl Gegenbaur and Ernst Haeckel, inspiredby Darwin and the cell theory, comparativeanatomy and embryology became established andflourished in Jena. This tradition wascontinued and developed further with new ideasand methods devised by some of Haeckelsstudents. This first period of innovative workin evolutionary morphology was followed byperiods of crisis and even a disintegration ofthe discipline in the early twentieth century.This stagnation was caused by a lack ofinterest among morphologists in Mendeliangenetics, and uncertainty about the mechanismsof evolution. Idealistic morphology was stillinfluental in (...) Germany, which prevented a fullappreciation of the importance of Darwinstheory of natural selection for comparativemorphology. Evolutionary morphology andembryology failed to contribute significantlyto the modern synthesis of evolutionarybiology, thereby probably delaying theintegration of developmental biology intomodern evolutionary biology. However, Haeckelsstudent Oscar Hertwig, as well as Victor Franzand Alexej N. Sewertzoff from a youngergeneration, all tried to forge their ownsynthetic approaches in which (inspired byHaeckels work) embryology played an importantrole. Important for all three researchers wereattempts to refine, and sometimes redefine, thebiogenetic law, and to find new scientificexplanations for it (and for the manyexceptions to it). Their research was latermore or less forgotten, and had littleinfluence on the architects of the modernsynthesis. As the relationship betweenevolutionary and developmental biology is nowagain rising in importance in the form ofEvo-Devo, we would like to draw attention tohow this earlier research tradition grappledwith similar questions to those now on theagenda, albeit from sometimes quite differentperspectives. (shrink)
Exploring history pertinent to evolutionary developmental biology (hereafter, Evo-devo) is an exciting prospect given its current status as a cutting-edge field of research. The first and obvious question concerns where to begin searching for materials and sources. Since this new discipline adopts a moniker that intentionally juxtaposes ‘evolution’ and development’, individuals, disciplines, and institutional contexts relevant to the history of evolutionary studies and investigations of ontogeny prompt themselves. Each of these topics has received attention from historians and thus there (...) is both primary and secondary material from which to draw. For example, many historians have documented the historical trajectories of genetics and embryology, their split, and various relations (or lack thereof), especially in the first three decades of the 20th century. (shrink)
Evo-Devo exhibits a plurality of scientific “cultures” of practice and theory. When are the cultures acting—individually or collectively—in ways that actually move research forward, empirically, theoretically, and ethically? When do they become imperialistic, in the sense of excluding and subordinating other cultures? This chapter identifies six cultures – three /styles/ (mathematical modeling, mechanism, and history) and three /paradigms/ (adaptationism, structuralism, and cladism). The key assumptions standing behind, under, or within each of these cultures are explored. Characterizing the internal structure (...) of the cultures is necessary for understanding how they collaborate or compete, and how they are fragmented or integrated, in the rich interdisciplinary /trading zone/ (Galison 1997) of Evo-Devo. Evo-Devo is an important example of how science can progress through a radical plurality of perspectives and cultures. (shrink)
The study of evolutionary developmental biology (“evo‐devo”) has recently experienced a dramatic surge in popularity among researchers and theorists concerned with evolution. However, some biologists and philosophers remain skeptical of the claims of evo‐devo. This paper discusses and responds to the recent high profile criticisms of evo‐devo presented by biologists Hopi E. Hoekstra and Jerry A. Coyne. I argue that their objections are unconvincing. Indeed, empirical research supports the main tenets of evo‐devo, including the claim that morphological evolution is the (...) result of cis ‐regulatory change and the distinction that evo‐devo draws between morphological and physiological traits. *Received January 2008; revised March 2009. †To contact the author, please write to: Department of Philosophy, University of Cincinnati, Cincinnati, OH 45221; e‐mail: email@example.com. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental biology (“evo-devo”) may provide insights and new methods for studies of cognition and cultural evolution. For example, I propose using cultural selection and individual learning to examine constraints on cultural evolution. Modularity, the idea that traits vary independently, can facilitate evolution (increase “evolvability”), because evolution can act on one trait without disrupting another. I explore links between cognitive modularity, evolutionary modularity, and cultural evolvability. (Published Online November 9 2006).
_The emerging discipline of evolutionary developmental biology has opened up many new _ _lines of investigation into morphological evolution. Here I explore how two of the core _ _theoretical concepts in ‘evo-devo’ – modularity and homology – apply to evolutionary _ _psychology. I distinguish three sorts of module - developmental, functional and mental _ _modules and argue that mental modules need only be ‘virtual’ functional modules. _ _Evolutionary psychologists have argued that separate mental modules are solutions to _ _separate (...) evolutionary problems. I argue that the structure of developmental modules in _ _an organism helps determine what counts as a separate evolutionary problem for that _ _organism. I suggest that homology as an organizing principle for research in _ _evolutionary psychology, has been severely neglected in favor of analogy (adaptive _ _function). I consider some arguments suggesting that determining homology is less _ _epistemically demanding than determining adaptive function and argue that _ _psychological categories defined by homology are, in fact, more suitable objects of _ _psychological - and particularly neuropsychological - investigation than categories _ _defined by analogy. _. (shrink)
This article reviews the recent reissuing of Richard Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs and its three novel, introductory essays. These essays make Owen’s 1849 text very accessible by discussing the historical context of his work and explaining how Owen’s ideas relate to his larger intellectual framework. In addition to the ways in which the essays point to Owen’s relevance for contemporary biology, I discuss how Owen’s unity of type theory and his homology claims about ﬁns and limbs compare with (...) modern views. While the phenomena studied by Owen are nowadays of major interest to evolutionary developmental biology, research in evo-devo has largely shifted from homology (which was Owen’s concern) towards evolutionary novelty, e.g., accounting for ﬁns as a novelty. Still, I argue that questions about homology are important and raise challenges even for explanations of novelty. (shrink)
This article reviews the recent reissuing of Richard Owen’s On the Nature of Limbs and its three novel, introductory essays. These essays make Owen’s 1849 text very accessible by discussing the historical context of his work and explaining how Owen’s ideas relate to his larger intellectual framework. In addition to the ways in which the essays point to Owen’s relevance for contemporary biology, I discuss how Owen’s unity of type theory and his homology claims about fins and limbs compare with (...) modern views. While the phenomena studied by Owen are nowadays of major interest to evolutionary developmental biology, research in evo-devo has largely shifted from homology (which was Owen’s concern) towards evolutionary novelty, e.g., accounting for fins as a novelty. Still, I argue that questions about homology are important and raise challenges even for explanations of novelty. (shrink)
Although the role of morphology in evolutionary theory remains a subject of debate, assessing the contributions of morphological investigation to evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) is a more circumscribed issue of direct relevance to ongoing research. Historical studies of morphologically oriented researchers and the formation of the Modern Synthesis in the Anglo-American context identify a recurring theme: the synthetic theory of evolution did not capture multiple levels of biological organization. When this feature is incorporated into a philosophical framework for explaining (...) the origin of evolutionary innovations and novelties (a core domain of inquiry in Evo-devo) two specific roles for morphology can be described: (1) the conceptualization and operational identification of the targets of explanation; and (2) the elucidation of causal interactions at higher levels of organization during ontogeny and through evolutionary time. These roles are critical components of any adequate explanation of innovation and novelty though not exhaustive of the parts played by morphology in evolutionary investigation. They also invite reflection on what counts as an evolutionary cause in contemporary evolutionary biology. (shrink)
Although the construction of neo-Darwinism grew out of Thomas Hunt Morgan's melding of Darwinism and Mendelism, his evidence did not soley support a model of gradual change. To the contrary, he was confronted with observations that could have led him to a more "evo-devo" understanding of the emergence of novel features. Indeed, since Morgan was an embryologist before he became a fruit-fly geneticist, one would have predicted that the combination of these two lines of research would have resulted in (...) early formulations of concepts relevant to evolutionary developmental biology. It is thus of interest to review Morgan's thought processes and arguments for at first rejecting both Darwinism and Mendelism, and then for later dismissing data that would have yielded a model of rapid morphological change in favor of a model of change based on the accumulation of minor mutations and their morphological consequences. (shrink)
Sound comparative psychology and modern evolutionary and developmental biology (often called evo-devo) emphasize powerful effects of developmental conditions on the expression of genetic endowment. Both demand that evolutionary theorists recognize these effects. Instead, Tomasello et al. compares studies of normal human children with studies of chimpanzees reared and maintained in cognitively deprived conditions, while ignoring studies of chimpanzees in cognitively appropriate environments.
In the evolutionary biology of the Modern Synthesis the study of patterns refers to how to identify and systematise order in lineages, looking for hierarchies or for branching/splitting events in the tree of life, whereas the resulting order is supposed to be due to underlying processes or mechanisms. But patterns and processes play distinct roles in evo-devo: four different views on the role of patterns and processes in descriptions and explanations of development and evolution: A) transformational; B) generative; C) (...) processual; and D) complex are reviewed in this paper. Then, this discussion is related to two issues in evo-devo: homology and variation. (shrink)
In this book Ron Amundson examines two hundred years of scientific views on the evolution-development relationship from the perspective of evolutionary developmental biology. This perspective challenges several popular views about the history of evolutionary thought by claiming that many earlier authors had made history come out right for the Evolutionary Synthesis. The book starts with a revised history of nineteenth-century evolutionary thought. It then investigates how development became irrelevant with the Evolutionary Synthesis. It concludes with an examination of the contrasts (...) that persist between mainstream evolutionary theory and evo-devo. This book will appeal to students and professionals in the philosophy and history of science, and biology. (shrink)
Evolutionary developmental biology (Evo-devo) is a vibrant area of contemporary life science that should be (and is) increasingly incorporated into teaching curricula. Although the inclusion of this content is important for biological pedagogy at multiple levels of instruction, there are also philosophical lessons that can be drawn from the scientific practices found in Evo-devo. One feature of particular significance is the interdisciplinary nature of Evo-devo investigations and their resulting explanations. Instead of a single disciplinary approach being the (...) most explanatory or fundamental, different methodologies from biological disciplines must be synthesized to generate empirically adequate explanations. Thus, Evo-devo points toward a non-reductionist epistemology in biology. I review three areas where these synthetic efforts become manifest as a result of Evo-devo’s practices (form versus function reasoning styles; problem-structured investigations; idealizations related to studying model organisms), and then sketch some possible applications to teaching biology. These philosophical considerations provide resources for life science educators to address (and challenge) key aspects of the National Science Education Standards and Benchmarks for Scientific Literacy. (shrink)
Abstract A lot of science has passed under the bridge since the classic definition of evolution as a change in gene frequencies in a population became common. Much knowledge has accumulated since then about evolution, heredity, ecology, development, phenotypic plasticity, niche construction and genetic drift. Building on Van Valen’s description of evolution as “the control of development by ecology,” it is suggested that the classic definition be replaced by a updated ‘eco‐evo-evo’ definition of evolution by natural selection which acknowledges this (...) accumulation. (shrink)
The relatively new field of evolutionary developmental biology continues to attract considerable attention from biologists, philosophers, and historians, in part, because work in this field demonstrates that important changes are underway within biology. Though studies of development and evolution were closely connected during the 19th century, continued work in genetics fostered a general split between the two during the first decades of the twentieth century (e.g., Allen 1978; Gilbert 1978; Mayr and Provine 1980; Gilbert, Opitz and..
Accounting for the evolutionary origins of morphological novelty is one of the core challenges of contemporary evolutionary biology. A successful explanatory framework requires the integration of different biological disciplines, but the relationships between developmental biology and standard evolutionary biology remain contested. There is also disagreement about how to define the concept of evolutionary novelty. These issues were the subjects of a workshop held in November 2009 at the University of Alberta. We report on the discussion and results of this workshop, (...) addressing questions about (i) how to define evolutionary novelty and understand its significance, (ii) how to interpret evolutionary developmental biology as a synthesis and its relation to neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, and (iii) how to integrate disparate biological approaches in general. (shrink)
In the Modern Synthesis the study of patterns refers to how to identify and systematize order in lineages (description), attributed to underlying processes or mechanisms (explanation). But patterns and processes play distinct roles in evodevo. In this paper we (1) distinguish three different views (the transformational, the morphogenetic and the process approach) according to the role they play in the description and explanation of development and evolution, and (2) relate this discussion to the issues of homology and variation.