“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part III thumbnail

“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part III

by Erik L Peterson


Question 3: Why didn’t Waddington’s attempts fix the division?   Answer 3: It’s complicated, but two factors jump out.   I devoted chapters of a book to this question, so forgive me for not doing it justice here. I want to focus just on two important reasons. The first is that Waddington and epigenetics became

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“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part II thumbnail

“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part II

by Erik L Peterson


Question 2: How did biologists attempt to mend the split between development and inheritance in the past?   Answer 2: Morgan (1934) and Waddington (1940).   T. H. Morgan’s 1934 book Embryology & Genetics was an important first attempt to close the development-inheritance divide. Morgan blamed the split on vitalism and Hans Spemann’s “organizer” work.

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“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part I thumbnail

“Here I Go Again”—will Waddington’s hopes finally be fulfilled? Part I

by Erik L Peterson


Introduction   Recently, a group of biologists gathered in picturesque accommodations on the side of a mountain to discuss the Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES). It was a motley crew. The group included theoreticians and experimentalists, population geneticists and organismal biologists. They brought in a few participants from the humanities and social sciences to boot. Some

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Workshop report: Integrating development and inheritance thumbnail

Workshop report: Integrating development and inheritance

by Kevin Laland & Tobias Uller


Last month, researchers from around the world gathered at the Santa Fe Institute to discuss the evolutionary implications of extra-genetic inheritance. The workshop – Integrating Development and Inheritance – was organized as part of the EES research program. For two and a half days the participants – biologists, mathematicians, computer scientists, anthropologists, historians and philosophers of science –

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Bridging cultural gaps: Promoting interdisciplinary studies in human cultural evolution thumbnail

Bridging cultural gaps: Promoting interdisciplinary studies in human cultural evolution

by Oren Kolodny, Marcus W Feldman & Nicole Creanza


Within the blink of an eye on a geological timescale, humans advanced from using basic stone tools to studying the rocks on Mars; however, our exact evolutionary path and the relative importance of genetic and cultural evolution remain a mystery. Our cultural capacities—to create new ideas, to communicate and learn from one another, and to

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Extended evolutionary synthesis needs to include the social sciences thumbnail

Extended evolutionary synthesis needs to include the social sciences

by Joe Brewer


It is an intellectual riddle—why is it that the biological and social sciences are divided into so many separate fields? If there was a “new synthesis” for evolutionary biology almost a hundred years ago, how did it manage to exclude (or get excluded by) the burgeoning fields of research that study the social behaviors of

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Getting into the weeds: Individual plasticity and adaptive variation thumbnail

Getting into the weeds: Individual plasticity and adaptive variation

by Sonia E Sultan


Starting with Watson and Crick, genes have been defined as stretches of the DNA molecule that contain developmental instructions for particular traits; evolutionary biologists consider genotypic variations to be the source of the differences among individual organisms that result in natural selection. Yet this elegantly simple view of adaptive evolution overlooks the fact that environmental

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The holobiont as a unit of selection thumbnail

The holobiont as a unit of selection

by Scott F Gilbert and colleagues


In our recent paper published in Biological Theory, we present compelling evidence that the holobiont is a unit of evolutionary selection, and we propose a new mathematical model to help us understand its evolution. But first, what is a holobiont? A holobiont is a large organism (a “macrobiont,” such as an animal, fungus, or plant)

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Completing Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: A TVOL conversation with Kevin Laland thumbnail

Completing Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: A TVOL conversation with Kevin Laland

by David Sloan Wilson & Kevin N Laland


These are exciting times for the study of cultural evolution, with important books appearing regularly. One of these is Darwin’s Unfinished Symphony: How Culture Made the Human Mind, by Kevin N Laland, which won the British Psychological Society’s prize for the best academic book of 2017. Kevin has been featured several times on TVOL as a leading

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The philosophy of social evolution thumbnail

The philosophy of social evolution

by Jonathan Birch


To coincide with the publication of his latest book, The Philosophy of Social Evolution, philosopher Jonathan Birch is this week’s guest blogger on The Brains Blog. Read his series of posts below.     Part 1. Altruism in nature Part 2. Relatedness and altruism Part 3. Relatedness, time and bacteria Part 4. The social organism

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