Evolution : like any other science is is predictable

Conway Morris, S. (2009) Evolution : like any other science is is predictable. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B, 365 (1537). pp. 133-145. ISSN 0080-4622 DOI 10.1098/rstb.2009.0154

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Abstract

Evolutionary biology rejoices in the diversity of life, but this comes at a cost: other than working in the common framework of neo-Darwinian evolution, specialists in, for example, diatoms and mammals have little to say to each other. Accordingly, their research tends to track the particularities and peculiarities of a given group and seldom enquires whether there are any wider or deeper sets of explanations. Here, I present evidence in support of the heterodox idea that evolution might look to a general theory that does more than serve as a tautology (‘evolution explains evolution’). Specifically, I argue that far from its myriad of products being fortuitous and accidental, evolution is remarkably predictable. Thus, I urge a move away from the continuing obsession with Darwinian mechanisms, which are entirely uncontroversial. Rather, I emphasize why we should seek explanations for ubiquitous evolutionary convergence, as well as the emergence of complex integrated systems. At present, evolutionary theory seems to be akin to nineteenth-century physics, blissfully unaware of the imminent arrival of quantum mechanics and general relativity. Physics had its Newton, biology its Darwin: evolutionary biology now awaits its Einstein.

Item Type: Article
Uncontrolled Keywords: 09AREP
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B
Volume: 365
Page Range: pp. 133-145
Identification Number: 10.1098/rstb.2009.0154
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 09 Oct 2009 14:41
Last Modified: 06 Feb 2017 11:01
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/1182

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