Evolution: like any other science it is predictable

Conway Morris, Simon (2010) Evolution: like any other science it is predictable. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 365 (1537). 133 -145. DOI https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2009.0154

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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: 2010AREP; IA62;
Subjects: 04 - Palaeobiology
Divisions: 04 - Palaeobiology
Journal or Publication Title: Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Volume: 365
Page Range: 133 -145
Identification Number: https://doi.org/10.1098/rstb.2009.0154
Depositing User: Sarah Humbert
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2011 15:06
Last Modified: 23 Jul 2013 10:02
URI: http://eprints.esc.cam.ac.uk/id/eprint/2070

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