Down with Natural Selection? [Book Review]

Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 52 (1):134-140 (2008)
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Biologists are increasingly reexamining the conceptual structure of evolutionary theory, which dates back to the so-called Modern Synthesis of the 1930s and 1940s. Calls for an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) cite a number of empir- ical and theoretical advances that need to be accounted for, including evolvability, evo- lutionary novelties, capacitors of phenotypic evolution, developmental plasticity, and phenotypic attractors. In Biological Emergences, however, Robert Reid outlines a theory of evolution in which natural selection plays no role or—worse—actually impedes evo- lution by what Reid calls “natural experimentation.” For Reid, biological complexity emerges because of intrinsic mechanisms that work in opposition to natural selection, a view that would reopen old questions of orthogenesis and Lamarckism.This review outlines why we do need an EES, but also why it is unlikely to take the shape that Reid advocates.
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