The Extended Evolutionary Synthesis: a metascientific view of evolutionary biology, and some directions to transcend its limits

Abstract

To approach the issue of the recent proposal of an Extended Evolutionary Synthesis (EES) put forth by Massimo Pigliucci and Gerd Müller, I suggest to consider the EES as a metascientific view: a description of what’s new in how evolutionary biology is carried out, not only a description of recently learned aspects of evolution. Knowing ‘what is it to do research’ in evolutionary biology, today versus yesterday, can aid training, research and career choices, establishment of relationships and collaborations, decision of funding and research policies, in order to make the field advance for the better. After reviewing the concepts associated to the EES proposal (categorized for convenience as mechanisms, measures, fields, perspectives and applications), I show their transience, and sketch out ongoing disagreements about the EES. Then I examine the deep difficulties, i.e., the enormity and complexity of the covered field, affecting the achievement of trusted metascientific views; the insufficiency of conceptual analysis to capture the substance of scientific research; the entanglement between empirical and metascientific concepts, between multiple chronologies, and between descriptive and normative intentions; and the ineliminable stakeholding of any reviewer involved in the reviewed field. I propose that disciplines such as scientometrics, ethnography, sociology, economics and history, combined with conceptual analysis, inspire a more rigorous approach to the evolutionary biology scientific community, more grounded and shared, confirming or transforming claims for ‘synthesis’ while preserving their maintenance goals.

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2014-11-09

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