280 pages, 3 b/w illustrations, 4 tables
The central insight of Darwin's On the Origin of Species is that evolution is an ecological phenomenon, arising from the activities of organisms in the 'struggle for life'. By contrast, the Modern Synthesis theory of evolution, which rose to prominence in the twentieth century, presents evolution as a fundamentally molecular phenomenon, occurring in populations of sub-organismal entities – genes. After nearly a century of success, the Modern Synthesis theory is now being challenged by empirical advances in the study of organismal development and inheritance. In this important study, Denis Walsh shows that the principal defect of the Modern Synthesis resides in its rejection of Darwin's organismal perspective, and argues for 'situated Darwinism': an alternative, organism-centred conception of evolution that prioritises organisms as adaptive agents. His book will be of interest to scholars and advanced students of evolutionary biology and the philosophy of biology.
Introducing organisms: between unificationism and exceptionalism
Part I. The Eclipse of The Organism
1. Mechanism, reduction, and emergence: of molecules and method
2. Ensemble thinking: struggle and abstraction
3. The fractionation of evolution: struggling or replicating?
Part II. Beyond Replicator Biology
4. Inheritance: transmission or persistence?
5. Units of phenotypic control: parity or privilege?
6. Fit and diversity: from competition to complementarity
7. Integrating development: three grades of ontogenetic commitment
Part III. Situated Darwinism
8. Adaptation: environments and affordances
9. Natural purposes: mechanism and teleology
10. Object and agent: enacting evolution
11. Two neo-Darwinisms: fractionated or situated?
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Denis Walsh is Professor in the Department of Philosophy and the Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Technology at the University of Toronto. He is the editor of Naturalism, Evolution, and Mind (Cambridge, 2001) and the co-editor of Evolutionary Biology: Conceptual, Ethical and Religious Issues (with R. Paul Thompson, Cambridge, 2014).