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Academic & Professional Books  Evolutionary Biology  Evolution

Natural Selection Revisiting its Explanatory Role in Evolutionary Biology

By: Richard G Delisle(Editor)
482 pages, 10 colour & 17 b/w illustrations
Publisher: Springer Nature
Natural Selection
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  • Natural Selection ISBN: 9783030655389 Paperback Mar 2022 Not in stock: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks
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About this book

This book contests the general view that natural selection constitutes the explanatory core of evolutionary biology. It invites the reader to consider an alternative view that favours a more complete and multidimensional interpretation. It is common to present the 1930-1960 period as characterized by the rise of the Modern Synthesis, an event structured around two main explanatory commitments: (1) Gradual evolution is explained by small genetic changes (variations) oriented by natural selection, a process leading to adaptation; (2) Evolutionary trends and speciational events are macroevolutionary phenomena that can be accounted for solely in terms of the extension of processes and mechanisms occurring at the previous microevolutionary level. On this view, natural selection holds a central explanatory role in evolutionary theory – one that presumably reaches back to Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species – a view also accompanied by the belief that the field of evolutionary biology is organized around a profound divide: theories relying on strong selective factors and those appealing only to weak ones.

If one reads the new analyses presented in Natural Selection by biologists, historians and philosophers, this divide seems to be collapsing at a rapid pace, opening an era dedicated to the search for a new paradigm for the development of evolutionary biology. Contrary to popular belief, scholars' position on natural selection is not in itself a significant discriminatory factor between most evolutionists. In fact, the intellectual space is quite limited, if not non-existent, between, on the one hand, "Darwinists", who play down the central role of natural selection in evolutionary explanations, and, on the other hand, "non-Darwinists", who use it in a list of other evolutionary mechanisms.

The "mechanism-centred" approach to evolutionary biology is too incomplete to fully make sense of its development. In this book, the labels created under the traditional historiography – "Darwinian Revolution", "Eclipse of Darwinism", "Modern Synthesis", "Post-Synthetic Developments" – are thus re-evaluated. This book will not only appeal to researchers working in evolutionary biology, but also to historians and philosophers.


1. Introduction: In Search of a New Paradigm for the Development of Evolutionary Biology / Richard G. Delisle

Part I Crossing Perspectives about Evolution: Historians versus Biologists
2. Cathedrals, Corals and Mycelia: Three Analogies for the History of Evolutionary Biology / Maurizio Esposito

Part II Different Views of Charles Darwin
3. Guiding a Train of Discoveries: Charles Darwin, Charles Daubeny, and the Reception of Natural Selection, 1859-1865 / Richard Bellon
4. Natural Selection as a Mere Auxiliary Hypothesis (sensu stricto I. Lakatos) in Charles Darwin's Origin of Species / Richard G. Delisle
5. Natural Selection in Ernst Haeckel's Legacy / Georgy S. Levit and Uwe Hossfeld

Part III Rethinking a So-Called Intermediary Period
6. The Origins of Theoretical Developmental Genetics: Reinterpreting William Bateson's Role in the History of Evolutionary Thought / Carlos Ochoa
7. Recasting Natural Selection: Osborn and the Pluralistic View of Life / David Ceccarelli

Part IV Other Evolutionary Syntheses
8. Little Evolution, BIG Evolution: Rethinking the History of Darwinism, Population Genetics, and the "Synthesis" / Mark B. Adams
9. When Panpsychism Met Monism: Why Did the Philosopher Theodor Ziehen (1862-1950) Become a Crucial Figure for the Evolutionary Biologist Bernhard Rensch? / Georgy S. Levit and Uwe Hossfeld
10. Inertia, Trend, and Momentum Reconsidered: G. G. Simpson, an Orthogeneticist? / Carlos Ochoa
11. The Concept of Natural Selection in Theodosius Dobzhansky. Its Development and Interpretation / Jitse M. van der Meer

Part V New Lights on Recent Developments
12. What's Natural About Natural Selection? / Jeffrey H. Schwartz
13. Natural Selection, Morphoprocess and a Logical Field of Evolutionary Concepts / A.I. Granovitch
14. Natural Selection as Agent of Evolutionary Change: A View from Paleoanthropology / Ian Tattersall
15. Darwinism Without Selection? A Lesson from Cultural Evolutionary Theory / Lorenzo Baravalle

Part VI Teaching Evolution
16. Beyond Survival of the Fittest - A Look at Students' Misconceptions about Natural Selection and Evolutionary Theory / Elizabeth Marie Watts

Customer Reviews


Richard G. Delisle owns a PhD in paleoanthropology (University of the Witwatersrand, South Africa) and a PhD in philosophy (University of Montreal, Canada). He teaches evolutionary biology and history/philosophy of science in the programs of archaeology, philosophy, and liberal education at the University of Lethbridge (Canada). His research interest focuses on the multidisciplinary quest of understanding evolutionary studies under the intimate light of its past and current developments.

By: Richard G Delisle(Editor)
482 pages, 10 colour & 17 b/w illustrations
Publisher: Springer Nature
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