Does anyone remember the Altenberg 16, a group of dissenting evolution theorists who met so nervously at the Konrad Lorenz institute in Austria that they locked a journalist out of the meeting?*
I have just spent three delightful days at the Konrad Lorenz Institute for theoretical biology in Vienna, participating to a workshop of philosophers and biologists on the question of how to think about causality, especially within the context of the so-called Extended Evolutionary Synthesis, the currently unfolding update to the standard model in evolutionary theory.
Susan Foster, Incorporating the environmentally sensitive phenotype into evolutionary thinking: phenotypic plasticity mediates the relationship between selection and genotype
The genomic era has brought biologists a previously unimaginable wealth of data describing the genetic structure of populations and species, as well as detailing the nature and scale of polymorphism along the genome. Yet there has been a departure between expectations and the answers these data have actually provided in explaining the origin and evolution of the traits that matter most to biologists. This gap is attributable to the absence of a linear, deterministic relationship between genes and traits. In this manuscript we describe how better integrating the environment into our understanding of trait production can help to close the gap. We describe the ubiquitous role of the environment in shaping traits, outline the prevailing theoretical mechanisms by which such widespread phenotypic plasticity can determine evolutionary trajectories, and discuss the evidence for these mechanisms and how better incorporating them into evolutionary thought can help resolve longstanding controversies.
If we are talking about “the ubiquitous role of the environment in shaping traits,” we are not talking about any form of traditional Darwinism but rather the much-maligned Lamarckism. Safely for now, it would seem.
See also: * The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry (2009)
Epigenetic change: Lamarck, wake up, you’re wanted in the conference room!
Darwinism: Replacement or extension?
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Hat tip: Pos-Darwinista