Darwinism Evolving examines the Darwinian research tradition in evolutionary biology from its inception to its turbulent present, arguing that recent advances in modeling the nonlinear dynamics of complex systems may well catalyze the next major phase of Darwinian evolutionism.
While Darwinism has successfully resisted reduction to physics, the authors point out that it has from the outset developed and applied its core explanatory concept, natural selection, by borrowing models from dynamics, a branch of physics. The recent development of complex systems dynamics may afford Darwinism yet another occasion to expand its explanatory power.
Darwinism's use of dynamical models has received insufficient attention from biologists, historians, and philosophers who have concentrated instead on how evolutionary biology has maintained its autonomy from physics. Yet, as Depew and Weber observe, it is only by recovering Darwin's own relationship to Newtonian models of systems dynamics, and genetical Darwinism's relationship to statistical mechanics and probability theory, that insight can be gained into how Darwinism can successfully meet the challenges it is currently facing.
Drawing on recent scholarship in the history of biology, Depew and Weber bring the dynamical perspective to bear on a number of important episodes in the history of the Darwinian research tradition: Darwin's "Newtonian" Darwinism, the rise of "developmentalist" evolutionary theories and the eclipse of Darwinism at the turn of the century, Darwinism's struggles to incorporate genetics, its eventual regeneration in the modern evolutionary synthesis, challenges to that synthesis that have been posed in recent decades by molecular genetics, and recent proposals for meeting those challenges.
A Bradford Book