ISBN: 9780262271547 | 602 pp. | June 1996

Darwinism Evolving

Systems Dynamics and the Genealogy of Natural Selection

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

Table of Contents

  1. Preface to the Paperback Edition
  2. Preface
  3. 1. Introduction: Darwinism as a Research Tradition
  4. 2. Evolution and the Crisis of Neoclassical Biology
  5. 3. A Short Look at "One Long Argument": The Origins of On the Origin of Species
  6. 4. Tory Biology and Whig Geology: Charles Lyell and the Limits of Newtonian Dynamics
  7. 5. The Newton of a Blade of Grass: Charles Darwin and the Political Economists
  8. 6. Domesticating Darwinism: The British Reception of On the Origin of Species
  9. Reading Guide to Part I
  10. 7. Ontogeny and Phylogeny: The Ascendancy of Developmentalism in Later Nineteenth-Century Evolutionary Theory
  11. 8. Statistics, Biometry, and Eugenics: Francis Galton and the New Darwinism
  12. 9. Mendel, Mendelism, and the Mendelian Revolution: Natural Selection versus Genetics
  13. 10. The Boltzmann of a Blade of Grass: R. A. Fisher's Thermodynamic Model of Genetic Natural Selection
  14. 11. Giving Chance (Half) a Chance: Sewall Wright, Theodosius, Dobzhansky, and Genetic Drift
  15. 12. Species, Speciation, and Systematics in the Modern Synthesis
  16. Reading Guide to Part II
  17. 13. The Molecular Revolution
  18. 14. Expanding the Synthesis: The Modern Synthesis Responds to the Molecular Revolution
  19. 15. Developmentalism Redivivus: Evolution's Unsolved Mysteries
  20. 16. New Models of Evolutionary Dynamics: Selection, Self-Organization, and Complex Systems
  21. The Thermodynamics of Evolution
  22. Natural Selection, Self-Organization, and the Future of Darwinism
  23. Reading Guide to Part III
  24. Notes
  25. References
  26. Index