Sunday, April 26, 2015

evolution in four dimensions...,

evolution-institute |  One of the most mind-expanding books that you’ll ever read is Evolution in Four Dimensions by Eva Jablonka and Marion Lamb. They remind us that evolution is about variation, selection, and heredity, not genes. Genes provide one mechanism of heredity but there are others, including epigenetic mechanisms, forms of social learning found in many species, and forms of symbolic thought that are distinctively human. They provide a concise history of why evolutionary theory became so gene-centric during the 20th Century and how it needs to be expanded to include the other three dimensions.

Eva Jablonka is a Professor at the Cohn Institute for the History of Philosophy of Science and Ideas at Tel Aviv University in Israel. I talked with her by Skype on November 6 2014. Our conversation provides a panoramic tour of evolutionary theory based on heredity, not just genes.

DSW: Welcome, Eva. I’m so pleased to be talking with you.

EJ: Hello, David.

DSW: I want to talk to you about the definition of evolution and the need for it to go beyond genetic evolution. This is the topic of your great book, Evolution in Four Dimensions, which I have adopted as the first text for almost all of my courses. That’s how much I think of it. Let’s begin by discussing your background. What is your training that enables you to write such a book?

EJ: I am a geneticist. I did a PhD in genetics and molecular biology; in fact, on DNA methylation and chromatin structure. Before that, I did a Masters thesis in microbiology. At the same time, I was deeply interested in philosophy of biology. While I was doing a PhD in genetics, I was also writing papers for philosophy of biology journals. I thought that I should combine the two because theoretical biology and evolutionary biology need a very strong conceptual basis. I ended up being in some kind of twilight zone between the two things. For me it was a productive combination.

DSW: Great! Everyone knows that Darwin knew nothing about genes. For him, evolution was about variation, selection and heredity, a resemblance between parents and offspring. Nevertheless, nowadays, whenever you say the word “evolution,” most people hear “genes.” That’s true for a professional evolutionist, as much as for the lay public. How is it that the study of evolution became gene-centric?

EJ: It is related to the strong focus on heredity that is apparent already in the second 19th century, when many  theories of heredity were developed. Once evolution became an accepted theory it was clear that one has to think very seriously about heredity. In order to have cumulative evolution, heredity is necessary.  Darwin himself had a theory of heredity, which was, in fact, one of the most Lamarckian theories of heredity around at the time!  The point is, however, that he needed a theory of heredity to consolidate his theory of evolution, and he  did develop one.

The other reason heredity became focal was because  of the Industrial Revolution. The population was growing and there was an urgent need to feed people so improvements in agriculture became pertinent. It was clear that breeding and selection were of great importance, and selection must be based on heritable variation. The study of heritable variation was  therefore  important from a practical point of view.


Constructive_Feedback said...


CNu said...

lol, thank you for the insight into BD'ism.

This just goes to show that when you lack even a lay person's armchair toolset with which to intelligently engage the topic - yet you have a deeply held conviction that you wish to express but know that you cannot defend - all that's left to you is puerile antics,

Drop a bag of poop
Light a bag of poop
Ring the front door bell
Run like hell....,

Has it ever occurred to you to interrogate your deeply held convictions? You fancy yourself smart enough to do that, don't you?

Constructive_Feedback said...

"I am up to 12 Dimensions in "Theoretical Physics" AND I Believe In Evolution. Its No Wonder Why "Subrealism" has not inspected me as he would do a "Conservtard"."
their beliefs - when we
"While the Christian Intelligent Design Theorists are FORCED to justify their beliefs, when we Atheist Scientists get stuck - WE JUST CREATE A NEW DIMENSION to substitute what we would call "JESUS MAGIC" if the Christians tried the same"

BigDonOne said...

BD expected we would see a pro-Freddie Gray promo trip today, ala Subrealism's MB trip....

CNu said...

Has it ever occurred to you to interrogate your deeply held convictions instead?

Surely you fancy yourself smart enough to do that. Don't you?lol, I guess the answer is no.

John Kurman said...

CNu said...

lol, I'd already bookmarked that one.

Been a minute since I thought about undulipodium

whether organelles or symbionts are cognitively miscible

whether certain mystical states and the instrumentality related to the same develop as a result of those specific influences

and whether entire cultures bear/bare the imprint of these microcosmic influences