Beyond the Modern Synthesis: A Framework for a More Inclusive Biological Synthesis.


Institute for the Study of Complex Systems, 900 University Street, D-X, Seattle, WA, 98101 USA. Electronic address: [Email]


Many theorists in recent years have been calling for evolutionary biology to move beyond the Modern Synthesis - the paradigm that has long provided the theoretical backbone for the discipline. Terms like "postmodern synthesis," "integrative synthesis," and "extended evolutionary synthesis" have been invoked by various critics in connection with the many recent developments that pose deep challenges - even contradictions - to the traditional model and underscore the need for an update, or a makeover. However, none of these critics, to this author's knowledge, has to date offered an explicit alternative that could provide a unifying theoretical paradigm for our vastly increased knowledge about living systems and the history of life on Earth (but see Noble 2015, 2017). This paper briefly summarizes the case against the Modern Synthesis and its many amendments over the years, and a new paradigm is proposed, called an "Inclusive Biological Synthesis," which, it is argued, can provide a more general framework for the biological sciences. The focus of this framework is the fundamental nature of life as a contingent dynamic process - an always at-risk "survival enterprise." The ongoing, inescapable challenge of earning a living in a given environmental context - biological survival and reproduction - presents an existential problem to which all biological phenomena can be related and comprehended. They and their "parts" can be analyzed in relation to ethologist Niko Tinbergen's four key questions. Some basic properties and guiding assumptions related to this alternative paradigm are also identified.


epigenetic inheritance,evo-devo,genomics,symbiogenesis,synergy,teleonomy,

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